Sometime in the future (conveniently non-specific), a planet called Carpathia has been colonised by, err, the British and South Africans – but all is not well in the settlement of Forthaven. Trouble comes in many forms including genetically-engineered soldiers gone AWOL, a frisky Irishman, low birth rates, disintegrating transport ships and a religious yank keen to seize power from the colony's leader.
The first episode was slow to get going, but this is forgivable given the huge scope of the show. It feels a lot like Blake's 7 (imagine if they made B7 now with today's budgets and SFX!), with a bit of Star Cops (remember???), Spooks and Survivors thrown in for good measure.
Of course, it's flawed in a number of areas:
- who lets a cocky Irish kid bring vinyl records and a turntable across several light years in a colony ship? Space is limited on those things, surely.
- the two most populous nations on Earth (China and India) are hugely under-represented
- if you have the technology to traverse the vastness of space, why can't you land your ship safely on a planet?
....but I won't go on....
Outcasts seems choc-a-block full of conflict, which I find difficult. Naturally, dramas need a bit of conflict and tension. If Carpathia was a paradise planet where everything was hunky-dory, Outcasts would be hugely dull. It's just that everything's a bit dark and humourless.
I understand that they've gone for 'gritty realism', which makes it stand out from something that the American channels would make - but I just think a little glimmer of fun or positivity would help lift it a little.
I'm going to reserve judgement for the moment, except to say that I think this show has some great potential. It would be great to see some aliens rear their heads at some point, and to explore more of planet Carpathia (presumably it doesn't all look like the South African bush!).
Let's hope that the fact the BBC cancelled Survivors in order to make this won't be a decision they will live to regret....
- Justin Chaloner