It’s been another strong year on TV – indeed, our top 10 list quickly turned into a top 20 when the amount of quality on show became apparent. Everyone has their favourite genre offering, and we’re no different. With this in mind, we got together to rank the 20 best sci-fi, fantasy and horror TV series gracing our screens. Read on, and let us know what you think…
20) Doctor Who
After a strong start this season has fluctuated in quality, but as its best it has been truly excellent, ranging from hilarious to heartbreaking, with ‘Face The Raven’ and ‘Heaven Sent’ being particular highlights. The Doctor is the role Peter Capaldi was born to play, and every episode in his company still feels like a privilege.
19) The Returned
Fabrice Gobert took his time making a second season – 3 years, to be exact – but it has definitely been worth the wait. Answering questions with more questions typically induces frustration, although in the case of The Returned, it becomes even more beguiling and compulsive as a result.
18) Scream Queens
Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk’s latest series hits precisely the bullseye it was aiming at, being outrageous, hysterical and utterly great. With a shopping list of stars and a body count that rises by the week, you can’t take your eyes off Scream Queens. But why on earth would you want to?
17) The Man In The High Castle
The TV adaptation of Philip K Dick’s dystopian classic was always going to be a challenge, but with Frank Spotnitz at the helm and Ridley Scott behind the scenes, the results are there for all to see. Horrifying yet plausible, watching events in this eerily familiar world unfold has been a mesmerising experience.
16) Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell
Bizarrely panned by one reviewer for not being like Harry Potter (not that it tries to be), the BBC’s Strange & Norrell is one of the year’s most underrated shows. Capped off by an excellent turn from Eddie Marsan (finally given the stage he deserves) and backed up by star supporting turns from the likes of Marc Warren, Bertie Carvel and Alice Englert, this period drama with a twist is definitely worth watching.
Marvel’s first foray into Netflix territory turned out to be a runaway success, helped no end by an all-start team including producer Joe Quesada and creator Drew Goddard, and a whole host of star turns, most notably from Vincent D’Onofrio with a surprisingly nuanced take on Wilson Fisk. Gritty, grim and considered, Daredevil proved to be the on-screen take on the Man Without Fear that fans always hoped they’d see.
14) Agents Of SHIELD
After a patchy first season, Season 2 improved in every respect, adding new layers to existing characters (pretty much every character is improved, particularly Brett Dalton’s Agent Ward) and bringing in fan favourite new ones, like Nick Blood’s Lance Hunter and Adrianne Palicki’s Bobbi ‘Mockingbird’ Morse. In addition to bringing in Marvel humans staples like the Inhumans and Secret Warriors, Agents Of SHIELD made itself a must-see show.
13) Penny Dreadful
After an eventful first season that ended badly for pretty much everyone, Season 2 continued to pile on the misery while providing a constant conveyer belt of gothic-tinged goings on. Helped no end by consistently excellent performances from the likes of Eva Green and Helen McCrory – with a very honourable mention going to gravitas magnet Timothy Dalton – Penny Dreadful is a show that’s exactly as good as it should be.
12) Teen Wolf
Some might be surprised to see this so high up the list, but there are few series out there that do supernatural-tinged teen angst and hijinks as well as Teen Wolf. Now on its fifth season, it has lasted longer than many thought possible, and thanks to game young performers like Dylan O’Brien and Tyler Posey, it’ll likely continue to do so.
11) Game Of Thrones
It says a lot that despite Season 5 being its weakest year to date, George RR Martin’s fantasy behemoth still gains a respectable placing on this list. Slow-burning intrigue and not much else (aside from the odd misjudged moment) eventually gave way to bloody battles, shocking twists and buttock-clenching cliffhangers (Jon Snow springs to mind) with an enthralling final 3 episodes that are as good as anything seen before. We knew we couldn’t stay mad at Game Of Thrones for long.
It says a lot that in a universe that gets more fantastical in the moment, Arrow is content with remaining fantastic. Season 3 brought about the resolution to Oliver and Felicity’s will-they-won’t-they saga that everyone was hoping for, and Season 4 continues to go from strength to strength in the lead-up to Legends Of Tomorrow.
