By Aaron Pressman
May 3, 2019

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Get your popcorn ready. If this is the golden age of television, it’s the platinum, supersonic, nirvana age of science fiction and fantasy TV shows. Last year’s Emmys included nominations (and few winners) from HBO’s Westworld, Hulu’s Handmaid’s Tale, and BBC’s Orphan Black. There’s also Amazon’s The Man in the High Castle, CBS’s revived Star Trek franchise, and the cult hit The Expanse, which was cancelled by the Syfy network only to be scooped up by Amazon. Oh yeah, and HBO has some show about dragons and ice zombies.

But if you thought that was enough of the genre fare, you’re about to be positively blown away. A proven money maker with audiences, sci-fi is now one of the hottest areas for online streaming services. As fans today mourn the death of actor Peter Mayhew, who played Chewbacca in Star Wars, let’s ponder a cheerier future and decide which streaming service has the best new science fiction shows.

It’s definitely not Hulu or Netflix. Hulu seems only to have on tap a handful of animated shows based on characters from Marvel Comics, like Howard the Duck. Netflix has done virtually nothing original in the genre of science fiction, though it has some closely-related fantasy and horror shows. Should we count The OA or Stranger Things? Maybe. In a similar vein, coming soon is Superman Henry Cavill in The Witcher, a monster hunter from the novels of Andrzej Sapkowski.

Then there’s the current owner of Marvel, Disney, and what is planned for the new Disney+ service. The company is obviously leaning hard on the comic book universe plus all the Star Wars spinoffs it can manage. Variety reports Loki and Scarlet Witch from the MCU are getting their own streaming shows, while a live action program related to Star Wars is on the way called The Mandalorian, set after the fall of the first empire.

Still, nothing super-impressive. That leaves it to Apple and Amazon–and they have taken up the sci-fi programming challenge with gusto.

Apple’s massive slate includes Steven Spielberg’s revived Amazing Stories, the post-apocalyptic tale See starring Aquaman’s Jason Momoa, a fictitious history about the space race called For All Mankind from Battlestar Galactica reboot producer Ronald D. Moore, as well as a yet-unnamed big budget sci-fi show from producers Simon Kinberg and David Weil. Apple also bought the rights to make the Terry Gilliam movie Time Bandits into a show and grabbed perhaps the grand daddy of all sci-fi properties, novelist Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series. Not many details about who’s attached yet.

Amazon wended it way into the hearts of science fiction TV fans last year when it grabbed The Expanse and promised at least a fourth season, coming later this year. The minions of Jeff Bezos have also been busy the past few years collecting the rights to many cherished sci-fi novels, including Larry Niven’s Ringworld, Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash, and Greg Rucka’s comic book Lazarus. And don’t forget they got the rights to make spinoff properties set in the world of Lord of the Rings and Stephen King’s Dark Tower series, too.

For now, let’s call it a tie between Apple and Amazon. Have a great weekend.

Aaron Pressman


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