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SYFY turns 30: Remembering 13 of the best SYFY series ever
From SG-1 to Warehouse 13, it’s a baker’s dozen of the original shows that got us here.
SYFY is celebrating its 30th birthday, and what a way to celebrate! We've got the return of two hit original SYFY series, Chucky and Resident Alien, and the premiere of a brand-new one, Reginald the Vampire. But, for every stab Brad Dourif’s pint-sized terror takes, there’ve been tons more SYFY original series that have come before. These are shows that stole our sci-fi, horror, and fantasy-obsessed hearts at the native TV network we proudly call home, and we want to celebrate them, too.
For 30 years, SYFY has hosted an amazing array of shows that span the genre gauntlet, from the hair-raising scares of Channel Zero to the hopeful, gazing space stares of Stargate Atlantis and far beyond. As we pop the cork on a celebration of our first three freaky decades as a bona fide TV hangout for all things fantastical, frightening, and just plain far-out, here’s a look back at 13 of the very best series that have ever landed at the channel — call us biased! — that we just can’t click away from.
Stargate SG-1 [10 Seasons]
Picking up where director Roland Emmerich’s awesome namesake 1994 feature film left off, Stargate SG-1 marked the first TV expansion of what’s since become an enormous sci-fi universe. Taking the movie baton from Kurt Russell to reprise the role of Col. Jack O’Neill, Richard Dean Anderson and a standout cast (Claudia Black, Beau Bridges, Ben Browder, Christopher Judge, Michael Shanks, and Amanda Tapping, among others) all cemented the franchise permanently in the minds of fans, broadening the film’s initial premise with tons of fresh lore that mined humanity’s myths and legends for deeper connections with the alien unexplained. Starting life at Showtime before moving over to (what was then called) the Sci Fi Channel for its back half, Stargate SG-1 ran for 10 entire seasons before signing off in 2007. In the process, it opened a wormhole on a wider appetite for more Stargate stories; one the network thankfully sated with even more original programming in the years that lay ahead.
The Magicians [5 Seasons]
If Harry Potter and True Blood ever had a baby, it might’ve come out looking a lot like The Magicians. Adapted from author Lev Grossman’s wildly imaginative eponymous novel, the series’ magic-infused world looked as awesome on the small screen as the book made it all sound. Surrounded by a young-adult ensemble of would-be wizards in training, student Quentin Coldwater (Jason Ralph) ends up learning more about sorcery (as well as how to cope with his human side) outside of official class time at Brakebills University, where the magically-inclined go to hone their craft. Rife with stay-tuned melodrama and oodles of superlative supernatural sights, The Magicians made space for sensitive real-world themes (especially surrounding Quentin’s mental health) while never straying too far from its next enchanting set piece.
Farscape [4 Seasons]
Striking an instantly-recognizable look thanks to Creature Shop effects and the visual touch of The Jim Henson Company creative scion Brian Henson, Farscape still feels original nearly 20 years after its final episode aired. Equally original was the story, flinging Earthly astronaut John Crichton (Ben Browder) through a wormhole and deep into an alien conflict anchored by a budding relationship with purpose-bred space soldier Aeryn Sun (Claudia Black). Despite a sometimes-faltering larger plot, Farscape is filled with the kind of world-building sci-fi mythos that makes its far-flung setting persist long in the memory: Like Star Wars, it created a distinctively-imagined place in outer space that few series have managed before or since — especially on television.
Battlestar Galactica [4 Seasons]
All these shows are too near and dear for us to rank — but if we did, Ronald D. Moore’s extraordinarily well-cast space saga would be stratospherically close to the top. Battlestar Galactica broke tons of new TV ground as a sci-fi series that balanced the personal with the positively epic, putting its adrift and surviving 12 Colonies stragglers in impossibly sketchy circumstances with one another (while Cylon stowaways keep things…interesting). Though there’s action galore, BSG uses its space-conflict setting as a way to explore the inner space that makes us feeble humans tick, fearlessly confronting the big themes that beset our species — whether it’s light-years from home, or right here on terra firma.
Resident Alien [2 Seasons]
Alan Tudyk’s alien-out-of-water sci-fi comedy series has proven more than enough of a hit to get the early green light for a third-season outing, and we couldn’t be happier: Resident Alien is one of the funniest SYFY original series we’ve ever seen (and, of course, we’ve seen ‘em all.) Tudyk stars as let’s-just-call-him Harry, the shapeshifting alien with an unpronounceable name whose initial mission to destroy life on Earth takes a detour after actually getting embroiled in humanity’s day-to-day drama. Good thing he’s binged enough Law & Order episodes to know how we people, uh, kind of behave: By the time the Season 2 finale arrives on Sept. 28, Harry might just need a good attorney.
