What Works and Does Not With Outlander

Revised and Extended from an original Facebook Entry. It should be noted that this is written by someone who probably has watched Outlander more than anything, and has read more Outlander as fiction than any other book. So the negativity is in the context of fascination and the desire for improvement.

After More 4 finished showing Outlander Series 2 in September 2018, I went out next day and bought series 1, 2 and 3 on DVDs. I went straight to series 3, and felt rather betrayed as it went mad after episode 8. I completed it to the end, but gave up on the podcasts. My watching was almost like a study: watch an episode without subtitles, then with them and then view the podcast. I miss too much when viewing not to use subtitles afterwards. On this basis I watched all three series through.

Having viewed these series I bought the book Outlander, previously called Cross Stitch in the UK, and it still retains the UK start date of 1946 (1945 US, the TV series compromises to later '45) and, mercifully, the book uses British English even when by an American author. Unfortunately the books two (Dragonfly in Amber) and three (Voyager) use American English and refer to the American dates (1945 not 1946) and thus cause discontinuity). I later bought book 4 and refused to buy more, until the long book 5 was looking at me in a charity shop for a pound. So then there were five. I find book 5's plot-free wording unreadable, and it is waiting for series 5 to compare and contrast. I liked book 1, and book 2 was a struggle to complete beginning to end, so books 3 and 4 have been read in chunks and not read in chunks too. I cannot see how book 5 can be adapted for television. With only series 6 now guaranteed, I can see book 5 bringing in later book content, making significant changes, and perhaps leading to winding up the books altogether at the end of series 6. In other words, the TV series must now diverge: 24 episodes to cover potentially five and certainly four more hefty novels.

Being history-like is not the same as giving an insight into history. Book 1 (at the back) excuses the error of a witch trial in 1743 when it says the final one was 1722. In fact, more important, the legislation to stop witch trials was 1736. The witch trial is pivotal to the story across many books (e.g. how Brianna confronts Laoghaire on her arrival at Lallybroch back in time).

The TV podcast says about producers discovering the date was past the witch trial times, and, as a result, the TV rewrite (and it is hefty - more witnesses, the legal man cross-examines), makes it an ad-hoc trial in a church. The TV people found this old chapel location and 'did it up'. So, in Scotland, at this time when 'authoritarian' Episcopalians were competing in phases with pure Presbyterianism, two hundred years after John Knox's Reformation and all that, we have a protestant chapel done up with a coloured window and a Catholic priest who is 'Father' to a village near Inverness. Er, not very likely! This has more parallels with Carry on Dick than with any historical realities. In the early days the Reformation had to accept a reduced number of saints given the annual religious round of the people, but by the time we get to 1743 all that has been swept away with the prevailing iconoclasm. Roman Catholicism was a private option in isolated houses only, not in any parish, not with some 'Father Bain' person, and no trial in a Protestant chapel given coloured windows and very strange officials residing. (In the book the trial takes place out of doors.)

Catholicism was marginalised. Bishops were Protestant from 1560 and removed in 1638, and restored in 1660. However, in 1690 a fully Presbyterian Church was established, and the Episcopalians were removed to their own organising: some loyal to the crown and most as Jacobite non-jurors set against a minority of Qualified accepting William and Mary's rule. The Episcopalians felt they had been robbed from national status, because they were predominant in the north. The south had won, however, in this sense. Some recognition for Episcopalians came in 1695: it was easier to give toleration to dissenters in England because that's all they were, whereas Episcopalians had sought to be the national Church. In 1712 those loyal to Anne as queen were given toleration, called the Qualified, allowing the Scottish Episcopal Church to gain official status. The Qualified grew in proportion within the Church. In 1792 penalties were removed so long as the Church conformed to the practices of the Church of England. In 1690 and after, the Church was little different in practice to Presbyterianism, except Episcopalians also used the doxology, the Lord's Prayer and the creed at baptisms. The real change came in the nineteenth century when this Church took on the influence of the Anglo-Catholic movement originating in Oxford, whereas Presbyterianism in Scotland resisted.

What is more, witches trials defined attitudes in the rise of Presbyterianism, as they were for Protestantism in England. Catholics were always more accommodating of Pagan superstitions than the Protestants. Protestants then wanted clarity and literacy, on the road towards what we would call rationality. They became about rooting out the unwanted, nuisance women, those accused as troublesome by close-knit and often conflictual communities. This realisation of actual purpose, and the fact that carrying out witch trials is to believe their reality as in evidence, is what led Protestant rule to stop having them. Then the reality of witches is denied.

