There are a lot of TV shows out there and in this golden age of TV streaming, the choices have never been greater. So how do you cut through the noise and find the “Best of” for any chosen topic?
Well, we’re here to help celebrate and shine a spotlight on some of the latest, greatest and unforgettable shows through the years.
For our ongoing series of articles depicting the best sci-fi TV shows, our attention this time turns to parallel worlds and universes.
From Stephen King thrillers to the longest running sci-fi show of all time, there are a lot of options to choose from. Below, we’ve gathered our top picks. As a quick note, anythign to do with time travel can be found in our alternate list HERE!
Of course, if we’ve missed any of your favourites feel free to comment below and we’ll get them added on!
The interesting thing with Counterpart is just how normalized its sci-fi elements are. Here, we’re dealing with parallel worlds, and in particular one that’s accessible via a pathway guarded by government authorities.
At the centre of this lies Howard Silk who inadvertently winds up entangled in a big cover up and face to face with his doppelganger from a parallel reality.
Trouble is brewing though, leading Howard and his double to trade places and grapple with a plot line involving powerful forces intent on disrupting the natural flow of both worlds.
This is a smartly written thriller and although only running for 2 seasons, does well to add a slightly different flavour to its parallel worlds idea.
The Man In The High Castle
When it comes to alt-history, Man In The High Castle is an exciting and intriguing project that asks one simple question – what would happen if Hitler won World War II?
Set in a dystopian America, the United States have essentially been carved in half. With Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan seizing control, a young woman called Juliana Crain finds herself thrust in the middle of a resistance.
Thanks to a mysterious film showing the Allies winning World War II, Juliana finds herself front and center of this effort to overthrow the current establishment. This intriguing story builds up across its four seasons to a suitably dramatic ending… and then throws in a bizarre final 60 seconds that’s best left ignored.
If you can go into this one knowing the final episode doesn’t quite live up to expectations, you should find enough to like here.
Fringe feels like a modern day X-Files, taking what made that show so great and adding a scientific edge to proceedings. The later seasons are absolutely fantastic and add some really shocking twists to the fold too, breathing new life into this show.
Fronting these various cases is F.B.I. agent called Olivia Dunham, who’s forced to work with an institutionalized scientist named Walter Bishop. Together with Walter’s estranged son Peter, they start to uncover various strange phenomena. These episodic cases are mixed in with a larger conspiracy that engulfs the series.
Fringe expertly blends these two narrative arcs together and tops it off with an excellent dynamic between the characters, growing and evolving over time to produce a really gripping sci-fi series.
The King: Eternal Monarch
Shows involving time travel are always tricky to pull off correctly. From plot holes and convoluted lore to stories rife for contrivances and confusion, The King: Eternal Monarch begins a fair amount of confusion to the table. However, it soon entangles its own web to become something wholly engrossing and highly enjoyable.
Between parallel worlds and a love story anchoring everything together, this hugely popular Korean drama is helped by a returning Lee Min-Ho who fronts this sci-fi series and adds a lot of charisma.
The story itself revolves around two parallel worlds; the Republic of Korea as we know it and the Kingdom of Corea. This forms the crux of drama that follows and the plot only becomes more complicated and layered over time.
The King: Eternal Monarch is a wonderful Korean drama that perfectly portrays its love story centre stage while adding enough twists and turns along the way to make for a highly enjoyable watch.
W: Two Worlds
Armed with a creative premise and leaning hard on the sci-fi/fantasy vibes, W is a series whose strengths lies in its unpredictability. The “W” to which this drama pertains comes from the clash between two worlds, the real world and an alternate universe inside a web-toon.
As the action turns toward the fantastical web-toon world, the rules of this world are explained, the characters grow with each passing episode, and the chapters add something new and interesting to the fold to prevent this one stagnating. It’s an unpredictable thrill ride from start to finish that will have you guessing right the way through to the end.
Although the final few episodes are a little rushed and wobbly, it’s easy to look past that in the wake of such great writing. If you’re looking for one of the best sci-fi k-dramas out there, look no further.
