The Move From Print to Film: How “Outlander” Stacks Up So Far

by Jenn (eating bender) on August 29, 2014

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I am so excited to share a guest post with you today on a topic that I am very passionate about at the moment: the Outlander television series! I was initially immersed in Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander novels more than two years ago, and although I still have a few books in the queue before I’m all caught up, Claire Randall’s amazing story of romance, tragedy, hope – and inexplicable time travel – has captivated me from page one. And now, it’s coming to life right in my living room.

I’ve been following news about the show for a while via Diana’s Facebook page and was thrilled when I found out I could watch the first episode for free online. It was so good that I made Bobby watch it…and then we both decided it was necessary to subscribe to STARZ for the rest of the season. (Trust me, that means it’s really good, haha!) We’ve been hooked ever since – the show has so far remained relatively true to the book while solidifying in my mind the fact that these actors were meant to play the characters I’ve come to know and love. We’re only three episodes in, so there’s still plenty of time for you to catch up if you haven’t been watching already!

But enough gushing from me for now. I’m turning things over to Elizabeth Eckhart, a graduate writing student who loves to blog about literature, film and other entertainment in her free time. She also really enjoys food! She can be followed and contacted through Twitter, @elizeckhart.

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The Move From Print to Film: How “Outlander” Stacks Up So Far

Especially in the case of literature, it is rare that both women and men equally enjoy a story, but author Diana Gabaldon’s multi-genre writing has attracted the admiration of practically everyone who has read the series. The crossing of genres includes mystery, action, romance, fantasy, drama and science fiction, making it some of the most ambitious literature to reach the upper echelons of popularity. Whether it is the convincing violence, believable time travel, inclusion of real-world historical figures or the phenomenally descriptive writing, there are any number of reasons that have turned casual readers into fervent fans.

After years of clamoring for a filmed version of their favorite novels, the immensely popular book series Outlander has recently come to fruition as a television series. Though there was originally discussion of turning the books into movies, most fans agreed that their epic lengths – they each hover around 1,000 pages each – would be far better suited for a television series and, much to readers’ joy, STARZ picked it up precisely for that.

Still, even with a built-in fan base, STARZ had, and still has, a number of challenges on its hands for production. First off was the knowledge that many fans weren’t STARZ subscribers already. To tease viewers into a possible subscription, STARZ followed the paths of Netflix, Amazon and DIRECTV, who all already have exclusive series on demand online, and even made Outlander’s first episode available to all. For future episodes, however, their viewership may drop as fans debate whether or not to purchase the channel. (It’s worth it! -Jenn)

In addition, the heavy first-person narration that occurs from Claire’s point of view in the novels offered readers a large amount of exposition. For the show, this was accomplished by tapping into voiceover narrative – which was a bold choice, considering the technique has become passé in recent years. Nevertheless, it has so far worked very well for the show.

The show is already slated for season two, which will follow the second book. The second novel ages Claire and Jamie considerably, and that may not only shock those new to Outlander but may also stand as a real challenge for directors and actors in execution, and could even be unbelievable to viewers if not done well.

In regards to casting, message boards online used to light up with suggestions, but no consensus was ever found prior to STARZ’ selections. However, there was one aspect everyone could agree on: that actors chosen for Outlander should be relative unknowns. Thankfully, that’s exactly the route STARZ took. Right now, names like Caitriona Balfe (Claire), Sam Heughan (Jamie) and Tobias Menzies (Black Jack Randall, Frank Randall) might not be on the tips of tongues, but as we’ve seen from the immensely popular Game of Thrones or Mad Men, unknowns have a way of quickly becoming household names.

Likewise, by making this move to the small screen, the variations between book and show have been so well implemented that the stories will likely have a much larger audience potential. For the premiere episode, readers were initially surprised to see the sex scene occur between Frank and Claire, as it didn’t happen in the book, but it was ultimately met with fan approval since the scene helped sensually represent the strong intimacy between the two characters in the shorter span of a TV show.

Insofar as storyline accuracy is concerned for future episodes and seasons, executive producer Ronald D. Moore has repeatedly said he would stay true to the books. A lot of this accuracy is secured by the fact that Moore’s wife is reportedly a huge fan of Outlander and he would have hell to pay for diverging from the source material. Even if she wasn’t, though, there really isn’t any reason to move away from the novels, since there is just so much to work with that inherently ensures the show’s staying power.

To date, critics and viewers have earned the show favorable ratings across the board. Even die-hard fans of the novel have expressed their love of the first episodes so far, and those are the most difficult fans in the world to please when transitioning from print to film. Ronald D. Moore and STARZ definitely seem to be on the right track thus far, and we can’t wait to see the many more that are sure to come!

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Thanks for sharing such great insight, Elizabeth! If you’re intrigued and interested in checking out the show, I encourage you to watch the first episode online and/or the trailer below:

Are you an Outlander fan? Have you watched the television series yet?

Edited to add: The show airs on Saturdays at 9:00 pm ET/PT.

Abrazos,

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Chelsea @ Designs on Dinner August 29, 2014 at 1:09 pm

I don’t know what took me so long to get on this train, but I just started the Outlander series a week ago. I’m about a quarter of the way through the second book and have seen all three Starz episodes so far—even my husband finds them intriguing! Although I have to say, I found the ending of ‘Outlander’ unnecessarily graphic and, well, gross, I am entirely captivated by this series. The TV series is awesome so far!
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2 Cara (Twinthusiast) August 29, 2014 at 4:07 pm

I definitely enjoyed the first episode but am too cheap to get a Starz subscription. I’ll just have to wait until the series is ancient and on YouTube or something…;)
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