In the Outlander story, the suspicion is that Callum, the Laird of the MacKenzies, would remove Dougal's mistress witch Geillis Duncan and meantime take advantage of removing the Sassenach wife of a better successor, Jamie Fraser, in as much as she being English prevents him from being a successor.

The second TV series sort of follows Dragonfly in Amber's structure in starting series 2 at the point where the lead character, Claire, is immediately back in the twentieth century. Except that, in the book it's 1968, and in the TV series it's 1948, having come through the stones, traumatised by the onset of Culloden in 1746 but 'pushed' through to safety because she is pregnant. And that pushing-through story in the setting of Culloden in 1746 couples with 1968 in the final episode. One can watch the 1746 story in 2:13 and continue it in 2:1.
In 2:1 Claire's new life is about to begin in her present day: and to raise a child that the impotent husband could never have, in his new job and life in the USA. 2:1 has this for the first half, then 2:1 returns to arrival in France in 1744, in a variation of sailing from the book, and the whole Bonnie Prince Charlie story begins. In the book the sailing comes before recovery and the monastery is in France; in the TV series the monastery is in Scotland with Catholic monks: me thinks the TV series has made a massive historical mistake worse.
Indeed, in the first book, it later becomes clear that Claire first encounters Jamie not long after he is back from France. He went directly to France and the Fraser-run coastal Catholic monastery immediately after the Jack Randall floggings. Back in Scotland, he was knocked on the head probably by Dougal MacKenzie (although he denies it in the cave scene), Jamie's rival for the Laird once Callum dies. Jamie isn't sure. He goes back to France. Once recovered again, he is back in Scotland and Claire falls into their laps during their castle rustling and British troops chasing them.
The TV changed the start from 1968 to 1948 because it was too big a leap to 1968, but was any leap forward necessary in television? Series 2, like the book, ends in 1968, when Claire contemplates returning to 1766 knowing that her love of her life survived Culloden. The TV series also includes a deliberate confusion: the pregnancy of 2:1 is not the pregnancy of the series 1 and 2 leading to the miscarriage, and where yet where the title card for the tragic episode shows Claire's young daughter growing up in the United States. Being non-linear allows playing with the audience, but it might be better simply to play out the series in the order the audience can understand it. Many also find the start of book 2 confusing, as if a book has been missed out. Well, large parts of book 3 have been missed out.
Why does the second book focus on 1968 front and back, and in a big chunk of Book 3? The reason is the difference in the story between the book and the television series. It's not about 'too big a leap' but a whole different reason given for Claire and Brianna being in Scotland.
In the TV series it is clear that Claire intends to travel back from the wake for the Reverend Wakefield and return to England. Franklin Wolverton Randall is dead, but Jamie also died, she is sure, at Culloden. In the book, the express reason is given. Although she could have come earlier, she says, she is in Scotland before Beltane in 1968 in order to warn Gillian Edgars/ Geillis Duncan about going back herself. She owes it to Geillis after the witches trial. She thus has a diversionary project for Roger Wakefield, knowing already that the Fraser men of Lallybroch were sent home: she is asking, what happened to them afterwards? But her focus is to intercept Gillian, in what can be seen as her own debt of honour.
The TV series completely misses this, and the opportunity to warn Geillis comes about as a by-product of staying in the area, seeing the sights, and Roger and Brianna randomly encountering Gillian Edgars. Unlike in the book, where Roger and Brianna go to Culloden Moor, in the television series Claire goes there to say goodbye to Jamie. When Brianna discovers the 'miraculous return story' and that she had a different biological father, she asks if their stay is for her to be introduced to him, if this is 'what it is all about'. But that was clearly not Claire's intention, and Brianna seems to have forgotten that they simply to return to England. This is one of many times the Outlander rewrite has created confusions that were never present in the book.
The most they needed, for 1948, I think, was her walking down the metallic road, and a man asking if she was all right, if they needed such a 'where is this story going?' focus. She surely would ask the year she was in; she might have asked, as she also did, 'Who won?', but the point in the story was at that point they knew who would win because all contrary schemes had failed and why she had been pushed forward to safety for her and the unborn child. Even then, it should have been attached to the 1746 story of 2:13.
There was an intention to have the opening of episode 13 in the series 1 finale, perhaps as a knock on the manse front door. They didn't do it because it would have meant casting Brianna long before using her otherwise, and a cliffhanger puzzle confusion to last a long gap between two series. My point is that none of this should have been done: the story should have been linear.
The book is less dramatic than the TV version. Dragonfly in Amber (purchased by me 5th October 2018, around a month after book 1) about the French period and then the 1745-46 uprising. The 'bookends' chapters in 1968 say he survived.
The book has Jamie Fraser discovered buried in a churchyard with Jack Randall buried nearby. This must be a puzzle to the reader, as to why they are together and why Jamie's grave has no date. It takes two book lengths before the explanation is given near the end of book 4. Gillian Edgars/ Geillis Duncan is pursued via her institute. Indeed the TV series changes the story to one focussing on Brianna's scepticism, that she comes to think Claire is in Scotland meeting the man she realises must have been her father during her 1945-1948 disappearance. Only with Geillis vanishing does Brianna become the full Doubting Thomas in 2:13. (The phrase is used in the 1746 section by Charles to Jamie.) It is the Brianna finding-out story that grips the most.
In the book the eager Brianna with Roger detective story about 1945-1948 does not exist: instead, Claire wonders, in the course of Gillian Edgars going back in time, when she might tell Brianna her past life story. She does so after the gravestones discovery: incidentally, Book 4 tells us that the location of the Jack Randall grave is in the family records maintained by Frank Randall and he expects Claire and the daughter Brianna to see the grave from those records, likely after his own death. As it happens, Roger arranges the trip to St. Kilda's, in the book only. St. Kilda's does not feature in the TV series.
The books seem to have author and editorial mistakes. Take this from the British version of Outlander, formerly Cross Stitch, where Dougal in the cave speaks carefully: 'She said if ever I saw you again, was to tell you two things, just as she told them to me. The first was: "I think it is possible but I do not know." And the second - the second was just numbers. She made me say them over, to be sure I had them right, for I was to tell them to you in a certain order. The numbers were one, nine, six and seven."' [page 704] Then, in Book 2, Dragonfly in Amber, she states to Roger Wakefield: 'But she threw away any chance she might have had, in order to save me. and she left me a message. Dougal gave it to me, in a cave in the Highlands, when he brought me the news that Jamie was in prison. There were two pieces to the message. A sentence, "I do not know if it is possible, but I think so," and a sequence of four numbers - one, nine, six, and eight.' [page 929]
This is a big error, as big as the 1946 date for first going through the stones, which then is subsequently 1945, and, anyway, we never really know whether she was away for two or three years (it is inconsisent). This error is unrelated to the wartime delay for a honeymoon for British readers, where 1945 is too soon.
Another minor inconsistency is within Book 2. On page 6 Claire tells Roger, 'We drove up from London.' The context is sightseeing by driving. Athough there will be an organised trip to Loch Ness, she'd drive to Fort William. But on page 46 it says, 'We came up from Edinburgh by train ourselves.' (In the TV series, regarding Fort William, she, 'Doesn't care for the place,' and does go to Culloden Moor instead, but in the book she feigns illness to avoid going to Culloden Moor.)

