Tag Archives: sci-fi

Four months of reading, TV and film…

In the four months since I went dark on the blog I’ve been ploughing through all sorts of fiction.

On the literary front, I ploughed through the back-catalogue of Jack Campbell, reading through his militaristic space-opera. Readable, entertaining, and demolished at great pace, if not of any great literary merit. I read the Peter F Hamilton short story collection, Manhattan in Reverse (some great concepts in there), two Ben Aaronovitch PC Grant novels (great dark urban fantasy set in London, reminding me lots of Mike Carey’s Felix Castor books), the latest Terry Pratchett (wonderful, wonderful – more sophisticated and engaging that some of his other recent Discworld books), and a book by a client’s wife, Death at the Chateau Bremont – a fun murder mystery set in the South of France. I’ve got through more of Brandon Sanderson’s back catalogue (including the fantasy/Western the Alloy of Law – great fun!), and now I have a stack of books to get through from Amazon’s 12 Days of Kindle (currently reading the End Specialist about a world in which death is cured (99p on Kindle!), and the final Eragon novel) and from various Christmas presents (including the new Holmes, and some exciting fantasy and SF from Arvind).

TV-wise, thanks to my brother I’ve gotten into Modern Family (funny ‘cos its true), Community (funny ‘cos its off the wall and geeky), and via other recommendations/my own recognizance, Transformers Prime (after the horror of Michael Bay, this was a true wonder of storytelling – absolutely brilliant), Young Justice, Batman: the Brave and the Bold (thanks Arvy, brilliant) and Fringe (trashy but entertaining). I’ve dipped into Terra Nova (meh, Outcasts with dinosaurs) and Parks and Recreation too (not sure yet). I’ve been enjoying the Christmas specials too – Doctor Who nearly made me cry, Eastenders had me on the edge of my seat, and the AbFab specials gave me pause to giggle. Our sole cinematic expedition was to Mission Impossible 4 (a great ad for BMW, and fun as you’d expect it to be), and we watched Kung Fu Panda 2 on DVD on the bank holiday Monday. The Inbetweeners Movie awaits me on DVD…

So I’ve not been idling from that perspective, at least! More recommendations / comments on my reading/viewing history appreciated!

In defense of Torchwood

From Torchwood: Miracle Day ep 107 "Immortal Sins"

So, Torchwood finished last week and as the show reached its climax, the complaints on this blog slowed to a trickle. Whether that’s because people lost interest or started to get drawn into it, it’s hard to say, but from my point of view – whilst the show didn’t reach the heights of Children of Earth – it was good (I’m not the only one that thinks so).

There’s always a challenge for writers when they decide to ‘reboot’ a show (or, as in this case, are forced to by funding circumstances), and the benefit of shows like Dr Who and even Star Trek – is that when they are rebooted, fans know what to expect. That’s not meant to be the same Doctor, or the same Captain Kirk; the settings are different, the context is different, the cast is different. In this case, Captain Jack and Gwen brought continuity and expectation with them, and so many loyal fans, it seems, found the changes a bridge too far.

I have to admit, as someone that is a big fan of American TV, I’m totally baffled as to some of the criticisms leveled at the show; it was too "Americanized"? Really? Why do you think Spooks, Doctor Who, etc., have got more exciting over the years – because they’ve ignored the conventions of American TV production? I’d argue the opposite is true; the episode lengths dictated by most American TV, the scheduling, all of it – has forced British serial writers to think beyond six episodes to longer story arcs, and learn how to tell stories within the stories.

I’ll freely admit Miracle Day wasn’t perfect. Elements of it were slower moving than they needed to be; the episodic sub-arcs didn’t grip and the overall ‘crisis’ only made marginal sense (which is par for the course with Torchwood, but when you’ve waited ten episodes for the climax… you expect more!), but it seems (and this is reflected in a few of the comments) to have been successful at drawing a new audience in. So perhaps it did what it was designed to do.

We don’t know if there’ll be a season 5 yet, but for more insights into the show production, have a read of this interview with Jane Espenson, one of the writer/producers on the show with Russell T Davies, and a longtime cohort of Joss Whedon. I’m hoping there’ll be more.

@Scalzi’s Fuzzy Nation

February 11I started this book on Friday and finished it on Sunday, despite a busy weekend, which tells you a little about how accessible, readable, compelling and, well, short, Mr Scalzi’s latest novel is. Like The God Engines, it’s a departure from his militaristic sci-fi mainstay, but again – as with The God Engines – to excellent effect.

