After becoming a little, shall we say annoyed at how other books have been adapted for the small screen, I have to admit I was a little scared when I heard Starz was adapting Diana Gabaldon’s book series Outlander. But there is nothing better than being proved wrong, and adding another show to my must watch list. While Outlander is on a midseason break (why are networks making midseason breaks a thing now?) I thought I would look at why the show is working so well.
One: The Right Producer/Writer
Ronald D. Moore has done an amazing job of bringing Outlander to TV, staying loyal to the books but making changes that can enhance the story for television.
For example adding scenes of Frank dealing with the loss of Claire and searching for her makes so much sense to add for television. It helps to develop his character and to help the audience understand Claire’s feelings and her want to return home. The writing team is obviously working closely with author Diana Gabaldon, to decide what changes will work and what won’t. So far all the decisions they have made to change or add to the story have been smart and successful in building the story for television.
The show would not work if it was not filmed in Scotland, the country and its history are a character in the book, so thankfully they have filmed in Scotland. Which looks absolutely amazing on screen.
Three: Why Casting Of Course
There was so much speculation on the internet about who was going to be cast as Jamie, Claire and Frank, it almost seemed like no one would be right for the loyal book fans. #ClaireWatch on Twitter was a great way to stay on top of any Claire casting news.
Sam Heughan as Jamie is perfect his looks, demeanour and charisma all work for the character. Diana Gabaldon made it quite clear on Facebook that he was the right choice, no matter how much fans complained. And the complaining seemed to stop once the show started and they saw Heughan in action.
Caitriona Balfe is Claire through and through, she’s strong, smart, elegant, tough and beautiful. Claire is one of my favourite female characters and Caitriona plays her perfectly, a prime example of this woman’s talent even with no dialogue is in episode 6 where she is listening to Black Jack Randall’s story and then discovers the dark truth of his character. Her chemistry with both Tobias Menzies and Sam Heughan also makes Claire’s conflict to get home or stay even more believable.
Tobias Menzies is incredible as Frank/Black Jack Randall his slight physical transformation between the two is subtle and affective. His ability to play a character like Black Jack who is so dark and yet make him seem complicated and infuse him with perfect timing in scenes makes him even more unnerving.
The rest of the casting are also fantastic, all of the Scottish supporting actors are great, and I’m excited to see more from Lotte Verbeek as Geillis Duncan.
Four: All The Crew & Departments
The show looks expensive, the design team have done an incredible job to transport you to two very different time periods. Moore’s wife Terry Dresbach does an amazing job with all of the costumes, the music by Bear McCreary transports you between times and enhances each scene and the cinematography is beautiful. I love the tonal differences between the 1940’s and 1743 that has been chosen.
Five: A Change In Perspective
A lot of press coverage came up for the show after ‘The Wedding’ episode which was written and directed by women. It was one of the few times that a sex scene felt like it wasn’t filmed from the male gaze or as a classic bodice ripper. It was almost strange to watch, as we’ve been so conditioned to watching these scenes from a certain viewpoint. Hopefully this episode is a catalyst for change in other shows that use sex scenes for the sake of nudity and shock rather than a device that develops the story and characters.
So thank you to Anna Foerster for her directing and Anne Kenney for her writing, which made the episode develop the relationship between Jamie and Claire organically with the right amount of awkwardness, romance and sensuality.
The only thing that has annoyed me, is the trend of these midseason breaks which means that there will not be any new Outlander until April 2015. I guess I can always revisit the books in the mean time, or rewatch the first half of season 1 to fill the void.
So if you are looking for a new show to watch that has amazing production values, great characters, locations, fighting, history, war, kilts and first class writing and direction – watch Starz Outlander.