4 Upcoming Sci-fi Shows to Watch – Friday Four

AscensionWe know now that Defiance has been renewed, and there’s still 19 episodes of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. to go (with Agent Carter in the middle, too), but what about new shows? Are there any upcoming sci-fi series that fans should be keeping an eye out for? On the immediate horizon, there’s Syfy’s Ascension, which, while just a miniseries, is looking pretty good (and being a miniseries didn’t stop Battlestar Galactica from getting a full pickup). It’s set to premiere November 24 (UPDATE: It’s been pushed back to December 15. Bummer), and deals with a generation ship secretly launched in the 1960’s. Better still, it’s an original property, not an adaptation or tie-in to something bigger. If we look a little further out, beyond 2014, there are these shows, (hopefully) making their way to our screens next year. So here are 4 new series that are currently in development.


4. Letter 44

Letter 44Back in 2009, when Sci-fi changed its name to Syfy, all us fans figured that was the end of it. They’d officially abandoned the sci-fi fans for ghost wrestling. Stargate Universe and Caprica getting canceled the next year really didn’t help that image, either, and for a while there were essentially no serious space-related dramas on the network. That clearly didn’t work out for them, and so Syfy’s come running back to the nerds with half a dozen and counting sci-fi programs at various stages of development (and as a result dominates the list).  One of the most recently announced among these is Letter 44, an adaptation of a graphic novel series detailing the secret discovery of an alien base being constructed in the asteroid belt, and the newly elected president’s struggles with this revelation. The outgoing president is clearly a loosely veiled version of Bush, but it offers an alternative explanation: what if the wars in the Middle East were merely an excuse for the military buildup needed to fend off an alien invasion? It promises a more political angle on the old alien conspiracy and invasion story, which ought to be interesting. Many people have wondered what a politically-oriented sci-fi show might be like (if I had a dime for every time “Star Trek meets West Wing” has been suggested…) and it looks like we finally have one.

You can read the first issue of the comic here, for free. And incidentally, it happens to be in this week’s Humble Books Bundle, and on the first tier, too.


3. Killjoys

KilljoysThis is another Syfy show, but this one doesn’t seem to have been adapted from anything (yay, original content!). Killjoys, described as an adventure series, follows three boisterous bounty hunters as they fly around their solar system, referred to as “the Quad,” trying to execute their contracts without getting bound up in the right-or-wrong of it. The Quad, however, is in a bad situation, and interplanetary warfare may only be one wrong step away. It’s great to see a show set on a spaceship again, at long last, and a crew of rough and tumble bounty hunters has proven itself a successful basis for characters time and time again, from Cowboy Bebop to Firefly and even a certain resemblance to Farscape. An outsider perspective always seems to be the most interesting one to take when it comes to warring planets, as it allows our heroes to see both sides of the conflict and maintain the shades of gray, morality-wise, that are needed for a really compelling tale. And coming from the producers of the critically-praised Orphan Black, I’m all the more excited for it. It’s time space was fun again.

Syfy has a description of the characters on their site, but little else at the moment.


2. Ballistic City

The only one on the list not coming from Syfy, this AMC series has been in the works for about a year, although very little is still known about it. It’s set aboard a generational ship, and deals with a murder investigation, much like Ascension, but it looks like aside from this similarity in premise, the two shows couldn’t be more different. Billing itself as “Blade Runner meets Battlestar Galactica,” which is probably one of the most awesome combos I can imagine, the show promises to explore the gritty underworld that’s developed on this ship where few people will live to reach their destination. It also appears to be set in the future, whereas Ascension is set in an alternate present with a heavy 1960’s style influence. This show seems to be all about the atmospheric, and coming from AMC, who have heavy dramas like Breaking Bad and Mad Men, it could be quite promising. This is also the only one on here where I don’t know if it’s been picked up to series or not; this could end up not materializing at all.


1. The Expanse

Leviathan WakesYou’ve probably heard about this one, if for no other reason than the buzz reaching a high point a few weeks ago. Adapted for Syfy from James S. A. Corey’s Leviathan Wakes (and presumably its sequels, should it last that long), the show will follow detective Miller and mining ship captain Jim Holden as they unexpectedly meet up and try to prevent the solar system from falling into civil war. As far as space operas go, it’s pretty damn hard sci-fi, with no FTL or shields or anything like that involved. I must admit that I haven’t read the books yet, (although it does sound like it has everything I love: noir-ish detectives, idealistic space captains, …spaceships in general) so do correct me if I’m wrong. This is a book that I’ve seen people clamoring for an adaptation for a couple years now, almost since it came out, so I’ll trust them that it’ll adapt well. The only question is, can Syfy in particular adapt it well? That remains to be seen next year.

There also seems to be a theme emerging here, what with all the detectives…


I chose these upcoming sci-fi shows because they’re full series and very likely to be given a full season. There are more, including a show called Hunters, which is an adaptation of Whitley Strieber’s Alien Hunter, A miniseries adaptation of Arthur C. Clarke’s Childhood’s End, the TV adaptation of the film 12 Monkeys, AMC’s post-apocalyptic Galyntine, the J. Michael Straczynski and Wachowski team-up for Netflix called Sense8, and an AMC/Channel 4 coproduction adaptation of the Swedish series Real Humans, all confirmed for development. Still others are in the earliest stages, like an adaptation of John Scalzi’s Ghost Brigades, an adaptation of Kim Stanley Robinson’s Mars trilogy on Spike, the Spielberg-produced live action Halo series, a Lost in Space reboot, an untitled Fox show known only by its pitch “Dirty Dozen in space,” and the long gestating Starz series Incursion. Plus, Frederik Pohl’s Gateway is being adapted by a very enthusiastic De Laurentiis Co., HBO is tackling Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series, Syfy has just picked up the rights to Dark Matter, by our Stargate buddy Joe Mallozzi, and Rockne S. O’Bannon of Farscape fame has a new project in Global Frequency. Did I miss any good ones?

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  1. Forget what you like about the typical sci-fi genre for a bit and read The Expanse series. It is the MOST realistic and personal sci-fi story I’ve ever read and cannot praise the depth S.A. Corey goes to construct our universe and the on goings in it enough. It’s purely addicting. I’m very excited about the adaptation and hope they cast the parts correctly and are able to depict the sense of humanity (or lack thereof) in each character, especially Miller.

  2. These shows look promising, especially Letter 44. Anyone know the status of the Space 2099 project? With their website being down and the unusually long development time, I fear the worst.