From supernatural jaw-droppers to time travel twists, there have been a whole lot of sci-fi TV cliffhangers left dangling over the years.
The reason? On average, around half of the shows on TV will be canceled at the end of any given season — which means plenty of perfectly awesome sci-fi shows never made it into their potential prime. Looking back into the annals of sci-fi television history, you could make a list that numbers into the dozens digging into shows that left fans hanging, forever asking what could've been.
Instead, I've narrowed it down to six that really grind my gears. First, some qualifiers: Not all of these shows were great (looking at you, ABC's V reboot), but their cliffhangers were. We're looking to drill down into cliffhangers that left a show with such a great set-up that it's heartbreaking the creative teams never got a chance to pursue them. Which is why a deep cut like ABC's Miracles makes the list, and not something like the muddled (but more popular) Revolution on NBC.
Okay? Here we go ...
Angel - "Not Fade Away"
First off, the series finale of Angel was fantastic. The episode "Not Fade Away" pitted Angel and his team against the most hopeless of odds — a literal Hell on Earth opening in the heart of Los Angeles. Wesley's dead, Gunn is wounded and the gang is facing everything from dragons to demons. The series was expected to have another season to follow up the finale, but creator Joss Whedon pushed for the network to give him an early renewal. Instead, The WB passed on bringing back the series altogether.
Which is a shame, because the fifth season of Angel was arguably the show’s best. The addition of James Marsters' Spike to the cast was a creative catalyst, making for a breath of fresh air and humor for a show that had bordered on getting a bit too dark for its own good at times. After seeing the team get all the resources it needed by taking over Wolfram and Hart, the finale finally gave them some odds that put their backs against the wall. Actually seeing what happened after that final fight? The directions they could've taken that story? It's near-limitless. But still, Angel was a show about fighting the odds, and not always winning them. To that end, "Not Fade Away" was the perfect coda ... though we still would've loved to see another season of Angel and Spike butting heads and fighting over who Buffy really loved the most.
Stargate Universe - "Gauntlet"
The final series in the decade-long Stargate franchise ended with a cliffhanger that left pretty much everything up in the air. With the ship preparing for a lengthy FTL jump, the entire crew is tucked into stasis pods to survive the journey — with only Eli left behind, in hopes he can repair the final remaining pod. The final shot is a fitting enough series finale, with Eli standing on the observation deck and looking out at the stars, but it was never conceived to actually wrap up the series itself (or the entire Stargate franchise spanning SG-1 and Atlantis, either).
The moment didn't only finally show the team's insecure geek Eli stepping into the hero's role but it also established what could've made for a fascinating third season. The writers could have potentially picked up a few years ahead in the timeline (which would've been reflected with a future version of Earth on the other end) when the trip ends, brought some aliens back into the fold to save the day or something else I'm not even considering here. More than anything, it's a shame we didn't get to see this self-assured, more confident version of Eli in action for a third season. He was a great character and a different animal than who you typically see anchoring an ensemble sci-fi series. Stargate Universe was far from perfect, but it had so much potential.
The Tomorrow People - "Son of Man"
Before he started kicking around the Arrowverse, Stephen Amell's cousin Robbie got his start leading The CW sci-fi series The Tomorrow People. Despite so-so ratings, the show was actually a whole lot of fun — and ended with one heck of a great twist. The show, based on a 1970s British sc-fi series, was basically a twist on the X-Men ... just, you know, with sexy teens (we are talking about a CW show, after all). The first season ended with Amell's character Stephen tapping into the ability to literally turn back time and save the life of his friend. As if that wasn't enough, the ranks of Tomorrow People with special abilities are swelling, so Stephen takes over their old enemy's headquarters to make room for them all.
But we never got to see Stephen tap into this new power set, or the eventual fallout of turning back time to save the life of someone who was supposed to die. The Tomorrow People was a bit cheesy at times, but it was a series that tapped into a lot of the same social and cultural topics that makes the X-Men so relevant all these years later. It was also insanely fun, with a likable cast surrounding Amell and a compelling story and family dynamic at the heart of it all. The finale upped the ante in every conceivable way, and sadly, that's all we'll ever have.
V - "Mother's Day"
The hit 1980s alien invasion series V scored a high-concept revival at ABC in 2009, but was too busy spinning in circles to actually get into the invasion of it all — at least until the series finale, that is. For two seasons, the show took its time introducing the mysterious alien visitors (led by a deliciously evil Morena Baccarin) and slowly threading in a burgeoning resistance known as the Fifth Column. Then it just kept spinning its wheels until the Season 2 finale. The finale was an absolute game changer, with lead hero Erica (Elizabeth Mitchell) aligning herself with a more powerful resistance force hiding out in an underground base as more Vs arrive with a fleet of ships to take over the world — just after pretty much the entire globe has been brainwashed by the alien invaders.
The finale made it clear that Season 3 was setting up the show we'd wanted from the start, a straight-up alien invasion drama with an all-out battle for the fate of Earth itself. It could've been what TNT's Falling Skies was supposed to be, just with a bigger budget and Elizabeth Mitchell vs. Morena Baccarin — how do you get that wrong?V is a textbook case of a big idea that just never fit into the episodic structure of network television. The creative team never felt truly comfortable with the premise. Not until the finale. Sigh.
Miracles - "Paul Is Dead"
It's okay if you've never actually heard of this one. Miracles ran for a mere six episodes on ABC back in 2003 before being cancelled, though the full 13-episode run was eventually released on home media. The series focused on a team of religious and paranormal investigators led by Skeet Ulrich and Angus Macfadyen as they try to unravel a larger mystery about a dark event brewing on Earth. It was basically a more religious spin on The X-Files, with a central plot point revolving around the phenomena of "hemography," with blood forming itself into the phrase "GODISNOWHERE." Ulrich's former priest sees the text as "God is Now Here," though everyone else who has experienced this miracle sees "God is Nowhere." The show never sold out in answering the question of whether or not Ulrich's Paul is good or evil — and that's exactly where the finale left things. The final shot is one more look at the mysterious hemography, but with the phrase clearly spelling "God is Nowhere."
Had the show continued, producer Richard Hatem teased Season 2 would've followed the story of Paul's destiny and how much control he actually has over it. The series tackled religion through an unflinching lens with a boatload of supernatural thrills to tie it all together, and the "GODISNOWHERE" mystery would have been a great one to see continue.
Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles - "Born to Run"
Put simply: The Sarah Connor Chronicles made for some of the best sci-fi storytelling in ages, and despite our reverence for Terminator 2: Judgment Day, it's arguably one of the best Terminator stories ever told. When mapping out the end of Season 2 and the start of what would've been Season 3, the creative team decided to send young John Connor into the future as part of an epic cliffhanger that left so many potential directions for the writers to take the story. Young John arrives in a future where he meets his recently-deceased uncle Derek Reese (Brian Austin Green), the human inspiration for his Terminator protector (played by Summer Glau) and his father Kyle Reese (Jonathan Jackson). The big twist? No one has a clue who "John Connor" is.
By jumping into the future, John landed in an alternate reality where he never grew up to lead the resistance against Skynet ... and never had the weight of the world on him. Not only does this actually move the action into the post-apocalyptic future, but it introduces a narrative thread that actually marginalizes John Connor — something pretty much no other Terminator story has ever done. This is a good thing. The crux of the entire Terminator franchise is the messiah complex surrounding John Connor, but this story could've been a way to subvert that and see who John could be without the (literal) fate of humanity on his shoulders. It would've split the core cast between the present and future and could've set up one of the best stories yet for what was already an excellent series. Instead? All we have is the fading crackle of a time travel jump and lost potential.