The Worst Sci-Fi TV Finales

star trek enterprise finale

Season finales are definitely the ideal time to make the episode all about a character from a show that ended 11 years ago.

To be a worst TV finale, you have to be a disappointment on some level. So if a show always stunk and it ended badly, no one cares. If a show only had a single season, good or bad, and it ended badly, no one cares. Instead, we’re going to look at sci-fi shows that had passionate fan bases and then just botched their finale. That doesn’t always mean it ruined the show, but sometimes it does. So from cancellations to poor writing to production decisions, here are ten TV finales that really stunk, going from not-so-bad to godawful. It’s interesting to note that four of these ten pissed people off so much that they ultimately had to return as movies or TV movies to give people some sort of sense of closure.

THE PRISONER

the prisoner finale

Number 6 on trial in a cave of unknown masked people is easily the sanest moment in the finale.

This is low on the list because it didn’t really ruin the show. In fact, it has some inspired moments within it. But it also doesn’t really make sense. There’s no real closure to the central mystery of who Number 6 is or what the Village is. I mean, he finds Number One but he has an ape mask and under that is… Number 6. It just wasn’t coherent but the gist of the story is that Number 6 can never escape the Village because the Village is the world. At least, that’s how I interpreted it. And it’s cool that you can interpret it, I suppose. But… yeah. Patrick McGoohan went very surreal with this so your ability to enjoy it depends on how literal you like your stories to be.

QUANTUM LEAP

quantum leap finale

The producers added this at the last minute, I guess just to hurt us.

The final episode of Quantum Leap got pretty metaphysical. Behind the scenes, the producers gambled that they would get another season even though the network warned them they really might not. So they introduced some weird ideas about other leapers and a bartender that might have been god or something like that. They probably intended to make sense of it later because it was a bunch of new ideas without a lot of exposition to explain things. There was one nice part of it where Sam Beckett gives up his freebie leap to help his friend Al instead of finally leaping back into his own body. And then, after the episode ends, we get a bit of text that tells us: “Dr. Sam Beckett never returned home.” Ugh! Way to stick a knife in us, Quantum Leap.

TRUE BLOOD

true blood finale

Sookie chose to marry the anonymous guy with his back to us! True love.

It was a terrible finale but the show itself had been bad for a number of years so no one cared that much anymore. Will Sookie choose vampire Bill or Eric? No. She marries someone unnamed offscreen. What a love story this show turned out to be! Also, she needs to be saved at the beginning of the episode, so she never really became a proactive character in her own story. It was just a mess and no one cared about the characters that were left or at least what happened to them.

THE INCREDIBLE HULK

incredible hulk finale

“Well, that wasn’t much of a problem to solve. Let’s go for a drive.”

The Incredible Hulk was a big hit for its time. It produced 82 episodes over 5 seasons running on CBS from 1978 to 1982. Over the course of the series, Dr. David Banner sought a cure for being the Hulk, wandering from town to town and helping people. You’d think it’s only natural for the finale to lead to Banner curing himself, right? Or coming to accept that he will be the Hulk and can use it for good? Maybe he’d face down one of his iconic enemies from the comics! But you know what they did instead? Just another episode. He comes across a deserted town only to learn that there’s a biological problem that’s putting his life and the lives of some looters at risk. He solves the problem and wanders off to the next town. No change at all from any other episode. You could literally slot it anywhere in the show’s running order and no one would ever be able to tell it was out of order.

SMALLVILLE

smallville finale

This is the version of Superman you get to see if you invested a decade of your life waiting for it. Hope that does it for you.

Smallville was intermittently entertaining. But TEN YEARS of Clark Kent before he was Superman? That’s… that’s a lot. So the least they could do is reveal Clark in full Superman suit, fighting Darkseid, right? It’s what they’ve been building to for a decade. You know what they did instead? Clark (NOT in costume) flew into a guy possessed by Darkseid and instantly defeated him within seconds. Darkseid’s planet, Apokalips was threatening to crash into Earth. So Clark finally suits up as Superman. And the show uses every trick in the book not to let us see it. Every shot is him as a blur, or from a really far distance, or an extreme closeup on his face. Ten years.

