‘Outlander’ TV Series Remains Quite Faithful to Books

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Many TV shows which are based on books have on screen adaptations that differ greatly from their source material. This often causes great upset in a particular fandom. As an example, one only needs to consider the recent episode of Game of Thrones in which Sansa Stark is raped by her new husband Ramsay Bolton. One of the main reasons some fans were outraged is that the action differed greatly from the event as depicted in the book. However, the on screen version of Outlander, a historical fiction series which features time traveling and romance and airs on Starz, remains quite faithful to the book universe depicted in the New York Times best-selling novels by Diana Gabaldon.

This may be because the show’s creator Ronald D. Moore, noted for his reimaginings of science fiction classic TV shows with active fandoms such as Star Trek or Battlestar Galactica, is married to costume designer Terry Dresbach, who is an ardent Outlander fan. In fact, Dresbach is the one who introduced him to the books. He says, especially because she works on the show, that she always noticed when they change something and would never let him forget if that is not the way a particular scene should have gone.

OutlanderThe fact that the series remained so faithful to the books means that Outlander will not fall into the problem of many a book series that has been converted to screen, be it TV or film’ the strange situation of having two, mostly separate sets of fans, one devoted to the books while the other is devoted to the TV show. This happened to the Little House on the Prairie novels when someone adapted them into a TV series.

However, some things unavoidably have to change from page to screen. For example, the several pages of back story or flashback that worked really well in a several hundred page novel may not fit into a one hour weekly time slot. Part of the creative process is deciding what facts are vital to a particular episode’s plot and which can be discarded. However, fans may disagree with a creator’s decision.

As a rule, if someone really loved a specific moment or character in a book, they need to watch the TV version with the expectation that their favorite moment or person may not make it onto the screen. Even if a character or scene does make it onto the screen, the moment or role may be truncated or expanded to work best in its new arena.

As the season one finale neared, Gabaldon warned readers to put the book down before watching the episode. The author who has mentioned how much she enjoys the Starz adaptation of her books said that the finale is quite a bit different from the novel. She encouraged readers to judge the Outlander TV finale based on its own merits rather than its representation of the source material. She felt that if fans did that they would have a greater chance to, “be uplifted, emotionally filled and charged with the thrill of having seen a lot of people doing wonderful, difficult, thrilling, heart-rending, amazing stuff.”

She joked that if they did not like the TV ending readers could always go back to the book afterward. Inside its pages, the ending would be just as they remembered it and wished it had been filmed.

Season two of the show will be based on the second Outlander novel, Dragonfly in Amber. The TV series, like the book, will take its audience to Paris, once again remaining more or less faithful to the book in question.

By Martina Robinson

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Vulture: Ronald D. Moore on Outlander, the Battlestar Ending, and Sexposition
Time: “The Book Was Better”: Why Readers of TV Adaptations Need to Let Go
Ecumenical News: Outlander’ finale preview: Last episode to depart from the book; Season 2 to be completely different
Featured Image courtesy of starbright31’s Flickr Page- Creative Commons License
In-line Image courtesy of Timberland Regional Library’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License