A reboot of a sci-fi novel I haven’t read, I was relying on Scalzi’s characteristic style to make the story entertaining and he doesn’t disappoint. Whilst carrying all the hallmarks of a traditional space-opera, the lead protagonist is a lawyer (disbarred, but not for not knowing the law, as he’s anxious to let people know) and as a consequence the whole book runs more like a particularly strong episode of Boston Legal than a sci-fi space saga, complete with morally ambiguous James-Spader-esque courtroom shenanigans.

The story follows the discovery of a rich seam of natural resources on a colony world in tandem with the discovery of a potentially sentient species, and the legal battles and political maneuvering that follows to carry the story through to its inevitable conclusion.

It’s a lot of fun, highly recommended.

Rule 34 and high concept sci-fi

I love the way Charlie Stross writes; he uses his books to test a theory, and nowhere is this more true and more evident than in his Halting State / Rule 34 novels.

Whilst superficially the stories follow a pair of criminal investigations, the theses tested include the implications of a world of augmented-reality gaming and digital infrastructure gone mad, and examining the nature of artificial intelligence and the potential evolution of spam-filtration into possibly sentient moral arbitration. It’s absolutely fascinating and terrifyingly possible, and when discussed via the mechanism of a criminal investigation and some very weird people, thoroughly, thoroughly entertaining.

Anyway, have finished Rule 34 now. Highly, highly recommended, and I’m looking forward to the next concept Mr Stross decides to test in his Scottish near-future world.

The experience reminds of when I first ploughed through Asimov’s Foundation series – whilst that ended up a fairly typical space-opera, the series initially was a testing ground for a deterministic philosophy of human society and a theoretical science. At least, that’s how I saw it when it was the subject of my BA philosophy of science thesis…

Charles Stross’ Rule 34

rule34Having taken my time with A dance with dragons I was worried it would take me a while to get into my next read, but as I picked Charlie Stross’ Rule 34, I’ve thankfully fallen straight into it (bonus: Kindle edition is cheaper than paperback!).

The follow up to another favourite near-future read of mine by Stross, Halting State, the world of Rule 34 is a near-future Scotland in which a few polis protagonists cope with a seedy, run down, cyberpunk dystopia – filled with semi-believable technology (AR glasses and overlays, 3D printers and the associated black market, etc etc) – which are absolutely fascinating. And Charlie tells of them with his easy, occasionally impenetrable (due to the need to interpret a written interpretation of strong Scottish accents) prose and dialogue.

A ready pleasure.

Unfortunately, at 360 pages, it’s not going to last long. So I’m going to need more book recommendations…

Alien invasion movies-Skyline and Battle Los Angeles

Robbey Battle Los Angeles World Invasion Movie

We watched two Alien Invasion movies recently on DVD-nights-in.

The first, Skyline, is so unspeakably bad that watching it was actually a faintly upsetting experience. In the end, we fast-forwarded to the final scene and retained a sense of lingering frustration as the movie finished up as disappointingly as it started. Alien invasion from the POV of a single skyscraper might make for some dramatic tension, but it’s just not interesting.

The second, Battle LA, is a walking, talking, breathing stereotype of a movie and enjoyable as that. The down in the dumps marine sergeant, the green lieutenant in command, the grunt that’s about to get married, the female soldier… all pitted against an overwhelming alien force with one weak point and one weak point alone.

As long as you can get past the silliness of it (never a problem for me, I love silly), this one’s pretty entertaining, if slightly humourless. It is at least internally consistent – a war of invasion for Earth’s resources – but don’t expect a lot of sense out of it.

The Heroes – Joe Abercrombie

I absolutely blitzed my way through Joe’s First Law trilogy, and made relatively short work of ‘Best Served Cold‘  – the first sequel, set across the sea in the same universe. But I’ve been very slow at getting through The Heroes, another follow up featuring many of the characters from the original trilogy.

Normally, compulsive commute blogging and the return to work notwithstanding, I’d have made more progress here – I read very quickly and yet I’ve taken the best part of three weeks to get two thirds of the way through this one. But I think its the slightly experimental narrative style that’s slowing me down.