Hype can be hassle more often than not, but it definitely wasn’t a hindrance to Supergirl, from the same people who breathed life into Arrow and The Flash. Melissa Benoist ticks every box as Kal-El’s kick-ass cousin: strong, brave, funny, awkward and vulnerable, the Supergirl we both wanted and deserved. The supporting team – in particular Calista Flockhart’s indomitable Cat Grant – keep things steady, and we can’t wait to see where this goes. Our guess is onwards and upwards.
8) Orphan Black
If there’s a more underrated actress than Tatiana Maslany we’d like to meet her. Regularly giving uniquely different personalities to umpteen clones at any given time, she’s never anything less than brilliant, and she carries this on into Orphan Black‘s superb third season. The addition of new male clones (played by Ari Millen) helped keep things interesting – not that there was ever a danger of this not happening.
7) The Flash
Any doubts over whether Grant Gustin could carry his own show were dispelled when it became abundantly clear that he was every inch the lead that Stephen Amell was in Arrow. Swapping his sister show’s at time brutally dark tone for something more uplifting, what The Flash regularly achieves on a TV budget – the effects remain a highlight – has to be applauded.
6) Rick And Morty
Creators Justin Roiland and Dan Harmon regularly make South Park look like a walk in the… you know, with their splendidly surreal animated series, which has hedonistic time traveller Rick dragging his maladjusted grandson Morty round some of the weirdest realities you’ll ever see. The ending of every episode is reliably pitch black, making you feel like you’ve been through the mill with every offering, yet you’ll continue to come back for more. It’s that great.
5) Agent Carter
Arrived annoyingly late on our screens, but the wait was worth it. Hayley Atwell slayed on a weekly basis as Peggy Carter, fighting enemies and the patriarchy with equal zeal as Marvel decamped to the 1940s. Benefiting from a shorter, leaner episode roster, and boasting one of the most memorable on-screen dynamics in recent times between Atwell’s Carter and James D’Arcy’s Edwin Jarvis, Agent Carter even managed to bag itself a second season – which incidentally, we can’t wait to watch.
The Wachowskis’ first venture into Netflix gained a mixed reception – not among the members of SciFiNow though; we loved it. Sure, the plot is pretty threadbare, but we’re more than happy to get lost in the lives and loves of the superb ensemble, with the likes of Jamie Clayton, Tuppence Middleton and Brian J Smith baring their beautiful souls, backed up by the more experienced Naveen Andrews and Daryl Hannah, all set along to the soundtrack of 4 Non Blondes’ ‘What’s Going On’.
3) Jessica Jones
It had a tough act to follow, but Marvel’s second Netflix series emphatically did so with Jessica Jones, presenting the kind of superhero we hadn’t seen before: one who had failed. Hard-drinking, hard-cussing and frequently brawling, Krysten Ritter’s Jessica stays out of life, until she gets dragged back into it by the return of her nemesis, Kilgrave (David Tennant, brilliantly British and utterly sinister). Again, you’ll luxuriate in the time you spend with the characters rather than wait for the next cliffhanger, and you’ll enjoy every moment. We certainly did.
If there’s one good thing to come out of Utopia‘s cancellation, it’s the emergence of Humans. The best science fiction shows are plausible, and this is definitely looks like a future that could come about, depicting all the issues and upheaval that we would expect to arise as a consequence of AI becoming commonplace. In among this, the likes of Gemma Chan, Colin Morgan and Rebecca Front are excellent as always, and again, we have the bonus of a second season to look forwarded to.
NBC may have taken Hannibal off the menu, but Bryan Fuller and company made sure that this was a final course to savour. Taking us from Hannibal’s past to his fabulous fugitive life in Florence, all the way to the hunt for the Red Dragon, this third and final season saw the show at its very best: beautiful, dark, gruesome, scary, hilarious, daring and with a pair of dazzling performances at its core. Bravo.
Read up on the best of 2015’s film and TV in the SciFiNow Annual: Volume 2, out now.