'Outlander' premiere: 'Sassenach' kicks off a gorgeous adaptation of Diana Gabaldon's novel

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outlander-premiere-sassenach-caitriona-balfe.jpg "Outlander" premiered Saturday (Aug. 9) on Starz, launching what hopefully is the first of dozens of episodes bringing Diana Gabaldon's worldwide best-selling books series to life on the small screen. What did you think of it?

I'll be upfront with you, readers -- I'm a fan of the books, but only just recently. I picked up the books in anticipation of the series and have read the first six (No. 7 is happening shortly). So while I am familiar with Gabaldon's world, I don't have tattered copies of each installment, with dog-eared pages and stains from all the re-reading.

In fact, when Starz made the first few episodes of "Outlander" available to the press, I started reading my book over again along with the episodes, which I find to be a fun exercise in compare and contrast. For me, the series not only lives up to my expectations, but in certain regards, it surpasses them.

My biggest praise for the premiere is the character development of Frank (which is something that continues as the episodes progress). In the books, I never quite "got" Claire and Frank. I just didn't care enough about his character. But Tobias Menzies combined with a script that fleshes out Frank's character a bit has made me really like him, which will provide wonderful tension as the series goes on (beyond even book one).

There as much ado after Starz released the premiere online about Frank getting to do something for Claire that many readers feel is Jamie's "special gift" to her later in the first book. However, I think that whatever the scene's inclusion may "subtract" from the Claire-Jamie relationship is trumped by what it adds to both the character of Claire as a powerful, sexual woman and to the marriage of Claire and Frank.

Gabaldon once wrote of the sex scenes in the "Outlander" series, "I do think that the sex scenes are both necessary and integral to the story, or they wouldn't be there. These aren't romance novels, but they are (among other things) the story of a very long and complex marriage."
 
Now, obviously you can say that if she thought a Frank/Claire sex scene in Castle Leoch was integral, she would have included it. And you'd be right. The books most definitely make the Jamie/Claire relationship more dominant to the Claire/Frank relationship in the early books. But the TV series is clearly trying to balance the scales a bit, and I applaud the effort. Not to spoil anything, but making the audience more invested in Claire and Frank only enhances the tension of the entire first couple seasons, which presumably correspond to the first two books of the series.

It also gets something out of the way very early for Gabaldon fans: It isn't going to be exactly the same as the books.

That is such an important thing to keep in mind when you finally have an on-screen adaptation of source material that you hold near and dear to your heart. There are always things I think "Game of Thrones" should have included that it didn't, or shouldn't have changed. With the "Harry Potter" movie series, I could talk your ear off about all the things I wish were more like the books.

But die-hard fans just have to learn to let that go and appreciate an adaptation for what it is. And "Outlander" fans, I can tell you something after having seen the first six episodes -- there is hardly anything to quibble with. Of all the books I have been a fan of that have come to the big or small screen, this is (so far) the best.

The people involved are obviously taking great care to be faithful and keep fans in mind when they bring the stories to life. Everything from the acting to the costumes to the music (oh my gosh, the music) -- it's all wonderful. And take heart. If you're not fully on board with either Sam Heughan or Caitriona Balfe as the leads, you'll get there, just wait. Promise.

"Outlander" airs Saturdays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on Starz.
Photo/Video credit: Starz