I love science fiction especially books, movies, and TV shows that imagine life in space or on other planets.
Many science fiction fans love space adventures like Star Trek and Star Wars. Luckily for these sci-fi fans, several great television shows that are set in space or on other planets are available on various streaming services or to buy. This list includes streaming platforms currently offering these shows. Availability on the listed streaming platforms may be subject to change, so check if the show you want to watch is available before purchasing a subscription.
Star Trek is the most famous TV show that is set in space. The franchise is available on Paramount+ (formerly CBS All Access). Trekkies have a lot of series to enjoy from the original Star Trek to new Paramount+ originals like Star Trek: Discovery starring Sonequa Martin-Green and Star Trek: Picard starring Patrick Stewart. The various series are:
- Star Trek - this is the original series, set in the Milky Way during the 2260s. It features the iconic characters Captain James Kirk, Science Officer Spock, and Chief Medical Officer Leonard 'Bones' McCoy
- Star Trek: The Next Generation - events take place on the USS Enterprise a hundred years after Captain Kirk's mission
- Star Trek: Deep Space 9 - this series is set in a space station rather than a starship
- Star Trek: Voyager - follows the adventures of the Starfleet vessel USS Voyager, which is returning home after being stranded on the far side of the Milky Way
- Star Trek: Enterprise - events take place a hundred years before the events of The Original Series and before the formation of the United Federation of Planets. The Enterprise, Earth's first starship capable of traveling at warp five, explores the galaxy encountering different alien species
- Star Trek: Discovery - begins a decade before the events of the original Star Trek series, and follows the adventures of the crew of the USS Discovery. The episodes revolve around female science specialist Michael Burnham
- Star Trek: Picard - features a retired Jean-Luc Picard who is struggling with the death of Data and the destruction of the planet Romulus
- Star Trek: Short Treks - a series of short spinoffs featuring characters from Star Trek: Discovery and other characters in the Star Trek universe. Each episode is ten to twenty minutes in length
- Lower Decks (Animated) - follows the support crew of the USS Cerritos
Where can I watch Star Trek: Paramount+ (Subscription Required)
Battlestar Galactica (2003 Version)
There are two Battlestar Galactica series. The original was released in 1978. In 2003, a two-part miniseries was released starring Edward James Olmos, Mary McDonnell, Katee Sackhoff, Jamie Bamber, and Grace Park. The miniseries laid the foundation for the series. In the original series, the main character Starbuck was male. The decision to make Starbuck a female pilot named Kara Thrace in the new series led to howls of protest. Actress Katee Sackhoff was booed at the 2004 San Diego Comic-Con and even received death threats. However, Starbuck went on to become a fan favorite and Sackhoff won a Saturn Award for her performance. Producers wanted to cast a woman in her mid-thirties to play Starbuck but were so impressed by the audition of Sackhoff who was in her early twenties that they cast her for the role despite concerns she was too feminine to play a tough and cocky fighter pilot.
The story begins when Commander Adama (Edward James Olmos) is about to retire and the Galactica is about to become a museum. The enemy Cylons invade Caprica and destroy most of humanity. Dozens of civilian spacecraft occupied by fifty-thousand people, the remnants of the human race, flee with the Cylons in pursuit. The Battlestar Galactica is their only protection. The show ran for four seasons between 2004 and 2009. It received a Peabody Award for overall excellence and several Emmy and Saturn Awards. Edward James Olmos, Mary McDonnell, Katee Sackhoff, and James Callis won Saturn Awards for best and supporting actor roles.
Entertainment Weekly ranked the show at #7 in the "25 Best Cult TV Shows from the Past 25 Years," calling it "an addictive post-9/11 parable and one of the most critically acclaimed series of the decade." The Guardian called the show "dark and twisted and melancholy and frequently quite brilliant." It has a Rotten Tomatoes score of 96%. There is also a spin-off prequel called Caprica.
Where can I watch Battlestar Galactica: NBC's Peacock (Free)
Starbuck believes torturing Cylon agent Leoben is justified because he's a machine
Farscape is an Australian cult classic that follows the adventures of John Chrichton, an astrophysicist and astronaut who is lost in space when his spacecraft gets caught in a wormhole. He ends up on a ship called Moya with a band of misfit aliens and a captured peacekeeper. They are on the run from the militaristic peacekeepers who are contracted to keep order on many planets. John is like a fish out of water, struggling to adjust to a strange new world.
