Apple TV Plus is turning into the best place for streaming sci-fi

By Andrew Webster, an entertainment editor covering streaming, virtual worlds, and every single Pokémon video game. Andrew joined The Verge in 2012, writing over 4,000 stories.
Since it launched in 2019, Apple TV Plus has won awards and generated hits, but it still sits in an odd spot in the streaming landscape. It’s not as big as competitors like Netflix or Disney Plus, nor is it as prolific. Instead, the service seems intent on focusing on quality over quantity, which has led to some likening it to the HBO of old (you know, when it was still called HBO). In reality, Apple TV Plus has a somewhat scattershot library that includes everything from Charlie Brown to Martin Scorsese. Some of it is great; some of it is Argylle.
But there’s one place where the service is really nailing it: science fiction.
For whatever reason, the lineup of sci-fi shows on Apple TV Plus has steadily grown over the years, not just in terms of size and quality but also tone and scope. The genre has become one of the service’s strongest selling points. Here’s a quick rundown of some of what’s currently available:
Many of these shows have multiple seasons or at least have been renewed, and they’re split pretty evenly between original series and adaptations. Some are huge in scale (Foundation), some are creepy as hell (Severance), and some are fun and playful (Hello Tomorrow). Not all of these are excellent, but put them together, and you have a strong and diverse lineup.
More recently, the service has edged toward a darker tone. First there was the debut of Constellation earlier this year, which starred Noomi Rapace as an astronaut who returned to an Earth that’s very different than the one she left. And now we have Dark Matter based on the novel by Blake Crouch, which premieres on May 8th. It’s a multiversal story about a physicist played by Joel Edgerton who gets kidnapped by a parallel version of himself. So far, I’ve watched the first two episodes, and it manages to merge the tone of a tense thriller with the mind-bending nature of time travel, creating the kind of story that intentionally makes you feel unmoored. Also, there are some very large and impressive cubes.
It’s also the kind of show that is necessary to make Apple’s lineup distinct. This isn’t a place to find the biggest franchises, which is where the competition excels with heavy hitters like Star Wars and Star Trek and Doctor Who. Instead, the service’s sci-fi bona fides have come from largely unexpected and original shows, like a workplace thriller about scary numbers and baby goats or an alien invasion story that isn’t afraid to take its time.
Maybe the most exciting thing about Apple’s foray into sci-fi is that it clearly isn’t slowing down — in fact, things really seem to be ramping up. In addition to new seasons and spinoffs (seriously, where is season 2 of Severance already?), there are also a number of all-new shows in the works. And again, it’s a mix. There are adaptations of Martha Wells’ The Murderbot Diaries and William Gibson’s Neuromancer coming, alongside a series where Rashida Jones solves mysteries with an emotional support robot.
That focus on singular stories may change in the future. Already, Apple TV Plus seems to be shifting into its spinoff era: Monarch and For All Mankind are getting both more seasons and new shows to expand them into larger franchises. (Monarch, of course, already exists within a mostly theatrical franchise dubbed the “monsterverse.”)
But hopefully the service doesn’t push too far into the franchise model, which can stifle even the biggest properties. It also goes against what has made Apple’s sci-fi offerings so exciting in the first place: in a genre full of the familiar, these shows offer some welcome surprise. And they might help finally give Apple TV Plus the identity it’s lacking.
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