Not all inconsistencies are errors. One is explainable within the terms of the book, in that she presents a list to Roger of people who, she confirms, fought in the Battle of Culloden. Roger will discover none of these died. She must have known that the Frasers of Lallybroch were led away to safety - Jamie certainly went back to fight, as did Murtagh. In the book she is convinced he is dead: he is not on the list and she refuses to read anything to find out about him: whereas the complete opposite happens in the TV series. In the second book, Claire sets out wanting no mention by Roger of James Fraser or Craigh Na Dun to Brianna. Yet she is hardly going to tell Roger immediately that they didn't fight in the battle, as indeed one or two may have done. In the book she strongly identifies Brianna as being English, despite her Boston life; this is different from the TV series, where Claire does not strongly identify with being English, and indeed sees her past as somewhat roaming around the world. Another explainable inconsistency is the early statement that she would have come earlier to Scotland, but that her purpose is to be ready for the date that Gillian Edgars goes through the stones, to warn her. However, the car-train travel detail is an inconsistency of contradiction, and whilst it is not important, it is not something she would say: either they came up by car or by train (from Edinburgh), but not both - and she would know, even if (one suspects) the author did not make or consult notes to check. One begins to suspect that Claire in the book isn't entirely truthful, and that her project for Roger is not that significant, but she would not narrate a contradiction of a recent, if relatively trivial matter.
The reason to meet Horrocks is to find the name of the person who killed a redcoat to gain Jamie's innocence. In rescuing Claire from Fort William soon after, in both TV series and book Jamie's gun is unarmed. In the TV series, it is because of Ned Gowan's legal advice. In the book, Jamie obtains the gun and kills a guard, so then the gun he stole is empty and he has to bluff his way to get Claire from Jack Randall. So he has killed someone and yet has been in the business of clearing his name when he did not kill. This latest death doesn't in fact add to his tally as a wanted outlaw.
Book 3, Voyager, is just so disappointing later on. We start with 1968 again (as both ends of book 2) and the document search. Whereas in series 3:4 Claire and daughter Brianna go back to America together, in the book Claire goes back alone. There is no revelatory trip by Roger Wakefield to Boston with the proof; the proof is brief, in Scotland and enough for Claire to travel - and is seen off at the stones by Roger and Brianna. So, there is no long red-haired Brianna wearing a fetching tartan outfit in Boston with Roger at the announcement of her late daddy's fellowship, where Claire confronts the long-term mistress of Frank - the book has only several unmentioned affairs.
Why is there a confrontation with Sandy the mistress? It's established that Claire and Frank had agreed a discreet open relationship. The argument against Sandy was an indiscreet arrival at the family front door, which was clearly due to a misunderstanding.
The TV series perspective is an improvement on the books. Book 3 has several rather unsatisfactory flashbacks to 1948 - a filler book would be welcome; the TV series mined this limited material for its extensive rewrite and (not consistent) improvement in the dramatic sense. Then the trip to the West Indies has the book's unbelievableness increased by the television series' fast pace and ridiculous acknowledgement in dialogue of too many co-incidences. The whole West Indies adventure should have been edited out of the books and dumped from the television series.
One should not compare TV or film and books. The visual medium makes changes! However, beyond details like the pistol at Fort William, it matters when there are structural changes. It matters that Roger and Brianna act on their own information, it matters that there are two graves of direct interest in the one graveyard, it matters that Claire travels to Scotland in 1968 intending to act on knowledge in her version of an honour-exchange, whereas in the TV series it is random. People accuse me of reading 'outside the story' rather than being absorbed within, and whilst this is a correct observation the 'outside of the story' concerns an author and writers, and it has to work and be consistent, or basically you have two different stories with borrowed scenes in part or whole.
What is unconvincing in the TV series is that Brianna is happy enough for her mother to go back in time alone. The death of Frank is too convenient - an obvious plot device in the book by which to move on, there was at least reported ice - and in the TV series the convenient unexplained death happens at a different point in the year. Season 4 even suggests a possibility of suicide or carelessness in driving. The issue is how the basic motivations and structures change in Outlander, and yet they then try to fit the old story back in. The TV writers make new wine bottles and then try to fit the old wine back in. Could they not, for example, have left Frank alive, giving Brianna incentive to stay in the twentieth century? The more sympathetic Frank of the TV series could have levelled with adult Brianna - and we could have been spared the plot-undermining flashback scenes of Frank in series 4. Let the book and TV series diverge - it does when it comes to Murtagh, who takes on some of Duncan Innes' role from series 4, but is long dead in the books.
