Outlander has been winning fans on Amazon since March 2015, but it’s all new to me, so allow me a recap. This is a historical romance with sci-fi time travel elements based on novels by Diana Gabaldon and set in the highlands of Scotland in 1743. Safe to say this is absolutely not my usual fare. I tend to run a mile at the word ‘romance’ but I’d heard great things about this show, and props to them; they’re clearly not afraid to chart their own course. Mr H reminds me frequently that I’d do a better job of blogging about telly if I nudge myself out of my comfort zone more often. So I don my silky negligee, pink fluffy kitten-heel slippers – which I understand is the uniform for all women who love romance – and armed only with a padded box of soft-center chocolates (the customary accessory) here I go.
Claire Randall (played by Caitriona Balfe), the hero of the piece, is transported by mystical means at the standing stones of Craigh na Dun from 1945 to 1743. Oh Claire, if only you’d had the same big book of Irish fairy tales that I did as a kid. You’d know you should never take anything from inside a fairy ring! She’s whisked off to a very different time in exactly the same place, if that makes sense, and this story is her querying quest – how will she get home, does she really want to go back, and will it be worth the effort?
In 1945 husband Frank is quite a nice chap, coming to terms with the end of the war and return to married life proper. They’ve both been busy with the war effort – she’s a nurse and he’s a spy, and this first episode is them learning how to be a couple again. This seems to be very swiftly getting back to lots of shagging. Ooh missus! Frank sort of turns up in 1740 too – the English army captain is his direct ancestor so Tobias Menzies (also busy in Game of Thrones) gets to play good guy and bad guy depending on the period. As with most parts of this show initially it’s quite confusing, but begins to make sense based on the interior logic of this world.
The first episode especially is very sad. If you know one thing about Outlander, you know that Claire is separated from her husband and literally out-of-time. It’s hard to enjoy the romantic Scottish honeymoon when you’re just waiting for the axe to fall.
Back in 1740 Claire’s skills prove very necessary – she’s a nurse who has seen front-line action in WWII, and so quickly becomes essential to the Laird at Castle Leoch. She does too good of a job as castle quack and they refuse to let her leave. All she can think about it travelling back to the standing stones near Inverness, despite the Highlands being a bit like a damp wild west at this time. She’s so determined to find a way back to her time zone she doesn’t have time to be afraid.
But there’s a glitch in this plan, and extremely mysterious dashing glitch called Jamie Fraser (played by Sam Heughan ). So far they’ve been able to keep their hands off each other, but it’s clear he’ll soon be helping her forget all about her husband. Who can resist an outlaw with a dark and heroic past?
The weird sad story is complemented by great music, composed by Bear McCreary who also works with great skill on The Walking Dead. The beautiful haunting theme tune (“…over the sea to Skye”) just makes you want to weep. And the action in the castle is punctuated with songs from the 1940’s (“Run Rabbit Run”). It’s jarring, but nicely reflects Claire’s own confusion.
Obviously any show set in the Scottish Highlands is extravagantly beautiful, and they’ve done a good job with the interiors too with great attention to detail. It’s a Visit Scotland campaign with dramatic dialogue.
No spoilers here, but I’ve heard that the traditional gender roles are played around with throughout both series 1 and 2. I’m interested to see how it plays out and whether Claire decides to stay and make a life for herself or keeps working on plans to get home. I’m steeled for heartbreak as I’ve a feeling falling in love with this show is going to be an emotional ride.
Outlander is available on Amazon Prime