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Title: Untimely Resurrection

Written by: Richard Kahan

Directed by: Douglas Mackinnon

It’s  Episode 205 of  OLA’s  continuing series of Recaps on Steroids (ROS) for Season 2.  These ROS will incorporate an OLA writers’ opinion on the episode woven in with information from both the official Starz podcasts hosted by Showrunner Ronald D. Moore along with comments from the official episode script including things changed or edited for television. OLA editorial comments in the ROS recognize and respect the experience of those associated with the show even though we may respectfully disagree at times with their thought process or assumptions.  We hope you enjoy these recaps!


The podcast for this episode was narrated by showrunner Ronald D. Moore (RDM) and costume designer Terry Dresbach.

The title card for the episode was inside the King’s stables with the white horses being brushed and a blanket with the King’s emblem laid over their backs.  This was Richard Kahan’s first script and he did a great job.  You can tell he is a fan of the books as he writes Jamie and Claire very well.

One thing that came into my mind while researching the episode, podcast and script for this episode is that it would be really cool to have one of the actors do the podcast with RDM.    This episode was definitely one of those that would have benefited from that.  I would imagine the logistics of this would be difficult.

The episode begins after the dinner party and the post-dinner fight with some having been hauled away to the Bastille.  RDM mentioned that this show actually ran shorter, but they made cuts as feedback from the studio and network was that it was running long.  (Editorial comment: This is why a bunch of middle-aged white guys should not make decisions about what women want out of a character-driven story of a strong, married couple!)

The previous episode was going to end with a scene with King James as he was going to be invited to the dinner party in an early version of the script.  So much changed for the end of 204 and the start of 205.

The camera pans from the clearing of the dinner table to the chaos of broken items and overturned furniture to a worried Claire.  A deleted scene had Claire stressing by the fire with Fergus joining her to brush her hair.  He explains the story of LaDame Blanche, and through Claire’s questioning, we also learn the story of Fergus.  I thought this was a lovely scene, and one where it showed Claire really coming to care for Fergus as her adopted son and not just Jamie’s.  This was one of three deleted scenes in this episode that I felt added both depth and insights into the characters.

Jamie returns to find Claire still up and Fergus fast asleep.  He picks up their sleeping son and meets Claire in their bedroom.  (Side note:  I like that the script had Jamie kiss Claire on the forehead but in the episode Jamie kisses her hand.  It was sweeter.)

Jamie tells Claire that Duverney vouched for them, but that the Duke of Sandringham fired Alex Randall, since he was still in prison.  They discuss how Claire got away from the attackers (hard to believe that half of 204 and the start of 205 is all the same day!) and she mentioned they called her LaDame Blanche.   Jamie confesses to having called her that at Maison Elise to be able turn away prostitutes without looking unmanly.  At first Claire is incredulous that he could risk her being seen as a witch again, but then realizes that this probably means the attackers frequent the brothel-and that narrows down the suspects.  Jamie makes a mental note to assign Murtagh to watch the Comte, just in case St. Germain still has revenge on his mind.

Jamie sits down, exhausted, on the bedroom couch next to Claire in the script, but I like the choice (by Sam? the director?) of him standing and snuggling Claire from behind while he seems to inhale her.  It reminded me of the snuggle from behind scene in Lallybroch from Season 1, where they express their love to each other for the first time.

The next morning, a kilted Jamie is in his office at the winery talking with Murtagh.  (RDM provided an interesting tidbit that the office was a redress of the set that was the Inn from Episode 201.)  Murtagh confesses that he feels guilty that he failed Jamie by allowing his wife to be attacked.  Jamie reassures him that he was outnumbered, but nonetheless Murtagh vows to lay vengeance at his feet.  Jamie charges him with this vow as he knows a proud Highlander would want it.

Richard Kahan noted something interesting in the script notes.  He said Sam added a subtle subtext to this scene by showing that Jamie, for a split second, also wonders if Murtagh could have done more.  Kahan noted that “Sam brought an awesome subtle flavor” to the scene.

Meanwhile, Claire sneaks in a visit to Mary to see how she is doing.  (Mary’s room is another redress of a set-Louise’s apartment.)  I liked Claire’s purple suit here, it felt very 18th century yet very modern, too.  Mary is writing a note explaining the details of the attack in order to free Alex.  She then confesses to Claire that she and Alex intend to be married.  Claire hides the fact that this terrifies her as it may prevent Frank’s ancestor (the offspring of Mary and Jack Randall) to be born.  She considers not delivering the letter to leave Alex in the Bastille but decides against it.  Richard Kahan was very complimentary of Caitriona Balfe in the notes, saying she is a writer’s dream.  I have read that sentiment from other writer’s as well.

Terry Dresbach explained that Mary was wearing a cute cap here but they get pressure not to put caps on leads.  This might explain why Jamie rarely wears the Highlander cap but Murtagh and Dougal often are seen with one.

Back at the winery, Murtagh has left on his quest and Bonnie Prince Charlie shows up.  He tells Jamie he is rid of the female haze and can focus on their quest. (It got me thinking that if he had been more focused on Louise and their baby, would he have given up or delayed the plan? )  He explains that there is a shipment of wine that is coming in, and he needs Jamie to help the Comte St. Germain to procure it so they can make some money for the cause.  Jamie is naturally not keen on this idea, but has to agree.  The look on his face is one step forward, two steps back in their plan to prevent Culloden.

Alex Randall is released from the Bastille and takes a walk with Claire.  Claire notices he is ill (who couldn’t, the constant coughing is like an anvil saying ALEX RANDALL IS SICK).  She makes a decision to talk Alex out of marrying Mary, given his lack of position and ill health.  Was I the only one thinking that if a man is coughing and obviously has something potentially contagious that the pregnant nurse walking with him should protect herself better?

Jamie meets up with Le Comte at the brothel.  jamie-and-comteIn a great writing/acting decision, the pride of both men intervene as Jamie will only speak English and Comte will only speak French. Jamie gets his point across that he will kill the man responsible for attacking Claire.   The mutual disdain at the table is palpable.

