If you’re a sci-fi fan, you’ve probably heard of blockbuster shows like Star Trek, Doctor Who, and The X-Files. But there are plenty of lesser-known, obscure sci-fi TV shows that have faded into relative obscurity, even though they had great stories, loyal fans, and talented actors. These forgotten stars of sci-fi deserve a little recognition, so we’ve rounded up a few of our favorites.
1. Space: 1999 (1975-1977)
Starring: Martin Landau, Barbara Bain, Nick Tate
Space: 1999 was a British sci-fi show that aired for two seasons in the mid-1970s. The premise was simple: a catastrophic explosion on the moon sends a group of astronauts hurtling into outer space, where they encounter all sorts of aliens, strange worlds, and futuristic technology. The show was known for its spectacular special effects and its philosophical themes of isolation, destiny, and human potential.
Martin Landau and Barbara Bain, who were married at the time, played the lead characters, John Koenig and Helena Russell, respectively. Their chemistry and intensity anchored the show, which also featured a diverse cast of characters and guest stars, including Nick Tate as the tough and charming pilot Alan Carter.
Despite its ambitious vision and high production values, Space: 1999 struggled with inconsistent writing and declining ratings in its second season. But for sci-fi fans who appreciate retro-futuristic aesthetics and existential musings, it’s worth revisiting.
2. Earth 2 (1994-1995)
Starring: Debrah Farentino, Clancy Brown, Antonio Sabato Jr.
Earth 2 was a short-lived but memorable sci-fi series that aired on NBC in the mid-1990s. Set in the future, the show followed a group of colonists who were sent to a distant planet after Earth had become uninhabitable. Their mission was to establish a new civilization and find a cure for a deadly disease that was threatening humanity.
The show had a deep and diverse cast, including Debrah Farentino as the tough and resourceful leader Devon Adair, Clancy Brown as the gruff and enigmatic security chief John Danziger, and Antonio Sabato Jr. as the charming and rebellious pilot Alonzo Solace.
Earth 2 was praised for its innovative ideas, complex characters, and striking cinematography, which combined natural landscapes with futuristic technology. However, the show struggled with low ratings and was cancelled after only one season, leaving fans with a tantalizing cliffhanger.
3. Farscape (1999-2003)
Starring: Ben Browder, Claudia Black, Anthony Simcoe
Farscape was an Australian-American sci-fi show that aired for four seasons in the early 2000s. Created by Jim Henson Productions, the show was known for its unique blend of puppetry, prosthetics, and CGI, which brought to life a colorful and bizarre cast of aliens and creatures.
The show followed an American astronaut named John Crichton (played by Ben Browder) who is sucked through a wormhole into a distant part of the galaxy and joins a crew of escaped prisoners aboard a living spaceship called Moya. Together, they travel through space, encounter dangerous foes, and grapple with complex relationships and emotions.
Farscape was a critically acclaimed and award-winning show that pushed the boundaries of what sci-fi can do. It tackled themes of identity, love, trauma, and morality, all while showcasing innovative visual effects and unforgettable performances by its diverse cast, including Claudia Black as the fierce and sexy Aeryn Sun, and Anthony Simcoe as the honorable and intimidating Ka D’Argo.
4. Dark Angel (2000-2002)
Starring: Jessica Alba, Michael Weatherly, John Savage
Dark Angel was a cyberpunk sci-fi show that aired on Fox for two seasons in the early 2000s. Created by James Cameron and Charles H. Eglee, the show was set in a post-apocalyptic America where genetically enhanced humans, or “transgenics,” were created in secret military labs and hunted by ruthless government agents.
Jessica Alba starred as Max Guevara, a fierce and sassy transgenic who escapes from a lab as a child and grows up to become a skilled thief and fighter. Along the way, she teams up with Logan Cale (played by Michael Weatherly), a crusading journalist who uses his hacker skills to fight corruption and expose injustice.
Dark Angel was known for its edgy and stylish tone, its social commentary on issues like corporate greed, government surveillance, and class inequality, and its kick-ass action sequences. The show also tackled sensitive topics like PTSD, abusive relationships, and identity struggles, with nuance and empathy.
5. The 4400 (2004-2007)
Starring: Joel Gretsch, Jacqueline McKenzie, Mahershala Ali
The 4400 was a sci-fi show that aired on USA Network for four seasons in the mid-2000s. The show’s premise was intriguing: an unexplained phenomenon occurs, and 4400 people who have been missing for decades or centuries suddenly reappear, all in the same place, at the same time. As they attempt to reintegrate into society, they discover that they have developed strange abilities and powers, and that they are all linked to a mysterious conspiracy.
The show had a strong and diverse cast that included Joel Gretsch as the FBI agent Tom Baldwin, who is in charge of investigating the 4400 phenomenon, Jacqueline McKenzie as the enigmatic and powerful April Skouris, and Mahershala Ali as the conflicted and charismatic Richard Tyler.
The 4400 was praised for its ambitious storytelling, its complex character development, and its thought-provoking themes of identity, family, power, and social justice. The show was cancelled after its fourth season, leaving fans with unanswered questions and a sense of loss.
The legacy of obscure sci-fi shows
These five shows are just a small sample of the obscure sci-fi gems that have entertained and inspired fans over the years. They may not have had the cultural impact or longevity of Star Trek or Doctor Who, but they still have something valuable to offer: interesting stories, unique visions, and talented actors who deserve to be remembered.
Whether you’re a nostalgic fan who wants to revisit these shows, or a curious newcomer who wants to discover something new, we encourage you to check them out and appreciate the forgotten stars of sci-fi.