Ten overlooked Nineties sci-fi shows

Ah, the Nineties. The personality crisis of the last thirty years, reflected in our pick of the ten most overlooked shows of the decade.

5109293510. First Wave
Run: 1998-2001
Creator:
Chris Brancato
Starring:
Sebastian Spence, Rob LaBelle, Roger R Cross, Traci Lords

Some people loved it, some people hated it, but First Wave was in many ways the prototypical twilight series of the Nineties. It retained a certain sense of fun about itself that reflected the early decade relief at the end of the Cold War in cultural behaviour, while it also foreshadowed a transition into the much darker television of the new millennium. Those who watched the series on its original run may recognise Sebastian Spence in the new Battlestar Galactica, where he plays the oddly named Narcho.

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sp19. Space Precinct
Run: 1994-1995
Creator:
Gerry Anderson
Starring:
Ted Shackleford, Rob Youngblood, Nancy Paul, Jerome Willis

Popular in Europe, not so much in the United States, Space Precinct was one of the more costly shows that Anderson produced. It mixed the feel of a children’s television show with adult and engaging themes, along with interesting model work (unsurprisingly, given Anderson’s pedigree) and some decent character design for the aliens. Although it was released on DVD earlier this decade in Europe, it’s now out of print and has yet to see a release in the States.
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lexx-crew-edit8. Lexx: The Dark Zone
Run: 1997-2000
Creator:
Paul Donovan
Starring:
Brian Downey, Eva Habermann, Xenia Seeberg, Michael MacManus

Once described as the “most magnificently sick TV sci-fi series ever” by TV Zone, Lexx was certainly an acquired taste but wildly popular in its own right. Raunchy, disgusting, quirky and quixotic all at the same time, it may have been marketed on its sex appeal but the real joy of this show was in its dark, twisted gallows humour that ran through the core of the narrative. Rather than being paragons and heroes, the characters stumbled from mission to mission on their own (usually perverse) whims, a refreshing change from many shows in the decade.
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hammers7. Space: Above And Beyond
Run: 1995-1996
Creators:
Glen Morgan, James Wong
Starring:
Morgan Weisser, Kristen Cloke, Rodney Rowland, Joel de la Fuente

This little gem of a science-fiction series only lasted for one season, but ask anybody relatively au fait with this decade in the genre and it’ll be on their top ten lists. If you liked Battlestar Galactica, this was almost certainly one of the shows that directly inspired it, and it really is a technical feat of achievement for the technology at the time. Mixing classic alien invasion science fiction with a robot war and many other aspects, if you can track it down then it’s definitely worth your time. Also, if you own the PC game Homeworld, there was a great S:AAB modification floating around a while back…

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cast6. Earth: Final Conflict
Run: 1997-2002
Creator:
Gene Roddenberry
Starring:
Kevin Kilner, Von Flores, Lisa Howard, Leni Parker

Although the name Gene Roddenberry is typically associated with Star Trek, the man actually gave creative birth to a number of other projects, not least of all Andromeda and Earth: Final Conflict. The show followed a very ‘V’-like premise where aliens come to Earth and cure us of our ills, only for a secret agenda to eventually reassert itself. Tense, bold, imaginative and colourful, the show was unfortunately plagued by cast changes and plot inconsistencies, although it did manage to run for a huge five-year run before eventually buying the Taelon farm.

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sliders-season-4-cast5. Sliders
Run:
1995-2000
Creator:
Tracy Torme, Robert K Weiss
Starring: Jerry O’Connell, Sabrina Lloyd, Jonathan Rhys-Davies, Cleavant Derricks

Apparently, the creators of Sliders decided that we hadn’t quite had enough cheesy science fiction for one decade when they came up with this beauty. Mixing interdimensional travel with some quite frankly awful haircuts and John Rhys-Davies’s singular baritone, the series was interesting in concept and, although middling at points in execution, actually managed to pull it all off fairly well. At least, it did a lot better than Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World, which somehow made Them! look like an adonis in the field of special effects.

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polttitle4. Poltergeist: The Legacy
Run: 1996-1999
Creator:
Richard Barton Lewis
Starring:
Derek de Lint, Helen Shaver, Martin Cummins, Robbi Chong

Anybody remember this little not-quite-a-spin-off spin-off? Poltergeist in name only, the show followed a group of people who sought to protect the world from all sorts of otherworldly baddies, incorporeal and otherwise. It never really received much in the way of critical acclaim (or praise, for that matter), but we can’t help but like this brilliant little collection of clichés and poor scripting. Come on, it wasn’t that bad really, was it? Do tell us if we need to remove the rose-tinted glasses.

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dark-skies3. Dark Skies
Run: 1996-1997
Creator:
Bryce Zabel, Brent V Friedman
Starring:
Sebastian Spence, Rob LaBelle, Roger R Cross, Traci Lords

The X Files weren’t the only ones to deal with shadowy government circles and secret dealings with aliens, Dark Skies also chronicled the shadowy Majestic 12 group and the clandestine subject of The Beatles and extraterrestrials. Running for one year, the show mixed reality TV, documentaries and fiction to great effect, earning widespread support at the time from the critics, and even to this day from fans.

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gideontnt2. Crusade
Run: 1999
Creator:
J Michael Straczynski
Starring:
Gary Cole, Tracy Scoggins, Daniel Dae Kim, Peter Woodward

We can remember being pretty damn excited when we heard about Crusade coming out. After all, the end of Babylon 5 had left us listless and clamouring for more in the universe of Sheridan, particularly given the events of the telemovie that set it up. It was not to be, unfortunately, as changes in the plot, costuming, budget and more or less every other aspect of the show continued to ruin its chances of success until TNT finally pulled the plug before the end of the first season. All we have to remember it by are 13 episodes and a handful of unfilm scripts.

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3188932-m1. seaQuest DSV
Run: 1993-1996
Creator:
Rockne S O’Bannon
Starring:
Roy Scheider, Michael Ironside, Jonathan Brandis, Don Franklin

Let’s just take a moment to remind ourselves that this list isn’t really in any particular order before we assume that seaQuest DSV is the most overlooked show of the Nineties. It’s not. In fact, it’s a little bit rubbish, but it fits into that bizarre, twee post-Eighties-but-pre-9/11 innocence category that seems to be missing from science fiction nowadays. We can just never work out who it’s aimed at – it had a number of very adult concepts and plotlines, but then again, it had that bloody talking dolphin that we would have been happy to see turned into tuna at various points. Nostalgic, but not great. Particularly when they somehow started going to alien oceans.