With any creative project, the finished product is usually the last in a very long line of drafts that have each evolved to adjust to the wide range of factors that come into play in the journey from script to screen. Since science fiction isn't subject to the boundaries of realism like, say, Law & Order would be, the story we see on television could be lightyears away from what was initially discussed in the writers room. Also, since science fiction shows tend to have niche audiences and can take time to build said audience, there are plenty of compelling shows that were canceled before major storylines could play out fully.
This list features hit sci-fi shows, one season wonders, and everything in between to see what might have been re: twists, alternate endings, or even second seasons that never made it to air. Some of these entries deservedly wound up in the idea compost pile, while some are brilliantly torturous "what could've beens." If you happen to be a sci-fi fan, you've probably known the excruciating pain of being one of ten people who watched an incredible show only to see it ripped from you because no one else watched it.
The twists below each represent interesting "what ifs" possibilities for characters, storylines, and even entire show trajectories. Like we said, some of them needed to go and some of them we really wish we could've seen.
Here are 12 Canceled Twists That Would've Hurt Sci-Fi Shows (And 8 That Would've Saved Them).
20 HURT - THE NUCLEAR HATCH (LOST)
The survivors on Lost spent the better half of season 1 fighting over what to do about the mysterious Hatch, Locke, and Boone found in episode 11. They finally they opened it in the finale, but of course audiences had to wait months to see what was down the mysterious tunnel. The writers went through no shortage of possibilities before settling on Desmond and his button.
According to writer Javier Grillo-Marxuach’s essay on the show, he wanted to make the hatch a door to a nuclear submarine, thus setting the stage for all kinds of problematic conflict in the future.
Comparing that with the wonderful story that Desmond became, we’re glad they didn’t go with something so straightforward.
19 HURT - GALACTICRASH (BATTLESTAR GALACTICA)
Say what you will about the Battletar Galactica finale, but Anders flying the Galactica into the sun was a beautiful send-off for the old girl who’d very much earned a rest after her long years of service.
As i09 reported, Ron Moore had actually considered having the Galactica crash land onto Earth and then have it be discovered by modern archeologists at the end of the finale.
Moore eventually decided against it because he didn’t want the show to be a prequel to an alternate universe instead of our own.
The Galactica flew into the sun and Baltar and Six end the series walking through what is very much our New York City. We like his choice better because at the end of the day, it’s more fun to believe that BSG was history and not fantasy.
18 SAVED - IMPOSTER INVASION (Star trek: VOYAGER)
In the episodes “Demon” and “Course: Oblivion”, as Tom and Harry encounter a life form on a planet that winds up mimicking them and returning to the ship as their clones.
Once Janeway figures out what’s happening and tries to leave, the being(s) attempt to get her to stay. She declines, but allows them to clone everyone else on the ship. Those beings reappear in “Course Oblivion” and remain pretty benign, but things could’ve gone a very different way.
There was a planned twist that involved opening a two-part episode with the crew arriving home only to reveal themselves as imposters staging an invasion. Given how Voyager teased their homecoming only to come at it in the most prosaic way, we would’ve welcomed this Mirror Universe-esque twist.
17 HURT – X-FINAL DESTINATION (THE X-FILES)
Like the Star Trek franchise, The X-Files lent itself well to independent story submission. Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan famously wrote a freelance script for the show that wound up getting him hired into the writers’ room. Not all the other scripts and writers were so lucky – at least when it came getting them made into X-Files episodes.
According to Bleeding Cool, Jeffrey Reddick, creator of the Final Destination franchise submitted an episode called "Flight 180." After it was rejected, it wound up becoming a screenplay. And we’re kinda glad it did.
It’s not that Final Destination wouldn’t make a good X-Files episode – it would’ve made an excellent one.
It’s more that it is such a campy classic that we wouldn’t want to see the concept taken as seriously as X-Files would have.
