Star Trek: Picard is inching ever closer, but we still have a couple of weeks to wait before we get new Star Trek. Now’s the perfect time for a sci-fi TV binge to hold you over. But what to watch? Living in the current golden age of TV is both a blessing and a curse. So much quality content, and so little time. Let me help you cut through the weeds.
Here are 5 shows that you might enjoy if you like Star Trek.
I’m about 30 years late to the party on Babylon 5 but goodness gracious, Babylon 5 really speaks to me as a Star Trek fan. There’s a bit of controversy surrounding Babylon 5 and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. And while there are certain similarities between the two, like a space station in the middle of nowhere, conflicts with alien races, and jump gates vs. the wormhole, I would argue that Babylon 5 is a wholly different animal. Babylon 5 is what the Star Trek universe would look like if it didn’t have the utopian society of the Federation behind it. There’s political strife, poverty, war, and other things that seem to have been largely eradicated in the Star Trek universe. And for me, that’s actually a really interesting point in its favor.
Star Trek looks at the world and imagines how it could be. Babylon 5 does that as well but also brings in problems we are facing now. Frankly, having just plowed through nearly the entire series in the past couple of months, Babylon 5 remains remarkably prescient and fresh. I look forward to finishing it soon. And if you want to learn more about the show’s fraught production history, sans spoilers, you should listen to this episode of Don’t Give This Tape to Earl telling the story of someone who worked in television production at the local level when Babylon 5 premiered.
Babylon 5 is available on DVD and for digital download from your favorite digital video service.
Battlestar Galactica (2004)
If you’re a fan of science fiction at all and haven’t watched the 2004 reboot of Battlestar Galactica, run, don’t walk, to your TV and fire it up. This is one of those series where the reboot far exceeds the original. And don’t get me wrong, I legitimately love the disco retro-futurism of the original 1978 Battlestar Galactica. But what the 2004 reboot does with the property is incredible. High drama, a great cast, and some of the best modern sci-fi created in the past 20 years. Plus, it’s the reason that Katee Sackhoff is a kick-ass sci-fi icon these days and now finds herself on The Mandalorian. What’s not to love about that?
While Battlestar Galactica doesn’t have the utopian backdrop of Star Trek, what it does have in common with Trek is its wonderful ensemble cast. Complex characters, themes that can be applied to the real world, and more all make this a show that’s worth your time.
Battlestar Galactica (2004) is currently streaming on Peacock.
I’m not one to judge where you draw the line between art and artist, but Joss Whedon’s Firefly is one of those canceled-too-soon sci-fi shows that’s worth checking out in spite of Joss Whedon. A solid ensemble cast playing complex characters makes Firefly a space western worth watching. It’s a show that has one of the most devoted fandoms in sci-fi, so much so that even after its cancelation, they managed to muster enough attention to get a sequel movie, Serenity, to wrap up the series. Not sure if you want to check it out? Learn a little more about the show in just 5 minutes on this episode of the Sci-Fi 5 podcast, written by yours truly.
What does it have in common with Star Trek? When Gene Roddenberry pitched Star Trek: The Original Series, his elevator pitch for the show was, “Wagon Train to the stars.” Star Trek has always been about exploring the final frontier and Firefly does that too, while also making some interesting speculation about the future.
Firefly is currently streaming on Hulu.
Another classic of 90s science fiction, Stargate SG-1 is one of those series that far exceeded the bounds and popularity of the 1994 film that beget its existence. While Stargate SG-1 is much more of a military science fiction series, it’s similar enough in its 1990s syndicated TV sci-fi vibe to help me enjoy it as much as any of the 90s Star Trek series. One thing it does differently is dig into a little more of the mythologies of Earth, while also creating its own. Also, holy crossover, Batman! Nine regular Star Trek cast members also show up as guests on Stargate SG-1. This isn’t even to mention the numerous crossover between guest stars on both series as well. This is a series worth your time, just for its sheer longevity.
Stargate SG-1 is currently streaming on Amazon Prime and for free with ads on PlutoTV.
Confession time: I’ve only seen the pilot for Farscape. BUT it makes my list because of its sheer uniqueness. Farscape has action, puppetry from Jim Henson’s Creature Shop, and something none of these other shows have–a living bio-mechanical ship. You want to talk about “boldly going”? Farscape has it in spades. You can get a flavor for it in just 5 minutes with this episode of Sci-Fi 5 to see if it’s for you. I’m definitely going to be watching this one soon. But the best thing going for Farscape right now? It’s accessible.
Farscape is currently streaming for free with ads on Plex, Tubi, Peacock, Freevee, PlutoTV, the Roku Channel, and Shout Factory TV.
Did your favorite not-Star Trek series make my list? Do you have other shows that should make the list? Leave me a comment and let’s talk…well… not Trek. And in case you missed it, we got our first look at Star Trek: Picard season 3 this past week with a new trailer! Check out my thoughts on the Star Trek: Picard trailer and set your hailing frequencies to Fangirlish for all your Star Trek needs.
Star Trek: Picard will premiere on February 16, 2023, on Paramount+.
Space: Above and Beyond is an often overlooked series but one that is also worth checking out!