We could take it as a compliment. On Saturday, BBC America debuts the failed British sci-fi series “Outcasts” in the odd but not unappreciated hope that the non-action-filled, post-apocalyptic drama will not bore Americans as much as it did the Brits.
Anything’s possible, I suppose. “Ugly Betty” fans will be happy to see Eric Mabius as a creepy quasi guru, and there appears, at times, a far-off glimmer of “Battlestar Galactica,” if only in that flat metallic light so popular with interior sci-fi shots. But even accounting for the expositional demands of the pilot, a few episodes in one can’t help but feel that creator Ben Richards is, for reasons of his own, forcing a perfectly well-conceived show to talk itself to death.
Set in 2040, “Outcasts” begins 10 years after a group of pioneering humans have fled Earth to establish the settlement Forthaven on the planet Carpathia (named for the vessel that picked up many of the Titanic survivors.) As Forthaven President Richard Tate (Liam Cunningham) makes contact with one of the long-awaited transports from Earth, expeditionary Mitchell Hoban (Jamie Bamber) returns home. Clearly dissatisfied with the way things are trending — there has been a weapons ban among other things — Hoban, a former hero, plans to take his wife and young son, as well as a group of similarly minded people, and start a new colony. Which is pretty bad timing for Tate, as he waits for what may be the last shipment of humans, including the daughter of Stella Isen (Hermione Norris), the very tense though apparently brilliant woman who heads up the Protection and Security Team (PAS).
Nothing goes as planned, of course, and Tate and Isen must come to terms with their personal losses, past mistakes (i.e. vengeful clones) and the arrival of one Julius Berger (Mabius) who has gained quite a following on the transport despite the fact that he is quite obviously a mad-eyed psychopath.
You would think that these ingredients, with the addition of Fleur (Amy Manson) as the lovely young idealist, her pragmatic colleague Cass (Daniel Mays) and a few other well-cast if rather stock characters, would keep things interesting — there’s even a clone baby! But before anything can happen, Richards feels the need to have several scenes in which two of his characters talk to each other at great length in urgent tones and that quickly becomes a real drag. This is not a David Mamet play, this is a sci-fi drama. These folks are misfit colonists on a planet that, as they keep telling us, they have only begun to understand; surely they have something better to do all day than chat about all the things that have happened, could happen and should happen.
I know I do.