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September 21, 2014

Ten unfinished sci fi/fantasy series ... and I'm dying for resolution

by Jason Hughes, posted Sep 12th 2008 11:01AM
VSure Lost is a bona fide hit, but who remembers Invasion? In fact, none of the sci fi series premiering that year (Surface and Threshold) made it beyond a single season. And yet, as Brad reported, ABC is developing The Return, a series focusing on how the world handles an "alien landing." You know, like the classic V mini-series of the '80s. In fact, the last episode of V: The Series was called "The Return." Maybe this is a secret code name for the long teased V return!

But that announcement got me thinking about all those sci fi and fantasy shows that never finish on television. It's a phenomenon us long-time science fiction/fantasy fans have learned to live with. We jump on any new genre show on television hoping against hope that the ratings will be strong enough that we'll get the whole story. Alas, we know that more often than not the plug will be pulled mid-stream and we'll be left wanting. And for every Joss Whedon who continues Buffy and Angel in comics, there are tons more who don't.

The real question is if America will ever embrace a fully sci-fi show on major network television again? Let's face it, Lost is more a drama than a sci fi show. Even Battlestar Galactica, which is about as good as sci fi can get, is struggling to get decent ratings going into its final stretch.

The fact that sci fi fails on the big networks means that fans are reluctant to watch them there, because we know they're likely to get canceled with their stories unfinished. And when they are on cable, they can usually make a full season, but even then we may not get to the show's ending. Hell, The 4400 made it through four seasons and still wound up getting canceled on a cliffhanger.

Now, I'm a hardcore fan of long-form fiction on television and as a certified sci-fi junkie; I still try to watch all of these shows, and then get all pissed off when they get canceled prematurely. A lot of the shows just fade from my mind when they're done, but many still fester and linger to the point that I start developing continuations of their stories.

10) Quantum Leap - I know we got an ambiguous ending with the bar and ... God? But with Sam now in control of his leaping, where does that leave Al? And the evil leaper is still out there. There have been talks from time to time of bringing this property back, either with a different cast -- I believe having Sam's daughter trying to find him with Al by her side was one possibility -- or even with Scott Bakula back in the lead role. Regardless, there is still a lot of story gold to be mined from this property.

9) The 4400 - As I said above, we got four great seasons out of this show, but still in the end we were left hanging. Seattle is now overflowing with Promicin positives and Jordan Collier is effectively running the city. Most of the "normal" cast is exhibiting new powers while Tom is faced with the choice of taking Promicin himself. The stage was set for an epic confrontation with the United States government and possibly even the future, raising the stakes exponentially going into a fifth season.

8) Jericho - The mini-season didn't work as well as I would have liked, but did bring to a close the first chapter of the Jericho saga. But it also set up the struggle between what could be the free government of the new US and the powers that be at Cheyenne. While it would be a struggle to maintain the down-home intimacy of the first season in the face of such a war, considering how well the first season was handled, I think it could have worked.

7) Invasion - Well, this show just got better and better as it went, though it couldn't recover from a months-long hiatus, and it left us in stunning season finale cliffhanger agony. Is Larkin doomed to become a hybrid? How will this change her? What will happen now that so many of the people have been taken into the water? And ultimately, what do these creatures in the water want with us and what is their ultimate plan? The invasion is under way, but it's really only beginning.

6) Firefly - I'd honestly rather have had Firefly continue on television for several years than be dumped into Serenity. Don't get me wrong, Serenity was great, but it "resolved" so many situations that didn't need resolving just yet. And it killed off some of my favorite characters. There wasn't as much in the way of a deep and complex über-arc to this show, but there was a whole universe of politics and structure that we were just starting to learn about when the plug was pulled.

5) Earth 2 - This show was just brilliantly put together. I wonder, in today's era of Lost, if it might have stood a chance, as it also backburnered most of the hardcore sci fi elements in favor of character studies. Nevertheless, this band of wandering refugees on an alien planet was full of great acting and always compelling mysteries. As with Firefly above, we'd only really begun to explore and understand the world and hadn't even tapped into the larger human civilization behind their journey. In the end, we were left with Devon sick and in hibernation with that same fate possibly waiting the rest of the crew.

4) Journeyman - This is one of the more recent heartbreaks, and one of those shows that just suffered from a lack of confidence by the network. After all, things were really starting to gel with the cast and storylines. The cool twist to this was the potential impact on the present that Dan's actions in the past could cause. After all, he'd already replaced his son with a daughter once. There was great character tension with Livia in the mix, and like QL above, infinite story possibilities available.

3) V - Whether you continue from V: The Series, or do as the creator would prefer and scrap everything after the initial mini-series, there's still plenty of plot potential remaining. After all, the alien invasion and occupation is still going on and the struggle to get rid of the Visitors, save humanity and our water supply has potential to make years worth of good TV.

2) Sliders - I'm of mixed feelings on this show. I loved Sliders, but after Arturo's "death," things started to spiral out of control. By the time we got past Colin and into Mallory and the only original cast member left was Rembrandt, things were pretty well off track. But the beauty of a parallel realities show is that it's all so easy to fix. Hell, they built in a means by which the real Arturo could still be alive (there was an episode in which he struggled with his evil counterpart and we've no confirmation which one made the next slide. If nothing else, parallel realities are still a goldmine for a TV show, and I suspect Jerry O'Connell will be available soon anyway.

