The Top Ten American TV SF Sidekicks

April 16, 2019 | By | Reply More

What is it like to have a sidekick within the realm of an American SF television series? Well, one can certainly ask the participants that are featured in this particular column. Being one’s sidekick entails benefitting from a special kind of partnership that entails all kinds of components: loyalty, friction, trust, heartache, envy, etc. Plus, watching these SF sidekicks bring the slings and arrows of their entertaining exploits to American and other countries and TV networks throughout the years has been invigorating for the most part.

So who are your personal choices for the best American TV sidekicks seen in SF TV programming? Let’s take a look at ten of these sidekicks from American programming, either as a tandem or group, in the past or present that have graced our small screen while making an impact on our TV viewing experience.

The Top Ten American TV SFSidekicks are listed in alphabetical order according to the TV show title:

1.) Captain Apollo and Lieutenant Starbuck from ‘Battlestar: Galactica’

The short-lived late 70s sci-fi cult classic ‘Battlestar: Galactica’ told the strategic tale of the Twelve Colonies human victims that were betrayed at the treacherous hands of the evil Cylons. The Battlestar Galactica fleet, led by the determined Commander Adama (Lorne Greene), had encouraged the ravaged colonies to follow his journey to Earth. Adama’s warrior son Captain Apollo (Richard Hatch) and his fellow combatant Lieutenant Starbuck (Dirk Benedict) were brothers-in-arms as they served as thorns in the side of the aforementioned sadistic Cylons. Whether traveling to give relief to the inhabitants of the planet Earth or obeying other orders as instructed by Commander Adama, it appears that the Apollo-Starbuck power pairing was essential in providing the adventurous space outings in what appeared to be one of the most expensive sci-fi series ever produced for television.

2.) Josie And The Pussycats from ‘Josie And The Pussycats In Outer Space’

Josie and her fellow singing sidekicks in sensible Valerie and flaky Melody were a groovy sensation when they debuted in their 1970 cartoon along with the musical group’s tag-a-longs in hunky Alan, skittish Alex and Alex’s bitchy sister Alexandria, who clashed with ravishing redhead Josie for Alan’s affections. A couple of years later Josie and her entourage were given a spin-off show as they travelled the galaxy in a spaceship while confronting pesky aliens and providing finger-snapping pop music to go along with the high jinks. Some of us baby-boomers still cannot get the infectious ‘Josie And The Pussycats theme song from out of our heads.

3.) Dr. Zachary Smith and the Robot from ‘Lost In Space’

Who says that TV sci-fi sidekicks always have to be agreeable or civil to one another? The dastardly Dr. Zachary Smith and his tongue-lashing dealings with the Robot via alliterative put-downs (‘you bubble-headed booby’) was pure campy gold. In fact, insensitive Smith and the Robot pretty much stole the show on ‘Lost In Space’ with their hilarious heated verbal exchanges. Actually, it was a one-way bash session where the snooty Dr. Smith’s lambasting of his mechanical punching bag proved to be an instant hit with the viewers in the mid-60s. The Smith/Robot sideshow was the comic relief among the campy confines of ‘Lost In Space’s creative circle.

4.) Dr. Zachary Smith and Will Robinson from ‘Lost In Space’

‘Lost In Space’ gets a second mention in this article because there was another noteworthy sidekick pairing that single-handedly carried this 60s Irwin Allen-produced sci-fi show to its cult status. The cowardly yet calculating Dr. Zachary Smith teaming with the highly precocious Will Robinson, both also bonded tightly with the Robot, was a stroke of genius for the show as the majority of storylines revolved around this treasured tandem. Will gave Smith some humanity and sympathetic clout. Smith gave Will a sense of adventure and moral superiority. The villainous Smith started out diabolical before his gradual change in later seasons to his snivelling and pompous persona after Will gradually softened him with his friendship. Truthfully, the trio of Dr. Smith, Will Robinson and the Robot was the creative core of this nostalgic space-aged gem.

5.) Dr. Billy Hayes and Dr. Elvin ‘El’ Lincoln fromThe Misfits Of Science’

The short-lived mid-80s sci-fi show ‘The Misfits Of Science’ was something of a precursor to the popular 2006 show ‘Heroes’. The show’s top twosome featured scientific colleagues and sidekicks Dr. Billy Hayes and ‘El’ Lincoln (played by the late actors Dean Paul Martin and Kevin Peter Hall). The research scientific duo worked for the Humanidyne Institute where they specialised in human anomalies. Although Billy did not possess any super-hero powers whatsoever, it was his partner El that had skills to fluctuate in size. El was a very tall man in natural form. Both researchers soon recruited a couple of other freakish powered personalities in electric-skilled rock ‘n roll star Johnny B (Mark Thomas Miller) and teen telekinetic whiz Gloria Dinallo (played by a young Courteney Cox pre-‘Family Ties’ and pre-‘Friends’).

