6 amazing sci-fi TV shows ruined by their freaky finales

Contributed by
Jul 4, 2015, 5:31 PM EDT

Like a spreading bowel infection, the end of a sci-fi TV series can fatally infect every previous episode. This happens when a finale retcons the mythos in such a way that every episode in the series is negatively affected. Watching cherished episodes becomes a sickening reminder of the final truth, like looking at your family photos after learning that your grandmother is a seven-headed alien who snatched your parents at birth.

With the intense scrutiny surrounding the final episode of Lost, we decided to examine some shows that took a great amount of care in ruining a masterpiece with their final episode.

[And do we really need to warn you that there are spoilers ahead?]

Quantum Leap

The Show:
Dr. Sam Beckett leaps into some unwilling fool's troubled past to fix their future. Dr. Sam prays to the cruel deity that spun him into this body-snatching roulette wheel, hoping against hope that his next leap will be the leap home.

The Ending:
After the finale ends, the narrator pisses all over our hopes and dreams by telling us that he never gets home.

Why It Makes the Whole Series Unwatchable:
Before the finale's shocking revelation, Quantum Leap is a story about a good Samaritan traveling through time perpetually to heal the lives of good citizens. The key word here is "perpetually," as in "forever and ever. He doesn't age or die." So when we find out he never gets home, these jumps shift from "comedic jaunts to fix others' problems" to "an eternally repeating purgatory of tasks that never changes and never ends." Each leap is just another day in Dr. Sam's extremely private hell, and we're strapped into the front seat of this nightmare roller coaster.

Also revealed in the final episode is that God is controlling multiple "leapers," sending them through history to right the wrongs of injustice. Re-watching Quantum Leap episodes just affirms that one could work their whole life and live justly, then be sent by God to a purgatory of fixing everybody's problems but one's own. Oh, boy.

Life on Mars

The Show:
A police officer wakes up in the 1970s, where he has the exciting new job of "police officer."

The Ending:
It was all a dream/supercomputers made it up.

Why It Makes the Whole Series Unwatchable:
This gritty fantasy drama had two incarnations—the first on the BBC and the second on the American channel ABC. Both had uniquely different endings that achieved the same end—ruining the quality series. Life on Mars details the story of a cop who gets hit by a car and sent to the early 1970s, not unlike when a despondent Marty McFly threw himself in front of that speeding DeLorean. Naturally, fans were intrigued by the primary mystery of the source behind the apparent time travel. The British show reveals that the 1970s is a coma-induced dream, kind of like the real 1970s if you replace "coma" with "coke." Deciding the 1970s are a much better time for him, the despondent police officer travels back to the 1970s by committing suicide. When watching earlier episodes, one is no longer intrigued by a mysterious cop drama. Instead, one is presented with the stark cries for help of a depressed man with a crippling head injury.

It doesn't get any cheerier on the other side of the pond. In one of the most bizarre final episodes in history, the American version reveals that the police officer is actually a spaceman, he's in space, and it's 2035. The whole thing was just a reality simulation to keep his brain active while in stasis, not unlike a wet dream. The jump to 1973? A glitch in the computer program due to a meteor storm. Here's a hint, spaceman—when they strap you into the holodeck for decades of sleep, always choose the virtual career of a porno pizza delivery guy. That was a good job in the 1970s.

Star Trek: Voyager

The Show:
A spaceship is stranded in unexplored space across the galaxy. The crew begins the 75-year journey home, hoping that Earth uses the interim time to develop superior wrinkle creams.

The Ending:
After it is revealed the ship made the journey in only 23 years, Capt. Janeway harnesses the power of time travel to shave 16 years off the trip and erase most of the memories we've made with the crew of Voyager. All in one mythos-bending episode!

Why It Makes the Whole Series Unwatchable:
The final episode takes a leap forward several decades, 10 years after the Voyager has successfully returned home. Apparently Captain Janeway isn't satisfied with the 23 years she spent mucking around wasting her time learning the exotic mysteries of the universe. She acquires the power to travel back in time. That's all logical so far. What she does next isn't. Rather than go back and tell herself to, say, never get on the Voyager in the first place, or simply not to jump to the other side of the galaxy, Capt. Janeway meets her younger self right after getting all stuck and screwed up. Naturally, getting her younger self out of this situation is much harder than nearly every other time-travel scenario imaginable. The twin Janeways must work together to travel through a transwarp hub, destroy it and save their parents' marriage using wacky identity switching.

