When Diana Gabaladon‘s “Outlander” first came out in print twenty-three years ago (damn, how time flies), I remember it took me just two days to devour the entire 600 page novel. Outlander is the story of a Claire Beauchamp Randall, an English WWII nurse who finds magic in a Stonehenge-like Sarsen stone and is propelled back in time to the years before the Jacobite Rebellion of 1745. There she falls in love and marries a Highland warrior, James (“Jamie”) Alexander Mackenzie Fraser. Claire is the Outlander – or “Sassenach” in Gaelic: out of her time, her culture, and generally out-of-place.
When Gabaldon announced that Claire and Jamie would come alive on my 50-inch “small” screen, I was not sure I’d like the results, although I knew I’d watch anyway. After three episodes, I am truly pleased with the adaptation, probably for the attention to detail in the filming and because they’ve stayed true to the original storyline. Kudos to Starz Originals for buying the series.
Unlike other films supposedly set Scotland but filmed, say, in Ireland or Vancouver, the Outlander series is actually filmed in Scotland in Doune Castle in Perthshire (been there), Falkland and Culross in Fife (there too), Loch Rannoch in the Highlands, and less majestically, a warehouse off the M80 near Cumbernauld. I hear tell this production was the biggest film/TV investment in the country ever. Scotland is an astoundingly beautiful country and not before time that its beauty is captured on a wildly popular international series (the novels have sold at least 25 million copies.) That’s a lot of eyeballs for the Scottish Tourist Board to convert to visitors. Just saying.
There are so many fine Scots actors in the show including one of my favorites, Gary Lewis (“My Name is Joe,” “Merlin” (Alator), and “Billy Elliott”). Love me Annette Badland (“Doctor Who” fame) as Mrs. Fitz. Tobias Menzies (“Rome” and “Game of Thrones”) hits the right notes as Frank Randall — and so far does a creditable job as Black Jack. The Scots actors learned Gaelic, which is beautiful to hear and adds an authenticity to the Highlands in 1743. And, they did a good job of casting.
But let’s to it – Claire & Jamie – do they cut it? Irish-born Catriona Balfe does a good job as Claire. To be clear, that’s not damning her with faint praise. Claire is a bit prudish, standoffish, independent and uncomfortable in the first few episodes, for all the right and obvious reasons related to finding herself in this very foreign land. She is a well-brought up (if unconventionally so) Englishwoman in much less refined surroundings. I’ll be interested to see how Catriona loosens Claire up as things between her and Jamie heat up. I’ve promised my sister Fiona that should happen next week or the week after. Then, I predict a lot of heat up there in the Highlands.
About that heat – Sam Heughan – first, I’m so pleased the part went to a Scottish actor. He has Jamie’s quiet heroism, disregard for his own safety, and matter-of-fact ways down perfectly. Not for nothing have kilt jokes been making the rounds of Facebook lately. Aye, Sam is what my Scots cousins and friends would call a “verry braw laddie.” It is NOT just the way he says “Missstrrrreessss Beauchamp,” or carries himself in his kilt. Sam has great screen chemistry. I dunno if he has it with Catriona-as-Claire, but he has it with me, my sister Fiona and countless others watching.
We’re into episode 4 next week. Claire is getting ready to escape…now things will get really exciting! If you have read the novels, you will find the series is pretty faithful. Diana Gabaldon has kept the series true to her vision, story lines and characters. If you have not read the books, I’d say buy it, read ahead and enjoy all things Scotland.