What To Expect From Outlander Season One

With the Outlander premiere quickly approaching on Starz, we look back at the books and what will work for the adaptation.

Pardon me if I seem to be out of breath. I’ll grant you, that’s probably hard to determine as this is the internet and you are just reading some words. Trust: I am panting. You see, I’ve spent the last twenty ­four hours running through the Scottish Highlands bellowing “JAMIE” over and over again, and it has really taken the wind out of my sails. That said, I had to expend some of this pent up excited energy somehow.

The Starz network’s beyond ­highly anticipated series, Outlander, based on the scrumptious series of books by Diana Gabaldon is due to drop here this summer. For those not in the know (for shame), Outlander chronicles the adventures of 1940s era nurse, Claire Randall. Through a series of events, she becomes separated from her husband and sent back to Scotland in the 1700s. To save her life, she marries virtual stranger (if total sex­pot) Jamie Fraser and finds herself torn not just between the two warring worlds she has inhabited, but between the two men in her life. I know. Intense. In the immortal words of Bart Simpson, ay caramba.

Sounds pretty compelling, right? I know! But it isn’t coming until the middle of the summer and I cannot wait. I’m far from being alone in this ­­ though truly I did not notice any other cos­player types frolicking in the heather. Admittedly, I was a bit distracted what with the running and the screaming and the attempting to travel back in time.

[Related: 15 Summer TV Shows We’ll Be Watching]

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Author Diana Gabaldon’s seven book series is, at this point, more of a sacred text to her fans than it is a cunning a fusion of romance, history, and science fiction. As a fan myself I’d argue that maybe the saga is both things all at once. In fact, I would take it a step further. If Diana Gabaldon were to issue a statement saying that all of the books were simply additional sections of a massive TV bible she was putting together, I would be the opposite of surprised.

The story is rife with fascinating characters worthy of every page they haunt. It isn’t just the characterization that makes the story appealing. You can expect lush, vivid landscapes, epic settings, and some royally bloody battles. Also, did I mention singing ancient stones that enable a body to travel through time? Because that happens. Starz has spared no expense, investing a significant amount of change on the project. That’s incredibly reassuring. It could very well mean that they are going into this with more of a Game of Thrones mindset rather than a Mists of Avalon one (RIP you terrible, terrible, missed opportunity of a mini­series).

The latest trailer the network has dropped has only served to up the ante. Seriously, they need to stop taunting me with its goodness. Actress Caitriona Balfe stars as Claire, and she looks to be perfection — I mean, if it can’t be me, you know, but whatever. Scottish star Sam Heughan will be playing Jamie Fraser on the show and this is epic. Because while he’s not super well ­known to American audiences, this project is going to bolster him to sex ­symbol status. Which is too bad really, because he is mine. I called dibs, and dibs is, as we know, sacred.

Ronald D. Moore, well ­known to us all, I am sure, is acting as executive producer on the series. That could go either way. I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt, provided he doesn’t make a habit of sashaying into the writer’s room and giving helpful suggestions like “Edward James Olmos should be in this,” or “Maybe at the end we realize that Claire is some sort of angel.” Thankfully this is unlikely, because while Moore is writing on the show, Diana Gabaldon is keeping an eye on how her characters are being handled, and I can see her as being a broad quick to issue a smackdown if it’s required.

Also present helping on this quest to destroy the Cylons tell this epic love story is veteran TV director Richard Clarke. His resume speaks for itself, but I find it highly reassuring that he’s directed some of the better episodes of Doctor Who AND this year’s surprise hit The Muskeeters. If you put those shows together you’ve essentially got Outlander, so clearly the dude knows what he’s about.

Clarke may have two episodes, but so does visual effects master Anna Foerster. Not only is it just plain delightful to see a lady­director, but Foerster cut her teeth as a director of photography and visual effects director on some pretty epics ’90s action films like Independence Day and Pitch Black. Expect her keen eye to offer up every bit as much focus to the 18th century clan wars erupting when Claire arrives as she does to the tortured romance. Men in kilts fighting the English for the win. While the romance is clearly central to the story, the fractured politics of Scotland in the 1700s is pivotal ­­not just a backdrop. I get the sense already that the folks involve recognize that, which is incredibly heartening.

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For those of us who have been completely enmeshed in the world Gabaldon created for all (now eight) books, it is almost too much to handle. Can a story of this scope and size ever be served by television? I’d make the argument that TV is the perfect medium to try and enliven a story with such a massive fan­base. One movie, or two, or even three, would not serve, oh no. But the slow build of a full season gives the audience time to fully leap from one world into another just like Claire. We will be able to gain our bearings as she does, making her struggles and choices than much more keen.

I think from a storytelling perspective, the books are well­plotted enough and straight­forward in design making it an easy enough transfer from page to screen. When I said Gabaldon may as well have been writing a TV bible, I was only half joking. The woman knows plot like no one else.

That said, there are a couple of scenes (Jamie brutally spanking Claire, comes to mind) that could prove to be, pretty tricky. However it turns out, it will be something worth watching. If this speculation and conversation has simply gotten you more amped, rather than quelled your desire for all things Outlander, fret not! Gabaldon’s eighth book Written in my Own Heart’s Blood, dropped on June 10th! …Can you say “dropped” about a book? Or is that just like, for albums? WHATEVER. I stand by it.


Keep up with all our Outlander coverage right here.

Correction notice: An earlier version of this story mentioned that Diana Gabaldon is also writing for the show. Our mistake! She is consulting in an unofficial capacity, though.

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