Chucky [2 Seasons]
To the delight of longtime fans everywhere, the body count’s already deliciously high — so who knows where the next stab will strike when Chucky returns to SYFY for its second season on Oct. 5? Created by Child’s Play mastermind Don Mancini and buttressed by franchise favorites including Jennifer Tilly (as Tiffany Valentine) and Brad Dourif (the voice of the Good Guy himself), Chucky nails the comedy-horror tone that elevated Mancini’s movies into a 1980s scare sensation while unspooling an episodic new story with emotional stakes that hit surprisingly hard. Society may not be rooting for teenage misfit Jake Wheeler (Zacakary Arthur), the series’ hugely stressed star, to come out on top — but screw society: If anyone’s earned the right to play dangerous games with dolls, it’s this kid.
Eureka [5 Seasons]
Laced with the same offbeat comic DNA that infused sister spinoffs Warehouse 13 and Alphas, Eureka was an imminently watchable, Twin Peaks-esque show about a regular ol’ sheriff (Colin Ferguson) who just wants to do right by his small town. Of course, it’s no ordinary place: Weird occurrences are pretty much par for the course in Eureka’s titular Oregon hamlet, which gives Stranger Things’ Hawkins a run for its money when it comes to exhibiting the side effects of lying a little too close to super-secret, high-tech government science experiments.
Sliders [5 Seasons]
Starting life at Fox before sliding over to cable, Sliders took a piece of Quantum Leap’s time travel premise and expanded it to an entire ensemble of wormhole-jumping characters, anchored by lead “slider” Quinn Mallory (Jerry O’Connell). Capable of visiting parallel universes but powerless to predict how long they’d stick around in them, the gang sailed through a broad alt-history tour of Earth’s other possibilities, which packed in dangers (like the nihilistic Kromagg society) that lay just beyond the grasp of our known reality.
Wynonna Earp [4 Seasons]
Based on the Western horror comic series of the same name, Wynonna Earp was chock full of the good stuff: Revenant outlaws, supernatural scares, sharp-witted takes on society’s shortcomings, and hilarious NSFW situations galore. What else would you expect from a horror fantasy about the great-great-granddaughter (Melanie Scrofano) of Wyatt Earp; a queer chick whose life really begins when she discovers her iconic ancestor bequeathed her high-country hometown a haunting inheritance of unfinished business?
The Expanse [6 Seasons]
One of the most ambitious sci-fi sagas ever, The Expanse has lived up to its name, starting life at SYFY before warping over to Amazon to continue the second leg of its interplanetary journey. Set centuries in the future after humanity has taken to the heavens to find safer dwellings in the colonized solar system, the series fleshed out entire societies to inhabit and campaign for its Earth-versus-Mars power struggle. Each stands as a well-realized sci-fi microcosm of the larger forces at play in the series: Inequities, hierarchies, and distinct cultural differences all sharply framed how spreading out into the coldness of space can still set humanity at odds with itself while raising the dystopian stakes.
Stargate Atlantis [ 5 Seasons]
Fans of Stargate SG-1 spinoff Stargate Atlantis might’ve waged friendly arguments, at the time, about which series they preferred. But in hindsight, we never knew how good we had it: Through five seasons, SGA carved out a new slice of lore in the expansive Stargate franchise, tracking the universe-spanning ripples made by the Ancients who founded (and then ominously secreted away) the fabled lost city. Col. John Sheppard (Joe Flanigan) sat at the head of a character cast that’s since taken its place among the most cherished in Stargate’s wider lore, while the story itself merged Earthly myth and advanced alien tech within an epic, never-ending conflict between the forces of good and evil.
Channel Zero [4 Seasons]
Channel Zero took the idea of internet-based creepypasta legends and expanded on them in ways their creators probably never imagined. Like HBO’s True Detective, each freaky season was devoted to its own premise and rebooted the overall concept, featuring an entirely new slate of settings, storylines, and characters. But the unsettling swirl of psychological horror and, well, actual, in-your-face horror remained a unifying theme through every moment of creator and showrunner Nick Antosca’s slow-burning stalk toward the terrifying center of each key mystery that renewed and redefined the supernaturally-laced series.
Warehouse 13 [5 seasons]
Combining an episodic, mystery-of-the-week formula with longer schemes that put intrepid relic hunters Pete Lattimer (Eddie McClintock) and Myka Bering (Joanne Kelly) through season-spanning story arcs, Warehouse 13 searched the globe for delightfully absurd magic artifacts (like Magellan’s Astrolabe and Lewis Carroll’s Looking Glass) to safely stow away inside the show’s titular South Dakota storehouse — all the better to keep their powers (and their dangers) under wraps. As funny as it was bizarre, it effortlessly captured the silly side of sci-fi in a way that didn’t detract from each week’s engrossing delves into history’s hidden secrets. The entire cast exuded good-sport chemistry, always up for whatever wild, Men In Black-style goose chases the copiously creative storylines threw their way. In a show that never lacked for insanity, Warehouse 13 always wore its zany premise proudly on its sleeve.