The inspiration behind Outcasts

Monday 7 February 2011, 15:17

Ben Richards Ben Richards Writer

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"Look at the pig!" I shouted to my wife as she came in, while I was watching rushes of Outcasts early on in the shoot. "It's a real piglet."

As if to prove the point, the pig farted, squealed and peed on the floor of the set.

"Cut!" shouted Bharat Nalluri, the director, a little wearily.

Danny Mays - playing Cass Cromwell - giggled. And I smiled.

Pigs In Space: The porcine inspiration and driving creative imperative behind all those long and lonely nights working on the scripts.

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They weren't of course. The inspiration behind Outcasts was the desire to tell a pioneer story, and the only place you can do that really now is in space.

I wanted to explore second chances, most fundamentally whether humanity is genetically hardwired to make the same mistakes again and again.

The stories that kickstart the series are intense, and hopefully moving, but the world view is never cynical or wilfully pessimistic.

Part of my inspiration was to write against the kind of world view developed by William Golding in Lord Of The Flies, and the planet of Carpathia is not a dystopia - it is named after a rescue ship.

It would be silly to think that a pioneer community wouldn't have all kinds of conflicts and problems - the drama lies precisely in those political and emotional challenges.

But ultimately, it is a show about hope and human dignity.

Ashley Walters as Jack Holt and Hermione Norris as Stella Isen

It is about one of the most attractive aspects of our species - our ability to think morally, to empathise with the suffering of others, to sacrifice self-interest for our loved ones or even people we don't know.

One of the most enjoyable aspects of any new show is meeting actors I have not worked with before.

I knew Hermione Norris from Spooks, where I had loved writing her character of Ros Myers.

But I hadn't worked with any of the others and they brought an energy and enthusiasm, which I really think shines through in the show.

I particularly love the dynamic between Cass and Fleur, played so beautifully by Amy Manson and Danny Mays.

But all the actors brought something special to their parts.

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I always have lots of favourite scenes, such as Jack (played by Ashley Walters) and Cass bound together and bantering in episode two, and the conflicts between Tate (Liam Cunningham) and Berger (played by Ugly Betty's Eric Mabius).

Then there's Tipper remembering his dead sisters, Stella's face as the transporter in episode one nears the end of its journey, and Cass and Fleur's agonising last scene together in the final episode.

But it is the piglet, of course, that wins by a snout.

Snatched from the barbecue coals by Protection And Security (PAS) officer Cass Cromwell - an image of survival against the odds that lies at the heart of our show.

Ben Richards is the writer of Outcasts.

Outcasts starts on BBC One and BBC One HD at 9pm on Monday, 7 February.

For further programme times, please see the upcoming episodes page.

You can follow updates from @BBC Outcasts on Twitter, and also share your thoughts on the show with the production team on the BBC Outcasts Facebook page.

Comments made by writers on the BBC TV blog are their own opinions and not necessarily those of the BBC.

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  • rate this

    Comment number 21.

    I just read an interview with the writer/creator who says 'it’s very rare that somebody says they’re absolutely gripped by Episode 1 of a show'. Has he ever seen the first five minutes the Breaking Bad pilot episode? If he needs five episodes to draw in the audience that then why is he a writer? I knew the plot of Outcasts beforehand and was still wondering what the hell was going on after the first ten minutes, like it had started from a later episode. He should get some lessons on the fundamentals of writing like how to create a compelling, original and believable story.

  • Comment number 22.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

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    Comment number 23.

    Utter Rubbish

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    Comment number 24.

    Good soundtrack....and thats about it.
    So much hype and build up only to be let down by a poor script, poor acting and monotone dialogue.

    The writer should know that the Cylons and the Others from Lost have already been done, as have mysterious monsters / aliens we dont quite get to see yet, and that the shields failing on a space ship do not leave an audience wanting more.

    You can tell when a show is doomed to fail as they include "Dead" scenes such as a kidnapped girl attempting an escape, the shaky cam follows her, the music starts hyping up...only for her to be caught 5 minutes up the road by the bad guys and taken back to where she just came from....WASTE of story telling and air time.

    Nice intention, awful delivery!

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    Comment number 25.

    Ah, Ben, there's your problem:

    "I wanted to explore second chances, most fundamentally whether humanity is genetically hardwired to make the same mistakes again and again."

    What you should actually do, as a writer - and especially one for TV - is to think up an interesting, varied and credible plot based on characters who are dynamic, independent and reveal themselves through their actions. Any 'themes' should then arise from the way the plot and the characters interact. By trying to illustrate your theme instead, you've created a series of dull, undramatic scenes populated by dull, worthy and insipid characters (who don't have a funny-bone between them). You don't reveal character by having people tell each other things or shouting, especially not by having characters talking to dead people (e.g. Fleur).

