Our 12 favorite sci-fi and fantasy TV moments of the decade

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Jul 4, 2015, 11:45 AM EDT

So many great moments! Through the decade from X-Files and Buffy to the new crop of Fringe and Chuck, we've been blessed with a wealth of great moments in sci-fi and fantasy TV. The shows were often made under the threat of cancellation with impossibly tiny budgets, but somehow the casts and crews crafted their TV show puzzles together, and they were usually good. Sometimes they were great.

As we begin a new decade, it's time to reflect on some of those brief points in time where, in one way or another, everything changed for the characters. Here's our list of the 12 greatest moments of the decade (since we just couldn't get it down to 10). Our only rule is that each show gets only one moment, despite the fact that some of them (BSG, Lost, Buffy) could fill up the list all on their own. And just in case you couldn't guess—there'll be spoilers ahead.

12. Chuck—"Chuck Versus the Ring"

Our favorite spy show, Chuck is so well written it's filled with wonderful character interactions and dialogue. But it was the season-two finale that gave us the most joy at the sight of Jeffster (or Jeff and Lester's band) performing at Ellie's (Sarah Lancaster) wedding, the soldiers coming through the glass ceiling of the reception hall, and then this final and best moment ...

Our Favorite Chuck Moment: Chuck (Zachary Levi) downloaded the Intersect 2.0 into his brain, and just as it looked like Sarah (Yvonne Strahovski), Casey (Adam Baldwin) and Chuck were done, with the bad guys about to do what bad guys do, Chuck flashes and becomes ... Super Spy Chuck. When Chuck said, "Guys ... I know kung fu," it was perfect, and it changed things forever for Operation Bartowski.

11. Fringe—"There's More Than One of Everything"

Much of Fringe's first season seemed dense and confusing. Although there were many great moments, mostly involving Walter (John Noble) and his screwed-loose brain and the opening fringe death scenes, there was one point where everything came together ...

Our Favorite Fringe Moment: In the first-season finale, Olivia (Anna Torv) heads off to a hotel to meet Nina Sharp (Blair Brown), only (apparently) to get stood up. But then the lights flicker, the elevator doors open, and she finds herself face to face with William Bell, the mysterious man behind Massive Dynamics and Walter's former partner. Seeing William Bell being played by Leonard Nimoy, it was a perfect moment. Even more so when Olivia looks out the window and realizes she's in one of the twin towers of the World Trade Center. It was the terrific ending to the season, and we finally understood what the frak was going on. There was an alternate universe, and it involves the pattern and Peter and Walter ... and things just got a lot more complicated.

10. Xena: Warrior Princess—"A Friend in Need, Part II"

Meant as a companion piece to Hercules, Xena quickly surpassed its source material and embraced the potential the series had. Xena was good despite the over-the-top villains and cheesy special effects. During the six years Xena was on the air, both Xena (Lucy Lawless) and Gabrielle (Renée O'Connor) had children and lost them, they died many times, and they loved each other. However, our favorite moment came at the end of it all ...

Our Favorite Xena Moment: In the final episode of the series, something happened that wasn't common for a series. Xena died, and not in any way that would make it easy for her to return. She was beheaded, as if to say to viewers ... this is really, really the end. But, of course, that wasn't the end. Xena becomes a ghost and has another adventure to save trapped souls in Japan. While we didn't care for that part of the episode, the final moments between the ghostly Xena and Gabrielle are powerful. Despite Gabrielle's efforts to save her true love, Xena can't be brought back to life this time. However, Xena's ghost does accompany Gabrielle as she sails off for her solo adventures. It was an ending that was touching, sad and somehow perfect.

9. Firefly—"Objects in Space"

Like much of Joss Whedon's work, this short-lived, Fox-mangled series had moments of greatness. It was funny and filled with true characters. Better yet, it had Whedon's quirky storytelling and a rich universe. Honestly, River (Summer Glau) was never one of our favorite characters, but we started liking her a whole lot more after this episode ...

Our Favorite Firefly Moment: In any other hands, the episode, about a bounty hunter trying to retrieve River from the Serenity, would have been a standard shoot-'em-up. However, the bounty hunter in this case was played by actor Richard Brooks, who gave an amazing guest turn as the unbalanced and ruthless Jubal Early. Little does Early know he's met his match in River. Her ingenious plan tricks Early out of the Serenity in his suit, since she's now in his ship. Mal's (Nathan Fillion) is waiting for him, and he knocks Early out into space. Our favorite moment is the very last, when Early, tumbling through space toward certain death, says, "Well ... here I am." All season the Alliance had been hunting River, and after her battle with Early we began to understand why.