The television series order is this for the Claire twenty years side: 2:13 past story (1746), up to the stones for Claire to go forward, first half of 2:1 (1948), 3:1 (1948 up to the birth), 3:2 (1948 briefly and then 1949 to Claire starting medical school with her baby when her sex with Frank is her imagining it with Jamie: some with the baby is mined from the book's flashbacks), 3:3 (1956 all the way to 1966, when Brianna is eighteen; here Frank has his discrete affair, bar the accident at Claire's graduation which Claire interprets as deliberate), 2:13 (1968), 3:4 (1968 up to Claire and Brianna returning to Boston); 3:5 Roger to Boston and Claire goes back and meets Jamie, 3:6 Jamie sees Claire and photographs of his daughter growing up. Relevant too is 3:8 where Claire discovers the marriage of Jamie with Laoghaire: in the book she leaves and hears from Young Jamie in pursuit that Laoghaire has shot Jamie and he is dying, forcing her to return, whereas in the TV series the shooting is meant for Claire and Jamie steps in the way, and thus a troubled Claire cannot leave him. We now must slip in 4:7 after 3:3, because in 4:7 we discover Frank 'knows' by reading The Wilmington Gazette that Claire and Jamie die in a fire, and thus Brianna goes back holding the same notice, and also there is the untold story in 3:3, where Frank talks to Brianna about his plan to take her to England, which she rejects, after which he dies in that car in an apparent accident.
This story is supplemented in series 4 episode 7 with Brianna's emotional flashbacks to her known father, Frank, and her imagining him (unless an actual ghost) wishing her good luck on her journey. In arguments between Claire and Frank, Brianna has a strong attachment with Frank. We also learn of the news of Claire and Jamie's death by fire - the Wilmington Gazzette report discovered separately by Roger and Brianna, causing Brianna to go back in time, and Roger to chase her - it was actually first known by Frank and seen without clarity by Brianna in 1966. At that time the name Jamie Fraser and his wife meant nothing to her, as Jamie was never revealed by Claire's agreement with Frank. The book version gives the name of Claire in the obituary press report and a clear 1766 year. TV's Roger's obituary notice comes from, originally, Mrs Graham's archive, that Fiona thinks never reached the Reverend Wakefield, but the reverend sent a copy he obtained to Frank. Brianna's trip back in time and how she encounters Laoghaire are very different between television and book, as is Jenny's absence in the TV series (the actor was in a play in London), and it seems Uncle Ian is more trusting of Brianna in the TV series whereas, in the book, the pearls of her grandmother Ellen are Brianna's identity proof - 'Who is your mother?' demands Laoghaire - and also Laoghaire's demand that she receive them in payment for her lost marriage.
In the book the absence of the pearls in the crates sent to Roger at Oxford is his clue, confirmed by a knowing Dr. Abernathy, that Brianna has gone into the dangers of the past. In the TV series, Brianna takes the pearls with her but (probably due to rewriting) the pearls play no role.
There is the incredulity in the TV series that, magically awaking in Brianna's house far indeed from the relocated stones, neither Brianna's name nor Laoghaire's name is recognised by the other. This is the first of the idiot plots beginning in series 4 episode 7. Surely with these unusal names one would have twigged the other.
In the book, at lallybroch, Brianna tells Jenny of Laoghaire's role in dumping Claire into the witches' trial. Outlander the TV series continues to give Frank a more important role than in the books. The only positive quality he has in the books was his raising Brianna as a daughter, otherwise he was a racist, a misogynist and had serial affairs, and would have taken Brianna to England even before she had finished school. My problem with the 1776 (book) 1770s (TV series) story as motivation is that, without serious alteration, it cannot be resolved within the series; as with the books, if an author sets up a dilemma it should be answered within the narrative. Series 4 adds that Frank asked Brianna to go to England with him, and she says no, immediately after Frank leaves Claire and is on his way to his fatal accident in series 3. Because of the dialogue in series 3, this is the only possible time he can ask her, to therefore go on to his death: because, in the next scene, Claire is at the hospital as demanded for performing surgery, and he is there dead. Series 4's additional writing raises the issue why Brianna did not ask her mother questions in series 3 regarding the divorce and plan to go to Cambridge, and why the document search relating to or deliberately for Jamie's existence in series 2:13 and 3:4 did not then prompt Brianna's memory of her important encounter with her father, and therefore recognition of James Fraser's name. This document was in Frank's archive and in Mrs Graham's archive as well. This is another idiot plot. Back-writing new material into the old is dangerous because it sets off questions and consequences that the earlier writing cannot include.
Season 4 shows how a character change must have implications for a story. So the book 4 Drums of Autumn has Lizzie as an indentured (to Brianna) thirteen year old who keeps displaying symptoms of malaria. She sees Roger find Brianna in the past and by the mores of the time finds him too forward. She notices after the handfast and sex that Brianna has had sexual contact from her clothes. It shocks her. Two days later Brianna is raped in the Bonnet's ship as she goes to pay for the gold ring. Brianna has Lizzie as a responsibility, and Lizzie gets delivered into the family after the union with Jamie and reunion with Claire.

