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The 25 most epic sci-fi dramas to stream right now: Our critics sift through hundreds of options to choose the shows that are truly out of this world

From zombie apocalypses to Jedi Knights, now is definitely the time to look to the stars. 

And if Denis Villeneuve’s jaw-dropping sequel to Dune, which is currently in cinemas and stars Timothee Chalamet, isn’t enough to whet your sci-fi appetite, our experts have rounded up 25 of the best futuristic dramas to watch on-demand right now.

There are huge monsters, tense psychological thrillers and plenty more to sink your teeth into… 

Silo

The remains of humanity live deep underground in Apple’s finely acted mystery

Year: 2023

Certificate: 15

Watch now on Apple TV+

Shows with fantastical mysteries at the centre can be frustrating things. The classic example is Lost, which went on for 121 episodes before coming to a conclusion that wholly satisfied no one. The problem comes when the characters and world are less interesting than the mystery of the show, but that’s not the case with Silo. 

Based on a series of books (unlike Lost, which the writers made up as they went along) Apple’s show takes us into a silo-dwelling society deep under the planet’s surface, where the remains of humanity cower from what they believe to be a ruined and toxic surface. Are they being told the truth, though? That mystery feels very important at the start, but the more you get to know the characters, especially gruff engineer Juliette (beautifully and precisely played by Rebecca Ferguson), the less you’ll worry about what’s going on up top. Silo becomes more of a murder mystery than a fantastical mystery, and one that’ll grip you more with each passing episode. The wider and very fine cast includes David Oyelowo, Iain Glen, Harriet Walter and Tim Robbins and, once you reach the end, you’ll be especially glad to know that Silo will be back for series two. (Ten episodes) 

The Last Of Us

HBO’s epic, post-apocalyptic drama about a father-daughter bond

Year: 2022

Certificate: 15

Watch now on Sky

Watch now on NOW

It sounded like the last thing any of us needed – another post-apocalyptic drama about zombies, and one adapted from a video game, at that – but HBO’s The Last Of Us was a stunning surprise. It was grisly, yes, and full of desperate characters; but, unlike the relentlessly depressing Walking Dead, proved to be a show about hope, with two very likeable characters at its centre. 

Pedro Pascal (The Mandalorian) plays grieving father-figure Joel, who shepherds teenager Ellie, who is immune to the zombie-causing fungus, on a journey across the US. Ellie is played by rising Brit Bella Ramsey (Game Of Thrones), in a star-making performance that takes on real punch as the show evolves, venturing across a ruined world that’s realised with scale and detail. If you’re unsure if it’s for you, give it until part three – that’s when the tone really becomes clear. (Nine episodes) 

Halo

Action-packed sci-fi series based on the hit videogame

Year: 2022-

Certificate: 15

Watch now on Paramount+

Full of armoured supersoldiers slugging it out with invading alien races intent on subjugating all of mankind, the Xbox game series Halo was never short on spectacle. The first series of this TV spin-off captured that nicely but also managed to squeeze in a degree of unexpected characterisation as it laid out the political, personal and scientific shenanigans going on behind the death-defying antics of heroic soldier Master Chief (Pablo Schreiber). 

The action-packed end result felt like a heady mash-up of the Battlestar Galactica revamp and the Tom Cruise film Edge Of Tomorrow. Series two carries that vibe forward as Master Chief and his Spartan team hunt for the alien artefact known as the Halo. (Two series) 

Obi-Wan Kenobi

Ewan McGregor plays the Jedi master in this visually stunning Star Wars show

Year: 2022

Certificate: 12

Watch now on Disney+

Disney must have had a lot of faith in this six-parter as they chose, rather cheekily, to launch it on the same day as the return of Netflix’s Stranger Things. The big-budget series started life as a film project and has a big-screen feel, with Ewan McGregor reprising his role as Kenobi in a story set a decade after Star Wars: Revenge Of The Sith – as the grieving, isolated Jedi watches over young Luke on Tatooine. 

