10 Shows to Watch After Star Trek Discovery

Credit: John Medland/CBS

(Image credit: John Medland/CBS)

Another season of Star Trek: Discovery has come and gone; most fans and critics seemed to like the second installment even better than the first. CBS has already confirmed that the adventures of the U.S.S. Discovery will continue into a third season, but that's at least a year off — and probably longer.

Until then, if you have an unquenchable thirst for thoughtful sci-fi action, these 10 series should tide you over. Whether you want to see other adventures in the Star Trek universe, thoughtful narratives that require you to invest for a whole season, or lighthearted spoofs to help allay some of the seriousness, check out these other sci-fi franchises that are worth your time.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (1993 - 1999)

Credit: CBS/Getty

(Image credit: CBS/Getty)

This probably goes without saying, but if you like Star Trek: Discovery and haven't worked your way through the other six series, there are more than 700 other episodes – all about the U.S.S. Enterprise, Harry Mudd, the Mirror Universe, Section 31, the Boreth Monastery and tons of other Star Trek mainstays – that have worked their way into Discovery so far. Rather than have six separate entries, though, I'll recommend Deep Space Nine, especially if you haven't seen a lot of other Trek series before.

Like Discovery, Deep Space Nine has one continuous story rather than episodic adventures. The series also deals with a galactic war, a protagonist who makes difficult moral compromises, and the rogue intelligence operatives of Section 31. To say more would spoil a lot of the show's best moments, but Deep Space Nine is easily the closest cousin to Discovery in both story and tone. However, to learn more about Capt. Pike and Mr. Spock, check out Star Trek: The Original Series; to learn more about the U.S.S. Defiant and the Mirror Universe, watch Enterprise.

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Legion (2017 - Present)

Credit: Suzanne Tenner/FX

(Image credit: Suzanne Tenner/FX)

Just like Star Trek: Discovery put a fresh spin on a very old franchise, Legion does the same for X-Men. Rather than focus on everyone's favorite team of misunderstood mutants, Legion puts David Haller, aka Legion (Dan Stevens), front and center. Instead of an unflappable crimefighter, Haller is a semi-psychotic weirdo, constantly trying to balance his desire to do good against his insurmountable mental health issues.

But fans who know Legion from the comics need not fret; Season 2 hewed a lot closer to the source material, demonstrating how Haller's strange powers are slowly corrupting his mind and blurring the line between good and evil. I won't spoil the twist from the source material, but you'll want to tune into Season 3 to see just who Legion really is.

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The Orville (2017 - Present)

Credit: Fox

(Image credit: Fox)

I'll level with you up front: I'm not an enormous fan of The Orville. I think its flippant attitude is constantly at odds with some of its legitimately good sci-fi ideas. I think its characters are grating, the banter isn't actually that funny, and the traditional jokes are too few and far between. And yet, I'd be foolish to dismiss the series out of hand — and so too, I think, would other Discovery fans.

Even if The Orville is not exactly a space opera to last the ages, it is one of very, very few half-decent space exploration shows that is currently airing. The series has interpersonal drama, futuristic action, an ongoing narrative, weird-looking aliens — in other words, it has  all the same elements that people like about Star Trek, but dialed way back to the most casual interpretation possible. Maybe watch this one late at night.

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Black Mirror (2011 - Present)

Credit: Jonathan Prime/Netflix

(Image credit: Jonathan Prime/Netflix)

Black Mirror is the one entry on this list with no ongoing story, which may make it seem like an odd choice. Every episode of Black Mirror is (almost) totally standalone, and most of them take place right here on Earth, in an era that approximates the modern day. But if Control, the villainous rogue AI, was your favorite part of Discovery's second eason, Black Mirror is an easy recommendation.

That's because about half of the show's 20 episodes involve some variation on the "AI gone wrong" theme. From using algorithms to revive the dead in "Be Right Back," to survivors evading murderous, adaptive robots in "Metalhead," the idea that AI can and probably will turn against us is a recurring theme in this dark anthology. In fact, use and misuse of AI is at the center of "U.S.S. Callister," Black Mirror's excellent homage to classic Star Trek.

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Star Wars: The Clone Wars (2008 - 2014)

Credit: Lucasfilm

(Image credit: Lucasfilm)

We're probably never going to resolve the eternal debate between Star Trek and Star Wars, but I think we can at least agree that each series has different strengths and weaknesses. One weakness of Star Wars, for example, is that the narrative never spent much time fleshing out Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker's relationship in the prequels, leaving fans to wonder just when, why and how the aloof master and the contentious apprentice got to be so close, anyway.