His Dark Materials
His Dark Materials is a wonderful fantasy series. Excellent acting and a faithful story adaptation of Philip Pullman’s novels combine beautifully with the world building on offer, making for a wholly absorbing and satisfying watch. The show never outstays its welcome either across its three seasons.
The story follows the journey of Lyra Belacqua, a young girl who inhabits a world where human and daemon share an intricate link together. As kids start going missed, snatched up from the streets by the Gobblers, Lyra finds herself coming in possession of the mysterious alethiometer.
When her best friend Roger goes missing, what begins as a simple search and rescue mission quickly becomes so much more as this expansive, dangerous and wondrous show becomes one of the small screen’s best fantasy offerings.
Alice In Borderland
Alice In Borderland feels like a colourful, vibrant patchwork of different shows and films. There’s elements of 28 Days Later, Sword Art Online, The Purge, Saw and even live-action animes in here.
On paper, this feels like a recipe for disaster as different influences pull in all directions, threatening to tear at the seams. In reality, Alice In Borderland is a robust, well-written, surprisingly decent sci-fi treat that’s well worth its weight in gold.
The premise is simple and revolves around the hook of a group of kids stuck inside a weird alternate-reality world. Deadly games of life and death are played in exchange for playing cards, which are referred to as visas in this twisted dystopian world.
The numbers on each card correspond to the number of days you have left to live. The more cards you collect, the more days you can survive. With a possible game-master pulling the strings, kids are killed off in quick succession for either expired visas or by dying inside the games. And the kill-count is extremely high.
Having just been renewed for a second season,. Alice In Borderland is a deliciously dark thriller well worth checking out.
The little gem on Netflix, Stranger Things is undoubtedly one of the biggest Originals on the platform. It’s also probably the only one safe from being cancelled any time soon.
The story revolves around a group of teens who become thrust into a supernaturally charged, heady world of nightmares when a young boy called Will disappears.
With little clues beyond a strange girl called Eleven who shows up with telekinetic powers, it’s up to a ragtag group of misfits to thwart the evil before it’s too late.
With some intriguing ideas about parallel worlds and some great throwbacks to the 80’s, Stranger Things is a solid choice and with plenty of story to get through, there’s enough here to whet the appetite ready for season 4.
Speaking of cancellations, The OA’s chop caused quite the stir online. That alone should tell you all you need to know about the power and quality surrounding this utterly bizarre Netflix Original.
The OA is undeniably weird and its mystery does so well to keep you glued to find out what happens next. The main story revolves around a missing blind girl called Prairie returning home. Now in her twenties, she suddenly has her sight restored and no one seems to know why.
From here, the show grows and piles on more mystery, delivering two seasons of utterly compelling TV. Unfortunately, the final episode of season 2 does end on a cliffhanger which could make or break the experience for you. However, in terms of atmosphere and riveting mystery, The OA absolutely nails it.
Dark is thought provocative, regularly surprising and full of interesting characters to keep you watching until the final scene. Across its 3 season run, Dark shows exactly how to craft a compelling and complicated web of time travel.
The story begins in the (at time of broadcast) near future of 2019 Germany in a small town called Winden. This tight-knit community is rocked by the sudden disappearance of two young children who seem to be connected with a cave there.
I won’t spoil more but suffice to say, this is one story you’ll probably need to revisit numerous times to catch all the clues along the way.
Using a distinctly dark tone and a gorgeous, atmospheric score, Dark is easily one of the best time travel series ever created and easily a top contender to add to your watch-list if you haven’t already.
Marvel’s first foray onto the small screen is still arguably the strongest.
Our central protagonist here is Wanda, whom we’re introduced to in a black and white sitcom with Vision. How? What happened? Is this an alternate universe? How is Vision still alive? And is there someone pulling the strings?
It’s here where WandaVision excels the most, keeping its cards close to its chest and unwilling to show what’s really going on. It’s not until the middle of the show where the direction shifts slightly, giving more clues and answers to what’s been happening.
