The 10 best alien-invasion TV shows of all time

By Scott D. Pierce

The Salt Lake Tribune

Published: June 15, 2012 06:45PM
Updated: July 25, 2012 03:21PM
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John Barrowman as Captain Jack Harkness; Mekhi Phifer as CIA agent Rex Matheson; Eve Myles as Gwen Cooper in “Torchwood: Miracle Day.” Courtesy Starz

As “Falling Skies” heads into its second season on Sunday (7 p.m., TNT), this battle against alien invaders has a chance to give us something its predecessors didn’t.

An ending.

There have been plenty of shows about alien invasions. Most of them left fans hanging because they were axed before they could reach a conclusion.

“V” did it to us twice — with two miniseries (1983, 1984) and a weekly show (1984-85) and then again a quarter of a century later (2009-11).

There’s a reason shows like “Dark Skies” (1996-97) and “Threshold” (2005), to name just two, didn’t last long. They weren’t good, and not much of anybody watched.

It’s tough to come up with a list of the 10 best alien-invasion shows of all time because there weren’t 10 good alien-invasion shows. But here’s a list of the best of a weak bunch:

10. “Roswell” (1999-2002) • It did give us a rather rushed, unsatisfying ending, although it was more an aliens-on-Earth show, not an aliens-invade-Earth show.

9. “The Invaders” (1967-68) • Humans try to thwart an aliens-among-us conspiracy.

8. “Earth: Final Conflict” (1997-2002) • Based on notes left behind by “Star Trek” creator Gene Roddenberry, this show began with the arrival of an alien race that wasn’t as benevolent as it seemed. It gyrated wildly through five seasons of plots that ended inconclusively.

7. “First Wave” (1998-2001) • This was an exception — an alien invasion was prevented in the finale. But it wasn’t entirely clear if that was the end of the story.

6. “Space: Above and Beyond” (1995-96) • What a great premise — humans fight an interstellar war against aggressive aliens. But it failed to capture an audience because it couldn’t get things going.

5. “Invasion” (2005-06) • This show teased viewers for so long they got annoyed and left. It got good toward the end of its one and only season, but it was too little, too late.

4. “The Event” (2010-11) • This started out with a bang, then got lost in convoluted plots. Once again, it was too late by the time the writers figured it out.

3. “V” (1983-85; 2009-11) • The two miniseries were a lot of fun; the weekly series was terrible. The 21st-century revival could never settle on a narrative.

2. “Doctor Who” (1963-2012) and “Torchwood” (2006-11) • These aren’t, strictly speaking, alien-invasion series. But they’ve each done alien-invasion storylines — and done them so well they’re impossible to overlook.

1. “X-Files” (1993-2002) • Another show that isn’t entirely about aliens, but that subject overlaid the entire series. This often was one of TV’s greatest sci-fi shows, but it overstayed its welcome, and its one-step-forward, two-steps-back plotting eventually grew tiresome.

Scott D. Pierce covers television for The Salt Lake Tribune. Email him at spierce@sltrib.com; follow him on Twitter @ScottDPierce.