The first book in Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series is one of my all-time favorite books and I’ve read it several times already and will probably read it several more in my lifetime. And being a lover of books over movies, I wasn’t sure that the series would measure up. How wrong I was!
Sure there were differences, but in the first eight episodes, they were good ones. In the book the reader fell in love with Jamie so easily and quickly that Claire’s memories and worry over Frank made you want to shake her. I mean, with Jamie there, what more could she want out of life? Even after she began to fall in love with Jamie, she often withdrew quite unexpectedly and without explanation from Jamie’s point of view and hurt him in the process. It put one quite out of sympathy with her.
The book (and the TV series) starts off with Claire and Frank headed to Scotland at the close of WWII on a second honeymoon because they’ve been apart so long that they needed to get to know each other again, so how on earth could her feelings for Frank be so strong when the present was Jamie? Very little about Frank was included in the books. But in the Starz series, Frank is portrayed far more caringly. We see him grieving her disappearance, in the police station still demanding action weeks after she’d gone, and even when he finally gave up, he is drawn to visit the stones one last time before leaving Scotland to return to his teaching post. It helped the reader/watcher get into Frank’s point of view and feel sympathy for him and thus for Claire in spite of Jamie. That was a definite plus in the writing for the series.
McTavish as Dougal Menzies as Frank & Black Jack A grieving Frank
One never liked Dougal in the book, but the series made his mixed and less than friendly intentions subtly even clearer in the mannerisms and expressions Graham McTavish brought to the dialog. The casting was well done for all the characters, but especially Sam Heughan. He may not have looked like Jamie when he first got the nod, but his transformation was fantastic. He portrays Jamie perfectly with a sense of humor, the eagerness of a young man, even one with a price on his head and in his often heroic care for Claire. Catriona Balfe makes a wonderful Claire and Tobias Menzies is perfect in his dual role as Frank in the future and Black Jack, the villain in the past. I loved the entire cast – well done.
There was nudity and even sex that would never be allowed on network TV but it was tastefully done. The dialog was fantastic – love the accent and the inclusion of the Gaelic even when I don’t know what’s being said. It added so much to the flavor of the show. Scotland is a beautiful and very different country and having this filmed there is another huge plus. Fog and weather just as one might expect in Scotland draws the watcher into the setting so well you can almost feel the moisture collecting on your clothing. And who doesn’t love horses? Ronald Moore has produced what is sure to become a classic. I can’t wait for the next part of the series and you can bet your boots, I’ll be purchasing the DVDs as soon as they become available so I can savor it all over again. If you love romance, time travel, and Scotland, you will love this series. If you've not read the books, then I won't tell you more of the story - I'll let you enjoy it as it unfolds.