Hayden Christensen also returns as Darth Vader, but he was never the world’s most dynamic actor, and the show’s secret weapon is actually Homeland’s Rupert Friend as one of Vader’s Jedi hunters. Overall, the series turned out to be chiefly a feast for the senses rather than anything more substantial, but it certainly builds out the Star Wars universe in eye-catching and light-hearted style and, sometimes, that’s exactly what you want. (Six episodes) 

Monarch: Legacy Of Monsters

Generation-spanning sci-fi series set in the world of King Kong and Godzilla

Year: 2023

Certificate: 15

Watch now on Apple TV+

Stretching from Godzilla (2014) to Godzilla vs Kong (2021) with more still to come, the movies that make up the MonsterVerse franchise are huge affairs in every sense, charting what happens when gigantic creatures cross paths with humble humans. One of the films saw San Francisco reduced to a smouldering ruin and that’s where this exciting, conspiracy-packed ten-part spin-off TV show begins as school teacher Cate (Anna Sawai) discovers her family’s connection to the mysterious Monarch organisation, which has seemingly been tracking the monsters for decades. 

Kurt Russell brings Hollywood swagger to proceedings as former army officer Lee Shaw, with his son Wyatt Russell entertainingly playing a younger version of the same man in flashback sequences set in the 1950s. The real stars here, though, are the monsters – the first sequence in which one is revealed is jaw-dropping. As ever, Apple has spared no expense in bringing this particular vision to the screen. (Ten episodes) 

Invasion

Earth is visited by an alien species that threatens the very existence of humanity

Year: 2021

Certificate: 15

Watch now on Apple TV+

Engrossing drama about an alien invasion in which the focus isn’t initially on the big screen theatrics of the supernatural beings – although there are fireballs and deaths aplenty – but on how humans, already dealing with issues in their own lives, cope with this latest challenge. 

For Aneesha (Golshifteh Farahani) the invasion happens just as she’s learned about her husband’s infidelity, while Japanese space worker Mitsuki (Shioli Kutsana) has to battle state secrecy to find out what’s happened to her astronaut lover and Sheriff Jim Bell Tyson (Sam Neill) is on his last working day when the pesky extraterrestrials make their presence felt. Over in London there’s a Lord of the Flies-style scenario when a bus full of children end up alone in a massive quarry. 

Series two opens four months into the invasion, and everyone’s lives are well and truly upset, so what follows looks more like what you’d expect of an alien invasion show, as characters such as haunted soldier Trevante strive to find hope for humanity. There’s a touch of the movie Arrival in the opening episodes, too, and if you’re left wanting more by the finale, then there’s good news – Invasion will be back for series three. (Two series)

Foundation

Epic sci-fi drama based on the novels by Isaac Asimov

Year: 2021

Certificate: 15

Watch now on Apple TV+

Isaac Asimov’s Foundation novels charted the fall and rise of galactic powers over centuries, and what marked them out was the way they hinged around academia, rather than armadas. That academia was a predictive behavioural science known as ‘psychohistory’ devised by Hari Seldon, who tried to steer the galaxy away from hundreds of years of apocalyptic darkness. 

He’s played in Apple’s epic show by Jared Harris, and the other star of this show is the special effects – they are truly awe-inspiring, especially in the moments when one empire is falling and the other, led by Seldon, is rising. Fans of the books will notice a lot of differences in the show, but then Asimov did write the first of them in the 1940s. A second run has been ordered. (One series)

12 Monkeys

Mind-bending sci-fi adventure following a man to the past to save the future

Year: 2015-2018

Certificate: 15

Terry Gilliam’s cult classic is reimagined as a TV series, following a prisoner sent back in time to try to stop a plague from decimating the future population, with only the 12 Monkeys of the title as a cryptic clue. 

Aaron Stanford (Pyro in the early X-Men movies) stars as the time-hopping prisoner Cole (the Bruce Willis character from the movie) in a show that over four series takes time to indulge the strangeness of the premise, while still delivering sci-fi action, thrills, and not forgetting a dash of romance – a big part of the original. 

The whole thing fits together like a puzzle that rewards the patient viewer. It’s strictly for sci-fi fans who can enter into the spirit of its frequently flabby logic, but enjoyably bonkers, especially its way out there and hugely satisfying finale. (Four series)

Black Mirror (Series Six)

The unnerving anthology series returns with five disturbing one-off tales

Year: 2023

Certificate: 18

Watch now on Netflix

Written by British satirist Charlie Brooker, Black Mirror has delivered some of the most gloriously disturbing standalone TV tales of recent decades (if not ever…). In the sixth series, Brooker’s five tales cover everything from TV nightmares and high-tech missions to parallel universes, and the cast list for it all is impressive. 