The comedic show was produced by The Jim Henson Company and features some animatronic puppets. It was well-received by critics and won several Saturn Awards. It has a Rotten Tomatoes score of 90%. Entertainment Weekly called it "one of the trippiest space sagas ever."
This trippy space saga isn't just silly fun. It also has a lot of heart. In Farscape, disparate individuals are thrown together by circumstance. At first, they look out for their own interests, but over time begin to see each other as family. The characters show a lot of growth over each season. The character arc of Officer Aeryn Sun is one of the best. Raised as a peacekeeper, she knows nothing of love or family. "What? Family? Friends? I want neither." She's cold, callous, and looks down on what she considers inferior species. In the first episode, when John explains what compassion is, she responds, "Oh, I know this feeling. I hate it." Over time, she learns to care for her shipmates. John on the other hand is always kind and caring, often putting himself at risk to protect others.
Farscape was supposed to run for five seasons but was canceled after the fourth. A three-hour mini-series titled Farscape: The Peacekeeper Wars was created to wrap up the fourth season cliffhanger. The series is available for free on Amazon Prime. The Peacekeeper Wars isn't listed separately in Prime. Instead, it's the final two episodes of Season 4. The episodes on Prime are out of order, which makes the character development seem confusing and inconsistent at times. For example, the second episode is seventh in the Prime listing. Wikipedia provides the intended viewing order.
Where can I watch Farscape and The Peacekeeper Wars: Prime (Free for Amazon Prime Subscribers)
Peacekeeper Aeryn Sun learns about compassion
Lost in Space (2018 Version)
Inspired by The Swiss Family Robinson, Lost in Space first aired in 1965. In 2018, a new series starring Molly Parker, Toby Stephens, and Maxwell Jenkin was released on Netflix and will run for three seasons. When families selected to colonize the Alpha Centauri star system are forced to evacuate their ship, the Resolute, the Robinsons crash on a nearby habitable planet. They must deal with the hostile environment while searching for a way back to the mothership. It's there that the youngest family member Will Robinson forms a bond with a sentient robotic alien being. Unlike in the original series where the robot was often goofy and humorous, the robot in the new series is sinister and threatening in his overprotectiveness of Will.
The Robinsons care for each other, but in many ways, they're a dysfunctional family. The three younger Robinsons aren't normal children. All are geniuses who still have to endure all the trials and tribulations of the teenage years while trying to fight for survival. The scheming and shady Dr. Smith brings a lot of tension to the show. The audience knows she's up to no good, but the Robinsons are completely oblivious for several episodes.
The first season has a Rotten Tomatoes score of 68%. The second season fared considerably better with critics, earning a score of 83%.
Where can I watch Lost In Space: Netflix (Subscription Required)
The Expanse is based on a series of novels by science fiction author duo James S. A. Corey. The series is set in the future when humanity has colonized the Solar System and there are hostilities between Earth and Mars. The first season blends sci-fi with detective noir.
Ceres detective Joe Miller is given the task of finding missing heiress Julie Mao and returning her to her parents. Initially, he has little interest in the job because she's a young adult and he would essentially be kidnapping her and sending her home. Meanwhile, the space-freighter Canterbury and the Martian Navy vessel Donnager are destroyed, creating tensions between Earth and Mars. James Holden, Naomi Nagata, Alex Kamal, and Amos Burton escape the Donnager's destruction in a Martian gunship they rename the Rocinante. When Detective Miller discovers a connection between Julie Mao and the destruction of the Canterbury and Donnager, he becomes obsessed with her. When he's fired, he sets out to find her bringing him into contact with the crew of the Rocinante.
The series originally aired on the SyFy channel and ran for three seasons. When it was canceled, Amazon Prime picked it up. There are currently five seasons available for free on Amazon Prime. The show is critically acclaimed, has a Rotten Tomatoes score of 94%, and won a Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation.
Where can I watch The Expanse: Prime (Free for Amazon Prime Subscribers)
Recap of the first two seasons of The Expanse
The Mandalorian is an Emmy Award-winning show available on Disney+. It stars Pedro Pascal as a bounty hunter on a mission for a mysterious client who wants him to bring back a vague target called the Child. Instead, the Mandalorian goes on the run and becomes like an adoptive father to the Child named Grogu—called Baby Yoda by fans. The show is set five years after the events in Star Wars: The Return of the Jedi. There are eight episodes in each season.
The Mandalorian is sometimes referred to as a mix of space opera and space western because it uses many classic western elements. Rather than gleaming futuristic cities or advanced spaceships, it's set in wild spaces and on a spaceship often in need of repair. The protagonist, a bounty hunter with no name, is a gruff loner who travels through harsh environments and to far-flung towns. Streets are often dusty. Buildings are often functional or in need of repair. Bars are often seedy.
