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post #1 of 203 Old 08-09-2014, 07:04 AM - Thread Starter
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Outlander on Starz

Okee-doke, it's finally here! Much of Geekdom has been waiting on Ronald D. Moore's latest epic. Brought along his BSG buddy Bear McCreary as music director too. Because it's Moore, you know it will be well written. Because it's on Starz, you know it will likely be more daring than typical cablenet fare. Herewith a review. Enjoy!

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TV Review
Outlander Is Many Kinds of Show, All in One Kilt
Time travel, history and Scottie hotties come together in an intriguingly unusual supernatural-romance mashup.
By James Poniewozik, TIME.com - Aug. 7, 2013

The first hour of Outlander (Starz, Saturdays, 9 p.m. ET) may have viewers who haven’t read the source material wondering exactly what kind of story it is–which can be a danger sign, or, as in this case, a good one.

Is it a supernatural story, because Claire Randall (Caitriona Balfe) finds herself spirited from 1945 to 1743 Scotland after coming across a druidic henge while on her second honeymoon? Is it historical fiction, because she finds herself taken captive by a Scottish clan at war with brutal English occupiers? Is it a romance, because Claire finds herself captivated by Jamie Fraser (Sam Heughan), a soulful, roguish Scottie hottie who may do more to bring back the kilt than any TV love interest since Sex and the City‘s Trey MacDougal?

It turns out it’s all of these things, which makes Outlander—whose premiere is already online if you can’t wait for Saturday—an unusual combo even in an era of pop-culture genre mashups. But Claire herself suggests yet another description: it’s a story, in a way, about traveling to another planet. “It was like landing on an alien world you’d only glimpsed through a telescope,” she says, finding herself a 20th-century woman navigating a past she knows only from history books.

Certain things don’t change, however. Claire is whisked not just from one Scotland to an earlier one, but from the aftermath of one war to the midst of another. During WWII, we learn in flashback, Claire worked as a front-lines British army nurse while her husband Frank (Tobias Menzies, currently in The Honorable Woman), a soft-spoken academic, was in British Intelligence. The two “outlanders”–as the Scottish term the English–are vacationing up north to prepare to begin a family, and to try to find their way back to normal after years of horror.

The henge, however, has other ideas, and Outlander phase-shifts late in its first hour from a PBS-like production into a different kind of costume drama. After a dangerous run-in with a vicious Redcoat officer–who happens to look exactly like Frank (and is also played by Menzies)–she’s saved, but also made the prisoner (or “guest”) of the Scottish Clan MacKenzie. Her hosts/captors suspect she may be a spy, this curious Englishwoman with puzzling clothing (“What kind of corset is that?” a Scotswoman asks when seeing Claire’s 1940s bra) and an un-18th-century assertiveness–not to mention her knowledge of futuristic medical concepts like bacterial infection.

Claire is an outlander in more than one sense: an Englishwoman in a suspicious Scots clan, and a spirited woman in a patriarchal society. The show is based on a book series (which I haven’t read) by Diana Gabaldon and produced by Ronald D. Moore, who carries a sci-fi pedigree from Battlestar Galactica, but it doesn’t fuss much with the why-and-how of Claire’s time travel. Instead it settles into Claire’s involuntary exploration of the past–and Balfe makes a wry, infectiously engaging guide.

The result is the most promising show in years for Starz, which since Party Down’s glory days has focused on blood-heavy spectacles like Spartacus and Black Sails or morose antihero dramas like Boss and Magic City. But it’s also something different in the larger universe of pay-cable drama: an epic drama told from the standpoint of an optimistic, resourceful woman rather than brooding, demon-chasing men.

That changes a lot, starting with the sex. Like Game of Thrones, Outlander is conscious of rape as a weapon of war, but it’s neither graphic nor gratuitous in portraying it. (In general, there seems to be more of a safety net as to how far Outlander will go in depicting the worst in human behavior–sexual or otherwise–not that there aren’t some brutal scenes.)

