It’s a time-honored genre tradition: Clark Kent is Superman, Diana Prince is Wonder Woman, and Peter Parker is Spiderman. Furthermore, Echo doesn’t know she’s Caroline, Peter Bishop is not exactly Peter Bishop, Sylar thinks he’s Nathan, and a certain traveling Timelord routinely regenerates the human carcass he travels around in, because……why the hell not?! In this genre, above all others, identity is a fluid concept. If you think about it, the Sci Fi Channel’s rebirth this week as SyFy might not be that weird when contemplated within context.
To celebrate all the shape-shifting, alter-ego emerging, and transmutation that goes on in the genre (both in front of and behind the camera), here are (in no particular order) 50 fun, fascinating and far-out sci fi things you oughta watch, know, think about or be on the lookout for:
50. Merlin: Legendary wizard of ancient lore, Merlin, is looking markedly less wizened in this telling, thanks to the portrayal by wide-eyed newcomer Colin Morgan. A more youthful, “Dude, Where’s My Wand?” vibe ensues. Watch Full Episodes Here.
49. New Amsterdam: Series lead Nikolaj Coster-Waldau does nothing to dispel the notion that it is far better for an immortal to be ridiculously good-looking, seeing as how he’ll have to stare at the same mug in the mirror for centuries on end. “Curse”? Hardly. Watch Full Episodes Here.
48. Xena, Warrior Princess: These pics take us back to the days of old-school girl power. Like, ancient old-school. Greeks in togas, that sort of thing. But Lucy Lawless made it all so fiercely modern (and how), which is probably why she was singled out from Hercules for her own spin-off show. Deservedly so.
47. Eastwick: In this preview clip, witchy woman Rebecca Romijn describes her ultimate fantasy – a guy who “stirs up sex and trouble wherever he goes,” for starters. “Amazing animal sex on Egyptian cotton sheets” makes the list, too. Sure, that’s one way to get an audience whipped into a frenzy about a new series. It’s a pretty good way, too.
46. Quantum Leap: Dean Stockwell wasn’t always Cavil. But he’s pretty much always had a knack for stealing the show. His turn here as a cigar-chomping hologram with an eye for the ladies was no exception. Watch Full Episodes Here.
45. Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea: Of the four seasons of this classic sci fi series, Season One is widely argued to have been the finest, thanks to its gritty realism. Then ABC began to meddle and request changes in tone. Cue the monster of the week! (You see, network meddling is like The Plague, and has been around nearly as long.) In this episode, The Fear-Makers, there is an enemy agent! And experimental, fear-inducing gas! What more could you want in a claustrophobic submarine setting? Watch Full Episodes Here.
44. The Jetsons: They say that in space, no one can hear you scream – which can just as easily be chalked up to a certain douchebag boss as much as the transmuting aliens. Just ask George Jetson, who seemed to have made a career of getting fired or demoted or otherwise thwarted on a regular basis by Mr. Spacely. Watch Full Episodes Here.
43. Angel: A vampire. With a conscience. In Los Angeles. And it gets even better: demons are armed with not only evil powers, but their own law firm. With the sort of office politics displayed in this episode, Wolfram & Hart wins Most Toxic Workplace, by a mile. Watch Full episodes Here.
42. Incredible Hulk: You have to admire Lou Ferrigno’s star-making turn as the Hulk. Week in, week out, this guy showed up like clockwork to have every inch of pectoral pulchritude spray-painted green, say “Arrrggggggggh!”, and then go home again. Sure, Bill Bixby did all the heavy lifting, dramatically speaking, but we all know who we were really tuning in for. Watch Full episodes Here.
41. Heroes: Can’t not single out Zachary Quinto as being a hugely appealing component of this incredible ensemble. Exhibit A: episodes like I Am Sylar. He’s a wicked cool, brain-eating uber-villain with issues. (Is “with issues” redundant following a phrase like “brain-eating”? Never mind…..) Watch Full Episodes Here.
40. The Prisoner: Prior its September debut, there’s still entertainment value to be gleaned in the interim from the behind-the-scenes clips like this one, in which Jim Caviezel appears to reeeeeeeeeally be enjoying his bubbly, and the producers and cast explain how this remake is totally, completely different from the original. (Except for that whole ‘shared premise’ thing?)
39. Aeon Flux: Long before Charlize Theron slinked onto the big screen in that black catsuit, there was a seriously cool animated series of the same name. Check out the S&M gear donned by our titular heroine in this episode. Makes Charlize’s ensemble look positively Amish. Watch Full Episodes Here.
38. Night Gallery: This series from the 70s was Rod Serling’s follow-up to the hugely successful Twilight Zone. The episode “They’re Tearing Down Tim Riley’s Bar” was not only allegedly one of Serling’s favorite writing samples, but also garnered an Emmy nomination. Watch Full Episodes Here.
