When Eureka comes back for its final season next week, the town of geniuses is going to look very different than what we're used to. And meanwhile, Fringe changed up its entire timeline for its current season — which is looking more likely to be the show's last, unless Warner Bros. basically gives the show to Fox for free. But Eureka, and possibly Fringe, are part of a long tradition: Science fiction and fantasy shows that got a total reinvention in their final season.
In Fringe's case, it was the introduction of a whole new timeline in which Peter died as a child, and everything was different. But some shows have gone much, much further in revamping themselves. Here are 18 TV shows that did a total reinvention in their final seasons.
To be fair, some of these were shows that regularly reinvented themselves anyway — while others were shows that had had a pretty set format from the beginning, and then shook it up massively in their last year. Let's hope Fringe doesn't join the ranks of these shows that rolled the dice... and then went away.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer
This is the classic example, as far as I'm concerned. It went from the story of Buffy Summers grappling with her destiny as The Slayer and trying to prevent the end of the world with a small Scooby Gang... to the tale of Buffy and her small army of future Slayers, all of whom had their own struggles with their Slayer destiny.
It became much more of a show about the Slayer Gang.
And meanwhile, Buffy's sister show (brother show?) also went through a total revamp in its final year. Angel went from fighting Wolfram & Hart to running their L.A. office, and the show's supporting cast and format were completely transformed. And then there's the fact that Angel got a new sidekick... Spike, the other vampire with a soul.
Mork and Mindy
This is one of those shows that changed every season — but the final season was a total shock. First Mork and Mindy get married (with Mork getting turned into a dog along the way) and then a short time later, they have a son — the middle-aged Jonathan Winters, because kids age backwards on Ork. The final season turns into a wacky sitcom about raising an adult baby. And then there's the even weirder cliffhanger ending.
I feel like the move to "flash sideways" constitutes a major reinvention for this show, which needed one last layer of WTF to carry us to its conclusion. And what a WTF it turned out to be.
This was a classic final-season revamp scenario, with the costumes and look of the show changing, along with a lot of its key elements. Gone was the Liberator, destroyed at the end of season three, and along with it went the friendly computer Zen. Instead, they have a new ship called the Scorpio, with a servile computer named Slave. Cally dies off-screen and is replaced by a cocky gunslinger named Soolin. Most of all, though, Avon starts wearing insane black leather shoulderpads bigger than his head, and it becomes the Avon Show.
This show even got a new name: Seaquest 2032. The cast was greatly revamped, with a few main characters being dropped and a whole new bunch of leads being introduced, including new star Michael Ironside. And the show jumps forward in time 10 years, during which time the seaQuest has been abducted. And a whole new storyline launches, as the crew faces the threat of the Macronesian Alliance.
This show started reinventing itself, with greater and greater levels of desperation, in its third season. But season four saw a total revamp, in which the creators made an attempt to give the characters real jobs again — Peter is a paramedic, Claire is in college — and Nathan Petrelli is actually a brainwashed Sylar in disguise. The show ditched a lot of its storylines about the Company in favor of the saga of a mutant circus. Or something.
Just as Blake's 7 became the Avon Show in its final year, some people claim that Farscape became the John and Aeryn Show in season four. And Scorpius, their old enemy, becomes an uneasy ally in the brewing war against the Scarrans over wormhole technology.
Earth: Final Conflict
The fifth season feels like almost a completely different show, with the Taelons completely gone and replaced by a whole new adversary, the "energy vampire" Atavus. A whole new cast are introduced, with the main characters from the first four seasons gone or reduced to "recurring character" status. Instead, we meet Juda, Ra'Jel, Brent and others.
To quote from our feature on the most mortifying seasons of science fiction and fantasy shows, "the budget was slashed and the whole show was drastically reinvented - now, Dylan Hunt and friends were trapped in the small Seefra star system. All of the characters get drastically revamped, to the point where they're unrecognizeable, and meanwhile Dylan Hunt develops godlike powers over time and space because his father turns out to have been a Paradine."