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The best TV shows of 2017 - from Stranger Things to Star Trek

10. Sense8 season 2

Watch it on: Netflix

What is it? The Netflix Original you’re almost certainly not watching (but really should) about eight individuals around the world who one day form a telepathic bond with each other. 

Why should you watch it? It’s a crime that more people haven’t seen Sense8 because while it’s easily one of the best sci-fi series around, it also says some really important and beautiful things about humanity and the relationships we form. The first season introduced us to the eight main characters who form a telepathic bond and end up fighting for their lives as they’re hunted by the Biologic Preservation Organization, but this year saw season 2 ramp up the action and emotion even more, cementing its position as a much-watch series. The quality of the show is only matched by the disappointment felt by fans when Netflix announced they were cancelling it, and it says a lot about its viewers that they ultimately changed the streaming service’s mind leading them to commission a two-part conclusion to the story which will air this Christmas. Amazingly progressive, filled with every expression of love you can imagine, and inspiring to watch, now is the time to catch up on this show if you haven’t already. Lauren O’Callaghan

9. Punisher season 1

Watch it on: Netflix

What is it? Frank Castle returns for a standalone Netflix series that doesn’t skimp on the hard and heavy brutality, but it’s also a revenge tale that will leave you with all of the feels too. D’aww.

Why should you watch it? The Punisher shouldn’t have worked. Marvel’s first foray into all-out ultraviolence being somewhat curtailed in favour of soul-searching and introspection sounds like a recipe for disaster. But, boy, does it work. Jon Berthnal finally shakes off the shackles of The Walking Dead with an Emmy-worthy performance as Castle, and he’s ably backed up by an ensemble that effortlessly carries the show through the entirety of the 13-episode run (unlike some Marvel shows *cough* Iron Fist *cough*). That’s not to say The Punisher is all bromances and tragic flashbacks, as the show features fight scenes that beat that Daredevil corridor fight into a bloody pulp. It’s really bloody too. Stabbings, slashings and outrageous set-pieces are the norm here. Ever wanted to see a man sniped all the way from another country? The Punisher has that in the opening five minutes. If that alone doesn’t want to make you fire Netflix up right this second, I don’t know what will. Bradley Russell

8. The Expanse season 2

Watch it on: DVD / Blu-Ray (US), Netflix (UK)

What is it?: Some of the smartest science fiction currently gracing your TV set, based on the books by James S. A. Corey.

Why should you watch it? Shows about humanity living in space tend to glamorize the experience one way or the other, but The Expanse understands that just because humans have managed to leave Earth doesn’t mean they’ve changed all that much. Politicians are never telling the whole truth, the working class just wants to be allowed to live a decent life, and nobody really trusts anyone who isn’t from their neck of the solar system. The Expanse is populated with characters who are more than mere tools to advance the plot; you will come to know and care about every single one of them as they each deal with the crisis of the protomolecule. Wait, you didn’t think this was just going to be about the drama of humans not getting along, did you? Heck, no, there’s some alien blue goo infesting a space station! The question of just what the protomolecule is and what to do about it makes for some of the most thrilling moments of season 2, punctuated by exceptional performances from Thomas Jane, Shohreh Aghdashloo, and Frankie Adams. For a savvy audience, genuine surprise is a rarity, but The Expanse does it regularly, and seemingly without effort. It never takes your willingness to watch for granted, but instead earns your appreciation each and every episode. Susan Arendt

7. Dark season 1

Watch it on: Netflix

What is it? A German supernatural drama about missing children in a small town. There’s a sci-fi twist, a cast of sinister characters, and a great mystery at its heart.

Why should you watch it? There’s nothing else quite like Dark on TV. Sure, there are shades of The Killing, some similarities to Stranger Things, and a touch of Dr Who and Black Mirror to it… but Dark is uniquely weird and twisted. The core mystery is strong (and no spoilers here), but what really makes the show is the moody, oppressive way it’s shot, combined with a cast of characters filled with secrets just waiting to be exposed. Mid-way through the season there’s a revelation that turns the whole thing on its head, and the central sequence of events all builds to a gripping climax. Only problems? The ending is really, really unsatisfactory, and the English voice dub is terrible. Watch this one in German, with subtitles, to really soak up the characterisation and immerse yourself in the show’s twisted world. Andy Hartup

6. Legion season 1 

Watch it on: DVD / Blu-Ray

What is it? Inspired by one of Marvel’s lesser known comic book anti-heroes, Legion is the story of David Haller; a powerful mutant suffering from what may or may not be schizophrenia. 

Why should you watch it? With Disney’s recent acquisition of Fox, it’s hard to predict what the future now holds for Legion, FX’s weird and wonderful take on the eponymous mutant more commonly known as David. Hopefully the series will still be able to make its promised return, especially if showrunner Noah Hawley remains at the helm, as it took only eight experimental episodes for this eccentric adaptation to confidently cement itself as something truly special. You can see the Fargo creator’s fingerprints all over Legion’s first season, too, as he and the rest of his team are given free reign to try and make something that’s both deliriously different and exceptionally intelligent all at the same time. The inspired approaches to storytelling, cinematography, direction, and writing all mesh together in harmonious singularity, producing a viewer experience that twists and snaps like the free jazz music Jermain Clemente’s character likes to play in his Astral Plane prison. At the very least, watch it for Downtown Abbey’s Dan Stevens as you’ve never seen him before. Alex Avard

5. The Handmaid's Tale season 1

Watch it on: Google Play / YouTube / Amazon video (US, UK)

What is it? Margaret Atwood’s relentlessly Dystopian tale of a world where fertile women are turned into Handmaids: slaves who are forced to be surrogate mothers for the rich and powerful. 

