Julien Neaves, Sci Fi Head Writer
It is a sad fact that most Sci Fi/Fantasy TV series are short-lived, and this is even more lamentable when it is a great show. From Firefly to Pushing Daisies, from Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles to Legend of the Seeker, from The Gifted to Dark Matter, TV land is littered with awesome Sci Fi and Fantasy shows cut down in their prime. But there are some series which had the benefit of time but instead of ending strong they stumbled or even crashed and burned at the finish line. And that brings me to our list for today.
In celebration of Red Mango Review’s sixth anniversary (couldn’t have done it without our team and you, dear Red Mango Reader) and a supernova of a SPOILER ALERT let’s check out Six Sci Fi/Fantasy Series That Didn’t Stick the Landing:
#6 Stargate SG-1, Ten Seasons, (1997-2007)
Now I am a huge Gatehead and with both Star Trek and Star Wars in the midst of a Renaissance it’s a high time we get a new Stargate series (or even multiple series). That said, the end of the flagship show Stargate SG-1 could have been stronger. The final two seasons introduced new big bads the Ori, who were creepy and interesting but not as cool as the Goa’uld. And I like Farscape’s Ben Browder but his Cameron Mitchell was no Richard Dean Anderson’s Jack O’Neill. And then we had the series finale Unending.
Having the SG-1 crew place themselves in a time dilation to avoid certain destruction made for a touching and heartfelt episode. But for a series known for epic action this felt supremely anticlimactic and would have worked better as a mid-season episode. And nothing really happens in the grand scheme of things other than Teal’c getting older and a touch of grey. I remember watching it and thinking, “Seriously. That’s it?” Sure, they were saving the wrap up of the Ori and Goa’uld storylines for the two direct-to-video movies (which were pretty decent, especially Continuum) but they still could have given us an exciting, grand finale after ten seasons and 213 prior episodes! #justsaying
#5 Star Trek: Enterprise Four Seasons (2001-2005)
This one stings but I have to include it. After having it’s best, and unfortunately fourth and final season, the first Trek prequel series Star Trek: Enterprise ended with These Are the Voyages. Where do I even start with this shipwreck? Making Riker and Troi the focus and reducing the cast to holographic imagery? Riker’s odd and at times cringe-inducing behaviour? The lame plot and uninspired action? Not letting us see Archer’s speech at the commemorating the ratification of the charter for an interspecies alliance? Killing Trip and in a most hackneyed manner? What a conglomeration of crap!
During a recent rewatch I couldn’t even bring myself to watch These Are the Voyages again because I knew it would upset me with its suckage. Rick Berman said the episode was meant to be a love letter to fans. It was more like finding a bag of poop on your doorstep. Let’s all just pretend the very good Terra Prime was the real finale, okay?
#5 Lost, Six Seasons (2004-2010)
Oh Lost. How far the mighty had fallen. After rising to become the most intriguing and most talked about series of its time this supernatural/Sci Fi drama buckled under its own weight. The Powers That Be created so many tantalising mysteries over the series’ six season run but in the end either did not have the talent or the interest in explaining 90 per cent of them.
So what did we get instead? A final season with an alternate history, flash-sideways storyline, a shockingly generic final battle with Jack fighting The Man in Black in Locke’s body, and then the kicker, the flash-sideways was a limbo where everyone will end up and be all happy and hunky-dory. What in the what? Did they smoke some of the Smoke Monster? It was lazy writing, frustrated viewers and made no sense. Oh Lost. You really lost the narrative didn’t you?
#3 Earth: Final Conflict, Five Seasons (1997-2002)
Star Trek may be Gene Roddenberry’s most famous franchise but he did have other shows, including Andromeda and, our number five, Earth: Final Conflict, which was developed based on ideas from the Big Bird of the Galaxy. Now EFC, which is set in a world where humans share the planet with a race of highly advanced and seemingly benevolent aliens called the Taelons (often referred to as “the Companions”), was never a huge hit but it was a solid enough show. And then Season 5 happened.
All of the Taelons were gone save one, the new antagonists were the violent, beastly and sensual energy vampires called the Atavus, and supporting character Renee Palmer was upgraded to lead protagonist. And my question is why? There were so many changes made to the series, including a much heavier action focus, that it was practically unrecognisable. And the drop in quality from the previous seasons was precipitous. I don’t know if they were trying to revitalise the show but it felt like they were trying to squeeze a little more cash out of it, like the last dollop of toothpaste. They should have let it die rather than have it end on this ignominious note.
#2 The 100, Seven Seasons (2014-2020)
This is actually the series that inspired this list. I had heard about The 100 for years but I never got around to watching it. Then when I did a review of Season 1 of the Netflix series Tribes of Europa and everyone kept comparing it to The 100 I decided to finally check it out. And what a mistake that was.
Now the show started off very well. In the far off future where most of humanity lives on a space station after Earth was decimated by nuclear war a group of 100 young people are returned to the planet to see if it’s viable for life. And then they find out THEY ARE NOT ALONE! Pretty cool concept and they do a lot with it in the first two seasons. Solid characters, huge twists and lots of action made for an entertaining show. But then as the show got deeper into the Sci Fi aspects the quality began to wane. You could tell they were running out of ideas and quick as they piled on AI, Matrix-life virtual reality, alien planets, body swapping and finally actual aliens. By the time the show limped to its finale most of the best characters were dead, fan favourite Bellamy was turned into a zealot and killed stupidly, Octavia has lost her edge, and Clarke had made enough stupid decisions to last 100 lifetimes but kept coming out on top. And the ending? The survivors sacrificing eternal life to live a few years on Earth because they wanted to hang with Clarke? You are not serious about life on any planet. This show went from 100 to zero in seven seasons. It’s kind of impressive when you think about it.
#1 Game of Thrones, Eight Seasons (2011-2019)
How do you go from being one of the best TV series of all time to one of the most disappointing? Ask D.B. Weiss and David Benioff, because they took HBO’s fantasy juggernaut Game of Thrones and dragged it into a pile of dragon poop and then set it ablaze. When I heard that this massively complex show was going to be wrapped up in a single season of just eight episodes I was skeptical. And I was right to be. In a season that is at times grindingly slow and blindingly rushed beloved characters are despatched at a rapid rate, storylines are wrapped up awkwardly or not at all, series-long payoffs fail to deliver and the ending is an insult to the intelligence.
I saw the series finale at the cinema and we all walked out of that theatre confused and massively disappointed. In the immortal words of Theoden, “How did it come to this?” I still have emotional wounds from the savage ineptitude of that final season and finale episode, so much so that I try to avoid talking about it (you can read more of my thoughts here). Game of Thrones has become the TV poster child of a show that rose to the top and came crashing down at the end, and due solely to two men’s hubris. GoT and its legion of fans deserved so much better. Let us hope the prequel series House of the Dragon avoids the same fate.
So that’s my list. Do you agree with any of these? Disagree? Any Sci Fi or Fantasy series you would add? And you can check out more great genre lists below:
Julien “Editor Jules” Neaves is a TARDIS-flying, Force-using Trekkie whose bedroom stories were by Freddy Krueger, learned to be a superhero from Marvel, but dreams of being Batman. I love promoting Caribbean film (Cariwood), creating board games and I am an aspiring author. I say things like “12 flavours of awesome sauce”. Read more.