Looking for your next science fiction binge? Apple TV+ offers some excellent sci-fi series to keep your eyes popping and (more importantly) your brain humming.
From mythic procedurals to New Testament space operas, Apple TV+ gives viewers a number of exciting science fiction series worthy of a watch. Some seem hilariously literal, while others prove truly fantastical. No matter your tastes, there’s something for every sci-fi fan.
Here are our picks for the best science fiction shows on Apple TV+.
The best sci-fi shows on Apple TV+
Though only a few years old, Apple TV+ proved itself a safe home for sci-fi creators from the start. Battlestar Galactica honcho Ronald D. Moore flew in early with his speculative fiction For All Mankind, about a world in which the United States lost the space race to the Soviets. Steven Spielberg rebooted his classic sci-fi series Amazing Stories with a lavish budget. And even the great Apple TV+ comedy series Mythic Quest contains elements of fantasy and sci-fi.
Apple TV+ still struggles for an identity but one is certain: This is a friendly place for nerds. And that’s a beautiful thing.
However, not all of the streaming service’s sci-fi shows are created equally. Here’s a look at the best sci-fi shows on Apple TV+ so far.
Watch if you like: I Saw the Devil, Squid Game, ‘70s thrillers
After trying his hand at dystopian picaresques, new- and old-school Westerns, serial killers, ghosts and more, South Korean director Kim Jee-Woon finally let himself go completely nuts with the delicious Dr. Brain.
The show’s title character, Dr. Sewon Koh (played by Lee Sun-kyun), can see into the minds of corpses. Through a revolutionary scientific process, he can commune with the brain waves of the dead and dying, people who won’t put up a fight when he goes in there looking for clues. But the first puzzle he tries to solve is that of the attempted murder of his wife.
If you’re looking for intensity, this show ramps up the exciting and implausible developments in every episode. Thrilling and complex, Dr. Brain is pulp at its finest.
Read our full review of the season one opener: Exciting sci-fi series Dr. Brain might be Apple TV+’s Squid Game
Stream now: Dr. Brain on Apple TV+
Watch if you like: Star Wars, Battlestar Galactica, The Expanse
Created by David S. Goyer, the redoubtable writer behind iterations of Blade, Batman and Superman, Foundation is a spectacle of the highest order. Based on a staggeringly complex series of stories by Isaac Asimov, Foundation finds mathematician Hari Seldon (played by Jared Harris) observing the tide turning in a wide universe ruled over by a corrupt, cloned regime of fundamentalists.
Seldon’s hope for a brighter future rests in the hands of young genius Gaal Dornick (Lou Llobell) and pragmatic outsider Salvor Hardin (Leah Harvey) who watch helplessly as their worlds change. Enormous in scope, beautiful to look at, and fiercely performed, Foundation has something for everyone (especially those of us who like the idea of Lee Pace as a frequently shirtless space god). A second season arrives this summer.
Read our full review of the season one opener: Foundation takes big, beautiful risks … and we’re hooked!
Stream now: Foundation on Apple TV+
The premise of Severance is simple enough that it’s kind of a shock a high-profile film hasn’t tried it out. Workers at Lumon Industries leave their home life at the door. Literally. Every time the workers enter Lumon’s offices, a process known as severance bisects their consciousness. Whoever they were on the outside no longer exists.
They’re a blank slate inside the office. And outside, they have life problems they want to forget about. So for eight hours a day, they don’t think about it. All this sounds OK, except that one day one of these employees breaks from the program, reintegrates the two halves of his mind, and tries to rat out the company’s malpractice.
He only manages to tell old co-worker Mark (played by Adam Scott) a little of what he found before he collapses. The rest is in Mark’s hands. Should he dig deeper … or keep being a good worker?
Dreamed up and wonderfully executed by Dan Erickson, Ben Stiller and Aoife McArdle, Severance is excellently designed and beautifully directed. This little show gives audiences a lot to think about at a time when America seems more reluctant than ever to go to work. The show racked up awards and became one of the biggest Apple TV+ premiere of 2022 — and a second season is in the works.
Read our full review of the season one opener: Severance thrills with a sci-fi descent into workplace hell
Stream now: Severance on Apple TV+
Watch if you like: Roland Emmerich disaster movies, Colony, Arrival
Simon Kinberg is nobody’s idea of a singular artist. His scripts are formulaic, his direction anonymous. However he managed to say something personal with his enormous globe-trotting TV show Invasion. The coming of an alien menace is seen through the eyes of a jilted Iranian-American wife and mother, an American soldier stationed in Afghanistan, a schoolboy with a gift in England, and Japanese technicians working on a shuttle launch. Each story isn’t created equally, but the cumulative effect is an expansive, immersive look at the best of us stepping up to try and survive during extraordinary and extraordinarily dangerous times.
Read our full review of the season one opener: Invasion puts humanity to the test even before the aliens arrive
Stream now: Invasion on Apple TV+
From a highly feted team of writers comes Hello Tomorrow!, a marvelous show about a team of salesmen on their last legs in the not-too-distant future/past.
Jack Billings (played by Billy Crudup) is a liar’s liar, a consummate con man whose long game involves selling timeshares on the moon. The show is set in a future as imagined by the best of old sci-fi: It looks like the 1960s, except there’s a robot in every house and a flying car in every garage.
Hello Tomorrow! is filled with dreamers, schemers, gamblers and leg-breakers. But instead of staring down the barrel end of the 20th century we know it, they’re looking into a possibly even bleaker (but much shinier) future.
This soft sci-fi is a breath of fresh air, a marvel of invention and repurposed conventions.
Read our full review of the season one opener: Hello Tomorrow! will send you over the moon with its retro-futuristic vibe
Stream now: Hello Tomorrow! on Apple TV+
Watch if you like: War of the Worlds, Magical Realism, Janelle Monáe’s science fiction movies
Steven Spielberg’s first run of Amazing Stories came at the height of the auteur’s fame. The mid-’80s anthology series gave Spielberg a way to expand his brand without tiring himself out, leaving a number of stories in the hands of the extremely capable likes of Martin Scorsese, Matthew Robbins, Clint Eastwood, Peter Hyams, Tobe Hooper and Joe Dante.
The Apple TV+ Amazing Stories reboot didn’t boast such an impressive roster of behind-the-camera talent, but for the most part, the performers and stories are on par with the original run. After disappointing opener “The Cellar” came a more fulfilling episode entitled “The Heat.” Directed by Sylvain White, that one explores two women’s socioeconomic backgrounds via an inspirational but heartbreaking ghost story.
Then came “Dynoman and the Volt!!,” in which the great Robert Forster gives one of his last performances as an old man dying to feel young again (with a little help from a comic book ad). And “Signs of Life” shows life on the poverty line, further complicated by the extraterrestrial.
All in all, Amazing Stories serves up excellent neo-realist plots about the forgotten enlivened by the supernatural.
Read our full review of the first great episode: Amazing Stories finds surer footing in second episode, ‘The Heat’
Stream now: Amazing Stories on Apple TV+
Scout Tafoya is a film and TV critic, director and creator of the long-running video essay series The Unloved for RogerEbert.com. He has written for The Village Voice, Film Comment, The Los Angeles Review of Books and Nylon Magazine. He is the author of Cinemaphagy: On the Psychedelic Classical Form of Tobe Hooper, the director of 25 feature films, and the director and editor of more than 300 video essays, which can be found at Patreon.com/honorszombie.