February 8th, 2011

BBC’s Outcasts Review

Our British Nerd, James Hayward, comes at us again with another review, this time of the new BBC series, Outcasts.

British Sci Fi can be a little hit and miss but what the Brits lack in big budget special effects, they’ve, more often than not, compensated for with rich characters, interesting plots and snappy scripts. Of course, like any other country, some god-awful poop gets released here once in a while (Primival I’m looking at you) but in general standards are high.

So it was with some reasonably held expectations that I tuned into BBC’s new Sci-Fi series, Outcasts, last night.

I wasn’t disappointed.

In a nutshell, this is a show set in a universe where the people of Earth have done themselves in…(as in a full scale apocalypse extinction-level event). We don’t actually get a clear idea of what transpired but tangential comments in the first episode seem to indicate a US-China nuclear war precipitated the demise of mankind thereby leaving the planet all but inhabitable. Evidently, after the apocalypse, humanity built itself some rough and ready spaceship lifeboats in order to ‘abandon planet’. The destination was Carpathia; the hostile and unknown word upon which the show is set.

We enter the fray as the story picks up 10+ years after the event. Things seem both bleak and hopeful at once as the new colonizers face the challenges of their new home. The pace of the first show is reassuringly measured, with a generous amount of scene setting and character build up. The occupants of the first ship are predominantly Brits but we learn that the second evacuee ship is on the verge of arrival. IMDB indicates that Eric Mabius (of Ugly Betty fame) is aboard so perhaps this will represent ‘lifeboat USA’? In any event, the feel of the Carpathia colony is decidedly British with witty tea banter and stiff upper lip moments abundant in equal measure.

Taking a leaf from the mood of Battlestar Galactica (along with Jamie Bamber, who features heavily in the first episode), Outcasts looks like it will cover similar ground regarding the moral relativism of governance and the precarious balance between group security and individual liberty. The colony President, superbly portrayed by Liam Cunningham in the first episode, has clearly taken some grim decisions in his time.

Outcasts has started well and I have faith in the pedigree of writer/director Ben Richards, (whose resume includes writing the highly compelling BBC spy –series “Spooks”)  to continue to develop what looks like a fascinating drama series.

Outcasts is currently only viewable on UK television but keep your eyes peeled for its imminent arrival to US screens via the BBC America Channel.

James Hayward

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