This coming weekend, on August 9th, at 9 P.M., the first episode of Outlander, the television adaptation of Diana Gabaldon's first of her novels about Claire and her Jamie will have its official debut. However, it is already available, for free, on the Starz Outlander page, on your computer and on demand on most cable systems in the United States for at least the rest of this week. I have watched it twice since it's free premier, to check on facts before I wrote this article, and also just simply to watch it again to enjoy it. And believe me, it is enjoyable.
While some continue to debate why Jamie may be right handed, what color eyes Claire should have been, and whether or not children should watch it, many of us just don't notice those things and enjoy it for what it is: One damn good production, probably the best adaptation I've seen in a long time.
And here's why:
1. Sam Heughan and Caitriona Balfe ARE Claire and Jamie. (I know you won't all agree with this, but so it goes.) He is the vulnerable hunk we meet in the novel and she is the feisty former World War II nurse who's swept back in time while on her second honeymoon with her husband, Frank Randall. (More on other characters later.)
2. Its production qualities are...well, quality! It is evident that a great deal of time and effort were put into making the costumes, sets, and scenery feel authentic, both for the 1940's and the 1740's. It is a pleasure to watch the story unfold wit such superb values of production.
3. The music is wonderful. The composer, Bear McCreary (yes, Bear is his real first name), has used tradition Celtic music and instruments and long with orchestrations, and integrated them into the story so well that at first you don't notice it, and then it hits you. The witches dance music and the song for the opening credits particularly lovely. I can hardly wait for the soundtrack album to become available. The opening credits are already available on iTunes.
4. Tobias Menzies, Tobias Menzies, Tobias Menzies. Since his Game of Thrones wedding was ruined by all that blood, Tobias Menzies has gone on to do an outstanding job of playing two very different roles without skipping a beat. In the first forty minutes of the first episode, he portrays Frank Randall, Claire's 20th century husband, from whom she has been separated by their wartime roles, hers as a battle field nurse, and his as a officer in London's MI6 office. He makes you care about Frank, and Frank and Claire's scenes together are even more poignant because of his acting abilities. When Claire gets to 1743, she meets a man who looks just like Frank, but who is actually is British ancestor, Jonathon Wolverton Randall, Captain of the 8th British Regiment of Dragoons. And you see Menzies change from a very likable Frank, to the all round bad guy of the piece, JWR as he is referred to. There is a direct contrast between the loving scenes of sex between Claire and Frank and the fact that JWR backs her against a rock wall, puts his sword blade to her throat, and tries to rape her, and I'm sure it's meant to be that way. Menzies does an excellent job of bringing both characters to life on the screen.
5. The voice over idea is excellent to my way of thinking, because the whole first book as Diana wrote it is told from Claire's first person point of view. Claire's explanations will help those who aren't familiar with the books to understand what is going on with the characters. In another dialogue matter, the Gaelic language is spoken without translations because the producer said that Claire wouldn't have known what they were saying either. You'll get the hang of some of eventually.
Now, of course, after you all watch it, some of you won't agree with my judgements. That's fine. I come at this from the ranks of historical fiction readers, as one who has a penchant for good storytelling, and as one who had enough acting and directing experience to know the good from the bad. I hope that you enjoy it. I certainly did.