SF elements: alien planets colonists
[searching for a plot]

2011 / TV

8 x 45 min episodes


We lasted two episodes.

Look, setting Eastenders on an alien planet does not make it science fiction. It's perfectly possible to have people-based SF. It just needs some SF as well as the people! And adding in a few random plot devices of (implausibly mature) clones and interstellar travel and brain scanners does not make it SF. Oh wait. Yes it does. It just does not necessarily make it good science fiction.

[orange guns, grey clothes]

The problems start right with the title. These people are not outcasts (unless you think Gaia is the outcaster). These are brave colonists, building the last best hope for a dying Earth. As such, how do they cope with making a living on an alien planet? Is the local flora and fauna hostile, or edible? Where is their food coming from? How do they cope with a small population base and a decaying tech base? Who knows -- it's all about people being nasty to each other, and wearing grey, but well-tailored, clothes. They've been there 10 years : these can't be their original clothes, but clearly the local plants can't be used for dyes. And it can't be explained away by saying they are concentrating on colonial business: they have other frivolities, like bars, and music, and allowing people to be deadbeats. It's just not thought through.

Good SF puts a few, or a lot, of tech changes, and follows through the consequences . Clothing is just one point. Here's another: we have a brain scanner used in episode one as an infallible lie detector to get the unsympathetic bystander off the hook, leading straight to the real bad guy. Episode two, we need to find out if another bad guy is a murderer. Use the brain scanner? But we can't, because we want some ambiguity here. Rats, our made up tech is too powerful! (rather like the Star Trek transporter). So we need a reason why it doesn't work. Okay, let's make up a legal system where the accused can refuse to undergo the scan. Problem solved. Oh, wait, why didn't the previous guy also refuse, since he's such a troublemaker? Rats, didn't think of that. And what of all the other consequences of having a brain scanner like this? It wouldn't exist in isolation -- there would be other consequences of such a technology.

[send in the clones]

And so on -- it's like they're making it up as they go, scattering magic dust around, but forgetting it has implications, or is inconsistent with what went before.

Okay, so the SFnal details are bonkers. But maybe it's pacey mindless fun? No. It's slow, turgid, and worthy. Slow means it's easy to pick holes in the plot. Worthy means the Eight Deadly Words . Maybe it gets better. But I doubt it. The writers don't seem to have the SFnal mind-set. Pity, because they've clearly spent quite a bit of money, going to South Africa, getting a bit set, some SFX. But, the plot. This seems to be a perennial BBC problem with its attempts at "big" SF.

Off to find something more interesting...

Rating: 6
[ unmissable | great stuff | worth watching | mind candy | waste of time | unfinishable ]

reviewed 19 February 2011