However, presumably in order to have the same person in future seasons, the television series of Outlander cast a person taller than Brianna and about the same age. Not only does Lizzie see a rather forthright man leave with Brianna, but the TV series puts the rape straight after the handfast sex, in the public house back room, so a traumatised Brianna returns to her bedroom with this older Lizzie. This is in 4:08, and 4:09 comes straight after timewise. The first thing that Brianna does is run to the harbour to discover the lightning earlier departure of the Gloriana ship, where Roger is completing his work contract. Lizzie sees this, because she tells her here that a Mrs Fraser conducted surgery in the theatre in Wilmington. Thus Brianna finds Jamie and the reunion with her mother also comes in Wilmington itself. There is then a rather rapidly covered journey to Fraser's Ridge. (It should take two days - was there a night rest involved?) We then hear that two weeks have passed, and then we hear that Brianna is two months pregnant. Saving on television drama time regarding the evidence, Brianna declares to her mother that Lizzie is a good friend.

What do good friends talk about? Even allowing for Brianna to clamp down on the rape, presumably Lizzie might want to know and find out that Brianna went to the harbour to find Roger. At some point the good friend Lizzie will have been told at least that this chap Brianna ran after was the one who handfasted with her, even if she keeps the rape to herself. Especially after two months - but why not at the harbour or soon after?

