Sci-fi Shows That Shouldn’t Have Been Canceled

sci-fi shows

Hollywood loves remakes. Many feature tired storylines and tropes that belong in the bottom of a dusty trunk. And yet, when a clean ray of light shines through all the rot and dead plants, they immediately block it out. Kill it off. 

Lovers of sci-fi TV shows probably find it difficult to commit to any one series. The moment they settle in and get invested off goes the budget, and the programming axe comes down. Fans must pick up the pieces of their heart and move on to the next show streaming on Netflix, Amazon Prime, or Hulu. And when they get invested in that, too, the cycle repeats.

This article touches on the shows that almost became classics; a love song to the unsung TV shows that captured hearts but didn't make enough money or ratings to capture the hearts of network executives

In an alternate universe, maybe these sci-fi shows that shouldn't have been canceled finished airing. Maybe their viewers loved them there as fans did here. 

1. Alphas 

Alphas Warren Christie
Image Credit: Universal Cable Productions.

This show had an interesting premise, but it didn't stick around long enough to reach its full potential. These ordinary people with superhuman abilities, known as Alphas, operate within the Department of Defense. Working for the government in a clandestine group, they help investigate cases that might lead to the capture of criminal Alphas. Sadly, just as fans began to warm up to the show in its second season, it got canceled owing to poor ratings and exorbitant production costs. 

2. The 4400

The 4400 Jacqueline McKenzie, Summer Glau
Image Credit: CBS Paramount Network Television.

This show ran for four seasons and picked up loyal fans, but it got canceled for lower-than-anticipated ratings. Writer and co-creator Scott Peters announced in December 2007 that due to the ongoing strike by the Writers Guild of America and budgetary problems, the show would not return for a fifth season. 

The character-driven show had gained a loyal fan base invested in the mystery of these 4,400 people who had returned after going missing for 50 years. The twists in the series about who had abducted them kept viewers glued to the screen until the showrunners abruptly pulled the plug. 

3. Flash Forward

Flash Forward
Image Credit: Walt Disney Television.

It seemed like the creators of this show conspired to leave viewers in the dark about its ending because that cliffhanger at the finale of season one would unsettle and hold any audience spellbound. 

In the show,everyone in the world suddenly blacks out for exactly two minutes and 17 seconds. At that time, they had visions of what would happen to them on April 29, 2010, six months from the present. The government sets up a special FBI team to investigate this mysterious occurrence, and one can only imagine the drama that follows from such a wild premise. 

Just as viewers began to wrap their heads around the plot, ABC Studios announced the show's cancellation. 

Nevertheless, fans commented that the series merits a watch despite its cancellation and cliffhanger, which testifies to the brilliance of the show.

4. Caprica

Caprica Genevieve Buechner
Image Credit: Universal Cable Productions.

In just one season, Caprica drew viewers in with its rich characters, vibrant storytelling, and dark overtones. It seemed a worthy heir to the beloved Battlestar Galactica, the show that aired in 2004. Rather than the elaborate battle scenes of its original, Caprica brought the narrative home, probing what it meant to lose a loved one and to want them back. 

Set 58 years before the destruction of the colonies of Kobol, the show follows the meeting of wealthy computer engineer Daniel Graystone and lawyer Joseph Adama, both of whom have lost loved ones. Graystone becomes obsessed with bringing his daughter back and lures Adama into a ploy that eventually grows bigger than both of them. 

Despite the interest the show garnered, Syfy canceled the show, citing low ratings. 

5. Firefly 

Firefly Nathan Fillion
Image Credit: 20th Century Fox Television.

Oh, Firefly!

How can a show capture the hearts of many with just fourteen episodes? How can so many people care about a show, and yet the producers and the Fox network deem this dedication and interest inadequate? This show sits up there with the best. It blends top-notch writing, a great cast, brilliant dialogues, and an interesting story. 

A ragtag group of misfits and rejects aboard a Firefly-class spaceship named Serenity make up one of the greatest character ensembles in TV. Their backstories beautify the show, and the way these stories get revealed, episode by episode, speaks to masterful storytelling. 

Although set 500 years from now, when humans live on terraformed planets, the show has that familiar Western cowboy feel that grounds it in reality.

Firefly seemed fated to die even before it began, and Fox predictably dropped the axe. But since then, a spinoff movie titled Serenity has made it into cinema, tying up some loose ends in the story. But even that, sadly, has proven inadequate to appease fans who loved the show with all their hearts. 

