“Outlander?”, you say, “what on earth is that?”
Well, where have you been for the past year? Crawl out from under that rock of yours and catch up or face missing out on one of the most exciting television shows to grace our screens in a very long time.
Adapted from the best-selling book series created by American author, Diana Gabaldon, Outlander follows the story of English World War II nurse, Claire Randall (Caitriona Balfe), as she is mysteriously thrown back in time to eighteenth century Scotland and forced to survive in a climate of unrest, severe danger, and a perilous standard of personal hygiene.
Having managed to make it to twenty years of age without hearing of these best-selling books I stumbled across a trailer for Outlander’s season premiere last October and made a resolution to find out more.
After reading the reviews of the first few episodes I settled down to watch the first episode and by the time the credits had rolled I was frantically searching for the next one, desperate to find out how Claire’s journey in Scotland would continue.
As always, when I am entirely gripped by a television show I am desperate to get everyone I know on board as well. I am sure my housemates and family must have been quite fed up with me rabbiting on about the dreaminess of Jamie Fraser (Sam Heughan) and my fascination with eighteenth century Scottish history. Luckily I managed to convince both my housemate and my sister to sit down for the first episode – and I was immediately vindicated.
Fresh with the satisfaction of converting my best friends, I turn my attention to the rest of you. Whilst Outlander has plenty of followers, it could always do with some more, right? So if you haven’t heard of it, or have but haven’t made up your mind up yet – here is my attempt to twist your arm. Without further ado, here are my top ten reasons to watch Outlander.
1) The premise may sound a bit sci-fi but I can promise you that the time travel aspect, although important, shouldn’t put off those who prefer the more traditional storytelling devices. Outlander is a story with incredibly human themes: love, friendship, sacrifice, family, home, suffering, rebellion, repression – to name just a few. Watch Outlander and expect to find yourself immersed in an incredibly moving and powerful story of humanity in a time when life was a bit more difficult than we might be used to with our anaesthetic and hot baths.
2) It’s under-appreciated at award shows – and we all know the best shows never get nominated? Well this may be a matter of personal opinion but there was a staggering amount of Emmy buzz earlier this year surrounding leading actors Balfe and Heughan as well as the portrayer of sinister Red Coat, Jack “Black” Randall, Tobias Menzies. Which brings me onto my next point…
3) The performances are phenomenal: The Emmy buzz was far from undeserved. Outlander tackles an incredible range of issues from love and passion, to violence and sexual assault. The result is an array of unbelievable performances from its leading cast. Whilst they may not have been successful in capturing the highly-sought-after Emmy nominations, actors Sam Heughan and Tobias Menzies, produce stunning performances, particularly as the first season comes to a close, taking the audience from moments of pure horror, to those of staggering emotion and heartbreak. One minute you will be unable to watch the screen and the next you will be sobbing your eyes out. There are some more cheerful moments as well! I promise!
4) It’s leading male, Sam Heughan, portrayer of the fan-favourite, Jamie Fraser, just won the prestigious title of Radio Times ‘TV Champion’ 2015, beating out Poldark’s leading hunk, Aidan Turner, and funny man, Ricky Gervais, to capture the award. Heughan’s immense popularity had hoards of Outlander fans frantically clicking the ‘vote’ button, determined to make sure their man won – and 16.5 million votes couldn’t possibly be wrong, right?
5) It certainly doesn’t hurt that he looks like this:
Whilst this reasoning may not apply to some of you – to all those whom this picture appeals to – you will never be tired of watching Sam Heughan and his gorgeous red hair striding around the Highlands.
6) It’s not afraid of tackling thorny issues: As I have hinted, Outlander does not shy away from highlighting the reality of life in eighteenth century Scotland. Whilst it might sometimes be hard to watch, Outlander and its cast bravely explore topics in a sensitive and moving way.
7) Its set in the breathtakingly beautiful Highlands of Scotland: Despite going to university just across the border I have only rarely visited the northern part of the British Isles. Yet watching Outlander has made me longing to go. Whilst it is not entirely filmed in the Highlands, the production does film in Scotland, and essentially serves as a weekly advertisement for Scotland’s rich landscapes. Know that when you watch Outlander you will not be swallowing the sight of Sam Heughan and Catriona Balfe wondering around in front of a poorly-disguised green screen, but amongst the incredibly wet, and incredibly beautiful, surroundings of Scotland.
8) It’s portrayal of women is wonderfully progressive: Whilst some change has been occurring in this area over the past few years, (thanks in large part to the hard work of Shonda Rhimes) there are a startlingly small number of strong female characters in film and television, yet Outlander adds one – and a really great one – to the mix. Claire Randall, is intelligent, brave and strong, holding her own in a sea of burly, bearded men. Not one to act as a wallflower, Claire uses her intellect (and convenient knowledge of 18th century Scottish history) to battle her way. Furthermore, there is the added element of a twentieth-century woman who had earned a degree of equality, trying to survive in an eighteenth century world where women were far from offered the same opportunities.
9) The history: As a period that is not often covered within the history classrooms, this is a period that I was far from familiar with – and I am a undergraduate History student! Outlander introduces you to a whole area of history that you may know next to nothing about. It also covers a period of history that may resonate particularly strongly with those who currently reside in the British Isles.
10) The production value: The sets and costumes are fantastic, seamlessly integrating you into the the complicated social and political webs of eighteenth century Scotland.
So there you go. I hope the heaps of superlatives I have laid on have convinced you. Certainly, some of these reasons I have just mentioned are a huge credit to the books on which they are based. It is Diana Gabaldon who created these wonderful characters and rich story. Since starting to watch the show I have read the first two books in the Outlander series and can testify that they are just as thrilling as the TV show. Whether you decide to venture into eighteenth-century Scotland via the book or screen, you won’t be disappointed.
For those in need of just a little bit more convincing, take a look at the trailer below.
Let me know if I have been successful in the comments section below. Or if you’ve already watched the show/read the books, let me know if you agree with me. Or do you have another reason for watching Outlander?
Thanks for reading.