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 41.

    Please BBC next time you commission a Science Fiction show at least hire a Science Fiction Writer. Ben Richards isn't and it shows. I could be wrong, but I can't find any SF written by Ben Richards.

    From a Science Fiction point of view there are far too many holes for the show to be taken seriously. Take away the poor SF and all that is left is a second rate spooks in space.

    Would that RMS Carpathia would come along and rescue this shipwreck.

  • rate this

    Comment number 42.

    I really wanted to like this as I'm a SF fan and it takes a lot for me not to like something (I watched all of Survivors and Bonekickers!), but this was just terrible. I watched episode 2 as I thought it couldn't get any worse, but it did. I won't be watching again.

    Ben Richards obviously wanted to produce another Battlestar Galactica, which I was a huge fan of. They even went as far as getting Jamie Bamber to star in it, who was also in BSG, but then make the big mistake of killing off the only interesting character in it during the first episode. The bar where Norris' character picked up the Irish bloke was very similar to the bar in BSG, and the introduction of religious guru Julius seems very similar to the BSG character Gaius Baltar, they even have similar names (we've had Gaius, now Julius, we just need a Caesar to complete the set!).

    The acting was terrible - Hermione Norris was very one-dimensional and just repeating her Spooks character. I also found Amy Manson very irritating in this, she was good in Desperate Romantics so I blame the writers. Daniel Mays was just a Cockney geezer - Eastenders in space. The only one I thought was ok was the young boy who played Jamie Bamber's son! I can't believe this series even got past the planning stages.

  • rate this

    Comment number 43.

    I love Sci_Fi but this was absolutey awful made it to 30 mins and couldn't stand anymore....what has happended to the BBC.
    First the drawn out Sci-Fi series attempt recently in a submarine with Minnie Driver and whose name I can't remember and now this rubbish, is this about cutting costs.
    If it is, better to not produce anything and just show re-runs of Star Trek the original series.

  • rate this

    Comment number 44.

    I love SciFi, and lament the lack of it currently on TV, so I watched this with high hopes. Sad to say, far from being SciFi, except the location, it's pretty clear that this is going to a pretty feeble 40 minute adventure stretched out to four episodes by people 'relating to each other man' - in other words yet another soap opera in disguise.

    What ever happened to story telling?

  • rate this

    Comment number 45.

    Got off to a slow start with episode 1 but the characters are building well and like all good SF since Gullivers Travels and The Handmaid's Tale it is really about us and now, like the authors say. Have just played episode 2 for the second time on the i-player. Worth doing. It is tightly structured and the tension is building. I enjoy the stripped down language and the Oxfam shop couture and the sinister born again Berger is a delight.

  • rate this

    Comment number 46.

    Good: interesting themes, deep characters, great production values.
    Bad: slow and boring! too centred around the top of the hierarchy. too little seen of the rest of Forthaven.
    I'll watch the whole series if I can because of the themes and because it reminds me of Firefly. I also like that it's a bit like Red Dwarf but with more than one human and because after ep2 it has reminded me a little of Space: Above and Beyond with the AC theme.

    The slow, boringness may be down to being driven by the overall story arc rather than being episodicly driven. I think Firefly and Babylon 5 got that balance much better.

  • rate this

    Comment number 47.

    Robert Knight, I salute you!

  • rate this

    Comment number 48.

    On cult box website Ben Richards is interviewed regards Outcasts and states that he doesn't mind critical comments as long as they dont just say "I hate it." So my comments are for Ben and as this is his blog I hope he takes the time to read it. I like good sci fi but agree with other reviewers that outcasts feels like strung together 'soap' storylines with a space theme. The biggest flaw is it is written so poorly and carelessly that it has no realism to it. Imagine if the BBC made a serious 15th century period drama and the first episode included a farewell of someone leaving for the United States? And in the evenings a family sat down togehter to tune in their radio? It would be a laughing stock and heads would roll. Yet this is the way Outcasts has been treated. I can hear the reply, "but it's Sci Fi its not meant to be real". True, but the writing and production is meant to make the viewer feel it could be real. Both in Outcasts are so poor, it removes any realism. The examples are mirad. Outcasts is set in the year 2040. At a time when England cant even make a Nimrod, and wont have planes on aircraft carriers till 2018 you expect anyone to believe giant interstaller space craft are ready for emergency situations in 2025! The captain of one of these space craft has to have it explained to him in childlike manner that he should repair his protective sheilds before entry and after 5 years negotiating the universe to Carpathia can't control his crew to wait a few hours to fix them. Does the writer not know the subject at all? Didn't anybody have the commonsense to say this is'nt credible? I could go on and on but won't continue repeating what others have said on this and many websites. Outcasts has paralell themes to 'Day of the Triffids' as both involve a small colony of survivors. In high school(in Oz mind you) Day of the triffids book and watching BBC's original production was part of the school curriculum. It was gritty with many themes that could be explored centering on how society would function. Eg. the capture and abuse of the sighted by the blind. Leaders of the sighted ordering only blind females rescued as they could produce sighted offspring and the decree that husbands should have more than one wife. Compare such to the later remake which, like Outcasts, throws away any sense of reality and turned the whole story into a comic book battle against a meglomaniac. Outcasts is in the same league as the triffids remake. Ben's childish misunderstanding/comtempt for the entire subject is highlighted in his own blog when he proudly declares that his favorite scene (the one that tipifys Outcasts) is the one with the flatuating pig. I would agree with Ben, but for a different reason. One 95% of reviewers seem to share ...both stink.

