President Tate -
Julius Berger -
OTHER TREKS THROUGH SPACE
The Next Generation
Deep Space Nine
Episode 1 - First transmitted 7th February 2011
The planet Carpathia has been inhabited by human colonists for ten years and yet the only community is that of Forthaven. The reason for that is that the colony ships that were promised to follow have either failed to arrive or blown up in the atmospheric entry. Another ship has arrived, but with a badly damaged heat shield. Whilst the crew in orbit try to fix the damage, on the surface one of the expeditionary team wants to leave Forthaven and set up a new community and isn't above murder and kidnapping to get what he wants.
OUTCASTS sets out its stall from the outset of this opening episode. After some excellent special effects shots of the arriving colony ship, the action becomes completely Carpathia bound and consistently dour. There is a broken marriage, an assault, a kidnapping, an attempted assassination and an abortive revolt all within the hour's running time and that's without the issues facing the crew of the colony ship. With all this going on it is a surprise that the episode is so dull. Admittedly, this is the opening episode and so there is bound to be a certain amount of background exposition and hints at secrets to come, but there seems to be nothing other than that.
The show is determined, it seems, to be science fiction for grown ups without ray weapons and monsters, but with real characters with very real character flaws. All very laudable, but it would have been nice to have had some nice characters in amongst all the hard ones. At one point Liam Cunningham's President lauds all of Carpathia's good points, but to be honest none of those are on show apart from some stunning scenery.
The plotting is somewhat predictable (will the ship land? Will the rebel kill his son? Will the President survive the attempt on his life?) and some of the dialogue is wooden enough to provide enough timber to build a ladder up to the stricken orbital spaceship. When the President makes his speech there is heard off screen applause. It wasn't coming from the television audience. And the recurring use of Kipling's poem about tigers was just plain pretentious.
It's not all bad though. The acting is resolutely on the good side, some of those scenery shots were stunning, the special effects were top notch and Forthaven was extremely well realised. The show also had the bravery to kill off two of what were presumed to be major characters, one of those being the most interesting one on the screen. Nobody, it seems, is safe.Top
Episode 2 - First transmitted 8th February 2011
The escape pods from the transport ship have landed and the survivors have been brought into Forthaven with the exception of one, the one that might contain Stella's daughter. A rescue team discover a group of strange men looking after a sick baby, a baby that they want treatment for and are willing to kill hostages if they don't get it. Behind this group is a dark secret from Forthaven's past.
This second episode of OUTCASTS is more balanced than the first by the welcome addition of some lighter moments, usually in the shape of smart dialogue well delivered. At heart, though, this is a dark and gritty character drama, striving to emulate the success of the rebooted BATTLESTAR GALACTICA. Unfortunately, the characters aren't as strong and the plotting isn't as tight and breathtakingly tense.
One element that is lifted wholesale from BATTLESTAR GALACTICA is the dodgy character masquerading as a born again religious type, a la Baltar in the later seasons of that show. There is something seriously wrong with Julius Berger and the frankly pantomime performance by Eric Mabius is short only on the moustache twirling as he ties Penelope Pitstop to the train tracks. He is not convincing for a moment which, since he is being set up to be the main bad guy is a bit of disappointment.
The rest of the performances aren't bad and the story of the cloned people who had been sentenced to death in the fight to stop the children dying is a running thread with promise that is much more interesting than anything that happened in the first episode.
It's still stodgy in the dialogue and dodgy in some performances, but OUTCASTS is showing signs of getting better.Top
Episode 3 - First transmitted 14th February 2011
A storm is coming, a whiteout so great that it threatens the very existence of Forthaven and Fleur is outside, trying to return the baby to genetically modified rebels.
The approach of the coming storm gives a focus to this episode that allows the more human elements to play better. Characters show sides of themselves that were previously hidden in ways that are not always convincing, but at least hit the target half the time. Some of the dialogue is horribly stilted and the delivery of those lines is equally so.
If Eric Mabius could look any more obviously evil then the cops would have grounds for arresting him on looks alone. It's a ridiculous performance, but there are other, better ones to make up for it.
The special effects are pretty good in the waterspout and whiteout sequences and the fate of the two men out on the beacon in the middle of it even manages to be exciting and not to follow predictable patterns, though it is hard to see why, after ten years, the people haven't managed to come up with a radio that works far enough to warn them to get the hell back inside.
The improvement continues, but there is still some way to go before it gets really good.Top
Episode 4 - First transmitted 15th February 2011
One of the modified ACs stumbles into Forthaven in a seriously confused state, a state that seems to have been caused by experiments sanctioned by Tate. Fleur wants to help him return to his people, but Cass is not so sure that's a good idea.
