I first read Outlander – or Cross Stitch as it was called in the UK – back in 1992. A wonderful mix of romance, adventure and history set in Scotland, I loved it and recommended it to friends and family. I even wrote to Diana Gabaldon asking for an interview for the writers’ group I belong to, The Alberta Romance Writers’ Association, and she was extremely generous with her time and answers.
So when I heard it was finally being adapted as a TV series by Starz, I was both excited and a little anxious. Would they do it justice? We’re now two episodes in, so what are my feelings so far?
Here’s what I like.
1) I’m so happy that a story set in Scotland has actually been filmed in Scotland – unlike some other famous ‘Scottish’ movies I could name. The scenery is stunning and I’ve had a lot of fun figuring out the locations. If you’re planning on visiting Scotland and would like to check out the Outlander sites, even Visit Scotland has got in on the act and created an Outlander map.
2) I think all three main characters, Clare, Jamie and Frank/Jack have been very well cast and are doing a great job. And I’m thrilled to see Gary Lewis, one of my favourite character actors, playing Colum.
3) The fact that they’re sticking to the book. It was interesting to hear the producer say that the series has been made for the book’s fans. Having dabbled in the world of screenwriting myself I understand the huge difference between writing for the page and writing for the screen, so I appreciate that the writers have stuck to the book as closely as they have. But then, they had good source material to start with, didn’t they!
As for the ‘Meh’?
1) The Scottish twee. Admittedly the major audience for this series will be the US and I feel what’s being presented is how they imagine Scotland, and Scottish people, to be. However, as a Scot, there have been places where I have squirmed uncomfortably. There was one scene in the first episode where it felt like Dougal and the Scottish Dwarves… all named Goofy. And as for some of the accents..! And lines. A patient not liking ‘being stuck with a needle’? That’s not an expression I ever heard until I moved to the western side of the pond. But again, the major audience will be American and they might not be familiar with the term ‘injection’ or ‘jag’, so I’m probably just being picky.
2) The nudity. I’m not talking about the sex scenes, but the ones with Clare dressing and Jamie’s sister being attacked in the second episode. I don’t like to think I’m a prude – although maybe I am. This series was advertised as Scotland’s Game of Thrones, and for that reason I know of 3 men in particular who tuned in. One gave up half way through the first episode, the second at the end of the first hour, and the third has vowed to watch no more having persevered through the second episode. Now, there may be many men who continue to watch and love the series, but my feeling is that the main audience is and will continue to be female. Do women really want to see so much female nudity? Is it necessary to the scene(s) or is it exploiting the actresses? People might argue that I feel this way because, ‘You’re just jealous because you’re older and will never have a body like that again’. Fair enough if that’s what they believe, but because I’m older, and have been around the block a few times, I think I can recognize exploitation when I see it.
But as I said above, I’m being picky.
If you loved the books, there’s waaay more right with the series than is wrong – you can’t please all the people all the time – so I’ll definitely keep watching. But my advice to anyone would be ‘Read the book first’! Always, read the book.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on Outlander/Cross Stitch and the job of bringing it to the screen.