Moonwalking Missteps: The 5 Worst Science Fiction TV Series
Cason Murphy - July 20, 2009
July 20, 1969. 40 years ago today, television history was made. Viewers around the world were glued to their TV sets watching the drama in outer space unfold in primetime. No, it wasn't end of the last season missions of the crew of the USS Enterprise. Instead of scripted science fiction, the real-life adventures of astronauts Neil Armstrong, "Buzz" Aldrin, and Michael Collins captivated the globe. These three men fulfilled President Kennedy's vision and became the first successful mission to land on the Moon.
Yet, for every stellar offering like Battlestar Galactica, Babylon 5 and Futurama, there have been just as many critical black holes along the lines of Hypernauts (ABC, 1996) or Bucky O'Hare and the Toad Wars (Syn, 1992). So, we put our antennae out and picked up transmissions from the top five shows where TV boldly should not have gone:
1. Space Patrol (aka Planet Patrol) (ITV, 1963)
|Before James Tiberius Kirk popped up on the cultural radar, the strung-up Captain Larry Dart led his merry band of multi-planetary marionettes around the Milky Way. The lack of an actual soundtrack (instead scored only by ambient, mechanical noise), the puppets' eerie unblinking eyes, and Professor Haggarty's widow's peak are far scarier than any creepy creatures the crew of the Galasphere 347 ever encountered. The somewhat respectable 39-episode run of Space Patrol was essentially plutoed into puppet past once the more popular Thunderbirds franchise came along.
2. Space Academy (CBS, 1977)
|When the career of Jonathan Harris fell out of warp-drive after Lost in Space, he packed up his Pure Magic eyeliner, electrified eyebrow tweezers, and alliterative insults and joined this morality tale machine disguised as a children's show. Moonlighting as the headmaster of the wannabe Starfleet Academy, Harris led his psychic students through after-school special lessons along the lines of "superpowers can't solve all of your problems." After only fifteen episodes, viewers likely didn't experience termination shock when CBS let the show float off into the heliosphere.
3. Alien Nation (FOX, 1989)
|By the time this film spin-off hit the airwaves, Detective George Francisco and his alien family weren't "Newcomers" to their audience - yet they tread ground that was later covered in better, more comedic form by 3rd Rock from the Sun. The gritty cop drama caught narrative debris in its orbit like pregnant alien males, interspecies homosexual relationships and a character necessary for otherworldly reproduction named Albert Einstein - leading to its unexpected first-season cancellation. Yet, after a constellation of serialized novels and five made-for-TV movies later (with a possible Syfy reboot on the event horizon), Alien Nation's longevity may not have quite reached absolute zero.
4. Homeboys in Outer Space (UPN, 1996)
|Let's be honest, even Uncle Martin would shake his ride at the ridiculousness of this show's lunar lowrider - dubbed the Space Hoopty. "Interblacktic" explorers Tyberius (sound familiar?) "Ty" Walker and Morris Clay and their attitude-laced on-board computer Loquatia cruised around the universe in search of Benjamins, babes, and blatant stereotypes. With episode titles like "All the King's Homeys," "The Shawshank Redemption Center," and the suggestive "G Marks the Spot" - even cameos by John Astin, Anthony Hopkins and yes, Gary Coleman couldn't save this supernova-sized stinker from itself.
5. Meego (CBS, 1997)
|Combine the general concepts of My Favorite Martian, Mork & Mindy and ALF - but sap the irreverence, ingenuity and general interest out of them all - and you wind up with this malfunctioning mid-90's mishap. Bronson Pinchot played the title character, an alien who crash-landed on Earth, was adopted by a single-parent family, and passed himself off as "Canadian" to avoid detection by other humans...needless to say, the paltry six-episode span of Meego won't be etched onto the next Voyager golden record.
Is your favorite bad sci-fi TV show missing? Get off your asteroid and beam us up a comment!
Cason Murphy started in the entertainment business at the age of three when he "picked a rabbit out of his hat" during a tap recital - and hasn't had the good sense to get out yet. When he's not selling his soul to academia at UCLA's School of Theater, Film & Television, he is making good use of his DVR.