5 Reasons to Watch Outcasts

I’ve read at least one very unflattering review of the BBC’s Outcasts. And some of the comments on scriptwriter Ben Richards’ blog are, to put it mildly, harsh.

How has a TV show, for God’s sake, managed to provoke such venom?

I think part of the problem is that the BBC have promoted this as science fiction but Ben Richards himself said that the idea behind Outcasts was “to tell a pioneer story, and the only place you can do that really now is in space”. So this is a drama, first and foremost, about a group of people settling an unknown and potentially hostile environment. The extra-terrestrial setting is  just a dramatic necessity and the ‘science’ in the science fiction is vague at best. I mean, c’mon, we’re meant to believe that room was made on a spaceship carrying a few chosen survivors from a dying Earth for one character’s vinyl record collection? A collection he would have had as a child? Vinyl??!?

I know it’s a drama and it shouldn’t be taken too literally but really…?

Author Damon Knight famously said that science fiction is, “what we point to when we say science fiction”, and only a definition as broad as this covers Outcasts. Which is a shame. Genre fans so badly want some TV sci fi that matches up to the likes of Battlestar Galactica but this won’t be the one I’m afraid.

However, I’m enjoying it, in a perverse kind of way, despite its shortcomings and I’m interested enough to stay with it and see what the outcome will be. Here’s five reasons why:

(Spoilers below)

1. Carpathia

The planet has been named, so one of the characters says, after RMS Carpathia, the ship responsible for rescuing the survivors of the Titanic. However, the strange ‘white outs’ and the odd phenomena around Tate and his dead children hint that there could be more to this planet than meets the eye. In a book by Jules Verne that also references the planet’s name – The Carpathian Castle – one of the characters sees ‘holographic’ pictures of the dead. And I can’t believe Outcasts would get Jamie Bamber as Mitchell Hoban only to kill him off in Episode 1……

2. The ACs

I want to know more about the ‘Advanced Cultivars’ that survived extermination thanks to Hoban. What was done to them? What went wrong with Elijah’s ‘programming’?

3. It’s all done and dusted in eight episodes

The series only has eight episodes. So despite the leisurely pacing of each one, the story should have a conclusion that doesn’t drag itself out Lost-style.

4. The Jawbone

Looks hominid to me. Are there Others? (Oh, sorry, wrong show.)
Planet’s getting pretty crowded now what with expeditionaries, ACs, hallucinations, fossils….

5. Julius Berger

This character, as played by a terrific Eric Mabius, has an enigmatic smile that hints at something sinister. His use of religion to create a following points to a power struggle with the secular Tate. He’s the best character so far even if they have borrowed elements of Gaius Baltar.

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