6. 1899

1899 Isabella Wei
Image Credit: Dark Ways.

No sooner had the first season of this show finished airing than its network canceled it, citing poor viewership. Thankfully, by the end, viewers already understood a large part of the mysteries that interwove every episode. This singular season can stand on its own. Had that not happened, there exists a good chance viewers would have headed to the Netflix headquarters with placards and megaphones. 

The show follows immigrants aboard a steamship headed for America. Most of these passengers, diverse enough that the show allows for multiple languages, fled from something in their past. 

Then, unexplainable events begin to occur. The captain begins to see visions of his dead family. People jump off the railing en masse for no reason. And another ship comes into view. The same one that went missing months ago. 

Despite the big budget that went into this show and the masterful guidance of directors Jantje Friese and Baron bo Odar, who also shepherded the masterpiece Dark, it couldn't make it beyond one season. 

7. Almost Human

Almost Human Karl Urban, Michael Ealy
Image Credit: Warner Bros. Television.

The combination of already-established actors like Karl Urban and Michael Ealy couldn't save this one. Fans loved the dynamic between a human detective and a robot partner and the way they brought their unique perspectives to bear when solving a crime. But, as usual, its network didn't care what the fans wanted. They set up shows not to capture hearts and entertain but to make money. So when the numbers didn't add up, they pulled the plug. 

In the case of Almost Human, the numbers didn't paint a good picture, even though the few who watched loved it. It struggled in the Monday night ratings, where its final episodes came in with around 5.6 million viewers. It gained a mere 1.5 ratings among adults 18-49 in the overnight numbers. So, the handwriting on the wall had become pretty legible. 

8. Salvation

Salvation Jacqueline Byers
Image Credit: CBS Television Studios.

This drama series needed more attention. It was Don't Look Up with more science. 

Following the announcement of an asteroid on a collision course with Earth, the world's governments began reacting differently. The show takes us through the different ramifications of this announcement both on the personal level and on the global stage. Cult groups who think the world should end; shady government officials that refuse to confirm the scientific findings, and Darius Tanz (Santiago Cabrera), the eccentric billionaire at the intersection of science and politics. 

The show had a lot of potential and merited a little more patience. But the higher-ups at CBS decided they had seen enough. 

9. Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles 

Terminator The Sarah Connor Chronicles
Image Credit: Warner Bros. Television.

The Sarah Connor Chronicles takes viewers through the events that happen just after Terminator 2: Judgement Day, the second movie in the franchise. The legendary heroine and her son already know of the imminent apocalypse. So they try to set up a resistance to fight back Skynet's terminators when they emerge, all the while trying to evade government officials. The show explores more of the mother-son relationship between Sarah and John because it has the length the movies lacked to focus on character. 

However, the series, having a smaller budget than the movies, couldn't showcase the high-octane action sequences that made the films unforgettable. So, naturally, viewership dwindled and Fox pulled the plug. There remains a slim possibility that the series may return now that studios have started to commit heavy budgets to TV shows. And just maybe, the show may intrigue fans once again. 

10: Sense8

Image Credit: Unpronounceable Productions.

Sense8 may have returned later in 2018 for a two-hour special that acted as the season finale, but the question remains: did it deserve cancellation in the first place? Besides pressure and criticisms mounted on Netflix from fans, viewers would never have known how this story ended. They'd wake up every morning to wonder how Sense8 would end. 

That short era where fans could force the hands of studios to complete TV series seems well behind us now. So if a beloved show gets axed, the sooner fans start moving on, the better. 

Sense8 took fans all over the world: Mumbai. Amsterdam. Seoul. Malta. Nairobi. It followed an ensemble cast of eight characters mentally and emotionally linked to each other through some supernatural means. This show touched on issues around gender, identity, politics, sexuality, and more. Directed by the Wachowski sisters of Matrix fame, the show picked up nominations for several awards and won a few. Though Netflix brought it back after canceling, it never should have gone away. 

11. Dollhouse

Dollhouse Summer Glau
Image Credit: 20th Century Fox Television.

Unfortunately, the TV world these days mainly focuses on instant hits. Once a show doesn't make the bucks on the first trial, then it gets discontinued. Many good shows have gone away because of this, Dollhouse among them. Dedicated followers can almost predict a show's cancellation, as some did for Dollhouse, including Joss Whedon, the show producer. This foreknowledge enabled him to score a 13-episode second season in which he wrapped up the series so followers found closure. 

The show takes viewers through the actions of Paul Ballard, a detective searching for the Dollhouse, an illegal corporation that makes and commodifies dolls (humans). Viewers also meet Echo, a doll that appears to remember deleted memories from her previous engagements. And Alpha, a deeply troubled doll that managed to escape the corporation. The show has some rare Westworld vibes, and a dash of Kazuo Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go. But it no longer airs, so fans, however much they want it to continue, must move on. 

