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Our Father's Day picks for best sci-fi and fantasy dads

They might get themselves killed or put their own kids in danger. But we're buying them all ugly ties for Father's Day anyway, at least in spirit.

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Warning: Plenty of spoilers ahead for various shows and movies.

Science fiction has a father problem, and if you don't believe it, just sit down and watch the Star Wars saga a few dozen times. Whatever George Lucas' personal therapist is earning, it's probably not enough. Making the Mother's Day version of this list was a lot easier.

Still, if you mix fathers in with those who served as father figures, and open up the list to include fantasy as well as sci-fi, a decent list emerges. Happy Father's Day, boys. Too bad some of you are dead.

Honorable-till-death dad: Ned Stark

We're still not over it. People die constantly on "Game of Thrones," often in horrible, bloody, agonizing ways, but no loss has stabbed at the audience's heart as much as that first-season episode where Ned Stark (Sean Bean) loses his head to that sniveling little weasel Joffrey. Even in his last moments, Ned was thinking of his children, trying to save Sansa's life and prevent Arya from seeing his execution. We loved his honor and decency, but don't we wish he could've thrown that honor aside at the last minute and somehow taken Joffrey down with him? 


Apocalyptic avenger dad: Rick Grimes

Ned Stark kept his honor, if not his head, till the end. But Rick Grimes of "The Walking Dead" has changed so much over the course of his show he's almost unrecognizable. Remember when he was a clean-shaven, clean-shirted cop with a young son, a wife and a pal named Shane? Those seem like the days of the Model T compared with the era of the space shuttle after what Rick's been through. If a person he loves hasn't been killed, they've surely come to the brink of death in some horrible way, and it shows on his face. Yet Carl and Judith are still alive (whether or not Judith is his biological child), and Rick's gritty, post-apocalyptic leadership has somehow kept many of his followers alive as well. Mike Brady had it so easy by comparison -- all he had to do was install a pay phone and take the kids to the Grand Canyon.


Captain dad: Benjamin Sisko

Captain Benjamin Sisko of "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine" may not get as much attention in the pantheon of Star Trek captains as Kirk or Picard, but when it comes to dadhood, he leads the fleet. He was a dedicated single dad for years to his son Jake, and their relationship brought out the tender humanity of a tough and dedicated officer. "What you see on the screen is real, he's like my own child," actor Avery Brooks said of his relationship with young actor Cirroc Lofton. 

But you wouldn't want to get on his bad side. Just watch this video of various Sisko yelling scenes -- the one where he yells, "You're Starfleet officers, start acting like it!" is recognizable to just about any kid who's managed to get in trouble with dad. 


Watcher dad: Rupert Giles

Rupert Giles wasn't Buffy Summers' father, but as Watcher to her Slayer, he was a father figure few could challenge. His British accent and attitude played perfectly off the down-home all-Americanness of Sarah Michelle Gellar and the rest of the Scooby Gang. Even though Giles admits his childhood dream was to be "a fighter pilot, or possibly a grocer," Watcherdom was in his blood, and for that viewers are thankful. 

Like any parent, he went through a tough time when he thought Buffy had outgrown him, but that proved untrue, though their relationship changed accordingly as she grew into her powers. And he landed some of the show's best lines, as when Xander asks him, "Am I right, Giles?" only to be told, "I'm almost sure you're not, but to be fair, I wasn't listening."


Butler dad: Alfred Pennyworth

Bruce Wayne's parents were murdered when he was young, and the boy who became Batman would've been lost without the father figure he found in butler Alfred Pennyworth, who loved him as his own. Different men played Alfred over the years, and he was drawn differently by comic artists, too. Alfred was sometimes sassy, sometimes cool and collected, sometimes a warrior, but one thing never changed. He loved "young master Wayne" as his own, and fiercely defended both him and Wayne Manor with aplomb. Batman may be the star of the movies and comics, but Alfred is forever their heart.


Super surrogate dad: Adam West's Batman

With the recent death of Adam West, the classically campy '60s "Batman" series (and film) he starred in is in the news again. I've already praised West's game tackling of a goofy show that put him in many a bizarre situation, but let's credit him, too, for his fatherly role with young Robin (Burt Ward). Ward delivered the wide-eyed teen helper role with never-ending enthusiasm, but like a good dad, West's Batman struck different notes depending on the situation. He could be just as excited as his young comrade, or play the benevolent teacher and impart (sometimes) useful information, or take on the role of the boss directing the work of a trusted assistant. He never lost a fight, and he never lost his cool. 

Ward remembered West with high praise last week, saying, "I loved him. ... All we did was laugh."


Magical dad: Arthur Weasley

Harry Potter lost his parents as a baby, but the second he met Molly and Arthur Weasley, parents of his pal Ron, he knew he'd found a surrogate family. While Molly scolds the boys for taking the unreliable enchanted flying Ford Anglia, Arthur is more interested in getting them to tell him how the car performed. His love for Muggles -- he works in the Misuse of Muggle Artifacts Office, after all -- makes complete sense in the context of his open, curious personality. Author J.K. Rowling has said she once wanted to kill Arthur off, but thankfully decided to drop the boom on other characters instead, leaving the elder Weasley as the closest thing Harry has to James and Lily Potter. Lucky for Harry, he even got to be related to them, eventually by marrying their daughter Ginny.


Force-ful dad: Obi-Wan Kenobi, Star Wars

When fans think of fathers and the Star Wars series, they likely think of Darth Vader and Luke, or perhaps now Han and Kylo. Not exactly great father-son experiences. (Yes, Vader had his redemption moment, but too little, too late.) Lucky for Luke he was given several father figures who didn't nearly kill him and chop off his hand. 

There's Yoda, of course, but we're speaking mainly of Obi-Wan (Ben) Kenobi, played masterfully by Alec Guinness in the original movie. Watch Guinness' nuanced performance as he saves, encourages, cajoles and almost invisibly guides a balky Luke to take his first steps on the path to his destiny -- like a dad would, if he hadn't already turned to the Force-choking dark side.


Super dad: Jonathan Kent

It's tough to be a dad, and it's even tougher to be a dad to a superpowered kid from a planet far, far away. Superman, aka Clark Kent, aka Kal-El, would have been a different being had he not been adopted by Jonathan and Martha Kent, who raised the mysterious boy with the morals and strong character that serve him well as he discovers his role in the world. Jonathan Kent's been played by many actors and drawn by many artists (and sometimes given a different first name), but two favorites are the "Smallville" version (played by John "Bo Duke" Schneider) and Golden Age star Glenn Ford playing the role in 1978's "Superman," which starred Christopher Reeve.


Star Wars at 40Join us in celebrating the many ways the Force-filled sci-fi saga has impacted our lives.

Crowd Control: A crowdsourced science fiction novel written by CNET readers.