A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, science fiction and fantasy existed in the same realm of pseudo popularity. Movies like 2001: A Space Odyssey, Planet of the Apes, and Star Trek were popular, but only to a certain population. They weren’t exactly ‘mainstream’ in their time. However, as we all know, what goes around surely does come around. This cannot be truer for all things science fiction and fantasy. Though, unlike its predecessors, these genres are making their comeback on a much smaller screen.
Before we get into the top shows that have helped to bring these genres into the forefront of everyone’s mind, it’s important to make one single distinction.
Science Fiction and Fantasy are not the same thing.
Science Fiction is based on a storyline that holds some element of possibility or probability. In other words, these are the kinds of things that could actually happen, under the right circumstances. Fantasy, on the other hand, is based on the impossible, which almost always consists of magic.
Set in a post apocalyptic world, The 100 deals with severe nuclear fallout that caused the remainder of Earth’s population to live in a space station known as ‘The Ark’. Their government is semi-democratic, with a Chancellor Jaha in charge of keeping order and preventing chaos. This, as always, is a difficult position because rations are already slim, and resources are running out – as well as their oxygen. The Chancellor chooses to launch a station full of 100 juvenile prisoners into Earth’s atmosphere.
Their goal, unknown by them, is to determine if Earth’s surface is livable or if certain death will be waiting.
As the 100 soon discover, what has remained on Earth’s surface is far more than anyone could have imagined, and it’s been waiting for them.
This show, aired on the CW, has a host of beloved characters and provides its viewers with the age-old dichotomy of ‘them vs. us’.
A link to current episodes can be found on the CW website.
As a Netflix original series, Stranger Things is centered on the lives of four adolescent boys who spend all of their time in the AV department or in their basements playing Dungeons and Dragons. They soon become mixed up in some pretty adult business, which causes one of their friends to go missing. As young boys are won’t to do, they went on a secret mission to search for their friend in the woods. This is where they found, in the wet and the dark of the night, Eleven.
She is your typical adolescent female, except she possess superhuman powers and is deathly afraid of a third dimension often referred to as ‘the Upside Down’. They join forces (what little forces they have at 12 years old), and set out to save their friend from the kind of monster that goes bump in the night.
Complete with your fix of a six-foot tall monster, a back alley jealous boy fight, and a knobby-kneed girl who struggles to speak, this show is definitely one for the books, especially since Winona Rider is a main character.
This first season is available in full on Netflix.
Now is the time to forget everything you remember from the 2004 movie that starred an unbelievably blind Ben Affleck and a cheeky Jennifer Garner. Blank pallet? Good.
Now immerse yourself in the world of a Hell’s Kitchen native whose goal is to protect his city. Daredevil manages to do this in the light of day as one half of Nelson & Murdock, a struggling law firm that defends the meek and feeble.
However, as soon as the lights go out in the office, he’s ready to fight crime in his bullet-resistant red jumpsuit. It may sound unbelievable, but the amount of scrapes and bruises he earns at the end of each episode isn’t.
This show has everything you ever wanted in a comic book series: gritty action scenes, the will-they-won’t-they narrative, and the ‘big bad’ himself – Mr. Fisk, a.k.a. The King Pin.
If you aren’t sold already, take a peek on Netflix.
The Walking Dead
This show is what brought the idea of a Zombie Apocalypse to life, so to speak. The Walking Dead follows the life of Sheriff Deputy, Rick Grimes. We watch him wake up from a coma, and come to grips with the fact that life isn’t exactly what he remembers. This show takes the monsters that go bump in the night to a completely new level. He teams up with his wife, child, and a group of others trying their hardest to survive. They’re on a mission for a solution; a cure; a pinch to wake them up from this nightmare.
With the appropriate amount of humor and bloody body parts falling off of zombies – err, Walkers – this show is the definition of a horror television show. It contains enough of the fantastic (zombies can’t possible exist, right?) mixed with the incredibly sincere relationships these characters develop as their world merges into something we all never dreamed possible.
Previous episodes are available on Netflix, but any other tidbits are on the AMC’s website.
Game of Thrones
Born from the genius mind of George R.R. Martin, viewers are brought to a medieval land called Westeros, and given a glimpse into the houses of Stark, Targaryan, and Lannister – to name a few. Game of Thrones combines awe-inspiring castles and issues among royalty with dragons, white walkers, and bloody wars among the houses.
This show, on the surface, might be about who will rule the seven kingdoms. However, the dragon eggs gifted to Daenerys at her wedding, the undead that has even the wildlings running, and the gift of a young boy to see through the eyes of any creature elevate this show to the fantastic.
Only available on HBO, this show is worth the binge.
Once Upon A Time
Named after the quintessential beginning of every fairy tale, Once Upon A Time allows lovers of Grimm and Anderson to truly see their stories come to life. The show focuses on Snow White and Prince Charming, and how much of a struggle it can be to have an Evil Queen as a stepmother.
This show takes an interesting twist on each of these beloved tales, turning Snow White into a schoolteacher, the Evil Queen into mayor, and Jiminy Cricket into a shrink. Each season brings new characters we all think we know into the fold, but the twists and turns of this show prove people are never who we think they are.
Fall down the rabbit hole, or whisk away in a cloud of magic to a seemingly ordinary town called StoryBrooke.
Earlier seasons are available on Netflix, and current episodes are on Hulu.
The following thought may make its way into your brain: Why? Why are science fiction and fantasy continuing to gain popularity? What started this glorious spiral of space aliens, magic wands, and supernatural creatures?
It began slowly, with the creation of one of the most popular fantasy shows to date: Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which premiered in 1997. On its pilot airdate, it garnered 4.8 million viewers, which was only 700,000 under Star Trek: Voyager.
Soon after this premiere, there were several additions to the weird and reemerging world of science fiction and fantasy. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone premiered in 2001, earning $978.4 million in the box office. This was $849.8 million above their budget for the film. Lost premiered in 2004 and had an average of 15.69 million views for its first season. Supernatural earned the CW (the WB at the time) 5.69 million views for its pilot episode.
Perhaps the above paragraph means nothing to you because you have no context. Well, let’s provide some: The season finale of Star Trek: The Next Generation garnered 17.4 million views. Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope earned $775.4 million in the box office, which was $764.4 million above their budget.
All of this leads us to the following conclusion: Science Fiction and Fantasy shows/movies have always had a cult-like appeal to viewers. However, it cannot be denied that the shows listed above have created worlds more complex and beautiful than ever thought possible. They are making Science Fiction and Fantasy mainstream because they are enveloping us in a reality that entwines the possible and the impossible.