While our favorite scene wasn't available, this scene featuring bounty hunter Jubal Early is also one of our faves ...

8. Heroes - "Hiros"

Somewhere along its three and a half seasons, Heroes lost its way. There's no denying that the writers have been working hard to recapture some of that first-season magic. But what we want to focus on here is that first season, when a series that seemed pulled straight out of the comic books captured audiences of all stripes. Our best moment came when all our heroes had a reason to pull together ...

Our Favorite Heroes Moment: It was only the fifth episode of the series. We'd fallen in love with Hiro (Masi Oka) and Peter (Milo Ventimiglia) and Claire (Hayden Panettiere) and, well, everyone. The world was in danger, and they were heroes with special powers who were going to save us. But our favorite moment, and one that drove the first half of the season, was when Peter runs into a cool, ponytailed, sword-carrying Future Hiro who doesn't wear glasses. In perfect English he tells Peter, "Save the cheerleader, save the world." The rest, as they say, is history.

7. Farscape—"Peacekeeper Wars"

Anybody else miss this series? Farscape was a delight in so many ways, but when the series was suddenly canceled, leaving Aeryn (Claudia Black) and John Crichton (Ben Browder) disintegrated ... well, we thought that was a crappy ending. Luckily, Syfy sprung for a miniseries to complete the story, and what a job they did ...

Our Favorite Farscape Moment: After being chased around by all the bad guys in the universe for four years over the wormhole technology in his brain, and seeing D'Argo (Anthony Simcoe) die, Critchton plays hardball with the universe. Surrounded by Peacekeeper and Scarran ships about to go to war, everyone demands the wormhole technology. However, Crichton (who is more than a little crazy) opens a wormhole, which expands to destroy both Scarran and Peacekeeper ships and obliterates everything in its path, including a planet. The wormhole weapon will destroy the universe, and Crichton knows it's too dangerous for any one side to have. For that one moment Crichton appears more than ready to let the universe be destroyed, until the warring sides finally back down. Somehow we don't think he was bluffing. When it was over, Peacekeeper Wars was a worthy end for this exceptional series.

6. Doctor Who - "Doomsday"

Russell T Davies has reinvented Doctor Who with this latest incarnation of the classic British series, but he hasn't changed the key elements that have kept this series going for more than 40 years. The Doctor (David Tennant) is still an intensely curious fellow who has a fondness for Earth and can't stop himself from getting into the middle of trouble. Better yet, he'd rather think his way out of a tough spot than turn to violence. Luckily, we're limited to this decade, so pinning down one moment is only slightly easier ...

Our Favorite Doctor Who Moment: It was the second-season finale, and after a battle with the Cybermen and Daleks, Rose (Billie Piper) is sucked into another universe forever separated from the Doctor. (At least it was forever at the moment.) In the final moments of the finale, the Doctor manages to project himself into Rose's new universe to say goodbye. Heartbroken, Rose tells the Doctor she loves him. As he's about to tell her he loves her back (we assume), his transmission is cut off and we see him standing in the TARDIS with a tear running down his cheek. It was a extraordinary, horrible moment that proved that the only way to stop a full-blown romance between Rose and the Doctor was to put a universe between them.

5. Stargate SG-1—"Window of Opportunity"

With more than a decade of material to choose from, there were a lot of worthy moments for the first Stargate. While we most love the moment where Jack O'Neill (Richard Dean Anderson) meets the Asgard, that doesn't quite make it into this decade. We could also go with the introduction of another major player, the Replicators, or Vala (Claudia Black) getting burned up by the Ori. However, there was another moment that we just loved even though it didn't really change everything for the characters ...

Our Favorite Stargate SG-1 Moment: It was the fourth season, and Jack and Teal'c (Christopher Judge) end up in a 10-hour time loop that only they can remember. They relive the same loop over and over again, and eventually have to learn Latin to help Dr. Jackson (Michael Shanks) translate the writing on the Ancient machine that's causing all the trouble. However, at one point Jack has had it and takes up golf and bike riding. Just before another loop is about to start, he finally tenders his resignation and plants a big one (a kiss, that is) on Carter right in the gate room. It was something viewers had been waiting for, but done in a delightful way without all the baggage a "real" kiss might have caused.

4. Buffy the Vampire Slayer—"Once More, With Feeling"

This great, great series is chock-full of great, great moments, from Buffy's mom dying of natural causes to Buffy (Sarah Michelle Gellar) sacrificing herself to save Dawn (Michelle Trachtenberg) to the world being saved by lots of Slayers at the end of it all. However, our favorite episode was undoubtedly "Hush," but that doesn't qualify for this decade by all of two weeks. So we'll go with our second favorite ...

