Is the BBC's pre-war live adaptation of Karel Capek's R.U.R., broadcast on February 11, 1938, the first science fiction television show? Originally, I would have thought that the American series Captain Video starting in 1949 was the first, and it may have been the first series.

But in doing my research before asking the question, I came up with the BBC broadcast. It was a 35 minute extract from the novel. It's so early that I'm tempted to call it the first, but there might be something even older.

R.U.R. screenshot showing a scientist and 3 "robots"

  • TV shows only (so not movies?)
    – Mac Cooper
    Mar 11, 2016 at 0:09
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    @MacCooper No, just TV shows/broadcasts. I think the first movie must be "Le Voyage dans la Lune," from 1902 but that's probably worth another question if it hasn't been asked and answered before. Mar 11, 2016 at 0:26
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    Ah righto. Good thing too because my potential answer was three decades later than Le Voyage anyway!
    – Mac Cooper
    Mar 11, 2016 at 0:28
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    I think the left- and rightmost robots in the photo look something like Data from TNG. Mar 11, 2016 at 0:31
  • R.U.R. is a play, not a novel.
    – user14111
    May 5, 2016 at 5:22

1 Answer 1


Hard to say with certainty but a number of reputable-seeming sources do say it was the first, for example p. 77 of Popular Television Drama: Critical Perspectives says:

The first television science-fiction programme was the B.B.C.'s adaptation of R.U.R.

And p. 308 of Guinness World Records 2011 says:

1938: First TV sci-fi aired—an adaptation of R.U.R..

  • I think you must be right, but I'm going to leave it open for a little while to see if anyone finds something earlier. Mar 10, 2016 at 23:46

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