37. Sliders: It was good, and then decent, and then awful, a progression that dovetailed with network execs becoming more involved in the “creative process.” How creative was the process that resulted in decisions such as the firing of cast linchpin John Rhys-Davies so that he could be replaced with younger and hotter cast members? Uh…..not very. Watch Full Episodes Here.
36. Dresden Files: Crime-fighting wizard. No, really. In the hands of a lesser actor, it might have been ludicrous, but Paul Blackthorne elevated (or levitated) this series to something….well….magical. Watch Full Episodes Here.
35. Jericho: Yes, the dramatic tale of fan devotion surrounding this series is nearly as renowned – if not more so – as the scripted drama which inspired such devotion. The show’s on-again, off-again status resulted in nuclear-fallout-level fan reaction, which won the series a temporary reprieve, and a hard-won/hard-to-swallow (for some) finale. Watch it with commentary from the producers for even more backstory. Watch Full Episodes Here.
34. Alfred Hitchcock Presents: Out of a couple hundred episodes from the entire series run, the celebrated maestro of macabre directed only a handful of episodes himself…….. The Case of Mr. Pelham being one such example – and an Emmy nominated one, at that. (Because the “It wasn’t me, it was my evil doppelganger!” excuse never gets old. Except for the authorities.) Watch Full Episodes Here.
33. Buck Rogers in the 25th Century: You can’t blame that Space Vampire for chasing a hot-pants-clad Wilma through the halls for a whole episode. Pretty much every sci fi loving male of a certain age remembers Erin Gray fondly. Really, really, really fondly. Watch Full Episodes Here.
31. Babylon 5: Bruce Boxleitner’s presence in this series sparked a whole “There was another actor playing the Captain, and then I became the Captain, and fans hate that” thing. He slowly won them over, due in no small part to performances like the one in this episode entitled, Interludes and Examinations. Watch Full Episodes Here.
30. Caprica: Don’t hate on Ron Moore just because he knows what you want to watch. The preview clip promises virtual group sex and sacrificial virgins and the “really gross stuff” beyond that, but if you still want to stick to your story about tuning in for some Battlestar backstory, that’s fine, too.
29. Sanctuary: Stargate’s Amanda Tapping put on an exec producer hat for this gig, which fit her quite nicely. Tapping’s role in front of the camera as Dr. Helen Magnus – the Jack Hanna of the supernatural realm – is enhanced by over-the-top CGI rendered locations and a monster-of-the-week format that actually works, which probably explains why a second season is soon forthcoming. If you’re not already on board, this behind-the-scenes footage just might suck you in. Watch Full Episodes Here.
27. Outer Limits: Frequently compared to its predecessor, Outer Limits churned out sci fi and horror vignettes every week with a variety of guest stars. Spot the famous Star Trek alum in this episode entitled Production and Decay of Strange Particles. Watch Full Episodes Here.
26. Pushing Daisies: Like many an original before it, this forensic fairytale of a flower was cut down in its prime while stretching toward its second season after an abbreviated first. If you never got on board, perhaps this behind-the-scenes clip might inspire you to give the DVDs a shot.
25. Wonder Woman: Lynda Carter has famously inspired generations of girls to believe that spinning around till you get so dizzy you could puke while singing a catchy theme song about “wearing satin tights, fighting for your rights” could indeed right all the wrongs in the world. With all that recent talk of a remake, we remain firm in our conviction that no one (no, not even Megan Fox….maybe especially not Megan Fox) can touch Carter’s unrivaled charisma with a ten-foot pole lasso of truth. Watch Full Episodes Here.
24. Vampire Diaries: The movie Twilight didn’t exactly invent the whole vampire soft porn sub-genre that is all the rage nowadays. (Frank Langella has been there, done that eons ago.) But it’s still fun to ride the wave of the latest outbreak. In this preview clip from the CW’s upcoming Vampire Diaries, our heroine insists that, “Love sucks!” as she fends off the caresses of not one but two neck-gnashing studs in designer jeans. Forgive us if we don’t believe her.
23. Doctor Who: It’s the longest running sci fi serial of all time and a staple in the viewing diet of any true-blue genre fan. As we wait in breathless anticipation for Matt Smith to begin his reign, enjoy this gallery of images which takes us through David Tennant’s memorable tenure.
22. Roswell: Not all good-looking teenagers in serialized genre shows are neck biters. Some are alien orphans. The young cast here conducted itself admirably as otherworldly high schoolers living amongst humans, although Katherin Heigl in particular showed why she’s always been one to watch. In this episode entitled Monster, she proves herself to be a far more desirable passenger than Charlize Theron in that big-screen vehicle of the same name. Watch Full Episodes Here.
21. Stargate SG-1: How many shows last ten seasons? Safe to assume that the ones that do are chock full of reasons why. The episode Window of Opportunity encapsulated this series’ trademark wit and ingenuity. Sometimes even MacGyver can’t easily maneuver his way out of a time loop, but it’s fun to watch him try. Watch Full Episodes Here.