Jamie returns home to tell Claire about the Prince’s plan, and they realize that they must try to stop him.  Claire gets an idea about simulating smallpox, but tucks it in the back of her mind for later.  Jamie presents her with a wooden case containing 12 Apostle spoons that are a family heirloom.  He had Jenny send them so he could present them to Claire as a christening gift for their baby.  Producer Toni Graphia came up with this idea after research.

Claire opens up to Jamie about her fears of being a good mother.  Not only is this a natural way to feel, but Claire lost her own mother when she was five and so has no real maternal role model other than Jenny.  Jamie reassures her that they will learn together.  jamie-reassuring-claire-about-baby A longer version of this scene is part of the DVD deleted scenes.  It’s too bad it wasn’t kept in, especially if the show was running short as RDM noted.

Richard Kahan said that this part of the script went through many revisions.  There was even an intense sex scene at the end of one of them.  But as a new father himself, he felt the more emotional connection was the better way to go.  There must have been some editing on set, as the scene ending with Claire saying “I do love you” and Jamie’s reply of “I love you too, mo nighaen donn” were not in the published script.

Jamie and Claire meet the Duke of Sandringham at Versailles to assist him at a horse sale.  This was originally scripted as  dressage, but the production people thought it would take days to film correctly.  Jamie looks at horses with the Duke while poor Claire must take a ladies’ walk with Jamie’s former girlfriend, Annalise.  Claire’s dress here was an unusual print which I claire-analisedidn’t like when I first saw pictures, but it actually matches very well with the garden surroundings.  Terry commented that there was a lot of criticism when pictures were released during the “Droughtlander,” but that the dress was seen out of context.  I would agree.  She also commented that many said the long yellow gloves looked like dish washing gloves, and to my surprise, RDM said “that’s because people are idiots.”  No, Ron.  I am no idiot, and that was my first thought, too. I love yellow, but that was too much yellow, and since yellow dish washing gloves are kind of an iconic symbol of women 40 years ago, it’s not a stretch.

Annalise comments to Claire that she knew him as a boy, but Claire has made him into a man.  She then notices a man staring at Claire, and to Claire’s horror, it is Black Jack Randall standing in full uniform.  Annalise runs off to find Jamie before Claire can stop her.

RDM said that he and Tobias Menzies talked about how Jack should behave in this sequence.  RDM said that Jack had taken all he wanted from Jamie at Wentworth and so his demeanor should be a bit lighter.  Richard Kahan noted it made him even creepier.  Jack is  thrilled to see Claire and even more so with the fact that Jamie was there.  Claire, whose heart is probably pounding out of her chest at this point, cannot control her contempt; but the King is on a stroll with his entourage and protocol beckons.

Jamie arrives but cannot draw his sword in the presence of the King.  Louis picks up on the fact that black-jack-bowsClaire and Jamie don’t seem to like BJR and he mocks and humiliates him.  Jamie enjoys this very much. Jack notes that he is there to try to help his brother Alex get his position back.  We know that Jack and the Duke have had dealings together in the past.  Two peas in a rotten pod.

Claire pretends to be unwell to be excused by the King.  Once Jamie confirms that she’s OK, he turns back to speak to Jack.  RDM wanted the scene to be from Claire’s POV as she watches in horror wondering what they are saying.  I thought that was an effective choice on the part of RDM.  Jamie returns to her side with a look of utter joy on his face as BJR agrees to a duel, and Jamie can taste his blood at that moment.  On the carriage ride home, Jamie looks like a kid headed to Disney World while Claire’s mind races as to how she can stop this.  Jamie jumps out of the carriage at home to start planning the duel with Murtagh while Claire takes the carriage to the Bastille.

Murtagh and Jamie are discussing duel logistics when Claire walks in looking upset.  She tells them that she signed a petition saying BJR was part of the attack.  She knows he will have an alibi, but it buys a few days for her to talk Jamie out of it.  She even asks Murtagh to leave.

What follows is some of the best acting seen on television, in this or any other 2016 program.

As RDM notes, when Sam and Cait have to fight as Jamie and Claire, they dig deep.  He said that “these two actors can take you places.”  And “Jamie and Claire are the show, and these two characters are brought to life by these two actors.”  (I am biting my tongue about how this doesn’t reconcile well with all the Jamie and Claire cut scenes on the DVD…)

jamie-claire-dirk-205Claire begs Jamie to wait a year because if he kills BJR; otherwise Mary will not conceive the child that will become Frank’s ancestor.  As the script notes, Jamie looks at Claire as if she is insane.  He cannot believe she is asking this of him after knowing all he went through physically and emotionally and how it impacted the most intimate parts of their relationship.  He asks her to kill him instead.  She throws the dirk away and seconds later she pours salt in an open wound by saying “you owe me a life.”

Jamie is a man of honor and agrees to one year.  He kisses his sword in “goodbye for now” (great move by Sam Heughan here as this was not in the script).  She goes to hug him, but he says quietly and coldly…Dinna.TOUCH.me

The scene ends with them being far apart in the room and even farther apart emotionally.

Richard Kahan noted that in one of the versions of the script, Jamie walks from room to room  yelling with Claire running after him yelling back.  (Hey Richard, how did he know that is what goes on in my house during an argument!)  Kahan also said he loved writing the scene and that Sam and Caitriona “elevated it beyond measure.”

The deleted scenes from this episode are great. You can find them on the DVD and BluRay, which can be purchased at our Shop Outlander Amazon shop.   You can also see them on the Outlander America YouTube Channel.


All pictures sourced from Starz/Sony, OutlanderAmerica Pinterest.  Last gif sourced from varietyofwords via Tumblr

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July 19th, 2016

In the second half of Season Two, Outlander took a major geographical and tonal leap, returning Jamie and Claire to Scotland at the dawn of the Jacobite rising. These episodes focused on their efforts to prevent inevitable deaths at Culloden. My score needed to shift back to the haunting Scottish sounds of season one, with an added emphasis on military percussion and pipes.