Unlike the first four books, which covered a relatively long expanse of time and events, the first four hundred pages of Heroes takes place over the course of three days. You might think this makes for a ludicrously high words to event ratio, but instead what it makes for is a large and detailed tableau of a battle, in which we’re provided insight into characters’ inner monologues, doubts and fears; into military strategy, manipulations and intrigues; into insults, wholesale slaughter and semi-wise philosophy. One scene / chapter will take the point of view of three different characters, one of which might end up dead three paragraphs later before passing the torch to another. It reminds me of the Scrubs episodes when the internal monologue was passed to a character other than Zach Braff – a jarring experience on television, it’s even more bizarre in a novel.

For many this might well be the perfect fantasy novel fodder. For me? I like the larger story arcs – the epic quest, the conflict between good and evil that sits at the heart of this. The character in the novel – Bayaz – that is the driving force for one side of the conflict – is himself contemptuous of the detail of the battle. It’s hard for me to be enthralled…

But as the battle progresses and the pre-ambles complete, the novel is picking up its pace. I imagine I’ll be done by the weekend and looking to add the next Joe Abercrombie to my reading list… His dark, cynical view of the world – tempered by the doubts of his heroes – makes for stories that are quite different from your run-of-the-mill epic quest.

Next up? Trudi Canavan’s newest Black Magician book. Then? I might eventually finish the novel in the Last Chronicles of Thomas Covenant I keep failing to pick up… followed by Eoin Colfer’s take on the Hitchhiker’s guide universe (how did I miss that had been written?), before I wait for the newest book in the Stormlight Archive, Charlie Stross’ Rule 34 and Terry Pratchett’s Snuff to be published – not to mention the latest George R R Martin.

It’s nice to have a few books to look forward to.

The future of human/machine interaction

I’ve been thinking about this one for a while as well. We all know the scene from minority report…

This has been held up as the way in which people will interact with machines, and – indeed – some people have been working to make it a reality.

But is this the way that people will interact with technology in the future? A big part of me thinks no – too much work! Sci-fi tells lots of different stories, and one of the main things people imagine is voice control.

My own feeling falls down a few different paths. I should flag that my agency has clients involved in a few of these fields – Logitech on the more traditional machine interaction side and Nuance on the voice recognition side – but these views are my own and uninformed by discussions with those guys.

1. Traditional man/machine interaction isn’t going away for a while. Mice and keyboards are very effective at getting through many of the tasks we’ve made for ourselves and are very well entrenched.

2. Voice is going to continue to develop. Whilst voice control has always had its fans and its critics, there will be two key things that both limit it and send it on its way. The limitation – is accuracy. In the near to mid term it’s unlikely to reach the 90+% accuracy levels you get when typing. The driving force – is the need for hands free. There are always going to be contexts in which hands-free control over a machine will be important, more so as mobile computing entrenches itself in modern society. So whether its in an industrial context, in a car or on a mobile device there are platforms on which voice would be an optimum control mechanism.

3. Touch. The ‘hot’ interface right now. As someone who owns and uses and iPad and and iPhone I can tell you that I am a convert; initial mediocre experiences on tediously inadequate Windows Mobile devices, unresponsive and stylus-driven, made me very sceptical indeed but the potential of this for innovative and interesting interaction with different applications is tremendous. But I can’t help but feel that the limitation here is the screen…

Which leads me to…

4. AR interaction. I have no idea how far this will go – at the moment augmented reality provides wonderful toys for marketers to play with and the potential for some retail novelty. But if you’ve read Charlie StrossHalting State (as you know I have), you’ll have read of a world in which everyone wears AR enabled glasses, and can overlay ‘layers’ of Internet reality on the real world. So – an overlay of Google Maps on your current view of the street, complete with turn by turn navigation. An overlay of SquareMeal’s restaurant reviews. An overview of World of Warcraft’s avatars, if you are so inclined. An overlay of the police criminal database, giving you information on individuals, crime scenes, etc. Whilst that’s a fun extrapolation, I think there’s scope for more everyday applications, and – as ever – I have no doubt that marketers will be amongst the first to pick them up. Imagine an AR iPhone app, for example, that allowed you to view special offers on a poster, and interact with them to choose the one you wanted to download (app would recognise a QR code, or some such, download the relevant reality overlay from the Internet alongside an interaction protocol, and let you play!). Or imagine a gaming context – in which you could run around, laserquest style, interacting with phantoms like the one in the Lynx ad.

AR is exciting for much the same reason that the Wii was exciting – it involves every day people in an interactive experience – in the real world. There may be screens or bits of tech to support the interaction but over time they will fade into routine mundanity (is that a word? computer says no). Although I do think that perhaps Gmail’s new features might be taking the concept a bit further than it should go.