Look out for Hollywood A-lister Salma Hayek and Rob Delaney in the Netflix-spoofing story Joan Is Awful, John Hannah in Loch Henry – which delves into a small Scottish town’s very dark secrets – and Aaron Paul and Josh Hartnett in Beyond The Sea, a tense, spacebound and feature-length adventure set in an alternative 1969. Two further tales remain – Mazey Day, which tracks a starlet (The Rising’s Clara Rugaard) dogged by paparazzi, and Demon 79, a sepia-toned northern English story set in 1979, about a sales assistant with an understandable axe to grind. 

Now, be warned that this time around the general slant leans towards horror so, if you want an easier time of it, choose Joan Is Awful or Beyond The Sea, the first of which is actually quite funny. The best of them all is Loch Henry, but be prepare to be disturbed… (Five episodes) 

Star Trek: Strange New Worlds

Rollicking prequel to the original sci-fi series that’s packed with great stories

Year: 2022-

Certificate: 15

Watch now on Paramount+

The creators of this prequel to the original 1960s series really understand what it takes to make a good Star Trek show. They’ve taken the starry-eyed wonder of the original and blended it with the dark and witty tone of recent series, a mix that’s at its most potent in the lead character, Christopher Pike (Anson Mount). The captain of the Enterprise looks like a typical western hero – we even first meet him at his ranch in Montana, horseriding and dodging work calls – and Mount has form in that genre, too (see Hell On Wheels on Amazon Freevee). Yet Pike is a man plagued by dark visions, and carries those with him on missions to exotic worlds that will inspire and surprise. 

Strange New Worlds sets a seriously high standard throughout, from its cinematic special effects to its acting, to the surprisingly bold storytelling choices as it goes on. The first series tells a gripping story that brings all of its characters to vibrant life, while series two continues in terrific form – featuring a crossover with the animated Star Trek comedy Lower Decks, more of a certain James T Kirk, and a breathtaking musical episode. (Two series) 

Hello Tomorrow!

The Morning Show’s Billy Crudup sells lunar dreams in this sci-fi dramedy

Year: 2023

Certificate: 12

Watch now on Apple TV+

Imagine the 1950s, but not as we know it – with cars that hover, black and white video phones, and travelling salesmen selling the dream of living the high life on the Moon. Is everything as it seems in this portrait of Americana, though? 

The Morning Show’s Billy Crudup stars as one of the salesmen, a man who seems to have it all together on the surface with that slick smile and easy manner, but has regrets about his past eating away at him inside. A chance encounter one day gives him a chance to rectify one regret, while Apple’s series also broadens out to show us the lives of the other sellers (one played by The Simpsons’ Hank Azaria) and the hopeful customers who buy their timeshare dreams.

Like Apple’s Severance, this is a show that pulls you in with its concept and extraordinary look, but keeps you with its characters and central mystery. There’s a touch of Glengarry Glen Ross to the thorny camaraderie between the salesmen, and a touch of The Twilight Zone to everything else. (One series)

The Mandalorian

Sci-fi meets Western in the first live-action Star Wars TV spin-off

Year: 2019

Certificate: pg

Watch now on Disney+

The first live-action Star Wars TV spin-off had a lot to live up to, and gave us plenty to enjoy with its western-style action, delightfully sweet sidekick and a rousing end credits theme that’s up there with the best western soundtracks. 

Our hero comes from a group called the Mandalorians, who were originally a noble warrior people – a bit like medieval knights – until the evil Empire scattered them across the universe, forcing them to scratch out a living as bounty-hunters. When we meet ‘Mando’ (Pedro Pascal), he’s every inch the mysterious stranger, and it doesn’t look like anything can get to him – but then he meets sweet little ‘Baby Yoda’. 

