6 Lesser-Known Sci-Fi TV Hits From Across the Pond

The holiday season is approaching, and with it comes a little extra time—time that makes for a good Sci-fi TV binge. This year, instead of going with the traditional all-American Sci-fi classics, consider some other gems that hail from our friends across the pond. See, Brits may not celebrate Thanksgiving or Christmas quite like the Yanks, but they still offer up some pretty tasty, imaginative Sci-fi to whet the pallet.

So sit back, relax, and take a look at these lesser known Sci-fi exploits this holiday.

Space: 1999

Space: 1999

If you’re into vintage Star Trek, then you’ll dig Space: 1999. Instead of the Enterprise, you have Moonbase Alpha, a team of Moon inhabitants who get plunged into deep space after a catastrophic event knocks their Moon base out of orbit. Alien encounters, Twilight Zone-like psychological benders, and metaphysical themes are complemented by a dynamic cast, episode cliffhangers, guest appearances, and, of course, seventies bellbottoms.

There are talks of a reboot to the series, so get your fix before it airs with the original 1975-77 reruns, available on DVD per season or as an all-encompassing megaset.

UFO

UFO TV Series

Purple hair, tight outfits, synchronized garbage shoot dispatchUFO has all the essentials you could come to expect from British Sci-fi in the ’70s. The show takes place in a fictional, near-future universe where aliens from a dying planet are attempting to invade Earth to harvest human organs. Earth’s only defense is SHADO, an international top secret military organization set out to destroy the extraterrestrial life forms.

If Space: 1999 is your conservative dad, UFO is your crazy uncle. In fact, the two shows are related, as the second season of UFO is what came to eventually be Space: 1999. It can’t be taken too seriously, especially by today’s standards, but you’ll still have fun with this throwback series.

Black Mirror

Black Mirror

Today we, as a people, live amongst our technology. It’s all around us: smartphones, tablets, monitors, intelligent cars, sophisticated medical devices, you name it. We embrace it all because it all makes our lives easier, more entertaining, and more fulfilling. But do we really know how it’s affecting us? Shaping us? Changing us? Black Mirror looks to bring these questions to the surface, predicting what could come of us if we slip and let our relationship with technology go too far.

A riveting, prophetic, and at times awakening series, Black Mirror will leave you wanting for more than its two seasons to date. Right now the series has been made available on the Audience network. Otherwise, you’ll need a region-free DVD or Blu-Ray player to play the region 2 discs available for purchase online. If you find yourself in love with this dark take on our technological future, there might be a Series 3 for the show, if it gets the green light.

Dark Season

Dark Season

While we had lame shows like Weird Science during teenage adolescence in the States, British youth got to enjoy gritty, dark Sci-fi thrillers such as Dark Season. Like most English shows, the show was only on for one quick season. But the adventures of the kids and their foiling of the villainous Mr. Eldritch’s schemes helped to gather a solid audience nonetheless. It also gave a career boost to the likes of Kate Winslet.

Most of the Dark Season episodes can be viewed in incremental YouTube splices, or purchased via DVD from outlets like Amazon.

The Day of the Triffids

Day of the Triffids

“All plants move. They don’t usually pull themselves out of the ground and chase you.”

Well before M. Night Shyamalan made plants kill via sneaky airborne neurotoxins in 2008, for over 40 years the Brits were making plants walking, stalking, visible killers. In particular, the Triffids from The Day of the Triffids universe. Normally relegated to harvesting for oil, the man-eating, stinger-equipped, giant plants escape their confines after a meteor crash renders most of humanity blind. The few uninfected with sight-loss must find a way to save both themselves and the rest of mankind while the plants wreak havoc.

Nothing can compare to the Martian sound effects and old 50’s style scares of the 1962 full length movie version of The Day of the Triffids. But the 1981 and 2009 TV series based on it are also worth a look, as they have a little more modern eeriness. All are available on DVD.

The Tripods

The Tripods

What do you get when you cross War of the Worlds with Falling Skies? The Tripods, that’s what. Borrowing from the former and likely inspiring the latter, The Tripods imagines a world in which aliens have taken over Earth and enslaved mankind. The humans are inescapably in servitude to the blubbery aliens and their high-tech tripods machines, and must do their bidding or die. That is, until two young men make a break for it after hearing whispers that a band of humans may have found a way to combat the space invaders.

Ripe with mind control devices, alien resistance rebels, a compelling story, and decent special effects for the time, The Tripods deviated from many of the more conventional 80s Sci-fi ideas, such as the trend to use more humanoid aliens. The result was a captivating series that has been missed ever since.

Despite not coming to a full-on conclusion (the series was abruptly cancelled before a third season was made), the show has since garnered a cult following of sorts by Sci-fi fans around the world. You can get both seasons on DVD in a box set. Though, like Black Mirror, your player will need to read region 2 discs.

