Saturday 7 May 2011

The Scotsman Abroad | Casting Out The Outcasts

It's been a little while since my last contribution to Strange Horizons - well, a couple months - so I'm pleased to report that this week marked my (triumphant?) return to the esteemed reviews section. And you'll be seeing me on the site again shortly, by way of an extensive take on the second Subterranean Tales of Dark Fantasy anthology, published on a date TBD.

For the moment, however, it gives me great pleasure to direct your attentions toward this review of Outcasts, in which I make arguably dubious comparisons between the war on terror and the Beeb's woeful attempts at genre television, and generally speaking tear Britain a bit of a new one. To wit, the introduction:

"Shit having gone suddenly sideways on Earth, a handful of humanity's best and brightest - all British folks, of course - have made a home away from home for themselves on Carpathia, a so-called Goldilocks planet named in honour of the ship which rescued a scant few survivors from the wreckage of the Titanic. It's a neat nod; one that Outcasts, the BBC's recently canned science fiction series, no sooner makes than moves to force down your throat. 
"So it begins."

Needless to say it's a pretty negative piece.

Well, here's to fighting fire with fire, because watching Outcasts was a pretty negative experience for me. Any of you folks seen it yet? Care to share?


  1. I think Outcasts just came down to terrible writing. They had the budget, some decent actors and going by the sets a decent design team. In the end that all means nothing if the characters are awful, the plot stupid and you force your actors to work with clunky dialogue.

    I'd hope we're past spoilers on this one but if not then you might want to look away.

    Basically I gave up during the episode where they meet the weird Scottish guy and go for a hike to the beach. The two people that go are then subsequently followed by Jack and Stella (I think), the ranger guy and the scientist. Along the way one of Jacks men is shot and killed by another group. Upon catching up with the two at the beach Jack is asked "Was it difficult reaching us?". His answer? "Nah not really". Right, so one of your men got killed but yeah, no bother.

    I realise that seems like such a tiny, minor little thing but it showed complete laziness on the part of whoever wrote this travesty. I knew I couldn't waste my time watching this show if the writing was going to be so full of holes and inconsistency. I mean, it would be a matter of seconds in screen time for Jack to show some kind of reaction to the death of one of his squad. Anything. These characters are supposed to have emotions, surely? Not just be walking exposition machines.

    I won't even get into Stella. Just... I have never seen a worse depiction of a scientist on TV. Seems like she learned everything she knows off the back of a cereal box.

    Outcasts was in the end a rather brilliant example of why TV shows live and die on the quality of the writers. File it alongside Heroes. You can have piles of cash and Oscar winning actors but if your writer can't even keep the characters motives consistent from one episode to the next, you're fucked.

    Even better it was such a colossal waste of money by the BBC when they really can't afford it. I'm sure it will probably mean that Doctor Who will continue to be the only thing that comes close to sci-fi on the BBC. Why would they ever give anyone money for another sci-fi show after Outcasts? Period drama and cops and robbers, that's the way forward.

    Niall, you've dug up some bitter feelings in this reader.

  2. I can't say I'd heard of the show before - being A. American and B. ignorant to any tv that's not on my desk in dvd form - but it was an entertaining review.

  3. I actually completely disagree. I saw Outcasts over here in the States and loved it. I think its only major flaw was that it was setting up too much in its first 8 episodes. There was no way they could possibly handle all those major plot points in such a short run.

    The show had its flaws, but I still thought it was good SF.

  4. Outcasts got much better from episode 5 onwards. The first few episodes were a trial.

    It became a more interesting story and the actors began to develop their characters. It was turning into something decent when it was cancelled. The negative reviews are from those who only watched the first few episodes.

    My biggest gripe with the show, was it's absurd attempt to transplant totalitatian and fear based security concerns to a new world.

    Imagine if you are a colonizing pioneer on a new world, and yet you have a gated community and have to have an ID card to walk around.

    But this is not suprising considering the writing comes from Britain, this is a country after all, who was forced to read Orwell's 1984 in school, and now forgets the point was to avoid that type of society instead of implement it.

  5. "The negative reviews are from those who only watched the first few episodes."

    Ummm. Blanket statement, much? I watched the entire series before reviewing it, and I'd disagree that it gets much stronger as it goes on - though I see where you're coming from. I too found second half more diverting than the first, though I think that was only because I'd gotten more accustomed to its many weaknesses.

    Fair play to you for the George Orwell comment though, Anonymous. Some truths are more true than others...