    You must conceive of your storyline for the episode, then divide it into scenes where the characters have the opportunity to do things that reveal what's important to them. If you have an hour to fill but your plot isn't full enough of interesting events, you don't fill out the hour by sitting a couple of the characters down and having them maunder on at each other. You invent more plot twists instead. Nor do you create false 'drama' by having characters do ridiculous things - like Jack rising up at the moment of the 'hostage transfer'. The drama and conflict should be created by characters having different goals and finding ways to achieve them, not by manufacturing moments of apparent crisis that are in fact unrealistic.

    Sorry to have been so basic about this, but it sometimes seems as if BBC writers need some tuition in the fundamentals of TV drama. Or you could all watch Mad Men and Breaking Bad until your eyes bleed.

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    Comment number 26. it me or does Carpathia sound a little to much like Caprica?

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    Comment number 27.

    Hello, me again, the one who complained about the poor science content... but am I the only one? Doesn't anyone else find it odd that a planet with an oxygen-rich atmosphere containing no poisonous (to us) gasses (clearly, as people can breathe it) contains no flying life-forms? Either tiny, medium, or big? (I'm not going to use the words "insects" or "birds", as that's just life on Earth). And why green "plants"? With leaves? Is that likely? (Possibly.) And what's the local g ? Clearly, nearly 10 m/s/s ! And a local "virus"? Really? Are viruses found all over the galaxy, then? (Possibly.) But why no animals? And what about those bipeds? Why not tripeds? You see what I'm getting at... this isn't Earth (and certainly not Wales, as one commentator suggested!)... so why does Carpathia look like South Africa? Where are the big flappy flying things? Where are the weird 7-legged tubby cylindrical animals with 7 eyes, evolved to receive the unique light wavelengths that reach the ground here? Where's the unique geology? OK, nice touch with the "white out" - but how is this different from a sandstorm, and why? Science Fiction is not just about characters and plot - it's also about weird new places, animals, geology, etc. All convincingly plausible, to a reasonably educated person. Carpathia just hasn't been thought through, in my opinion. Doesn't anyone else agree?

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    Comment number 28.

    Looking back over the comments, it seems that SuperSlim has some views that accord with mine. So maybe I'm not the only one... Science really matters - you can't ignore it, just for the sake of a good "human" story...

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    Comment number 29.

    Much better than any other recent BBC attempt at Sci-fi. Although I hope the religiony stuff doesn't go all Battlestar Galactica.

    To be honest I would be more interested in the inspiration behind the bizarre scheduling decision. Monday and Tuesday evenings, and then nothing until the next Monday? Well it's certainly innovative I suppose. And annoying.

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    Comment number 30.

    apparently Juliet Aubrey is in one of the episodes . She is my favourite actress ever...hopefully Outcasts will get better when she joins the team.

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    Comment number 31.

    Such a disappointment. Not really Sci-Fi. Could almost have been based on Earth; in fact with a nasty piece of work called Mitchell in the first episode it could have been Albert Square. So they kill Mitchell off in episode one, but then replace him with someone else equally unpleasant but with brains (and religion!). I gave the second episode a rather painful thirty minutes but just had to turn it off. And how did they get there without breaking all the laws of physics?

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    Comment number 32.

    I agree with you Spludge, and every one else, I probably agree with the missing comment by Superslim. I cant agree with ticjaki, look at the posts, you and Mick (survivors had all the same problems Mick) are the odd ones out, what you smoking.
    I don't need funny looking aliens, but I do expect plausible conversation and events.
    Being a sci-fi fan, I was hugely disappointed, so many scenes that would not of been done that way if it was real. When Cass and the chic went after the nutter who kidnapped his son, on approaching him from behind, they did not have their gun's out ready, that is just one scene out of too many to write here. As for the stupid stilted dialogue, the only person in the show with charisma is the young drug taker (no hope there then). Lily walks past mother, "your not my mother, you left me", up in the hills she said "I'm not going to see her am I" or words to that effect, and for goodness sake, she was three when mother left, and only eight when when she got on a ship to follow, so is that the best she could say on meeting mother. No, I think the writers are treating us all like ticjaki and Mick, gullible, willing to sit there brain dead and fed rubbish.

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    Comment number 33.


    To an extent I agree with you, but I get the impression there's quite a bit of plot yet to play out, so there might be some justification. I thought they at least made some attempt to make the vegetation look slightly strange at times, and we haven't seen any alien life at all so far.

    Where I do agree is that there just doesn't seem to be enough justification for the nature of the settlement. The sets look like they were built by set-designers to look good rather than with due thought given to what would actually be there.

