Outcasts (2011) Episode 1

I was strolling through Netflix’s new release list for streaming movies, and noticed that the eight part BBC science fiction drama Outcasts had been added. I originally heard about this particular show by way of commercials for BBC America’s weekend sci-fi block, but never got around to watching it for some reason. To be honest another new show called Bedlam sort of scared me away from the block for a while. This program is definitely closer to “hard science fiction” than the material I usually look at on here, in that it has very little “fantasy” elements in it. The story centers around a colony on Planet Carpathia, a planet five years travel time from Earth. The residents of Carpathia, mostly located in a settlement called Forthaven, escaped Earth to run away from a pending nuclear holocaust.

While I’m not familiar with a lot of the cast of this show, I did recognize a few people. Within the first few minutes we meet Cass Cromwell, as played by Daniel Mays. Mays also played Jim Keats in Ashes to Ashes and Alex in A Doctor Who episode called “Night Terrors”. I also recognized Liam Cunningham who plays President Richard Tate from tons of movies and TV shows, I think most recently from Harry Brown.  Cunningham is also in Games of Thrones, but I haven’t seen any of that show to vouch for how substantial his role is.

My first impression of Outcasts is that it is cut from the same cloth as far more popular shows like Battlestar Galactica (2004), Stargate Universe (2009), and even Earth 2 (1994) in that it relies far much more on drama than the actual science fiction elements involved. One episode in, and this show could have honestly been set on Earth with very little difference in the plot. I wouldn’t go as far as saying that it’s a bit drab (in both setting and plot), but it’s pretty close to how I feel.

My first problem is that the planet is a bit uninspired; it’s basically just a desert-like mountainous region somewhere (I think they filmed in South Africa). Nothing really jumps out and says *ALIEN PLANET!* Even guys behind shows with terrible budgets such as Hyperdrive had the sense to make the sky red or something. I know I have dealt with things like the endless Canadian deciduous forest planets in Stargate SG1, or the many rock quarry planets in the old Doctor Who, but at least they had creepy aliens in them to suspend disbelief. The production on this show basically stuck some plasma screen TV’s in a few rooms of a desert colony, and BOOM –finished.

If episode one is any indication, this show is going to be depressing. It pulls no punches at all with people going crazy, people getting killed, and a multitude of other bleak situations. I wasn’t a fan of the recent Battlestar Galactica for this very reason, and really hope that this isn’t the norm from here on out. While the show has promise, I feel that this introductory episode tried way too hard to be as dramatic as it could be, as if it saw all the dramatic elements from other shows and decided to use them all at once. This episode introduced too many characters at once, did a poor job of fleshing out the world, and sandbags the viewer with enough bad stuff to make one of those sad Sarah McLaughlin commercials look tame. I’m going to hang in there, and watch more, but Outcasts really needs to kick it up a notch.

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