Thoughts on Adapting Outlander for TV: Voyager 08 – 12

I started listening to chapter 08 in my car on my way to work on Monday and right away thought that there will be so much to write about, because we finally meet one of my favourite characters of this series, after Jamie & Claire. Lord John Grey (LJG). Then on Monday afternoon this happened. ;-)

Yay! I watched one of his few clips on YT and liked him. There already were some fan drawings of him with long blond hair in a red coat and these looked pretty awesome! But the casting people haven’t let me down yet, so I’m sure he also will be awesome in real life, i.e. on my TV screen.

Some of the press releases of this casting announcement stated season 3 will pick up in 1948 with Claire pregnant in Boston, while Jamie in the 18th century  is suffering from the aftermath of the lost battle of Culloden. I’m sure it makes sense to tell both timelines more or less chronologically and not jump from 1966 to flashbacks of the 1940s and 50s and inserted scenes of Jamie in the 1740s/1750s and such. But the whole “treasure hunt through time” aspect was one of my favourite parts of Voyager and I’d be a bit sad to not see that on TV.

I’ve been listening to these chapters in my car all week and writing down my thoughts about them in regards to the TV adaption seemed daunting, because there is so much happening and so much emotions and memories told from an internal point of view, which to me seem difficult to show on screen. I spent half my Saturday to write it all down and make it somewhat coherent. I also have to keep myself from recapping the whole plot of these chapters, because if you are reading this blog post here (if anyone does anyway) I’m sure you’ve read the book and don’t need me to tell the story to you once again ;-)

But the more I read or listen to this story again with the focus on trying to figure out which plot points or characters I would keep or cut and how I would connect the dots in the end for the TV adaption, the more my head explodes and the more respect I get for Ron and all his writers! It’s not an easy job to pull off, I see that even more know than I ever did before….

Anyway,  now on to the Ardsmuir Prison part.

08: Honor’s Prisoner | 09: The Wanderer | 10: White Witch’s Curse | 11: The Torremolinos Gambit | 12: Sacrifice 
in which we meet Lord John Grey, who will be become such an integral character in this whole saga….

I’m going to start with the “Technicalities” this time. Finally there will be new locations, outdoors and indoors. Ardsmuir prison: the building itself and the yard, but also prison cells and LJG’s quarters. I’m wondering if they might remodel / reuse parts of the Wentworth set for this or if they build it all from scratch? I’m sure we wouldn’t notice either way, because Gary Steele and his team are doing such an amazing job every time.

Then of course there is moor around it and the coast, where they search for the French Gold.

ardsmuir moor
It might look something like that around Ardsmuir (this is somewhere north of Ullapool, summer 2016)

There is still nothing spectacular going on the costume front in these chapters, just the usual: men in rags, soldiers in redcoats. But… quite a lot of both, so there still be enough work to do for Terry and her team. The props people need to craft the irons (handcuffs and chain) Jamie has to wear for the first part of the Ardsmuir scenes. I really hope they will keep those in, not because I want see Jamie even suffer more than usual. But I think it’s essential to show that the previous prison governor considered him a threat and to show what being restrained like that does to Jamie’s psyche. And of course the prosthetic department will have to redesign Jamie’s back scars after this episode.

There are a bunch of new characters among Jamie’s fellow prisoners (I’ll get to Lord John Grey later) and I’m wondering who will actually make the cut or in fact will get a more prominent role, because they will be back later this season like Duncan Innes. Or will be back in later seasons (6 and 7?) like Tom Christie, who will move to Fraser’s Ridge at some point. I’m not sure if you have to introduce these character now and then bring them back or just include a “Oh, by the way, I know him from Ardsmuir”  bit when they actually get a real part in the plot. I personally dislike these kind of introductions on a TV show, because it seem lazy and I always think: if they were all in one place back then, we should have seen them there as well. But I know there are restrictions to this line of thinking in a TV adaption. Because to make them memorable for future season you have to give them a bigger part already now, even though people still might not remember them. Anyway, it’s food for thought.

With the McKenzie clansman who tells Jamie and John about the French Gold, I’m wondering if they might bring back one of the Highlanders from season 1, who were on the road with Dougal, when they find Claire and I think they joined the Rent party as well. It would make more sense to me than to bring in a new character and then have to explain that Jamie knows him from before.

I’m curious how they will condense the whole French Gold / escape plot for  TV after all. I’m also curious if we’ll see Jamie swim over to silkies’ island and hide the jewels there. Or did he actually find them there in the first place and lied to John about the St. Bride’s place as well? My memory is a bit fuzzy on that. To me it would make sense to show Jamie hide the jewels there at this point in the story and not just tell Claire about it 10 years later at Lallybroch. Anyway, at some point he’d have to have swum over to the island. And as the wet clothes might have made it more difficult to swim, he’d probably be naked… Just sayin’ ;-)

After listening to these chapters I can only repeat my hope that the writers will give Sam enough room and scenes to show Jamie’s state of mind during this time. Because as much as Jamie might feel to have a purpose again with caring about and for his fellow prisoners, he still is very much isolated from them. Not just physically (with the irons and such) but also due to his special status as their “chief”. Yes, they care about him and care for him when he needs them to, but it’s not the same as having his family around or close by as he had at Lallybroch. And especially not with having Claire in his life. In the book there are scenes when he misses her terribly (i.e. after he has been flogged) and I want to see that on TV.

This sort of detachment from his men, is one of the reasons, I think, why Jamie strikes up this odd friendly relationship with Lord John Grey after all. John is Jamie’s equal in so many ways: education, intelligence, humanity. Of course they hit it off once they had the whole French Gold stuff out of the way.

Which brings me to John, one of my favourite characters of the whole saga, because he is smart, loyal, brave, honourable and kind, in short: a genuinely good person. It’s going to be interesting to see how he will be introduced on the TV show and how much of his back story will be shown at what moment and in which way. In the book it’s all told from his point of view, his memories, his feelings and thus I’m curious how they will bring all these aspects into the TV story for the viewers to understand what kind of man he is and what had happened to him and how that shaped him to be the man he is.

I’m also curious to see at which point they will drop the fact that John is gay and if and how they will contrast that to BJR’s feelings for Jamie, which on first glance might seem similar, but on closer look definitely were so different. BJR was a sadist first and a homosexual second. John is guy who just happened to be gay. Which was a very problematic thing to be in the 18th century. From a story-telling point of view it might be tempting to establish the fact early on and conjure the impression that John is a danger to Jamie in that regard and thus make the viewers dislike John at first. Which then might make it more rewarding to  later on see John as the very good guy that he actually is. But I hope they won’t go down that route and instead portray John as the likable, honorable man that he is from the start. I like him a lot and I just don’t want anyone to hate him ;-)!

I’m a bit on the fence still about whether they need to include John’s memories of his first love Hector, who was killed at Culloden and John’s thought about how Jamie might have very well been the one who killed him. Jamie was the enemy at that point after all and now John was falling head over heels for that Scot. Maybe they will include this in a flashback right before their fatal last game of chess, to explain why John does what he does?

That chess game and everything that follows between those two characters will be so rewarding to play for the actors I think and definitely worth watching. Jamie’s disgust, constraint rage and later his detachment during the tartan cloth incident and it’s aftermath as well as John’s self-disgust, shame and heartbreak. And secretly I hope we’ll also see both men mourn the loss of a friend…

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