However, in order to return to the book plot, Lizzie retains her incredible ignorance regarding the man at the inn, and two months on identifies him to Young Ian as the rapist, so that Jamie can come along and nearly kill him, as in the book. It doesn't work, does it? A Lizzie who's ill most of the time and thirteen might well not be told anything much, and thus comes to identify Roger as the man a bit forward and had sex with her mistress, thinks the silly inexperienced girl. But an older woman as cast, in a story that has the rape on the same day and a rush to the harbour to get to husband Roger on the next morning, who is later declared as Brianna's friend, cannot be in ignorance of who Roger is and that the rape was sudden but not from him. Indeed, Lizzie sleeps in the same cabin as Brianna at Fraser's Ridge, and is tuned in to her mistress.

The writers either did not think this through, or they did and decided they had to risk the dumbness of the viewers who would not realise that changes have consequences. Viewers are not thick, and some have read the books.
Something has gone seriously wrong in Season 4 on a number of key points (particularly the number of easily available Obituary notices in archives, and the easterly and southerly relocation of Craigh Na Dun - well away from where Laoghaire lives and indeed Inverness). The rape is a plot-device in the book. It is for a sleazy storyline of 'who's the baby's father?' to show division and mistrust between husband and father, and then what will happen to the rapist. In the TV series it is also a plot device to lead to Roger getting a good thumping and misdirecting Jamie's violence. The maintained misunderstanding is utterly forced and not credible: as a result of the casting of Lizzie to make a friendship, and the pushing together of the handfasting with the rape, plus the rush to the harbour for Roger and Lizzie finding Brianna there, an uneven time sequence takes place so that two months have passed and Lizzie is none the wiser regarding the handfasting despite supporting her "good friend".
The initial major error in my mind is that the daughter Brianna does not seek immediately to return with mother to see her now known real father. The alternative is to keep Frank alive: it would have been a creative and credible future path. TV series 3 has Roger fly to the USA to see Brianna and give the news Jamie was alive in Edinburgh, so that the writers put physical distance between Brianna and the stones. Brianna protests that her mother won't allow her to see her off in Scotland: it would trouble Claire too much. Also, Brianna says she gave up Jamie for her, so she'll give up her for Jamie. This isn't quite enough justification for me. Indeed, in the book, they're all in Scotland when Claire goes through to the past: indeed the other two turn up at the stones unexpectedly to see Claire through, and Brianna is dressed to go if Claire will not. This Jessica Guttenberg dress worn by Brianna features in the television series 4. Now, if I had been the daughter, I'd have gone through with mum... If I'd have been the mum, I could not have separated from the daughter on a gamble of a past life still being busy - and in Edinburgh? Instead, father Jamie has to make do with the surprise of things called photographs of Brianna shown by a returned Claire (almost no surprise for him at such a phenomenon in the book). The TV series adds on Brianna in a bikini, which, for Jamie, compromises her virtue, to set up a clash between Jamie's dodgy goings on and his morality.

Incidentally, regarding the Brianna and Roger relationship, the television series emphasises discontinuity. Roger wants all or nothing, and we assumed much happened after 2:13 between them, but it evidently did not. The two keep breaking up. But in the books, the distance is one of a continuous relationship, and the negotiation between them is more subtle. After the handfast, book Roger shouts to Brianna's accommodation window that he will be back. Television Roger has been dismissed and seems gone for good. Roger and Brianna both look like idiots. His ongoing commitment to Brianna through all his agonies in the television episodes seems to have no basis.

