Space-faring sci fi TV series haven’t done real well, the unbelievable failure of Firefly still leaving a bitter rind in our mouths, and the premature cancellation of Stargate: Universe was perhaps too shocking, having been aborted by the hands of a sci fi channel (well, Syfy aka seefee). The most recent Star Trek series was itself shortlived, and perhaps the only recent success that comes to mind is Battlestar Galactica, now ready to have its prequel, Blood & Chrome done in time for a 2012 release. In come the British to try and improve things, and since the British went right past space-faring into ultra-successful and long lived time-faring, maybe they could bring a little bit of that magic? I wouldn’t go as far as to say that that was the reason for Outcasts, but it’s nice to imagine the British riding in and trying to save television one genre at a time.
Now into its 3rd episode out of 8, Outcats presents a time when it appears Earth is reaching some sort of end, and humans have colonised Carpathia. While ships continue to arrive after making the 5 year journey, the situation in Forthaven (somewhat ironically named) isn’t as great as it seems. President Richard Tate (Liam Cunningham) juggles welcoming the new ship that is arriving heavily damaged and maintaining the peace in Forthaven – something which appears to be slowly unraveling as odd and violent happenings threaten the very haven that Carpathia was meant to be.
While I might be technically wrong to call it a space-faring science fiction adventure, given that most of the action does take place on a single planet, but the general feel of the whole affair smacks of the space adventure, or at the very least, a single planetfall epsiode stretched out into a mini-series. You have the stoic captain of the people who does what is necessary for the greater good, the hapless science guys, the uncontrollable anti-hero, the peacekeeping grunts, strange atmospheric weather… well, you get the idea.
The problem with Outcasts is really how it starts. Very very slowly. While there is always a need for exposition especially when entering unknown worlds (pun totally intended), there just seems to be a little… too much of it. While Carpathia undergoes some internal strife we are also faced with the problem of a transport ship, the CT-9, that’s close to not being able to survive atmospheric entry. The captain of that ship and the president share a few words, reminiscing about seemingly random things before Tate suddenly deigns to speak to the entire transport ship – leaving us with possibly the least inspiring motivational speach ever to a group of people who are about to DIE. It did end with the people applauding the speech, but it makes me wonder – were they going to be inspired to fly the ship better? Glue it back together better? Pray more? Wasn’t being close to death good enough motivation? But maybe I’m overthinking it, and these depressed folk really just wanted some good cheer.
With the show suffering from myriad (not just British) accents, a general sense of moroseness that hangs over the proceedings it’s hard to get oneself involved. Add to that the fact that there are tons of characters to keep track of, each of them with their own agenda and their own story and seemingly equal billing (save the anti-hero and the president), it’s hard to say that after watching the first episode one can recommend Outcasts.
That is, until they do something to one of their “main” characters I never saw coming. So much for thinking it was a paint by numbers character creation exercise, in fact I’m intrigued as to where it goes next. Some accounts indicate that the show improves with each episode, and it’s a good thing that after all the boring draggy bits (it got to a point where I checked twitter for a bit while the show played on) something interesting happened – interesting enough to make me return for episode 2.