|Review: Outlander, the tv series
||[Sep. 18th, 2014|01:08 pm]
Adapting books into screenplays isn't easy, and adapting behemoth tomes is hell, but this shouldn't have been hell to watch.
Diana Gabaldon's books surprise anyone who's seen a kilt because of the value the Highlanders placed on-- wait for it-- education. Sadly, the tv series rewrites the highlanders into a bunch of rowdy thugs. Ron Moore, the writer for Battlestar Galactica, rewrites the head of the clan, a chess-playing Macchiavelli, into a thug with a knife, and a university-educated hunk into a dolt who has no Latin and thinks that a coarse joke is really "witty." This is a unusual love story, dammit, written by a lady with lots of degrees. The protagonist and I are supposed to want to rub ourselves on this learned hunk and his noble culture. The production is pretty enough, the Jamie actor is pretty enough, but nobility, smarts and pacing are off.
In the tv series, as in the books, the protagonist is a WWII field nurse who touches a standing stone in Scotland and finds herself transported 200 years into the past. She ultimately finds herself useful amongst rowdy Scots who've been injured staving off British depradations. She barely has time to win their approval before she finds herself at the clan castle. Here the tv series and books diverge. Whereas in the book, the castle is a surprising place of culture, of honor, of tragedy, even, in the tv series, the rowdiness just continues. The book's head of the clan is a wildly interesting character with Toulouse-Lautrec Syndrome. He doesn't walk a lot. He has a Battle Chief to be his legs on the field and Mountain of a man to carry him around and crush anybody out of line. He is still, composed, and in charge of everything with a flick of an eyebrow. In the tv series, they make Colum walk around alone. When he gets insulted by a tailor, he wobbles and threatens him with a knife-- unbelievable. The tailor could have taken him out with his eyebrow pencil. The protagonist warps, as well. Whereas in the books, Claire is driven to heal (sorry, spoiler-- and so becomes a surgeon back in her time), in the series, she can be found aimlessly playing with kids or waulking wool. Who are these people and why should we care?
Adaptations of giant books often conflate characters for brevity's sake, but it's odd when new characters are created, or sides of a character are added. Usually editing is the order of the day.
I didn't understand why the writers chose to take a giant Mountain of a man, reduce this Angus to a tiny drunk, and focus on him, ep after ep. Instead of watching Colum play chess or have a scene with his less intelligent, rowdier brother Dougal, underscoring the difference between the men and the complexity of the culture, we just watch men roughhouse and get drunk. When wee Angus threatens the protagonist with a knife and yells at her, the tv series lost all my respect. Apparently the writers didn't believe in Colum's power or Claire's healing, either. His personal man at arms is allowed to transgress His rule that healers be treated with respect? And he was in the party of men that Claire healed, and so should respect her on that merit. But no, she's treated abusively. The series could end right there. She goes back to the stones and 200 years into the present and shivers every time she thinks of that weird experience. But no, it gets worse first. Now we see the Big Bad.
The tv series makes up 8 new British soldier characters so the Big Bad, Black Jack Randall, can flaunt his disregard of authority. But this characteristic doesn't exist in the book, so why the new characters? And why do we want to hear about the most disgusting thing he's ever done as a monologue? Is this supposed to gather in Dexter fans?
Jamie and the clans are so lackluster, if I were the protagonist, I'd head straight back through the standing stones and slap Ron Moore.