20. Warehouse 13: Yes, some would describe this new series as a show about that warehouse at the end of Indiana Jones where the Lost Arc was furtively tucked away. A supernatural Costco, if you will, with industrial-sized vats of ectoplasm in lieu of the five pound jugs of mayo. “Cleanup on aisle 4!” just got a lot more formidable. Watch Full Episodes Here.
19. Virtuality: Yes, we would have liked to see where this went as a series. Alas, Virtuality‘s burial in a Friday midsummer night’s graveyard – combined with an inexplicable and archaic reliance upon real-time viewing stats – planted this promising pilot firmly in Never To Be territory. Six feet under it, to be specific.
18. The X-Files: Arguably one of the most iconic and beloved sci fi serials of all time, this show raised the bar for riveting modern genre tales. This photo gallery reminds us why Mulder and Scully made us believers.
17. Firefly: If you always thought that Han Solo deserved his own spin-off, this is the show for you. But Harrison Ford didn’t totally corner the market on smart-mouthed, swaggering space jockeys. Nathan Fillion hitched his star to the right wagon with this Whedon vehicle – and became a star in his own right. Watch Full Episodes Here.
16. Eureka: A genuinely innovative premise combined with a great cast and even greater gadgetry make this one of Syfy’s biggest hits. This preview clip shows an abundance of sparks flying between Sheriff Carter as his new love interest (as played by Jaime Ray Newman) blows into town, having consumed one too many Big Gulps en route. Watch Full Episodes Here.
15. Torchwood: Inter-species snogging made this a cult hit. The constant (and always popular) threat of alien invasion is pretty riveting, too. This preview clip of this summer’s upcoming miniseries strongly suggests that the only thing scarier than malevolent aliens are kids channeling malevolent aliens. World domination and sugar-rush-fueled temper tantrums? Yikes.
14. Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog: Why simply build a trans-matter ray when you can sing about building a trans-matter ray in your quest for Evil League of Evil membership? At least that’s how super-villains roll in the Whedon-verse. These webisodes rocked the net (and made us wish that regular TV was half as cool). Watch Full Episodes Here.
13. True Blood: True love is all fun and games until someone loses a jugular. Alan Ball adds a whole lotta freak to vampire chic, and we love him for it. In these behind the scenes interviews, we’re reminded why season two is only gonna get hotter, thanks to co-habitating co-stars, and Evan Rachel Woods.
12. Supernatural: Hip and hot brothers battle demons – and sometimes each other. But to be fair, they have demons and angels egging them on, which infuses this sibling rivalry with more than the usual tensions. This Supernatural photo gallery rounds up the coolest, creepiest and most captivating images of seasons past.
11. Farscape: Ben Browder won kudos – and a Saturn Award, and a role on Stargate following the end of Farscape – for his role in this innovative series. A close runner-up on a Reasons To Watch list would have to be Jim Henson’s unfailingly groovy handiwork. Watch Full Episodes Here.
10. Flash Forward: Another hot upcoming show in which everyone on earth gets mindwiped for a couple of minutes. Hilarity does not ensue, but unsettling visions of the future sure do. This preview clip makes us want to flash forward to fall already.
9. Fringe: The show that brought Spock back to serialized sci fi. If there happens to be a Most Awe-Inspiring Genre Cameo In Recent Memory floating around, surely Leonard Nimoy’s appearance as the elusive William Bell in Fringe’s season finale tops that particular list. Watch Full Episodes Here.
6. Lost: Another awesome ensemble, but it’s Mr. Benjamin Linus/Mr. Henry Gale (Michael Emerson) who routinely brings his A game (and several season’s worth of “WTF?!” moments) to this show, as evidenced in eps like The Man Behind the Curtain). Watch Full Episodes Here.
5. Twilight Zone: This classic show made a meal out of the “things aren’t what they appear to be” set-up. Take an episode like To Serve Man – you don’t always need a seven-figure special effects budget to get under the audience’s skin. Sometimes you just need a cookbook and a turkey baster. Watch Full Episodes Here.
4. V: If you haven’t already, behold this preview of the most buzzed about new sci fi show. The invading aliens mean no harm. How do we know this? Because they said so, via their superior giant-head-in-the-sky technology that proves they have the skills and tools to crush all of humanity in a nanosecond. But seriously, don’t be afraid.
3. Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles: This fan favorite delivered the most brilliant, riveting and inadvertent series finale, and makes us mourn the third season that Will Never Be. The small screen rendition was everything the film franchise wasn’t – and yes, that’s a compliment. Watch Full Episodes Here.
2. Star Trek: Picking one stand-out episode or moment out of the entire old-school Trek oeuvre is like trying to find a hamster in a Tribble storm. But The Doomsday Machine is pretty good. Watch Full Episodes Here.
1. Battlestar Galactica: It’s often difficult for hyped and high profile shows to deliver a series finale that can satisfy the high expectations surrounding it. BSG’s two-parter did. Watch Daybreak Part I and Daybreak Part II again for proof. Watch Full Episodes Here.