10 best fantasy and science fiction shows of 2023

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It’s hard to believe, but here we are at the end of 2023. This year has been a huge one for genre television, with a massive slate of TV shows on hand to scratch that fantasy and science fiction itch. Some were new classics which we’ll be talking about for years to come; others shone a light on how the drive for “content” can make for uneven viewing at best.

Let’s look back on our favorite sci-fi and fantasy shows from this year. This comes with the disclaimer that any such list is bound to be subjective; these are my personal picks, but yours may be very different. Come for me in the comments if you dare.

Black Mirror. Annie Murphy as Joan in Black Mirror. Cr. Nick Wall/Netflix © 2023.
Black Mirror. Annie Murphy as Joan in Black Mirror. Cr. Nick Wall/Netflix © 2023. /

10. Black Mirror season 6

Sometimes, it’s not just the quality of the art itself that makes it stick out in our minds; the timing of how it lines up with current events can also elevate the experience. Nowhere on TV was that more evident in 2023 than on Black Mirror, which dropped its sixth season over the summer just ahead of the Hollywood actors strike. Of course, it helps that the art itself was also great.

Black Mirror is an anthology series where each episode serves as its own cautionary sci-fi tale, similar to The Twilight Zone. Season 6 wasn’t the most consistent of the series. It made some major swings for the fences that resulting in some of the show’s best episodes, as well as a few that were less than stellar. But when it worked, it worked.

Really, Black Mirror warrants being on the list for its season premiere episode alone, and everything else is just a bonus. “Joan Is Awful,” about a woman whose life is recreated more or less in real time by an AI, perfectly encapsulated how AI could be a threat to artists and actors right at a time where that very thing was being debated in the real world during the strikes. The Black Mirror episode came up more than once during media coverage of the strike. You can’t fake that kind of real-world influence from a television show.

For sheer entertainment value, Black Mirror also crushed it this year, with a lot of variety. “Joan Is Awful” is classic Black Mirror, thought-provoking, sobering and hilarious by turns. “Loch Henry” was an outright terrifying exploration of the true crime genre. “Beyond the Sea” was a bleak exploration of the psychological effects of deep space travel and leaving behind everything you’ve known. Black Mirror isn’t just a show that makes us think, it’s an engrossing watch, too.