Historical sci- fi with extra depth
Separating its debut
season into two halves, the historical, sci- fi epic Outlander returned in April with eight more episodes charting the adventures of time- traveller Claire Beauchamp and her Scottish clansman protector, Jamie Fraser. Finally committed to staying in 1743 because of her love for Jamie, Claire faces acclimatising to a male- dominated society that continues to grate on her “modern” 1945 sensibilities. She has to suffer marital discipline, Black Jack Randall’s ( Tobias Menzies) continued masochistic assaults, and even the threat of burning at the stake. But for all the thematic ugliness, there’s arguably not a more handsome television series right now than Outlander – and that includes its cast.
Thankfully, the darkness of the era and some of author Diana Gabaldon’s most unpleasant setpieces are tempered by the evolving relationships of Claire, Jamie, his extended family, and Claire’s witchy friend, Geillis Duncan. Executive producer Ronald D Moore scores points for doing what he needs to tell his version of Gabaldon’s story, such as changing up the first- person point of view in “The Reckoning”, so we get inside Jamie’s head. The device makes him less of a fairytale
Behind The Scenes: Outlander is executive produced by two Star Trek franchise heavyweights: Ronald D Moore and Ira Steven Behr.
Star Turn: There’s a special twinkle in the performance of Lotte Verbeek as mystical charmer Geillis Duncan. Her arc ends in a great reveal that makes her performance even more delicious.
Locations: Outlander is shot on location in Scotland. Castle Leoch is actually Doune Castle in Perthshire and Lallybroch is Midhope Castle near Edinburgh.
It’s Wossisname! Actor Graham McTavish is a genre vet known for voicing Loki in the Avengers animated series, tons of videogame characters, and for playing Dwalin the Dwarf in the Hobbit films.
Best Line: Jamie: “Jenny, will you please turn around while I try to get out before my cock snaps off?!” prince and more of a well- rounded man of his times ( albeit a progressive one) struggling with his own failures and a stubbornness that rivals his new wife’s.
The genre part of the show also comes back out to play when Claire and Geillis are accused of witchcraft by the suspicious community of Castle Leoch. Moore addresses the perils of superstition and the damage that Claire inadvertently unleashes when she tries to reverse centuries’ old beliefs. There’s also quite a twist that blows open the randomness of Claire travelling back in time. It leaves the audience pondering in the best way, and doesn’t pull focus from the character moments the show does so well. Other episodes feature highlights such as Simon Callow as the Duke of Sandringham, who illustrates the slippery political slope of English/ Scottish relations.
By exploring the brutality of the time and the ramifications of oppression ( political, sexual and gender- based) via the characters’ poignant points of view, Outlander is proving to be a refreshing, intelligent, genre offering. Tara Bennett
Wonder what Claire’s views on Scottish independence are…