One of my Facebook friends has come down with the ‘Rona. She’s fine (asymptomatic), but is still going into quarantine and asked for television recommendations. I’ve decided to list my personal top ten science fiction and fantasy television shows.
Listed in order from kid-friendly to very much not kid-friendly. These all include women characters, most have major characters of color, and several have LGBTQ+ representation, as well.
Avatar: the Last Airbender
Still the best animated show to ever grace television. If you haven’t seen this, you have such a treat ahead of you.
This is an epic fantasy about a world torn apart by a century of war. The Avatar, master of all four elements, is tasked with bringing peace and balance back to the world. Only problem: he’s twelve years old.
The Dragon Prince
If you’ve already watched and re-watched Avatar, you’ll want to check out The Dragon Prince. It has one of the same creators, and Sokka’s voice actor, so there’s a lot of similar themes and styles. The biggest difference is that dragons play a larger role, there are elves, and the magic is less elemental and more wizard-y.
Unlike Avatar, this one is ongoing. Season four will come out…eventually. When is COVID supposed to be done, again?
(I did a longer, spoiler-free review on my blog here.)
She-Ra and the Princesses of Power
Basically Avatar, with a lot more gay. The internet is calling it the lesbian kids’ show, and IT IS AMAZING.
I did a more complete (spoiler-free) review of this show on YouTube here, but the basic premise is: Adora is the Chosen One, she’s got issues from an abusive upbringing, and all the deep themes of gray morality and complex leadership decisions are hidden by rainbows and pink sparkles. All but one romantic relationship on screen is gay, and one of the characters in later seasons is nonbinary.
So this is great if you’re looking for LGBTQ+ representation in kid-friendly media.
Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood
Not to be confused with plain ol’ Fullmetal Alchemist, the 2003 show that sharply veers from the manga. It’s not bad, but it’s not nearly as good as Brotherhood.
Two teenage brothers seek the mystical Philosopher’s Stone in order to return their mangled bodies to normal; Ed lost an arm and a leg, and Al lost his whole body when they tried to bring their dead mother back to life. (Needless to say, it failed.) As they work to undo their mistake, they run into artificial humans, murderers, and a massive government conspiracy that will destroy a whole country if they don’t stop it.
Also Ed loses his mind every other episode whenever someone calls him “short.” It’s hilarious.
The Good Place
(Full spoiler-free review here.)
Eleanor Shellstrop wakes up in the afterlife, specifically the Good Place, thanks to all the good deeds she did in life. Only problem: she never did any good deeds when she was alive. But if anyone else finds out, she’ll be condemned to the Bad Place.
Eleanor and her friends have to play cat-and-mouse with the Good Place’s architect Michael, and his all-knowing assistant Janet, hiding in plain sight as Eleanor learns how to be ethical to earn her spot in the pleasant afterlife.
This show is hilarious, delivering laughs while also tackling some really spicy ethical issues. It’s also got a really sweet romantic subplot and some truly tear-jerking season finales.
(Full spoiler-free review here.)
So far there’s only one season of Snowpiercer, although season two has been confirmed, and they had filmed all but the last two episodes before COVID shut everything down in March. (D’oh!)
The world has become a frozen wasteland, and the only survivors live on the massive train Snowpiercer, 1,001 cars long. The rich live in the head, first class. Laborers are in second and third class. And the stowaways–those who could not afford tickets and could not secure jobs–are shoved in the tail. They’re forced to endure horrendous conditions, and are ready for revolution.
As you can imagine, this show is very relevant today. Anyone who wants a contextualized story about class and social injustice is going to want to check it out.
Also, Daveed Diggs.
Mostly, Daveed Diggs.
My faith in HBO was shaken by the last couple of seasons of Game of Thrones, but Watchmen re-secured it.
This one-season show is based on the graphic novel of the same name, but you don’t have to read it to understand what’s happening. I went into this totally blind, having never read the graphic novel or seen the movie, and was able to follow along just fine.
Watchmen talks about police brutality and racism in a dystopic superhero world, and is single-handedly responsible for most of the U.S. learning about the Tulsa Massacre.
At the time of my writing this, I’ve only seen the first four episodes of Lovecraft Country, and I love it. Jordan Peele is going into cosmic horror, and he nails it. I find it especially awesome because H. P. Lovecraft was horribly racist even for the standards of the time, so the fact that his universe of cosmic horror is being re-written to star black people is just the icing on the cake.
Lovecraft Country takes place in 1954 America, so in addition to terrifying monsters, cultists, and ghosts, the main characters also have to deal with ‘50s racism. I’m talking sunset towns and burning crosses.
Atticus is a war veteran from WWII who’s looking for his missing father, and is joined by his uncle George and childhood friend/person who steals the show, Leti.
Just watch it for Leti. She’s the best.
Rick and Morty
How do I describe Rick and Morty? Dark humor, nihilism, meta commentary with occasional breaks of the fourth wall, a method of worldbuilding that can only be described as “fuck it, who cares”…it’s a class on its own.
Rick is the smartest man in the universe–in the multi-verse–and has moved in with his adult daughter and her family. He and his grandson Morty go on adventures all across the galaxy. Most of the episodes are vignettes that don’t have any bearing on each other (except maybe a callback later on), but there are a handful of overarching plotlines that tie everything together: Beth’s abandonment issues, her and Jerry’s marriage, and my personal favorite, Evil Morty and the Citadel of Ricks.
If your type of humor is “I’m going to Hell for laughing at this,” you’ll want to check out this series.
(Full spoiler-free review here.)
In the 15th Century, Dracula falls in love with and marries a human woman. But he only gets a few years with her before she’s burned at the stake for “witchcraft.” Dracula decides that all humans suck now–which, you know, fair–and plans to exterminate all of them with a bloodthirsty army of hellspawn. A trio of heroes–the vampire hunter Belmont, the mage Sypha, and Dracula’s half-vampire son Alucard–set off to stop him.
This is a very bloody, very grimdark show that left us on a bit of a cliffhanger in season three. Again, production was stopped with COVID. But I’m looking forward to season four. One villain might become a hero, and a hero might turn into a villain. We just don’t know.
What are your favorite sci-fi/fantasy shows? Tell us in the comments so we can check them out!