But there’s also the consensual sex–beginning with the fact that it exists, and not just for the enjoyment of male characters (and viewers). A tryst between Claire and Frank in the first episode, in which he kneels eagerly to pleasure her first, feels like a declaration of sexual principles. And then we have Claire’s 18th-century hall pass Jamie, of the strapping arms and roughly scarred torso–sexposition, meet pecs-position!–who establishes his guy-who-gets-it bona fides when Claire finds him wrangling a feisty horse. “She’s just a girl with spirit is all,” he says. “That’s always a good thing.” (Philosophical question: can you cheat on a husband who hasn’t been born yet?)

All this has raised the issue of whether men–or for that matter, women who are not already fans of the romance genre–will watch. Last week, Vanity Fair’s Joanna Robinson raised the hackles of some book fans by writing that Outlander’s credits, previewed in advance online, might scare off that audience with Bear McCreary’s plaintive highland-air theme song and the gauzy visuals of Stevie-Nicks-twirling druidesses.

I doubt Starz cares very much; the economics of cable mean a premium channel can do much better by targeting specific, underserved fans than trying to make something for everyone. The real problem with those credits is that they suggest a series way more misty and demure than Outlander actually is. This is a very writerly TV show–unfortunately, there’s so much voiceover narration that it’s sometimes like its own audiobook–but Claire is no starry-eyed poetic sap. She’s direct, clear-eyed, and unafraid to tell off her gruff Scotsman captors with an exasperated “Jesus H. Roosevelt Christ!,” my new expletive phrase of choice.

Good thing Claire is such good company, because after the enchanting first episode, the series wanders. Claire’s early focus is returning to “the stones” in hopes of returning home, but there’s no particular urgency. The series spends a lot of time luxuriating in the scenery and atmosphere, as if it’s meant to be binge-watched over a pot of tea on a rainy weekend at a bed and breakfast.

But once you accept, with Claire, that we may be sticking around for a while, Outlander becomes an intriguing kind of social drama, a study of a people under siege whose bristliness comes with a deep sense of honor. And the sixth episode, in which Claire again encounters Frank’s Redcoat doppelgänger, snaps the show into gear as it drives home the brutality of the occupation and the motivations of the rebelling clansfolk: it’s easily the series’ best episode yet.

It was also the last episode Starz offered for review. I haven’t read the source books, so I can offer no spoilers, though there are hints that Outlander is not nearly finished with its time-jumping convolutions. To a non-reader, it’s not necessarily clear, half a dozen episodes in, what kind(s) of story Outlander will turn out to be. But there’s enough to enjoy that you may not mind Claire taking her time and figuring it out.

http://time.com/3086646/review-outlander-starz/

Last edited by archiguy; 08-09-2014 at 07:21 AM.
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post #2 of 203 Old 08-09-2014, 07:38 AM
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Watched it last weekend....
As expected the production values and score were excellent, as to the story I won't comment because it hasn't officially aired yet...

"If we ain't outta here in ten minutes, we won't need no rocket to fly through space."
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post #3 of 203 Old 08-09-2014, 02:30 PM
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Watched it last weekend....
As expected the production values and score were excellent, as to the story I won't comment because it hasn't officially aired yet...
Watched it last night, it's interesting enough to keep me watching. I liked the lead.
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post #4 of 203 Old 08-09-2014, 02:41 PM - Thread Starter
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Here's the official trailer from Starz:

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post #5 of 203 Old 08-10-2014, 08:38 AM - Thread Starter
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Pretty strong opener last night, IMO. This should be fun. When the Scotsmen speak in their native dialect, it's dang near impossible to follow. Glad they don't spend much time with the local dialect. I once spent an evening in a Scottish bar talking to a local patron for 30 minutes and only caught about every 5th word. I nodded and smiled a lot, clanked "bitter" glasses frequently, and had a grand time.