This was solvable through having an extra meeting between them. Rather as in the book, Roger meets Brianna in Scotland, and stays in touch with ebbs and flows. Then they meet for the faux clan gathering and his singing in America - in the hills outside Boston, in the book. In the TV series we don't even know if Brianna saw him back to the airport.
Now, Diana Gabaldon is the author, and not me, but I might have had Claire leave Jamie on news of Laoghaire's marriage, and then Brianna go through (on the basis of if she won't/ can't, I will) and I would never have had the bizzare West Indies adventure, and we learn in Book 4 of Brianna's modern day holiday in Jamaica in pursuit of information. (This is told about afterwards, not described and narrated live - such omission always a problem in novels when they could be described. The novel could have done as the TV series did: given 1948 through to 1966 as its own narrated story stream, to take us to the anchor point of 1968.)
A very serious books error in the sense of forgetting what one wrote is the geographic movement of the stones. In Book 1 Claire and Frank use the car to get to Loch Ness. Next day, it is clear by their walking from Inverness to see the Pagan dancing, and then, the day after, by Claire using a bicycle (when she disappears), that Craigh Na Dun is close to Inverness. The American book 1 by page 268 (hardcover) locates Craigh na Dun three miles east of Fort William! But in Book 3 Craigh na Dun is forty miles away, an hour by car. So, let's check (the American and also British) book 2, and an interesting passage regarding Roger altogether as well:

A sudden thought made him [Roger] sit upright in the tub, water heedlessly sloshing against the cast-iron sides. What if it were not the eighteenth-century Jacobite soldier she was concerned about, but only his name? What if the man who'd fathered her daughter in 1947 was also named James Fraser? It was a common enough name in the Highlands.

Yes, he thought, that might very well explain it. As for Claire's desire to show her daughter the stone circle herself, perhaps that was connected with the mystery of her father; maybe that's where she'd met the man or perhaps where Brianna had been conceived. Roger was well aware that the stone circle was commonly used as a trysting spot; he'd taken girls there himself in high school, relying on the circle's air of pagan mystery to loosen their reserve. It always worked.

Dragonfly in Amber, 1992, Arrow Books (Penguin), pages 42-43.
In other words, the Craigh Na Dun is close to Inverness (and perhaps Roger is not the virginal character we are perhaps led to believe in his later encounters with Brianna). Book 1 page 52 has, '...if there's a stone circle nearby, that must be it.' The shifting location of the stones circle is just undisciplined writing and editing. It seems that the British version can be edited for correction but not the American book.
Frank says of the plant she wants:
'Well, why not go back and get it?' he suggested. 'Mr Crook would lend you his old banger, perhaps, or - no, I've a better idea. Borrow Mrs Baird's bicycle, it's safer. It's a short walk from the road to the foot of the hill.'


It was drizzling and I was soaked through, not having thought to bring a mac.

Outlander (Cross stitch), 1991, Arrow Books (Penguin), pages 58-59.
So, in book 2 she had left a car (page 37) rather than a bicycle. In Book 4 we have the 'Grimoire of Geillis', the name Gillian gives herself, noting deaths at the stones and those missing, and one of these missing is Claire Randall, who had (writes Geillis) left a car. The television series uses a car in their short trips from Inverness to the stones; but Inverness is visible from the stones especially at night from the post-war street lights. If Clava Clairns was the inspiration for Craigh Na Dun (In book 4 the existence of Clava Cairns is mentioned), they are not forty miles away: indeed, in the television series, as Claire is sent from 1746 to 1948, the sound of heavy gunfire is heard from nearby Culloden Moor at Craigh Na Dun, reached by horse. In the book they pause overnight in a cottage. As a comparison, Fort William is sixty eight miles away.
In Series 4 episode 7 we have a map! The consistency that was in the TV series has been lost. Where is Craigh Na Dun? It is placed by modern road some 55 miles away at the very best. Even over the mountains by routes it is fifty. This simply cannot be so regarding the examples above. It cannot even be so by Roger's experience in series 4, who goes from and to Inverness through these stones. No cannon fire could be heard from Culloden where Brianna emerges!

Meanwhile, in book 2 Roger Wakefield has enough Gaelic to know that Broch Tuarach means 'North facing tower' but in book 4 he claims that he can speak the language. Quite how he acquired this ability, from great uncle Reginald Wakefield and well outside the Gaelic speaking areas is unclear.

The books and television series combine a cod Scots accent and single phrases of Gaelic. The two are different linguistic inheritances and do not go together. Use of 'ye' and 'ken'/ 'kent' are overdone; fluent Gaelic speakers often speak a high quality careful English. (The same joining is seen with fluent Welsh speakers.)

