Sunday, September 11, 2016

Book to Screen - Outlander!

It's time for Outlander, darlings!

Since the television show has completed it's second season and it seemed like a good time to talk Outlander. That and when I tweeted my dilemma on what to post about next (Orphan Train, Outlander, or more love for L.M. Montgomery) - a little book slayer supported Outlander! I am doing a semi read-a-long with the show. I've read the first two books, they've completed the first two seasons, and by the time season 3 premieres I aim to have read the third book (but not beyond) so I can be properly book-prepped to appreciate (or not?) how they adapt it for the screen.

If you happen to be new to Outlander, considering watching the tv series, haven't picked up the books and wonder if you should - I shall give one disclaimer - it's like the historical fiction time travel Game of Thrones minus the incest, dragons, and looming ice-zombie apocalypse. I'll go ahead and say that I love both the book series and the screen adaption. I don't see this as a negative post in anyway and I would hope it encourages people to try out Outlander if they haven't already. I put in the disclaimer for two reasons - my sister (who lives in a tight, cramped apartment with young, impressionable children) had to stop watching Outlander because she was afraid her kids would catch inappropriate glimpses and be scarred for life. She's started back up but has to be careful when she watches or be well-warned for possible..."Mama, what are they doing??" And the second reason - my best friend doesn't have a stomach for graphic sex and violence. She likes to be warned about things so she may use her discretion. I think, for some of us (ahem, me), we're so used to the images and exposure on our screens that we forget that it isn't appropriate for some audiences for a variety of reasons. If you're squeamish or have other (possibly tiny, question-asking) reasons for being wary of graphic content - go for the books instead! As much as we all love our screen adaptions - books are better. 

The Book Series

Published: June 1sth, 1991
Publisher: Dell Publishing
Word Count: 896
Genre: Historical Fiction, Fantasy, Romance
Find the Author: Website

"The year is 1945. Claire Randall, a former combat nurse, is just back from the war and reunited with her husband on a second honeymoon when she walks through a standing stone in one of the ancient circles that dot the British Isles. Suddenly she is a Sassenach—an “outlander”—in a Scotland torn by war and raiding border clans in the year of Our Lord...1743. Hurled back in time by forces she cannot understand, Claire is catapulted into the intrigues of lairds and spies that may threaten her life, and shatter her heart. For here James Fraser, a gallant young Scots warrior, shows her a love so absolute that Claire becomes a woman torn between fidelity and desire—and between two vastly different men in two irreconcilable lives." 
- Nabbed from the Goodreads blurb. 

The next book in the series - Dragonfly in Amber - included, of course. 

The Screen

Outlander (2014- )
Cast: Caitriona BalfeSam Heughan.
Channel: Starz

 "Follows the story of Claire Randall, a married combat nurse from 1945 who is mysteriously swept back in time to 1743, where she is immediately thrown into an unknown world where her life is threatened. When she is forced to marry Jamie Fraser, a chivalrous and romantic young Scottish warrior, a passionate relationship is ignited that tears Claire's heart between two vastly different men in two irreconcilable lives." -Nabbed from the IMBD blurb. 

Let's Talk Outlander

Outlander has been around for decades as a book series. The Outlander fanbase has been waiting FOREVER for their favorite series to be ushered onto the screen. Anyone with the balls to tackle the beloved series had to come in knowing that they better do a damn good job. You don't mess with romance time-travelling historical fiction fan-ladies. That being communicated - Outlander has some tricky stuff to pull off. Time-travel, in itself, is tricky. And Outlander doesn't just time-travel once - it time travels in the plural sense, time-jumps, and flashbacks (and flash forwards? Is that the right word for it?). It all makes sense with the author's meticulous, expressive writing. But, how do you translate all that in a form that makes sense on a screen? 