Welcome back, Mr. Moore. Well done.
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post #6 of 203 Old 08-10-2014, 10:19 AM
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Watched it last night, it's interesting enough to keep me watching. I liked the lead.
Same here. I was intrigued by the premise. I liked the idea of her meeting and loathing Frank's historical relative Black Jack (nice duel turn by Tobias Menzies). If they do more time jumping and don't mess it up, the show could definitely have legs.
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post #7 of 203 Old 08-10-2014, 10:34 AM
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When the Scotsmen speak in their native dialect, it's dang near impossible to follow. Glad they don't spend much time with the local dialect. I once spent an evening in a Scottish bar talking to a local patron for 30 minutes and only caught about every 5th word..
I thought they were speaking Gaelic, or Cornish or whatever you call it. No reason why you would be expected to understand it, its not English.
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post #8 of 203 Old 08-10-2014, 10:36 AM
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Good opening show following the book's plot !!!


Acting is outstanding... so far, and the scenery is breathtaking.


They must have hired the few remaining unemployed actors not working for GOT.


Hope they continue following the book's plotline, knowing compression is necessary for TV.


IMO... It's worthwhile to read the books.... I'm sure they lose a lot of details in compressing the story to fit TV.


Very promising start... hope it continues.
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post #9 of 203 Old 08-10-2014, 10:40 AM
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It's Gaelic,

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post #10 of 203 Old 08-10-2014, 10:53 AM - Thread Starter
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I thought they were speaking Gaelic, or Cornish or whatever you call it. No reason why you would be expected to understand it, its not English.
Ah, didn't realize that. Thanks fellas'.

As to my anecdote regarding the week I spent in Scotland back in high school, that gentleman I was having the "conversation" with was speaking modern-day English. But his Scottish accent was so bloody thick I had a lot of trouble following him. Fortunately, enough beer, especially the 16% local Scottish bitter we were quaffing, tends to mitigate language & cultural differences.
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post #11 of 203 Old 08-10-2014, 01:32 PM
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My wife is a fan of the author and has all her books so she made me watch it. Not bad, I enjoyed it. Not as much as she did but still not bad.

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post #12 of 203 Old 08-10-2014, 05:53 PM
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Originally Posted by trumperZ06 View Post
Good opening show following the book's plot !!!


Acting is outstanding... so far, and the scenery is breathtaking.


They must have hired the few remaining unemployed actors not working for GOT.


Hope they continue following the book's plotline, knowing compression is necessary for TV.


IMO... It's worthwhile to read the books.... I'm sure they lose a lot of details in compressing the story to fit TV.


Very promising start... hope it continues.
Isn't Claire's husband the incompetent Stark nephew that had to marry the Craster daughter at the red wedding?
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post #13 of 203 Old 08-10-2014, 06:00 PM
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Isn't Claire's husband the incompetent Stark nephew that had to marry the Craster daughter at the red wedding?
Yep, but he wasn't a Stark (can't remember the name, but he was from Catelyn's side of the family) and he played Brutus on the series Rome 10 years ago.

I don't lurk as much as I used to and I NEVER listen. Comes from being old and cynical.

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Yep, but he wasn't a Stark (can't remember the name, but he was from Catelyn's side of the family) and he played Brutus on the series Rome 10 years ago.
He was a Tully on GOT

It's been getting glowing reviews and it certainly didn't disappoint.
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post #15 of 203 Old 08-11-2014, 09:20 AM
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I really enjoyed the first episode. My wife was a little more ambivalent (she's never read the books). I purposefully told her nothing about the show other than she might like it, so she was not prepared for the time travel turn and wasn't sure what to expect after that. She wondered aloud if we were watching a movie instead of just a one-hour show. Looking forward to seeing the rest of the series.
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post #16 of 203 Old 08-11-2014, 11:49 AM
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I watched the first episode for my wife's benefit. She read the first book in the series and enjoyed it. She will probably force me to watch with her again, but it's not something I would choose to watch on my own.

