Outlander explained by superfan: ‘It’s much more than a bodice ripper’

Caitriona Balfe and Sam Heughan playing Claire Randall and Jamie Fraser in Outlander.
Caitriona Balfe and Sam Heughan playing Claire Randall and Jamie Fraser in Outlander.
Share this article
0
Have your say

IT has finally been confirmed that Outlander is coming to British TV screens, with a slot on More4 in the next few weeks.

And frankly, it’s about time. The show has earned rave reviews from critics, and proven immensely popular in America. Nominated for Emmys, BAFTAs and Golden Globes, with its stars Sam Heughan and Caitriona Balfe propelled to state-side fame, it’s hard to believe it’s taken three years for it to be picked up by a UK network.

There were some unconfirmed reports that the show’s broadcast delay this side of the Atlantic was linked to the Scottish Independence Referendum of 2014, although Outlander author Diana Gabaldon stressed that there was “no evidence” to back up this theory. Despite this, British viewers have been able to watch the show on streaming service Amazon Prime since 2015.

Independence, Jacobites and a compelling love triangle Outlander is based on Gabaldon’s bestselling series of novels, which follow Claire Randall (Balfe), who passes through some Scottish standing stones and is transported back in time. She ends up in the 18th century, where she falls in love with Jamie Fraser.

READ MORE: Outlander to be broadcast on UK television for first time

The Jacobite Rebellion is bubbling around them, and Claire knows how it will end. Will she find her way back to the safety of the future, and to her husband Frank? Or will she stay with Jamie, and try to prevent the deaths associated with the uprising? Given the premise, it might seem easy to dismiss the show as frothy, romantic fiction. It’s absolutely not.

Outlander fan Angela Sasso, an admin of the prominent fan group Outlandish UK, describes it as “much more than a bodice ripper.” “The show and the novels – they don’t really fit into one genre,” she explains. “It’s a love story, an adventure story, a fantasy story and a history story. “It blends everything in together very seamlessly and captures you right from the very beginning.” This isn’t Poldark Initially, the story is very much about the fight for love.

It’s Frank vs Jamie, Future Claire vs Past Claire (or should that be Present Claire?) But for viewers who want a light-hearted historical romance, beware: this isn’t Poldark-lite.

In fact, there are some particularly brutal scenes later on which make Game of Thrones look like kids TV. It can come as a surprise, given the early tone of the show.

But some moments in series one prove that Outlander can be gripping, raw television.

“Once you get past the first episode, it quickly becomes clear that it’s not this general romance playing out,” says Sasso. “[The violence] is intrinsic to the story. I think TV can get very brutal in general. I don’t think audiences are immune to sex, violence and what goes on on television.

READ MORE: Meet the last Outlander casting

“Especially when you get things like Game of Thrones.” A ratings winner for More4? Putting the show on mainstream TV is important, Sasso adds, as she believes it deserves a wider audience.

“Even though it’s being filmed in Scotland I think it’s very much under the radar,” she says. “And it’s even more under the radar in the rest of the UK. “Bringing it to More4 will definitely help. Hopefully it will be even more popular. “I think it will make it more mainstream and make even bigger stars of Caitriona Balfe and Sam Heughan.” Given its immense popularity already, More4 may well have bagged a ratings winner.