1) Crusade - Babylon 5 was one of the greatest achievements in television, and well before its time. Today, it's no big deal at all to think of a show telling one cohesive story over the span of several years, but it was almost unprecedented when creator J. Michael Straczynski started his epic in 1993. After wrapping that, in 1999 he immediately launched a follow-up set in the same universe: Crusade. This time, a plague has been unleashed on Earth and the story follows a crew as they have five years to find a cure before all mammalian life is destroyed. I'm not sure why TNT picked up the show and then aired the episodes out of order, as FOX did with Firefly, effectively destroying the narrative, but if you watch them as intended, the foundation was there for a great yarn.

BONUS) Soap - I don't care what you say, with alien abductions and demonic possessions, this brilliant comedy was as sci fi/fantasy as the rest of these shows. The complexity of its myriad storylines puts even most modern shows to shame, and yet it was all juggled so masterfully. However, after four glorious seasons and still with solid ratings, the plug was pulled abruptly. As such, the creators who ended every episode with various cliffhangers left us viewers with three major ones. Will Jessica die by firing squad? Will Chester kill Danny and maybe himself and will Burt get ambushed?

Other than various Star Trek series, Babylon 5, Stargate and ultimately the new Battlestar Galactica and Lost and a select few others, how many sci fi shows have actually reached a natural ending in the last decade or so?

There are lots of shows that didn't make the list, and I know they could have. I kept Buffy, Angel and Farscape off the list because all three have official continuations going by their creators in comics, which is good enough for me!

What are the incomplete masterpieces that keep you up at night? And will Fringe, Dollhouse, Life on Mars, The Middleman, Sanctuary or Merlin live to see their intended conclusions, or are we doomed to add four more shows to the growing list of incomplete sci-fi sagas.

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blue944

All great shows...the one that always sticks out for me is John Doe. I really enjoyed the concept and it ended on a great cliff hanger.

November 07 2008 at 2:09 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
MAC

I'm still sad about Journeyman. Wish Sci-Fi or some other channel would pick it up. It was one of those rare shows that required intellect and attention to fully enjoy, and no doubt that had a hand in its demise. I'd like to know who was sending Dan on his missions and exactly what Langley had to do with it. Heck, I'd even settle for a comic book.

September 22 2008 at 9:27 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Matthew Golem

We know Dale Cooper from Twin Peaks turned out all right, because he later showed up in a Japanese coffee commercial.

As for Red Dwarf, they allegedly are getting a one-hour special to hopefully finally wrap it all up. (At least according to Robert Llewellyn).

September 19 2008 at 4:16 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
kmuschal

Well, Quantum Leap was one of my favorites. We knew that the main character was off cavorting around between worlds, doing good turns for people to help "God" or whatever being was rolling the quantum dice. And then, voila! The series continued...as Star Trek: Enterprise!

September 17 2008 at 1:20 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Becky

I was glad to see Earth 2 on your list. I never missed and episode of it and watched it over and over when SciFi was running the reruns. I now have the DVD for the season so I can watch when I like.
Also loved The 4400. I keep hoping the will give us at least a 2 hour movie to finish the story.

September 17 2008 at 11:43 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
mlscott

Not Sci -Fi, but a great drama: "Boomtown." Worst decision a network made that season - to cancel that show and left many of mourning its lost and wondering what happened to the many characters we had invested in. (sigh.)

September 15 2008 at 2:22 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Bruce

While I know that there was a follow-on movie I never saw any sort of satisfying end to"The Pretender" and the "ending" for "Jeremiah" (another Straczynski work) was far from satisfying as well. TOO MANY good series are being cut-off at the knees for NO GOOD REASON.

September 13 2008 at 11:41 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Not Bitter

what about Lost in Space?
Dr. Smith getting busted
on Dateline for boinking
Will Robinson would rule.

September 13 2008 at 11:06 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
trtlsoup2001

Jeremiah!

September 13 2008 at 7:29 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
John W Kennedy

What happened to "Crusade" was this:

The suits in Atlanta looked at the ratings for "Babylon 5", and made a discovery that horrified them. Here they were, trying to build a network for beer-suckin', cousin-lovin' good-ol'-boys who loved pro wrasslin', while "Babylon 5" was drawing in educated viewers who couldn't care less about chewin' tobacco an' white lightnin'. Well, "Babylon 5" was drawing to a close, anyway, but now "Crusade" was threatening more of the same -- and they'd signed a contract!

So there was nothing left to do but sabotage the show. How? By insisting on stupid changes that they knew Joe Straczynski couldn't live with. "Who cares about the characters' back stories? Can't the alien just, you know, make them go crazy and run around and shoot at each other?" "Why not beat the bad guy by tricking into raping the hot chick and then blackmailing him?" "Can you put some wrestlers we're trying to promote into the cast?"

So eventually Joe shut the show down, just as he shut down "Jeremiah" when he couldn't explain to certain MGM executives that his job was to produce a TV show, not to be their procurer. That let TNT off the hook. Joe didn't know how they'd played him until years later.

The episodes of "Crusade" were shown out of order because all this happened before the first episode was broadcast, and, with the mess made by forced changes in the costumes, etc., there /is/ no order for the episodes as they are that makes sense, without rerecording some of the dialog, and there was no money to do that.

By the way, "Crusade" was never about the plague. The plague was something Joe made up on the spur of the moment to satisfy another TNT executive. By the end of the first season (check out the unproduced scripts), it would have been about black ops on Earth using leftover Shadow tech. But it wasn't really going to be about that, either. It was really to have been about nurturing the Interstellar Alliance, with Gideon and his crew as Sheridan and Delenn's #1 troubleshooters.

And that's why the show can never be "finished". It never even really started. Oh, what about the plaque? We know from three episodes of "Babylon 5" and one of the paperbacks that it was taken care of.

Joe has announced to both us and Warner Brothers that he is not interested in any new B5 projects except big-budget movies.

September 13 2008 at 5:59 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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