Outlander: Days Of Sassenach’s Past

Based on the books by Diana Gabaldon. This is the story of Claire Randall (Caitriona Balfe), a married wartime nurse from 1945 who is transported back to 1743 due to an anomaly that occurs in Scotland while with her husband Frank Randall (Tobias Menzies) on their honeymoon. When she arrives in 1743, she is instantly thrust into unchartered territory where her life is constantly threatened. The first person she meets is her husband’s ancestor, Jack Randall (Tobias Menzies), soon finding out that he is a vile man and lives up to his harsh reputation and then some. When she is forced to marry Jamie Fraser (Sam Heughan), a valiant and young Scottish warrior, a relationship ensues that rips Claire’s heart between two vastly different men in two different centuries.

Outlander is a blend of various genres which include: science fiction, history, period drama, war, politics, drama, romance and adventure. Romance is at the forefront from the start as we see Claire is very much in love with her Frank, played by Game Thrones’ Tobias Menzies. Then her whole life is drastically changed when she is sent back in time away from her heart’s desire. But the actual romantic side of the story didn’t take root until halfway through the season, when Claire marries Jamie Fraser. They only married so Claire didn’t fall into the hands of Black Jack and Jaime needed a wife. It was mutually beneficial. Their love erupted with each episode yet this tale of romance didn’t overcrowd the tome into a Twilight-esque sparkly story. Outlander is one of the best love stories I’ve ever seen, as well as incorporating other themes.

Claire Beechum & Jamie Fraser (Outlander, Starz)

Claire Beauchamp (Balfe) & Jamie Fraser (Heughan)
(Outlander, Starz)

Despite the threat of time paradoxes from deeds committed by Claire, the story kept on moving. Much alike the book of the same title, Jamie and Claire’s relationship was consistent in a narrative that constantly moved from location to location. These Scottish barbarians as the English liked to call them, liked being outdoors. The location shooting was masterclass. The Scottish Highlands is its own character with its own personality. It added to the already epic TV series in addition to the period setting. The series wins with not only its main cast, (Menzies, Heughan and Balfe) but also its supporting cast with great performances from: Graham McTavish (The Hobbit Trilogy) as Dougal MacKenzie, Gary Lewis (The Gangs Of New York) as Colum MacKenzie and many scene-stealing performances from Simon Callow (Doctor Who) as the political animal, The Duke Of Sandringham.

In conjunction, I really revelled in the introduction of Jamie’s sister Jenny Fraser (Laura Donelly); a practical and pragmatic Scottish lass who knows her own mind. She’s like Claire in that regard, much to Jamie’s dismay.I recently finished the first novel titled ‘Outlander’ (previously titled as Cross Stich) and managed to put a wall between the book characters and the show characters. That being said, the casting for the series is excellent. When I read book two (A Dragonfly In Amber), I will lift this wall due to greatness of the cast. They will be the faces I picture when reading. Balfe (Money Monster) and Heughan portraying a believable, serious and non-cringeworthy relationship was key for this series to succeed. And they did just that, with the Dr Jekyll/Mr Hyde-esque performance from Tobias Menzies playing Frank Randall (Dr Jekyll) and Black Jack Randall (Mr Hyde). He plays two characters who are related but couldn’t be more different, yet are separated by a gap of two hundred years, give or take.

Laird Of Castle Leoch & Chieftain Of Clan Mackenzie, Colum Mackenzie (Gary Lewis) (Outlander, Starz)

Laird Of Castle Leoch & Chieftain Of Clan Mackenzie, Colum Mackenzie (Gary Lewis)
(Outlander, Starz)

On numerous occasions, objectives changed and so did allegiances. Claire was trying to get back to the stones at Craig na Dun so she could travel back in time to Frank. Then it was about rescuing her from Black Jack Randall and red coat soldiers. This seems to be an all too regular thing. Then she’s accused of being a witch. In those times, if you were a woman and vaguely intelligent you could bet your ass that you would be accused of witchcraft. Then Claire had to rescue Jaime himself, which he took insult to because it wasn’t a womanly thing to do. The series wasn’t always about Claire and Jaime. It’s about how they interact with different characters and I rather enjoyed Claire’s relationship with her new sister-in-law Jenny Fraser. When you see them together onscreen, you can tell that they’re cut from the same cloth.

The story meanders through the Highlands of Scotland running into a red coat or two…or three. The season finale was intense and one of the best and worst hours of television that I have ever seen. It was one of the most haunting pieces of television ever, between Black Jack (Menzies) and Jamie (Heughan). This was in the episode, “To Ransom A Man’s Soul”. It was enough to shatter one’s heart into a million pieces yet it was incredibly well-made and well put-together, despite the grotesque themes and goings-on that we encounter in the episode. We learn what makes Black Jack tick, and it’s horrifying. We learn why he’s so cruel which adds to the Jamie’s earlier encounters with him. The events of that episode added to Claire, Black Jack and Jamie’s character development despite the morbidity of the events in Wentworth Prison.

"To Ransom A Man's Soul" isn't for the fainthearted. Black Jack (Menzies) and Jamie (Heughan) give their performances of the season (Outlander, Starz)

“To Ransom A Man’s Soul” isn’t for the fainthearted. Black Jack (Menzies) and Jamie (Heughan) give their performances of the season
(Outlander, Starz)

Starz’ Outlander has defied all opinions that were out to hinder them. One of the most damaging was the constant analogies that it’s Twilight but in Scotland. The writer, the creative team and the actors proved all the cynics wrong. It’s not strictly about romance. It’s about morality, history and politics too, among other things. This first season is thoroughly engaging from start to finish; amidst the beautiful Scottish landscapes, excellent performances from main and supporting cast alike in conjunction to a wonderful musical score by Bear McCreary.

This is one of the best book to screen adaptations I’ve ever seen and I’d go as far to say it’s one of the best adaptations I’ve ever seen, probably since the likes of Martin Scorsese’s Goodfellas. It was a job for me trying to find something that was omitted. That’s one thing that there needs to be more of in Hollywood. On any film or television production team, there should be one or two individuals whose job is to read the source and consult with the creatives because source accuracy seems to be inapparent of late.

At long lass, an adaptation that thoroughly respects the source material