The first half of the premiere episode was SUPER-BORING, and Claire's hubby has got to be the dullest man who ever lived. Things pick up when she jumps back to olden times, but the episode takes seemingly forever to get to that point. Claire herself also seems to be pretty dense with regard to how long it takes her to catch on that she's not in Kansas anymore.

I realize that this is a Starz show, but the nudity and sex felt really gratuitous, as if they were shoehorned in only to meet some network mandate that all shows must put boobs on screen every ten minutes.
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post #17 of 203 Old 08-11-2014, 01:16 PM
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I realize that this is a Starz show, but the nudity and sex felt really gratuitous, as if they were shoehorned in only to meet some network mandate that all shows must put boobs on screen every ten minutes.
I really dislike it when they do that. I'm not a prude at all, but if you're going to add sex/boobs/man parts/etc. make sure it's part of the story and not an afterthought.

I'm a 'hooker' and a knitter. I guess that makes me bi-stitchual :). Crap I say
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post #18 of 203 Old 08-11-2014, 02:14 PM - Thread Starter
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I certainly didn't feel any of the nudity was overdone or gratuitous. It was brief and felt organic to the love scenes, and seemed much more natural than on most TV programs. They wanted to make the point that these were two people deeply in love, and some of the voice-over commentary emphasized how the physical part of their relationship was something that was always there, even during wartime. It's probably supposed to be juxtaposed against the misogynistic sexual violence she's going to have to endure now in a more uncivilized time, including from her husband's evil ancestor/doppelganger.

This isn't a gratuitous kind of show, and Ron Moore is not that kind of producer.
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post #19 of 203 Old 08-11-2014, 02:42 PM
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This isn't a gratuitous kind of show, and Ron Moore is not that kind of producer.

No, he isn't. but Davis was not the kind of producer to do something as bad as the Starz reboot of Torchwood, either.

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post #20 of 203 Old 08-11-2014, 02:43 PM
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Okay, but is worth ordering Starz for or should I wait until it comes out on disc/streaming?

I'm a 'hooker' and a knitter. I guess that makes me bi-stitchual :). Crap I say
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post #21 of 203 Old 08-11-2014, 03:06 PM - Thread Starter
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No, he isn't. but Davis was not the kind of producer to do something as bad as the Starz reboot of Torchwood, either.
I don't think it's appropriate to put this show into the same context as the 'Torchwood' reboot. It's already at least twice as good as that mess. And climbing.

And Patti - I enjoy Starz and think it's worth the cost. I already had HBO and Showtime, but Starz has had some good original stuff ('Torchwood' excluded) and has a lot of theatrical movies the other two don't. 'DaVinci's Demons' is a lot of fun. I have to draw the line somewhere and 3 premiums + Netflix is it (sorry Cinemax).
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Does Starz repeat episodes online after the original air date if you don't have a Starz subscription? My wife loved the books and is most distressed that we can't get Starz (we don't have pay-tv).
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post #23 of 203 Old 08-11-2014, 03:46 PM
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I don't think it's appropriate to put this show into the same context as the 'Torchwood' reboot. It's already at least twice as good as that mess. And climbing.

And Patti - I enjoy Starz and think it's worth the cost. I already had HBO and Showtime, but Starz has had some good original stuff ('Torchwood' excluded) and has a lot of theatrical movies the other two don't. 'DaVinci's Demons' is a lot of fun. I have to draw the line somewhere and 3 premiums + Netflix is it (sorry Cinemax).
I just ordered it so I'm set . I'll catch the first episode On Demand tonight.