This change is evident immediately with the new Main Title Theme in Episode 208, “The Fox’s Lair.” The track begins with Raya Yarbrough’s haunting vocal once more, but I removed the viola da gamba and chamber orchestra that implied Paris. Instead, the bodhrán frame drum returns. At first, it feels like we are simply reusing the season one theme, but the track quickly evolves from there. Iconic Scottish snare drums sneak in behind her voice, providing a distinctly militaristic feeling. For the final chorus, I replaced the moving bassline with a steady drone in the low strings and bagpipes. This gives the final chorus a distinctly Scottish feeling, evoking the pedal-tone drones of military bagpipe bands. The instrumentation is predominantly the same, but the emotional impact of this harmonic change is intense. This main title sequence prepares us for war.

I felt the Jacobite uprising story arc should be represented with a theme drawn from folk music of the era. Jacobite history is rich with famous folk songs. Indeed, the main title’s “The Skye Boat Song” is one of the most well-known. However, the vast majority of these songs were written after the Scots’ tragic defeat, and lyrically depict themes of melancholy and longing. None of these songs would have been appropriate for these episodes, because the story takes place during a brief historical time of rousing optimism. To properly underscore these episodes, I needed a song that was written during the Jacobite uprising as opposed to after it, a song that makes no comment about loss, only promises of victory.

I turned to famed Scottish composer and music historian John Purser, who was gracious with his time and assembled a collection a historically-accurate songs for me. I was immediately drawn to the soaring melody in “Moch Sa Mhadainn,” a song composed by Alasdair mac Mghaighstir Alasdair. A celebrated poet of the Jacobite era, Alasdair composed this song upon hearing the news that Prince Charles Edward Stuart had landed at Glenfinnan. That was perfect! When Jamie opens the letter in “The Fox’s Lair” and learns he has been roped into the revolution, this song was actually being composed somewhere in Scotland at that very moment.

“Moch Sa Mhadainn” Lyrics (in Gaelic):Hùg hó ill a ill ó
Hùg hó o ró nàill i
Hùg hó ill a ill ó
Seinn oho ró nàill i.Moch sa mhadainn is mi dùsgadh,
Is mòr mo shunnd is mo cheòl-gáire;
On a chuala mi am Prionnsa,
Thighinn do dhùthaich Chloinn Ràghnaill.Gràinne-mullach gach rìgh thu,
Slàn gum pill thusa Theàrlaich;
Is ann tha an fhìor-fhuil gun truailleadh,
Anns a’ ghruaidh is mòr nàire.Mar ri barrachd na h-uaisle,
Dh’ èireadh suas le deagh nàdar;
Is nan tigeadh tu rithist,
Bhiodh gach tighearna nan àite.Is nan càraicht an crùn ort
Bu mhùirneach do chàirdean;
Bhiodh Loch Iall mar bu chòir dha,
Cur an òrdugh nan Gàidheal.“Moch Sa Mhadainn” Lyrics (In English):Hug ho ill a ill o
Hug ho o ro naill i
Hug ho ill a ill o
Seinn oho ro naill i.Early in the morning as I awaken
Great is my joy and hearty laughter
Since I’ve heard of the Prince’s coming
To the land of ClanranaldYou are the choicest of rulers
May you return unhurt, Charles.
In that most modest cheek
Runs blood that is pure and undefiled.Along with overflowing nobility
That ever rises up along with good nature
And if you came again
Each laird would be at his post.And if the crown were placed upon you
Joyful would your friends be
And Lochiel, as he ought,
Would be drawing up the Gaels for battle. 

I knew the song would require a vocalist. I tracked down an inspiring Gaelic singer named Griogair Labhruidh. I was struck by the power in his voice, which was both contemporary and traditional. I knew he would be perfect for Outlander, and featured him prominently in the episode “Je Suis Prest.” Fittingly, Griogair recorded his vocals in a recording studio less than twenty-five miles from Glenfinnan, where the Bonnie Prince first raised his standard on the shores of Loch Shiel.

This relatively rare song did not survive in mainstream memory as effectively as others from its era, perhaps because it originated in that brief window of history when Scots really believed this uprising could succeed. For that reason, I felt using it here made Outlander even more authentic. “Moch Sa Mhadainn” was very likely sung during the uprising by mounted or marching Highlanders, with larger groups joining in at the choruses. I wanted to capture that feeling by featuring male vocals in the soundtrack.

Listen to this song on Griogair’s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/GhettoCroft/

“In the aftermath of Culloden and the centuries following many of our traditions were deliberately wiped out during what was effectively a cultural colonization,” Griogair told me recently. “Schools were built in which only English was taught in which children were often beaten for speaking their native Gaelic language. Songs like this therefore only survived in the most remote regions of Gaelic Scotland or were otherwise appropriated by the bourgeoisie of the Anglicised Highlands and denatured by their passage through a musical system which was completely alien to the free flowing, ornamented and non Western rhythms of the natural Gaelic music of Scotland.”

“Moch Sa Mhadainn” had the melodic qualities I was looking for: strong intervallic leaps and a simple, repetitive structure to make it memorable. I did, however, make several musical changes to shape the song to fit the needs of the series, perhaps bending a few rules along the way. I worked closely with Griogair and John to ensure that essential Scottish musical traditions were preserved while simultaneously accomplishing my musical narrative goals.

“It is always difficult negotiating the gap between tradition and innovation but it is something I am becoming increasingly used to,” Griogair recalled. “I performed the song at a much slower tempo than it would normally be performed traditionally but I think it worked to great effect with the rich string voicings and the percussive elements of the piece. I was also very pleased to work with my friend John Purser who helped direct my performance of the song to suit the arrangement.’

‘My own regional version of the song differs quite dramatically from the one I performed [for Outlander]. This is quite a common occurrence as there is no such thing as standardization in Gaelic traditional music. Our music is much like modal jazz in that sense and involves a lot of improvisation. All the decorations and irregular rhythms I used in the performance were all improvised round the theme melody.”

