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5 Underappreciated Sci-Fi Shows

Some Old, Some New, All Stellar

With so many amazing television shows out there, it can be hard to know where to turn your attention next. Here are five TV shows, some old, some ongoing, that are worth your perusal.

5) Star Trek: Enterprise (2001 - 2005)

The black sheep of the Star Trek family, Enterprise deserved better than it ultimately got from fans. Scott Bakula was excellent as Captain Archer, T'Pol was a compelling Vulcan, and the plots were exciting and engaging. It stayed true to the basic ideals set by Gene Roddenberry, while managing to pave its own path and stand as its own unique entity in the Star Trek universe. Despite this, it is generally seen as the least favorite among fans, surpassing even the maligned Voyager.

Taking place roughly one hundred years before the events of The Original Series, the story follows the crew of the first starship Enterprise, led by Captain Archer, with T'Pol as the Vulcan overseer, who starts off maligned by Archer, but inevitably becomes an invaluable ally. The crew engages in a Temporal Cold War, fights malevolent aliens, plunges into the Delphic Expanse, a Bermuda Triangle-type area of space, as well as many other fascinating exploits. There were plans for the show to reveal the origins of the Borg, the beginnings of the Romulan war, and a fully-fleshed-out Temporal Cold War arc. Unfortunately, we never got to see any of these things, as the series was cancelled after its fifth season.

4) Venture Bros. (2003 - present)

An excellent Adult Swim cartoon, Venture Bros. has a dedicated cult following, but hasn't seen mainstream success like some of its peers, which is a shame. It's a smart written show, with plenty of great humor and clever references for attentive viewers. The main story focuses on "Super Scientist" Doctor Venture, who is desperately trying to live up to the legacy of his father, the James Bond-esque Jonas Venture. His two sons, Hank and Dean, follow him around the world, getting entangled in various misadventures, protected by robot H.E.L.P.E.R and their comically over-powered body guard, Brock Samson. Along the way, they are pursued by various super villains, most notably the inept Monarch, and the Guild of Calamitous Intent.

Despite its silly premise, the show is more intelligent than you think, and really makes you empathize with the characters and want to know more about them. The action sequences are engaging, and there are plenty of references and parodies of comic books, sci-fi films, and even obscure music trivia to keep most any geek happy.

3) Dollhouse (2009 - 2010)

Joss Whedon's attempted return to television after the cancellation of Firefly, Dollhouse starred Eliza Dushku (known to Buffy fans as Faith) as Echo, an operative of the mysterious Dollhouse organization, which imprints personalities onto "blank slate" agents. The "dolls" are not meant to retain memories or have personalities of their own, but Echo begins to remember things, both from her life before becoming a doll and her previous imprinted personalities. Using this to her advantage, Echo recruits allies within the Dollhouse, and uncovers a conspiracy involving the higher-ups. Previous Joss Whedon collaborators Alexis Denisof, Summer Glau, Amy Acker, and Alan Tudyk also appear.

While it lacked the charm of Whedon's previous shows, its complex plot is enough to make you wish there was more time to explore it. Where it falls short is the execution, in which Echo is thrown into too many silly and dull situations (one particular instance where she was a backup dancer comes to mind) which make it hard for even the die-hard Whedonite to sit patiently through. However, many great shows are shaky during their first seasons and, had Dollhouse been allowed to execute its plot properly, I think the payoff would have been worth it.

2) Quantum Leap (1989 - 1993)

In an age where so many cancelled shows are being resurrected for continuations, it's a bit surprising that we haven't heard anything about cult 80's sci-fi show Quantum Leap, which was pulled in its fifth year and concluded with a hastily-made and unsatisfactory finale. The show starred Scott Bakula (who went on to play Captain Archer in Star Trek: Enterprise) as the time traveling Doctor Sam Beckett and veteran actor, Dean Stockwell, as his ally, Al Calavicci, who helps him with the use of Super Computer Ziggy. When the experimental time travel device he was working on malfunctions, Sam is sent back in time to live the lives of various people and right certain wrongs that occurred in history in order to "leap" to the next time period, until, eventually, he finds his way back to his own life.

The show was corny at times, but overall had a great message, sympathetic and interesting characters, and a promising premise. The premature finale, I think, showed what the series could have been, had it been allowed to reach its full potential. There were many avenues left unexplored, including the existence of an evil force controlling another leaper, who it seemed Sam was being sent to sabotage. They never explained why he is leaping, what force is determining where he leaps to, or what the endgame is. Personally, I think there's plenty of grounds to bring it back for a limited mini series, in order to give the story the ending it deserves.

1) People of Earth (2016 - Present)

At turns funny, touching, absurd, and exciting, People of Earth is a comedy sci-fi series starring Wyatt Cenac and Ana Gasteyer. It focuses on a group of alien abduction "experiencers" in a support group, who begin to unravel an alien conspiracy involving the reptilians, the tall whites, and the grays. The cast is hilarious, particularly on the alien's side. Anyone fascinated by UFO culture should give it a try.

The show can be surprisingly emotional when you least expect it and has presented two solid and engaging season finales. You become invested in the characters and their arcs, providing real emotional stakes when the situation becomes hairy. The story twists and turns and evolves, keeping you guessing at the next unpredictable turn. Season 2 added SNL's Nasim Pedrad to the cast, giving the show a new angle to work from and giving a bit of an X-Files vibe for added flavor. 

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