Nov 10, 2011

[TV] Outcasts: Season 1

Outcasts: Season 1I'm man enough to admit that I initially got into Outcasts because of Jamie Bamber, as is the right of any other gay Battlestar Galactica geek. He was one of the more notable actors attached to this show and I've generally had a good track record with science fiction shows on British television.

But then Bamber got killed off in the first episode (and we can't even consider this a spoiler anymore) and so I was left with trying to create a personal connection with the rest of the cast and the show as a whole. And that wasn't at all an easy experience to go through.

I'm sure the writers had a rather lofty goal here. They wanted to create a compelling drama set on a distant world where not everything was as it appeared to be. It wasn't supposed to be about gimmicks like alien invaders and such but more about human relationships and how such a drastic transition to another world can change us.

The series had potential somewhere, but it was lost in this long and winding narrative that was hard to keep up with. It's not that there was too much going on or something. It was more like it felt as if there was too little going on and thus it was a struggle to stay awake.

Outcasts is a 2011 British science fiction series that broadcast on BBC One. The show was created by Ben Richards along with writing support by Jack Lothian and David Farr with directing by Bharat Nalluri, Omar Madha, Andy Goddard and Jamie Payne.

It is the year 2060 and the survivors of Earth have relocated to the world of Carpathia. Outright nuclear war had destroyed most of our home world (although we never truly go into detail about this) and so a brave few set about finding a new planet to occupy. By the time the show begins, it has been at least ten years since humans started to settle Carpathia with Forthaven as the main colony. It is uncertain as this point how bad things have gotten on Earth since the only news they receive is from other survivors that manage to make the trek across the stars and still survive the often violent re-entry into Carpathia's atmosphere.

A transport named CT-9 has just announced its presence and the colonist are preparing to receive what may be the last of the refugees from Earth. The president of the colony is one Richard Tate (Liam Cunningham) and together with his team, he does his best to manage the colony effectively. Supporting groups that keep Forthaven running are the Protection and Security (PAS) team headed by Dr. Stella Isen (Hermione Norris) and the Expeditionaires (XPs) as initially led by Mitchell Hoban (Jamie Bamber). Outside the colony live the ACs, or Advanced Cultivars - a group of genetically modified / designed humans who were first used to settle the planet. Supposedly they played a role in a plague during the early years of the colony and had been exiled from Forthaven ever since.

And on CT-9 is the former Vice President of the Earth Evacuation Programme Julius Berger (Eric Mabius), who appears to have his own agenda.

I think of the of the greatest challenges the show had was the lack of a substantial (or at least meaningful) meta-plot to link all the stories together. We can only have so many one-shots and standalone stories in a season, especially given how British shows tend to run for mere 6-8 episode arcs. Normally the writing on such shows tends to be a lot tighter and action-packed and instead this one felt slow and a tad meandering at times. There were little hits here and there about other stories to explore like Carpathia's original inhabitants, but those were very few and far between, and mostly during the final episodes at that.

And what was the deal with the Julius Berger character? He practically had evil villain written all over him and yet we had to play things out slowly, as if the writers thought it would still be some sort of a surprise that he was going to find a way to seize power for himself or whatever. It's sloppy writing and insulting to viewers.

And the rest of the characters could have been cardboard cutouts. They didn't feel all that fleshed out and it was difficult to create any sense of connection with them or at times even just tell them apart. It probably wasn't until the 4th or 5th episode that I finally had a firm grasp of who everyone was and what role they played, which is ridiculous for an 8-episode series.

On the whole, Outcasts was a show written around a promising premise that failed to deliver the goods. It's a miracle that it even got finished at all. Still, it scrambles past with barely 1.5 attempts by Berger to seize control of the colonial government out of a possible 5.

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