Sci-Fi Shows That Were Too Geeky To Ever Air

Science fiction is permissive of some pretty weird stuff, embracing aliens with buttcrack heads as readily as it does surrealist visions of both Utopian and apocalyptic societies. So what does it take to make a sci-fi TV show so strange that it never even airs? Tons of unaired pilots linger in vaults all over the world, too weird to ever make it to your screen. Here are some of the unreleased classics that we actually know a little about.

Area 57 (2007)

Paul Reubens, better known as Pee-Wee Herman, playing a wisecracking alien on an Area 51-like military base sounds like pretty much the perfect show. But NBC didn't pick up this awesome pilot in 2007. The premise: for 40 years, a bunch of misfit, unwilling government employees and researchers have been trying to discover the secrets of the alien and his ship, who still hasn't even given them his name, until Matthew Lillard (y'know, the guy who played Shaggy in two live-action Scooby-Doo movies) shows up, trying to make a difference. The Area 57 pilot has some pretty great moments, but we may never be truly ready to mix live-action sci-fi and comedy.

Wonder Woman (2011)

Adrianne Palicki has proven that she can play a hero in Agents of SHIELD, but she missed her first chance in 2011 at playing the titular character in Wonder Woman when she just wasn't enough to turn around a miserable pilot episode. As Diana Themyscira, TV's version of Wonder Woman is some kind of crime-fighting millionairess in a way only David E. Kelley could imagine. The show may have survived were it not for Wonder Woman's extremely geeky, comic-accurate costume, which was so revealing that it was hard to take anything else seriously.

Here Comes Tobor (1956)

Somehow, the evil robot from Captain Video comes under the control of the US Government and the unexplained ESP powers of a kid named Tommy, who instructs the formerly villainous robot to do the government's bidding. Tobor was originally supposed to be called simply "Robot." But when the props department used their stencil backwards, they just ran with it, which is the kind of thing you just can't make up. Tobor didn't get any interest from TV studios after the pilot was filmed, but it's still viewable online today.

The Robinsons: Lost in Space (2003)

If The Robinsons looks familiar, it's because parts of the set were reused for the Battlestar Galactica reboot once the Lost in Space reboot completely flopped. A bleak drama about a dysfunctional family, with absolutely no sign of Dr. Zachary Smith (or personality), the series' pilot ends with one dead kid and a free-floating spaceship with failing life support. The Lost in Space title already carried years of geeky camp and cinematic failure by the time this show came along, and it was just unable to shake its baggage by the time networks rejected it. You can find the blurry, blurry pilot (also starring Adrianne Palicki, giving her a second spot on this list) on YouTube.

NYPD 2069 (2004)

Created by the legendary Steven Bochco, NYPD 2069 was little more than a vision of what police work would be like in the sci-fi future, where every cop has to wear Google Glass and people zap one another with microwave guns. The twist is that one of the cops has just awoken from a 40-year cryogenic sleep, Captain America-style, and has to work with his grandson, who can't know that he's working with his grandpappy. It's a pretty dull concept, and it certainly isn't Space Precinct, but the fact that it features the dorkiest-looking cops of all time is what made this show too hard to watch.

Day One (2010)

Giant alien structures come crashing to Earth, destroying everything in their way and basically causing the apocalypse. But one woman gathers together a team of people to resist the alien invasion. Originally planned to be a 13-episode Heroes replacement, NBC cut and re-cut the series until it was four episodes, and then a movie, and then nothing at all. The trailer features more treacly interpersonal drama than it does any actual aliens, and repeated sci-fi dramatic failures like V and FlashForward made the network too gun shy to air Day One.

Global Frequency (2005)

Before comic book adaptations were a big thing, writer Warren Ellis' 12-issue miniseries was developed for TV by The WB. But according to Ellis, the leaked pilot caused the cancellation of the entire series, which has since been picked up and dropped by multiple other networks. If you want to know what it's about, just catch up on Agents of SHIELD, because the premise is pretty much exactly the same: covert agents unaffiliated with the government, kinda working for the government, weird get the picture.

Electra Woman and Dyna Girl (2001)

Night Court's Markie Post plays an alcoholic, trailer-livin' ex-superhero with an overwhelmingly chipper fan who goads her into a reluctant return to heroism. The failed superhero comedy was based on characters created in 1976 by kids show creators Sid and Marty Krofft, and despite only existing for 16 episodes, someone saw fit to bring them into the 21st century, this time with a terrible pop punk soundtrack. It's a level of geekiness that few hope to obtain, but that didn't stop the 2016 revival by Grace Helbig and Hannah Hart, who are YouTube people, in case you didn't know.

The Time Tunnel (2002)

The original Time Tunnel was a moderately successful show from the '60s in which a couple of scientists get lost in time, not unlike the concept of Quantum Leap. The 2002 reboot was going to be more of the same stuff, but with the team of scientists and explorers having control over the titular tunnel, and the ability to pop back into time to fix events that went wrong after the "time storm" they caused. The show seemed to borrow a little too heavily from Sliders, even re-using the whole traffic light inversion thing from Sliders' pilot, and the reboot never made it out into the world.