American Sci-fi shows are fun. But if you’re looking for something a little different, a little more British, or a little more obscure to get into, then try out one of these treasures. From space and dystopian alternative universes to aliens and mind-bending situations—or all of these—there’s one that delivers that particular Sci-fi goodness you’re looking for.

Who knows? Like one enough and watching might just become a new holiday tradition.

What do you think? Leave a comment.

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Imagine hot chocolate combined with colorless, odorless iocane powder. Now imagine sadness drinking such a concoction. That is Kevin Fischer.
Edited by Ewan Wilson, Misagh.

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20 Comments

  1. Good list! To include a couple more unknowns:
    -Real Humans
    -Continuum
    -The Returned

    • Orphan Black!!

    • Kevin Fischer

      I tried to stick to Sci-Fi shows that came from the UK, but the ones you’ve listed here look great. Thanks for sharing!

      • The Returned was without a doubt one of the best shows of the year, and perhaps the only programme I’ve seen to truly emulate the atmosphere of Twin Peaks. A sure classic providing it manages to sustain its quality throughout the coming seasons.

  2. alberto
    0

    I very interesting sci-fi I’ve watched recently is titled H+. Have anyone seen it? Human race is almost wiped out in the future and everyone remaining are linked to the internet 24/7…

  3. I was born in 1982 and if The Tripods was shown in 1984 and 1985 then I really shouldn’t remember anything about it but I do seem to remember some of this mainly the tripods trampling around.

    • Vilgelm
      0

      I just started watching them again. I remember seeing some of it when I was very young when it was on TV. Also remember Blue Peter showing how the Tripods being animated once.

      I have to say, it doesn’t look at all how I remember it – I seem to remember it looking really bad when I was a kid, but now I am watching them all again I am actually surprised at how good it all looks for a UK scifi series in the 80’s!

  4. Desiree Park
    0

    Two of my most dearest shows were cancelled, The 4400 and Firefly. 🙁

  5. Patrick
    0

    What about these half-forgotten gems:
    * Gemini Man, 1976
    * Quatermass, 1979
    * Planet of the Apes, 1974 (the TV series!)

    All worth experiencing.

  6. Great list! I really believe BM is amongst the best TV shown in the UK in the past 25 years. There’s just been nothing like it at all, it’s extraordinary. A lot of people have been arguing that since marriage and the birth of his child, Brooker has become a lot softer and less cynical than before (read his touching piece on the Sandy Hook shootings in the Guardian) and this has probably led to him writing more human stories in comparison to the biting sarcasm and satire of the first series. This is quickly shaping up to be one of my all time favourite tv shows along with The Thick of It.

    • Black Mirror has been an amazing piece of television. The Waldo Moment for me just felt a bit short on the others, the ending felt rushed in my opinion. Would have loved to see a bit more of the post credit scenes.

  7. Sean Hodges

    A fantastic article! I’ve been meaning to watch the “Triffids” stuff for ages now, but to my shame I’ve never gotten round to it; still, if they’re as good as the book, then I’d better find the DVDs, I think.

  8. Sam Gray

    If you enjoyed Black Mirror, then I would recommend checking out Utopia, a Channel 4 series I think about six people saw. It’s an interesting conspiracy thriller, focusing on a group of people in possession of a prophetic graphic novel and being pursued by a shady group called “The Network”. Violent, imaginative, and beautifully shot, this was unexpectedly brilliant and rather ignored by critics. Pretty sure you can still watch it on 4oD if you’re a UK resident.

  9. Taylor Ramsey

    I was a Space: 1999 fan in my youth and having recently watched a few episodes on line, I can say they hold up surprisingly well.
    I can highly recommend them!

  10. J. Bryan Jones

    Tripods looks interesting.

  11. Black Mirror is the kind of generation-defining TV that deserves to be watched by the largest possible audience. It’s edgy, compelling, disturbing and yet deeply human – really hope a third series sees the light of day.

  12. The BBC ran a six-part sci-fi series called ‘The Fades’. Very clever, very funny, and genuinely chilling. A 2nd season didnt happen though, mainly due to viewing figures not being that good, but it is available on DVD and Bluray. If only they stuck to this instead of creating Atlantis!! Fun fact, the lead Iain De Caestecker is in Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD.

  13. Danny Cox

    Black Mirror is a smart sci-fi miniseries and a must watch for anyone and everyone that has wondered about where the world’s increasing dependence on technology is headed. While the six available episodes are independent stories–not associated with any other episode–each is captivating and focuses on a specific niche regarding the evolution of technology and the subsequent devolution of mankind. As I said, there are currently only six episodes out (2 seasons, 3 episodes each) so pace yourselves when watching.

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