Our Favorite Buffy moment: It was an episode that was destined for failure. What was Joss thinking? Making Buffy into a musical? Was he crazy? While the whole episode was a strong one, about a demon named Sweet (Hinton Battle) who cast a spell that forces everyone to sing about their innermost feelings, there were two absolutely delightful moments. We first hear Buffy singing in the graveyard and realize that this episode just might be good. But, for our favorite, we'll go with the very ending when Spike (James Marsters) and Buffy kiss as the curtain falls. That's the moment where we knew Joss had done it. He had made Buffy the Musical, and it was great.

3. Lost - "Through the Looking Glass, Part 2"

We fell in love with Lost, which had a terrific pilot and first season. And then we got stuck on the blasted Others' island, and the series seemed to lose its way. Luckily it found its way again, and Lost hasn't looked back since. It's been filled with wonderful heartbreaking, thrilling, terrible, great moments, from the pilot when the guy gets pulled into the engine to Charlie (Dominic Monaghan) dying to Locke (Terry O'Quinn) and his ability to walk to ... Well, how to choose? However, out of all of the great moments on Lost, there's one that stands above the rest ...

Our Favorite Lost moment: It was the third-season finale, a Jack (Matthew Fox) episode with flashbacks of him in an emotionally dark place. On the island, the survivors were trying to use Naomi's satellite phone to call her boat, which would mean they were saved. At the very end of the episode, we went back to a flashback, with Jack going to meet someone at the airport. That someone turns out to be Kate (Evangeline Lilly) ... It wasn't a flashback at all. It was a flash-forward, and the writers had just changed the game entirely. As Jack yells to Kate, "We have to go back!" we were wondering, "Why, if they finally got off the damn island?" Wouldn't they all live happily ever after if they got off the island? As one question was answered, they do get off ... other questions were exploding in our heads while we waited months to get to the next season to see what it was all about. A flash-forward meant we could go anywhere at any time, and it was thrilling storytelling.

2. Battlestar Galactica - "Crossroads, Part 2"

Talk about a wealth of possibilities when it comes to great moments ... but which to choose from? The miniseries as they flee for their lives ... the first episode of the series ... Boomer (Grace Park) is a Cylon ... Number Six (Tricia Helfer) in her red dress ... Starbuck (Katee Sackhoff) returns from the dead ... the invasion and occupation of New Caprica ... the excitement of reaching Earth ... the moment they discover it's uninhabitable ... Head Six and/or Head Gaius (James Callis) ... Tom Zarek (Richard Hatch) and Felix Gaeta (Alessandro Juliani) facing a firing squad ... the final episode ... Roslin learning that Adama was dead even though he wasn't ... Dee (Kandyse McClure) killing herself after reconciling with Lee ... the tiny little moments between Adama (Edward James Olmos) and Roslin (Mary McDonnell) with them just talking ... and so many more. However, there was one moment that we'll never forget ...

Our Favorite Battlestar Galactica moment: It was the end of the third season, and they couldn't seem to get the tune out of their heads. Finally four characters who couldn't possibly be Cylons ... were Cylons. For that moment Sam Anders (Michael Trucco), Galen Tyrol (Aaron Douglas), Tory Foster (Rekha Sharma) and Saul Tigh (Michael Hogan) stared at each other knowing the truth, and yet were unable to come to terms with what it really meant. In that moment everything changed for the newly revealed Cylons and for what was left of the human race. For us, too.

While we couldn't find the complete embeddable scene, you can see a snippet of it at the beginning of this clip.

1. Torchwood: Children of Earth - "Day 5"

Torchwood started out as a fun, sexy, grown-up modern version of Buffy. But by the time it killed off Owen (Burn Gorman) and Toshiko (Naoko Mori), two of its major characters, we knew this series was special. When we heard that season three was only going to be five episodes and all aired over five consecutive nights, we were kind of pissed. Only five episodes? And then this TV event started out like any other episode. But by the time it was done, Ianto was dead, Gwen (Eve Myles) had gone through the wringer and Jack (John Barrowman) was so devastated by what he had to do that he left Earth. This is our favorite, if most heart-wrenching moment of the decade ...

Our Favorite Torchwood Moment: Jack realizes how he can save the children of Earth; unfortunately, one child will have to die to save the rest. And when Jack decides to sacrifice his own grandson, who otherwise wouldn't have to die, while his daughter screams, "No, Dad!" and his grandson asks, "What's happening?" it breaks your heart. Jack does what he has to do to be the hero he is and seals his grandson's fate with the flip of a switch. In that moment, his connection with his daughter and the human race is forever changed, and Jack will never be the same. Neither will we.

What was your favorite TV moment of the decade?

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