Last Night's TV - Outcasts, BBC1; Out of the Ashes, BBC4

They're on another planet

Science fiction doesn't float everybody's spaceship, and it has never done much for mine. A couple of years ago, I wrote a book about growing up in front of the telly in the 1970s and a friend berated me for about an hour for not devoting at least a chapter to The Tomorrow People. She took it as a personal affront that the jaunting belt, the contraption they used to travel through time, hadn't meant as much to me in 1975 as it had to her.

No, in those days I much preferred the gripping realism of Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased) and The Persuaders! I only wrote about Star Trek in my book to draw attention to the fact that, contrary to popular misconception, neither Captain Kirk nor anyone else ever said, "Beam me up, Scotty." Nor, for that matter, did Sherlock Holmes in any of Arthur Conan Doyle's stories ever say, "Elementary, my dear Watson". But enough of that, let's get back to the future, and to Outcasts, the BBC's new big-budget drama set on the planet Carpathia, where, after a "titanic disaster" on Earth, surviving human beings have forged a new existence, led by Richard Tate (Liam Cunningham) and Stella Isen (Hermione Norris).

It's been interesting following Norris's career since her big break in Cold Feet of blessed memory. Her female co-stars Helen Baxendale and Fay Ripley seemed more likely to be rocketed into the stratosphere by Cold Feet, and for a while Baxendale was, yet of the three of them it is Norris who now enjoys by far the most successful small-screen career. The last few months alone have seen her bumped off in Spooks, only to resurface as one of the screamingly dysfunctional Manson family in the remake of Bouquet of Barbed Wire, and now here she is again as Stella, Carpathia's head of protection and security, ice-queening it marvellously over her fellow displaced earthlings.

At first, Outcasts rekindled all my old prejudices, and yet gradually, like spacedust into an HS-9433X warp-drive engine, I was sucked in. Maybe that's because the problems of establishing a new society on Carpathia can easily enough be seen as allegorical, in the sense that the purity of any ideology sooner or later gets defiled by human impulses and emotions. Spoiling things for Richard, Stella and their loyalists was a renegade settler called Mitchell (Jamie Bamber), who got bumped off last night, but not without crossly sowing the seeds of revolution. Meanwhile, another spaceship from Earth is trying to land, and it happens to be carrying Stella's long-lost daughter. This we know because Richard managed to Skype the spaceship's captain. Incidentally, jaunting belts were all very well, but I bet they didn't have Skype on The Tomorrow People. That would have stretched credibility too far.

In this evening's second episode (of eight), I suppose we'll find out whether Stella's daughter makes it or not. I wouldn't say I can't wait, but I'm more than mildly interested. Outcasts is well written (by Ben Richards), smartly directed (by Bharat Nalluri), and splendidly acted, although if I wanted to be picky I might wonder why everyone on Carpathia seems able to speak English, albeit with a nice range of accents (RP, northern Irish, south London). Was passage away from a disintegrating Earth not available to the Chinese, for instance? I have a funny feeling that if Armageddon ever comes to pass, it might just be the other way round.

Whatever happens, I don't suppose it will be the benighted Afghans who get out first. Yet Out of the Ashes showed that there is plenty of spirit and hope in a country that in the West has simply become a byword for violence and misery, and it did it through the prism of cricket.

This was a really wonderful documentary, a production I will cite the next time someone grumbles to me that there's nothing on the box worth watching. It told the story of the Afghan cricket team, which was born in refugee camps in Pakistan following the 1979 Soviet invasion, and you didn't have to be remotely interested in bats and balls to find it enthralling and uplifting. Loving cricket, which happily I do, was just a useful bonus.

The great West Indian philosopher C L R James, in his superb book Beyond a Boundary, asked, "What do they know of cricket, who only cricket know?" His point was that proper appreciation of the game requires a general worldliness, though he wasn't thinking of the kind of education you pick up as a wretched refugee from your own country. All the same, the old boy would have been delighted to hear Taj Malik, the hero of Out of the Ashes, opining that the solution to all Afghanistan's problems "is ... cricket".

He wasn't being entirely serious, and yet, as Mr Massoud, president of the Afghan Cricket Federation, pointed out: "Sport is a message of peace ... it builds relations between tribes." Admittedly this was said with a guard standing behind him holding a Kalashnikov, but his words were given proper definition by the rapturous joy with which the Afghan cricketers were welcomed back to Kabul after they had played in the Twenty20 World Cup last year.

Two years earlier, the quest for full international recognition had begun in Jersey, of all places, where in their hotel, the Afghan cricketers disbelievingly watched a bunch of pensioners dancing to "(Is This the Way to) Amarillo". If they were wondering how they ended up with the British and Americans as their self-styled saviours, it was hard to blame them.

Arts and Entertainment
Chocolat author Joanne Harris has spoken about the financial struggles most authors face

books
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from How To Train Your Dragon 2

Review: Imaginative storytelling returns with vigour

film
Arts and Entertainment
Josh Hutcherson, Donald Sutherland and Jena Malone in Mockinjay: Part 1

film
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Characters in the new series are based on real people, say its creators, unlike Arya and Clegane the Dog in ‘Game of Thrones’
tv
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Unless films such as Guardians of the Galaxy, pictured, can buck the trend, this summer could be the first in 13 years that not a single Hollywood blockbuster takes $300m

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Miley Cyrus has her magic LSD brain stolen in this crazy video produced with The Flaming Lips

music
Arts and Entertainment
Gay icons: Sesame Street's Bert (right) and Ernie

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Singer Robin Thicke and actress Paula Patton

music
Arts and Entertainment
The new film will be shot in the same studios as the Harry Potter films

books
Arts and Entertainment
Duncan Bannatyne left school at 15 and was still penniless at 29

Bannatyne leaves Dragon's Den

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The French economist Thomas Piketty wrote that global inequality has worsened

books
Arts and Entertainment
David Tennant and Benedict Cumberbatch

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Affleck plays a despondent Nick Dunne in David Fincher's 'Gone Girl'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty (L) and Carl Barât look at the scene as people begin to be crushed

music
Arts and Entertainment

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty and Caral Barat of The Libertines performs on stage at British Summer Time Festival at Hyde Park

music
Arts and Entertainment
Ariana Grande and Iggy Azalea perform on stage at the Billboard Music Awards 2014

music
Arts and Entertainment

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Zina Saro-Wiwa

art
Arts and Entertainment
All-new couples 'Come Dine With Me'

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Black Sabbath's Ozzy Osbourne
musicReview: BST Hyde Park, London
Arts and Entertainment
Ed Gamble and Amy Hoggart star in Almost Royal burning bright productions
tvTV comedy following British ‘aristos’ is accused of mocking the trusting nature of Americans
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
    Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

    Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

    In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
    Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

    A writer spends a night on the streets

    Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
    Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

    UK's railways are entering a new golden age

    New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
    Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

    Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

    Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
    Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

    Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

    This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
    Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

    Why did we stop eating whelks?

    Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
    10 best women's sunglasses

    In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

    From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
    Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

    World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

    No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
    Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

    Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

    18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    The German people demand an end to the fighting
    New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

    New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

    For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
    Can scientists save the world's sea life from

    Can scientists save our sea life?

    By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
    Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

    Richard III review

    Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice