Monday, 28 February 2011


Monday, 28 February 2011

It's tough reviewing Outcasts. It has such a dreadful reputation (now dumped to Sunday nights in the wake of dismal Monday/Tuesday ratings), but I do see positive flashes. The problem is that everything good about Outcasts is undone by the indolent pacing and wishy-washy characters, that suck the life out of everything. I'm interested in a fair few story elements (particularly the presence of an alien intelligence on Carpathia), but the means to explore that is the characters I feel no affinity for. It's a TV show where reading a recap may be equally as entertaining, or perhaps preferable because it wouldn't take a solid hour.

Episode 6 was actually pretty good, by and large. It began with the two-day disappearance of three XP's (Hunter, Johnson and Docherty), whom we later learn were sent on a black ops mission to assassinate the AC's leader Rudi by Jack (Ashley Walters) and Berger (Eric Mabius), who's evidently intolerant of the threat posed by those genetically-engineered pariahs. The mystery thickened with the surprise return of Josie Hunter (Juliet Aubrey, reprising her role as Helen Cutter on Primeval) to Forthaven, claiming to have survived an AC attack. Josie was swiftly reunited with her three children, who quickly began to sense that their mother has "changed". Indeed, the audience were several steps ahead of writer David Farr in forming the hypothesis that Josie isn't the real Josie, but another example of the corporeal "hallucinations" Tate (Liam Cunningham) has been seeing of his dead children.

There was undoubted fun and anxiety whenever fake-Josie was on-screen, with Aubrey doing a great job as the off-kilter version of the mother her kids know and love. A moment when Tate spied on Josie, seeing her make random expressions and arm gestures, as if practicing human interaction, was genuinely unsettling. However, everyone's reaction to the fact an alien changeling has sneaked into Forthaven was disappointingly flat: Tate barely reacted, Stella (Hermione Norris) feels more detached than Josie at times, and Cass (Daniel Mays) just went with the flow. Part of the fun when you include aliens is seeing how people react to their presence, as the audience at home want to vicariously experience the thrill and fear, but Outcasts did a poor job in that respect.

The simultaneous drama with the pregnant wife of a missing XP, having to give birth without her husband, was of mixed success. It was another example of the show asking us to care about a character we haven't met previously (or if we have, I've forgotten), and the dilemma at the heart of the situation was a very old one (the baby survives and the mother dies, or vice versa). You'd be inhuman if you didn't care to some extent, but I wish this character had been someone we had a connection with.

One thing I want to praise is the marvelous direction by Andy Goddard, who gave this episode a notable boost visually. The scenery has always been beautiful, but it was particularly awesome here (a vista shot with a distress flare arching into the sky was gorgeous), there were some fantastic scene transitions (my favourite being one where Tate seemed to melt into the shadow of the next scene's corridor), and the tilting action shot of Stella running down a corridor was movie-quality stuff. The AC's were also far more threatening as a silent stealth force, burrowing into Forthaven to cause a blackout.

There's not much more to say about Episode 6, which was pretty basic in term of storytelling. I'm glad an alien presence on Carpathia is now confirmed, but slightly worried it's wandering into clichéd territory of the aliens being fascinated by the human concept of love. I'm also unconvinced by Tate's speculation that these aliens caused the genocide of the hominids that used to live on Carpathia, and have similar plans for them. I'm sticking to my theory the hominids WERE the aliens, in a less-evolved form.

Overall, we only have two episodes left of Outcasts, with little possibility of a second series. It seems to be building towards Berger and Jack mounting a coup d'état, with Stella forced to choose between the two ideologies they represent, the arrival of a CT10 transport full of people who appear to be on Berger's side, not to mention the wider issue of the vengeful AC's and the ambiguous nature of the aliens. That sounds like it might be a heady concoction, so fingers crossed Outcasts at least ends on a high note. It's a shame the first three episodes were so tedious and the characters just haven't been very strong, as the core ideas behind this show are decent -- if derivative of other TV shows, films, and novels that tackled the same broad subject-matter with greater skill.


  • I see from this episode that Forthaven has a prayer room. I was under the impression religion was frowned upon in this show's future, hence the friction between secular Tate and spiritual Berger, but clearly I was wrong.
  • Not that I want to see more of them, but the lack of Stella's daughter Lily and genius/DJ Tipper in recent weeks hasn't gone unnoticed. Hopefully, if they're still of relevance, they'll figure into the remaining two episodes more.
  • Why did the AC's have to burrow into Forthaven? As last week proved with Pak, you can simply walk through the gates and grab yourself a drink at the local bar.
  • Juliet Aubrey didn't bring her impressive cleavage over from Primeval, more's the pity, but her character really could have just wandered over from that show.
written by David Farr / directed by Andy Goddard / 27 February 2011 / BBC One/HD