From Series 1: Claire at Leoch Castle, after reconciling with Jamie when he promises never to beat her again. My painting.

What is the basic error that Diana Gabaldon has committed? There are no within-the-narrative explanations for these errors: they are, I suggest, the author forgetting where these stones were and what happened: she never drew a formative map. She did later, but the less said of that the better. How Ardsmuir can be in far north Scotland when Jamie goes from there to the Lake District baffles me. It is quite possible to first draw a map and combine fictional and real sites. Later we have a family tree (it's when, in the 2014 written book, Ellen acquires the middle name of Caitriona, after the actor playing Claire). She can do a good family tree, but the map becomes an impossibility when the book moves sites like the stones around.
Another error throughout is religion. If Reginald Wakefield was the Presbyterian minister with a parish in Inverness, there was never a bishop to send him mail (book 2)! The whole point was the bishops went to the Episcopalians, and they predominated at first in the Highland areas (not Catholics), and became a minority and were themselves split between loyalists and non-Jurors.

Claire Back with Jamie Fraser in 1766 - my painting

Still, the two and a half series does portray most history imaginatively, in the art form that television can provide, and the romance works. Series 3 episode 5 has Brianna failing history at Harvard. Incidentally, the Boston street of their home is in Glasgow's university residence area and those arches that fascinates her preference for architecture in the TV series (engineering in the books) are at the University of Glasgow, not Harvard. And of course there was no possible witches' trial of any kind after 1736, including in a chapel with a coloured window (no chance), a Catholic priest (no) and some trial that was ad-hoc (not done: the Presbyterians would be wanting to exclude the superstitious, and thus would not give the existence of witches credibility). In the book, the trial is out of doors.
The acting is so very good. Tobias Menzies is a supreme actor and carries both his roles easily. This is why they used him in series 4:07 in flashbacks and as a ghost. The others are very good too, but Menzies does the acting job without personal impact - he can just switch it on and off.
What are the fundamental problems. With the books we have both first person and God-like third person narratives, often changing without warning. The fact is that if you have a third person all-seeing eye, you don't need a first person. Otherwise, if you have first person, then have another first person.

But we don't get the benefit of the first person in the books. We should get Claire asking question after question about where she is; we should also get far more questions from Jamie. Instead we get flat event to event dramatics and scenarios, obsessions with sexual violence, and coincidences. If Brianna had been written first person, we'd have had a much better idea of her driving needs. It needs two or three first persons: Claire, Brianna and possibly Roger. What cannot be seen live is told later. First persons impose a discipline of limited knowledge without manipulating the reader - and in the Outlander books, the reader is constantly manipulated by later flash backs. For example, the rape, two days later, isn't mentioned except by flashback and it isn't evident (as it was so pushed in the TV series) that Brianna has been affected by anything.

Keeping the first person narration in book 2 means that the wrong person is narrating. Jamie has to tell of what happened second hand. Claire's experience is somewhat different - more domesticated. The TV series breaks free of such limitations.

Location is important. It is interesting to note the (increasingly negative) reviews of series 4 as it went out. Scotland was a character, said Vlogger Shaun, and, whilst still watching series 4, his interest was waning. Indeed there are three locations: Scotland, the West Indies and North Carolina. Excluding the West Indies nonsense, the novel becomes one of Scottish settlers in British Colonies. The Brianna story for a short while roots the story back into Scotland: when she goes back in the book and rides to Lallybroch she uses the Fraser surname for the first time. There is a further surname for her to acquire too, in America among the colonists.
North of Culloden battlefield is Culloden Muir, and north of that is Culloden village, rather built up these days. Given Claire's sense of service in the medical sphere, it is a pity that Culloden does not feature on this account. With the legacy of destroying the clans post-Culloden, and the clearances, and the pain and suffering, Culloden was chosen for a cradle to grave medical system, and it features in the Beveridge Report as the model for the National Health System. So the NHS, and the ethos of medical service in the British Isles, and Claire's, was, in a sense, conceived at Culloden. This is missed in the books and TV series.
Read through Claire's Twenty Years, 1948 (1746) to 1968 (1766): to be filled in as I watch yet again the sequence (from 2:13) 2:1, 3:1, 3:2, 3:3, 2:13, 3:4, 3:5 and parts of 3:6, 3:7 and 3:8 as relevant, and transcribe these with commentary.


Adrian Worsfold

Pluralist - Liberal and Thoughtful