Fiction can go on forever in certain mediums, but all TV shows must eventually come to end. Fans of sci-fi TV shows have likely noticed that very few of their favorite shows were even afforded the chance to get a proper finale. Even in the streaming era, early cancellations are a bane for genre lovers. That’s why it’s so important to celebrate the shows that did get to exit the stage gracefully.
Our picks for the seven greatest sci-fi TV finales does leave out a few shows like Quantum Leap that left fans feeling unsatisfied by the fate of the main character. It’s alright for a show to have an unhappy ending — but it has to be the right ending for the show. As you’ll see below, even a bleak conclusion is better than no ending at all.
There are few fans today who are aware of Blake’s 7, a British sci-fi series that ran in the late 1970s and early ’80s. And if people do know about it, that’s probably because it has one of the most infamous endings in sci-fi history. After an extended absence, Roj Blake (Gareth Thomas), the former leader of a band of rebels, returns under murky circumstances. Blake’s replacement and his former second-in-command, Kerr Avon (Paul Darrow), becomes convinced that Blake betrayed them and he kills him for it.
To make things even more grim, the fascist Federation closes in on the rest of Avon’s crew and murders every single one of them. Avon himself is the sole survivor, and the show ends with an enigmatic smile on his face as he is surrounded by enemy forces. Fans of the show never got proper closure for this series, but what an audacious way to go out.
Watch Blake’s 7 on BritBox.
Star Trek: The Next Generation was the first Star Trek series that actually got to go out on its own terms. Both the original Star Trek and the animated series were canceled ahead of their time. Going into this episode, the creative team behind the show were already working on Star Trek: Generations, the first of four TNG-era films with this cast. Yet, the series finale, All Good Things …, works on its own by giving fans a glimpse of the past, the present, and the future of the crew.
Captain Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) carries the bulk of the episode and appears in nearly every scene as the omnipotent Q (John de Lancie) gives him one last riddle to solve in three different time periods. This proves to be especially difficult in the past and the future, when the crew is more wary of following Picard’s lead. However, the series’ final scene features a simple human moment that was years in the making as Picard himself finally connects with his crew over a round of cards.
Watch Star Trek: The Next Generation on Paramount+.
Firefly‘s finale is unique on this list because it wasn’t made to be a series finale, or even a season finale. Regardless of Fox’s premature cancellation of the show, series creator Josh Whedon closed things out with a bottle episode that takes place almost entirely on the Serenity from the point of view of River Tam (Summer Glau).
Through River’s eyes, viewers saw the members of the crew lay out their secrets, including the outwardly pious Shepherd Book (Ron Glass). However, River’s near telepathic gift and her inability to always distinguish between her visions and reality makes Captain Mal Reynolds (Nathon Fillion) and the crew question whether they are safe to travel with her.
They get their answer in the form of Jubal Early (Richard Brooks), a bounty hunter who takes them down one by one on their own ship. Everyone except for River, who has her own plans for their unwanted visitor. The way this episode ends gives the crew some closure, although the feature film Serenity is arguably a great series finale as well.
Watch Firefly on Hulu.
Babylon 5 series creator J. Michael Straczynski always intended the show to last five seasons. But when it looked like the show might be over after only four seasons, Straczynski wrote and directed the series finale, Sleeping in Light, and held it back for a year when the show was renewed for a fifth and final season.
The finale acts as an epilogue for the entire series and jumps ahead two decades as John Sheridan (Bruce Boxleitner) faces the end of his life alongside his wife, Delenn (Mira Furlan). Thankfully, there’s enough time to gather their closest friends for one last dinner, and for Sheridan to fully take stock of his life and what Babylon 5 meant for the universe — and for everyone who served there.
Watch Babylon 5 on Tubi.
The Watchmen TV series pulled off the incredible feat of following up the original comic by Alan Moore and artist David Gibbons with a story that serves as a worthy sequel that most fans believed they would never get. The show takes its time in revealing how its main characters were connected to the comic, but everything was ultimately laid bare with the conclusion of the story of Angela Abar (Regina King) and her husband, Cal (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II), who was secretly Jonathan Osterman, aka Doctor Manhattan.
For the finale, Jonathan was paralyzed by his foreknowledge that he was about to die. But through his death, Angela realized that a universe of possibilities may have opened up for her to do more as a hero. In a perfect touch, the series ends on a question that may never be answered. And we’re OK with that.
Watch Watchmen on Max.
Star Wars: The Clone Wars almost didn’t get a real conclusion because it wasn’t a priority as Disney took over Lucasfilm just over a decade ago. Star Wars Rebels also spoiled the fact that Ahsoka Tano (Ashley Eckstein) survived the Clone Wars, which took away some of the suspense about her fate. So, The Clone Wars season 7 had an uphill battle heading into its revival on Disney+.
By this time in the series, Ahsoka had left the Jedi Order behind and become a formidable heroine in her own right. The final episode caught up to the events of Revenge of the Sith as Order 66 wiped out the Jedi. Ahsoka fared better than most of the Jedi, but her survival came at a high price as her actions led to the death of almost all of her clone troops. The closing moments feature Ahsoka’s haunting tribute to her men, and the long-awaited arrival of Darth Vader. That ended up being an incredibly impactful way to close out this chapter of Star Wars history.
Watch Star Wars: The Clone Wars on Disney+.
It’s entirely possible that Star Trek: Picard‘s finale placed so highly because it’s the most recent one on this list. But it’s hard to think of another finale that delivered on all fronts the way that this one did. The entire third season of Picard played like an extended miniseries that reunited the cast of The Next Generation and featured intriguing links to both Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Star Trek: Voyager. But the last two episodes were like the great TNG movie we never got to see in theaters, and it was glorious.
For the very last episode, viewers saw the last voyage of an old Enterprise, and the first voyage of a new Enterprise. The TNG crew had their last adventure, and gave way to a new crew. Every single main character on the show had a satisfactory sendoff, and as one story ended, another began. Star Trek: Picard stuck the landing in its final episode, and that’s why fans have been clamoring for a Star Trek: Legacy spinoff.
Watch Star Trek: Picard on Paramount+.
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