Outcasts: Season One (Blu-ray Review)

British television has delivered some of the strongest comedies of the past two decades (and, if you want to go really technical with it, they’ve been doing it for much longer than that.  Indeed, for the true comedy aficionado, the BBC must be recognized for being as important to televised comedy as, say, HBO or NBC’s Thursday-night lineup.  If you watch a lot of TV comedy—as I do—then you’re probably intimately familiar with shows like Extras, Spaced, the original version of The Office, and a dozen others.  But what about science fiction?  Can the Brits do sci-fi as well as…well, as some American networks can?  Fans of Dr. Who can probably answer that, but as a non-Who fan, I have no answers.  Perhaps the recently-released Outcasts (from BBC One) can help clear up this mystery. 


The Series 

I’d not heard of Outcasts before the fine folks at WhySoBlu.com sent it to me for review, which I took to mean any number of things.  As a fan of British television (particularly Brit humor), it coulda been that Outcasts simply flew under my radar, and that I was in for a pleasant surprise.  Conversely, it coulda been that Outcasts was so lame, no one had even bothered mentioning it Stateside.  Based entirely on the premise written on the back of the Blu-ray’s case, it certainly sounded like something I’d give a shot to (a post-apocalypse sorta deal, where the last remnants of Earth are sent to a new planet, where they can then begin the process of ruining another large chunk of real estate for themselves), but at about eight hours, I was definitely hoping for the former:  if this one sucked, it was going to be a beast to get through.

As it turns out, Outcasts fell somewhere in-between for me.  Fans of post-apocalyptic fiction (such as myself) need to be aware that the actual “post-apocalypse” elements of Outcasts are turned way down in favor of the human drama (and, in the later episodes, the alien drama—or is it?!) and the sci-fi elements, all of it playing out across a fictional planet called Carpathia.  See, the Earth has been run ragged by the human species, and so—as people often do in stories like these—a group of settlers travels to Carpathia in order to create a new place for humans to kill one another over trivial disagreements.  When the series picks up, the original settlers have been on Carpathia for awhile, and the last transport ship from Earth is orbiting, ready to land…well, kinda:  they probably won’t make the trip through the atmosphere, so there’s some technical kinks that need to be worked out before they can check into their rooms, planet-side.

The arrival of this new spacecraft—and how the new settlers interact with the old settlers, some of which are holding grudges against one another (but of course they are)—is the catalyst for much of Outcasts’ story, and though the first episode was decently-written, well-acted, and appeared to have been produced with a moderate SFX budget, I found myself unmoved by anything I witness during that first hour’s worth of the series.  I’ve dabbled in sci-fi series before (Battlestar Galactica, for instance), though only rarely, and I’ve noticed that every sci-fi series that I’ve managed to stick with has had an opening episode that grabbed me immediately.  Outcasts did not do this, and so I resigned myself to the fact that the rest of my time spent with the series might very well turn out to be a tedious process.

But, y’know, it wasn’t.  As with any series, there are highpoints to this show (the episodes don’t have specific titles, but “Episode Two” was stronger than “Episode One”) and there are lowpoints ( the tedious “Episode Three”), but as the series goes along and you get a little more invested in the characters’ plight—not to mention the sometimes-mysterious happenings on Carpathia (“whiteouts”, skeletons of non-humans found sitting around, the possibility of an alien threat, and so on)—you might find yourself plowing through the episodes a little more quickly than you did in the beginning.

The colony where these folks live—Forthaven, whose name is only slightly less imaginative than the set design on display here—all seem to fill out a variety of sci-fi series stereotypes:  there’s the gruff, no-nonsense leader (who’s also got a soft spot for the right people);  there’s the witty female doctor who may or may not have a romance brewing with another settler;  there’s the “wacky, dumb…but not as dumb as he might initially seem” character (who enters the series accompanied by a farting pig)(no, not Courtney Love).  All of these people perform the lines that were written for them admirably, but none of them do anything compelling with the material.  It’s all just very bland, very by-the-book, very “Meh”.

I wasn’t a big fan by the end of Outcasts’ eight-episode run, but I definitely enjoyed the second half of that run more than the first.  That said, I had issues with the series’ ability to wrap things up (by the second-to-last episode, you’d expect a lot of the show’s “mysteries” to be solved, but when they weren’t, I foolishly expected them all to be wrapped in the final episode…which they weren’t), and the fact that the series didn’t do so hot on British television leads me to believe that some of the dangling questions we might have here will go unanswered.

With that in mind, I’m not going to recommend this one unless you’re a hard-core sci-fi nerd.



Well, at least all those unsolved mysteries and sometimes-tedious human dramas look really nice, eh?  The show’s presented in 16:9 1080i HD, so it looks pretty damn good, and—because the bulk of the show takes place on a dusty, bright, sunlit planet—there’s a lot of detail to be seen under the show’s pervasive brightness.  I was satisfied with the video presentation here, but it wasn’t so good that I’d yank Outcasts off the shelf as a “demo disc” for my non-Blu-ray-obsessed friends (also, screw those guys, maybe I will make ‘em watch Outcasts).  Special features are presented in standard definition, by the way.


Decent, passable, but nothing you’re gonna write home to WhySoBlu about.  The audio’s Dolby Digital (Stereo), so nothing very impressive going on here.  The show features a few scenes and sequences that might have benefitted from a more immersive sound design (those whiteouts, for instance), but…oh, well, it really doesn’t matter.  Even if this thing had the best audio I’d ever heard attached to a Blu-ray set, it wouldn’t really effect my overall opinion of the series.  You’re not buying this for the audio, anyway.

Special Features 

Here’s where Outcasts really falters, non-plotwise.  The makers of this series could have attached a few deleted scenes, or maybe a few “Bonus Scenes” to smooth out some of the lingering questions fans might’ve had about the series (then again, maybe that would’ve required extra shoots, and—given the show’s lack of popularity when it aired—that was probably never gonna happen), but they didn’t.  We don’t get any further understanding into the characters or the mythology of the show in the special features suite that’s presented here.  Instead, here’s what you’re getting:

OUTCASTS: Reach Out to The Stars—wherein a series of talking head and behind-the-scenes interviews will make you jam your finger into the fast-forward button on your remote.

FORTHAVEN: Set Tour—in which we take a tour of the colonists’ home-away-from-home (read:  their Carpathian settlement), Forthaven.  Some of the set design’s kind of impressive, but again:  you’ve seen better stuff on better series, so unless you’re a diehard fan of this show, you’re not going to care.

And…that’s it.  That’s all you get.

Final Thoughts 

Once we’ve taken the pretty-much-nonexistent special features, the weak-sauce audio, and the passable video into account with the slightly-passable series itself, Outcasts is a package that you can absolutely feel confident skipping.  While I’m sure that there are some sci-fi fans out there who’d just go crazy for this series, I can’t imagine that such people are anything other than raging sci-fi fanboys, ready to ingest anything with the “sci-fi” label on it.  Right now, FOX is airing a new series in primetime called Terra Nova, and the bland, boring, “You shouldn’t be wasting your time watching this” vibe that I got from that show immediately reminded me of the vibe given off by Outcasts.  Unless you’re absolutely starved for something sci-fi-related, British, and passable, you should look elsewhere (say, have ya seen all of Battlestar Galactica?  Watch that instead).




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