ALF

alf finale

ALF is doomed and cue the laugh track.

On the sitcom ALF, an alien crash lands and the Tanner family basically adopts him. ALF is abrasive but they decide they have to protect him when a government agent comes to their house looking for a potential alien. He tells the Tanners what they would do if they ever found ALF (this is a quote from the pilot episode): “We’ll see how it responds to intense heat, freezing cold, high voltage, toxic substances, pain, sleep deprivation, inoculation, and of course, dissection.” So how does the finale end? Well, ALF gets word that two of his fellow Melmacians will be coming by Earth and can pick him up. ALF has a tough choice to make between his new family and his old one but ultimately decides to be with his people. He goes off to the outskirts of town and is surrounded by the Alien Task Force. His fellow aliens speed off into space, fleeing. And ALF… is surrounded by agents as the credits roll. DEPRESSING.

TWIN PEAKS

twin peaks finale

The implications for Cooper’s girlfriend, Annie, are dire.

Twin Peaks exploded in popularity from moment one. After a hugely successful first season, the second season’s ratings began to dwindle, not coincidentally with the reduced involvement of its creator, David Lynch. But he returned before the end of the season and steered the story and characters right back into really interesting directions. The season ended with cliffhangers for every major character. Characters hit in the head and dropping, bloody to the ground. Characters stuck in a bank vault as a bomb explodes. Main character Agent Dale Cooper possessed by the evil entity known only as BOB. And then a season three was never ordered. It’s an amazing show and it was brutal that it ended on such cliffhangers. The closest thing we could get to closure was a prequel movie that was made right after season two that had some snippets of the future. Not enough to tell anything concretely, just stuff to speculate about. It was SO painful that even though the show ended in 1991, Showtime is working with Lynch and the original actors to bring the show back next year to resolve what happened and move forward with new stories. Almost 30 years later, people are still hurting over the painful lack of closure.

THE X-FILES

x-files finale

The Cigarette Smoking Man dies in a CGI fire that literally turns into a skull.

The X-Files was a great show. It just went on too long. Because it was successful, Fox renewed it past the point where the writers had any clear idea of where the story would go. So instead of bringing together all their various conspiracy threads, they just kept adding more until it became quite unwieldy. In season 9, Mulder, one half of the duo behind the show, was completely gone. He was only in about half of season 8. The show really should’ve been over. But then the final episode deals with Mulder suddenly returned from an alien abduction and instantly captured and put on trial by the government. It was a decent framework to bring in important characters from the past to testify. But after about two years of being told to not care about Mulder, he’s suddenly the centerpiece of the episode. And really, it made not a lot of sense. The mythology was just too dense. I was a massive fan and without looking it up, I can’t really remember what happened. I remember that Scully and Skinner help Mulder go on the run and that somehow the evil Cigarette Smoking Man blew himself up. I think they may have learned that aliens planned to invade in 2012. That never led to anything. Of course, they WAY too late made a movie that brought Mulder back to the FBI easily as though going on the run was no big deal. And supposedly Cigarette Smoking Man will return in next year’s revival season. So really, none of it mattered that much.

LOST

lost finale

Oh, it was about a glowing cave all along. That’s something we can all relate to.