Watching first-run episodes of Voyager provided a pleasant foray into the outer realms of space and the imagination, probably like what happens in Stephen Hawking's mind when he smokes weed. Now that it has been revealed that the whole thing is erased by a dumb captain who couldn't find the freaking transwarp hub the first time around, the series is different upon rewatching. All of their adventures and experiences are erased by time-traveling Janeway. One just wants to scream "Turn around and look for the hub! Why would you embark on a 75-year journey without first poking around for a faster way?!" After all of that, you'd think they would at least show why Janeway was in such a huff to save 16 random years of her epic journey. However, upon finally arriving in Earth's orbit, the show fades to black. Before going back in time to fix her mistakes, we're surprised Janeway didn't develop a serious heroin addiction, just because she could.

The X-Files

The Show:
FBI agents are tasked with stopping an alien invasion while remaining undaunted by weekly attacks from unrelated supernatural monsters.

The Ending:
The entire series was a promotion for the subsequent X-Files movies.

Why It Makes the Whole Series Unwatchable:
Fans lusted after the overarching mythos behind X-Files, which was slowly revealed throughout the show to be "aliens are invading, and they need help." It's uncertain as to why aliens would want to invade a planet that's crawling with sewer mutants, military-created monsters and incestuous man-beasts, but whatever. Using assistance from shadowy and often double-crossing operatives, Agents Scully and Mulder race to stop the invasion. So imagine our surprise when, in the finale, it is revealed that the invasion won't take place until 2012—10 years after the final episode. 2012 is the release date for the third X-Files film, provided that the Mayans allow it (and they will—Mayans are fame whores).

This whole concept makes the show difficult to swallow upon second viewing. Naturally, the original story of the alien invasion was disrupted by X-Files extending its run without having a set end date. However, the "monster of the week" format still made for some enjoyable late-season episodes (provided you enjoyed watching three virgins who like sharing a cramped van). Like the ugly person leaving a makeout party, one can't help but be aware of the fact that most of the interesting action will take place after the show's conclusion.

Battlestar Galactica (Modern Version)

The Show:
Seeking planet Earth, humans battle with robots despite the fact that the humans' ship is really crappy and the robots are irresistibly sexy.

The Ending:
It's not about sci-fi robot battles, it's about angels. Oddly, L. Ron Hubbard is never mentioned.

Why It Makes the Whole Series Unwatchable:
Throughout the series, the super-sexy robotic Cylon named Six and the mop-headed Gaius Baltar keep hallucinating visions of each other. After repeated checks for brain tumors and insanity, it is revealed that their hallucinations are actually angels. This makes the quality series difficult to rewatch. Heck, it makes having hallucinations difficult, too, as one is uncertain whether one is obeying the will of God or merely the tequila worm. Baltar even underwent brain scans and a bout of uncertainty about his own sanity, which makes one wonder whether the angels chose the best identity. Why not show up as robe-clad angels, or a creepy dead relative, rather than a carbon copy of a love interest who is still alive? Also, doesn't that achieve the impossible by making sex with your robotic lover even creepier?

Going back to watch previous episodes of this classic modern series is a confusing undertaking. Why does God's plan to guide them all back to Earth involve such a roundabout series of brutal events? It all adds up to the notion that God and his angels are dicks. The show used to be about outer space and robots; on second watching it's just a reaffirmation that higher powers are screwing with us all.

The Prisoner

The Show:
A secret agent is held prisoner a mysterious village, where he is subjected to needlessly complicated ruses in order to get him to reveal his secrets.

The Ending:
Everything is run by a chimpanzee/a clone/lots of psychedelic drugs.

Why It Makes the Whole Series Unwatchable:
"Why did the Prisoner resign?" and "What is the purpose of the village?" have cemented themselves among the great questions of science fiction, alongside such great posers as "Why is that giant bongload roaming around on Lost?" and "Midi-chlorians ... really?" Each episode featured an elaborate device, presumably orchestrated by a figure known only as "Number One" in an unsuccessful ploy to get the Prisoner to confess the secret behind his resignation. Instead of resolving these mysteries, the show's final episode decided to take the alternate route of "let's throw up abstract crap all over the screen and cause fans to react with angry death threats."

It's strange as to why The Prisoner's ending had to involve a clone wearing a monkey mask being blasted off in a rocket ship. In fact, co-creator George Markstein had an alternate, monkey-free explanation for everything: The village was a testing ground for retired spies, to see if they would spill their secrets. However, a split between Markstein and co-creator/star Patrick McGoohan led McGoohan to toss this rational ending out the window in favor of a jaunt through rocket ships and monkey masks. It's reminiscent of that episode of Scooby-Doo where Fred pulled the mask off the killer to reveal Fred, himself, then the Mystery Machine gang ate a bunch of Scooby Snacks and wrote a horrible sci-fi series finale. Rewatching The Prisoner, with all its initial twists and unknowns, becomes far less enchanting when one knows that the solution is "a crazy man made it all up to meet a writing deadline."

The writers of Lost received significantly more time to make their finale, so let's hope it counts. Seriously, if Hurley pulls the mask off the smoke monster to reveal a pissed-off giraffe, the Internet will demand blood.

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