5 great shows like Battlestar Galactica

Battlestar Galactica Centurion

“No! Watch my show again!” Photo by ckroberts61.

Toaster robots. Of course it’ll work. But anyway, Battlestar Galactica managed to prove that a sci-fi show could have a broad audience, with more than just the typical sci-fi fans that one might expect from the title. It featured a diverse cast of characters, talented actors, that endlessly shaky camera, and yes, killer robots. But in a smart way. So are there any other shows like Battlestar Galactica to tide us over until it gets remade in 2040 or something?

Well, maybe. To be honest, there’s really nothing quite like it out there, so don’t get too excited about finding a duplicate of your favorite sci-fi action drama. Besides, you probably wouldn’t want an exact copy, would you?

So let’s take a look at what we’re trying to find:
  • A diverse range of characters played by talented actors
  • Difficult moral choices often putting friends and allies at odds with each other
  • Gritty realism, in directing and acting
  • Killer robots!!!
It’s highly unlikely anything will offer this particular blend, but a few shows will offer some of the ingredients listed above. Let’s take a look.

Shows like Battlestar Galactica

1) Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

Benjamin Sisko, Deep Space Nine

They’ve got a pretty cool lead character, too. Photo by Benjamin Krahl.

This one is very likely the strongest contender on the list. Though not even remotely as gritty as Battlestar Galactica, it’s certainly far darker than any of the preceding Star Trek iterations, and during some of the episodes focused on the ongoing war between the Federation and the Dominion, it’ll take on a military tone not unlike the conflict between the humans and the Cylons.

Featuring an even more diverse cast of participants merely due to the varying racial makeup of the characters, there’s also plenty of individual character development, partly thanks to its many seasons, and many of them end up in difficult predicaments and challenging moral choices such as the crew of Galactica.

It’s definitely a lot “lighter,” but there’s enough action to be found, though you might have to give it some leeway at having what appears to be a much lower production value budget than many more modern shows.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TREQGl54BU8]

2) Babylon 5

J. Michael Straczynski, Babylon 5

Straczynski (above) actually wrote 92 of the 110 episodes. Busy guy. Photo by Jeffrey O. Gustafson.

Arguably even closer in certain respects to the show we’re attempting to duplicate is Babylon 5, which, despite not having the sort of name recognition of other sci-fi shows, may have done more to raise the IQ level of the average sci-fi TV show than anyone else.

Specifically written to be a smarter science fiction program than anything else that was on TV, the writer, J. Michael Straczynski, created a world in which a wide range of competing ideologies had to coexist, with different races, nationalities, and other complex issues causing all sorts of difficulties for the characters.

This puts it into the same sort of camp as Star Trek, where a wide variety of different races and organizations either work together, or go to war; but there’s a bit more drama to Babylon 5, whose tone is a little darker than the average Star Trek series, with the possible exception of Deep Space Nine. Production value, however, is closer to any Star Trek than Battlestar.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fDhF9sxDm7E]

3) 24

Kiefer Sutherland, 24

Doesn’t look quite like an action star when he’s signing autographs, does he? Oh well, though. Photo by Paco Lalas.

Yup, hear me out. This isn’t at all similar in terms of subject matter, but it has a lot in common with the overall feel of Battlestar Galactica, in a few particular regards:
  1. Fast-paced action
  2. Continuous tension
  3. Nauseating shaky cam
It’s certainly not like it’s a guarantee that this is the show for you; but if you enjoy Battlestar Galactica because of the reasons listed above, it’s very likely you’ll enjoy 24 for all the same reasons. In fact it ramps up the action and keeps it on high, basically all the time, and never lets up.

It doesn’t have the wide cast and moral quandaries (it’s far more of an action drama than a musing on morality), but it has the other qualities which you might be looking for anyway. It’s certainly a much more intense show, even though that’s saying quite a bit.

If only it had some killer robots as well.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7lxDREJ4vTo]

4) The Shield

Michael Chiklis, The Shield

Plus, it stars a guy whose named is basically Spanish for chewing gum. Photo by Albert Domasin.

Going along the same vein as before, this is another show with a serious case of shaky cam.

But beyond just that particularly similarity, it also has the gritty action, realism, drama, and constant tension that you might find on Galactica. It’s certainly true that it has no robots, but they can’t all be winners.

The show got quite a bit of critical acclaim over its rather lengthy run, and shares the distinction with 24 of bringing movie-level production value and directorial craft to a “regular” TV show. It was hard to find television programming this gritty back in the 90s, for example. It’s a serious show.

Once again, it’ll be a lot grittier than Battlestar, but that might what you’re looking for. If you enjoyed the action, drama, and endless use of shaky cam, then this one might be a good one for you too.

But beyond that, the main character fits in with the new era of anti-heroes, such as those found on Mad Men or the Sopranos, who do awful things, but you’re still kind of cheering them on.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DOHXl8GMdrc]

5) The Original Battlestar Galactica from 1978

Battlestar Galactica

Um, yeah…that DOES look like Star Wars.

So, did you know this used to be a really, really old show? The new one in 2004 was actually just a remake. Just a remake.

Okay, so it was a darn good remake, but still, you might enjoy going back in time to see where it all got started.

Actually, there’s quite a bit of legal drama behind the original series. It got sued for ripping off ideas from Star Wars, then there was a countersuit claiming Star Wars had already ripped off plenty of ideas anyway, and it was all a big mess.

Unfortunately the series was cancelled after just one season, though it actually had a followup season continue with a few characters thereafter. Quite a few viewers were heartbroken over the cancellation, so there’s actually a full-circle healing process that the 2004 version offered to the distraught viewers who were still around to have their wounds mended. Neat, huh?

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xHD1uPVkyk0]

Any more shows like Battlestar Galactica?

Well, perhaps. But these look like fairly solid recommendations for people looking for a similar creation. None are just like it, but they have a few things in common and they might just work out. But if you have any more shows like Battlestar Galactica, let us know!

None found.

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