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Why You Should Watch: These Speculative Fiction TV Shows

A little over 20 years ago, speculative fiction witnessed an explosion of media fans could watch, in movie theaters. The Matrix, The Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter were some of the first film franchises to demonstrate that such fans have always existed and not because Star Wars was back in theaters. During the next decade, Game of Thrones proved to be a successful adaptation of a fantasy series as a TV show. Since then, science fiction, fantasy and graphic novels have become ubiquitous due to these TV shows.

Nowadays, there are so many shows to choose from it’s hard to determine which ones to watch. Unless you don’t have neither the channels nor the streaming services, then you have plenty of Book-to-Media Adaptations to choose from. Here is a short list of what you should watch.

NOTE: The TV shows based on Star Wars, the DC Universe, and the Marvel Cinematic Universe (a.k.a. the MCU) will NOT be on this list. Those shows will be on a separate list that will be compiled at some point in the future.

The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power (2022-Present)

This is one of Amazon Prime’s Most Anticipated Project’s to date. Tolkien’s The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings occur at the end of Middle Earth’s Third Age when Sauron is defeated once and for all. Well, what about Sauron’s rise to power? Galadriel and Elrond’s knowledge of the One Ring goes beyond the Battle at Mount Doom.

I read The Silmarillion, so I have an idea of what to expect from this series. However, to watch it occur on screen is just as magnificent as watching The Lord of the Rings Trilogy in theaters (you can watch The Hobbit Trilogy whenever you want to on your own time). It seems most of this series will occur during the Second Age when not only are the Rings of Power (read the beginning of The Lord of the Rings) are created, but also when Sauron and his army reemerges to try to rule over the world.

To watch Galadriel being such a badass during her “youth” has me admiring her character even more.

The Wheel of Time (2021-Present)

This show has been anticipated since The Lord of the Rings movies were released in the early 2000s. If Tolkien’s books could be adapted into live-action media, then other series could as well, right? While, I haven’t had time to read the books, I did enjoy the TV series for what it was. Yes, I know Season 1 combined The Eye of the World (Book 1) with the opening chapters of The Great Hunt (Book 2) and New Spring (The Prequel), but for what was presented to viewers, it is a great TV series. And, the recent teaser for Season 2 looks like readers and viewers can expect even more of the books to make it onto the screen.

Does this mean fantasy fans can expect an adaptation of Malazan? Let us see whether or not this series can pull off its adaptation (which should give me ample time to start and to complete those books, too)!

The Sandman (2022-???)

When I was a kid, I read this graphic novel series and I’m beyond impress with the way the adaptation has translated everything from the tone to the settings to the characters. More of Neil Gaiman’s stories are receiving the media adaptation treatment, but The Sandman is a very ambitious tome to translate. In addition to the main story of Dream, you have several tales in between which reflect Dream’s occupation as the “Ruler of the Dream Realm.”

A magician who is trying to “capture Death” captures Dream instead, who he imprisons for over 100 years. After Dream escapes, his first task is to reclaim his “Tools” before he “rebuilds” his Realm. Then, Dream needs to catch up on everything he’s missed during the last century. And, he’s missed A LOT!

As successful and as popular as this series has been, there is no word on whether or not there will be a 2nd season. Hopefully, this series will NOT end up like another TV show on this list, but you never can tell with television.

The Witcher (2019-Present)

I have not played the video games and I have not read the books. Yet, I almost skipped this show. After being told by someone I follow on Twitch that the show was amazing and it deviates enough from both the books and the video games to where it’s its own narrative, I started watching it. And, from the 1st scene, you get pulled into the show.

This show is dark fantasy and the 1st season jumps the timeline between the past and the present of the 3 protagonists, but by the end of the 1st season you’ll know the backstory of the entire world and anticipate what will happen in the later seasons. The spinoff prequel show, The Witcher: Blood Origin, premieres later this year, which will serve as a great buffer as we all wait for Season 3 of this show.

Stranger Things (2016-Present)

By now, everyone has heard of this show, so I won’t explain too much about it. If you’re still debating whether or not to watch it, then I recommend you do so now because Season 4 was the show’s best season since the 1st, and the cliffhanger for the 5th and Final Season promises a lot of character endings (and deaths) and action scenes.

What are you waiting for?

The Umbrella Academy (2019-23)

So, I did not know anything about this graphic novel until the TV show adaptation premiered. I would describe it as a combination of Foster Family Life with “Has Been Superheroes.” A millionaire tracks down and adopts 7 children who were born on the same day under unusual circumstances. He trains them to protect the world until one of them disappears. Years later, the patriarch dies and his remaining children reunite for his funeral, where their missing brother returns. After explaining what he knows of the future, the siblings team up again reluctantly to protect the world.

The latest season of this show is available to watch; and, it was announced that its next season will be its last one.

