The Aftermath of Outcasts

As the BBC banishes Outcasts to the ravines of canned TV shows, Aaron Lee looks back on why it missed its mark and how it will be remembered.

“This is about secrets and lies,” says the insidious, yet devilishly charismatic, Julius Berger, played by Eric Mabius.

Shame it’s taken so long for Outcasts to make that clear. Coming from accomplished British production studio and makers of Spooks and Life on Mars, Kudos, I was excited for this series long before it began.

A new sci-fi drama shot in Africa, where a group of courageous pioneers strive to build a better future on a distance planet? At last something to challenge the American’s renewed Battlestar Galactica, et al.

Yet things got off to a rocky start for Outcasts right from the moment it touched down. And on Monday, following the broadcast of the series finale, the BBC confirmed the show has been cancelled.

So what went wrong?

In a series where an allergic reaction to an insect bite leads to a sudden rise in emotional tempo after more than half-an-hour of mere blips, quite a lot it would seem.

Despite some likeable characters and plenty of mystique, Outcasts’ biggest problem was one of pace. The golden rule is always to show, not tell – and, boy, did they tell.

Fleur and Cass, Stella and Jack, Richard and Stella, Julius and Jack, Stella and Julius… scenes of long-winded, plot-driving dialogue are frequent, and the show’s pace pays the price.

But beyond that, Outcasts’ plot resolutions were disappointing too. It hinted at originality, with its premier episodes drawing the sand in the dirt for coming conflicts. Yet convention works for a reason. Despite conflicts and tensions on numerous levels – the will-they-won’t-they of Fleur and Cass, the XPs versus the ACs and Richard and Julius’s brooding matches – events continually ambled to stalemates, with both parties afraid to make the first move.

Where was the fire? Where was the undoable act of defiance?

A beacon of hope for British sci-fi that lost its way, that’s what Outcasts is. And despite its shortcomings, I enjoyed it enough to want a second series.

Outcasts’ cancellation is yet another sign of the British television industry becoming more like the cut-throat US, where it’s common for shows to be cancelled after a single series or even their first few episodes if ratings are poor.

It would be a lie to say there isn’t room for improvement. But I’ll tell you a secret, I still hope the BBC continue to commission new, experimental sci-fi drama, because if they don’t, who will?

Aaron Lee

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  • Eric Mabius

    Hello Aaron,

    Wanted to thank you for the fair and equitable summary of a difficult series to pull off. The 1st season was indeed slow to get to any appreciable answers. The 2nd season promised much more of the explosive conflict/resolution only hinted at during our first season. It’s pity the writers couldn’t get us off the ground any faster—Julius was a delicious character to portray.
    Although that’s indeed why I took a break from cutthroat Hollywood and joined the cast of ‘Outcasts’, after the premature cancellation of Ugly Betty—to enjoy story and character development that Kudos and BBC are oft-times lauded for..

    Best wishes,

    Eric Mabius

  • Langelyo xavier

    What a shame this show didn’t get a fair chance. It said right from the start that it wasn’t going to be like the other shows with bug eyed monsters and such. I quite liked the pace and the dialogue. Much of it was relevant and interesting. The interplay between personalities was quite interesting, as were the reveals. I really thought the acting talent brought something fresh to the table rather than the usual spectaculars. Imagination isn’t quite dead -yet.

    I vote for another series. C’mon Beeb, get some nuts!

  • Hi Eric,

    You’re most welcome. And thank you for taking the time to share your views!

    I was behind the show from the start and watched every episode.

    It’s often easy to criticise, so I truly hope my posts on Outcasts, and other pieces of art and culture, have entertained or at least opened users’ minds.

    And don’t lose that spirit, as it’s actors like you that will keep original drama alive.

    All the best,

    Aaron Lee