I really wanted to enjoy Outcasts.
I loved Galactica (yeah even the ending) and I wanted Outcasts to be just as good. When the Outcasts bitching started (pretty much as soon as the titles rolled on episode #1) I decided to rise above it all and carry on.
But it’s no good. I’ve just watched another episode and I need to vent some of this bile that’s backing up on me . . .
Why is Outcasts so terrible? We have a great setting and decent reputable actors with an obvious emphasis on a character-led plot. There are no bumpy-nosed aliens and a satisfying lack of technobabbly widgets.
It’s badly written, is why.
Every writing book I have ever read, and every class and writers’ group I have ever attended is full of ‘thou shall not tell, only show’.
“Tell is the path to the dark side. Tell leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.”
The dialogue in Outcasts is terrible. Characters are constantly making speeches, qualifying every conversation with an extra exchange or two which may as well be spoken directly to camera, because it’s actually there for the viewer’s benefit and not for the characters. There is no need to reinforce dialogue like this! It either shows a lack of confidence from the writer or it’s patronising or it’s unrealistic – or all three! I’m sure the writer’s have carried out plenty of research, but if you’re going to have a character-led plot you can’t have them constantly spouting Wikipedia entries at each other!
And plot holes.
So many holes that I find myself alternating between laughter and shaking my head as the characters bounce around at random like pin-balls. You meet a dodgy looking guy in the desert and you give him all your guns. Seriously? Is the heat getting to them or what?
So, get ready for…
The Outcasts Survival Q&A!
Congratulations President __________(enter your name here). You’ve been selected from a long list of suitable candidates because you’ve displayed the very best qualities in leadership, team-building and encouraging high morale in your colleagues and subordinates. You have the perfect gritty voice and piercing eyes for the job; and your propensity for wearing dark clothes and the ability to look menacing coupled with your susceptibility for developing personality disorders when suffering the loss of family members makes you the ideal candidate.
Before leaving Earth you have a few decisions to make.
Question: Your colony transport has a limited amount of cargo space. You need to allocate cubic capacity for transporting colonists, food, medical supplies and other essentials for your eventual settlement. Do you:
a. Allocate a few cubic metre or two for extra bottles of high-factor sun cream. Safety first.
b. Drop a couple of the passengers and allocate their space for transporting vinyl records. MP3s might be easier to transport as data, but there’s nothing like the real thing!
c. Separate husbands and wives, leave children behind. Allocate the space you have made available for transporting IKEA furniture. That stuff is so quick and easy to build and it looks great! You can use my loyalty card. To be sensible you should remove some of the Allen keys to save on weight.
d. Allocate the maximum amount of cargo space for transporting colonists, ensuring that family units are maintained.
Note: Before you rush into an answer, IKEA had a killer special offer on last week which we simply couldn’t afford to miss. Give me a shout when you have a free day and we’ll pop down to the warehouses to see what we’ve got.
Question: Which religion(s) are you going to pack?
e. Other: __________(complete as appropriate, but none of that silly ‘Jedi’ business, it’s just not funny any more)
f. All / some of the above (circle as appropriate)
g. None of the above. You will arrange for a new religion to be invented once you get there. You’re sure people won’t mind ditching their old religion for a new one and religion takes up cargo space…doesn’t it? So you can probably take some more vinyl records. Why not grab a box of those Nat King Cole 45s you have in your loft?
Question: You should consider your transportation requirements when you arrive at your destination. Colonists could become separated upon landing and you will need to explore your wonderful new planet. You can’t take flying vehicles because the planet has weird energy fields (no, this has nothing to do with the budget – would I lie to you?). Do you take:
a. Humvees (they’re tough, all-terrain, and they will help keep people safe who are inadvertently caught out during white-outs)
b. Quad-bikes (practical and light on cargo space)
c. Hovercraft (hey, these look fun!)
d. All of the above (why not?)
e. None of the above. Let the colonists walk everywhere. The exercise will be good for them plus you’ll free up some cargo space for more vinyl records and IKEA furniture.
Note: Please consider your answer very carefully if you are considering answers a, b, c or d. We only have a limited budget and we’ve already spent most of it on IKEA furniture.
Congratulations! You’ve now successfully landed at your destination world and established your first settlement. Now, the weather here is a bit rough and it’s playing havoc with your complexion. Do you:
a. Breed genetically enhanced super-humans with skin tough enough to take the punishment, and then perform nasty experiments on them to make sure that if they escape they will return to seek revenge upon you.
b. Wish you’d brought extra bottles of sun cream (I did say).
c. Ask your clever scientists to homebrew sun cream using local plant extracts combined with distilled human faecal matter.
Note: Option ‘b’ doesn’t achieve anything and option ‘c’ is just gross. Come on now.
Bad news. I’m afraid your genetically enhanced super-humans have escaped. There was a nasty virus going around and you figured they’d caused it, so you ordered them to be taken out and shot. Perhaps you shouldn’t have asked the one man who has a worse psychological profile than you do to take care of this, because he just let them all go. Darn. No doubt the additional psychological trauma leading up to this event will compound the damage already done by those nasty experiments – but hey, they were damaged goods anyway.