I was thrilled to work with Griogair and to bring his unique voice to my score. I was especially grateful for his enthusiasm for the material. “Much like the characters of Outlander, we are living in very interesting times here in Scotland,” he told me. “And much of the music I perform is about being a contemporary twenty-first century Scottish Highlander as well as carrying the spirit of my ancestors who fought alongside Charles Edward Stewart in a struggle for freedom which continues to this day.”

The second season of Outlander concludes with an epic 90-minute long episode, “Dragonfly in Amber.” The episode leaps forward in time to the 1960’s, where Claire has an adult daughter, Brianna, and together they return to Scotland and meet Roger MacKenzie, now a grown man. Narratively, the story picks up from the season’s dramatic opening episode, bookending the season. My score, too, calls back to the premiere episode with an increased orchestral presence, and richer, more contemporary romantic writing.

“Dragonfly in Amber” was a logistical challenge for me because of its structure. The narrative leaps back and forth between two centuries, with different tones in each storyline. In the 1740’s, the tension gradually mounts as Jamie and Claire make their final preparations before the battle. This required a backdrop of Scottish instrumentation and a relentlessly accelerating percussive spine that peaked in the soaring emotional farewell at the stones. The music from every scene in the 1740′s can actually be stitched together to form a cohesive single piece of music, something fans will get to hear when the soundtrack album is released this fall.

In the 1960’s, Claire reminisces about the past while Brianna pieces together the clues of her ancestry. This storyline required a more subdued approach, leaning more towards orchestra than folk instruments. I struggled with writing a new theme for Brianna and Roger for this episode, and ultimately found there wasn’t room in the narrative for an entirely new musical idea. In this story, Brianna chases Jamie’s ghost. She discovers her own identity in this episode. It felt premature to define her musically when she hadn’t yet defined herself. Instead, I used snippets of the Jamie and Claire theme as she gets closer to the truth, an effective way of underlining this idea. Now that she knows who she is, I am confident I will find opportunity to compose an original theme for her next season.

The season ends with a glorious shot of the camera pushing back in on the stones, as the sun rises in the background. Here, I quoted the Stones Theme once more. I introduced this melody in the first episode, and have used it since to represent our characters taking important steps on an epic journey. There seemed no better way to wrap up one of the most ambitious seasons of television I have ever scored.

I am thrilled that my label Sparks & Shadows has partnered once again with Madison Gate Records to release my original score for Season Two! The soundtrack will be available on October 28th, and pre-orders are already available on Amazon. The tracks include my favorite cues from throughout the entire season:

1. Outlander – The Skye Boat Song (French Version)
2. Leave the Past Behind
3. Wrath of the Comte
4. Versailles
5. Into Paris
6. Honey Pot
7. The Apothecary
8. Baroque Chess Match
9. The Duel
10. Faith
11. Outlander – The Skye Boat Song (Jacobite Version)
12. Je Suis Prest
13. 125 Yards
14. Vengeance at Your Feet
15. The Uprising Begins
16. Prestonpans
17. Moch Sa Mhadainn
18. White Roses of Scotland
19. Tales of Brianna
20. Running Out of Time
21. Destiny on Culloden Moor
22. A Fraser Officer Survived

The second season of Outlander has been a tremendous musical adventure for me. One of my favorite experiences as a composer is working on a project that allows me to learn a new musical language. My crash course in French baroque music, performance, and history, was one of the most exciting creative times in my career. I followed that with a dive into unexplored areas of Jacobite musical history. I concluded this season a better composer than when I began, and for that I am grateful. With the series now boldly picked up for two more seasons, I know my musical adventure is only just beginning.

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Game of Thrones (23), Outlander (2): behind the 2016 Emmy nomination imbalance


He said it himself, so it must be true. “Outlander was robbed.” Not my words – but comments made by George R.R. Martin, Game of Throneswriter/creator on the outcomes of the July 14 2016 Emmy nominations. There have been a lot of post-Emmy articles reporting snubbing and outrage appearing online in the last few days. Outlander doesn’t seem to rank, but Game of Thrones advocates are incredulous on account of only receiving six acting nominations – Sansa Stark/Sophie Turner missed out and is now being referred to as “the Leonardo Dicaprio of the Emmys.” Welcome To Our World.

Old news now, but Outlander received just two Emmy nominations for Production Design and Costume Design. However, it missed out completely in the Drama, Acting, Writing and Directing categories. Whilst it was well assumed that the incredible work of Terry Dresbach and John Gary Steele would be recognised, I can’t help thinking that this is the least condescending way to say that while we don’t rate your concept, perspective, vision, narrative, writing, acting, direction and execution, you did a worthy job of interior design and dressmaking.

You do feel for the actors particularly. Caitriona Balfe’s extraordinary “Faith” episode, Tobias Menzies in that complex dual role and Sam Heughan holding the line whilst transforming from trauma victim to powerful leader. Also a vast list of exceptional supporting and guest actors including Duncan Lacroix, Stanley Weber, Simon Cowell and Andrew Gower remained unnoticed.

At least we can throw out the myth that the Television Academy does not recognise genre shows in the Drama category that are accompanied by a fandom. If that was accurate, the Game of Thrones nomination tally would be closer to three, as opposed to twenty-three. So how do we get to the bottom of the bias against Outlander?

Let’s start with this. I recently noted this comment:


So much for democracy and free speech. Not only was Betty bullied and abused for her recommendation, but she was tracked down and intimidated to the point of withdrawing her vote. If “Betty” was a “Bill” or “Ben” or “Bob”, do you think the vitriol would have been the same? Despite this being a “mock” vote where people could submit personal predictions for the Emmys, the messaging can be replicated a thousand times over and speaks to a broader backlash against women vocalising that is reminiscent of the 1970s and 80s (and back beyond).

To me, there is one very clear distinction between Game of Thrones andOutlander and it is all to do with point-of-view. Kelsey McKinney recently wrote a very reasoned, well researched article on how the representation of women on Game of Thrones comes through the perspective of male writers, backed up by some telling statistics. The female roles are written by men, and so speak and act through an unwavering masculine point-of-view which has full control over the character arcs.

