Wednesday, August 20, 2014

I'm really not a fan of portal fiction but Starz's Outlander is a real surprise

A little over two weeks ago, Starz premiered a series called Outlander. It's adapted by Ronald D. Moore, a name you might recognize from Battlestar Galactica and Helix. I kind of fell out of love with Helix rather quickly as it just wasn't my speed. But I thought the Battlestar Galactica reboot was fabulous, and other fans of that show will be pleased to note that he tapped Bear McCreary to do the music for the intro and yes, there are lots of bagpipes playing (who doesn't love the mournful sound of bagpipes?). They did wonders to elevate the most emotionally riveting scenes in Battlestar Galactica and will no doubt serve the same purpose here. And final trivia on Ronald Moore, he's a Cornell alum, which in my geekiness makes me squee a little bit because the main character in the sci-fi series I'm writing plays hockey for Cornell. And if all that isn't enough of a geeky/nerdy connection for you, Ronald Moore did film a pilot for Dragonriders of Pern and sent it to the WB, but it got canceled before production began. Since it happened more than a decade ago, the Dragonriders will just have better special effects available to them when they get launched soon on a yet to be announced network, so Anne McCaffrey fans can rejoice!

So I saw Outlander and didn't know what to expect at all. I vaguely had this idea that it was about a time traveling woman who ends up in medieval Scotland, but I had not checked out the books or even bothered to read a synopsis. Instead, I just set it to record on my DVR and watched it.

Outlander takes some excellent risks. Borrowing a page from Carrie Bradshaw, there's voice over, and I kind of like it. Then again, I usually like voice over. I liked it in Dune, I liked it in Sex and the City, and I like it here. And Claire is a different kind of heroine. She's strong yet very feminine, and I found that instantly intriguing. She's unapologetic about her intelligence, and I can see that when she's put in dangerous situations, she is instantly analyzing her surroundings and realizing that she's in a dangerous situation. She doesn't react hysterically, she doesn't scream and whine...rather she reacts with a calculating mind despite the fact that her very life is in jeopardy and accepts her fate with acknowledgement that she will do everything in her power to get out of it as soon as possible. I don't know why, but I really like that about her.
The setting for Outlander is stunning. The post World War II environment is used quite effectively to not only serve as a jumping off point, but a source for flashbacks (flash futures?) in which Claire muses over what her husband (who in the 18th century is not even born) must be thinking about her disappearance (even though it hasn't happened yet). And having a series set in this time would be intriguing enough. But Outlander gives us a double treat by providing yet another world for us to explore in the 18th century. I think that's very ambitious for a television show.

In the post World War II setting, Claire is an accomplished nurse with vast medical knowledge. Mining this background gives her instant value in the 18th century when locals see her as a gifted healer. The show also doesn't shy away from sex with great chemistry (Claire gets cunnilingus from her husband right on a medieval table in a crumbling castle ruin they're exploring), gore (blood dripping on the floor during surgery), and the very "rated-R" nature of everyday life ("rape" pronounced as "rapine" sounds so very English).

One question you might ask: Is this show a romance? It certainly feels romantic but I don't think it is. For one, Claire and Frank (her husband in the future) are awesome together so there's really no reason for her to pine for someone else in the past (other than he's not available). But I do suppose that there's developing chemistry with her and the man that she's healing, a Scot with a great accent by the name of Jamie.

I guess fans of Outlander will probably belong to those who love portal fiction, those who love romantic fantasy, and those who love historical romance. What surprises me most is I'm not really a fan of any of these genres, yet I love the show. Will miracles never cease? So tell me, are you watching Outlander? If so, what do you think of it?


  1. I haven't watched it yet, though the setting is stunning.

  2. I'm pretty sure that's a romance book.

  3. I watched the first one on a free preview weekend and found it moved very slow. I would probably watch more but I don't get that channel. I did enjoy the first few books in the series but lost interest after a while. The first book was definitely the best.

  4. I am watching, and while the production values are great I do find the story lagging at times. I keep looking over at my wife, this is a romance after all, and she keeps falling asleep. I'll probably stick with it for awhile.

  5. I don't have Starz (or cable), so I won't get to see more than the first episode until it becomes available elsewhere.

    I'm currently reading the last book in the series, and have read all of the others. Yes, there's romance, but the biggest thing for me were the characters. Like you said, Claire is strong and feminine--immensely appealing. But if you don't like sex and violence, it's perhaps not the best series choice.

    Even though I knew what was coming, the sexier parts of the first episode made me blush. It sticks to the story well, but it's one thing to read it and another to see it.

  6. I'll probably check it out at some point, although I didn't think much of Battlestar.

  7. I keep seeing this trailer and I'm liking it more and more. Love a good spy thriller no matter the era. The scenery is amazing! :)
    Raquel Byrnes

  8. I tried reading the book (for research purposes), couldn't get through the first chapter. Romance novels seem to be able to get away with terrible writing more than any other genre.

    Moody Writing

  9. I skimmed through the book. It really wasn't my thing, so I didn't pay attention when I heard a show was made. Now I'm hearing wonderful things about the show, and I like the sound of Claire.

  10. I'm a fan of the book series (I only read the first 4, and the last of those was nearly 15 years ago). I've been meaning to get back into reading them, but those books are massively huge (now that I have an ereader, I think I might start from the beginning again).

    I saw the first 2 episodes, but I just moved, and my new place doesn't get Starz, so I guess I'll have to catch up on this later. Which is a heartbreaker for me. Sigh.

    The good thing is it's been so long since I read the first book that I'm not constantly comparing the TV show to the book. I have a bad tendency to do that.

    Did you hear that they've already renewed it for a second season? The hype was big enough and they got enough viewers the first week that they're already planning on mining the second book for a second season. Hooray!

  11. I don't get Starz but if that changes soon I want to check out this show. The books have been bestsellers so there has to be some reason why they've remained so popular. And I do like the sound of a non-hysterical, sensible woman who doesn't panic. But given that she's a nurse who served in WWII, she must have plenty of experience of remaining calm while carrying on.

  12. if I got it right DRAGONRIDERS OF PERN will be a film, not a TV series... of course, if they ever get into production... but the movie rights were bought last month.


    THis is my FAVORITE series EVER. Annnnd I'm loving it. The third episode airs tomorrow and I can't WAIT. I've watched the 1st and 2nd episode two times already. Swoon. Please keep watching so we can discuss, LOL!

  14. I LOVE OUTLANDER so much. I'm reading the series right now. I started it many years ago and quit at the third book. Now I'm up to The Fiery Cross.

    You know that I don't watch a lot of television, but I've watched the first three shows repeatedly. The actors, scenery,'s all fabulous!

    And I have a renewed crush on Jamie Fraser. Oh aye.