Outcasts: Not Your Usual British Sci-Fi

Following a worldwide epidemic, societal meltdown or disaster a few thousand “useful” people were bundled onto spaceships and rocketed off to a replacement home planet. Five years later, they landed on the spookily Earth-like Carpathia (breathable atmosphere, plentiful H2O, soaring scenery, etc). We catch up with the immigrant humans ten years into their settlement. They’ve built a makeshift mini-metropolis and legal system but it’s basically the Wild West. Now, another shipload of Earthlings is about to land.

Knowing that Outcasts (Monday and Tuesday on BBC1 at 9pm) is British television sci-fi will help keep your expectations low, but unnecessarily. If you can see past the over-polished child actor in episode one, who for some reason recites the first line of that Blake poem about tigers in the night over and over, it’s a striking and successful pilot. The dialogue (at least the lines reserved for the adult cast members) is slick and the lead parts went to actors who could handle them. Liam Cunningham plays the colony’s weary leader, President Richard Tate, and Hermione Norris is his colleague and confidant, Stella Isen. While Tate’s family died shortly after arriving on Carpathia, Stella’s never even made it that far. Norris’s perma-tragic aura really comes into its own here.

But there are niggles. It’s obvious to anyone who watched Battlestar Galactica that this is the BBC trying to do its own version, albeit without the budget or the top-drawer creatives. Still they’ve made best of their resources, including booking Battlestar’s Jamie Bamber. He plays rugged hero, Mitchell Hoban. Even Outcast’s end of episode music is an almost note-perfect reproduction of the dum-der-dum-dum beats that used to signify the flashy pre-cap at the beginning of every BSG.

On Carpathia, peace reigns, just about. It’s a fragile society in its infancy, so not yet the improved version of earth that the immigrants had hoped for. Conflict--the underlying kind and the loud, violent type – seeps into every conversation and glance. The show has an alarmingly grey atmosphere and the muted colour palate permeates everything from the outcasts’ outfits to their perspectives.

Carpathia’s president is more like a police chief than a head of state. He comes off as harried and blunt but also a moral human being. But like all fictional presidents, Tate has his own dark secrets and conspiracies. Now, there’s leakage and so the future inside the compound looks even more uncertain. But what’s happening here is only part of the picture. Outside the walls, something strange and foreboding skulks in Carpathian wilderness, probably. Or at least, we hope so.

Comments (13)
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the most stupid series who i ever see.....it's garbage...
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You know, as a Brit, I think I’m honour bound to define British s-f as NOT being universal awful: the rebooted Dr Who is on a par with much of the US output.

And the UK originals of Life on Mars, and Being Human … ?

Just keep getting better … !
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Absolute steaming garbage. A parody of entertainment.

Zero out of ten. The BBC's head of fiction surely has to be turfed off his sofa following yet another skip-filler ... Apparitions, Paradox, The Deep, Upstairs Downstairs ... the man's got enough turkeys for a lifetime of Christmases.
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"Knowing that Outcasts is British television sci-fi will help keep your expectations low..."

I'm sorry you're ignorance impedes your enjoyment of independently created television that isn't rife with commercialism and driven by the viewing habits of a nation whose reading average is that of an 8th grader. Although the poor reading skills of what make up most of your readers is probably what drives you to write so poorly and use a word like "niggles."

I hold up my middle finger to you Ms. Margolis.
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It was alright, I agree that it sucked when Jamie Bamber died at the end and worst at the hand of an incredibly annoying character played with a subpar performance by Manson.

Most of the cast looked rather unlikable in the pilot, with the exception of Norris' Stella Isen, I hope Eric Mabius manages to feel the huge void Jamie's dead left behind, because this show was at best a 6.5, there are several miscasts in this show.
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Looks very interesting. And I've always prefered the less spacey sc-fi's, such as Firefly.
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The only sci-fi thing about it is that its set on another planet. No aliens, no funky powers, not even an indigenous lifeform to be found. The struggle of humanity. Pft! Boring. Trust us Brits to make a sci-fi drama that barely has anything sci-fi in it.
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I;m looking forward to Outcasts. Been mourning Hermione N's departure from Spooks so hopefully this will cheer me up.
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Holding up Battlestar as a "good" example of sci-fi is not convincing. The original BSG was cheap StarWars knock-off and the 2003 mini-series had tons of promise that sank into confused drivel. Like Caprica, they were so obsessed at hinting at a larger plot, they lost it.
Better to choose Threshold, Journeyman or New Amsterdam (all of which cancelled).
The TV.com reviewers have been vitriolic of late and have very little good to say about current TV (US or UK).
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British Sci Fi is not aweful nor is it ever in the league of drivel that gets pumped out by American networks for people who dont know how to think. Lets compare...Life on Mars (ok only marginally sci fi) was on for two FULL seasons in the UK and at the end left the audience pondering what the answer was and what was next. What came next was Ashes to Ashes which ran for three seasons, chucked all our preconcieved notions out of the window..gave us more questions and a suitably fitting ending...Life on Mars US - CANCELLED with a seriously s@#t ending that had no resemblence to the original....The Americans tried to make Doctor Who - the tv movie with Paul Mcgann and Eric Roberts all with the intentions of creating a new series - thankfully CANCELLED before it hit the drawing board...Being Human is a British show which has just been butchered by the American networks....And then dont get me started on Heroes the first season started brilliantly each episode creating questions and answering others but then from the second season it got progressively dumbed down it became rediculous...Lost took 6 years to tell everone that they were all dead...Flashforward was a flash in the pan... the remake of V is b@ll@cks, Warehouse 13 is an X Files clone - a good idea on paper but doesnt work on screen...The Event is a complete non starter - what event? there hasn't been any...Defying Gravity was cancelled after a dozen episodes and left the audience high and dry (how many know it was based on an ORIGINAL BBC TV DOCUMENTARY?)...British tv may have half the budget and may not be a plasticy or as fake as most American 'TV shows' but at least they are a damn site better than most reality tv tripe and most shows imported from the US.
More+
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british sci-fi is not awful - part of the point of Doctor Who is it's not supposed to be top-of-the-line brilliant that's the charm. and for the record have you seen some of the stuff on the sy-fy channel - hello Warhouse 13 you can't really claim that's any better!!!
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They have a point though.......

British sci-fi is generally pretty awful (and that includes dr who I'm afraid....)
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Wow, want to slag off our sci fi much? Seems overly spiteful there, the longest running sci fi show ever is Doctor Who plus anything on BBC is paid for by us all without adverts, hardly the same amounts of money to throw around. Getting Jamie Bamber isn't all that hard seeing as he's English and is back over here working after years in BSG. I'm keeping an open mind about Outcasts until I see it and if it isn't that great I'll go back to watching good American sci fi. As an article though this seems too much of a downer on our sci fi.
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