If you think about it logically - the authenticity and accuracies of the time-periods, the cast, the way the book is converted to screen - are all incredibly important to pulling the adaption off. Mess with one and the rest don't hold up as shiny. I don't care how many times Heughan takes his shirt off and gets all sexy with Balfe - if he's not dressed's just ruins the whole deal. You can have the greatest cast, work your ass off on set and costume design - but if you omit a event from the books held sacred by the fans - that built in fandom that supported you so much?...will be pissed. There are lots of lines to tow (toe?), elements to balance, and greatness to achieve to satisfy the masses. 

Thankfully, there are a ton of resources for historical accuracy in regards to costuming and set design. And as for the time-line and historical environment? The book series is a resource unto itself because Gabaldon did an amazing job keeping up with the historical times she was writing in. Starz and all the minds and bodies behind Outlander (TV) use what's available to them well. They bring to life an authentic world that enhances the well-loved story. 

As with all fandoms - casting loved characters is...unbelievably crucial. One wrong casting and it throws it all off. There will be twitter-rioting - possibly petitions, and you will never ever have another day in your life when it is not at least unintentionally mentioned.

In the books, Claire is described to have lighter hair (think more dirty blonde, mousey brown, mildly tawny) and her eyes golden. She is average height (but above average height for the time period she travels to). Jamie has thick, wavy red hair, blue cat-shaped eyes, and a figure like a basketball player. She is older than he is. And within the book series there is a twenty year jump. They go from being in their twenties to being in their mid/late forties. That alone was probably why it took so long for Outlander to find its way to the screen.

Credit Fan Art - Huang Nguyen (Claire) & Alex Oliver (Jamie)

Balfe doesn't quite match her character's literary description and Hueghan doesn't pull off 23 very well. (I'm not sure that above illustration does him justice. It actually might be a illustration of him aged a little. But, I'm not sure). Both are acting twenties when they are both in their mid-thirties. Considering that they had to choose talent that can act and somehow pull off a twenty year time jump if the show goes well...they give it their all. There's only so much hair and make-up can do, you know? Balfe embodies Claire's spirit, her legendary pale skin, and brings to life the narrative woven into the episodes with Claire's exact voice. She was meant to be play someone defying the test of time.

Hueghan doesn't quite pull off early twenties, especially at the end. But - he's going to have to be nearing around fifty in Season 3 (time jump!) - there was no way he was going to effectively look 23 and then 47-ish (bad at exact ages, sorry!). On a amusing note - Hueghan has said he thought about getting a bit out of shape for The Great Time Jump. I AM SURE HE'S KIDDING. I hope... And he is Jamie. He pulls off that rogue-ish, traditional, time-traveling believing kilt-wearing Higherlander Charming we have all come to daydream about.

And as for the plot and how they translated the novel to the television series...I feel, so far, that they've done a pretty bang up job. Of course, and maybe I should have mentioned this above, I don't consider myself a Outlander super-fan. I love Outlander but I only picked up the books after I learned about the TV show coming out. I might not be as picky as some in regards to the differences between book and screen. Over-all - the big points (especially in the first season) and the favored, moments and...the traumatic, horrible events - were kept and the plot remained true to it's novel origins.

The differences usually are chalked to the limits of television and perhaps - creative license on the characters. In the finale of Season 2 a death that is caused by one person is caused by teamwork with two people. It wasn't about production cost, limitations, or the like - it was because it felt right to have the two characters unite and kill this character. As a fan of both book and show - I didn't mind this deviation. I really didn't. However...I can totally see another fan - more long-time than I - being upset.

At the end of this road, when I compare the novel and the tv series, I see the best outcome for a book to screen adaption. There's very little way an in-depth book series can be translated to the screen with absolutely everything intact. Adapting (and I can so go on and on about this topic) book to screen is about enhancing the world and viewpoint of the story that is loved by its readers. Expanding the Fandom. Finding actors that can carry the characters, creating the world people have imagined in their heads, bringing to life the events. It's trying to communicate and express through the language of film what's been (literally) described in detail with words.

I'm leaving out a lot! Maybe, in the future, I'll do a Outlander Pt. 2 post. I want to talk about the amazing cast of characters, the actors that bring them to life (THEY CAST BRIANNA SO WELL. I LOVE HER), the scenery, the sets, the historical context. My main focus was to hit up the main elements of a book to screen adaptation.

