ALL may not be as it seems when you watch the first episode of new BBC1 sci-fi drama Outcasts.
There are secrets and lies to be uncovered, along with things the human race has never encountered before.
Just who are the outcasts? What lies beyond the boundaries of frontier town Forthaven? And what exactly happened back on Earth after the Shanghai Uprising?
Monday’s opening hour has a lot of work to do in establishing both the characters of the pioneers and an entire planet.
So the series should benefit from the fact that episode two is screened at the same time on Tuesday night.
With subsequent episodes also scheduled on Monday and Tuesday evenings.
My first feature on the series is in today’s (Saturday) Manchester Evening News – and below.
You can also read more at Outcasts: First Look
DANIEL Mays filmed a real cliffhanger on his first day at work in South Africa starring in a new sci-fi drama.
“I was hanging off the side of a mountain on a wire. I phoned my agent and said, ‘This isn’t what I signed up for,’” he laughs.
“I did have a stuntman but you have to embrace these things. It was an incredibly physical job and a very tough shoot.”
Outcasts (BBC1, Monday, 9pm) is an eight-part series featuring a group of pioneers building a new life on a planet called Carpathia, far from home.
Set some time in the future, it appears the Earth has been all but destroyed in some form of nuclear catastrophe with a chosen few making a five year journey to the new world.
As we join them, tens of thousands of survivors have forged a settlement in a town named Forthaven and one last transporter from Earth is approaching.
With episode two screened on Tuesday night, Outcasts stars Liam Cunningham as President Richard Tate, charged with ensuring humanity survives at all costs.
Hermione Norris is Dr Stella Isen, Head of Protection and Security (PAS), waiting to see if her husband and daughter are on the incoming spaceship.
Other cast members include Jamie Bamber, Ashley Walters, Michael Legge and Eric Mabius.
Daniel plays PAS officer Cass Cromwell, who works alongside Fleur Morgan (Amy Manson), and is hiding secrets from his past.
They spent five months away on location filming the drama against other worldly backdrops. “One day one of the sparks (electricians) put a lamp down and there was this hissing sound of a snake on set. You don’t see them back home,” smiles Daniel.
Carpathia has two moons and their lunar cycles create atmospheric dust storms called whiteouts. There’s a small taste of one in the opening hour, with much more to come in episode three.
“That was one of the toughest things I’ve ever filmed but it looks phenomenal,” recalls former Ashes To Ashes star Daniel. “I stood in front of four gigantic fans and they just threw everything at us. I couldn’t hear the other actor in the scene and I lost my voice.”
Although Fleur initially regards Cass as a surrogate brother, romance still survives far from Earth. “They’re very much a double act. It’s a really emotional journey for these two characters,” explains Daniel.
“Cass has been brought to the planet under the wing of President Tate. His is a story of second chances and redemption. He’s carrying with him a very dark and disturbing back story which is explored as the series unfolds.
“Can he forget, escape his past and create this new world, along with everyone else? Because if it doesn’t work, then the human race as they know it is no more. That adds an extra element of emotional depth to the whole thing.”
Amy says: “Fleur is a very passionate, courageous woman and has grown up a child of Carpathia. She got on the transporter when she was about two and maybe arrived when she was seven. So all she’s really known is Carpathia.”
The Scottish actress also saw a fair share of action. “There was a lot of running about, especially episode four. I was running across buildings about 30 feet up, in a harness. We had stunt doubles but you have to throw yourself in.”
Outcasts was created by Spooks writer Ben Richards and first announced in 2007. “As soon as we had the idea, we strategically issued a press release to make sure that anybody else thinking of doing a similar thing knew about it. I then had to start writing it,” says Ben.
He named the planet after the ship that rescued survivors from the Titanic and says the idea for the series came from two different inspirations.
“I was reading about the pioneers in Australia and the settlement there. And then read a quote from Stephen Hawking, saying that humanity is basically doomed and will become extinct. Our only hope is to reach for the stars and settle on another planet.”
You might assume that the humans who have reached Carpathia are the outcasts. But the series has a few surprises in store. “They’re not alone. The first people we meet are not the only group on the planet,” reveals Ben.
“Also some have been outcast and some haven’t. The Earth evacuation programme took a lot of different people for many different reasons. And there’s a big story as to who exactly is on this planet.
“It’s also the idea that all human beings, by their very nature and condition, are outcasts in a way, reaching for each other.”
Daniel was joined in South Africa by his partner and five-year-old son. “We had an amazing life experience. The whole thing was an adventure, both filming and living out there.”
He went on to film a guest role in the new series of Doctor Who, on screen later this year, and has recently been reunited with Ashes co-star Philip Glenister during shooting of Sky1’s new adaptation of Treasure Island.
But he’s kept space open in his diary for a possible second series of Outcasts.
“I’d love to go back. The last two episodes of this series are like a runaway train with a big cliffhanger at the end. I’m really excited to see how people react to it and hope the audience will want to come back for more.”
Episode 2 preview (spoilers):