This review may contain spoilers.
“Outcasts” has ambition; BBC’s newest science-fiction series (which has been in development since 2007) is introduced on a grand scale, with a talented cast and a sound premise.
Unfortunately that isn’t enough to keep this smart idea a compelling adventure.
Consider “Outcasts” an “Earth 2” with higher production values, but with a poorly executed story. The opening episode establishes all the key points of the planet Carpathia but leaves all the needed details to the imagination. The fall of Earth as we know it could have been expanded upon or given a more substantial eulogy, as could the much hinted at other colonists living somewhere on the planet.
Instead, both are left as mysteries to be explored later and the series demonstrates itself as a British character drama set against the backdrop of planetary colonisation rather than an epic or sweeping adventure. The episode toys heavily with the vague notion that something exciting is about to happen, and focuses heavily on a small group of settlers on Carpathia.
Liam Cunningham brings a weight to the series as a President stricken (and almost haunted) by the tough decisions of his past. However, it is not the terrible deeds he has been forced to commit that trouble him but instead the knowledge that those acts were necessary for the survival of the Carpathian settlers.
Former “Battlestar Galactica” star Jamie Bamber also takes on a leading role in the episode and his presence in the episode is actually one of the very few highlights. His character, Mitchell, suffers from multiple personalities and quickly loses whatever grip on reality he has, kidnapping his own son. A chase ensues, dovetailing nicely into a tour of Carpathia.
However, that is about all that happens; the pace of “Outcasts” is staggeringly slow with the most exciting thing taking place being the atmospheric entry of CT9 … an event that is teased from the opening teaser but just doesn’t live up to expectations.
Points Of Interest
1. If you close your eyes and listen to Pres. Tate’s speech you can easily mistake him for Liam Neeson.
2. Recognize Fleur Morgan? Scottish actress Amy Manson was previously a member of “Torchwood” and also helped slaughter 20 people in a train on BBC’s “Being Human.”
The biggest asset in “Outcast’s” favor is the locational shooting. The landscape shots are breathtaking and although limited there are some impressive visuals in the episode as the CT9 arrives in orbit and attempts its atmospheric entry.
Also in the same vein, scenes of life simply taking place in the town of Forthaven helps to sell the idea that this really is an alien world that Humanity is trying to conquer.
The opening episode touches on so many threads that could so easily be developed in the future; the human need for conflict, love and hope in the face of certain doom. With that in mind, the real themes that come across are of heartbreak, sorrow and loss as everyone has to deal with their own personal sacrifices at one point or another, and in the act of the episode we are treated to some raw examples of those very ideas.
As an introduction to a new series, “Outcasts” is hampered by its own ambitions and is further damaged by its excruciatingly slow pace.
In some respects, the series has a lot in common with “Lost.” When you think of the castaway drama now, there are plenty of incidents to consider. However, on a week-to-week basis nothing really changed and it was the characters that held the audience. “Outcasts” suffers from the same problem and nothing happens in the episode.
Jamie Bamber comes across as an interesting character but he is underutilized and, based on the conclusion of the episode, to say that he will continue to be is something of an understatement. It seems that the sole purpose for his character was to serve as an easy way of introducing the security team in Forthaven and tease at another group at work on the planet.
Giving Credit Where Credit Is Due
“Outcasts” episode 1 was written by Ben Richards and directed by Bharat Nalluri.
“Outcasts” airs Mondays and Tuesdays at 9 p.m. GMT on BBC One.