This show is precision-engineered to be something the whole family can watch and has a wry sense of humour that the Star Wars movies don’t always manage. (Three series)

Severance

Dystopian workplace drama starring Adam Scott and Patricia Arquette

Year: 2022

Certificate: 15

Watch now on Apple TV+

Apple’s first ‘must-see’ show since Ted Lasso is a drama directed by Ben Stiller that unfolds at a dystopian office where workers have no memory of their lives outside – and vice versa. It’s got style, secrets, the intelligence to pay off its premise and a great cast led by Adam Scott and Britt Lower as two of the workers. 

From their point of view, the moment after they step into the lift to go home, they step out to start a new shift. As the audience, we get to see some of what they don’t, but the higher-ups – including a boss played by Patricia Arquette – definitely know things we don’t and that, along with this show’s singular sense of style, keeps you hooked. (One series)

Extant

Halle Berry headlines a cerebral sci-fi mystery series

Year: 2014

Certificate: 15

Watch now on Prime Video

When astronaut Molly (Halle Berry) returns to earth after a 13-month solo stint on a space station, she finds herself inexplicably pregnant. Her hunt for answers is just one of the engines powering this intricate and involving science-fiction puzzle. It also touches on issues about just what makes someone human and the rights of machines to control their own destiny as Molly’s husband’s AI creations jostle for their own space in the world. 

Berry’s performance is excellent across the 26 episodes that make up the two series of the show, but there’s fantastic support too from the likes of ER’s Goran Visnjic and The Walking Dead’s Jeffrey Dean Morgan. (Two series, Freevee via Amazon) 

Under The Dome

Science-fiction mystery based on a novel by Stephen King

Year: 2013-2015

Certificate: 15

Watch now on My5

Inexplicably, an entire town is sealed inside a huge impenetrable dome. That’s the plot of The Simpsons Movie, too (released six years prior), but unlike the Simpson family who manage to escape their dome, the inhabitants of the town of Chester’s Mill really are stuck and remain so, no matter how much they shoot at their transparent prison or attempt to bulldoze their way through it. It’s bonkers but rather fun if you leave your brain outside your own rational thought bubble. The series is based on a novel by Stephen King, which he says he first started in 1976, then set aside until 2007. (Three series) 

Electric Dreams

Sci-fi anthology series inspired by the stories of Philip K. Dick

Year: 2017

Certificate: 15

This bold and ambitious sci-fi anthology series of stand-alone episodes – mini-movies if you like – is inspired by the short stories of Philip K. Dick, the prolific US author whose work has inspired movies such as Blade Runner, Total Recall and Minority Report. 

The series is packed with a wealth of talent, both in front of and behind the camera (its executive producer is Breaking Bad star Bryan Cranston), with different writers and directors bringing their visions to the screen over ten stories.. While the imaginative tales veer off in all directions, the unifying theme of the series is that of the nature of humans, says Philip K. Dick’s daughter Isa, one of the co-producers. ‘It’s ten mini-movies, all set in different worlds with different tones, but each focuses on what it is to be human,’ she said. 

One of the strongest episodes is The Hood Maker, written by Matthew Graham (Life On Mars), a futuristic tale about the war between normal human beings and a race of telepathic mutants. Holliday Grainger and Richard Madden lead the cast. Look out too for The Impossible Planet, which stars Geraldine Chaplin as a 342-year-old deaf woman living on the planet Fomalhaut IX who visits Earth, a ruined planet that hasn’t been inhabited for hundreds of years after becoming extinct in the year 2400. It will make you think. (One series)

The Lazarus Project

A secret organisation with the ability to turn back time finds its newest recruit

Year: 2022-

Certificate: 15

Watch now on NOW

Watch now on Sky

Sky’s time-loop thriller pulls you in very swiftly indeed with its exciting premise, and holds you with its unpredictable characters, fast-paced action and witty asides. The Lazarus Project is a top-secret organisation that, using the scientific theory of gravitational singularity, has the ability to rewind time whenever the world comes to an end. The series is the brainchild of writer Joe Barton – the creator of the Anglo-Japanese crime drama Giri/Haji – who was struck by how fortunate it is that the world has so far managed to avoid an apocalypse: ‘I thought it unbelievable that mankind hadn’t destroyed itself by accident at various times, and started to wonder why.’