Next decision. You’re on a strange new world where you could encounter all manner of new dangers. You could be attacked by insect aliens with acid for blood! You could encounter civil unrest from unruly colonists!
Fortunately, you brought along a small contingent of well-trained soldiers who have lots of guns. But you’ve settled in now and you’ve explored dozens, if not hundreds, of square metres around your colony. You’re pretty sure you’ve got this planet sussed. Do you:
a. Disband the military. That crack-of-dawn reveille was just getting annoying anyway.
b. Keep the military on the vague off-chance that the other 99.7% of unexplored planetary terrain still contains nasty aliens likely to rip your face off. Plus you have psychotic genetically enhanced super-humans running around (and for some reason they seem to be in a bad mood). The colonists seem well behaved, but you never know when they might start kicking up a fuss about something unreasonable, like wanting elections for example.
Situation: Another colony ship has arrived in orbit but there was a problem when it tried to land and it was catastrophically destroyed on re-entry. Fortunately, most of the colonists escaped in escape pods and all the pods landed close enough to the settlement to walk to within a day or two. I’m sure you agree this is a stroke of good fortune. At least it wasn’t like the space shuttle accident with debris scattered along a 120 mile corridor hundreds of miles away from where it was supposed to land, or the colonists would be stuffed because you didn’t bring any vehicles to pick them up, did you?
Question: Aboard one of the pods is the daughter of a good friend and colleague, so you send out a group of the ex-soldiers headed up by your most trusted law-enforcement officers to find her. Unfortunately they meet a group of genetically enhanced super-humans (uh-oh). Their leader says they have the girl, but they will only release her if the ex-soldiers and law enforcement officers all drop their weapons and agree to be taken prisoner. Would you advise the group to:
a. Shoot the leader in the face and threaten the same for the rest of them if they don’t release the girl (the US way).
b. Shove a gun into the face of the leader and threaten to do the above (the Guy Ritchie way).
c. Negotiate. Refuse to comply with their demands, offering food, water and medical supplies in exchange for the girl’s safe return with the veiled threat that ‘a’ will happen if they don’t. Hopefully they won’t just kill the girl in the meantime (the UN way).
d. Throw all your guns to the floor and allow yourselves to be taken prisoner (the stupid way).
Situation: One of your genetically enhanced super-humans mysteriously turned up just outside the colony and he looks a bit like the guy out of Green Mile – and that guy had weird bees flying out of his mouth – so you’ve locked him up, just to be safe. Unfortunately he escaped because the jail was actually built from an IKEA wardrobe and he had a spare set of Allen keys on him. He subsequently wounded and nearly killed a female colonist. You’re pretty sure he’s still in the colony so you dispatched your two law enforcement officers to track him down.
Question: One of your officers was chasing the escapee and she nearly died, but the escapee inexplicably helped save the officer’s life and then gave himself up. He told the officer about the ‘bad man’ (that’s you by the way) and the ‘scary red and green lights’ that made him want to escape. Should your law enforcement officer say:
a. “Ah, that explains it. I feel grateful for you saving my life, enough to look over the fact that you could be lying and that you still appear to be having psychotic episodes and you’re obviously a threat to pretty much everyone right now. Let me hide you somewhere.”
b. “Well, I’m grateful you saved my life. But all that stuff about the bad man and the lights sounds implausible. Furthermore I can see you’re quite agitated and you remind me of that guy out of Green Mile and he could handle himself. So how about I arrange somewhere else that’s secure, with no bad men or scary lights? Maybe some new clothes, a jacket that fastens up at the back?”
c. “Yeah, whatever. Get down on the floor! You’re going straight back to jail, do not pass GO!”
Before you rush into your answer please consider that the plot requires the imminent death of this nutter at the callous hands of the semi-retired military, and that’s going to be much easier if he’s bolting from a hidey-hole than locked up in a secure unit (please select ‘a’).
Question: One of your law enforcement officers is trying to explain to the other one about the erratic behaviour displayed by the aforementioned escapee. Is the officer likely to:
a. Explaining that “the temporal lobe is important for the processing of semantics in both speech and vision. The temporal lobe contains the hippocampus and plays a key role in the formation of long-term memory. Messing with this may have caused a personality disorder, which are a class of personality types and behaviours defined as ‘an enduring pattern of inner experience and behaviour that deviates markedly from the expectations of the culture of the individual who exhibits it’.”
c. Tell him “the guy’s had something funny done to his brain and he’s gone bonkers.”
You brought the Internet with you in this box:
The morning the first episode was due to be aired on TV I wrote this on Facebook:
“Don’t forget, Outcasts tonight 9pm on BBC1…
Unless it turns out to be crap, in which I’ll come back and delete this post and pretend I never said anything.”
I’m off now to logon to Facebook and pretend that none of this ever happened.