The article also pointed out that women’s contribution to GoT tends to be that of production support as opposed to the creative thinking/directional roles. This has trended differently across seasons, but take note of the ground-breaking commentary that ensued:


How Shakespearian.

Outlander is almost the opposite. The base perspective is unequivocally female but is always open to shift and is exclusive of no-one. The writing, directing and production roles seem to be balanced and shared between men and women. Outlander has a very humanistic interpretation of the past and vision for the future that is informed by a real history. And I think, ironically, it is the positivity of Outlander – perpetuated by a significant number of women – that has so many Television Academy members disengaging from it. Is it because other productions are so bleak in their outlook that despair has almost become part of the selection criteria?

Rewind to 1859. George Eliot was an English novelist in the Victorian era. Except George was actually Mary Ann Evans. She used a male pen name, she said, to ensure her works would be taken seriously. Female authors were published under their own names during Eliot’s life, but she wanted to escape the stereotype of women only writing lighthearted romances. Sound familiar? I’ve always thought that with the advent of online commentary that enables anonymity, it would be an interesting social experiment for women to assume male identities online in order to be taken seriously. If Outlandersupporters vocalised via a male pseudonym, would it make a difference? Sadly, yes.

And how do we interpret the recent emergence of male voices speaking up in support of Outlander? We’ve started to hear George R. R. Martin, John Doyle and notable other men publicly comment on the quality and authenticity of the Outlander production. A welcome relief to be honest, because one male voice seems to equate to one thousand female voices and it is exhausting. Thank God there are some people around to provide balance and authority because I for one feel destined to assume stereotype, take a valium and a go for a good lie-down.

The #BlackLivesMatter campaign captured a great photo (courtesy Afro News) from the protest in London last week:


I feel much the same. Frankly, I would rather be spending my time writing on other projects but I also find it hard to turn my back on the politics of this issue because the poor behaviour is symptomatic of an industry with a terrible gender bias, severe lack of accountability and no appetite to invoke basic protocols and guidelines.

It is not about trophies, or individuals, or production companies – it is about challenging the well documented blinkered thinking of Hollywood and taking on the cowardly online assassin that is the modern day aggressor against women speaking up and registering their thoughts. Don’t tolerate it. Never let anyone mess with your vote, regardless of what it is for.

All this prejudice because Outlander is simply a story told from a female point-of-view.

Shame on you Hollywood.

© Michelle Glasson 2016

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A Song of a Lass Gone

Ronald D. Moore on the daunting task of adapting the epic, wildly popular Outlander novels to TV and why he’s still paying for killing off one of Hollywood’s most beloved characters.

©2016 Starz
Caitriona Balfe and Sam Heughan in Outlander.
June 30, 2016 Written by Todd Aaron Jensen
Ronald D. Moore
[The industry] is going to tell you ‘no’ over and over and over again, and you’d better find out really quickly whether that’s going to knock you out of the business or if you just somehow insanely believe enough in your talent to keep on going.

Simply put, Ronald D. Moore likes it big. Really big. Through a jagged prism freighted with psychogenic combustions, desolate spiritual sojourning, and blunt, gory, diffident warfare—familial, romantic, global and, uh, intergalactic—Moore’s finest work as one of television’s finest showrunners, producers, and writers takes audiences to worlds far, far away, often to epochs long vanished, showing them that for whatever star system, colonial starship, constitution class transport, standing stone, alien race, or Highlander battleground they think they’re seeing, every tale is always, only about yearning for home.

Moore mined these bottomless philosophical wells expertly as a late-addition to the Star Trek: the Next Generation writers’ room, on the reimagined Battlestar Galactica, and again with Outlander, his current project, enjoying critical acclaim and sizable audiences in its second season on Starz. Based on the bestselling franchise by novelist Diana Gabaldon, Outlander merges time travel, star-crossed romance, revenge play tropes, history-hugging detours, savage battles, and frank, unapologetic sexuality like few television shows before. The show’s ethereal thematic concerns remain well grounded by Moore’s trademark earthiness, satisfying fans of Gabaldon’s books while attracting a large “virgin” audience to the boob tube.

Which is to say that the 51-year-old Moore, who has already joined a legendary franchise midflight and reinvented a campy ‘70s Star Wars TV wannabe into a modern classic, still had some serious work cut out for him with Outlander. Nearly 30 million readers have bought at least one of Gabaldon’s eight Outlander tales, profoundly epic, truly sprawling stories that skip between centuries and countries. On the page, the Outlander stories take up some 3,000 pages to unfurl (with more arriving in bookstores soon). Moore’s task: to devote one 13-hour season to each of the 600-ish paged novels.

An impossible mission? Not to Moore. That’s where the fun begins.

Like Battlestar Galactica—and, to some extent, the Star Trek work you did—Outlander is a series that gives viewers what they put into it. It’s not a demanding show necessarily, but the more you bring to watching the show, the richer its pleasures.

When I was putting together the writers’ room for Outlander, I very specifically and intentionally populated it with the best writers I could find, and there was one critical caveat: half of the writers’ room could be fans of the novels and the other half of the writers’ room could not have read any of the Outlander books. I did that because I am acutely aware that Outlander is a show that has to play to two audiences simultaneously. We have to play to the audience that knows the novels and loves them, the audience who is looking forward to seeing how we’re going to bring these beloved stories to life. These are very passionate fans. They know these books very, very well—the characters, the dialogue, the minutest of details—and they have certain expectations and hopes about how the show will portray all of it. But we also have to play well for an audience that has no idea what Outlander is or where these stories are going. We’re always striving to connect with both audiences.

Of the Outlander virgins you hired for the writing team, how many have steadfastly resisted reading the novels?

There’s only one left. That’s testament to what Diana’s done with these books. You can’t resist them.

The series is midway through its second season, based on the second novel in the series, Dragonfly in Amber. How do you transform a 752-page novel into 13 episodes of television?