6.) Uncle Martin and Tim O’Hara fromMy Favorite Martian’

The classic sitcom ‘My Favorite Martian’ told the story of a young newspaper reporter named Tim O’Hara (Bill Bixby) giving cover to an alien (Ray Walston) he passes off as his ‘Uncle Martin’ to protect his Martian-bred secret. For three seasons, the human/Martian combo of Tim and Martin tiptoed around the wacky situations while waiting on the repair for the Martian’s spaceship to be repaired. Whether time traveling through Martin’s invented contraption to various eras in history or avoiding everyday people for potentially discovering Martin’s out-of-this-world backstory. The now deceased stars Walston and Bixby were one of the first featured sci-fi sidekicks to join forces in 60s fantasy-based TV.

7.) Dr. Sam Beckett and Al Calavicci fromQuantum Leap

For five seasons Dr. Samuel ‘Sam’ Beckett” (Scott Backula) and Admiral Al Calavicci (Dean Stockwell) spent years leaping in time to make things right that was once made wrong. As fascinating as the time-traveling trials and tribulations were for the Indiana-bred physicist and hologram military man, the true and genuine thrills about Sam and Al were their co-dependency in times of turmoil during their leaping exploits. The experimental sidekicks had a special bond beyond their weekly adventures in affecting the lives of the people whose lives they touched with motivational intentions.

8.) Colonel Steve Austin and Oscar Goldman from ‘The Six Million Dollar Man’

The working relationship between former astronaut-turned-bionic OSI operative Steve Austin (Lee Majors) and OSI head honcho Oscar Goldman (the late Richard Anderson) was solid and built on admiration for each other’s gifted endeavors. But somehow TV audiences knew better concerning these high-level men that were more than just governmental colleagues. Steve went on some very dangerous missions and, regardless of how his bionic prowess seemed invincible, it still caused Oscar to worry about the safety of his capable and skilled employee. Steve certainly would be the first one to use all his cyborg brawn to rescue his superior at a drop of a dime. The Austin-Goldman connection was predicated on sidekicks built on the principles of business and mutual respect.

9.) Quinn Malory and his fellow Sliders from ‘Sliders’

San Francisco-based physics graduate student Quinn Mallory (Jerry O’Connell) led his variety of sidekicks known as Sliders through a vortex wormhole to different Earths demonstrating a parallel universe version of their hometown. Naturally, the young and talented Quinn’s Sliding technology proved detrimental for him and fellow original sliders in Professor Maximillian Arturo (John Rhys-Davies), friend Wade Wells (Sabrina Lloyd) and accidental slide victim Rembrandt ‘Crying Man’ Brown (Cleavant Derricks). Later seasons would find Quinn being joined by newer sliders in Captain Maggie Beckett (Keri Wuhrer), brother Colin Mallory (Charlie O’Connell) and Dr. Diana Davis (Tembi Locke). Even Quinn Mallory would change individually and morph into Mallory (Robert Floyd), a combination of the brothers Quinn and Charlie after a fluke slide (both Jerry and Charlie O’Connell had departed the series). Quinn and his Sliders/sidekicks had seen it all from dealing with the devilish Kromaggs bent on destroying Prime Earth to tackling the latest transitional Earth’s dysfunctional dilemma.

10.) Captain James T. Kirk and Mr. Spock from ‘Star Trek’

The USS Enterprise Captain James Tiberius Kirk (William Shatner) and Vulcan Mr. Spock (the late Leonard Nimoy) are perhaps the most undisputed American iconic partnership in SF television courtesy of late creator Gene Roddenberry’s trail-blazing 60’s classic SF series ‘Star Trek’. Both Kirk and Spock go well beyond the SFTV landscape in pop culture circles globally. There are casual TV fans that are not into Science Fiction or fantasy-based programming that could recognise the Kirk-Spock dynamic without any in-depth knowledge of the ‘Star Trek’ sub-culture or overall phenomenon. There is no doubt that Kirk and Spock will…get ready for this…live long and prosperous in the realm of space-aged sidekicks for the ages.

(c) Frank Ochieng (2019)

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Category: Fantasy, MEDIA, Scifi, TV

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About FrankOchieng

Frank Ochieng has contributed film reviews to SF Crowsnest off and on since 2003. He has been published in other various movie site venues throughout the years. Ochieng has been part of The Online Film Critics Society (OFCS) and had written film reviews for The Boston Banner newspaper (USA) and frequently is a media/entertainment panelist on WBZ NewsRadio 1030 AM on "The Jordan Rich Show" in Boston, Massachusetts/USA.

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