Enter Star Wars: The Clone Wars, a six-season, animated series that deals with the nitty-gritty of what happened between Episodes II and III. Like Star Trek, The Clone Wars focuses on the character drama among a strong central cast, including Obi-Wan (James Arnold Taylor), Anakin (Matt Lanter) and Anakin's new apprentice, Ahsoka Tano (Ashley Eckstein). The tightly constructed, continuous story deals with the moral grayness of war, and introduces a large, affable cast of recurring secondary characters.

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Battlestar Galactica (2004 - 2009)

Credit: Carole Segal/SyFy

(Image credit: Carole Segal/SyFy)

The original Battlestar Galactica series was a cult hit back in 1978, but it wasn't until 2004 that the premise got the deep, nuanced treatment that it deserved. This dark reboot follows the adventures of Cmdr. William Adama (Edward James Olmos) and his crew aboard the Battlestar Galactica. This enormous starship must lead a motley fleet to humanity's fabled new home following a devastating attack by the robotic Cylons.

Like Discovery, Battlestar Galactica has a smart, evolving narrative that requires you to pay attention to every episode to get the full story. The series also has evil artificial life forms, shocking plot twists, and plenty of starship combat. If you ever wondered how a Star Trek series would play out if the heroes couldn't always fall back on the United Federation of Planets for assistance, Battlestar Galactica is about as close as you can get.

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Firefly (2002)

Credit: Fox

(Image credit: Fox)

Perhaps the most beloved (or at least the most recognizable) show that should have lasted for more than one season, Firefly still holds up pretty well. This space opera follows Capt. Malcolm Reynolds (Nathan Fillion) and his ragtag crew of outlaws aboard the starship Serenity as they fend for themselves in a futuristic galaxy that looks and feels an awful lot like the Old West. While the show is more episodic and playful than Discovery, it has the same attention to detail when it comes to world-building, character development and big action-set pieces.

While it's true that the series ran for only 14 episodes, fans did at least get a pretty definitive ending in Serenity, the 2005 feature film based on the series. Beyond that, the show has been dormant since 2005, although it's not all bad news. Fans can follow the Serenity's continuing adventures in comic book, novel and tabletop role-playing game formats.

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Futurama (1999 - 2013)

Credit: Futurama TM and 2012 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

(Image credit: Futurama TM and 2012 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation)

Futurama is one of those rare shows that has it all. Yes, there's a sense of continuity; characters and story threads evolve over time. Yes, there's a little wry social commentary baked into every episode. And yes, the show is unbelievably funny, whether it's satirizing creationism or portraying Richard Nixon on a robotic rampage, Futurama is equal parts sublime and ridiculous. And if you've been on a season-long binge of dark intrigue and startling reversals, it might be worth reminding yourself that space can be fun, too.

To sum up the story briefly, Philip J. Fry (Billy West) is a late-20th-century loser who gets cryogenically frozen until the year 3000. Thereafter, he takes on a job as an intergalactic delivery boy, teaming up with the one-eyed Capt. Turanga Leela (Katey Sagal) and alcoholic robot Bender (John DiMaggio) aboard the Planet Express Ship. Every delivery is a new opportunity for something to go hilariously wrong, which it usually does.

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Babylon 5 (1994 - 1998)

Credit: Everett Collection

(Image credit: Everett Collection)

Sure, Star Trek also has a series about a space station that winds up at the center of a galactic war, but only Babylon 5 has a plethora of Lord of the Rings references along the way. This show tells the story of Babylon 5, a gigantic space station wherein humans and aliens try to work out their differences peacefully in order to prevent wars from breaking out. That's a noble idea, but when a mysterious race called the Shadows reappears after ravaging the galaxy 1,000 years earlier, peace can only hold for so long.

Like Discovery, almost every episode of Babylon 5 is important, and there are continuous story threads that run from the very first episode all the way through the very last one. While the cast changes frequently, Discovery fans are also sure to enjoy the plucky, outspoken Cmdr. Susan Ivanova (Claudia Christian), who may have set the stage for a character like Michael Burnham.

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The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (1981)

Credit: United Archives/Newscom

(Image credit: United Archives/Newscom)

While I can't speak for everyone in the world, I have personally never met a Star Trek fan who didn't also love The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. This BBC adaptation of Douglas Adams' timeless novel stars Simon Jones as Arthur Dent, the hapless, bathrobe-clad Brit who winds up traveling around the universe, learning that life is just as absurd everywhere else as it is on Earth.

Just about everything from the book makes a faithful appearance here, from the two-headed President of the Galaxy, Zaphod Beeblebrox (Mark Wing-Davey), to the starship Heart of Gold, powered by the sheer improbability of quickly crossing intergalactic distances. Star Trek fans can also rest easy, as Hitchhiker's Guide contains plenty of biting social satire, as well as some genuinely clever sci-fi ideas, particularly regarding organic computers. If you haven't seen it yet, Don't Panic – just be sure to bring your towel.

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