You’re probably up to date with what sci-fi shows are on Prime Video if you’ve been watching the latest, weekly drops. The good news is, the Amazon streamer’s back catalogue is way better.
Counterpart is a must-watch, and you should give The Expanse and The Man in the High Castle a look if you haven’t already. The quality varies in between, but you might find hooks like the British family in Humans, for example, that are worth sticking around for.
These are the best sci-fi TV shows on Prime Video as of Jan. 9.
Sony Pictures Television
Stargate SG-1 (1997-2007)
Set a year after 1994’s Stargate, the TV series follows a US Air Force special ops team that explores the galaxy and defend Earth from alien threats. The effects probably won’t hold up, but the sweet nostalgia should make up for it.
Amazon Studios/YouTube/CNET Screenshot
Tales from the Loop (2020)
Not just another show about a small town where strange things happen, Tales from the Loop has layers beneath its beautiful surface. Based on a narrative art book by Swedish artist Simon Stålenhag, the series is stunning to look at. Meticulous, symmetrical frames somehow give off a painterly feel. The interconnected townspeople are similarly nuanced, their stories exploring loneliness, aging and the impact of technology.
Is it the next Stranger Things? Bikes, check. The ’80s, check. Ali Wong playing the older version of one of the characters who interacts with said younger character in hilarious fashion… check? Yes, Paper Girls has its own thing going on. Based on Brian K. Vaughn’s stunning comic book series, Paper Girls unfurls time travel shenanigans to the max, placing its four young heroines at the center of a war between time travel factions. Scoring impressive young actors whose characters are confronted with harsh reveals about each of their future selves, Paper Girls is a charming blast. Sadly, Amazon canceled it after one season. Fingers crossed, another network picks it up.
Night Sky isn’t the most evocative title, and the one-season series doesn’t reach the hard sci-fi highs some people may be searching for. Though it does feature a slow-burn mystery involving an alien planet, Night Sky’s greatest strength is the moving, at times surprisingly funny drama between an old couple, the most unlikely of protagonists. Facing health problems, let alone dangerous new guests, Franklin and Irene York (the immense J.K. Simmons and Sissy Spacek) do their kind-hearted best to make sense of a portal to a mysterious, desolate planet.
This sci-fi miniseries had varying degrees of success, so this is a recommendation for the one episode that hit it out of the park. That’s largely thanks to Anne Hathaway. She stars in episode 1 of Solos as Leah, a physicist who manages to communicate with the future, but runs into obstacles created by her biggest enemy: herself. This rollercoaster of an episode runs the gamut of emotions and should be the only episode you watch of the lot.
The Man Who Fell to Earth (2022)
Based on Walter Tevis’ novel. Chiwetel Ejiofor plays an alien who lands on Earth in search of help from a brilliant scientist. Bill Nighy plays Thomas Jerome Newton, an alien who fell to Earth in the 1976 movie adaptation, a role originally played by David Bowie. Each episode in this sequel is named after one of Bowie’s songs. A more than solid, entertaining series that’s best watched without comparing it to previous material. Note: Just one episode is available, a tease to get you to pay for more, obviously. Although, the series was not renewed for a second season.
Amazon rescued The Expanse from the realm of canceled TV, bringing the series up to six seasons. Thank goodness it did, because The Expanse is smart sci-fi with realistic characters, high production values and a dash of detective noir. In a future where humanity has colonized the Solar System, a conspiracy threatens to start a cold war between the largest powers. A band of antiheroes find themselves at the center. Look forward to more space western themes in the consistently excellent later seasons.
Starring Chloe Grace Moretz, The Peripheral is a brand-new sci-fi series from the creators of Westworld. It’s a step up in terms of providing a more straightforward narrative that’s easier to follow. Flynne Fisher (Moretz) and her brother Burton (Jack Reynor) become involved with a dangerous new video game that leads them to Future London and a fight to save the world. Based on William Gibson’s novel, The Peripheral draws from rich source material and presents an exciting, if a little generic, adventure.
Amazon Studios/YouTube/CNET Screenshot
The Black Mirror comparisons are inevitable with this British series about technology gone wrong. Set in a futuristic London, The Feed centers on an implant that lets people livestream their lives without needing to press a button on a phone. No, absolutely nothing goes wrong. An impressive cast includes David Thewlis and Michelle Fairley. While it’s not as polished or deep-cutting as Black Mirror, The Feed is still worth a look.
Channel 4/YouTube/CNET Screenshot
Humans might not be entirely original, but the assembled parts sing. A British family purchases an artificially intelligent robot called a “synth” to help out with their busy lives. This grounded approach to sentient, possibly dangerous robots is one of Humans’ greatest strengths. At the sweet center: an innocent bond between the family’s youngest daughter and Gemma Chan’s elegant and efficient synth Anita. A mystery draws the family into the origins of the robots, who explore requisite philosophical themes such as humanity, pain, memories and reality.
Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams (2017-2018)
Electric Dreams lives up to its name, each episode of the anthology series a vibrant, polished product whirring on the ideas of its source material: The works of Philip K. Dick. As with most anthologies, some episodes are better than others, but if you’re craving storytelling with Black Mirror-like setups, let this reverie slip over you.
For trippy sci-fi that asks you to turn on your wild theory generator, look no further than Outer Range. The sci-fi Western is set on the Abbott family ranch, where patriarch Royal (Josh Brolin) hides an almighty secret. When a stranger comes to town (Imogen Poots), he’s forced to confront his past, present and future, and not just in the metaphorical sense. Weird in ways you won’t expect, Outer Range is a solid sci-fi outing worth sticking with. Another reason to be invested: Amazon has renewed the neo-Western for a second series.
The Man in the High Castle (2015-2019)
The Man in the High Castle imagines an alternate history where the Axis powers (Rome-Berlin-Tokyo) win World War II. Based on a Philip K. Dick novel, the series follows characters in the ’60s who live in a parallel universe, where Nazi Germany and the Empire of Japan control the US. But there’s impossible newsreel footage surfacing of a world where Germany and Japan lose the war, causing some to rebel. To really hammer home its dystopia credentials, The Man in the High Castle is steered by producer Ridley Scott. Fully realized and with a focused plot, this is gripping TV.
Counterpart stars J.K. Simmons playing off J.K. Simmons. Get excited about that for a second. Set in Germany during a cold war, the sci-fi thriller follows a lowly office grunt dejected by his grim life. Then one day — episode 1 spoiler — he rocks up at work and meets himself, but a better version from a parallel world. Secrets, tense action and a masterful dual-lead performance from Simmons make Counterpart a must-watch.
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