Caroline Quentin stars as Wes, the leader of the Project, and her team includes Archie (Vigil’s Anjli Mohindra) and George (I May Destroy You’s Paapa Essiedu). Series one sees George pulled into the bewildering world of the Project, and the second run opens with a succinct round-up of what happened: ‘Things got out of hand. I did some bad things – but I did them for a good reason.’ The stakes in series two include the pursuit of a rival group who have an actual time machine, and it plays with the same addictive mix of pace, action and wit. (Two series) 

Bodies

Four detectives probe the mystery of a dead body over four timelines

Year: 2023

Certificate: 15

Watch now on Netflix

Four detectives, four timelines, one body – as concepts go Bodies has a seriously good one. But the intrigue doesn’t end there – the detectives must all investigate the same murder to save Britain’s future. The series is based on a mind-bending graphic novel with a carefully defined plot and the show has been designed as a limited series, so these eight episodes are all there will ever be. 

The body is found in an East London alley by the four detectives at different points of British history: in the Victorian era, the Second World War, the present and the future, and the investigations all unfold in parallel. There’s a lot to set up in the first episode as you might imagine, but you’ll quickly become so engrossed you’ll need to know how it all pieces together, and how future overlord Elias Mannix  (Stephen Graham) fits into it all. Among the detectives, wartime inspector DS Charles Whiteman goes on a particularly intriguing journey. But the actor who plays him, Jacob Fortune-Lloyd, says he had to be talked into that pencil moustache. (Eight episodes) 

Westworld

Reinvention of the 1973 sci-fi western movie set in the ultimate theme park

Year: 2016-2022

Certificate: 18

The first series of HBO’s reboot of the 1973 sci-fi western movie was a stone-cold classic, and told a complete story across ten parts as theme park robot Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood) took control of the destiny set for her by her creator, Dr Ford (Anthony Hopkins). The dystopian premise is brilliant; Westworld is a dark Disneyland inhabited by amazingly life-like robots where humans can live out their cowboy fantasies of shootouts, murder and hot romance. But a malfunction means the robots remember everything that has happened to them, triggering a rebellion. 

The first two series, for which Thandie Newton and Evan Rachel Wood both won awards, are the best. In series three and four it became more of a thoughtful action thriller and, while it never quite reached the very high watermark set at the start, Westworld remains one of the most exciting and visually stunning series to hit TV in a long time. (Four series)

Dead Ringers

Rachel Weisz delivers chilling twin performances in this TV remake of the 1988 film

Year: 2023

Certificate: 18

Watch now on Prime Video

There’s a list of things that can get you awards attention as an actor, and playing identical twins in a boldly disturbing drama is pretty high up that list. Rachel Weisz has done a superb job with it in Dead Ringers, a gender-flipped remake of the 1988 movie of the same name, which starred Jeremy Irons and was, in turn, very loosely based on the real-life gynaecologist twins Stewart and Cyril Marcus. 

There are two threads running through this. One is the consequences of the personal differences between the two sisters Elliot and Beverly, and what happens when an actress comes into one of their lives; the other is the ideas the show has about how pregnancy and women should be treated in society. The sisters are pushing at the boundaries of that with a new birthing centre, and are seeking funding to do it – but will they manage to keep their ethics along the way? That’s a significant question in this dreamlike series, but it’s really the sibling relationship that’s more important. Whatever part is in focus, though, the thing that keeps you mesmerised is Weisz’s unsettling but very clearly defined twin performances. (Six episodes) 

Extrapolations

An all-star cast for this apocalyptic climate-change drama

Year: 2023

Certificate: 15

Watch now on Apple TV+

Apocalyptic stories are often dramatic affairs, full of sudden change and big decisions. What’s unsettling about Apple’s climate-change drama is how its characters adapt to the slow-motion destruction of the world, shrugging their shoulders as one species then the next slides into memory, and as their daily lives become ever less easy.

The series tracks the impact of rising temperatures from 2037 to 2070, and does so with both an impressive budget and cast – Meryl Streep, Diane Lane, Sienna Miller, Matthew Rhys and Heather Graham are among them (actors love a drama with a cause), with Game Of Thrones’ Kit Harington as a tech titan who seems to be doing very well out of it all.  