The show is mostly successful in catering to an audience that knows little about the expanded Star Wars universe while also incorporating elements and characters fans immersed in that universe can appreciate.
Where can I watch The Mandalorian: Disney+ (Subscription Required)
Starring Richard Dean Anderson, Stargate SG-1 ran for ten seasons and has a total of 214 episodes. The series originally aired on Showtime in 1997 and then moved to SyFy in 2002. The final episode aired in 2007. There are also spinoff series: Stargate Infinity, Stargate Atlantis, Stargate Universe, and Stargate Origins.
Stargate SG-1 begins a year after the events in the movie Stargate, which was released in 1994. The US government learns that an alien device, the Stargate, can access a network of devices on several planets and in space. Travel between these worlds is possible using the Stargate, a portal located in a secret military location called Stargate Command. SG-1 is an elite Air Force special operations team from Earth. They use the Stargate to explore the galaxy and defend against hostile aliens.
The original Stargate movie wasn't received well by critics, earning a score of only 53% on Rotten Tomatoes. The series on the other hand is ranked #36 on Rolling Stone's 50 Greatest Sci-Fi Series and Popular Mechanics placed it at 14 on their list of best science fiction television shows ever. However, the series won't make a lot of sense without either viewing the movie first or reading a good synopsis because the franchise has its own mythology and history. For example, in the past, the alien Goa'uld transported humans from Earth to other planets to provide slave labor. The descendants of those humans developed into their own societies. The Goa'uld pose as gods based on ancient Earthen mythologies and use humans as unwilling hosts. Stargate SG-1 is available on Hulu and Netflix.
Where can I watch Stargate SG-1: Netflix and Hulu (Subscription Required)
Starring Tricia Helfer, Gil Bellows, and Brian Van Holt, Ascension takes place on a spaceship half-way into a 100-year journey to colonize a planet orbiting Proxima Centauri. When a young woman is murdered, they begin to question the true nature of their mission. They have no communications with Earth, so the officer assigned to solve the case has to watch TV shows to learn how to run a murder investigation.
The Ascension was launched in 1963 and fifty-one years later is close to reaching the point of no return. This is the point when they won't have enough fuel to return to Earth. While the show is set in the present, it has the feel of the sixties. The characters and their way of life are trapped in that decade.
Most of the passengers were born aboard the Ascension and most will die before the ship reaches its destination. “We’re all going to the same place: nowhere,” one young man laments. Trapped for life in a small space, many don't support the mission. Saboteurs carry out attacks, hoping to turn the ship around. Divided between upper-deckers who live in luxury and lower-deckers who keep the ship operational and provide food and other necessities, there is a lot of class tension aboard.
Ascension initially aired as six forty-three minute episodes, grouped into three chapters. While it works well as a standalone series, the ending leaves open the possibility of a new season. Unfortunately, in 2015, Syfy announced it would not continue the series.
Where can I watch Ascension: NBC's Peacock (Free)
Babylon 5 is initially set in the year 2257. It takes place aboard “the last of the Babylon stations, located deep in neutral space. It was a port of call for refugees, smugglers, businessmen, diplomats, and travelers from a hundred worlds. It could be a dangerous place–but we accepted the risk because Babylon 5 was our last, best hope for peace.”
Babylon 5 is mainly about diplomacy and political intrigue involving the five major spacefaring races of the galaxy: humans, Centauri, Narn, Minbari, and Vorlons. The Babylon 5 space station serves as a neutral venue for discussing and resolving conflicts.
The show ran for five seasons with a total of 110 episodes and six TV movies. It won Emmy, Saturn, and Hugo awards. Star Trek: Deep Space Nine premiered a month before Babylon 5. Actress Patricia Tallman who played Lyta Alexander on Babylon 5 claimed that Paramount stole the idea for Deep Space Nine from Babylon 5.
“There was a lawsuit and they settled out of court...they ripped off the script and the idea.”
Unlike other popular space series, like Battlestar Galactica, Farscape, and The Expanse, which have largely stable casts through much of their run, Babylon 5 saw many changes. The test pilot Babylon 5: The Gathering had characters like Dr. Benjamin Kyle and Lt. Cmdr. Laurel Takashima who didn’t appear in the actual series. Space station Commander Jeffrey Sinclair left after one season due to health issues. Telepath Talia Winter appears only in the first two seasons. Many others came and went during the show’s five-season run. According to Screenrant:
“Babylon 5 became infamous for its rotating cast and only four actors stayed with the show from its pilot movie through the very last episode. Indeed, nearly half of the original cast from the pilot movie, "The Gathering", were replaced when the show went to series for one reason or another...The decision to renew Babylon 5 for a fifth season on another network came so late that most of the cast had already found work elsewhere.”
