• The romantic adventure series returns April 4
• Series stays loyal to the popular books by Diana Gabaldon
• Team of experts check every historical detail
The long wait is over for fans of the Starz series “Outlander,” who have been waiting since the end of September for the remaining eight episodes in the first season of the series created by Chowchilla’s Ronald D. Moore. The show returns Saturday, April 4.
The first eight episodes averaged 4.9 million viewers, with episode seven, “The Wedding,” drawing the highest ratings of 6.2 million viewers.
The cable series — based on the novels by Diana Gabaldon — spans the genres of romance, science fiction, history and adventure as it follows Claire Randall (Caitriona Balfe), a married British combat nurse in 1945 who mysteriously falls back through time to 1743 Scotland. She becomes torn between her husband, Frank Randall (Tobias Menzies), and Jamie Fraser (Sam Heughan), a Scottish warrior who comes to her rescue.
The first half of the season ended with Claire dealing with her marriage to Jamie when she is captured by the Redcoats. Claire’s being savagely interrogated by “Black Jack” Randall when Jamie comes to her rescue. The second half will look at Jamie’s heroic efforts and Claire standing trial for witchcraft.
Adapting a popular book series for TV comes with as many negatives as positives. It’s great that the books have a built-in fan base — Gabaldon’s series sold more than 25 million copies worldwide and were on the New York Times best-seller list six times. But those loyal fans are tough to please: They watch closely to make sure the series doesn’t stray too far from the books.
The fans are always on Moore’s mind.
“We sort of have the philosophy of we don’t make changes unless we have to. And then, if we do, we sort of always strive to get back to where the book was and sort of get back on the path,” says Moore, who shows up for the interview in a kilt made for him at 21st Century Kilt in Edinburgh.
Fans or not, adapting a book to a film or TV series always means compromises. That’s why Moore always knew the “Outlander” books had to be a series. There’s just too much material to condense into a film.
The trick is writing scripts that remain loyal to the books but still make sense to those who have never read the books.
“So you’re always trying to sort of keep an eye on the book and keep an eye on what you’ve established in terms of continuity and mythology and just keep moving forward,” Moore says.
Sixteen episodes proved the right number for the story in the first book without having to add extra material. Some of the episodes deal with only one chapter from the book, while others boil down multiple chapters into one-hour of footage.
A second season has been ordered, which will continue the story with the events revealed in Gabaldon’s second book, “Dragonfly in Amber.”
Much of the second book takes place in Paris, but that won’t change the production from shooting in Scotland.
“The second book is sort of divided into two pieces. There’s a section in Paris and then it returns to Scotland for the second half. We’ll build interiors at our facility in Cumbernauld where we do all of our stage work,” Moore says. “We’ll also do some location work in Scotland. And then, for exterior Paris streets and stuff like that, we’re starting the process of looking around and seeing where else we can shoot that kind of material.
“And then, it’s Scotland for the entire second half of the season.”
One thing that won’t change is the attention to detail. Several consultants — including a full-time historian — work on making every detail as authentic as possible.
There’s also technical consultants that work with the costume department, with set design, language coaches and dialect coaches and herbologists for the medicine.
“And we’ll bring in medical technicians on the day to do things with bandages and splints and that sort of thing,” Moore says. “In terms of how the actors wear their costumes, that’s pretty much left up to the costume department and their interaction with the actors.
“And I believe there’s a significant amount of freedom for the Highlanders how each of you wears the specific kilt and what you are comfortable with.”