Outlander TV embraced it's origins, keeping close to the beloved plots and the integrity of the main characters, and enhanced the fandom with it's adaptation of the book series. They listened to the author of the book, did their research, cast it well, and (how could I forget this part?) made sure to have an epic soundtrack to bring the scenes to life. Bear McCreary anyone? Balfe and Heughan go all in for their characters. I admire their acting skills to no end. They clinched my love for Claire and Jamie. And all the minds and bodies behind the adaption - did their work well. I'm hopeful for the future seasons. I know a little about whats going to happen and I'm curious on how they'll adapt it. I mean, I'm pretty sure Claire and Jamie are in their sixties now (in the book series). How they are going to pull that off? Will they deviate from the timeline? Will they invest in the best actor-aging costume/make-up (whatever they call it) that Hollywood could offer?

Only time can tell, 


P.S. Get it? Only time will tell? ;)


  1. First of all... YAY YAY YAY. Glad you went with Outlander ;)

    I've never actually read the books. I didn't even know about this series until I saw a trailer back before season one came out. If the series had mainly stayed in the 1900s I probably wouldn't have checked out the show. It was the 1700s Scotland that hooked me in! Irish/Scottish, I'm a sucker for pretty much everything that has to do with that part of the world.. Wales, England etc.

    I was in love with Jamie(Sam) even before the show began. Now each episode makes me fall deeper and deeper *sigh*.

    I've thought about reading the books but they are so HUGE and since I only have so much time during the week to read I'm less likely to start reading such a huge book with so many books to follow. Also, like Game of Thrones, I love the show so much and therefore I want to be surprised with the things to come. Although, I will also admit that I've wiki'd Outlander a bit so I know about the time jump D: I'm a bad girl! But also so impatient lol.

    I'm also very curious as to how the actors will convincingly play 60 year olds. I wasn't particularly impressed in how Claire looked in that last episode. Her hair was greyish and she dressed well.. old. Haha. But still she looked so/too youthful.

    1. Outlander for the win! \o/

      I think I learned about Outlander when my sister shared the news about the tv show. I probably ran across it in my browsing but I don't quite recall it. I think one of the reasons why it works so well is that it's so well-researched and a unique premise on what could be a borderline cliche plot. Instead, I think it changed the game on time-travel romance/adventure.

      Jamie. Yup. Love him. Wasn't really aware of Sam before Outlander but I did catch him in an Hallmark movie (I think it was Hallmark) playing a charming nobleman. lol.

      I'm approaching the books as a side-read. There's plenty of time between seasons to read along with the upcoming seasons. I don't mind spoilers. I haven't read the GoT books (except the first one) because they're very different from the show and he hasn't actually finished them yet and while Outlander is still on-going...I'm inwardly petrified that I'll get all attached to the series and then he won't finish at all or I'll be stuck in waiting purgatory like the rest of his original fanbase. lol.

      I was surprised they added the hair streak for Claire. I hope that they work on her look a little for this coming season. The one thing about Claire's character from the book is - she is youthful looking by description. Consider it the power of her incredibly pale skin or the effects of all that through-the-stones time-traveling. I think, however, I'll be happier when she's back in the time of her heart and with Jamie. Because that style of dress really flattered her. Oh and, Brianna - her fashion made me sigh for vintage. Love her.

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts! :)

  2. Great post! I just started reading the Outlander books last year, and I love them (although I wish they had stayed in the Scottish Highlands for way longer)! I started watching the TV series, but for some reason I couldn't get into it. I don't think I particularly liked the actress chosen to play Claire. But, at least I still have the books!

    1. Yea, the France story line wasn't very intriguing to me and I rather them in the HIghlands. But, I am looking forward to seeing them in action in Colonial America. Since my introduction to the book series was primarily through the emergence of the tv series I think it was easier for me to accept the physical and characterization differences of book Claire with TV Claire. And, like I said above, the books are always better!


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