16 SAVED - RETURN OF THE NINTH DOCTOR (Doctor WHO)
Russell T. Davies is largely responsible for Doctor Who’s continued and more mainstream popularity in modern times. While his first Doctor (or Ninth, rather), Christopher Eccleston, wound up leaving after one seasons, that didn’t stop BBC from trying to bring him back for the 50th anniversary special, “The Day of the Doctor”.
The special starred Matt Smith as the 11th doctor and centered around John Hurt’s War Doctor attempting to finally end the long-standing conflicts between the Daleks and the Time Lords. There were a great many other former cast members who showed up, including David Tennant and future Doctor Peter Capaldi.
Eccleston was noticeably absent. The special was still incredible, but we would’ve worshipped it like a god if Eccleston had managed to round out the cast.
15 HURT - INARA'S ILLNESS (FIREFLY)
In the Firefly pilot, companion Inara revealed a mysterious syringe in her possession that was never really referenced after that. One speculated explanation was that she’d had a terminal illness and the syringe was related.
During Firefly's 10th anniversary, the Science Channel aired a special called “Browncoats Unite” featuring the cast and writers in which they revealed a bevy of behind-the-scenes trivia.
When the subject of Inara’s syringe came up, they finally confirmed that she was supposed to have been suffering from a terminal illness.
We’re glad this notion never made it into the show’s canon. Inara tragically losing her life would’ve made our eyes roll out of our heads.
14 SAVED - PEEK BEHIND THE WALL (ALMOST HUMAN)
Almost Human was a woefully short-lived sci-fi drama that starred Karl Urban as a futuristic cop partnered with an equally futuristic robotic partner (Michael Ealy). The two spend the first season policing “The City” (Pittsburgh) while Urban’s John Kennex attempting to overcome his inherent mistrust of his partner’s kind.
This souped-up buddy cop charmed audiences, but not enough audiences and it was canceled after its first season. That cancellation happened after a huge development was teased.
A portion of the City was surrounded by the Wall and citizens were “advised” not to go beyond it. The season/series finale teased what was behind the Wall, and it would’ve deepened the show’s mythology in the perfect way at the perfect time if the story had been able to continue.
13 HURT – ENTERPRISE BECOMES A BABY (STAR TREK)
There are almost as many abandoned episodes of Star Trek as there are actual canon episodes. One such proposed story involved the Enterprise gaining awareness and evolving to an actual baby.
George Clayton Johnson wrote an unproduced story outline that saw the Enterprise unwittingly pick up an entity while traveling through space.
The infantile entity chose the Enterprise as a host and used it as vessel for its own becoming.
Naturally, as a reaction to this, the ship itself started behaving like a human baby complete with tantrums. It eventually grew to be a young man who sacrificed himself to save the crew and his father, Kirk.
We’re glad this one didn’t see the light of day, and so are you.
12 SAVED - ILANA IS JACOB'S DAUGHTER (LOST)
For every mystery we actually saw on Lost, there appear to have been at least five more where that came from that we never saw. One such development was revealed by Zuleikha Robinson to a Washington Post reporter who attended a Lost exhibit in 2010.
Ilana Verdansky wasn’t just Jacob’s most devoted bodyguard – she was supposed to have been the mysterious god-man’s daughter.
Ilana’s identity was like any good Lost mystery -- once solved, it left 15 more in its wake. Who was Ilana’s mother? How did Jacob reproduce? Was Ilana also immortal? Is that why she thought she was smarter than dynamite?
We would’ve loved answers to all these questions, but by the end of Lost's run, there were way too many loose ends to tie up to give Ilana the time she needed to fully develop.
11 HURT - IT WAS ALMOST FRY’S MOM (FUTURAMA)
Any Futurama fan will tell you that the most devastating episode of that show was "Jurassic Bark". Fry discovered a fossil of his dog Seymour in a museum and attempted to have it cloned, only to discover that the dog lived for over ten years after Fry’s disappearance. Believing that Seymour would’ve forgotten about him in that time, Fry decided against bringing the dog back and to leave him in peace.