Everybody gets a copy of the book and we tear it to pieces. I don’t mean we denigrate Diana’s writing. Not at all. What I mean is: we have to break the book down into discrete, manageable bites. What type of scene is this? What storyline does this scene feed? Is it a scene that’s in some way redundant? Is it a scene that offers exposition? If it does, is there a more visual—or more filmic—way of getting that information across to the viewer? So we break it all down like that, creating this series of index cards that are very clearly labeled and organized: the major plot points, the A thread, the B storyline, the big action sequences [which take a lot of time and budget to shoot], the love scenes, and all that. We put all of the cards up on this big board in the writers’ room, and then we all just stare at that board. For a long time. Because it is, basically, an impossible task. But eventually the silence becomes too chilling, and I’ll have to sit up and sort of arbitrarily say, “Okay, from this card to this card, that’s one episode. Probably.” And we do that until we’ve got, in the case of season two, 13 bigger chunks. After that, it’s a matter of going into each of the 13 chunks and figuring out how to manage all of the character and plot details that need to be conveyed inside of that. So we’re always going deeper into the books in an effort to be as economical as possible with our storytelling. It is a fairly massive undertaking.

Novelists have very different takes on surrendering their works to filmmakers. Many of them just take the check and hold their breath, kind of anticipating the worst will come. Diana Gabaldon, though, has been very involved in the series, very supportive of the series, and is even writing an episode this season. For you, is it preferable for a writer to leave you to your work, or are there benefits to having someone like Ms. Gabaldon so readily available?

One of the great, great qualities about Diana is her fierce intelligence. Before I even had a deal to make the show, I went to Scottsdale where she lives and spent a weekend with Diana, talking about my ideas for adapting the books and how, as much as I love the books, there would have to be changes. Diana just stopped me there and said, “Look, I’m an author. You’re a TV writer. I don’t do what you do. I’m going to have to just trust you with my characters and know that you’re going to treat them well.” I went, “Well, thank you, that’s very gracious. My intention is to do the best adaptation we can and to really be as close to the books people love as we can.” Diana and I started off on this really positive foot, and that’s been a really great thing.

From giving you her blessing to where we sit today, she has become increasingly involved in the show. How has that worked?

Well, out of respect, I’ve sent her everything as we go. Everything. She’s never asked for veto power or even to see the works in progress, but I feel we kind of owe it to her, so we do. She sees the breakdowns, the storylines, all the drafts, the dailies, the rough cuts, all of it. As she’s become more familiar with how television is made, she does chime in more often—which is fantastic! There’s not a formal notes process with Diana. She’ll simply reach out whenever she thinks of something that might be helpful or really good, or she’ll notice something that’s just a little bit out of whack, and nine times out of 10, she’s absolutely right. It’s easy to accommodate her, partly because she never asks for the impossible and partly because we really want to.

The second season has made some significant changes to the novel, primarily structurally, but in other ways as well. Has she been such a keen supporter, even through that?

Well, Dragonfly was a more complex and difficult story. As a writer, Diana tried out a lot of different things with that book. She changed the voice and point of view in different chapters. She played with time. The storyline zigs and zags. It’s a very complicated book, and Diana knows it. She knows the challenges of the material, and she’s really come to know that we’ll do right by her and her fans. Even with the changes we’ve made in season two, Diana mostly just points out certain grace notes that we, as outsiders to her novels, might overlook in our writing process—because a certain line of dialogue or a tiny little plot point doesn’t seem terribly significant right now, but Diana knows it means a lot in the fourth book.

Back to the writing room…You’re trying to break Dragonfly in Amber for season two. It’s a bigger novel. It’s a more difficult novel. What kind of nervous breakdowns are you and the writing staff enduring?

Oh, it’s just brutal. I mean, there’s not really a better word for it: it’s just brutal. For me, here’s the biggest difference between doing an original series, which I’ve done, and doing an adaptation, like Outlander: when you’re doing an original and you find yourself a little bit stuck, you just kind of write through it, and you can always go back and sort it all out. When you’re doing an adaptation, the tracks are laid. If it’s a tough ride, that’s too bad—because that’s the way the story goes! You have to figure out how to get it done. But it’s not easy, so that means there are a lot of spinning wheels, a lot of pacing back and forth, a lot of frustration, and a lot of ideas that get thrown out there and then shot down because they’re just not right. Ultimately, it comes down to determination more than anything else. You write a scene once. It doesn’t work. You write it again. If you have to write it again, you write it again. There’s just no quitting or giving up with an adaptation. You have to get there.

Determination is kind of a recurring theme in your work anyway. Looking back at Battlestar Galactica, which was a landmark series in so many ways, you devoted a good portion of that series’ storytelling to exploring your own relationship with faith and spirituality. Does that resonate for you?

Battlestar was a chance to play around with things in my own head—thoughts about spirituality, thoughts about my place in the universe, questions like “What does it all mean?” You know, the existential stuff. It was a chance to go a little deeper than the Star Trek stuff allowed me to. With Star Trek, you didn’t really want to delve into those weightier matters—unless they were somehow attached to an alien culture that had wacky superstitions or religions. That stuff had to be relegated to the aliens or the weirdos. You couldn’t really have your human characters grappling with those questions. On Battlestar, it was anything goes. What’s human and what’s not human? What’s faith and what’s science? Why do we believe and how do we choose what we believe in? All of that stuff. It was very rich ground there. I’m not sure if there’s anything terribly autobiographical about Battlestar, but it definitely allowed me to ask big questions from different points of view and to keep changing the answers. That, I never got tired of.

What about Diana Gabaldon’s novels lured you into this massive undertaking?

I responded to the first book as a piece of historical fiction, and I really liked the central character of Claire—her voice. I was really drawn to that female character. That book was just a really good page-turner. I was surprised by a lot of things that happened in the story, and that doesn’t happen to me very often. What Outlander has in common with my other work—Star Trek or Carnavale, all of it, basically—is that I really enjoy creating a world that doesn’t exist and making it more real than real for audiences. That’s really appealing to me. I like the challenge of that. I like the question of “How do you create a show when you can’t just go down the street and shoot a scene by whatever cars happen to be parked there that day?” I like all the questions involved in building a world: What are their tools like? What are they eating? How is their language the same, or different? I have the mind that goes looking for the one tiny thing that’s going to give away the whole charade, the thing that’s going to tear a viewer out of the story and remind them that, “Oh, yeah, this world doesn’t really exist.” And then I plug that hole too.

