Even as it was beginning to blow up at the box office, science fiction was still relatively rare on TV in the 1970s. That’s due in part to the budgets simply not being adequate enough to make the shows look convincing.
If you were really looking for it, though, there were some great 1970s sci-fi series that laid the groundwork for everything that would come in the decades that followed. These series helped establish a mold for what sci-fi storytelling could be like on TV, and many shows are still indebted to them today.
A bleak, dystopian series about a group of misfits who are attempting to take on a totalitarian state, Blake’s 7 feels like the cynical, British antidote to Star Wars. The series features many of the same tropes as that movie, albeit at a much smaller scale, and it has a dry wit that makes it feel entirely distinct.
If you like your sci-fi dipped in acid, this is the series for you. It’s got none of the uplift of a traditional sci-fi story, and that’s part of what made it so thoroughly compelling. Few sci-fi stories have dared to be this realistic and bleak, even to this day.
Blake’s 7 can be streamed on BritBox via Prime Video.
In spite of its VERY 1970s name, Space: 1999 takes a much more grounded approach to science fiction. Set on a futuristic moon base that gets jettisoned into outer space, the show ran for two seasons and was hugely influential on what came after it.
Although Space: 1999 is speculative, it’s based more firmly in real science than many of the shows on this list. At its core, it’s really a gripping survival series about a group of people in dire circumstances. Like many sci-fi shows of this era, Space: 1999 was also British. That side of the pond was just much more into sci-fi TV back then.
Space: 1999 is streaming for free on Amazon Freevee.
You’re likely aware of the seminal sci-fi series that shares its name with this one, as well as the reboot Battlestar Galactica‘s best episodes, but far fewer people have taken the time to watch this one-season show that was the inspiration for its more successful successor. The premise of this show is exactly the same, following the crew of the last remaining humans as they battle a race of artificial intelligence intent on wiping them out.
The show obviously had a much lower budget than its successor, but Battlestar Galactica was so sharply written and nuanced that it laid the foundation for one of the most important sci-fi series ever made.
Battlestar Galactica can be rented or purchased on Prime Video.
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