Can you hear those bagpipes? Starz's long-anticipated Outlander has finally arrived, promising to sweep viewers off their feet with romance, kilts, time-travel, the 18th century, and sexy Scottish accents. But will the series make your heart go pitter-pat, or will it sit in your stomach like a too-ambitious serving of fatty genre stew? Lads and lasses, I've seen the first episode, and I'm here to help you answer that question and more!
Wait—Scotland, time-travel, and a love story... so Outlander is a period piece? Or a sci-fi epic? Or a romance? Or... what?
In a word, yes. Outlander is based on a series of science-fiction/historical romance fantasy novels that's been known to suck people in much like the show's protagonist is sucked through time and space. By not really conforming to any one genre out of the many it samples from, Outlander tells the story of Claire Randall, a married English army nurse who's mysteriously transported from the 1940s back to 18th century Scotland, where she is forced to marry the Scottish warrior Jamie Fraser. When Claire falls in love with Jamie—and trust me, once you see/meet him you will understand—she's torn between two men, two centuries, and two lives.
Who's bringing Outlander to my TV screen? And who's doing the time-traveling and the romancing?
Ronald D. Moore, showrunner of the very beloved Battlestar Galactica, basically cherry-picked Outlander as his next thematic muse. In addition to being a bonafide genius at making science-fiction compelling on storytelling levels that transcend genre, Moore’s wife Terry Dresbach (who’s one of the show's costume designers) is apparently a rabid fan of the books, so that gives him a compelling reason not to piss off the fans.
Meanwhile, the two leads are incredibly cast: Caitriona Balfe channels Cate Blanchett's coolness while remaining accessible as Claire, and Sam Heughan somehow portrays Jamie—who is easily the heart of the book’s appeal—as even more of Your Ideal Future Husband.
Tobias Menzies plays Claire's 20th century husband Frank Randall, as well as the sadist 18th century English army captain Jonathan "Black Jack" Randall, who's stationed in Scotland and has an unhealthy obsession with Jamie. Why the "one actor two characters" approach? Because Frank Randall is Black Jack's great-great-great-great grand nephew (there might be more greats involved) and they look eerily similar, which is a huge mindf#ck for main character Claire.
Graham McTavish, Gary Lewis, and Lotte Verbeek round out the cast.
When does the saga begin?
Outlander officially debuts this Saturday, August 9 at 9pm on Starz (although you can watch the first episode right now if you want!).
Who will be wooed by Outlander?
Are you interested in...
... science-fiction premises expanded in a realistic yet gorgeously cinematic way that touches on larger universal human truths?
... the perfect love of a tall and handsome Scottish Highlander?
... a rugged, unblinking look at the day-to-day life of 1700s Scotland?
... gorgeous landscapes?
If any of those things sound appealing, give the show a whirl, because it has them all.
What's swoon-worthy about Outlander?
Not only does the series look great, but it feels surprisingly real and gritty, like the very best speculative fiction. It’s surprising that film adaptions haven’t been attempted before now, but luckily Starz has decided to go in for a high-budget full series, giving the beloved saga the in-depth exploration it deserves... and opening up millions of more hearts and minds for young Jamie Fraser to enthrall.
What’s not to like about Outlander?
Even in the premiere there’s an attempted sexual assault, and throughout the source material, sexual violence—as well as its power dynamic, its drives, and its ripple effect—is deeply enmeshed with the primary storyline. Consider this a trigger warning right up front.
I'll make up my own damn mind—show me the trailer!
By all means, let the small fortune poured into making this promo do the talking:
Outlander premieres Saturday, August 9 at 9pm on Starz.