Review: 'Outlander’ book fan says readers shouldn’t worry about Starz’s stunning adaptation
For a different perspective: TV writer Michelle Stark reviews the show as someone who's never read the books.
Chances are, if we’re friends and you like to read, I’ve recommended the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon. But convincing someone to jump into eight books (and counting) that clock in at about 800 pages each ... well, it’s not easy. But as the TV adaptation premieres Saturday on Starz, I have a feeling my books might be on loan for awhile.
Fellow book lovers, trust me when I say this: After years of anxiety that any TV or movie adaptation could give Gabaldon’s words justice, it’s a relief that this show is spectacular.
The book series holds a special place in my heart. My dad’s wife introduced me to the books and, from there, we grew a lasting friendship. When Gabaldon came to Haslam’s book store in St. Petersburg last summer to meet fans and sign books, I even got in line early to get my book signed.
Gabaldon has been vocal about the multiple times she’s been approached over the years with movie adaptations of her books, but nothing ever seemed to satisfy her (or her hard-to-please fans). That is, until producer/writer Ronald D. Moore, of Battlestar Galactica glory, came to the author with a TV pilot script.
Moore, the executive producer, wrote the first two episodes of the show, but Gabaldon consulted heavily on the entire production. And it shows.
The first episode follows the first three chapters of the book very closely. There are many cases in which the dialogue is pulled word-for-word from the books. But there are just some things TV can do better. Here are some areas where Outlander the show really excels:
Location: Thank goodness they filmed on site in Scotland. As Claire is riding horseback with Jamie, I got lost in the misty green mountainside of the Scottish Highlands.
Score: The opening credits, set to an arrangement of the Scottish folk tune The Skye Boat Song by Emmy-winning composer Bear McCreary, give me chills. I’m hoping there’s a soundtrack in the works so I’ll have the perfect thing to listen to when I reread the book series.
Chemistry: When this show was first announced, one of the worst anxieties from book fans was the casting. They didn’t get it wrong here, guys. Yes, Caitriona Balfe’s eyes are blue, not brown like Claire in the books. Get over it. And sure, Sam Heughan’s hair might not be as fiery red as you imagined Jamie’s to be. But as soon as these guys are in a scene together, I am glued to the screen. Even as she’s cursing up a storm trying to put Jamie back together after battle, Claire’s eyes are saying so much.
There is one problem that might have readers on edge. Claire has a lot of voiceover in the first episode. Readers know what’s happening, and we know what’s going to happen. We’re here to watch, not listen. She even continues to talk over a perfectly good sex scene. How rude!
Gabaldon has promised in the press that the TV adaptation will hold very closely to the books, and she has faith the fans will love the series, too. As Jamie says to Claire (in one of the best lines of the whole book): “Ye need not be scairt of me. ... Nor of anyone here, so long as I’m with ye.” So, to my fellow readers, you shouldn’t be scared of the TV series, because it’s clear Diana’s with us, all the way.