F— you, Lost. Seriously. After six seasons of wondering what the mystery of the island is, we got our answer. And it made zero sense. For the first five seasons, scientists were always talking about the strange properties of the island that some airline passengers had crashed on. But the ultimate answer had nothing to do with science. Instead, we were told that the island had a cave of magical light. It was just… magic. And there were some guys playing a wager about good and evil, which somehow translated to the main character having to put a cartoon-looking plug into the cave’s light hole. As if that wasn’t ridiculous enough, the show spent pretty much its entire run telling fans that no, the characters were not in purgatory. They were on a literal island. But the final season showed characters in two realities – one surviving on the island and one as though they’d never crashed. And the final episode revealed that’s because the ones where they hadn’t crashed were them all in some limbo-type of reality after they had died and they were all waiting to go to heaven together. So fans’ first guess was pretty much 100% true. There is a contingent of fans that will defend this as a good finale, but it’s like dealing with someone defending their abuser.

STAR TREK: ENTERPRISE

enterprise finale

You could slot this scene into season 7 of Star Trek: The Next Generation and wonder how Riker packed on twenty pounds.

No one will defend this finale, not even the actors from the show or the showrunner. Okay, the executive producers will. Because they basically used their power to make the final episode which they had the gall to say would be a “love letter to the fans” and instead stomps on the characters fans had invested in for four seasons. Manny Coto ran the show and knew there would be no fifth season. The final batch of episodes told interesting stories about the Eugenics War and a hybrid Vulcan/human baby between the will they/won’t they couple of T’Pol and Trip, created by a guy trying to create anti-alien sentiment (played by future Star Trek Into Darkness actor Peter Weller). It was a really good season. And then the executive producers, Rick Berman and Brannon Braga, stomped in and created the single worst finale I’ve ever witnessed.

The show jumps ahead six years and we quickly learn that the episode we’re watching is actually a holodeck recreation and that Riker and Troi, from Star Trek: The Next Generation, are supposedly watching this so Riker can make an important decision. It’s set during season 7 of that show even though that was made 11 years ago and the actors look every bit of it. It’s so insulting to suddenly turn the denouement for Enterprise into something a character from another show is watching to help him make an unimportant decision. It breaks up T’Pol and Trip and then, in a super-forced and completely unnecessary moment, kills off Trip. There’s no emotional weight to it. It’s just a thing tossed in to spice up a dull episode. It really, really, really sucks. Notice I haven’t even mentioned Captain Archer, the protagonist? He’s bringing the ship to the signing of something or other that forms the Federation but he’s really not important to the episode. None of the cast is. It’s all about Riker having fun on the holodeck. Awful.

  • Big Jim

    To be fair, you probably should differentiate between shows that got cancelled after they’d filmed their season (ultimately, series) finales and those shows that knew that that last episode would be their last. It is frustrating when a show just ends, but to me it is worse when the creators have the time to really craft a true finale and drop the ball. Even worse, those shows that know they are ending that craft their series’ finales (or entire final seasons) as a set up for a possibly-might-happen movie or an as-yet-to-be-picked-up spin-off (looking at you Entourage and The L Word).

    I have to think Enterprise’s finale was Braga/Berman trying to convince Paramount to do another Next Generation Star Trek movie, with them at the helm. Basically using the show’s finale to try and score their next gig.

    I actually liked Quantum Leap’s ending (but then again I’m someone who defends St. Elsewhere’s ending). Just because he never returned home doesn’t mean he didn’t have a happy ending. Maybe he ended up somewhere good in the past and lived a quiet life, content knowing all the good he did with all the wrongs he’d put right (including allowing Al to have a happy ending). Bitter-sweet.

    Lost I enjoyed for the most part. The experience of the show as a whole was not lessened for me by the finale. That said, however, I don’t know if I would ever watch the entire series again knowing how it ends. Maybe one day (well, more like month or two to get through it all), many years from now, I’ll watch it again. More likely I’ll watch the first season again, maybe #2 too. That first season is one of the best seasons of network television ever. I’m certain that if the show had been cancelled in its first season, the explanation of the Island would have been “it is Purgatory”. It really makes a lot of sense in that first season, even in season 2.(maybe not everything gets explained, but a lot).

    Surprised Batalstar Galactica didn’t make the list. At the same time, obviously it isn’t there. That’s another one that contentiously split the audience between “loved it” and “hated it”.