  • rate this

    Comment number 49.

    At the risk of contravening the house rules ie.posing any comments that 'are considered likely to disrupt, provoke, attack or offend others', I would like to comment on this show. Actually, it occurs to me that the attitude that creates a site that purports to be for free comment and then precludes any risk of offence is rather similar to that of a production company that hires a non-sci-fi writer to create a flag-ship sci-fi show and then peoples an alien planet however many light-years away with the kind of people who actually work in the production company.
    This show is regionalist, boring, classbound, parochial. If this was the product of a profit-driven production company, heads would roll. When will the BBC wake up to the fact that their commissioning process is largely in the hands of meta-management types who either don't care about or don't recognise good writing. It's always, 'how will this look?' 'what boxes will this tick?' 'How does this support the BBC's latest version of its image? Can we sell it to America? etc. By the time all these forces and filters have done their mangling, it's no surprise that there's so much offensively bad content on the BBC. Watching a planet being managed by BBC staff is bad enough, but its the BBC's idea of 'real' people that really provokes. I mean the rough blokes and the friendly oik for example...Anyway I ought to stop now. This program is ***** **** *** ***T!

  • rate this

    Comment number 50.

    My previous comment broke NO rules. I can only guess that the beeb don't like more than one complaint per person.
    I would be quite good if Ben Richards was made to read these comments and take on board the view of the licence fee payers. I felt his initital comment 'The porcine inspiration and driving creative imperative behind all those long and lonely nights working on the scripts' shows the key reason why this production fails on so many levels. Those lonely nights must have been sat out with Teletubbies and Chuckle Brothers playing on his TV whilst he put pen to paper. He failed to grasp even the simple basics of evolution, space travel, gravity, and energy. Stephen Hawkings Universe, repeated last year, would have made him realise how wrong he got it.
    I understand that this series is the story of the characters and how they deal with the situation they find themselves in, but come on... these are NOT real people. I'd like to know where his inspiration came from for these characters and why he feels these psychopaths whould have been selected to colonise a new world. Aside from the massive holes in the fundamentals of creating a society on a new world, I find Ben's choice of character traits to be very poor choice and executed in an appauling manner by the actors. Out of the many posts on this page, it's abundantly clear that Outcasts fails as a good Sci-Fi and perhaps even as a drama. Better luck next time BBC but I won't be watching any more of this rubbish.

  • rate this

    Comment number 51.


    Grow up! So we're meant to enjoy this because it's not as bad as something worse that's not actually on? Maybe people didn't enjoy it because it's simply not good enough. Ep2 got 3.3 million; a catastrophe for the BBC. How long before it's bumped to the graveyard slot?

    SciFi should be able to ask interesting questions, and tell interesting stories, by changing our situation; the way we perceive ourselves. What is the big leap of imagination here? It all seems very much second hand.

    It would be nice to have some interesting science from a Science Fiction show. But then, BBC drama is peopled entirely by humanities graduates.

  • rate this

    Comment number 52.

    Well I think its a direct copy of "EARTH2", a truly bad copy.
    "Earth2" was renown for being "Limp" Sci-Fi and was soon cancelled.
    It only endearing quality was the journey across an alien vista, acid lakes etc.
    We've had the clones, next... the mystic diverse aliens (grendles, and others etc) all with an ancient history/message for mankind.
    I love Sci-Fi but this is badly written pap.

  • rate this

    Comment number 53.

    First of all, Robert Knight (upthread) -- brilliant!

    Second, Ben Richards -- I think you've got the message by now: like all fiction, science fiction needs to be basically plausible. If you have no feel for how to make sci-fi plausible, you should stay away from the genre.

    Third -- "Julius Berger"? That name sounds familiar -- Oh, it's the name of a German civil engineering company that has a big presence in Africa (though, due to mergers, only the African subsidiary still has that name). Curious.

  • rate this

    Comment number 54.

    Well, you've messed this one up already, but here are a couple of pointers for your next attempt, Ben:

    1) Lose the kid. 30 seconds into the first episode and we get a kid reciting poetry. Nothing says 'tedious schmaltz' quite so effectively. Or was that meant to be a warning sign? "Here's the kid, you can stop watching now if you were expecting something that won't make you barf"?

    2) Take some evening classes in writing and learn how to do exposition without throwing in clunking howlers like, "But she did love him, and it was agony for her". Here's a tip, if a line sounds like it was written by a robot, cut it out. Alternatively, make one of the characters an actual robot, so you can give them all the bad lines (hey, worked for Star Trek, but then they had an actor good enough to make a virtue of it).