12. Journeyman

Journeyman Jessica Chastain
Image Credit: 20th Century Fox Television.

The series focuses on the central character, Dan Vasser (Kevin McKidd), a reporter who can jump back in time. These shifts appear to have no apparent pattern or predictability, but he soon learns that the travels put him on the path of someone whose destiny he would change. 

Soon, in one of his jaunts to the past, he encounters his fiancee, Livia Beale (Moon Bloodgood), who he thought died in a plane crash. She reveals that she also jumps like him, and the meeting begins to complicate things with his wife in the present. 

The series had a cozy ease to it that seemed to endear viewers. It also managed to tackle complex subjects like time travel, family, love, and loyalty in a great way. Despite the pilot episode gaining 9.2 million viewers, the show didn't get renewed for a full season. Supporters mounted a small protest to force the hand of CBS studios, but ultimately, the series had run its course.

13. Farscape

Farscape Claudia Black, Ben Browder, Anthony Simcoe
Image Credit: Hallmark Entertainment.

This fun, inventive, humorous space opera became a TV darling at the turn of the century. It had the acting, story, heart, guts, and characters to go for it, and fans loved every bit. It has an 84% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes and rave reviews. Yet, the Scifi Channel called it a day after the fourth season, deeming the show too expensive to renew. 

Farscape features an ensemble cast of astronauts fleeing a corrupt organization ironically named the Peacekeepers. They don't get very far and soon find themselves recaptured, but the adventures that follow and the standalone plots help keep viewers on their toes.

14. Dark Angel 

Dark Angel Jessica Alba
Image Credit: 20th Century Fox Television.

This show marked veteran director James Cameron's television debut. Its pilot attracted a whopping 17.4 million viewers. But, as already seen so far in this article, huge numbers on the first night don't always translate to success on the final episode. This decline, however small, often signals that the show wouldn't get renewed. Dark Angel, however, held on till the end of the first season, receiving positive reviews and picking up a few awards, including the People's Choice Award for Favorite New TV Drama.

In the second season, owing to some technical changes and unconnected plot points, ratings dropped, and the showrunners didn't renew it for a new season. 

This dystopian show mostly follows Max Guevera (Jessica Alba), a supersoldier who escapes a military facility as a child. She tries to stay undercover as she searches for her siblings. Though the show ended abruptly after two seasons, it inspired a series of novels and a video game adaptation, which fans have enjoyed even though Dark Angel has been discontinued. 

15. The OA

The OA Jason Isaacs, Brit Marling
Image Credit: Plan B Entertainment.

The cancelation of this mind-bending series created by Brit Marling remains one of the most heartbreaking misfortunes to happen to TV. Fans still mourn the loss of this show like a loved one, and a simple search on YouTube would reveal tons of videos begging Netflix to bring it back. 

It follows a young woman, Prairie Johnson (Brit Marling), who returns home after disappearing for seven years. Already socially awkward before her disappearance, she returns looking more different: she can now see even though she left home blind. She begins calling herself the OA and tells the story of her return to five high schoolers: a weird, reality-defying tale too bizarre to believe and too captivating to abandon follows. 

The reason Netflix gave for not continuing this series, originally planned for five seasons, remains flimsy at best. They cited lesser-than-expected viewership, even though this show had a fanbase only a few series have enjoyed. This prompted fans to suspect that Netflix used the cancellation as a marketing ploy. But, whatever the case, The OA left audiences on a cliffhanger, and fans can only make up stories about what fate befell the characters.

Author: Chisom Umeh


Chisom is a Lagos-based fiction writer, poet, book reviewer, film critic, and entrepreneur. He holds a degree in English literature. Chisom is particularly interested in books and films and how the former medium is sometimes translated into the latter. He also enjoys writing science fiction and investigating the places the genre intersects with fantasy. His stories and non fiction writings usually focus on Black people and Africans being recognized in spaces where they have been historically marginalized. Chisom loves attending writers conferences and enjoys hanging out with fellow writers from all walks of life. When he's not watching movies or writing about fantastical things, he's tweeting about movies and fantastical things at izom_chisom. His work have appeared on Second Skin Mag, Omenana, Apex Mag, Isele, Sci-fi Shorts, All Worlds Wayfarers, and Mythaxis. He now writes for Wealth of Geeks and his geeky interests include mind-bending scifi films, high fantasy TV, horror, and comic book characters.