Thoughts on Adapting Outlander for TV: Voyager 24 – 25

I’ve been reading the wonderful “Making of Outlander” book this morning and it’s so interesting to read how they approached this huge task to adapt these books for TV. From the writers’ perspective, but also from the perspective of costume design, production design and such. It offers great insight and explains quite a lot and thus gave me a few new angles for my posts here as well. 

But let’s get back into it, after a work-related hiatus from these posts. 

24: A. Malcolm, Printer | 25: House of Joy

This is the chapter – or more precise – the scene we book fans are all waiting for, right? Right! Matthew B. Roberts is the writer on this one and from his tweets it can be assumed he’s working on (tweaking?) the script right now, which makes me feel a bit weird about taking this chapter apart at the same time :-)  There is so much happening here, so I’ll try to focus on the important scenes, dialogues, events I’d like to see on screen. They don’t necessarily have to happen in the exact same order or at the same place as they do in the book. The “Making of…” book explains quite well, why switching scenes/lines of dialogue to different moments in the plot or to different locations makes sense logistically. 

 There have been enough statements from the Ron, Maril, Matt et al. promising us that they will do this printshop scene justice, so I’m sure I won’t be disappointed. But I have to admit, that just now on this re-read I realized that even though the printshop is the long awaited reunion in the physical sense, the scenes at Madame Jeanne’s are actually much more important, because that’s where the real conversation is happening. Or maybe even in the room above the printshop.  The reunion scene itself is quite short actually.

I also realized that as much as I’d like them to keep the scene just as it is in the book, because it’s THE reunion, they won’t be able to, because so many details have already been changed from book to TV screen. Claire didn’t faint after the weeding, so they can’t allude to that with the “That bad, is it?”, Jamie didn’t break his nose after he left Claire at Craigh na Dun…  I don’t think they’ll keep the broken ale pot either. 

Anyway, I do hope they keep the iconic “Is that you, Geordie?” – “No, it’s me, Claire” dialogue. I want to see them tentatively touching, Jamie flinching, when he realize Claire is real, and then Jamie “gracefully” fainting :-) I want to see the “I want verra much to kiss you. May I do that?” line and everything after that and especially to see them do that carefully and slowly, because they are basically strangers to each other after these 20 years. This care and caution is something that will hopefully carry on till they make love later at Madame Jeanne’s and even then it’s hopefully not the wild, passionate sex they used to have, when they were newlyweds.

Other things I hope they’ll keep in the storyline either in the printshop or later at Madam Jeanne’s: Claire showing Jamie Brianna’s photos and Jamie’s astonishment over “photographs” in the first place. Jamie going to pieces in Claire’s arms after that. That’s something I really really want to see. Did Jamie actually tell Claire to name child Brian in the season finale? I should have checked that before I wrote this post, but now I’m too lazy to check. Anyway, not sure if they will dwell on the name on the TV show.  Besides the photographs I also hope to see Claire tell Jamie more about his daughter.

At various points Claire asks Jamie if he regrets her return and he asks her, if she’s really ready to love the man he is now, because he has changed so much. I’ve clearly paraphrased that here, but I hope these issues will also be addressed at least once. Ok, one time might even be enough, but I really hope they will keep the doubt on both sides in the script, because this is a monumental life changing moment for both of them. Some doubt is allowed there in my opinion. Especially when you learn your husband has his own room in a brothel *g* There are some great lines in that regard, that I hope they will keep in, but I don’t want to quote the whole book now ;-) 

There is the whole “printer – traitor – smuggler” conversation, which could be quite fun to see and of course there is a pivotal “Not even if I find out you’ve been committing bigamy and public drunkenness” line from Claire, which I’m pretty sure they will keep in or even make into a bigger scene. In the book Jamie reacts to that, but as the conversation leads from there to the smuggling confession, I bet most readers will have forgotten about the “bigamy” part. I’m sure they use that scene for some more exposure to future events on the show. Close up of an awkward looking Jamie and even after the smuggling issue is explained, they might show Jamie still with a worried look on his face, when Claire isn’t looking at him. 

For me these are the essentials for Claire and Jamie, plot-wise, but there is much more to think about from this chapters and how to put them on the TV screen. I mentioned in a previous post that I’m seriously wondering if they might leave out the Mr. Willoughby storyline completely. He seems like an integral part of the plot in the book, especially with things that happen later on in Jamaica, but the more I thought about it, the more I think the story can still work without him and without his part in the Jamaica storyline. Which also means we can loose some more characters (Reverend Campbell and his sister) who make an appearance in Edinburgh in this or the next few chapters. I’m a bit worried to be honest, that if they keep Mr. Willoughby in and not spend appropriate time to explore his backstory and motivation, his character will only be an absurd side kick. Not to mention his whole foot fetish, which I’m not sure they want to delve in on a TV show ;-) They also only got 13 episodes and there is so much happening, that I wouldn’t mind cutting the whole Mr. Willoughby plot and thus have a bit more time to focus on the Fraser / Murray family. 

Some thoughts on the more technical aspects of adaption, costumes, sets and such. Like I stated above, I hope Terry will keep the zipper on Claire’s dress. I have no clear image of Jamie’s wardrobe at this point yet. For the ordinary poor or more wealthy people in Edinburgh I at first imagine they will look like the Highland folks in season 1. But when I think about it, they will probably look a bit different, not necessarily because 20 years have passed. But in season 1 we mostly saw people living in the countryside, farmers and such. Edinburgh is a huge city, with a city population, their clothes will look different from the Highlanders. There also won’t be a lot or none at all tartan, because that was forbidden after Culloden. 

Edinburgh is one of my favourite cities in Europe, which I’ve visited a few times these past few years, so I’m very curious to see how they will portray Edinburgh on the show, as they can’t use the real Royal Mile and such for filming these days. I’m sure they will find adequate locations to double as Carfax Close, the Royal Mile, and all the back alleys, but I hope they will somehow at least once show Edinburgh Castle as well. CGI does magic in that regard, doesn’t it?

As new sets (built on sound stage), I think we will see the printshop (duh!) and probably the upstairs as well, because of how the story will play out. Madam Jeanne’s is another given, I think. I’m not sure if they will actually built the “World’s End” or if they just re-locate some of the scenes from there onto the street or into one of the many cellars they might build anyway. Jamie has to store his smuggler’s ware somewhere after all… 

Next up is chapter 26 “A Whore’s Brunch”. We’ll meet Ian again. And Young Ian and grown up Fergus. That is another one of my favourite scenes from this part of Voyager. And it’s so nice to by now have faces for these characters as well. 

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