Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Outcasts (Episode 1)

My, that was depressing.

Despite the wonderful views and weather of the planet named Carpathia after the ship that rescued passengers from the doomed Titanic by its new settlers, things generally seemed grim in this new sci-fi drama. Everyone seemed unhappy. President Tate (Liam Cunningham) had lost his children to some halo-inducing virus, his wife couldn't cope and is also nowhere to be seen, and there's a secret splinter group of settlers wanting to leave his town of Forthaven that he's worried about. Stella (Hermione Norris), PAS leader (standing for Protection and Security, I think) is missing her husband and daughter - both of whom had not yet made it to Carpathia - so she spends her time reliving memories of them in a DBV (deep brain viewing) chair and having meaningless sex with younger men. And then there's the heroic explorer Mitchell (Jamie Bamber) who has gone a bit mad, attacked his wife who was spying on him, abducted his son and left the settlement to find his freedom. Even the idealistic Fleur (Amy Manson), who apparently loves their new settlement and believes they can make it work, seems drearily depressed about the whole thing.

It's also a little plodding. The storyline ambles along, with folk peering moodily into computer screens whilst a new transporter from Earth nears orbit with heat shield problems (or something like that). BTW, even the captain of this new ship seems depressed. It's not quite a glacial pace but a little more action would be welcome.

That's most of the bad news.

The good news is that the performances are generally very good. I especially like Cass (Daniel Mays), who harbours some dark secret but also seems like the most normally adjusted person on the planet (which considering we first see him taking a cloned piglet for a walk on a lead, is perhaps saying something). The views are certainly pleasant, although the size and scope of Forthaven inside the town doesn't match the view from outside; due to a lack of extras it seems like there's only a few dozen people living there. There's also some interesting mysteries hinted at during the sluggish story line. Things like a group of people who Mitchell was supposed to execute but didn't and who are probably the "aliens" who attacked Fleur and Cass in their tent. Also, there's a strange virus known as C-23 that supposedly wiped out many of the children in Forthaven. And, finally, why the President and Stella are concerned that Julius Berger (Eric Mabius), head of the Earth Evacuation Programme, may be arriving on the planet.

Still, after the many unexpected, but in a way refreshing, deaths in just the first episode - Mitchell, his wife, most aboard the transport ship (except for a few 'lucky' ones in the life pods) - the main impression I came away with was that this mystery-strewn sci-fi drama was just a bit too gloomy. And yet, I also found it oddly interesting and thus will be watching further episodes, hoping that the mysteries and drama start to shine through the dusty glumness.

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