Tuesday, December 27, 2016

TV Review: Outcasts

Well I feel rather empty.

I just wasted eight hours of my life to get left on a cliffhanger that most likely I will never be able to see resolved or have revealed as the BBC science fiction show Outcasts was canceled not very long after it's eighth and final installment was shown in the horrid Sunday slot it was relegated to after a poor start ratings wise on BBC One.
I now know the feeling of being left at the altar.

But was it justified? Was this show, which seemed to brim with promise as an original science fiction series not involving little blue boxes or dinosaurs (Not that I dislike little blue boxes or the mad men that ride within them just so you know.), a failure or a victim of it's own themes of struggle and new  experiences?

I have to admit that Outcasts threw me for a small loop or two in the first three or four installments. It seemed to be a hybrid of a soap opera and a science fiction drama, but it also seemed to drag a bit too much and tried to cram in way too many emotional moments for me to really care to get to know and feel for any of the characters that were on Carpathia, all the witty banter and dialogue being used to draw me in was in places tuning me out, not necessarily because it was bad, it was actually quite good, but something about the format it was being presented in seemed quite wrong.

Problems arose from the fact that the first half of the eight episode series seemed like I should be reading it in book format, not watching it on my television. I hate to say it, but it lacked the necessary “casual viewer” moments that shows like Doctor Who and Being Human have learned to pull off rather well. These kinds of moments are important to the success of any new show, as they allow the viewer to connect with what is happening on screen. The relationship between Cass and Fleur could have had this kind of appeal, but like a lot of themes of the entire series, this has fallen to the wayside due to the slow pace at which the relationship formed.

Fortunately, the people populating those relationships were diverse, both in design and quality.
Starting at the top, President Richard Tate was a well written and performed leader, he seemed a good choice for a person to believe in and guide people in tough times. However, he reminded me a lot of Captain Jean Luc Picard From Star Trek: The Next Generation, as far off as that maybe. Perhaps it was all the walking down corridors while having desperate conversations of grave importance.
Or the baldness, not quite sure myself about that one.

Tate's number one, Stella Isen is a very paper thin creation, wearing all her emotions on her sleeve, worrying about her daughter Lilly and doing her job in a predictable manner that made her more annoying than enjoyable. You could easily see the purpose for a character like her in a series, but somehow she just didn’t work.

Tipper Malone was successful for the most part as a rebellious youth tired of the discipline needed for mankind to make a viable return. Much like the AC leader Rudi, they became valuable supporting characters that made the world of Carpathia seem a bit more solid and real.

Carpathia had a big need for a police and military presence both inside and outside the walls of Forthaven, and so some of the people that made up those forces were bound to become important people.
Cass Cromwell and Fleur Morgan were the glue of the series to me, the most easy to identify with and the characters that took the moral high ground we viewers at home usually sit from at home. They made the plots flow well when they were involved, although the show would be quite different if it focused on the pair all the time, not all of it in a good way either.
The man on the military side of things, Jack Holt, was a cliché Military minded man who was stubborn as they come and wanted to blow everything up in the usual boring manner. They tried to make him deep towards the end by handing him the presidency of the planet and having him react exactly as a military man might, but it was not enough for Jack to not seem hollow in the end.

Same can be said for the big bad baddie, Julius Berger. I'm not sure if it's the character or the actor's performance but he is the man in the black hat that you can spot a mile away. His purported intelligence and sneakiness being ineffective because you know it's there because you have seen this guy before in a million other books, movies and plays.

The characters here are well crafted and their dialogue is, for the most part well written. It is the pace that kills it again, not quick enough to make a speech not be dull, not fast enough that some of the more transparent flaws in the characters can be shrouded by the storyline.

But it seems that the plot was only put on 'simmer' to let it really cook properly, because by the time episode six and seven play out, you really are kind of interested in what is going on, things are moving faster and defined roles are set up between good and evil, Human and native alien.
Then poof it vanishes in a stream of exhaust from a mystery ship with a mystery passenger who barring  a giant miracle we will never see, grounded before it's time.

We might never know who is on that ship or what the alien race did to the colonists children or why that alien force despises Humans so, but we do know that in the universe of television creators and ratings, it's go faster than light or you're sucked quickly into the black hole of cancellation and obscurity.

-Thomas Spychalski

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