The renaissance in British science fiction and fantasy TV continues with Outcasts, a new proper grown-up sci-fi series on primetime BBC1. It features much of what you’d expect: other planets, space-ships, special effects and a range of British actors you recognise from somewhere trying to deliver made-up jargon with a straight face.
So has it worked? Will Outcasts be with us for years to come, or will it be out-cast?
Why So Serious?
Watching the two episodes of Outcasts that helpfully aired on consecutive days, I wasn’t entirely taken at first. It’s very earnest, isn’t it? Much of the genre TV that’s become popular in recent years, Doctor Who, Primeval, even the adult-targeted Being Human, had a sense of its own ridiculousness and determinedly cracked jokes to make itself accessible to the common man.
Outcasts doesn’t bother with any of that. The comic relief is sparse; they are definitely taking this seriously. Once I got past my initial confusion, though, and worked out who the many characters were, I started to enjoy it. I still love the shows I mentioned last paragraph (except Primeval, obviously), but TV sci-fi without the nudge-wink is a nice change.
It’s not perfect, the first episode in particular is rather slow, and some of the “surprises” are a bit telegraphed, but there is a lot of interesting set-up for future storylines, and some good moral dilemmas as well.
Kudos To Spooks
I was interested to note that Outcasts is a Kudos production. In retrospect, this makes sense, as they have produced most watchable adult genre dramas in recent years, including the popular Life On Mars/Ashes To Ashes saga. However, Outcasts reminds me more of their Spooks, and not just because it has the great Hermione Norris in it.
No, it’s more the chunks of screentime spent talking about ridiculous things as if they are the deadly serious end of the world. In fact, this could easily be Spooks In Space. But such straight-faced delivery might also be what makes the show a tougher sell for those outside the Dork Club. We’ll have to wait and see.