Then the show ripped our poor little hearts out when it revealed via flashback that Seymour hadn’t moved on and instead waited outside the pizza shop every day for 12 years for his owner to return.
Originally, the show had batted around the idea of Fry finding his mother instead of Seymour, but decided against it because it would’ve been too upsetting for the audience.
10 SAVED - JANEWAY & CHAKOTAY GIVE IT A SHOT (Star Trel: VOYAGER)
Kate Mulgrew was outspoken that she didn’t want Janeway to be treated the way most women in genre television were, but it still felt a little odd that Janeway and Chakotay would have such a close relationship and almost never directly address the possibility of romance.
An old season 4 promo shows that the show clearly intended to confront the relationship between the two in some fashion by showcasing a clip of Janeway and Chakotay discussing feelings and protocol.
That scene was eventually cut, and the captain and her first officer remained platonic buddies.
The initial direction would’ve grounded the show in a grittier reality, as the two came face-to-face with the inherent loneliness of their journey and the impossibility of having a professional relationship and a romantic one.
9 HURT – KIRA IS A CARDASSIAN (Star Trek: DEEP SPACE NINE)
Kira Nerys was the head of the Bajoran presence on Deep Space Nine after her planet was liberated from Cardassian occupation. Her identity was built around her resistance and hatred of the Cardassians and watching her overcome that hatred became a central part of her arc.
In an episode called “Second Skin", Kira woke up on Cardassia surgically altered to look like a Cardassian spy. She was told she’d been brainwashed as part of her cover to think she was Kira. Eventually it was discovered to be a ruse, and Kira made it back to DS9.
However, initially the writers toyed with the idea that Kira would have actually been a Cardassian and would’ve discovered this at some point on the show. Thankfully they didn’t go that direction and Kira Nerys became the iconic character she was meant to be.
8 SAVED - CAROLYN SYKES DISCOVERS ZA'HA'DUM (BABYLON 5)
One of the ways Babylon 5 distinguished itself from other sci-fi shows of its day was by making sure that every single character was replaceable. This way, if an actor left, the overall narrative wouldn't suffer. At least, that was the idea according to iO9. In fact, this policy wound up hurting a storyline more than helped in one such case.
Carolyn Sykes (Blair Baron), a planetary explorer who also served as Sinclair's (Bruce Boxleitner) love interest was supposed to discover Za'ha'dum, a planet inhabited by villainous aliens.
Before that event took place, Blair Baron left the show.
Then her replacement left the show, then Boxleitner left the show, so finally the story that was supposed to take place between a couple we'd invested in took place between one in which we weren't.
7 HURT - THE HUMAN CAMERON (TERMINATOR: TSCC)
Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles followed Sarah and John Connor after the events of Terminator 2. The two are brought forward in time to 2007 by a T-888 model named Cameron, played by Summer Glau.
Unfortunately the show was canceled after season 2, leaving the future of John and Sarah up in the air. However, star Thomas Dekker spoke to io9 in 2009 and illuminated some future plans producer Josh Friedman had shared with the actor.
After John Connor jumped into the future at the end of the second season, the idea was to have Friedman meet up with a woman named Allison who served as the model for Cameron.
Allison and John would’ve fallen in love, resulting in a very, very weird love triangle.
As much as we wanted more of this show, we wouldn’t have enjoyed this.
6 HURT – THE DESTRUCTION OF THE ENTERPRISE D (STAR TREK: TNG)
Star Trek: Generations was fanservice at its best and worst. While the film featured the historic meeting between Star Trek icons Kirk and Picard, it also featured the violent destruction of the beloved Enterprise D at the hands of Klingon saboteurs Lursa and B’Etor. Luckily the saucer section was able to separate from the battle section and crash land, but audiences did witness the battle section explode violently. It turns out, if Ron Moore had had it his way, that would’ve happened a lot earlier.