Where can I watch Babylon 5: HBO Max (Subscription Required)
Babylon 5: The Gathering Intro
Raised by Wolves
Raised by Wolves is about religious strife set in space. The first two episodes were directed by Ridley Scott of Alien fame. Two androids, Mother and Father, arrive on a desolate planet with human embryos to establish a peaceful atheistic society. They have left behind an Earth that is being devastated by a war between atheists and a religious group called the Mithraic. Mother and Father set out to create a new civilization on the planet Kepler-22b. Only one of the children, a boy named Campion, survives. On Earth, an atheist couple named Caleb and Mary alter their appearance, so they can pretend to be Mithraic and escape on a Mithraic spaceship called the Ark. The murdered couple has a son named Paul. Caleb and Mary soon love him as if he is their own.
When the Ark arrives on Kepler-22b, Mother destroys it. She is a necromancer with destructive god-like powers. She brings five surviving Mithraic children to join Campion in their colony. They become a family, but one with diverse beliefs. One of those children is Paul. Caleb and Mary along with several other Mithraic survive the destruction of the Ark. They are determined to find Paul.
There is currently one season available on HBO Max. It has been renewed for a second season. There's also an official companion podcast called Raised by Wolves: The Podcast that is produced by iHeartRadio. The first season of Raised by Wolves has a Rotten Tomatoes score of 72%.
Where can I watch Raised by Wolves: HBO Max (Subscription Required)
Other Shows and Where to Watch Them
Foundation - a band of exiles discover that the only way to save the Galactic Empire from destruction is to defy it. Based on a series of books by Isaac Asimov - Apple TV+
Odyssey 5 - astronauts aboard the space shuttle Odyssey witness the Earth dissolving into a fiery ball. A being called the Seeker rescues them and offers to send them five years into the past so that they can prevent the disaster - Crackle
Firefly - the crew of a small transport ship experience a cosmic civil war - Hulu
The Orville - comedy featuring the crew of an exploratory vessel - Hulu
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy - after escaping the destruction of Earth, Arthur Dent and Ford Prefect face trials, tribulations, and adventures in space and time - Hulu
Killjoys - bounty hunters, known as Killjoys, chase warrants in a dangerous four planet-and-moon system called the Quad - Hulu
Mars - Ron Howard's Mars combines fictional scripted elements with documentary-style interviews, dramatizing humanity's first harrowing attempt to colonize the red planet - National Geographic TV
Pandora - a young woman attends the Earth's Space Training Academy where she learns to defend the galaxy from intergalactic threats - Prime
Dark Matter - the crew of a derelict spaceship is awakened from stasis with no memories of who they are - Netflix
Nightflyers - a team of scientists on a deep space mission encounter terror onboard their ship - Netflix
Another Life - the crew of the spaceship Salvare searches for the origin of an artifact that landed on Earth - Netflix
Away - an astronaut struggles with leaving her husband and daughter behind to embark on a mission to Mars - Netflix
Lexx - disparate fugitives from an interplanetary tyranny find themselves in control of a powerful starship - PlutoTV, tubi
Andromeda - after civilization falls, one ship's crew vows to rekindle it - tubi
Extant - astronaut Molly Woods's mystifying experiences in space lead to events that will ultimately change the course of human history - Paramount+, PlutoTV
Origin - a group of strangers are stranded on a spacecraft bound for a distant planet - YouTube Premium
Red Dwarf - the last humans alive are stranded three million years into deep space on the mining ship Red Dwarf - Prime Subscription
Dr. Who - follows the adventures of a rogue Time Lord called the Doctor - HBO Max
Other Space - the dysfunctional crew of an exploratory spaceship becomes trapped in an alternate universe - Dust
Crusade - a one-season spin-off of Babylon 5, set five years after the events in that series - Purchase
Defying Gravity - eight astronauts live aboard an international spacecraft on a mission through the solar system - Purchase
The Outer Limits (1995 version) - dark fantasy and horror, often involving aliens - Purchase
Space: Above and Beyond - a squad of Marines is engaged in a war with alien invaders. Many of the episodes are on YouTube - Purchase
Top 10 TV Space Operas
This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.
© 2020 LT Wright