Here we are in the home stretch, just a few days before the Season 3 finale. Hard to believe. And even though Droughtlander will resume again, we can take heart knowing that Season 4 filming is well underway. This means, of course, that the writers, Gary’s team (set/location), and Terry’s team (costume) started work months ago. So many hours, and so much heart and soul go into bringing this production to life. If you’re reading this, please know that I hold the creators of this show in the highest regard, and that my comments are made from a point of not only respect, but of love. My observations are intended to be constructive.
I was originally going to address this missive to the Outlander Writers, but it’s not just the writers…. I’ve come to realize through my exposure to this process how important the role of editing is. Having studied the scripts, I know that many times nuances have been included in the scripts, prepared for, acted, and filmed, but are missing from the final product. The meaning of a scene and the portrayal of a character can change completely because of what is or is not omitted. Also critical to the process is directing. Directors are like game day coaches, guiding the action and feel of individual scenes, while shepherding the big picture to make sure everything fits together in a flowing, meaningful way. Directors also work closely with editors. I believe it’s critical that all the individuals who fill these three roles truly understand one thing, and that’s who our main characters really are.
Millions of people have not only read Diana’s books, we have internalized them. On March 6, 1988, the characters of Jamie and Claire were ignited, as was their story… a story conceived of the inter weavings of lifetimes and people, of the dimensions of history, mixed with the mystical, the familiar, the timeless, and the mundane. These characters have lived for almost 30 years now. They exist. Jamie and Claire exist in the mind of their creator, and in the minds of all who have read their story; they just are.
The visual adaptation of these books is important. It’s important to the multitudes of people who know these characters, and to the many who will know them. Do we not become essentially changed by those with whom we share our lives? We do, I say. They become part of us, and we them, even characters from a book. (See more on Experience Taking, here).
So, after three seasons of being “part” of this Outlander journey, I offer my observations. The first is, minor changes in the story work. For example, Claire’s Season 1 run-in with creepy Father Bain over Thomas Baxter’s demonic possession, (which was actually Lily of the Valley poisoning, of course), is not in the book. Yet, the scene works beautifully to communicate and set up so many things: Claire and Geillis’ relationship as time travelers, the contrast between Claire and the beliefs of the time, Claire’s drive to heal and knowledge about healing, the power and perceptions about clerical authority and superstition in the 18th century, Claire’s relationship with Mrs. Fitz, and the groundwork for the witch trial. Even though this storyline did not happen in the book, it is plausible, and congruent.
Changes to supporting characters also work. In Season 3, Mr. Willoughby is portrayed as a more dignified version of the Willoughby character in Voyager. Fans seem to be happy with this change by and large, due in part to the excellent portrayal by Gary Young, in my opinion. Mr. Willoughby fulfills his role in the story, and it works.
For me, (and I’m interested in others’ opinions), what does not work is when Jamie and Claire make a departure from themselves: when they literally behave out of character. When this happens, my willing suspension of disbelief is disrupted, I am wrenched from the story, and transported back to my living room, or wherever I happen to be watching. This is the one adaptation that doesn’t seem to work.
Adaptation is defined as: “a change or the process of change by which an organism or species becomes better suited to its environment.” and “the act or process of changing to better suit a situation.” I understand that an 800 page novel cannot be fully portrayed in its original form on television, and most of the adaptations made to the material are seamless. I am not a book purist when it comes to the show, but as it turns out, I am a Jamie and Claire purest. I simply cannot see a good reason to change these two iconic characters; who they are is not only essential, it is the very fabric of this story. The story can change, the fabric should not.
The first notable instance of a departure (that I can remember) was Boobgate in Season 1. People were outraged, not by the fact that Jamie touched Laoghaire’s breast, in my opinion, but because Jamie wasn’t Jamie. Or was he? I found an interesting statement from Diana about the subject…
excerpt – CompuServe 4/7/15