One of the reasons I'm a SF fan is that the genre lends
itself to examining some of the big questions:
What does it mean to be human?
Why are we here? Granted most SF
(be it books, movies, or TV shows) don't bother with those
but it is great when they do. That's why
I was anxiously anticipating Outcasts,
a BBC show from this year. Set on an alien
planet where the last remains
of humanity have come to start again, the show asks "if we could wipe
clean, would mankind make the same mistakes all over again?" Something that's just up my alley. Unfortunately, while the show does have some
admirable aspects, it's an experiment that fails on nearly every leave
with dreadful writing, horrible characters, and frequent plot holes. In addition, the series was cancelled at the
end of the first season (a short eight episodes), so there are a lot of
that will never be resolved.
In the not too distant future humanity has to leave
Earth. While it's never fully revealed
just why, it's clear that things have gotten very bad on the mother
that humanity had little choice but to expand out to the stars if they
going to survive.
Ten years ago the first colonists arrived on Carpathia,
named after the first ship to arrive and rescue passengers from the
Titanic. The planet is uninhabited, the
only life being plants, bugs and some rare birds, and the only
settlement is Fort
the home to a "thousands" of people, possibly the very last remains of
As the show opens, the settlement is well established.
The initial period where everyone pulled
together for the common good and survival has passed, and now there are
growing pains. The government is ruled
by a council which is headed by a president, and there is a police
(Protection and Security) as well as a military branch, the
which is charged with exploring the planet and protecting Fort Haven
external threats (more on that later.)
Haven gets a call
transport ship from Earth, everyone is excited that they'll be getting
settlers but the call is met tinged with sadness. The
captain of the ship informs the president
that his will most probably be the last ship from Earth, as things have
deteriorated significantly. Not only
that, but the ship's heat shields have been damaged during the five
from Earth which makes landing very dangerous.
To start with the good aspects first, this show had a great
premise and some outstanding production values.
Filmed in South
Africa, the creators were able to film
some exotic locations that really did look like an alien planet. Forget the classic Doctor Who where an old
quarry was used for every extraterrestrial landscape, this series has
beaches and hills filled with odd rock formations that work extremely
well. The shots of a milky white cloud
bank pouring over the top a low mountain range are effective too. It really makes it easy to suspend your
The set designers also deserve a lot of credit for the way
they made Fort
Haven come to life. They built a town set on location and they
really gave it the feel of a settlement.
It wasn't apparent at first but the rooms and buildings were
shipping containers, and a lot of the every day items that people use
recycled packing crates and boxes. A lot
of the city was scavenged from the ship that brought them to Carpathia,
naturally, so spaceship doors and bulkheads were used to create living
and offices. A lot of attention was paid
to detail in the construction of the Fort Haven
sets and they did a
With all that going for the show, it's a tragedy that the
show itself wasn't better. To put it
bluntly, the writing was atrocious.
The show was basically asking "Are humans inherently
destructive or could we build a peaceful society if the slate were
clean?" They make sure that you don't
miss this point by having someone pose the question every couple of
episodes. Unfortunately the answer is an
unequivocal "Yes, people are an evil plague with few redeeming
qualities." That makes the show not only
bleak, but a bit
One of the big problems with the show is that absolutely all
of the characters are unlikable. Just a
-The wife of the Expeditionary leader is spying on him (even
though it's established that she loves him dearly) because the
-Said leader beats his wife to death when he finds out about
it and kidnaps his son.
-The president orders the execution of dozens, probably
hundreds of innocent people in his care and then covers it up.
-The head of the police has proof that a new arrival has
committed grievous crimes, but covers it up since he's a popular
-The new head of the Expeditionary kills a prisoner of war
in his care with a trial, then publically strings up the body.
-All of the teenagers are druggies or thieves.
-A police officer promises to help his partner, and then
betrays her in the most callous way. She
then, inexplicably, runs to him for comfort afterwards.
Now let me make this clear:
THESE ARE THE GOOD GUYS! I've described the main characters that
focus of the series. There are villains
too, and they're even worse. The main
antagonist is a murderer and a pedophile who is paving the way for an
and planning on killing many of the leaders.
He has everything except cloven hooves and horns.