5. Direct neural interface. Still far away? I’ve not read anything in the mainstream media about this one. A lot of sci-fi features subvocalisation to intelligent digital agents (Peter F Hamilton (link) calls them ‘u-shadows’). I’ve never been sure what subvocalisation is (oh, that’s interesting, wonder what Nuance is doing there…), and over the years of meeting people, the workings of whose minds completely evades me, I’m cynical about the capacity of a machine to interpret the synaptic instructions of a broad subset of humanity. Not without the Cylons taking over, anyway.

One thing’s for sure – there’s a lot going on in this space and it’s massively exciting. Have I missed any particularly interesting ones? Always interested to read.

Interview with Outcasts’ creator, Ben Richards

Further to all the discussion that happened on this blog on BBC’s Outcasts, show creator Ben Richards kindly agreed to take some questions from me (and various fans who submitted them online). He’s had various commitments holding him up and sends apologies for the delay, but below we have his views on the cancellation, the way the BBC handled it, the audience reaction, sci-fi and its fanbase, the show scheduling and more. Hope you find it enlightening – was v. interesting reading for me.

The “big news” is that Ben’s in discussions with Kudos on a way to resolve the series in a different format! More below.

If you want a quick recap of all the discussion that’s happened here, you can read my other posts on Outcasts here to understand where I came from with most of the questions:

New Sci-Fi – Outcasts
Outcasts – mid-season view
Will there be an Outcasts series 2
How to protest the Outcasts cancellation

…and more generally on the Beeb:
Why do ratings matter for the BBC?
Is the BBC good value for money?

Now, to the interview!

The show was written for a “mainstream” audience but didn’t get mainstream ratings. What would these have looked like and how far off were you?
We would probably have been OK if the unofficial overnights had stayed between 4 and 5 m but there is no hard and fast rule. Once we dropped into the low 3s though I knew we were in trouble.

Given the scheduling issues, why weren’t the iPlayer ratings taken into consideration when evaluating the show for renewal (or did it not make a difference?) – the show was cancelled before the show was taken off iPlayer and if the traffic and comments on my blog were any reflection people were watching long after the finale aired.
Don’t know the answer to this as I don’t know how they calculate iPlayer.

Given the BBC funding/license fee issues, and the length of production cycles, was the writing on the wall for a big budget series like this before you even went on the air?
I think the problems were more to do with the fact that it was an expensive show that could only find a niche audience and was therefore not right for 9pm BBC1. In many ways I wonder whether any serious sci-fi show can survive in that kind of primetime slot on a mainstream channel. Certainly, many of the big sci-fi shows have very low audiences but they are also expensive. In general though there are many lessons from Outcasts for ambitious dramas that seek to try something new and challenging. Some of these lessons may be a little scary and I really hope that the experience doesn’t discourage people from trying. Although I would add that very few series of this type will ever “catch” in their first episode and if I had one plea as a result of this it is for a little more patience, especially from those who bemoan the presence of too much procedural drama on TV. Sci-fi in particular often takes a little time to establish its place, bed in its characters, develop its themes etc. Many sci-fi shows really get into their stride in Series 2 or even 3. I genuinely believe that a second series of Outcasts would have made it a seminal TV show. I really do believe that and it saddens me that certain people were so anxious to take a gleeful hammer to it as soon as it took its first steps. But I’m also glad there were also many critics and internet sites who saw that and spoke out in its defence. For example, critics like Ian Wylie and sites like Den of Geek and Outpost Skaro were a massive support to us and I’ll always be thankful to them for it.

What was the show’s budget? (Appreciate this one might not be public domain)
Genuinely don’t know. It involved a lot of co-production.

When you conceived the series, did you plan it as a multi-season show (it feels like you were planning 2-3 series ahead)? How did the writing planning/structure work?
Yes it was supposed to be a slow-burner with stories that would span series. We had much more time to plan Series 2 and had some great character and story developments. And while I didn’t especially agree with some of the criticisms of the show with regard to pacing we had obviously learned some lessons from Series 1 and would have addressed certain issues. We followed a conventional British structure of story conferences involving all the writers and producers rather than the American writers room. This was mainly due to time issues.

