Starz, Saturdays 9 p.m.
Aug 09, 2014
World War Two, which kept Claire Randall (Caitriona Balfe) and her husband Farank (Tobias Menzies) apart for five years, has just ended. To get reacquainted with one another after such a prolonged separation, the Randalls take a second honeymoon from their English home to Scotland. Late one night, they observe a pagan ritual in the woods. Claire returns to the site of the ceremony the next morning, unaware that the pagan chants manipulated time. She touches a super-charged prayer stone and wakes up 200 years in the past, an English woman in Scotland at a time when the two nations were at war. Soon she is aided by the dashing Scottish warrior Jamie Fraser (Sam Heughan).
Outlander is based on a series of novels by Diana Gabaldon and is executive produced and partly written by Ronald D. Moore, who successfully rebooted Battlestar Galactica a decade ago. It's an odd, sometimes interesting, though not always successful genre bender. It is part Braveheart—the sets and settings recall such Celtic epics—part Lifetime movie, and part paperback romance novel. Sporadic violence and the occasional rape (or attempted rape) seem at odds with the introspective voiceover provided by the well-educated Claire. Given that Outlander airs on one of the premium cable channels (Starz), it also features a healthy portion of nudity and sex, both of which come across as gratuitously added by producers wishing to take advantage of their "anything goes" programmatic freedom. Outlander's greatest handicap is the snail's pace at which it often moves, while promising so much more action than it delivers. The premise provides an interesting hook for a period drama, but the show straddles too many lines, as far as tone and genre go. If it committed more fully to any one direction, it would be exponentially stronger. As it is, it feels too concerned with casting as wide a net as possible and could fail to catch many return viewers. (www.starz.com/originals/outlander)
Author rating: 5/10
Average reader rating: 7/10
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