    On the other hand, the programme's not all bad - at least it looks pretty in HD :)

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    Comment number 34.

    My heart sinks every time I hear the words "BBC" and "science fiction" in the same sentence. It seems to me like the Beeb is embarrassed by the popularity of science fiction and somehow thinks that it is beneath them. It is like they think that Star Wars and Star Trek are all science fiction is and that the only people who like it are teenage boys who cannot get a date. It was not always like that: 1984 starring Peter Cushing and the Quatermass series were landmark works which were daring and exciting. Even Dr Who, for all its battiness, used to have stories that could be enjoyed by someone over the age of 15. I am not so picky about some of the science behind it. What disappointed me was the half-heartedness of the writing. For example, here is a fort with big steel doors to protect people from - nothing, really, not even any animal life (apparently). Yet these big steel gates are no use whatsoever against white-outs. Then there seems to be no means of food production, so how do they eat? Yet they have sufficient resources to run a bar. The writer has taken a wild west fort where supplies could arrive within weeks and plonked it down in an alien environment which is five years travel from any supply source. Then there is Fleur who, when she is not shooting someone for allegedly beating up his wife (although she has no evidence), is tutting about the moral decisions of those around her. Still, the good news is, I do not have to watch it. There are plenty of other channels out there, thank God. Still, it does go towards explaining why the BBC is not a prominent feature of my viewing decisions

  • Comment number 35.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

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    Comment number 36.

    Basically this is stock script-writer characters with stock script-writer motivations, views and reasoning and situations but set in space.

    This is so unbelievably bad. It's a kind of survivors in space. Stella Isen talking about her daughter Lily - Julie Graham going on and on about Peter. Both supposed to be strong women yet seem to be more on the verge of a mental break down.
    Then there are the characters...
    Mitchell -appears to be someone who is at ease out exploring the new world the settlers are now living in rather living huddled in Forthaven with the rest so the script writer makes him the bad guy.

    Questionable morality and wisdom:
    President Tate - kill all the clones, they might have been carrying a virus that killed my family.

    Then there is:
    Fleur Morgan - shoot dead my best friend's husband because he hit her
    Cass - Let's give all our guns to these unknown, unarmed scary strangers who are probably violent and let them take us hostage so that they can kill us with our own guns.

    I've deleted the rest of this comment as iloveanimalprograms, keithyd, splashdown30 etc have phrased this so much better that I could ever do.

  • Comment number 37.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

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    Comment number 38.

    Given that currently there is very little to keep an audience coming back for more each week, the writers (if they havent done already) might want to think about taking the story backwards to when the first settlers arrived. OK so its a bit "Lost" in its style of story telling but I'd most likely watch an episode or two if we were given a little bit of why the settlers had to leave earth, what it was like on earth in their final days, what is was like when they first arrived on the new planet, the relationships the characters had prior to arriving and what drove them to become who they are now.

    It may not be an original way of presenting a story but simply dumping the audience into episode one with very little to go on, is possibly why this show is not likely too see a second series.

    SyFy has moved on from guns and aliens and baddies chasing the good guys. If you want that kind of experience, you go and buy an XBOX or sit through the "Predator" films. People I think are more interested now in what could possibly happen and want realistic stories that we can relate too, even if by just a little bit.

    I am actually quite dissapointed and have to start hunting all over again for another show that has the potential to replace greats such as BSG, Lost, Ashes To Ashes and oddly enough, SGU. (sigh)

  • rate this

    Comment number 39.

    I enjoyed this drama with its slow building plots and high emotional points, looking forward to the next episodes.

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    Comment number 40.

    I have watched the first two episodes of the TV show outcasts, the story line is weak and disjointed, the rousing speech given to the transporter by Tate to help settle the passengers contained nothing to invoke calm and reassurance about the final entry phase into Carpathia. The impact of the escape module appeared to be made by piling sand around a set as opposed to refecting an impact crater. In fact one of the views from a distance showed no sand piled around the capsule at all. There appeared to be one survivor of the this capsule when the Lili was taken but when the rescue crew arrived there were bodies lined up under the parachute canopy which it was revealed had been "Finished off". The issue of giving up your weapons when faced with inferior odds and less than well armed opposition is fantasy, the use of the SA80 as a combat weapon of choice is spurious, as were the clones. I was dissapointed that something which had the potential to have been good was spoilt by poor research and delivery. The girl who was so quick to shoot Mitchell was equally as quick to discard her weapon, which incidentally she should have been shown how to hold and use correctly. I could go on and these are only my opinions and observation but the BBC has a reputation to consider and this series does nothing to enhance it.


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