Monday, May 09, 2011

Outcasts review

A quiet weekend meant being able to finally catch up on some recorded television. In this case watching all of the BBC series Outcasts. Well I say all somehow the final episode of the eight part series didn't record and it had slipped off iPlayer. However given that by episode 3 I was watching only out of some misguided sense of duty to British SF I wasn't that bothered; would have been nice to have some of the threads tied, but frankly - meh!

It's a shame really as the premise was good - humanity fleeing an exhausted Earth to a new planet with a group sent on 10 years ahead to prepare the way and waiting out of contact for anyone to follow them; with strange incidents occurring on the planet. It could have been good. So what went wrong?

Firstly I'm not going to point to the actors or the acting; although Hermione Norris emoted like a block of wood there's little that Daniel Mays can do wrong and even he couldn't save this. The major flaw that I see is that this seems to have been written as a novel.

Although there are small glimpses of show don't tell we still had two characters doing the equivalent of starting conversations with "As you know..." and lone characters spouting expository dialogue to themselves. None of this was helped by the large helpings of incidental storylines that were heaped over the main narrative thread.

Done well, such as with the subplot for Daniel May's character, these can illuminate motivations and behaviour of characters within the main storyline. Handled badly it either dilutes attention, because it really is completely incidental, or comes across as shouting at the audience to pay attention. Outcasts managed to do both and worse yet couldn't even keep its own sub-plots consistent from one episode to the next.

So with contradictory subplots and dialogue apparently written to be read rather than spoken I'm amazed the actors managed to do as well as they did. Sad to say that even if this had been given a standard American pilot run of 11 episodes to give it a little more room to establish itself I don't think it could have been salvaged.

Flawed at a fundamental level.