Outlander

Starz, Saturdays 9 p.m.

Aug 09, 2014 Web Exclusive
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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 Braveheartthe sets and settings recall such Celtic epicspart 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

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Average reader rating: 7/10



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sandy
August 9th 2014
7:43pm

Clearly your reviewer hasn’t read the books, or even the dust jackets.  I’m really curious what he’s referring to by ‘casting too wide a net’ because, again if you had done any book research you would know this, the juxtaposition of a 20th century life against the Scottish highlands of the 18th, is the whole premiss!
Speaking of…just because it’s set in a certain time and place doesn’t mean it has, should have or is trying to have any reference/influence to/from Braveheart whatsoever.  The fact that everything feels ‘odd’ or out of place against the well educated Claire is EXACTLY the point. 
Where you get that the ritual did anything to except establish a reason for Claire to be at the standing stones is beyond me; and more of an example of your lack of understanding and failure to research the item of which you’re writing.
As an avid fan of the books, this first installment of the long awaited film adaption was quite good.  Some parts were nearly word for word from the actual text and the nuances were not missed.
The casting is spot on and the sets, while at first blush seem a bit austere are actually quite fitting with the descriptions from the book and help to build a difference between the two time periods.
And finally, keep in mind that the first episode of any multi-episode story has to build a lot of information, back story and character establishment and Outlander, so far, has done this brilliantly.
It may not be your cup of tea, and that’s fine. Just keep in mind….the real story is yet to come!

Linda L
August 13th 2014
7:20pm

I don’t think this reviewer even watched the episode.  Several of the comments in the 2nd paragraph are taken (word for word) from other reviews that I have seen.  Really?  Why bother writing anything?

Liz
September 6th 2014
9:35pm

Sandy and Linda are spot on. This reviewer clearly demonstrates that he has no grasp of the source material. That is evident in his observation that nudity and sex have been gratuitously added by the producers. Even if one could overlook that error, the remark that “sporadic violence and occasional rape (or attempted rape) seem at odds with the introspective voiceover provided by the well-educated Claire” proves that the reviewer does not get it - that is EXACTLY the point. Claire is very much at odds with the new world she’s entered. Lastly, the statement that “the show straddles too many lines, as far as tone and genre go” is the most incriminating comment. The genre-bending complexity of Outlander is at the heart of its brilliance. Perhaps the reviewer’s critique would be “exponentially stronger” if he actually understood the material. Diana Gabaldon put brilliance to page and Ronald D. Moore transposed it brilliantly and faithfully to film.

Ellen Perrenoud
October 24th 2014
5:30pm

Zach, you are what I like to call, “wrong”. Read the books. They are full of history, adventure, a touch of romance, not a little sex, and quite a bit of darkness.