The show is really starting to get into its stride as the main story has not only interesting consequences for all the characters, but also a strong central dilemma for Fleur and Cass and further evidence that Tate is not the benevolent leader that he would like to project himself to be. On top of that, there is a new mystery unearthed, literally, as an ancient jawbone would suggest that humans have been to Carpathia before.
On top of this, Tate is seeing visions of his children that might be more than simple visions and the show's main achilles heel, Berger, continues to jockey for position and power, folling nobody.
The point is approaching when we will be seriously hooked as to where all this is going.Top
Episode 5 - First transmitted 21st February 2011
The first man to set foot on Carpathia (allegedly) Patrick Baxter walks into Forthaven with a bag full of diamonds and stories about bodies. Cass and Fleur take up pursuit and find themselves in a radiation zone with a beach and some answers, but answers to what questions?
The diamonds are a bad thing and lead immediately to the breakdown of Forthaven's society as greed instantly overwhelms everyone despite the fact that the diamonds are a lot of use to anyone. This 'greed is bad' message is clumsy and silly, but the main story is that of Baxter and what he has found at the beach and the answers that he has regarding the visions that people have been having. Apparently Carpathia doesn't want the new arrivals.
Berger continues to be such an obvious villain that he would have been locked up by his most loyal supporters by now for being so transparently evil, but the last few moments of the episode explain why he is undermining the government, or more precisely President Tate. Amy Manson's Fleur, is also called upon to act uncharacteristically, unwilling to extend to Baxter the grudging trust that she previously gave to the genetically-altered ACs.
It is the emerging questions about Carpathia and its apparently Gaia-esque qualities that is maintaining the interest here.Top
Episode 6 - First transmitted 27th February 2011
Josie is one of three expeditionary soldiers who have gone missing on a secret mission that President Tate didn't order. When she walks back into Forthaven, badly injured, she is greeted with joy, but her family don't recognise her behaviour and a comrade turns up to say that she killed the third of them.
Who, or what, is Josie? That's the question that pervades the whole of this episode and it's a good one. For much of the time we're not even sure that there is an 'it' to be discussing. The experience Josie went through would leave anyone changed, but her behaviour remains beyond even the realms of post traumatic stress disorder.
The nature of the trio's mission and who sent them on it is the other strand of the plot and proves to be far less interesting. Just why Berger wants to kill the ACs so badly remains a mystery as much as who, or what, is creating the visions that Tate is seeing.
OUTCASTS continues to interest whilst not quite fulfilling its potential.Top
Episode 7 - First transmitted 6th March 2011
Cass did something very bad when he was Earth, but President Tate gave him a second chance at a new life. Someone knows his secret, though, one drunken night later Cass finds himself the main suspect in a murder case, his relationship with Fleur in tatters and minus his gun, which is now in the hands of a vengeful woman.
Daniel Mays takes centre stage in what is just a police story that happens to be set on a distant planet. Our investment in the character of Fleur and Cass make this an acceptable time passer, but hardly compelling.
The science fiction aspect continues to be provided by the continuing story of the visions telling Tate that the settlers are not wanted by the planet, though this does not seem to apply to the genetically-enhanced ACs. Berger's tedious politicking finally reaches a point where he might actually do something.Top
Episode 8 - First transmitted 13th March 2011
The 'halo' virus has returned to Forthaven and this time it's not only attacking children. Stella has ideas that it might have something to do with the signal that has been detected, but she needs time to work on the question, time that she's not going to get as Berger makes his move on President Tate's position by inciting and attack on the genetically modified ACs and revealing that Fleur is just such an AC.
The BBC's 'adult' science fiction show OUTCASTS comes to an end as many of the threads that have woven through the episodes come together in one final storyline. Unfortunately, none of these threads have been strong enough to sustain the show and that means that the finale is somewhat less than thrilling, an accusation that can easily be levelled at the show as a whole.
We have a plague that can be targeted to specific individuals and a race against time to stop it, we have an attempted coup d'etat, we have a war looming and the whole thing is being watched by an apparently advanced alien force so there really is no excuse for it being as lacklustre as it is.
Fleur's status as an AC gives some human interest to the proceedings thanks to a strong showing from Amy Manson, but there really ought to be more of the same coming from the fact that Stella's daughter and one time lover are both struck down by the virus. Instead, there is a general lack of caring. It is, though, nice to see Liam Cunningham's Tate finally coming up with the goods in a piece of political manoeuvring that shows how he might have got the job in the first place.
There are plenty of loose ends to be played with should any unlikely second series be commissioned, but if this is the last we hear from Carpathia it is unlikely to cause us sleepless nights.Top
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