New TV series Outlander explained


All you need to know about the 'Scottish Game of Thrones' starring Caitriona Balfe and Sam Heughan

It’s set and filmed in Scotland, so why haven’t local audiences had a chance to see Outlander yet? Claire Flynn investigates the latest US TV hit

What’s Outlander about?
It’s 1946. While on her second honeymoon in the Scottish Highlands, Claire Randall walks through a stone circle and suddenly finds herself in 1743, two years before the beginning of the Jacobite Uprising. Claire quickly falls for Jamie Fraser, a young Scottish warrior, and becomes torn between her desire for him and her devotion to husband Frank, who’s still in the future.

Tell me more …
The first book in the series, Outlander (originally published as Cross Stitch in the UK), was released in 1991, and has since been followed by seven more New York Times bestsellers. The books have now been published in 26 countries and 23 languages. Author Diana Gabaldon is currently working on the ninth in the series.

It sounds a bit like Game of Thrones
While the two series have some similar characteristics (both have taken inspiration from the brutal history of Great Britain, both include rather a lot of violence and both consist of very, very long books) they are actually quite different. Yet the Outlander books and the TV series continue to be labelled as the Scottish Game of Thrones.

So, it’s set in Scotland?

Gabaldon was inspired to choose 18th century Scotland as the setting for her novels because of a Doctor Who episode featuring a man in a kilt from the 1700s. The author recently admitted, however, that she hadn’t visited Scotland before writing the book and used library research to shape a vision of her chosen setting. She has now been here several times and claims it is (luckily) exactly how she imagined it.

Who's in the show?
Former model, 35-year-old Irish actress Caitriona Balfe plays Claire, while 34-year-old Sam Heughan from New Galloway takes on the role of Jamie. The pair have been in several films and television shows before but remained relatively unknown until this point. The show also features Tobias Menzies, who played Edmure Tully on Game of Thrones, and veteran Scottish actors Bill Paterson and Gary Lewis.

Where was it filmed?

Several places across Scotland including Falkland, Culross and the Highland Folk Museum are featured in the show. Doune Castle, one of the main locations, was used to represent Castle Leoch, seat of Clan MacKenzie. Despite its starring role, the castle has been omitted from the tourist map created by VisitScotland for fans. Gabaldon claims VisitScotland was asked not to include it in order to draw less attention to the landmark in case of future filming.

Is it any good?
The show has been incredibly successful in the US picking up viewers as the first series reached its mid-season break in September before it returns next April. Critics have been generally positive about the show, although it has been criticised for losing some momentum after the first episode. It has, in particular, been heavily praised for the radically different and arguably feminist way it deals with sex and Jamie and Claire’s relationship.

Why haven't I seen it yet?
Neither a broadcaster nor a release date has been announced for the UK… yet. There were rumours circulating in August that UK television companies were reluctant to broadcast Outlander due to the ongoing debate surrounding Scottish independence, worried that it might inflame a yes vote. However, there is no real evidence to suggest the referendum was to blame. Whatever the reason for the current snub, it is unlikely to continue with the ever-growing popularity and demand for the show. A British broadcaster is expected to eventually snap up Outlander so hopefully it will arrive here at some point soon.