That corporate side of the story is chillingly believable, but it’s the human stories that keep you watching, even through the understandably preachier moments. (Eight episodes)

Humans

Synthetic humanoids rebel in a gripping sci-fi drama

Year: 2015-2018

Certificate: 15

Watch now on Channel 4

This show, a big hit for Channel 4 when it launched in 2015, didn’t look particularly sci-fi, despite its central characters being ‘synths’ – perfectly formed synthetic lifeforms with jewel-green eyes. The result was a series that explored what it means to be human that didn’t just appeal to sci-fi fans. 

It’s set in a parallel present, a world where synths are the latest must-have gadgets and servile home helps and carers. But a small number of them are capable of consciousness – they have thoughts and feelings that are forbidden of their kind – and it is this group, and their allies, that we follow as they fight for a new future for their kind. 

Colin Morgan started on the road to ditching his tweeny Merlin fanbase, playing the son of the synth’s inventor who is part synth himself, one of a gang of conscious synths that includes Gemma Chan’s gentle Anita/Mia and Emily Berrington’s feisty Niska. (Three series)

Andor

Multi-stranded Star Wars spin-off centred on a rebel in hiding

Year: 2022-

Certificate: 12

Watch now on Disney+

This is a Star Wars show for people who don’t like Star Wars shows. Created by Bourne writer Tony Gilroy, Andor is a dramatically credible account of life at the sharp end of rebellion and is, essentially, a prequel to the brilliant movie Rogue One – which Gilroy also co-wrote, and was in itself essentially a sci-fi take on The Magnificent Seven. 

Diego Luna (Narcos: Mexico) stars as Cassian Andor, a rebel in hiding, in a series that starts slowly but builds up and out in ways you don’t expect. In some places it becomes a workplace comedy drama set at Imperial intelligence, where the bureaucrats fight among themselves. It’s also a spy action thriller, with a particularly thrilling sideline in jail breaks, and it’s also a dark political drama about the consequences of fighting the system, hinged around a terrific performance from The Honourable Woman’s Genevieve O’Reilly as Mon Mothma. 

That last element has the feel of the US House Of Cards, which is no coincidence – Beau Willimon, who created that show, wrote several episodes of Andor. A second and final series is on the way, but probably not until 2024. (One series)

Brave New World

Classy retelling of Huxley’s dystopian chiller, with a starry cast

Year: 2020

Certificate: 15

Timing, they say, is everything, so to broadcast a series about a dystopian world from which people are desperate to escape, in the middle of a global pandemic, was possibly a little unfortunate. 

This nine-part series, based on the 1932 Aldous Huxley novel of the same name,  was originally shown on Sky in October 2020 and cancelled soon after. But now, post-pandemic, it definitely merits another viewing. 

Jessica Brown Findlay, Lady Sybil in Downton Abbey, is excellent in the leading role of Lenina Crowne, a lower-class worker whose adventures in the Wild Lands while on a date with the higher status Bernard Marx (Harry Lloyd) leads them both to question just how perfect their ‘perfect’ world actually is.

There’s also Hollywood royalty on board with Demi Moore playing Linda, the mother of John The Savage, and enough imaginatively designed furniture to distract from the occasionally dodgy dialogue. (One series)

War Of The Worlds

Contemporary reimagining of the HG Wells alien-invasion classic

Year: 2019-2022

Certificate: 15

Watch now on My5

Watch now on Disney+

This is no tired rehash of the HG Wells alien-invasion story but confidently charts its own way. First, the similarities: aliens invade and start wiping out much of humanity and, just like in the Wells version, these invaders have a weakness. That’s where the similarities end, though, and a dramatic big reveal between series one and two turns all expectations around. 

This is a genre show that is big on atmosphere and, despite its weighty sci-fi ideas, it really focuses on its characters, who are well defined and developed and have been brought together across Europe and Britain by the invasion. 

The cast is headed by Gabriel Byrne’s weary, hangdog neuroscientist hero Bill Ward, and the series was written by Brit Howard Overman, who won a BAFTA for his superhero comedy-drama Misfits. The show also wraps its story up neatly and tidily at the end of its third and final series. (Three series)

 



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