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post #24 of 203 Old 08-11-2014, 06:17 PM
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I certainly didn't feel any of the nudity was overdone or gratuitous. It was brief and felt organic to the love scenes, and seemed much more natural than on most TV programs. They wanted to make the point that these were two people deeply in love, and some of the voice-over commentary emphasized how the physical part of their relationship was something that was always there, even during wartime. It's probably supposed to be juxtaposed against the misogynistic sexual violence she's going to have to endure now in a more uncivilized time, including from her husband's evil ancestor/doppelganger.

This isn't a gratuitous kind of show, and Ron Moore is not that kind of producer.
I agree, I didn't think anything seemed forced. I haven't read the novels, but the scenes were what I would have suspected from the little I've read about the books.
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I agree, I didn't think anything seemed forced. I haven't read the novels, but the scenes were what I would have suspected from the little I've read about the books.
Just got done watching and no, it didn't seem forced at all. Thanks for getting me hooked on another series guys .

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post #26 of 203 Old 08-12-2014, 09:40 AM
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I certainly didn't feel any of the nudity was overdone or gratuitous. It was brief and felt organic to the love scenes, and seemed much more natural than on most TV programs. They wanted to make the point that these were two people deeply in love, and some of the voice-over commentary emphasized how the physical part of their relationship was something that was always there, even during wartime. It's probably supposed to be juxtaposed against the misogynistic sexual violence she's going to have to endure now in a more uncivilized time, including from her husband's evil ancestor/doppelganger.
Oh, come on. The only point those scenes make is how horny the character is, all the time at every minute of every day, so that we won't be surprised when she cheats on her husband and starts boning the studly Scottish guy in the next episode.

The first half of the premiere felt like some stately Merchant-Ivory period piece, when suddenly out of the blue the characters would tear their clothes off every few minutes and screw. It was really jarring and ridiculous.

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Oh, come on. The only point those scenes make is how horny the character is, all the time at every minute of every day, so that we won't be surprised when she cheats on her husband and starts boning the studly Scottish guy in the next episode.

The first half of the premiere felt like some stately Merchant-Ivory period piece, when suddenly out of the blue the characters would tear their clothes off every few minutes and screw. It was really jarring and ridiculous.
I can't believe you think every few minutes they were tearing there clothes off. Wasn't there only like a couple of actual sex scenes and one was not even actual sex in the abandoned building? Didn't she also explain the reason for all the sex in that it was there way of bonding and coming back to the core of their relationship where the fighting didn't matter.

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Oh, come on. The only point those scenes make is how horny the character is, all the time at every minute of every day, so that we won't be surprised when she cheats on her husband and starts boning the studly Scottish guy in the next episode.

The first half of the premiere felt like some stately Merchant-Ivory period piece, when suddenly out of the blue the characters would tear their clothes off every few minutes and screw. It was really jarring and ridiculous.
Are you sure we watched the same show? I did not get that vibe or really see that much sex at all and what there was of it was important for the story.

I'm a 'hooker' and a knitter. I guess that makes me bi-stitchual :). Crap I say
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post #29 of 203 Old 08-12-2014, 10:50 AM - Thread Starter
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I'm not even going to quote Josh's post again. Suffice it to say I didn't see it that way, and the script and actors certainly didn't portray it that way.

This clearly isn't a show you're going to "get" Josh. Best not let your wife "force" you to watch it again if you're going to miss all the subtext and not pay any attention to the characters' motivations and how they're developed. A Starz show you might enjoy is 'Black Sails'. That's got a lot of the frequent and gratuitous sex you think you see here.
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post #30 of 203 Old 08-12-2014, 10:51 AM
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And they were on holiday, or was it even a second honeymoon? I didn't think the sex was gratuitous at all, I thought it folded in with the overall story very well.

Now Starz has had a history of showing sex for the sake of showing sex, no doubt about that, those sword and sandal shows they've had were rife with it, and even Da Vincis Demons, which I think is very well done, has had it's fair share of sex(though not completely in your face all the time), but this show? Nope, not hardly, not so far, it looked completely natural and within character to me.
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