Friday, 11 February 2011

Is There A Doctor In The House? [Review: Outcasts]

The challenge for every BBC producer on a sci-fi show: to not end up making another Doctor Who. Other UK channels don't really worry about this, that's why ITV were able to make Primeval. However I suspect it’s thanks to this creative pressure that the BBC came up with Life On Mars and Being Human.

The first episodes of a new eight-part series, Outcasts, premiered this week and it does seem to promise something different. Carpathia is a ten-year-old off-world colony with a few teething problems. They’ve survived some sort of plague, there are divisions between the trigger-happy security officers and the emerging bureaucrats, and everyone has some kind of secret past or emotional baggage. Meanwhile a shipload of refugees from disaster-stricken Earth repair their damaged ship in orbit, hoping to survive the dangerous atmosphere and join the colony.

Ashley Walters and Hermione Norris

The scenario is colonial sci-fi in the tradition of countless Golden Age authors – Anne McCaffrey springs to mind, as does the Heorot series by Larry Niven and other authors, and the characters also come straight from this sub-genre: in particular Jamie Bamber's maverick anti-hero Mitchell.

This is the kind of situation where The Doctor and Amy would leap in, resolve everything quickly with a combination of luck, smarts and that annoying sonic screwdriver thingy, then disappear during the celebrations. In the absence of this wizard and his magic wand, the colonists of Carpathia will be forced to deal with their own problems, and the consequences of their mistakes will be played out in full. Watch this space.

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