As a die-hard science fiction fan, the empty weeks between summer TV season finales and fall TV season premiers are almost unbearable. To fill the time before The Walking Dead and Doctor Who come back, I’ve compiled a list of entertaining and accessible series to stream online. Some of these shows never aired more than two or three seasons because of low ratings, but are nevertheless enjoyable. While they lack the sophisticated technical qualities of more critically acclaimed shows like Battlestar Galactica, they offer thought-provoking analyses of the human experience in times of crisis through dynamic performances and provocative storytelling.
- Dollhouse (Fox)
Any respectable Joss Whedon fan has already seen this series and harrumphed emphatically when Dollhouse was cancelled after only two seasons. The series is compelling because of its astute commentary on the nightmarish possibilities of unchecked global capitalism, human trafficking, and misogyny. Eventually, main character Echo (Eliza Dushku) becomes aware of The Dollhouse, the clandestine escort service that wiped her mind and uploaded it with personalities requested by high-paying clients, and begins to fight back. We see a vulnerable and fragile character evolve into a perceptive and assertive survivor, and empathize with Echo’s desperate search for her lost memories. The entire series can be found on Netflix.
- Jericho (CBS)
What is most engaging and exceptional about Jericho is the recurring character Robert Hawkins. British actor Lennie James is enthralling as the CIA agent tasked with infiltrating domestic terrorist cells in Middle America, which leads him to a small town in Kansas. In the wake of a nationwide nuclear attack, Hawkins is poised and discrete as he navigates the complicated interpersonal dynamics within the town in order to uncover the culprit behind the national disaster. Both seasons of Jericho can be found on Netflix.
- Under the Dome (CBS)
Not without its soapy melodrama or tacky plot twists, this show’s strength comes from its elaborate and thrilling source material. Stephen King wrote the novel, is a series producer, and is involved in everything from scriptwriting to episode direction. Along with an inexplicable and pervasive psychosis, characters are also forced to grapple with strange meteorological events within the eponymous dome. The plot is driven by puzzling and intriguing devices; the series is less focused on substantive character development and more on uncovering the origins of the dome and unlocking the mysteries of its purpose. The discovery of an underground cave system, which may hold the energy source of the dome, provides an ample source of speculation for both the series’ characters and the audience. Currently airing its third season on CBS, you can watch the first two seasons on Amazon.
- The Stand (ABC)
Another Stephen King opus, The Stand is an engrossing story of good vs. evil that emerges when two surviving factions of a global super-flu pandemic clash in post-apocalyptic America. King’s characters translate incredibly well from page to screen. The heroes are rallied to defeat the resource hoarding faction after their matriarchal leader Mother Abigail visits them all in a shared vision. She lends a surreal and mystical element that enriches the story world of The Stand. This miniseries can be watched on YouTube.