How has the fan pressure affected the discussions with the BBC about resolving the plotlines from Outcasts? How many complaints have been received, what has it caused the Beeb to consider? Can I publish that you’re in discussion about some kind of web resolution for the series?
The BBC are certainly aware of the fan disappointment at cancellation but I’m also going to step in and defend the Beeb here because they are under a lot of conflicting pressures and we received a lot of support from them. They wanted the show to work and our BBC execs on the show were nothing but sympathetic and good to work with. They were as disappointed as us that the show hadn’t got a bigger audience although as I say I am beginning to think – especially given the number of people who started watching the show from its first minute – that this low figure was perhaps inevitable.

There were a lot of audience complaints at cancellation – not sure of the exact number but it was very satisfying to me that enough people cared enough to take that trouble. You can certainly publish that we are looking for ways to deal with the unanswered questions in other forms. I have a meeting next week about it and we’re really excited to be carrying it forward.

Was the show promoted enough by the Beeb?
Well I loved the trails and I don’t think more promotion would have changed much. The number who actually started watching the show was around 4.5 million. That’s a very low opening for a mainstream show and I suspect has more to do with the genre than the promotion. What it means though is that you can’t afford to lose any viewers (which almost all shows do) and therefore we knew pretty early on that it would struggle in that slot. We then had the misfortune the second night to be up against the extraordinary juggernaut that was Gypsy Weddings and once we had lost a million viewers on a second outing it was clear that things would be very difficult. Having said that, I was extremely pleased with the way the figures held when our slot was moved to late on Sunday night. To be getting around 1.5 million (which doesn’t include catch-up and i-player) in such a late slot on that day of the week was a testimony to the fact that there was a hardcore of viewers and that the show HAD found an audience (albeit a smaller one than we or the BBC would have liked). And – as we have seen from the response after the end of the show – a passionate one. There has to be a place for shows like Outcasts but I don’t know the answer and it is tricky in today’s climate as you have suggested above.

Who thought the show needed to be 8 1hr episodes (beeb vs kudos vs you vs…)? Had it been 13 43 minute episodes (virtually the same amount of television), do you think it would have helped with the pacing issues, and helped with International syndication/sales? Would that have supported renewal?
Yes I definitely think in retrospect the show would have benefited from shorter episodes. A full hour is standard for BBC1 though. Still, I never thought the pacing would be a big issue as I thought there would be enough interest in the themes we were developing and the emotional stories. Episode 5 was possibly the slowest paced but remains one of my favourite episodes because I think it is lyrical and elegiac and moving. But it could have stood being 45 minutes long as could most of the episodes. Eps 1 and 2 might also have worked better as a 90 minute pilot. I’ve said this before in other interviews but I was the lead writer on Spooks for three series and I know a thing or two about how to pace an episode for action and tension. But this was a different type of show and I do find it interesting that some critics will be incredibly tolerant of different pacing but only when the show in question is American.

What have you learnt about sci-fi / sci-fi fans since working on the show? I read somewhere that you conceived it as a pioneer show and the sci-fi was more or less incidental – yet the fan comments I’ve read kind of make me think that the character of your fans here is probably typical – passionate, absorbed, (somewhat) cerebral people…?
I think that’s a really interesting point. It was conceived as a pioneer show and I didn’t have a big sci-fi background. Even as a viewer I was not a great sci-fi addict although I would always put Bladerunner in my top five favourite films. We’ll put aside whether this was a good or bad thing but I never started with the idea of making a sci-fi series but of making a show about humans trying to start again. Another planet just seemed the best way of doing this and was in line with Hawking’s quote about the only way humanity might survive is in “reaching for the stars”.

When we started there were obviously some sci-fi fans who hated Outcasts because it didn’t have lasers and buggies and uniforms and battles in space etc. This is not to disparage that kind of show but it certainly wasn’t my particular preference or inspiration in any way. But as time went on it was also the sci-fi fraternity who swung most eloquently to our defence because obviously what we were doing was a particular type of sci-fi with a long tradition and I think people started to see that. We were exploring questions of morality and human identity and the possibilities of second chances. There were those who didn’t have the patience to see this though and that’s their right of course, people watch TV for different reasons, and I understand that it wasn’t going to please everybody. But I was glad that those who stuck with it saw what we were trying to do and responded well to it. Many sci-fi oriented internet sites gave us our most positive, thoughtful and considered criticism. And even when they weren’t always praising everything, they at least had the courtesy and respect to engage properly with the show rather than just giving a dismissive sneer or flip putdown. If anything fills me with a kind of existential angst it is that kind of carelessly self-satisfied negativity. I hate it even when it is not directed at me and in any field. I just think it is a form of semi-neurotic bullying and I despise those who choose it as their tone. But I came out of this with a real respect for those sci-fi fans – often derided as geeks and obsessives – who took the trouble to give a balanced and honest appraisal of the show and who appreciated it.

