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.


1. Carron Scott11 Oct 2014, 7:50am Report

I have read all the books and been a fan of them since early 90's. I hope British tv pick this show up fast!

2. Laura Carmichael11 Oct 2014, 3:06pm Report

Outlander is an extraordinary series of novels - one of the few I re-read. And the TV show has proven to be riveting and intelligent, with terrific actors and high production quality. In addition to the actors noted in the article, Scotsman Graham McTavish also has a main role, as Jamie Fraser's uncle Dougal MacKenzie. Mr. McTavish is excellent, as are all the performances in this startlingly well-cast production.

3. Jillian Gibson11 Oct 2014, 3:35pm Report

Mixed reviews from the critics?? A 90% fresh rating from the critics on Rotten Tomatoes is hardly "mixed reviews."

4. Louise A11 Oct 2014, 6:49pm Report

The UK fans have been very disappointed to not have been able to see the series so far.Hoping a Channel picks it up soon.

5. WaynG12 Oct 2014, 10:44am Report

I haven't read the books, but I have watched all 8 episodes and its a superb production - well acted, great set design, engaging characters. And I agree with Laura Carmichael - Graham McTavish is fantastic in it. The sort of high quality TV show that the BBC sometimes makes., I assume the Starz channel that makes it - is the channel in the UK that pumps out teenagers music videos? If so- probably explains why, with that reputation no broadcaster has touched it!!

6. Diana Chichester12 Oct 2014, 2:10pm Report

You made mistakes in this article.
1, Diana Gabaldon stated emphatically that the scottish referendum had NO bearing on a UK broadcast date
2, Outlander is NOT like Game of Thrones except for the time frame
3, Most critics have had only positive things to say about this series. The ones who don't have not read the books
4, Not only the US, but Canada, Australia, NZ, Canada and quite a few Europeans also have this scheduled.
Kindly check your facts, Thankyou

7. Mark Tong12 Oct 2014, 2:36pm Report

Ive watched all 8 episodes of outlander and really enjoyed them. Not the kind of thing i normally watch but it just grabbed me.watched them on the internet if your wondering.

8. reevesc12 Oct 2014, 10:48pm Report

This article is far from, "All you need to know about the Scottish Game of Thrones." For one, it is not modeled after that show. It is an adaptation of Diana Gabaldon's books which have sold nearly 27 million copies. Two of those books are back on the New York Times bestsellers list.

Also, you mention little to nothing about the overwhelming popularity of Sam and Cait due to the growing fan base surrounding this show. This series has made Sam a star and he deserves it.

Finally, check your facts, this show doesn't have mixed reviews. Critics and fans alike LOVE it. I should know. I'm so obsessed with Outlander that I've read nearly everything written about it over the last 8 weeks. The acting, the action, the drama, the dialogue, the costumes, and even the music are outstanding whether you read the books or not.

9. Diana Chichester13 Oct 2014, 2:32pm Report

I have given up contacting any of the UK broadcasters as they only reply with platitudes. I think they should get their heads out of the sand and buy the series. Said series has been bought across the world - even Japan have bought it, and as it's made in Scotland in a purpose built studio, and across the Scots landscape it brings it very close to home. We don't need any more game/reality/cooking shows, a good costume drama is long overdue.

10. Jacq11 Dec 2014, 8:06pm Report

Re the comment about Diana "emphatically" denying, that's not quite true. Diana said at the Edinburgh book festival that she had "no evidence" that the delay was due to the referendum.

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