TV’s 15 Best One-Season Sci-Fi Shows (and Where to Stream Them)

TV’s 15 Best One-Season Sci-Fi Shows (and Where to Stream Them)

TV’s 15 Best One-Season Sci-Fi Shows (and Where to Stream Them)TV’s 15 Best One-Season Sci-Fi Shows (and Where to Stream Them)

TV’s 15 Best One-Season Sci-Fi Shows (and Where to Stream Them)

As fans of shows such as Monarch: Legacy of Monsters (which finaled in January and is awaiting word on a possible Season 2) hold out hope for renewal, we must remember that the genre of TV that most often seems to be given short shrift is sci-fi.

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The Nathan Fillion-captained Firefly — arguably the “poster child” example — lasted but 14 episodes on Fox, yet it lands high on list after list of “Gone Too Soon” TV shows. What other short-lived sci-fi fare ranks up there alongside Captain Tightpants, in that they made a lasting impression with their fleeting runs?

Below, the TVLine staff has rounded up and ranked the 15 best sci-fi shows that only saw the light of day for a single season.

Guided by the tenet that the elements of science fiction include time travel, teleportation, mind control, aliens, mutants, space travel, parallel universes, fictional worlds, alt histories, speculative technology and/or superintelligent computers and robots, our list highlights a mind-bending NBC drama that too many slept on, a Battlestar Galactica offshoot, The X-Files‘ spooky sire and more.

Plus, wherever possible (and done legally), we have noted where you can stream/rent/purchase these well-remembered sci-fi series.

Review our list, then hit comments with the sci-fi shows whose snuffings-after-a-season still sting you — or add suggestions of your own!

Y: THE LAST MAN (FX on Hulu)

Y: THE LAST MAN (FX on Hulu)Y: THE LAST MAN (FX on Hulu)

Y: THE LAST MAN (FX on Hulu)

Y: The Last Man had a ton going for it. For one, it was based on Brian K. Vaughan and Pia Guerra’s best-selling, critically acclaimed comic book saga of the same name. For another, it boasted a big enough budget and a talented enough cast to keep the show healthy for at least a few seasons. Unfortunately, this short-lived adaptation series got the axe before it could grow into itself. (Not streaming anywhere at the moment, nor is it on physical media.)

THRESHOLD (CBS)

THRESHOLD (CBS)THRESHOLD (CBS)

THRESHOLD (CBS)

Looking to ride the Lost wave, TV was on a major sci-fi/supernatural jag in September 2005, with the premieres of CBS’ Threshold, NBC’s Surface, ABC’s Invasion and The CW’s Supernatural. The Winchesters’ adventures, of course, ran pretty much forever, but the other three only served up singular seasons. And if we had to choose a favorite of that ill-fated trio, the utter eeriness of Threshold remains most vivid in our brains. With a cast featuring Carla Gugino, Brian Van Holt, Brent Spiner, Rob Benedict, Peter Dinklage and Charles S. Dutton, and shepherded by EPs Brannon Braga, David S. Goyer and David Heyman, this drama about aliens “rewriting” human DNA using an audio signal still gave us chills.

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DEBRIS (NBC)

DEBRIS (NBC)DEBRIS (NBC)

DEBRIS (NBC)

The bit of hard sci-fi from Fringe’s own J.H. Wyman took a minute to find its footing, keeping us guessing as it did how the titular pieces of extraterrestrial spaceship wreckage could cause often-eerie phenomena here on Earth. But starting with one of TV’s best time loop episodes and climaxing with Fringe fave John Noble’s unannounced debut as a Big Bad followed by the reveal of “another” Fiona (played by series co-lead Riann Steele), the final few installments hooked us, bad — even more so upon hearing Wyman tease Season 2. (Not currently streaming anywhere, nor on physical media.)

FOREVER (ABC)

FOREVER (ABC)FOREVER (ABC)

FOREVER (ABC)

We’re still not OK with the fact that we’ll never know exactly how Dr. Henry Morgan (played by Ioan Gruffudd) answered the query posed to him by Det. Jo Martinez (Alana de la Garza) in what turned out to be the series’ finale: Why did he look exactly the same in the present as he had in a photo from many decades earlier? The audience, of course, knew that Henry was immortal… too bad we couldn’t say the same for the charming, quickly cancelled ABC series. (Stream episodes on CWTV.com.)

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ALMOST HUMAN (Fox)

ALMOST HUMAN (Fox)ALMOST HUMAN (Fox)

ALMOST HUMAN (Fox)

As an over-it detective partnered with an eager-to-please android, Karl Urban and Michael Ealy (respectively) lent the sci-fi drama a ton of heart. The pair’s warmly evolving relationship, set in a future that was juuuust this side of dystopian, had really started to gel — and the mystery of what was concealed in Kennex’s blackout was just getting good — when Fox powered down the series at the end of Season 1.

$1.99+

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WATCH ON TUBI

CAPRICA (Syfy)

CAPRICA (Syfy)CAPRICA (Syfy)

CAPRICA (Syfy)

Much more opera than space, this prequel series was set 58 years before the Fall, in a time when when the Twelve Colonies were living large and in harmony. The Battlestar Galactica Easter eggs were abundant (Hey, isn’t he Adama’s dad? Whoa, that beta-version Cylon is looking rough!), but Caprica enjoyed its own rhythm and mined the debates over fast-advancing technology for solid, if short-lived, drama.

