We normally do not watch the Starz network, since many of its shows are basically just soft-core pornography thinly disguised as “historical dramas”. The Pirates in Black Sails for example, almost never set foot aboard a ship; and the audience is shown many more naked prostitutes than sea battles. The Spartacus series combines both porn and a disgusting amount of violence. Heads are repeatedly chopped off in slow motion with gallons of blood splashing towards the camera.
So we were not expecting much when we decided to try the Starz “historical drama” Outlander. However, it turns out that it is an excellent show with real character development and a complex and exciting plot.
The show begins in 1945 right after VE Day. Clair and Jack Randall are an English couple who have come to Scotland on a Second Honeymoon to get re-acquainted after the long separation because of the war. Clair (played by Caitriona Balfe) was a nurse serving near the front lines, and Randall was in the British Intelligence service.
They stay in a remote village in the Scottish Highlands where the people appear to be secretly practicing some Druid rituals at night. One morning, Clair goes out alone to investigate the ancient Druid stones (sort of a Scottish Stonehenge). When she touches them she is suddenly transported back in time to 1743, where most of the series takes place.
Now we have always loved time travel stories and this a a particularly good one. In 1743 the English ruled Scotland but were hated by the Scots. (Of course some militant Scots today would argue that nothing has changed. ) Clair immediately finds herself considered an outsider (an “outlander”) by all sides. The Scots do not trust her because of her English accent. The British do not trust her since she spends so much time with the Scots. Both sides believe she is a spy for the other.
Clair must use all her wits just to stay alive in what is a violent part of the world. Her biggest problem is trying to explain who she is, how she got there and what she is doing in Scotland. We will not give away how she manages this. At one point she considers telling the truth about traveling through time, but soon realizes that in 1743 that would probably quickly lead to her being burned as a witch.
Clair only has three things to help her. She is very intelligent, she is beautiful, and she has medical knowledge two centuries more advanced than anyone else. For these reasons the Scottish clans find her intriguing and useful, even though they do not trust her.
There are also two romances intertwined in the plot. Clair loves her husband (played by Tobias Menzies) and desperately is trying to find a way to get back to her own time to be with him. At the same time she finds herself being more and more attracted to the rugged Scottish Highlander Jamie Fraser (played by Sam Heughan).
There are explicit love scenes, but they are actual love scenes, as opposed to the crude displays seen in Black Sails and Spartacus. There are also some explicit battle and torture scenes, but they fit in with the plot of the ongoing confrontation between the Scottish and the English.
This is an excellent series and we give it four stars ****