Gabaldon’s eight-book "Outlander" novel
series has sold more than 25 million copies worldwide,
yet the author didn’t publish her first story — the
first "Outlander" novel — until she was
nearly 40 and already established in an academic career
as a scientist.
62, Gabaldon said she is delighted her story finally has
yielded its first screen adaptation. Developed and
written for Starz by Ronald D. Moore of "Battlestar
Galactica" fame, "Outlander" is in the
midst of a 16-episode first season.
genre-defying mix of adventure, sci-fi and fantasy all
processed with romance novel tropes,
"Outlander" is about a young World War II
nurse named Claire (Caitriona Balfe) whose life takes a
terrifying turn when, during a romantic Scottish getaway
with her husband, Frank, (Tobias Menzies) she’s
suddenly and inexplicably transported to the year 1743.
possibly for good, she must learn how to navigate life
in an era defined by a series of bloody battles between
Scottish rebels seeking independence and Engish forces
occupying their homeland.
have known since I was 8 I wanted to be a
novelist," Galbadon said in a phone interview.
"(But) my dad was like, ‘You are sure to marry a
bum, so get a good education and a job so you can take
care of yourself,’ so I went into the sciences,"
earned degrees in zoology, marine biology and behavioral
ecology and worked through the 1980s as a professor at
the Center for Environmental Studies at Arizona State
I turned 35 I thought, ‘Mozart was dead at , so
maybe it’s time I tried" to become a creative
true scientist, she set up an experiment: She’d write
a novel just to see if she could do it.
"Outlander" series is beloved by fans for its
exquisitely researched and raw representation of life in
18th century Scotland. But why pick this tale?
Galbadon been consumed as a child by Scottish history?
The story was entirely incidental.
fiction seemed easiest, since I was a researcher and I
knew my way around a library," said the author, who
decided on the time and place to set her yarn after
watching an old "Doctor Who" episode that had
the time traveler visit 18th century Scotland.
nothing better than the image of a man in a kilt,"
said Galbadon, who didn’t visit Scotland until well
after completing the novel.
was written entirely from library research," she
years later, the book had become a hot best-selling
title and Galbadon, who told her agent she had plenty of
more to say about Claire, signed a multi-book publishing
the story on screen was a different matter. Several
producers optioned the story over the past two decades
but failed to develop a workable feature film, said
was impressed by Moore’s suggestion for adapting the
books into a TV series and by his intuitive
understanding of the story and its characters.
the first time, a screenplay was produced that
"didn’t make me turn white or burst into
flames," said Galbadon.
Galactica" fans on the blogosphere have wracked
their brains trying to figure what statement Moore wants
to make by taking on "Outlander," whose magic
realism is a far cry from "Galactica’s"
stark, martial mood, blood and guts flavor.
said he simply loved the story.
I really like the central character of Claire. I
responsded to her intelligence, ability and strenth,"
said Moore. "It’s just such a great voice,"
Moore said of Claire, who narrates the story both in the
book and, via voiceover, on the show.
there are similarities between Moore’s two projects,
it is the sense of doom that forms the backdrop to the
respective stories. "Galactica" is set after a
war that has destroyed most of humanity and is about a
ragtag group of survivors whose feature is uncertain.
its part, "Outlander" is set just three years
before the Scottish rebellion is definitively crushed by
England at a decisive battle in 1746, when the
victorious English break up the clans, forbid the
wearing of clan tartans, and ban the native language,
Gaelic. They even banned bagpipe music.
was really struck by the idea of a doomed culture,"
said Moore. "These people are coming up to a cliff
they can’t see."
actor Sam Heughan plays one of the film’s two male
protagonists, Scottish rebel Jamie Fraser, who develops
a complex relationship with Claire.
knows from the minute she arrives, all these people are
going to die. From the very start we’re looking at a
doomed people, a doomed culture," he said.
is something deeply romantic about the idea of
Scotland" because of its history, added Heughan.
experienced warrior whose back is criss-crossed by scars
from an English whip, Jamie finds his match in the
both have trouble fitting in, said Heughan
has lost his family and so he has given up his
responsibilities," he said. "He’s an heir of
a great estate, but he turned his back on Scotland and
went away to fight in (England’s) war with
wanted criminal hunted by the English, he returns to his
uncles’ castle in less than ideal circumstances. It
seems natural he’d be drawn to Claire.
who hails from Monaghan, Ireland, said Claire finds
herself in a world where women have few rights.
Circumstances require she befriend Jamie. She’s
attracted to him, yet resists it with all her might.
is very much in love with her husband, Frank," but
she’s forced to seek protection from Jamie.
especially true given the third man who enters Claire’s
life: Jonathan "Black Jack" Wolverton Randall,
a ruthless English army captain who has been put in
charge of eradicating the Scotish rebellion.
of Frank’s ancestors, Black Jack looks identical to
Claire’s husband. (Menzies plays both characters.)
is a physical connection between Black Jack and Frank
and she feels there’s a piece of Frank in him,"
said Balfe. "She thinks somehow she can connect
with Black Jack."
soldier may be an officer, but he’s certainly not a
gentleman. He beats Claire and attempts to rape her.
who said he "cherished the chance to play two
different people," said both Frank, a World War II
officer, and Black Jack "are shaped by the
experience of war, but with very differing
added, Black Jack has hardended. He seems lacking in
has that little voice of conscience inside," said
Menzies, "but he has turned away from it."
we expect "Outlander to buck the historical record
and give us, in grand Hollywood tradition a happy ending
— where the Scottish rebels aren’t defeated by the
English, where Claire finds true love with Jamie and
gets to go back to the future?
count on it.
have a full-time historian who vets the scripts, a
Gaelic teacher and an herbalist to show how herbs were
used in medicine," said Moore.
you want to give a fantastical story to the audience,
then you want to keep it as grounded in reality as much
laughed at the question.
happy ending? Well, um ... I don’t know. This is
Ronald Moore. ... There’s always a sense of doom and