This is a terrible story to tell aspiring television writers, but your breakthrough happened simply, almost implausibly.

Yeah, I was dating a girl in L.A. Turned out that she loved Star Trek and had worked on Next Generation for a little while. One night, she noticed the Captain Kirk poster on my wall and asked me if I loved Star Trek, too—which I thought was pretty obvious from the poster. When I told her I loved the show, she offered to get on the set of Next Generation. The next morning, she made the call and got me a set visit for six weeks later. It took a while to schedule that kind of thing because the set was so open to fans; they’d do tours of that set regularly. Fans loved that show, and it was cool that they could come and walk around the set. So I had my date, and I decided I’d roll the dice. I wrote an episode of Next Generation, something I thought was really good, and I took it with me to the set visit and I convinced the guy that was giving the tour to take the script and read it, and I asked him to tell me later if it was any good. He turned out to be one of Gene Roddenberry’s assistants. The script made it all the way to the showrunner. He bought the script and asked me to make another one, then another one. Eventually, I got a call that they needed a staff writer who could start work the next day. I showed up. It was the luckiest of breaks, really. I had the right script at the right time. I knew the show inside and out. I loved it. I channeled that passion, threw myself into it, and it all happened to work out.

That all happened in the couple of weeks before you were supposed to report to boot camp with the U.S. Navy. In some alternate universe, Ronald D. Moore is serving in a submarine deep in the ocean enduring all of the nightmares he’s put his characters through!

Oh, the alternate universes available to Ronald D. Moore could be so much worse than being in the U.S. Navy. Trust me! The life I’m living, it’s the only life where things go the way they have for me. In every other possible scenario, I’m dead in the water. This is where I was at when Next Generation happened for me: I had flunked out of school, and I was in Los Angeles, and I had no money and I was trying to be a writer, and I was a messenger, and I was an animal hospital receptionist, and I was making just a few hundred dollars a month. It was an impossible situation. But I can look back on all of that and see now that if any one of those horrible things had been easier than they were, I might not have taken that insane chance of writing a script no one was asking for and imagining it would actually be read and loved and lead me through a series of pretty great jobs that have brought me here.

It’s kind of surprising to learn that you had a Captain Kirk poster in your apartment. You know where I’m going with this: you’re the screenwriter who killed Captain Kirk in the Generations feature film!

I will never fully serve my sentence for that! That was a…what’s the word…a complicated thing. When we first started talking story for that film, we were all talking about destroying the Enterprise as a key event. I thought that was interesting, but what if we went even further and told the story of the death of Captain Kirk. I thought that would be even more powerful for audiences. So I became very determined to tell that story. It was probably some deeply embedded psychological thing from my childhood where I was determined to kill the characters I loved as a child now that I was a man making films! There are depths to killing Captain Kirk that I’ve yet to fully explore.

Which is why the world will not let you forget that you killed Captain Kirk.

As a writer, the death of Kirk really could have been an amazing thing—a noble, inspiring, kind of tragic, Arthurian thing. But here’s the truth: I really wanted to tell that story, but back then I just didn’t have the maturity or the chops to do it well. If Captain Kirk had died well, people wouldn’t be so pissed about it 25 years later. The whole movie is this kind of meditation on mortality, and then I just didn’t land the big death, the whole point of the movie. The other problem was that there was a very real, serious pressure from the studio to make a movie that would attract new fans instead of dropping old fans, like the last couple of Star Trek movies had. So Generations ended up being kind of a Pop Star movie, a bridge thing, a transition from the original series to Next Generation. And then we were told we had to bring in the Klingons, too. There were just so many things that movie had to be that there was no way, even if I’d had the chops, Kirk was going to die well.

Your chops, they’re pretty impeccable these days. Outlander is one of the best series on television. The cast is simply flawless, uniformly outstanding. How does that impact your writing, having such a gifted group of actors?

It’s huge. One of the challenges of writing for television—because of how quickly they have to come together, mostly—is that it can take some real time for the writers to get to know their cast. That’s why so many shows take six episodes or so, maybe a whole season, to get really going. The writers have finally figured out what their actors do best. A lot of times as a writer, I’m not even aware when that eureka moment happens; I just suddenly realize I’m tailoring. I’m writing to things I know for a fact are an actor’s strengths. By the way, actors really appreciate that. On Outlander, the writers realized really quickly that we had gold in this cast, that there is literally nothing we could ask Caitrioina [Balfe, Outlander’s lead] to do that she couldn’t or wouldn’t do. That opens up tremendous possibilities for the writers. You’re, of course, beholden to the novels, but the ways you honor the novels increase exponentially when you’ve got a cast this good.

Since you’ve ruined aspiring writers with your story of “Yeah, just go ahead and get yourself into a bad pickle, write a script very quickly, and then hand it to a total stranger to get your big break,” do you have any advice for writers that might be useful?

Hey, you asked! I actually do have some advice. It’s in two parts: the first part is a story told to me when I was just starting out in the business. It contains very, very true information. The second part is a great piece of advice told to me by one of the great masters of science fiction.

Part one…

One day backstage at Carnegie Hall, the concert violinist Jascha Heifetz is preparing to go on when a young man in the wings approaches him and asks, “Mr. Heifetz, will you please tell me if I have any talent?” The kid has his violin with him. “Please, sir, just one minute of your time. Tell me if I have what it takes to make it.” So Heifetz, he kind of gives in, right? “Okay, kid. Go ahead.” The kid plays for not quite 60 seconds. Heifetz looks at him dead in the eyes. “Nope, kid,” he says. “You do not have what it takes.” The kid’s devastated, sulks away, and drops music from his life altogether. Ten, 15 years later, Heifetz and this kid, who’s now grown up, run into each other some sort of a social gathering, and the kid goes up to Heifetz and says, “You probably don’t remember me. I came up to you one day at Carnegie Hall and asked you to listen to me play the violin and asked you if I had any talent. You said that I didn’t, so I dropped the violin and now I’m in insurance,” the kid says. “I just wanted to ask you: how could you do that to me when I was so young? How could you crush my dreams like that after only listening to me for a minute?” Heifetz doesn’t miss a beat. He looks down at the kid and says, “I say that to everyone—because it’s the kind of business that if you can be discouraged, you will be, and you should find that out sooner rather than later.”


