Actress Caitriona Balfe who plays Claire Randall, the heroine of "Outlander"
I have a confession to make. I spent much of the weekend plunged back into 18th-century Scotland. That is because I discovered Outlander, the television series based on the best-selling books by Diana Gabaldon that take place in the Scottish Highlands. I watched three episodes and am officially hooked. Do you know about this show? It premiered last summer on Starz network here in the U.S. and was a big hit. It's hard to believe it still hasn't aired in the U.K., though I believe it will be starting there this month.
Claire and Jamie in "Outlander"
I wondered if there has ever been such a romantic and swashbuckling television drama. Or one that made you want to travel to its setting more than this. I read that tour companies are training their guides to learn about the series and its locations for the influx of tourists that will visit Scotland because of the show. One other drama with these qualities that comes to mind is Poldark, a television series from many years ago that was set in Cornwall. It centered on Ross Poldark, another dashing war hero who returns home from fighting in the American Revolution to discover that his fiance is engaged to his cousin and his estate is in ruins. He takes in a young street urchin Demelza as his housekeeper and ends up marrying her. I just learned that a new dramatization of "Poldark" has premiered on British television. Definitely looking forward to that one.
Here is the premise of "Outlander":
It opens with Claire nursing a wounded soldier at the end of World War II, a scene that shows her as a woman of courage and fortitude. After the war ends, she is reunited with her husband. They have been separated for five years and try to reconnect on a holiday in Scotland. They both are slightly anxious and unhappy at the beginning of the trip, but finally manage to revive their romance and seem resolved to stay together. Claire's husband is an historian and they spend their days exploring castles and other historic sites in the Highlands for his research.
One night they observe a Druid ceremony amidst some mysterious standing stones. When Claire returns the next day on her own, she is transported in time and lands in the 18th-century in the middle of a battle between the Scots and the English. This is when she is assaulted by the English officer, the evil "Black Jack," who happens to be an ancestor of her husband. Both characters are played by the same actor. She is saved by Jamie and whisked off by his band of Scottish insurgents to their castle. There she is met with great incredulity and is pressured to explain how a wandering Englishwoman came to find herself in the middle of the Scottish Highlands. She does her best and is accepted by the men, mostly because of her healing powers and her gumption. The housekeeper dresses her in proper period clothes and she is transformed into a tartan-clad 18th-century Scottish woman. It looks as if she can keep up the pretense for a while, but it is obvious she must figure out how to return to the present. In the meantime, it is easy to see she is attracted to the brave and handsome Jamie.
This lavish production is filled with stunning visuals. Has tartan plaid ever looked better? Or candlelit castles? Or the Scottish highlands? Not to mention the gorgeous actors who play the romantic leads. It is my new guilty pleasure and I am living for next season to premiere in April. It also has me planning a trip to Scotland this summer to experience the wild and poetic beauty of the Highlands. Looks like the magic has worked. Please let me know if you are a fan.