There are dozens of reasons people like sci-fi—and, particularly, media that covers outer space. First, the farthest reaches of our galaxy are filled with possibility. For creators, their imagination is the limit. Second, outer space is big, which makes it the perfect setting for far-flung plots and large-scale adventures.
On a more existential level, space also presents audiences with philosophical questions about life, our planet, and humankind. In other words, projects that focus on outer space tend to have very layered themes. Most plots include action-adventure scenes, along with plenty of sci-fi-inspired technology and a touch of emotional drama.
Throw in horror and romance subplots and the possibilities, as mentioned above, are nearly endless for the writers who pen space-based scripts. In fact, it’s not just films and TV shows that have explored space. Some of the most popular video games of all time cover similar topics.
The Halo Series and Mass Effect Series are two of the gaming industry’s most successful and longest-running franchises. Meanwhile, other projects like EVE Online continue to add new players worldwide. On a smaller scale, even casino slots tend to cover sci-fi and outer space.
For example, the PokerStars platform recently added another colorful and space-themed title to its slots roster, called Dr. Toonz. The first releases, Reactoonz and Reactoonz 2, proved so popular a third spinoff was released. Clearly, whether big or small, space-themed media is a hit with audiences around the world. But, when it comes to TV shows, which projects have hit the right note in recent years?
The Expanse (2015)
Widely considered the Syfy channel’s best original show, The Expanse explores what might happen if Mars, like Earth, was populated. As with most stories based in outer space, the focus is highly human, as the show expounds on topics like radicalization and authoritarianism. Throw in a mystery tied to a wealthy heiress and this sci-fi plot takes a dip into hardboiled detective territory.
In other words, The Expanse covers a future that doesn’t feel totally improbable. It covers incredibly human conflicts, then pits them in the backdrop of outer space to make them feel larger than life. And though Earth and Mars are divided, neither group is vilified, leaving plenty of food for thought—and hope.
This project from Apple TV was released last year and has already been contracted for a second season. Rather than focus on the Milky Way like The Expanse, Foundation covers a much broader intergalactic struggle. To preserve the Galactic Empire, forces in the show must band together to defy its laws.
Foundation mirrors other massively popular projects, like Star Wars and Star Trek. It truly spans a galaxy—and relies on heavy-hitting graphics to convey this grandiosity. Meanwhile, a revolving spectrum of storylines pits Foundation almost into high fantasy territory. In other words, there’s almost non-stop plot and action to follow.
The Mandalorian (2019)
It seems that George Lucas’s imagination has provided enough intrigue for generations to come. Back in 2019, Disney+ launched The Mandalorian as a ‘space western’ that covers the exploits of a bounty hunter and ‘the child’, a young being who is of the same species as Master Yoda.
With an entire universe to fall back on, The Mandalorian has been hailed for feeling truly ‘alive’ thanks to advanced audio and visual engineering. Throw in a rag-rag group of adventurers, helmed by the masked Mando and the very and lovable ‘The Child’, and there’s enough feel-good adventure to keep any casual sci-fi fan elated.
Star Trek: Picard (2020)
Though both the Star Trek and Star Wars universes are incredibly popular, Star Wars tends to enjoy more attention from the general public. In fact, Star Trek has largely remained the domain of hardcore fans—who are more than happy to support any and every project. In 2020, Paramount+ looked to harness this fanbase by releasing the eighth Star Trek series: Star Trek: Picard.
The series looks to pay homage to Star Trek’s long-serving Starfleet Admiral, Jean-Luc Picard. The show explores Picard in his later years and the new challenges his age poses. Rather than high-flung action, Picard’s reality is much more human. The final season is expected in 2023.