While we’re drip-fed tantalizing bites of exposition, the show also uses its episodic format to pay homage to sitcoms of old. WandaVision is a unique hybrid of superhero and sitcom that’s unlikely to be replicated any time soon.
Circle: Two Worlds Connected
Circle: Two Worlds Connected is another of those under-rated Korean dramas that completely fly under the radar. Split across 12 episodes (like My Holo Love), this drama splits its attention between two parallel plots set in the years 2017 and 2037.
The story itself revolves around twin brothers who struggle with the discovery and development of an advanced alien technology. With the fate of the world resting in their hands, the drama remains strictly separate until the final episode when all is revealed and the true nature of both timelines is revealed.
It’s a bit of a slow burn but the story definitely captures the essence of what makes a good sci-fi thriller and is worth sticking with until the end.
Rick & Morty
At its heart, the story revolves around super scientist Rick and his grandson Morty (both voiced by Justin Roiland) as they undergo a series of adventures transcending space and time. There are moments where the plot overlaps into other episodes but mainly the show sticks to a basic episodic structure with a new adventure every episode.
he simplistic structure helps to produce an imaginative blend of clever parodies and humour while keeping the show visually pleasing with a range of different locales. The episodes have a consistent pace, helped by its 20 minute length and the stories themselves are cleverly littered with numerous jokes and cultural references.
This show has jumped through time, jumped across to parallel universes and even dedicated whole episodes to “what if” scenarios.
If there’s one thing you can always count on, it’s some creative twist coming from an OCN drama. While it doesn’t always work (Hello Dark Hole’s 0.0% rating during the finale), when it does, it delivers something special.
Train is an imaginative drama revolving around a detective called Do-Won who’s determined and tenacious. When his lover is murdered by a serial killer, Do-Won discovers an abandoned train station that connects to a parallel world where she’s still alive.
Cleverly written and split across 12 episodes, this one’s well worth your time.
Lost in Austen
Lost in Austen is a four episode miniseries that imagines what would happen if a modern woman winds up transported into the world of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. It’s quirky, funny and certainly not to everyone’s taste.
At the center of this is Amanda, an ardent Jane Austen fan, who lives in present day London with her boyfriend. Only, when she swaps places with Austen’s fictional creation Elizabeth Bennet, chaos ensues.
Awake is an intriguing series that follows a detective leading an arduous double life. It’s a cleverly written and oftentimes tense and unnerving drama.
At the center of this is detective Michael Britten who finds himself living out two separate realities. In one, his teen son Rex died in a crash while his wife Hannah survived. In the other, Hannah has passed away, leaving Rex. In order to keep both alive, Michael begins living two dueling realities.
There’s a lot more going on than that but the show cleverly mixes up drama and mystery into one delightfully binge worthy show.
While Quantum Leap tackled its protagonist jumping through time, Sliders tackles the idea of jumping through parallel universes. Although the later seasons career off-track (especially season 5), there’s a lot to like with the earlier material.
The crux of the drama here revolves around Quinn Mallory, a man who’s working on an anti-gravity machine. Only, he accidentally creates a portal to a parallel universe. Quinn and his friends wind up stuck travelling parallel worlds, desperate to try and find a way back home.
Well written and full of imaginatively designed episodes, Sliders is another really good show about parallel universes.
Infinity Train is a surprisingly accessible animation for both adults and children alike. The series itself revolves around a mysterious train with an endless number of carriages. However, each has its own universe.
At the center of this is Tulip Owens, a 13 year old who finds herself trapped aboard this train and desperate for a way out. After meeting a robot called One-One, the pair search for a way out. In doing so, they end up meeting a cast of strange characters along the way who aid them on their quest.
Well written and timelessly endearing, this is another series well worth a watch.
So, there we have it, our picks for the best TV shows through the years featuring plots heavily invested in parallel worlds and universes.
What do you think of our picks? Do you agree? Are there any notable omissions? Let us know in the comments below!