  • Wow, i didnt know about Alf and it is really an horrible end(or cliffhanger).. but the Lost part made me laugh a lot(i only watched few episodes and found the over dramatic direction rather boring)

  • Chris Piers

    It’s all just my opinion in the end. I’d love to read other people’s favorite and least-favorite finales.

  • Chris Piers

    It’s kind of crazy how ALF ended considering it was supposed to be a sitcom.

  • For the longest time I avoided the last episode of The Prisoner, because I heard bad things and I loved the series so much I didn’t want it to be “over”. Then I watched it. Holy balls is it bad. From the Beatles music to the huge “twist”. I blame LSD.

  • ThreeOranges

    I love The Prisoner, ending included.

  • William Bruce West

    But ALF DID eventually get a resolution, 6 years later with the “Project ALF” TV movie. I’ve never been able to sit through the whole thing, but at least we learn what happened to him after that finale. And no, none of the Tanners are present.

  • *Banned from the site*

  • William Bruce West

    Funny you should mention The Prisoner. I was going through the series with my ex, and we never got to the end before we broke up. I found the entire thing at a yard sale at the beginning of the summer, so I grabbed it – only to realize that I could get about $180 for it if I sold it. I was gonna watch it first and then offload it, but since you guys say the ending’s bad (and I trust you), then I think I’m just gonna sell it and be done with it

  • Chris Piers

    Right, I mention in my intro that some of these got some closure later. But at the time it ended up being a series finale.

  • ThreeOranges

    Hah!

    I don’t think there was any way for there to be a traditionally satisfying ending to that show, anyway. A slightly dialed back version of the finale might’ve been more palatable, but I didn’t really want the questions answered.

    Aliens/government/afterlife/etc? Nah, just a prison.

  • Freezer

    “There is a contingent of fans that will defend this as a good finale, but it’s like dealing with someone defending their abuser.”

    Yeah, f* you too. Seriously what’s with this comparison unless this is more like as a joke? I liked the ending if it’s about the characters only and that was really the major part about the show

  • Oni

    Lost was supposed to last for another full season but was cut short due to the writers strike, they essentially went with plan B instead of finishing the show properly.

  • Joel Henderson

    No they didn’t and no it wasn’t meant to go another year. The writers negotiated an end date toward the end of season 3 so they knew how they could play out the rest of the show.

  • Joel Henderson

    It’s so easy to not have watched the show then try to slam it as shit. It is great IF you can discern what really happened. Which clearly this writer couldn’t.

  • Wow, there’s some major butt hurt from people on Lost.

  • Chris Piers

    Actually, I did watch it. I also hosted a podcast about sci-fi TV during Lost’s run and interviewed several writers and producers and such. It was a fun ride and in my opinion, the writers/producers totally botched the ending. It’s an informed opinion and I’m as entitled to it as you are to yours.

  • Chris makes joke statement about the fans of Lost being difficult and then Lost fans leave comments proving his joke right.

  • Chris Piers

    I remain a fan of the Prisoner. Still don’t really care for the finale as it’s so different from all the other episodes. Just my 2 cents.

  • Watch them all except the very last one.

  • Chris Piers

    Oh, I would actually recommend watching it. I did say that not every finale ruins the show. This is one where I don’t care for that episode but the rest remain very interesting to me.

  • I would have been more satisfied with him escaping (if he must) with not knowing why he had been there or any of the other questions answered.

  • Agree.

  • Chris Piers

    There seem to be three major opinions about my list: 1) Lost was great and I don’t understand the flash sideways stuff in season 6. I think I do get it and it just wasn’t worth writing paragraphs explaining it all. I hated the finale. It didn’t feel earned. 2) BSG should have been on the list. Definitely considered it. BSG certainly had problems, especially after bringing Starbuck back. But ultimately? The finale closed out the character arcs for me. I thought it did a pretty good job. 3) Farscape should be on the list. Maybe so. Never saw it, sorry.

