‘No evidence referendum to blame for Outlander snub’

SCOTLAND’S answer to Game of Thrones has now been snapped up by 15 countries around the world, says the bestselling writer who created it.

Diana Gabaldon enjoyed a standing ovation at the Book Festival. Picture: Greg Macvean

But Diana Gabaldon, the author of acclaimed time-travel adventure series Outlander which has been turned into a lavish TV series, admits she has no idea why the show had been snubbed by UK broadcasters.

Tourism agency VisitScotland has launched a campaign to capitalise on the show, which has been filming in locations across Scotland since last autumn.

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Gabaldon revealed Outlander would be seen in Australia, New Zealand, Canada, the Middle East and a host of European countries following sales of the show, even though it has only just premiered in the US.

Speaking at a sold-out event at the Edinburgh Book Festival, the US author said that despite rumour the show hadn’t been picked up due to the referendum, she had seen no evidence to support the claim.

Gabaldon said she was thrilled that the initial success for Outlander, which attracted more than five million viewers, had eclipsed the success of Game of Thrones when it launched. She also revealed that the original inspiration for the novels – a kilted Doctor Who character in the 1960s – had won a starring role in the TV show.

English actor Frazer Hines, who played Jamie MacCrimmon alongside Patrick Troughton’s Doctor and went on to find fame in Emmerdale, will play a prison governor in some key scenes in the series.

Gabaldon said she feared the books would never have been adapted for the screen after a series of negotiations came to nothing, only for US cable channel Starz and Sony to step in with a deal for a production with a budget of £36 million.

Gabaldon, a consultant to the show, revealed that executive producer Ronald Moore, best known for Battlestar Galactica, told her he wanted to take on an adaptation after reading the book in one night.

Channel 4 is believed to be the front-runner to screen Outlander in the UK, although the first 16-part series of the show is being divided into two, with the second half not due to get under way in the US until January.

British fans have been left furious at the snub and have had to resort to watching the show illegally. Boos were heard at Gabaldon’s festival event when she mentioned the impasse.

Gabaldon said: “Starz is the production company. It’s their job to make the show, which they’re doing at the moment in Scotland. But as they are an American company they only have the rights to show it in the US. All the other rights belong to Sony, which is making individual deals with different countries.

“There is a lot of talk and speculation as to why the show hasn’t been sold to the UK yet. There is public talk, rumour and speculation, but there is absolutely no evidence on which to speculate. The most common rumour is that they’re holding off until after the referendum on independence, but as far as I know there’s no evidence whatsoever to suggest that’s true.”

Starz and Sony sprang a major surprise last week when they announced that a second series had been commissioned – despite only one episode of the first having been screened. Gabaldon added: “The first episode, which was shown on 9 August, had five million viewers. Game of Thrones had half a million for its first episode. Ronald has just told me that the second episode, which went out on Saturday night, had a 25 per cent increase in viewers.”