His Dark Materials (2019-22)

This series has done an excellent job with adapting the story from the books to match the tone of the series (unfortunately, the movie fell short on the tone of the books). The 3rd and Final Season was delayed due to the pandemic, but based on the trailer (released earlier this week), the wait will be worth it and the

A quick recap. Lyra Belaqua is an orphan whose Uncle studies in the North and has plans to reach “other worlds.” When her friend, Roger, is kidnapped, Lyra meets Mrs. Coulter who takes her in and promises her to save her friend. When that turns out to be a lie, Lyra runs away and meets allies who journey to the North to rescue her friend and other missing children. After another betrayal, Lyra leaves her home and finds herself in an another world where she meets Will Parry. Will is on the run and he hopes to find out what happened to his father, who disappear when Will was a baby. Lyra has an altethiometer and her deamon, Pantalaimon; Will may or may not have access to a certain knife.

Meanwhile, why was Mrs. Coulter working with the Magisterium? What exactly are Lord Asriel’s plans in these “other” worlds? What does the Witches’ prophecy have to do with Lyra and Will?

Paper Girls (2022)

There are times when a book-to-media adaptation does everything correct from the casting to the book-to-screen dialogue, and somehow it’s not enough for the adaptation to earn a 2nd second. Unfortunately, Paper Girls is NOT the first graphic novel series to come across this mishap (does anyone remember Deadly Class?). The graphic novel series of the same name is 30 issues long, so it would have been able to accomplish a complete media run for at least 2 more seasons.

This is NOT a “duplicate” of Stranger Things! Yes, the protagonists are from the 1980s, but the girls in Paper Girls jump 30 years into the future through a series of mishaps and alien interference. Not only do the girls have to find a way back to their “present time,” but also they need to determine whether or not they want to change their “paths” after learning about their fates in the future (as adults).

I do hope another streaming site does pick up this show because it deserves to complete its run (Hulu, I’m looking at you).

Locke & Key (2020-22)

Another graphic novel-to-TV show adaptation which just ended its run is this series of the same name, created by Joe Hill. The scenario of this show is the patriarch dies under mysterious circumstances and his widow and their children move into his family home. The home comes with a set of keys which opens several “magical doors.” Could the family be on the trial to what killed their beloved husband and father?

I only read the 1st volume of this graphic novel series, and saw the 1st 2 episodes of the show, and the presentation of the eerie and the magical is well done in this adaptation. As soon as I finish watching the rest of the shows in my backlog, then I will finish watching this series. And that goes for the graphic novel as well. Both are complete so I will be able to determine whether or not the endings are the same.

The Expanse (2015-22)

I find it very interesting that the media adaptation ends the same year as the book series also reaches its conclusion. This is what happened with this show/book series. And, fans of either and/or both the books and the TV show said they ended on a high note.

I did read some of the 1st book in the series, Leviathan Wakes, as part of this year’s SCKA (Finalist). Interestingly enough, I remember watching the Pilot of the TV show when it first premiered. It reminded me of Star Trek: The Next Generation, but more was at stake based on the mission of the ship’s crew. Similar to my speculative fiction reading, I’ve been meaning to catch up on watching science fiction shows, and everyone says this series is worth watching, so I will be doing so in the near future.

These are some of the many TV shows you all can watch, or start watching after Season 1 of House of the Dragon ends. Which show have you seen? Which show did I forget to mention here?

7 thoughts on “Why You Should Watch: These Speculative Fiction TV Shows

  1. I am loving this list. It’s a combo of stuff I’ve watched and liked and stuff I want to watch.
    I’m so hooked on Rings of Power, but I have a feeling the reason why that is is because I haven’t read the source material. I read about half of the Wheel of Time series so far and ended up having conflicted feelings about the show. I’d have preferred if they’d stuck to the books. Witcher — OMG! LOVE that show. Haven’t read the books or played the games so maybe that’s why. Love Stranger Things, of course (who doesn’t?!). Umbrella Academy is fun and I’m glad there will be one more season for it (haven’t read it). I enjoyed Locke & Key (only read the first volume too) and LOVED the Expanse. Now I want to read the books.

    I intend to watch Sandman and His Dark Materials at some point. I’m thinking to see the shows before reading the books.

    1. It’s amazing the difference reading a book before or after watching the adaptation can make. That being said, it seems the shows with the more direct book-to-screen adaptation do not receive the amount of appreciation they deserve.

  2. The Witcher is really great! I like that it’s more derived from the books, and with more people familiar with the games, the show really just has something for everyone. The structure and the way the story unfolds is very clever in the first season too!

  3. I tried to watch The Umbrella Academy and I just couldn’t get into it. But I’m excited about Stranger Things season 5!

  4. What a great list. I’ve watched Rings of Power, and Wheel of Time, I’ll have to check out the other ones.

  5. I don’t watch a lot of television, so the only shows I’ve seen from this list are The Rings of Power and Stranger Things. But someday I might try The Witcher, Locke & Key, and The Sandman. Too bad about Paper Girls!

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