  • Big Jim

    Another one I was not a fan of at the time was Angel’s finale. They said before that they would not end on a cliffhanger, but they kind of did. For me, the ending is not a cliffhanger if we’re never going to see these characters ever again. It’s been said the ending is symbolic of the eternal struggle of good vs evil. At the time, however, both the network and creators were discussing possible TV movies down the road. In that case, with the possibility of more to come, it turns the ending into a cliffhanger because anything that came after would need to deal with the aftermath of the series’ finale. Basically take whatever they were going for with that ending and marginalize, or completely dismiss it, with a throwaway line in the next instalment (much like what Dallas did in their first TV movie after the “Eternal Cliffhanger” of their series finale).

    But now, knowing there were no Angel TV movies, and probably never will be any kind of return to that series (I know there was a comic series, but I didn’t read it so I can ignore it), I can watch the finale again and appreciate it.

  • Big Jim

    I’m pretty much the same way with BSG. I’m much more on the positive side than the negative. I just mentioned I was surprised not to see it because I’ve seen so much hatred for it I expect it to make these kinds of lists. So, while I’m surprised it is not on the list, it is a nice surprise.

  • OHSNAPz

    Alf had closure with a TV movie.

  • ProjectMelton

    Not defending Lost’s final season, because I was definitely not a fan of the magical cave or the lack of explanation for the island’s powers. However, the characters were not in limbo for the duration of the show. The “sideways” flash in season six was the only purgatory-like dimension. Everything that happened on the island, happened. The crash was real. The events after it were real. And, due to some mysterious, unexplained (and cheesy as hell) fate, these characters were destined to journey together — in life and death. A terrible conclusion, but it’s still not accurate to say the fans were right and they were always in purgatory.

  • No one’s mentioned Deep Space Nine? How many seasons did we get of “Sisko is the Chosen” and what was he chosen to do? Push someone off a cliff. The series was interesting (at times), the finale was stupid.

  • abx999

    I actually think that Lost did the right thing, although I was a bit disappointed in the whole after-death thing as a plot device (the island was “real,” it was just the sideways flashes that was like purgatory; outside of time, but after each died in their own time). The whole show is an exposition on spirituality (in actual real life), and a big part of it was that being obsessive about spirituality is counter-productive and destructive. The ending showed you a physical “source” (one that matches “the light” that so many seem to talk about), but made the point that all that really matters is our relationships with each other. It connects the story to real life, and does so in a way that lets you personally connect with it without contradicting or excluding your own views. It also encourages you to look past all the attempts to define it, both in the present and throughout history, and focus on how you relate to others.

  • mak_th

    I think it’s very fair to say the writers of Star Trek decided to watch the world burn instead of give their series a decent burial. Everyone deserved better, which is maybe worth remembering the next time they have an awesome idea for a new show.

  • I probably saw this episode long ago, but i believe my mind didnt want me to remember.. its really really awfull.. and the pic above is traumatizing once you read the story.

  • Personally, I loved the ending of DS9, but I was also going through a rough patch in my life so I’m not sure if it had something to do with it.

  • Frankie Gouge

    Don’t know if it is consider SciFI or not, but Dinosaurs finale has to be one of the worst, especially for a kids show.

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  • I personally loved BSG’s ending.

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  • John Firth

    Man, the Enterprise finale was appalling. Given the ratings, cancellation was sadly unavoidable (having just done a marathon of DS9, Voyager and Enterprise on Netflix, I feel the show’s unfairly maligned), but there was no excuse for that ending. Trip commits suicide for no reason whatsoever, the much-vaunted signing of the treaty that will eventually morph into the Federation isn’t even shown, and, worst of all, not only were they not given a proper two hour finale like the previous three shows, they were relegated to being guest stars in a filler TNG episode. I’m not surprised none of them defend it.