He and Brannon Braga pitched a Next Generation season 6 two-parter that would’ve destroyed the ship in a similar way, allowing the show to introduce a new ship and new direction for the show.
That would’ve felt incredibly arbitrary that late in the game, and introducing the Enterprise E in First Contact made much more sense.
5 SAVED - T'POL IS HALF ROMULAN (Star Trek: ENTERPRISE)
While Enterprise did certainly shake up the Star Trek formula that had been so well established by TNG, DS9, and Voyager, they weren’t able to parlay that new flavor into the success of the other shows. One of the reasons posited for this issue was the fact that Enterprise failed to use much of the canon at the prequel’s disposal, instead favoring new/old races like the Xindi. According to writer Michael Sussman, that might’ve changed in season 5.
The writer hatched a plan to reveal that T’Pol’s father was a Romulan.
The show approached the timeline of the Romulan War, and it would’ve gone a long way to deepening the suspiciously emotional Vulcan’s character. Enterprise: The Next Generation anyone?
4 HURT - MOYA IS A SPACE WHALE (FARSCAPE)
Australian sci-fi show Farscape made a name for itself with its humor and incredible practical effects. But that’s what you get when you put Brian Henson and the full weight of the Jim Henson Studio behind it. It was easily one of the most colorful sci-fi shows ever produced and it remains a classic to this day for that very reason.
One of the show’s most interesting features/characters was Moya, the sentient bio-mechanical space ship that carried John Crichton and company throughout their various adventures during the Peacekeeper/Scarran War.
Moya was almost totally bio with no mechanical, according to Henson's memory of early brainstorming. He pointed out that that would’ve necessitated the crew essentially be walking around on innards, which would’ve been silly (and expensive to build). Good call, guys.
3 HURT: BEKA BECOMES THE ABYSS (ANDROMEDA)
Gene Roddenberry’s Andromeda was about a rogue ship trying to restore order in a once “peaceful” galaxy starred Kevin Sorbo. It featured a godlike villain called the Abyss that wrought havoc on the Andromeda and her people having been at war with them and their ancestors for centuries.
Andromeda was canceled before its time and the series left plenty of loose ends. Robert Hewitt Wolfe attempted to tie them up with a one-act play called “Coda” that “explained” a possible resolution to the conflict that governed the show.
Beka, the Andromeda’s first officer, would actually wind up becoming the Abyss, effectively ending its reign of terror.
It’s a remarkable idea (you should really read the play), but with the show’s budget and 2005 effects, the execution would’ve almost certainly been lacking.
2 SAVED - J.K. WHO-LING (DR. WHO)
Execution-wise, would this have worked? Probably not, but Russell T. Davies sold us on the concept of J.K. Rowling appearing as herself in an episode of Doctor Who.
He thought writing her into the show would be better than asking the acclaimed author to write an episode: "I thought: 'A cold Edinburgh Christmas Eve. J.K.Rowling walking through the snow, pursued by a journalist. ‘What are you going to write after Harry Potter?’ The difficult second album... Later, J.K. sits down to write. At the same time, a Space Bug... probably put there by the Rita Skeeter-type journalist, leaps onto her back. ZAP! J.K.'s imagination becomes real!'
1 HURT - NADIA TURNS INTO A MAN (DEFYING GRAVITY)
Defying Gravity was ABC’s short-lived foray in to off-planet sci-fi. As intriguing as the premise was, the show following a team on a six-year space exploration mission of our solar system was canceled after airing eight episodes, leaving fans curious as to what would’ve happened in later seasons.
According to creator James Parriott, one crew member, Nadia, had two X chromosomes and Y as well. The character would've transitioned to a man and gone through a journey of discovering this new gender and orientation.
With our more sophisticated understanding of gender and orientation today, this surely would've been looked back upon with major embarrassment and cringing.
What canceled twist would you most like to see? Let us know in the comments!
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