Outlander is one of the fastest growing shows on television, and for good reason!
Quickly, think of a current show that includes both time travel and adventure. I'm guessing many of you thought of Doctor Who? However, a growing many today would say, Outlander!
Outlander is a Starz TV series based on the books by Diana Gabaldon. It begins with Claire Randall, played by Caitriona Balfe, a World War 2 nurse visiting Inverness with her husband after being separated during the war. One morning the pair observe a druid ritual at the Craigh na Dun stone circle. The next day, Claire returns alone and hears a strange noise coming from one of the rocks. She places her hands on it and wakes up lying on the ground, somehow having traveled back in time to 1743. From there she meets Jamie Fraser, played by Sam Heughan and sparks begin to fly.
So without further ado, fellow fantasy fans, here are the ten reasons why you should be watching Outlander:
10. Time travel
Time travel is handled differently in Outlander than other shows. There are no special effects, no whooshing sounds, and no Delorean. It’s just a subtle laying of hands on a stone, and waking up in a different time. Time travel blends into to the storyline of Outlander without it becoming the focal point, which is different for this genre. As a fan of Back to the Future I could stand to see more of a focus on it the time travel, but I get it...Outlander isn't about that.
What makes things interesting is how they use Claire’s knowledge of the future. Her husband is a historian, so she has a rather intimate understanding of what will happen in 1743. So far it's been subtle, but It will be interesting to see how her insight plays into future episodes.
9. Historically accurate
One thing that impressed this new fan was the historical accuracy of Outlander. Everything from the weaponry to clothing is accurate to the times, both 1743 and 1945. Take the kilts for example: most modern kilts are mostly for ceremonial purposes like weddings or even proms. But, the kilts in the show are authentic to the times where they had much more than a single use. Kilts of those days could be a sleeping cloth, cloak, or even camouflage!
Everything from the Scottish clan system, to the look and feel of the times, whisks you quickly into the world of 1700s Scotland. Which kind of leads us to...
8. Great special effects
Now you probably wouldn’t think that a show based in 1743 would need many special effects; there’s no electronics, no bombs, and no TARDIS. But the small details got my attention. Take Colum MacKenzie, the Laird of Castle Leoch, played by Gary Lewis – he has a disease called Toulouse-Lautrec Syndrome, which makes his legs look like this (left):
All it takes is great acting, the right socks (right) and solid camera work, and the VFX people take it from there. I thought they found an actor with this condition before I saw the special features where they describe how they pull this off. You really need to see the realism they pull off here.
7. All the characters are well-written AND well-acted
You know how sometimes you’re sitting down to watch your favorite show, and although you love the main character, the rest of the cast seems to be missing something? Or you’re watching a movie, and it appears to have all the best actors in it, but the writing/plot seems to fall flat? You won't be saying that about Outlander.
Everyone from the writers that are adapting the work, to the actors in the smallest roles, seem to fit perfectly. There isn’t much in the way of wasted or throwaway lines, and everyone plays his or her part extremely well. Each character fits, has a purpose and has no problem connecting with the audience.
6. Filmed on location in Scotland
The scenery in Outlander is downright breathtaking! Everything from the wide panning camera work over the Highlands, to the dark interiors of the castles, is picturesque. The directors of the show use Scotland’s natural beauty to blend seamlessly into each shot. They skillfully use lighting to enhance the scenes and even the castles are lit accurately for the era.
Seems like an odd point, but the Outlander show-runners have some very impressive credentials that bring a lot to the show.
Ronald D. Moore is both a creator and writer of the show, and his creds run deep. His work includes Star Trek (TNG, DS9, and Voyager) and Battlestar Galactica. The man has written for some beloved series, and he brings that to Outlander as he masterfully adapts Diana Gabaldon’s book to the screen.
Ira Steven Behr also brings his goods to the show as a writer, with prior work on The Twilight Zone, Alphas, Star Trek (The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine) and The 4400.
Add in some incredible directors like John Dahl (more movies and TV shows that we can list), Anna Foerster (Criminal Minds), and Brian Kelly (Torchwood), and you have a well-rounded, fun and enjoyable show. As long as…
4. The romance and adventure are very well-balanced
The writers and producers on Outlander seem to have strived for this. Though some would see it as a romance, the blending of adventure in the show gives it a much broader appeal.
I can safely say that I (a confirmed sci-fi and action fan) enjoyed sitting down with the wife to watch the MacKenzie clan do battle as well as Claire’s inner conflict regarding her two loves. And speaking of which…
3. Strong, compelling characters
With so many individuals well-read on Gabaldon’s series, there are naturally varying opinions on how Claire and Jamie should be portrayed. After talking to some avid fans of the books, one thing became apparent, casting Catriona Balfe as Claire, and Sam Heughan as Jamie seems to be spot-on.
Regardless of how anyone imagined the characters before the show, one things seems to be a solid consensus...these two are now the embodiment of Claire and Jamie. The chemistry between the two is electric, and you can feel the sparks in every scene. They really do make you believe in "the love that spans time."
2. The apparel
While I mentioned that the costuming for Outlander is remarkably accurate, what I didn't mention is how beautiful the pieces are! Every item of clothing has a lot of detail and craftsmanship put into it. The knitted pieces, while time-appropriate, are stunning and very wearable in the present. There are a number of different tartans in the show, with one made specifically for Outlander. The credit for all this work goes to Terry Dresbach, who took the author's words and brought them to life in the clothes which she made for the show.
And here’s our favorite part: the amazing people at Sony invited our product designers to Scotland to take a first-hand look at the products. What this means is that our replica apparel are going to be spot-on to the originals!
1. Adapted from an excellent book series
The Outlander Series by Diana Gabaldon is loved the world over. There are eight books in the main series, with auxiliary books and short stories that go along. That means the show-runners have plenty of materials to use, and hopefully won’t run into the same problems that Game Of Thrones might soon have (the show catching up with the books).
The series has either met or exceeded the expectations of most readers, and that says a lot for the cast and crew of Outlander.
by James Thomas
So what are your thoughts? What do you love about the show? Let us know in the comments.