Outlander, the new Starz television series that premiers tomorrow night (August 9), is based on my favorite book. I have been reading and rereading this series since about 1997, so needless to say, I’m close to the characters. I was delighted when it was announced that the first book was being made into a television show, but I was nervous as well. The fans had been casting future film portrayals for years, some suggestions were exciting to imagine, others- not so much. Now that it was really happening though, who would end up playing my “friends” and how much would the plot be changed or watered down to meet the demands of the venue?
After watching the sneak-peak preview of the first episode I was impressed in some areas (photography and costume design) but disappointed in others (characterization and accents). It seems that the majority of fans love this first episode to pieces. Hmm. Well, here are my thoughts:
Frank Randall: Throughout the series Frank is often thought of as the wrench that gets thrown into Claire and Jamie’s epic romance. why can’t Claire just forget about him and move on? who could possibly choose Frank over Jamie, it’s ridiculous! I’d choose Jamie every time but Claire’s reluctance is not ridiculous. Book-Frank is likable, playful even. Although the problems that are awaiting Frank and Claire’s marriage are foreshadowed, they were happily in love on their second Honeymoon that opens the story. The playfulness is taken away from TV-Frank though and given to Claire instead. What’s left in it’s place is the inference that Frank is fighting inner demons from his time in the war. So Book-Frank, the passionate professor, is now TV-Frank: the vulnerable survivor.
Claire Randall: Claire is sassy and cynical, but most of that stays in Book-Claire’s head. On the outside she appears more stoic and practical, due to her experiences as a combat nurse and being raised by an archeologist uncle. Book-Claire defers when she needs to meet society’s demands but she doesn’t rein in her forward thinking words and actions completely. TV-Claire, on the other hand, seems to be the opposite. I did not like 1940’s Claire much, she seemed like a Hollywood cliche of that time period. I hope my opinion improves when I meet the 1740’s version.
Black Jack Randall: The villain of this story has a very acute first meeting with Claire, right after she unexpectedly travels through the magical Standing Stones. In the book we’re given a teasing glimpse of Jonathon Randall’s personal blend of charisma and sadism. TV-Jack just seems like an entitled military man, now you see him- now you don’t; very disappointing.
Jamie Fraser: Ah, Jamie. The biggest shoes to fill in this story.
As the writer of the book, Diana Gabaldon, warned early on in regards to casting: expecting to see my Jamie- the one inside my head, was not realistic or fair to the actor chosen to portray him. But while this is not my Jamie, he’s an enjoyable substitute. The look and demeanor of this Jamie differs from my Jamie in that he’s not as rugged and has a less natural sounding accent.
Speaking of accents, I’m finding these ones kind of distracting. (I’m particular about accents) The actor who plays Jamie is native to Scotland himself, so while his accent is a bit softer than a Highland one, I think I would have preferred it (book Jamie had traveled a good bit, so not having a strong accent would have still fit into the storyline). The actress who plays Claire is Irish, so her attempt at an English accent is commendable, I’m just being picky. Mrs. Graham’s mishmash of every cartoon Scot though, is a different story altogether…
The photography for this series is beautiful, it really does help to set the tone for the story, like it does in the book. Having just visited Scotland myself a few weeks ago, I can say that the scenery really is that stunning in real life. The care and research taken with costumes is something that needs to be praised as well. It’s so easy to fall into stereotypes when dealing with period dress, let alone when you’re dealing with kilted clansmen. I felt that they stuck to what was appropriate for the time and region rather well.
I’m going to have to put my love for the book aside while watching this series and give it a chance to stand alone. Watching the sneak peak premier episode a second time and doing just that, I was able to see that it is a good set up for the story ahead. We see that Claire really did have a loving husband and so it will be understandable when she goes to the lengths that she does to try and get back to him. But we also felt the chemistry between Claire and Jamie. We witness Jamie’s protective and caring nature that he keeps hidden just under the warrior surface. We see how Claire will use her medical knowledge to remain useful but also as a shield to hide her fear.
So even though I have complaints, I did enjoy this first episode. I didn’t squeal with fangirl glee and faint, like I’ve seen others doing, but I’m not sure I’m really the squealing fainting type to begin with.