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Category:    Home > Reviews > Science Fiction > Action > Adventure > British TV > Outcasts (2010/BBC Blu-ray)

Outcasts (2010/BBC Blu-ray)


Picture: B     Sound: B+     Extras: B+     Episodes: B-



In a not so distant future a group of refugees from a stricken planet Earth seize the chance to become pioneers to the mysterious planet Carpathia.  When they arrive on this Earth-like world they build a city they name Forthaven, a refuge against the mysteries and lurking dangers of their strange new home.  However, although Forthaven can guard them against the hidden physical threats on Carpathia, it cannot protect them from their own human frailties--lust, hate, greed, and despair chief among them.


In this BBC’s “Outcasts strays more into the realm of soap opera than space opera.  It’s definitely a harder brand of science fiction that relies more on tense personal situations than flashy firefights or high-speed chases.  Some of the principal characters in the show’s large cast include President Richard Tate (Liam Cunningham), the dedicated leader of the colony haunted by the many tough decisions he’s had to make to keep it going, Stella Isen (Hermione Norris), head of security, and a tragic figure who desperately misses the loved ones she had left behind on Earth, Julius Berger (Eric Mabius), ruggedly handsome and heroic, he leads the evacuation from Earth to Carpathia, but also harbors a rebellious streak, Mitchell Hoban (Jamie Bamber), an intrepid explorer dedicated to plumbing the mysteries of Carpathia, but unhappy with the constraints placed upon him by its nascent government, and Fleur Morgan (Amy Manson), another security officer determined to make Carpathia more of a home than a refuge. 


Filled with solid performances, the action that drives Outcasts relies on intense emotions and interpersonal conflicts.  Its themes of human struggle and natural division thrust the characters into difficult situations, forcing them to adapt to new environs while still struggling to accept the many changes and losses that they have suffered.  This character driven action can be seen most clearly in Mitchell Hoban, the Head of the Expeditionaries, a group of rangers mandated to explore the surface of Carpathia and figure out how the planet works and how best to make use of its resources.  But Hoban possesses an intensely independent streak, and chafes against the rules and laws of Forthaven and President Tate.  He wants to establish his own way of life on the frontier.  Seen as seditious by Forthavens authorities (and even his own wife!), Hoban’s actions bring conflict. 


Well crafted, with excellent sets, effects, and costumes, Outcasts falls down when it becomes too reliant on the “soap opera” aspects of its story.  The sci-fi trappings the show boast often fade into the background, leaving only the drama to sustain it.  It’s no sin to rely on complex, human stories in a sci-fi show, but fans tuned in to see those sci-fi trappings front and center, and Outcasts often eschews them in favor of slower moving story lines of betrayal and lust.  Around episode seven of this eight episode first season some of those sci-fi elements do return to the foreground, and none too soon for the gripping finale in episode eight.


Greater insight into the show and the goals of producers Matthew Read and Jane Featherstone are revealed in the Blu-Ray’s main featurette, “Outcasts--Reach Out to the Stars.”  Also include is the “Forthaven Set Tour,” a look into the design and layout of the amazing sets on the show. 


Outcasts might frustrate fans in search of a standard sci-fi action show, but if viewers buy into the human elements of the episodes they will likely become engrossed by the many strong performances and plot twists.



-   Scott Pyle


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