Why should you watch it? It’ll push you to your absolute limit. Just when you think it can’t get any worse, it will. Yet The Handmaid’s Tale, although its undercurrents of vaguely possible horror will keep you permanently on edge, proves that humans are goddamn difficult to dominate. Offred, the Handmaid the series centers on, is intelligent, stubborn, but above all, she’s cautious. She knows when to put up and when to act. Watching her navigate the deadly dangers of the Republic of Gilead doesn’t get any easier, but The Handmaid’s Tale proves that her independent spirit is hard to crush. Gilead’s atmosphere is oppressive and saturated in religious tyranny, yet without it we wouldn’t have one of 2017’s best TV characters. Zoe Delahunty-Light

4. Stranger Things season 2

Watch it on: Netflix

What is it: Oh you know, just the follow up to one of the biggest science fiction shows of the decade. Find out what happens to the misfits of Hawkins, Indiana once the demogorgon has - maybe - been banished and life tries to return to normal.

Why should you watch it? It turns out watching characters you've grown to love trying to rebuild their lives after a fantastical trauma is just as fascinating as the trauma itself. As well as the usual gang and their mostly clueless adult caretakers (not Joyce and Hopper of course, they can adopt me whenever they want), there are some new characters that help to mix things up. The punky gang Eleven meets up with is particularly fun. Sure, we know the drill now with the weirdness that is the Upside Down, but going deeper into the mystery is just as satisfying. Stranger Things S2 may not be as groundbreaking as the original, but it's still essential TV. Rachel Weber

3. Mindhunter season 1

Watch it on: Netflix

What is it? Based on the book Mind Hunter: Inside the FBI's Elite Serial Crime Unit by Mark Olshaker and John E. Douglas, it’s the dramatisation of the true story of how criminal psychology was born.

Why should you watch it? Because everyone loves a good murder, right? The popularity of podcasts like Serial and crime documentaries like Making A Murderer prove as much, and this Netflix Original taps into that obsession as it tells the story of how criminal psychology was born in US. Believe it or not, there was a time when law enforcement didn’t see much value in working out why a murderer killed, leaving some of the world’s most infamous serial killers a mystery and, therefore, very difficult to catch. FBI agents Holden Ford and Bill Tench (loosely based on one of the book’s authors John E. Douglas and another FBI agent called Robert K. Ressler) are the ones who start interviewing incarcerated serial killers to try and learn what makes them tick in an attempt to help law enforcement. The combination of their personal lives and the murder cases which they start to consult on as word about their expertise spreads, makes for one hell of a compelling show. Trust me, you won’t be able to look away. Lauren O’Callaghan

2. Star Trek Discovery season 1

Watch it on: CBS All Access (US), Netflix (UK)

What is it: The brand new, entirely modern Star Trek prequel, set a little while before the days of Kirk, when the Federation was still finding its feet (but hadn't realised that yet)

Why should you watch it? One of the smartest, most self-aware shows on TV - but always pleasingly free of irony - Star Trek: Discovery's darker, more adult tone is entirely justified as a product of its time. Maintaining Trek's focus on hope, optimism, and character, it simply swaps idealism for the realism 2017 needs - both on TV and in the real world - to paint an affecting picture of a struggling Federation with the right idea, but which just isn't quite there yet. Packed with strong, nuanced, slow-burn performances from a uniformly excellent cast, the cherry on top is that Discovery, for all of its cerebral focus, is also fully aware of how to make spaceships blasting each other look really, really cool. David Houghton 

1. Game of Thrones season 7

Watch it on: HBO (US), Now TV / Sky Atlantic (UK)

What is it? The seventh and penultimate season of HBO’s epic fantasy series, where Daenarys finally lands in Westeros, Cersei sits on the Iron Throne, and Jon Snow is still grumpy.

Why should you watch it? By Game of Thrones standards, this is a ‘better than average season’. It’s no Season 4, nor a Season 6, but it ain’t a Season 5 stinker either… Despite running out of steam at the end, and squeezing too much plot into too few episodes, Game of Thrones season 7 remains the best thing on TV. While we were more impressed with the brilliant storytelling of Westworld S1 in 2016, Game of Thrones takes the top spot from Star Trek Discovery (by a whisker, I might add) because of the sheer spectacle of its biggest beats. The battle for ‘the loot train’ where Daenerys brings her dragons to battle is stunning - one of the best fights ever committed to screen - and the romance between her and Jon Snow is every bit as thrilling as we hoped it’d be. Jaime Lannister’s personal journey is one of the best character pieces of the year, and Euron Greyjoy’s rise to become one of the main antagonists is thoroughly entertaining. And those final episodes set up an epic showdown between the Whitewalkers and the living for season 8, despite having their fair share of plot-holes and time-travel. So, not the best Thrones of all time… but still the most entertaining thing on TV, such is the quality of HBO’s marquee series. Andy Hartup

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