We made choices with Outcasts. We chose not to camp it up, we chose to take our subject seriously. That may have lost us some support I guess but I’m really glad that we did that. I’m a writer who likes humour as well and that perhaps got lost a little along the way but I’m still glad we didn’t go down the road of pastiche and irony and sending up our world. And there’s a significant sector of sci-fi fans who responded very well to that.

Any hints/spoilers as to the nature of the aliens / the fate of Earth you want to share??
I can’t give too much away because we are planning to do something with regards to this. But as I’ve already said the new transporter contains further details from earth and their fate will be linked to that of the host force. The big theme for a Series 2 in whatever form it takes is that of transhumanism – an attempt to create a new species from the Carpathian human stock and the battles to control this process.

With ref to the fan questions, I have answered these mostly but will just add a few general points. The response of those who loved the show has been so brilliant for me and I really want to thank all of those who took the trouble to write and express their views and to campaign for the show. In spite of the difficult first weeks, the growing support for the show – especially on line – was such a relief and has really helped with our plans to answer some of the questions you have in one form or another.

In general the ratings tell us that shows like this will probably never get high enough figures to survive in a primetime position; sci-fi in general struggle with this. Even the most iconic shows tend to have low viewing figures and rely on the passion of their viewers to get them through. Sadly we lost that battle but I’m still intensely proud of what we achieved and grateful to the passionate and eloquent viewers who stayed with us to have their questions only partially answered in Epsiode 8!!! I hope we’ll be able to answer more of them further down the line.

Many thanks Ben for taking the time!

Will there be an Outcasts series 2?

Update 3: The interview with Ben Richards is live here! Read it for updates on season 2, thoughts on the cancellation and the down-low on the ratings.

Update 2: I’ve emailed a bunch of questions (including some reader submitted ones) to Ben Richards, who has promised a response but evidently not had a chance to do it yet. He mentioned being in discussions with the BBC about some kind of resolution to the show, although series 2 didn’t sound likely from our brief Twitter exchange. Will share more when I have it.

Update: The BBC doesn’t seem to be continuing to track for buzz about Outcasts so my more recent posts haven’t been flagged on the official Outcasts page. Fans visiting this page might be interested in my follow up posts: Why do ratings matter for the BBC? and How to protest the Outcasts cancellation. You might also be tangentially interested in this comparative cost of TV license fee chart, across Europe.

In addition, show creator Ben Richards has agreed to talk to me about the Outcasts cancellation. Please submit any questions you would like me to put to him here.

Original post follows…

No, sadly not. Here’s the confirmation via the BBC Outcasts Facebook page, and here’s an interview where the show creator/writer Ben Richards talks about why he thinks it all went down the way it did (not without bitterness.) It sounds, broadly speaking, like it was felt that the show missed its mark in terms of hitting a mainstream audience, didn’t get the ratings it needed (no idea if iPlayer ratings came into play) and misjudged its pacing. The episode length issue is discussed – an hour slot was tough to write for.

I still haven’t finished catching up on the show and will do so in the next couple of weeks and share my thoughts. Will also probably do a final “best of comments” as I’ve had an overwhelming number on here thanks to the trackbacks from the BBC website and there have been some fantastic comments about the show – positive and negative – some of which are worth highlighting! Thanks all for your contributions.

A cynical part of me is a little melancholic if the BBC One controller, Danny Cohen, is going to drive all his television making decisions based on ratings in quite this way (as indicated by this), but I guess if the show was designed for a mainstream audience and had a mainstream budget then its a fair enough decision. Although as per the comments, and as a fan of shows with complex and long-running story-arcs (Joss Whedon fans out there?), it can take a while for these things to build…

As a partial aside, whilst we’ve both been watching Outcasts, Amanda and her brother and mum have been watching a niche piece of BBC4 television, Danish crime drama The Killing. I guess as a BBC4 programme specifically designed for a niche audience the criteria are different (and the critical feedback has been much more consistently positive than Outcasts’), but I can’t help but wish/hope that the kinds of decisions that spur the funding of programmes like that would support things like Outcasts too. Why is all BBC SciFi/Fantasy output ‘mainstream’ (Dr Who, Torchwood, Merlin etc) – isn’t there room for some niche sci-fi from the Beeb?