There is an external threat to Fort Haven
too, and they're just as bad as the people inside, if not worse.
I could accept that if the show was about putting people
into grey areas. If the protagonists
were placed in a situation where the moral thing to do wasn't clear or
had to make a choice without enough information it would be interesting
how they reacted and why the made the decisions that they did. That's
case here. Though I think the show was
aiming for that, they were never really able to establish a moral
I have to admit that at the end of the season a plot
developed that could possibly have made the show more interesting. [Big Spoiler]
It turns out the planet is inhabited by native, intelligent
which may be noncorporeal. These
creatures don't want the humans on their planet and have threatened
extinction. Since the people can't
leave, they're trying to negotiate, but what it that fails? We'll never know because that plot was just
started as the series ended. [End Big
On top of that there are horribly huge plot holes that
really sap a viewer's enjoyment of the show.
I'm not talking about "Hey, that's too much of a coincidence" or
do they eat?" These are "I don't
understand what's going on" plot holes.
One that really had me scratching my head occurs in the
first episode and it involves the Expeditionary. It's
mentioned several times through the
series that the Expeditionary are the "protectors" of Fort Haven,
and they always travel (on their frequent 'missions') outside the
walls fully armed with machine guns, hand guns, and knifes. It's even a big deal when a law is passed
stating that they can't carry their guns inside the Fort.
So I assumed at the beginning that there were
aliens. Maybe there is not intelligent
life but dangerous animals at least.
Nope. It's clearly established
that there is nothing except some birds on the planet, and that's been
confirmed over ten years. So why on
Earth (or should I say Carpathia) are they always armed to the teeth?? (It turns out there is an external threat,
but no one knows about it until the first episode.)
That's just one example of many. How did
the president explain the absence of
the Advanced Cultivars (ACs) after he ordered their execution? Did people not wonder what was going on when
dozens (at least) of people turned up missing?
What happened to the killer doppelganger that was discovered in
episode? They didn't kill her
(obviously) but did they let her go?
Why? Why did the ex mafia hitman keep the only papers on the
linking him with his past? Just burn
them dude. Why is a neurologist head of
security?? Why are people wondering who
killed the AC in one of the later episodes when he was in the custody
of the Expeditionary? Why isn't there an
especially when the president ordered the AC to be released? And the list goes on....
In addition the scripts are very 'talky.' That's
not always a bad thing, but in this
case it is. There are long sequences of
people explaining things that are pretty obvious or wondering, yet
they could make a better world than the one that they left. It does get better as the series progresses,
but it really slows down the show and makes the overriding emotion
The eight episodes that make up the first and only season of
this show come on two Blu-ray discs housed in a double case.
Okay, here's where things go from bad to worse. The
only audio option is a 2.0 DD track. This
show could have really benefited from
5.1 audio. With wilderness scenes, some
battles and whispering disembodied voices, a full soundstage could have
made this show jump off the screen. As
it is the mix is okay, you can hear the dialog (though some of the
hard for this yank to decipher) and the music and effects are mixed
just flat. That's really too bad.
This was the first TV show to be shot with a 2.40:1 aspect
ratio (at least to my knowledge).
Unfortunately the BBC cropped it for broadcast and that's what
done for this home video release too.
The cinematography is excellent and I would have loved to have
program the way it was intended to be seen.
Alas, that was not to be.
As it is, viewers get a 1080i 1.78:1 image that's okay.
The colors are nice and the level of detail
is fine, but the semi-frequent night scenes have a bit of noise,
the dark backgrounds. Not a fatal flaw,
but it was more than a minor irritation.
There are only two extras, a half hour behind the scenes
featruette, Reach Out to the Stars,
and a five minute look at the exterior sets, Fort Haven:
Set Tour. The
first was a typical EPK with the cast and crew gushing over the
how fantastic the show was going to be (they got that wrong) and the
a nice look at the set. Neither was too
This is a show looks magnificent but doesn't have anything
else going for it. Looking back on the
whole series, I can't say I enjoyed watching it at all.
With some sloppy writing and a cast of
wretched characters it would be hard to recommend this to begin with. The fact that the show ends in a cliffhanger
with many of the plot lines dangling just makes it worse.
Add a mere two channel audio track and a
cropped image on top of that and this is one release that you should skip.