$2.99+

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Watch On the Roku Channel

AWAKE (NBC)

AWAKE (NBC)AWAKE (NBC)

AWAKE (NBC)

This 2012 drama from Kyle Killen starred Jason Isaacs as Michael Britten, an LAPD detective who — after getting into a car crash with his wife and son — inexplicably and involuntarily toggled, each time he fell asleep, between two “color-coded” existences in which either of his loved ones perished. As if that wasn’t compelling enough a concept, Britten learns to use clues from each world to solve cases in the other, while also undergoing therapy from two different shrinks (played by Cherry Jones and BD Wong). It was a dizzyingly dynamic premise that further upped the ante with what would be its final episode, presumably a casualty of a broadcast-TV audience that doesn’t like to think too hard.

$2.99+

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THE MIDDLEMAN (ABC Family)

THE MIDDLEMAN (ABC Family)THE MIDDLEMAN (ABC Family)

THE MIDDLEMAN (ABC Family)

There’s a reason why this short-lived series — about a struggling artist who is recruited by a secret agency to fight evil forces — frequently comes up in cult TV conversation: Its blend of quirky nostalgia (The Middleman’s refusal to cuss? Oddly endearing), offbeat humor and out-there sci-fi plots is a strange mix that shouldn’t work yet somehow comes off as effortlessly unique. Plus, the show introduced us to the comedic charms of Natalie Morales, and for that, we will be forever grateful.

$2.99+

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NOW AND AGAIN (CBS)

NOW AND AGAIN (CBS)NOW AND AGAIN (CBS)

NOW AND AGAIN (CBS)

Among the most sci-fi shows that ever sci-fi’d on the Tiffany Network, this 22-episode dramedy from Moonlighting‘s Glenn Gordon Caron revolved around an insurance company exec (played by Roseanne‘s John Goodman in flashbacks) who, after getting knocked into the path of an oncoming subway train, awakens to discover that his brain has been transplanted by Dennis Haysbert (he was in good hands!) into another body, now played by Eric Close. The good news: He’s still alive, despite having died. The bad: Now a top-secret asset, he cannot reach out to his wife or daughter. Or can he?

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NEW AMSTERDAM (Fox)

NEW AMSTERDAM (Fox)NEW AMSTERDAM (Fox)

NEW AMSTERDAM (Fox)

Long before the NBC medical drama, Fox had its own New Amsterdam series, starring future Game of Thrones leading man Nikolaj Coster-Waldau as a NYPD homicide detective who is actually 400 years old. Flashbacks explored John Amsterdam’s many past experiences throughout history, while in the present day, his connection with an ER doc (played by Alexie Gilmore) who may or may not be his one true love threatened to undo the spell that left him immortal. The mix of historical drama, romance and police procedural made for an entertaining series that was, unlike John Amsterdam, not long for this world.

JOHN DOE (Fox)

JOHN DOE (Fox)JOHN DOE (Fox)

JOHN DOE (Fox)

The short-lived Fox drama got off to a memorable start: The pilot opened with a naked man (played by Dominic Purcell) waking up on an island off the coast of Seattle, with no memory of who he is or how he got there. But he did know everything there was to know about everything else in existence! The engaging mystery kept John Doe and viewers guessing all season about what happened to him. While the finale only spurred more questions with a cliffhanger ending, the show’s producers did, eventually, offer up answers to all the big Qs in an interview. (John Doe is not streaming anywhere, nor is it on physical media.)

WATCHMEN (HBO)

WATCHMEN (HBO)WATCHMEN (HBO)

WATCHMEN (HBO)

More than a decade after the release of Zack Snyder’s tepidly received, by-the-numbers film adaptation of the comic book series written by Alan Moore, Damon Lindelof served up this nine-episode gem that at first appeared to merely take cues from the source material, as police detective/costumed vigilante Angela Abar investigated her mentor’s mysterious hanging. But by the end of the limited series’ run, Lindelof had layered in rich, oft-haunting themes of white supremacy while also going all in on top-shelf characters such as Doctor Manhattan and Ozymandis. (Streaming on Max.)

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KOLCHAK: THE NIGHT STALKER (ABC)

KOLCHAK: THE NIGHT STALKER (ABC)KOLCHAK: THE NIGHT STALKER (ABC)

KOLCHAK: THE NIGHT STALKER (ABC)

Spun off of two highly successful, early-1970s TV-movies, this drama followed newswire reporter Carl Kolchak (played by Darren McGavin) as he investigates vexing crimes involving vampires, aliens, zombies, many flavors of possession and other out-of-this-world elements. Kolchak has oft been cited by Chris Carter as an influence for The X-Files, and for good reason, seeing as it is a bit of utterly spooktacular TV in its own right. (Stream on Peacock.)

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THE PRISONER (ITV)

THE PRISONER (ITV)THE PRISONER (ITV)

THE PRISONER (ITV)

In this British ’60s cult series, Patrick McGoohan (who also created, wrote and directed) starred as Number Six, a retired spy imprisoned in “The Village.” Six spends his time planning his escape, repeatedly falling victim to psychological experiments by his captors. The series was philosophical and frightening, blending sci-fi with spy fiction and allegorical elements that questioned society and authority. The Prisoner laid the groundwork for shows like Lost and Twin Peaks, both of which owe a great deal of gratitude to McGoohan’s mysterious and spellbinding creation.

$1.99+

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WATCH ON FREEVEE

FIREFLY (Fox)

FIREFLY (Fox)FIREFLY (Fox)

FIREFLY (Fox)

Joss Whedon’s 2002-03 space western fused multiple genres and tones, adding its own quirky stamp to sci-fi television. With a motley crew of rebels evading a dominating ‘verse-wide government, these “Browncoats” lived far outside the law, hustling odd jobs to keep their boat in the air. Nathan Fillion handled Whedon’s self-aware humor and screwball splashes with panache, as the gang dodged freaky, cannibalistic pirates throughout expansive worlds. Firefly was ambitious, clever and experimental… all of this and more in just 14 episodes. (Streaming on Hulu.)

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