That’s a profound insight into the business that is really true. It is a firmly, savagely discouraging business. It’s going to tell you “no” over and over and over again, and you’d better find out really quickly whether that’s going to knock you out of the business or if you just somehow insanely believe enough in your talent to keep on going.

What’s part two?

I’m on a panel with some sci-fi writers at some event in Beverly Hills. The great, great science fiction Harlan Ellison is on the panel with me, which I can still hardly believe. The forum was, basically, the panel would be asked a question and then the moderator would go straight down the line, getting each of our responses. So the question was, “What’s your advice to young writers?” And Harlan Ellison takes the microphone and he’s kind of growling, this guttural, phlegmatic thing going on in his voice, and he says very, very firmly, deadpan, insistently, “Don’t. Be. A. Whore!” And you know what? Harlan Ellison is right! In this business, all they want to do is whore out your talents. Livelihoods are based on that kind of pimpery in this town. I’m not saying you’re too good to do a job for hire. There is much to learn and many times a lot of happiness that comes with jobs like that. But if you write like Paul Schrader, but you’re being asked over and over again for some reason to write cartoons about clever, talking pets, and you do it more than once, that’s tragic to me. You are probably a whore. Don’t do that. Don’t be a whore. Stand up for your work. Have some principles. Don’t sell out to the lowest common denominator. Those two stories sum up almost everything a writer in Hollywood needs to know.

– See more at: http://www.wga.org/writers-room/features-columns/the-craft/2016/outlander-ronald-moore#sthash.P73uVl60.dpuf

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Last year, “Due to the dramatic increase in series production” that has occurred with the explosion of cable and streaming outlets, the TV Academy expanded the drama and comedy series Emmy categories from six slots each to seven. Even so, only three of the 14 shows that ended up with those nominations were new: AMC’s Better Call Saul on the drama side and Amazon’s Transparent and Netflix’sUnbreakable Kimmy Schmidt on the comedy side. This year, with the number of eligible — and quality — shows greater than ever before, many wonder if even one newcomer will be able to break through the noise and amass support to land a series nom on either side.During the past three years, the shows that have mustered series noms for their first season — Netflix’s House of Cards (2013) and Orange Is the New Black (2014), HBO’s Silicon Valley and True Detective (2014) and the aforementioned three from 2015 — checked off one or more of a few specific boxes, so it’s worth looking at which of this year’s rookie hopefuls are poised to do the same with similar assets.

TV Academy members don’t vote for shows they haven’t seen, and few factors entice them to check out a new series more than a household name, which NBC’s drama Shades of Blue has in Jennifer Lopez — or at least a name well known in the households of voters, as Showtime’s drama Billions offers in Damian Lewisand Paul Giamatti (Emmy winners for Homeland and John Adams, respectively) and Hulu’s drama The Pathboasts in Aaron Paul (a three-time winner for Breaking Bad). An interesting case this year is Horace and Pete, a drama distributed via the independent website LouisCK.net (but made available to voters on screeners), which features more big names than any other new show (Louis C.K., Steve Buscemi, Edie Falco, Jessica Lange, Alan Alda and Laurie Metcalf). “Stars put a show on the map,” laments a longtime Emmy strategist whose shows lack them this cycle.

A series can overcome a relatively unknown cast by capturing the social or cultural zeitgeist and, as a result, garnering media attention and praise. Aziz Ansari had a loyal fan base as a stand-up comedian (he has sold out Madison Square Garden), but interest in and coverage of him reached new heights after Netflix released his comedy Master of None, which features a diverse cast and largely revolves around issues of diversity at a time when everyone in Hollywood is focused on them. Similarly relevant: WGN America’s drama Undergroundexplores the history of racial tensions in the U.S., CBS’ drama Supergirl presents a female-empowerment story, and Lifetime’s comedy UnREAL spoofs the inanity and insanity of reality TV, which has helped propel Donald Trump to the presumptive GOP presidential nomination.

Awards often beget other awards. That’s why one can’t dismiss the importance of, say, the Golden Globe Awards, which cast a spotlight on shows in January, months before Emmy voting begins. The HFPA, the group that determines Globe winners, loves to champion new series. This year it threw its weight behind USA’s critically beloved Mr. Robot (drama series and supporting actor in a series, miniseries or TV movie), The CW’s Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (actress in a comedy series) and FX’s American Horror Story: Hotel (actress in a miniseries or TV movie). The Critics’ Choice Awards — full disclosure: I’m a voter — also championed Mr. Robot(drama series, actor and supporting actor) and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (actress in a comedy series), as well asMaster of None (comedy series) and UnREAL (supporting actress in a drama series).

Not every outlet is in a financial position to mount a full-fledged Emmy campaign — mailers, microsites, billboards, ads and FYC events for which talent, food and booze are brought in (“There’s practically one a night now,” vents a veteran cable executive with disgust) — so, fairly or not, those that can have a leg up. Netflix has demonstrated unparalleled vigor on the campaign circuit, which means one shouldn’t underestimate its new dramas Narcos, Jessica Jones and Sense8 and comedies Love, The Ranch and Flaked, along with Master of None. Other big spenders include Amazon (which is invested in its drama The Man in the High Castle) and HBO (pushing hard to resuscitate its drama Vinyl).

It’s possible when Emmy nominations are announced July 14 that only one or two new shows will have landed a series nom — the best bets, most believe, are Mr. Robot and Master of None. But backers of all of them are fighting hard because shows that don’t land a series nom for their first outing rarely rebound to land any for subsequent seasons. Voters simply move on to the latest shiny new thing.