    3) If you think Sci-Fi means 'Phil Mitchell in Space' then go back to writing Spooks, but I think other posters have covered that already.

  • rate this

    Comment number 55.

    Well I’m enjoying it! Of course it’s not scientifically accurate that’s why it’s called science FICTION folks!! It’s never, ever going to be remotely scientifically plausible or accurate – we already know that it would take several human lifetimes to travel to the nearest potentially earth like planet.
    What a load of old carping! Just let the show settle into its stride – it’s beautifully shot and has some good actors. If you can’t bear scientific inaccuracies or the script you’d better confine yourself to watching documentaries produced by film teams hooked up to continual sodium thiopental infusions! (But if you do remember... no Blakes 7, BSG, Firefly, Dr Who or, dare I say it, Sherlock!)

  • rate this

    Comment number 56.

    [quote]12. At 22:34pm on 8th Feb 2011, tony m wrote:
    Oh dear

    well there is one good thing it can't get worse!!!

    however there is something quite enjoyable about watching something you can pick so may holes in. So I am in a strange way looking forward to the next episode and it leaves me to believe that even with my very limitted writing skills it may be worth applying for a job as a script writer, the bbc must be desperate.[/quote]
    There is another good thing: the joy of laughing at such poor grammar and spelling.

    Anyway... I quite like this program; OK, it is not a cgi-filled blast-fest... more a sci-fi story with the characters as the main driving-force.
    I can quite easily empathise with the plight of the settlers - with the exception of Bates(The FortHaven leader?) whom I would dearly love to shoot in the kneecaps - I don't trust him and think he is a mean person.
    I feel that the themes being addressed in this series are very interesting,
    Is mankind hardwired for conflict?
    Are we doomed to repeat past mistakes?
    Is cloning ethical?
    What are the emotional consequences of a parent disappearing into the heavens 'for the greater good' and leaving their child(ren) behind? Can anyone really achieve 'salvation' from past mistakes?

    This program could do very well... given careful and thoughtful writing and direction.

  • rate this

    Comment number 57.

    Flosshilde1 wrote:

    "Well I’m enjoying it! Of course it’s not scientifically accurate that’s why it’s called science FICTION folks!!"

    I hate, hate, HATE this excuse.

    The essence of science fiction as a genre is that it should try to be as imaginative as possible while at the same time being as scientifically plausible as possible, and not veer into magic or nonsense. To pointlessly defy science, when a small change would make your story plausible without harming the narrative, goes totally against the spirit of science fiction.

    Unfortunately, some dilettante SF writers think science fiction is just an opportunity to write stories without any research, and without any coherent logic. That's not science fiction - it's laziness.

    Flosshilde1 continues:

    "we already know that it would take several human lifetimes to travel to the nearest potentially earth like planet."

    So don't include a line where the spaceship captain says, "We took nearly five years to get here from Earth". How hard is that?

    "If you can’t bear scientific inaccuracies or the script you’d better confine yourself to watching documentaries ..."

    While I like a good science documentary, that's no a reason to ignore the cavalier attitude of much TV science fiction to science. It annoys me when they take too many liberties with history, too. Sometimes liberties can be forgiven if the characters are interesting and the story is exciting, but this show, besides being a serious offender on the science front, is also cheesy, clichéd, preachy and dull. Plus there's a distinct shortage of likable characters.

  • rate this

    Comment number 58.

    @Robert Knight

    Gun Toting Mad Man: Hey, did you ever see me in Battlestar Galactica?
    The Audience: Yes, of course! Now there was a good sci-fi TV series. Except for the... well you know... ending.

  • rate this

    Comment number 59.

    Just saw two episodes of Outcasts on iPlayer... what a phenomenally BAD job! Trying for something between Earth 2 and Lost, I guess... awful dialogue, terribly unbelievable characters, even the baby is ugly!
    By the end of episode I couldn't care less WHAT happens to the fay women, ape-men and unbearably irritatingly blue-eyed , inexplicably Northern Irsish smartasspithecus.
    Episodes 3 and 4? NO THANKS!
    I must have some paint somewhere I could slap on a wall somewhere and, as I watch it dry, smile contentedly to myself and think... "at least it's not Outcasts!".

  • rate this

    Comment number 60.

    "So, it takes 5 years to get to Carpathia... is that ship time, or planet time? Does the writer even know that there's a difference? (It's relativistic time dilation.) So how far away is the parent star? It must be at least four and a half light years. "

    Well we do not even know there propulsion system, may they were even travelling faster that lights.

    "Also, why all the obviously Earth vegetation? Why no alien flyers in this lovely dense oxygen-rich atmosphere? No animals? Not realistic, is it? What a disappointment. Yet another SF series with appallingly bad science. It matters, you know!"
    It called TV budget, showing all that cost a awful lot of money, whole an people do not seem to complain about that in DW, which is double standards if I may say so.


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