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In 'Outlander' a 20th Century heroine finds herself in 18th Century Scotland

Caitriona Balfe
Photo by Jemal Countess/Getty Images

The long awaited television adaptation of “Outlander,” from a series of books about a British Army nurse circa post World War II who travels back in time to 18th Century Scotland, premiered on the Starz Network Saturday night. It features equal parts romance, fantasy, and enough mayhem to fill an episode of “Game of Thrones.” The television series is the brainchild of Ron Moore, who previously scored with TV viewers with a dark version of “Battlestar Galactica” on the SyFY Channel.

Roughly half of the pilot is set up, starting with Claire, played by Caitriona Balf, and Frank, played by Tobias Menzies, headed for Scotland in the autumn after World War Two to try to reconnect after being separated by the war. She had been a combat nurse and he an intelligence operative in the effort to put Hitler’s Germany in the grave. Now they have a quiet life ahead of them, something he looks forward to as an Oxford Don and she as an academic wife.

The problem is that Claire has lived a life of adventure, before the war being raised by her archeologist uncle at digs around the world, during the war saving lives in combat zones. One gets the impression that she is not exactly looking forward to the quiet life. Fortunately, if not for her then for the TV viewer, she is in for considerable amount of excitement.

The pilot episode goes into high gear once she slips back into time to 1740s Scotland. In the space of a short time she is very nearly raped by a captain of dragoons, an ancestor of her husband, is saved/abducted by a hairy, burly, and smelly highlander, and manages to use her 20th Century nursing skills to set the arm and then later deal with a bullet wound on Jamie, played by Sam Heughan. There will be much more of him and Claire anon.

The excitement is going to be intense, because the 1740s featured the last great rebellion by Scots against the British crown. Bonnie Prince Charlie, the “king across the water,” the pretender to the British throne, will in short order appear to lead the highland clans to wrack and ruin at a place called Culloden, which featured those self-same burly guys in kilts with claymore swords charging redcoats with muskets and fixed bayonets to the sound of bagpipes.

So if Claire was wondering if there was any adventure left for her, it seems that she has it now and in abundance. She is an archetype romantic heroine, outspoken, taking no guff from anyone, in an era where that kind of behavior can fetch a woman a beating. But she also has skills that will be much needed in the bloodbath to come. Add to that a love triangle separated by 200 years, and one has a very enjoyable, unique bit of television.