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As SYFY turns 30, we look back at 9 great SYFY shows you might’ve forgotten

A whirlwind tour of a TV timeline packed with our biggest sci-fi, horror, and fantasy thrills.

12 Monkeys Season 4

However you spell it, the SYFY channel we know and adore today has been the place where troves of science fiction creativity have long found a welcoming home on the small screen. This year marks the 30th anniversary of the lil’ ol cable spot that first flickered to life in 1992 as the original Sci-Fi Channel, and through all the ensuing decades, there’ve been more scares, space-faring dares, and supernatural twists than The Magicians can wave a wand at.

We’ve got more fun looks back, later this month, at the larger library of sweet original sci-fi series that paved the way to our big 30th birthday, but to get the party started, we’re blowing the kazoo for a quick blast from the past — while our youthful memories are still (reasonably) solid, that is. Check out these nine terrific original series we’re proud to have had along for the journey through SYFY’s formative years.

12 Monkeys (4 Seasons)

12 Monkeys

Adapted from the Bruce Willis-starring 1995 film thriller of the same name, 12 Monkeys drew its ensemble cast through an engrossing, time-warping saga that sought to stave off the end of humanity before the pandemic that caused it could ever begin. Starring Aaron Stanford as James Cole (the same role played by Willis in the movie), there’s never a moment’s respite through the series’ four twisting, looping seasons of cause-and-effect pursuit for the reset switch that can bring society back from the brink. 12 Monkeys ran from 2015 to 2018, and seemed to only get better with time: By any standard, it remains one of the most addictive sci-fi TV binges out there.

Z Nation (5 Seasons)

Z Nation Season 1

Describing Z Nation as a zombie series is kind of like calling The Walking Dead a show about Atlanta: It’s tough to capture the full scope with a simple nod to its starting premise. There’s more than one apocalypse to watch for as the remnants of society trudge through the new reality left in the aftermath of a viral plague, as half-zombie hybrid Alvin Murphy (Keith Allan) discovers on a sprawling journey into post-collapse America — as well as his own strange new telepathic powers. The stakes go from staying on the right side of zombie-catatonic to positively nuclear as survivors wend toward an elusive cure on the west coast, with standout cast performances from Allan alongside Kellita Smith (Lt. Roberta Warren) and DJ Qualls (Citizen Z).

The Invisible Man (2 Seasons)

The Invisible Man Season 2

There’s something sort of pure and science-fiction earnest about The Invisible Man, the early-2000s series incarnation of the classic tale of a hero equally empowered and tormented by his self-disappearing gift. Starring Vincent Ventresca as an accused thief drafted into spy service by serving as the mysterious “Agency’s” science experiment guinea pig, the series (known in Season 2 simply as The I-Man) lived up to its sci-fi bona fides by mining its reluctant hero’s struggle amid explorations of big-picture themes: free will, individual freedom versus dystopian state control, and escaping a Kafka-esque labyrinth of manipulation…in other words, the good stuff.

Deadly Class (1 Season)

Deadly Class Season 1 Episode 9

Running for a solo season, Deadly Class packed a ton of stabby, blood-soaked assassin-in-training intrigue into its freshman year. Set in the 1980s at the elite King’s Dominion boarding academy where the world’s power players send their aptest offspring to become trained killers, the Russo brothers-backed series featured Marvel movie veteran Benedict Wong as a freaky headmaster with no misgivings about letting his faculty test their most unconventional teaching methods on the kids. Like the Image Comics series on which it’s based, Deadly Class plies brash, NSFW high school halls that feel oceans away from the comparatively tame comforts of teen haunts like Hogwarts… but that’s exactly what makes it such a wild ride.

Caprica (1 Season)

Caprica

Though it only ran for a single season, Caprica showed the limitless potential of the reimagined Battlestar Galactica universe that preceded and inspired it at SYFY. Set 60 years before the events of BSG, Caprica eased newcomers into the franchise’s deep lore with a more personal, drama-focused backstory that set members of two rival 12 Colonies families — the Graystones and the Adamas — at odds with each other while exploring some long-unanswered fan questions (like how the Cylons rose to power). The cast was amazing, too: Eric Stoltz and Paula Malcomson headed up House Graystone as husband-and-wife duo Daniel and Amanda, while Esai Morales (Joseph) and Sasha Roiz (Sam) dialed up the interfamily intrigue as patriarchs of House Adama.

Alphas (2 Seasons)

Alphas

Looped into the shared sci-fi story-verse of Warehouse 13 and fellow spinoff series Eureka, Alphas explored the misdeeds of superhuman criminals — the series’ titular “Alphas” — through the eyes of a killer cast of similarly-powered good guys anchored by neurologist Dr. Lee Rosen (David Strathairn). The series’ Warehouse 13 DNA meant a handful of fun character crossovers, as well as plenty of quick-witted comedic moments familiar to fans of SYFY’s sister show — though Alphas’ slightly grittier, CIA-adjacent sleuthing tone kept all of it grounded in a present-day atmosphere that still feels refreshingly real.

Haven (5 Seasons)

Haven Season 5

Haven traded in some of the same mystery-of-the-week vibes that helped fellow 2010s sleuthing series Supernatural find its groove — and like Supernatural, it only got better with time. Laced with Stephen King references (and in fact loosely adapted from King's 2005 novel The Colorado Kid), Haven followed all the supernatural strangeness that afflicts a characteristically King-esque Maine coastal town, while playing off the group dynamics of a cool main cast that featured Emily Rose, Eric Balfour, Lucas Bryant, and Nicholas Campbell.

Being Human (4 Seasons)

Being Human

A ghost (Meaghan Rath), a vampire (Sam Witwer), and a werewolf (Sam Huntington) all join forces to navigate the social struggles of fitting in with people in Being Human, a series that hit North American shores after its identically-titled BBC predecessor drew first blood with British viewers. Closer in spirit to Twilight than to True Blood, Being Human mined the appealing fish-out-of-water premise of powerful creatures trying to live double lives (Resident Alien, anybody)? It's an endearing horror-comedy setup that made it easy for fans to root for the show's cast of maladjusted, sorta-immortal misfit 20-somethings.

The Dresden Files (1 Season)

Dresden

Author Jim Butcher’s mix of dark magic and urban fantasy has made his Dresden novel-verse a favorite with avid book fans, which is why it’s a minor shame that The Dresden Files was just finding its story legs when it fell to the TV-renewal chopping block after only one season. Chicago wizard-detective Harry Dresden (Paul Blackthorne) served as the series’ supernatural Sherlock Holmes, tackling the kind of unexplained cases that no regular PI could touch — all while slowly revealing pieces of a bigger picture that, had the series endured, would no doubt have set him on the trail of dark behind-the-scenes forces stretching far beyond the shores of the Windy City.

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