"Outlander" comes to television on Saturday, and fans of the book on which the show is based are going gaga. In a good way.
And there are quite a few of them. That’s obvious, given that the eight books in Diana Gabaldon’s series about Claire Randall (Caitriona Balfe), a World War II nurse transported 200 years back in time to 1743 Scotland, have sold 25 million copies.
On TV“Outlander” premieres Saturday at 7, 8:10 and 9:20 p.m. on Starz.
"The fans have been incredibly supportive and really welcoming," Balfe said. "I don’t think I was aware of the magnitude of the fans and how enthusiastic they were, but yeah, it’s like a dream role."
And the Starz series is a dream come true for the devoted fans of the books.
"They have been dying for years and years and years to see this story in a visual form," Gabaldon said. "You can see in your mind’s eye what’s happening as you read, but this is not quite the same thing as seeing it physically. They are overjoyed.
"They identify with Claire. They want to be Claire. They sort of want to lick him," she said, referring to Jamie Fraser (Sam Heughan), the hunk Claire falls in love with in the 18th century. She’s got a husband, Frank (Tobias Menzies), she loves in the 20th century, but she’s thrown into a tempestuous romance with Jamie.
The TV version of "Outlander" (16 episodes in Season 1) was developed and produced by Ronald D. Moore. He was introduced to the books by his wife and his producing partner, and he immediately saw the story as a TV series.
"It’s this piece of historical fiction. It’s got a lot of detail of the period," Moore said. "There’s a lot of violence. There’s a lot of conflict. There’s politics of the era. And at the center of it is this modern, contemporary character, Claire, who is really your view into the past. She’s so smart and interesting and powerful that you’re really propelled into the tale along with her."
Gabaldon said readers often comment on the "strong women" she creates. "And I say, ‘Well, I don’t like stupid ones. Why would I write about them?’ "
Gabaldon isn’t shy about expressing her opinions. She laughed at the idea that she writes to please her readers.
"I often get asked, ‘Do you feel an obligation to do what your fans want?’ And the answer is — absolutely not," she said. "I am creating this and would hope that they like it, but my obligation is to the book and the book alone."
Moore knows a little bit about crazy, devoted fans from his time on "Star Trek: The Next Generation," "Deep Space Nine" and the "Battlestar Galactica" reboot — "passionate fan bases that will vie for the title of craziest, if you want to go there," he said.
"You still have to make the show for yourself and make the best that you can. It’s not a democracy. You can’t just like throw it out there and do what the fans want because they all want different things."
They’re both warning fans that the TV show isn’t the book.
"To do a literal page-by-page translation of the screening would just not be a very good TV show," Gabaldon said.
The author readily admits that "the book starts rather slowly." Whereas Moore’s plan was to "start with maybe a two-minute prologue … where we see Claire in a World War II field military hospital doing what she does, blood spurting, sewing people back together, being the very competent and resilient person that she is," Gabaldon said. "And I was going, ‘Yeah, yeah, sounds great.’ "
Moore said he wants to please the "dedicated" fans. I want to give them their story, but I do have to translate it into a different medium because there are differences of being a reader and being a member of an audience."
The fan base does include men.
"Yes, there are several," Gabaldon said with a smile. "But they tend not to stand out in the street with signs and T-shirts."
Moore said he’s run into a lot of men who say they were introduced to the books by their wives or girlfriends.
"So yes, the fan base and the readers are predominantly women, but they have proselytized quite a bit with boyfriends and husbands," he said. "And it’s a great page-turner. You’re sort of propelled into this big epic tale right from the get-go, and I think the show will be the same way."
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