Welcome back for our second installment of this multi-generational experiment we call Kindred Kriticz. Just a mother and son watching the same shows and movies and weighing in on them.
This week Ross suggested we tackle a 2011 BBC series called Outcasts because he is a sci-fi enthusiast and a devotee of the reboot of Battlestar Galactica in particular. Seeing as it was only an eight episode commitment and it had a pretty strong cast, I agreed.
Before we go any further, let me lay out the premise of Outcasts since it’s unlikely many of you have seen this series. Set in the year 2060, a group of Earth’s best and brightest have fled their mortally endangered home to colonize a habitable (fictional) planet they’ve named Carpathia after the ship that came to the rescue of some the Titanic’s passengers.
In the first episode, we discover most of the population has been living within the limits of the pioneer town, Forthaven, for the past decade. With the arrival of probably the last transporter that will reach Carpathia from Earth, we witness a power struggle between the president of the settlement, Richard Tate, and an unwelcome new arrival. Tensions also are evident between members of the Protection and Security (PAS) team within the Forthaven perimeter and the Expeditionaries (XPs) who explore the planet and protect the city from outside threats.
Some of what follows could be considered slightly spoilery. If you’d like to watch Outcasts before reading on, it’s available through February on Netflix.
Mum: Cass Cromwell played by Daniel Mays. Cass is a Protection and Security officer with a mysterious past. He can be a bit of a wisecracker at times but he takes his job seriously. He is completely loyal to President Tate who gave Cass a second chance when he brought him to Carpathia. Officer Cromwell also has a soft spot for his colleague Fleur Morgan (Amy Manson). Mays is an underrated actor who never fails to deliver in the emotion department.
Ross: President Richard Tate portrayed by Liam Cunningham. Originally trained as a geneticist, it’s not known if he was chosen to govern the colony before or after the founding of Forthaven. He is a selfless leader with his primary concern being the welfare and future of his people. But as he will readily admit, Tate has made grave mistakes along the way. Most of all he is a man of dignity and it’s Cunningham’s ability to convey this gravitas that I think got him the role of Davos in Game of Thrones.
Most Hated Character
Mum: Julius Berger played by Eric Maibus, the only American in the cast. On Earth, Julius was the vice president of the evacuation program. He is a manipulative worm whom I disliked from the very beginning. He underhandedly gained passage onto the final transporter. His false piety annoys me to no end. His plot to unseat President Tate is no secret least of all to the man himself. In short, Julius really bugged me!
Ross: I have to agree. I usually love the despicable characters, as I do in G.o.T., but in this particular case, it was obvious he was a rat. (Why is it though that on British shows, Americans still come off as pretentious asses?) A close second is Ashley Walters as XP leader Jack Holt. It was more his scratchy voice than anything that grated on my nerves. He wasn’t necessarily coming from a bad place, but his character couldn’t be any more the cliched military-type bursting with cocky bravado.
Best guest star/character
Mum: I liked Gary Lewis as Patrick Baxter (aka Pak) in episode five. He was a flight pioneer and part of the advanced landing party on Carpathia. He’s been living as a hermit of sorts for the past ten years but makes a flashy appearance in Forthaven as a final farewell and warning to its inhabitants. Also moving was Nonso Anozie as Elijah, one of a clan of genetically enhanced humans, created by Richard Tate, who were then banished from Forthaven. In episode four, Elijah stumbles into town disoriented and fearful. His story was touchingly tragic because we learn he was experimented on which makes him uncontrollably violent and his life unbearable.
Ross: Being a Battlestar Galactica fan, my favorite guest appearance had to be Jamie Bamber as Mitchell Hoban in episode one. (Nonso was a close second.) The original leader of the XPs, Mitchell has a secret about the president that may or may not be contributing to his erratic and violent behavior. This madness leads him to a deadly showdown with PAS forces. Actually watching and loving Bamber as Apollo on Battlestar, it was so interesting to hear him speak in his own native accent.
Special Effects and Technology
Mum: I found the Forthaven compound to be not overly futuristic in appearance or gadgetry. The transports were about the only outer space element. There were a few unique advances like the Deep Brain Visualization machine that helps one relive memories. Used mainly as a crime solving tool, it could also offer solace as most colonists had to leave loved ones behind on Earth. The most troublesome scientific endeavor, ethics-wise, was the creation of the ACs or Advanced Cultivars like Elijah who we mentioned earlier. Of course, after they were discarded for apparently infecting the settlers with a deadly virus, the ACs could not be controlled.
Ross:I sort of like those down and dirty sci-fi films on a budget that utilize realistic technology to take the place of advanced CGI budgets they don’t have. This, to me, honestly felt like a Battlestar series that utterly fell short for the BBC.
Mum: I found it interesting that considering Carpathia is supposed to be a second chance for humanity, all the best and brightest from Earth chosen to repopulate this new society appear to be British… except Julius, of course who we’ve already mentioned is a devious, conniving American.
This adopted planet looks very much like Earth with common physical features like oceans, plateaus and some vegetation though it appears all the food is produced within Forthaven’s perimeter. Carpathia experiences dangerous weather systems called white-outs. And as far as native life forms, PAS director Dr. Stella Isen (Hermoine Norris) confirmed the planet was home to an extinct hominid species. Meanwhile President Tate discovers an invisible alien intelligence that can sicken settlers and manifest copies of given individuals at will.
Ross: This comes around again to the idea that out of the trillions of planets out there, 0.000000001% are inhabitable by humans and possibly within reach by space flight in our lifetimes. Not to sound like a broken record, but it’s the same basic plot as Battlestar Galactica. So it kind of detracted enjoyment from the series because anything that isn’t B.G. just isn’t as good.
Most surprising twist (Lots of Spoilers!!!)
Mum: Cass’ secret past as a murdering thug was alluded to, but I didn’t see the revelation that Fleur was an AC coming at all! She is bright, brave, compassionate, and selfless – truly the best person on Carpathia because she was engineered to be that way.
Ross: Fleur’s twist is worth the whole build up of the show, but that’s about it.
If the series hadn’t been cancelled after series 1, what would like to have learned?
Mum: The obvious question comes from the cliffhanger ending of episode eight. I would have liked to find out who was aboard the clandestine transporter about to land on Carpathia. Would Julius’ coup have succeeded?
Ross: I would’ve liked to learn about those weird troll-like beings that pulled Fleur’s legs out of the tent. Also, I think a few episodes dedicated to the ACs and their leader Rudi (Langley Kirkwood) would be beneficial. The backstory on the creation of the ACs was so weak I didn’t really bother putting any emotional investment in any of the characters. Finally, I would have appreciated more natural exposition about how Earth basically devolved into chaos and WWIII broke out.
Mum: I would give Outcasts a 3 out of 5. Pluses were the cast, the idealism and dedication of the colony to build a peaceful society and the mystery elements of the story. However, I wonder if there weren’t too many subplots going on to resolve all of them satisfactorily. We’ll never know since the show wasn’t commissioned for a second series.
Ross: I gave Outcasts 2 out of 5 stars on Netflix. For me it all comes back to a comparison with Battlestar and the superiority of a versatile and eclectic cast that really hit the nail on the head. Ironically Gaius Baltar, the villain of B.G., was a British actor (James Callis) who got to keep his own accent.
Join us next time as we discuss the return of England’s best known paper salesman in David Brent: Life on the Road.