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.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Feeling all at sea: Barbara's 18-year-old son came under the influence of a Canadian libertarian preacher – and she had to fight to win him back
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Living the high life: Anne Robinson enjoys some skip-surfed soup
TV review
Arts and Entertainment

Great British Bake Off
Arts and Entertainment
Doctor Who and Missy in the Doctor Who series 8 finale

TV
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Chvrches lead singer Lauren Mayberry in the band's new video 'Leave a Trace'

music
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Home on the raunch: George Bisset (Aneurin Barnard), Lady Seymour Worsley (Natalie Dormer) and Richard Worsley (Shaun Evans)

TV review
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Strictly Come Dancing was watched by 6.9m viewers

Strictly
Arts and Entertainment
NWA biopic Straight Outta Compton

film
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dormer as Margaery Tyrell and Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones
Arts and Entertainment
New book 'The Rabbit Who Wants To Fall Asleep' by Carl-Johan Forssen Ehrlin

books
Arts and Entertainment
Calvi is not afraid of exploring the deep stuff: loneliness, anxiety, identity, reinvention
music
Arts and Entertainment
Edinburgh solo performers Neil James and Jessica Sherr
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
If a deal to buy tBeats, founded by hip-hop star Dr Dre (pictured) and music producer Jimmy Iovine went through, it would be Apple’s biggest ever acquisition

album review
Arts and Entertainment
Paloma Faith is joining The Voice as a new coach

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Dowton Abbey has been pulling in 'telly tourists', who are visiting Highclere House in Berkshire

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Patriot games: Vic Reeves featured in ‘Very British Problems’
TV review
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

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

    Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

    Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

    But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
    Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

    Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

    Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
    Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

    Britain's 24-hour culture

    With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
    Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

    The addictive nature of Diplomacy

    Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
    Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

    Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

    Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
    8 best children's clocks

    Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

    Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
    Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
    Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

    How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

    Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
    Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

    'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

    In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
    Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

    The Arab Spring reversed

    Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
    King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

    Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

    Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
    Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

    Who is Oliver Bonas?

    It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
    Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

    Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

    However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
    60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

    60 years of Scalextric

    Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones