Episode 201 – Through a Glass Darkly

Outlander is back!

So, they did what I thought they would do, rather than what I hoped they would do. The first half of this episode, much like the first half of “Sassenach,” is set in the 1940s.  It’s 1948, three years after she first went through the stones.

I can’t say I’m ecstatic about this choice, but I did rather fear that it was coming. On the one hand, this does preserve some of the framing device used in Dragonfly in Amber. On the other, it doesn’t quite match with what is in the books. I’m usually OK with changes, but this one is a character change, and I have a little more difficulty with those.

But let’s take a look at the episode as it unfolds.

When Claire wakes up at the stones, she searches for a ring (I’m guessing this will turn out to be more significant later in the season) and weeps when she finds it because the gemstone is missing (YAY for the first foreshadowing of time-travel dynamics!). EDIT: over at The Scot and the Sassenach, they suggested that she may have dropped it in 1746, and that it has been there in the grass for 200 years. I’m still going with my interpretation, because she looked for it in her bodice first, and the fact that the stone is missing might be her first clue about gemstones and time travel. That will become a big deal in the next season. EDIT #2: According to Ron Moore’s commentary podcast, this is our first time-travel worldbuilding! They added this ring to establish the gemstones for travel.

Sadly, we have VOClaire back. A few of the things she says are tolerable, and she is giving us more information than what is shown on screen, but the only thing I wanted was the part where she says she made a promise and now had to keep it.

The interaction with the little Scottish driver went on a little long, and I think it’s a bit odd that she would think there was any way that Culloden could have had another ending. It made me wonder if they were going to go in an entirely different direction – like maybe have her forced through the stones before things start to go bad for the Jacobites. But then she and Mrs. Graham talk about Jamie’s promise to die on the battlefield with his men, so obviously they’re going to follow the books that far. This scene just feels weird to me.

I do love the new shots in the credits sequence and the new French lyrics in the Skye Boat Song (or, as my 4-year-old daughter calls it, “Lass that Was Gone” – we listen to the soundtrack together, although she is obviously not allowed to watch the show yet).

The title card on Roger is very nice, especially the juxtaposition of the airplane with the tall ships book. Did anyone else get a little teary-eyed for Jerry MacKenzie?

When I saw Frank come barreling down the hospital hallway, I thought we were going to get almost verbatim what happens in Claire’s memory from Dragonfly in Amber – the doctor telling Frank to give Claire time, and Frank arguing. Here’s what he says in the book:

“What do you mean, don’t press her? Don’t press her? My wife’s been gone for nearly three years, and come back filthy, abused, and pregnant, for God’s sake, and I’m not to ask questions?”*

Of course, in the book he already knows she’s pregnant. In the show, they save that reveal for later. But in general, TVFrank is much more considerate, accommodating, and gentle than BookClaire remembers him.

Although I don’t think they needed to spend quite as much time in 1948 as they do, I appreciated the little touches of Claire disliking the noise of the modern streets. When she was at Leoch, the score used to play 40s songs as though that’s what she was hearing, and she hummed them all of the time. But by this point, she has completely embraced a different kind of life.

I’m surprised that they only went for the Frank-as-BJR thing once in this episode. But they do a good job of portraying the awkwardness and distance between Claire and Frank.

In reference to the quote above, Frank says the exact opposite in the show – Reverend Wakefield says that it’s time Claire gave them answers, and Frank says he can wait. It’s almost as though they are deliberately breaking from BookFrank, and I don’t like it. In the books, there is no love triangle. Claire is loyal to Frank when she is with him because that is a bedrock part of her personality. And Frank isn’t a bad man. But there is never any question that Jamie is her true match. The show keeps making Frank more of a partner to her. Again, I don’t mind changes in general, but this one seems like it will have far-reaching implications. Would TVFrank cheat on Claire many times over the years? Would TVFrank plan to take Brianna to England and leave Claire behind? If not, then what are the circumstances of his death? Does Claire still feel responsible? These are all questions the production will have to answer.

I like that Claire has a confidante in Mrs. Graham. It’s a way to work in things that book readers already know (or, to be fair, can guess) about what is going to happen later in the season. They talk about Jamie’s promise to die beside his men at Culloden, and how she’s going to have to accept that he’s gone – dead and buried over two hundred years. This takes the place of some of the conversations Claire has with Roger and her internal monologue in Part One of the book.

I’ve been watching Claire’s hands, trying to see if there’s a J-shaped scar at the base of her right thumb. I’m guessing, if they decided to keep that detail, they won’t reveal it until the 1960s portions at the end of the season. EDIT: Apparently Ron Moore decided not to do this. I need to track down the source where he said this (an interview maybe?). It wasn’t mentioned in the podcast commentary. Still looking. Maybe they just don’t want to have to do scars on the actors every day? Jamie needs a heck of a lot of scar makeup whenever he takes off his shirt, and this would need to be placed every day. And hands are harder, since you use them all day. But still…it’s important, and I’ll miss it.

What Mrs. Graham says is nice, about putting away her memories of Jamie and living her life again, but you can tell that Claire still misses Jamie too much, and maybe even still sees a little of Black Jack when she looks at Frank.

For all that their talk begins as a way for Claire to reconcile, by the end of her confession, it seems like she’s being deliberately cruel, trying to push Frank away. Especially since this Frank seems to be bumbling around but being generally as good as could be expected in this situation.

Another departure from BookFrank is that he claims to believe her (I’m not sure I believe him, just like Claire doesn’t, but he’s putting on a good front). BookFrank doesn’t, and tells Claire so outight. Even years later, after a lot of research and knowing that Brianna looks like the portrait of Ellen MacKenzie in the National Portrait Gallery, he isn’t entirely sure what to believe. His letter to Brianna is a warning, but he still clings to his logical disbelief.

TVFrank clings, instead, to his feelings and his love for Claire. It isn’t until she drops the baby bomb (the Brianna baby bomb?) that he loses his shit. Later, when he explains himself to the reverend, he says that it is the joy of thinking that he’s become a father, and then the ripping away of that joy, that makes him go crazy. But Claire is totally being a bitch about it. I guess she thinks she’s being practical, but it feels like cruelty.

I wonder if the show is going to push on the darkness in Frank, and the connection to BJR, instead of his distance and unsuitability for Claire? Except that, unless they’re really going to break with the books, we’re going to find out by the end of the season that Frank’s ancestor is not actually Black Jack, but rather his mild-mannered younger brother Alex.

Tobias Menzies kills it in this scene with the reverend. The dialogue is so heightened, almost stilted, the words of a historian and lecturer, but he brings so much emotion and pain to the scene.

The show finally leverages Wee Roger in the way that he was intended in the book – as an illustration of adoption, and love for a child not of your own flesh.

Can I say that I adore Reverend Wakefield? His words are so perfect – a child without a father, and a man without a child – and then he tells Frank that he thinks it’s part of God’s plan, but that only Frank can decide what he’s going to call it.

Frank’s conditions match the ones he gave Claire in the book. That Bree will be raised with him as her father, and that Claire will not search for Jamie as long as he’s alive.

Not that that will stop him from searching for Jamie. And finding him. And keeping that from Claire.

It’s good that he doesn’t force her to remove the ring, but the fact that he burns her clothes is huge. It’s proof that he isn’t really as copacetic with the situation as he is trying to portray. Those clothes represent a part of history – a very valuable example of the study to which he has devoted his life – and yet he burns them, because they are also a link between Claire and Jamie.

The arrival in Boston juxtaposed with the arrival in Le Havre is a little jarring. I like the way the book transitions, using Claire’s storytelling as the mechanism. There’s no real reason for her to be thinking of Jamie in that moment. Or well, that’s not true. I can see that she would think of him, would always think of him, but she’s trying to build a new life with Frank and start over. She wouldn’t deliberately seek to relive the past.

So, as transitions go, this one totally fails for me.

But it gets us back to 1745, so whatever. EDIT: I noticed the time jump, but whistled past it. Dragonfly in Amber begins in early 1744, so we’ve just excised an entire year from the timeline. It will push the show to move more quickly than the book, but judging from the episode titles, I think they’re still going to spend too much time in France (see my season two speculations for more on this).

Hooray for Jamie’s seasickness! I can’t wait to see acupuncture needles all over Sam’s head! And hooray for Murtagh, just being himself.

I’m glad that the show is still dealing with the effects of what happened to Jamie at the end of season one. DG mentioned in an interview that the show didn’t have time to give Jamie and Claire the recovery in the Abbey, and the reconciliation in the hot springs, so the wounds are still raw and fresh. Of course, BookJamie wasn’t exactly recovered, either. It will take him much, much longer to come to terms with what happened. And his anger and hatred fuel the biggest conflict of the Paris portion of the book (the duel with BJR and what happens after). But I like the way Claire handles Jamie – reminding him that she’s there, and that she cares. That she’s as stubborn as he is.

Distracting him with plans doesn’t hurt, either. EDIT: This scene has been criticized for being weighed down with exposition that doesn’t really fit what the characters would talk about at this point. That’s probably true, but it didn’t bother me enormously.

Jamie does not like lying. Later in his life, he’ll be much more comfortable with the necessity. But Murtagh likes deceit even less. Jamie knows exactly how to deal with Murtagh, though. He acts as Laird – vowing to tell him the truth when the time comes, and reminding him that he trusts him, but that doesn’t mean a laird has to tell his vassal everything right away. And that’s all Murtagh needs.

I like that Jared is wary instead of welcoming. I don’t mind this change, although I don’t like that Jamie reveals his scars. I think the show is trying to show that he’s making the choice now, instead of Dougal making it for him, but I would like for there to have been more reluctance on his part. He doesn’t like how the scars make people see him, and even if Claire persuaded him of the necessity, I don’t think he would volunteer his back as proof of their sincerity.

There is a hint, in Sam’s acting, that he dislikes being forced to do this, but he’s still willing to do it.

Jared asks why the Jacobites would want to meet Jamie. In the book, it seems to flow a bit more naturally. Jared seems to see Jamie as a possible successor to his business, and introducing him to his friends is just part of that business. I think that the show is trying to get out in front of people’s possible objections, but by drawing attention to this, I think they’re making their job more difficult than it has to be.

The scene with Claire and the smallpox victims goes pretty much the same as in the book. It looks like the show is going to push a little harder on Saint Germain as a villain, which I think is wonderful. He is underutilized in the book. He is described as a threat, but then never actually does anything against Jamie and Claire – everything that happens (the attack on Jamie that leads to adopting Fergus and the later attack on Claire and Mary Hawkins) was actually Sandringham. Sure, he is still a business rival, but that’s the only sort of revenge he attempts – making more money by dealing with their “friend” Charles Stuart.

So Le Comte as a true villain would be nice. Over at The Scot and the Sassenach, Alastair and Lani posited that he could be a secondary villain, orchestrating events  on behalf of Sandringham. I just want to see more of him, since he is also a traveler (originally from the 19th century, if I remember “The Space Between” correctly) and perhaps Claire’s ancestor.

The episode ends at the place where I thought they’d end the second episode (but that was presuming the first episode would be all in 1968), with the burning of Saint Germain’s ship. That means we’ll pick up next week with an introduction to Paris society, Monsieur Raymond, Prince Charlie, Louise de la Tour, Mr. Hawkins, and King Louis, and if I’m right, that episode will end with Claire and Jamie thinking BJR has come to Paris.

We’ll have to wait and see!

 

*Diana Gabaldon, Dragonfly in Amber, Part One, Chapter Five: “Beloved Wife,” pg 61 of the 2014 Bantam trade paperback edition.

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Speculations – Season Two Episode Breakdown

EDIT: I have cleaned up this post and turned it into a permanent page. Check it out here

It has been a while. I meant to do more posts during the hiatus, but my real life and my own writing have taken precedence. Now there are only seven weeks until the second half of season one starts, so it’s time to get back in the habit of blogging. Between now and then, I’ll do commentary blogs on the teasers, extended scenes, and trailers that have been released as part of droughtlander, and I still want to track the evolution of Jamie and Claire’s relationship over the first eight episodes in a post. I also updated my blog post about the breakdown of the second half of season one. The big change was the addition of the titles that have been released, but I made a few tiny changes to my predictions, too.

But to get things rolling with a new post, I’m going to speculate about season two!

So all we know at this point is that Starz requested 13 episodes for season two. That’s three fewer than this season (although they may ask for more). The question is, how will Ron Moore et al decide to structure their season? From what I can tell from Matt B Robert’s twitter feed, they are already breaking the season and have started writing.

If I were in the writer’s room, I would have two big questions that need to be answered before deciding how to break the season.

EDIT Jan 2016: This question has probably been answered by the fact that they *just* cast Roger and haven’t announced Brianna yet. But they could always be planning to film the 1960s stuff at the end and still put it into the 1st episode. We don’t have an air date yet, so they’ve still got time. 

The first and most important: should the series keep up the 1740s story and run straight through until Culloden, then end the season with a few episodes in 1968? Or is it better to follow the book’s structure of using the 20th century as a framing device?

EDIT: The following question has become moot, since a different actor has been cast for Alex. But he looks similar enough to Tobias to make my breakdown still function. 

The second question: do they actually have Tobias Menzies play Alex Randall? This, I think, is a vitally important question that must be answered before you can start to pull apart the story and restructure it as episodes. Because, if you don’t have him play Alex, things start making less sense. The resemblance between all three men is supposed to be very striking. Alex is possibly the least similar simply because he is younger, but he is, after all, Frank’s true ancestor. So if they don’t cast Tobias, you have to ask if they will follow the books in that respect at all. Do they make BJR Frank’s direct progenitor? How does that change what happens in Paris? Do they cut Alex from the story entirely? If so, what about Mary? What about all of the stuff in Edinburgh?

To make my life easier, I’m going to assume that they will follow the books, both in the bookended story structure and having Tobias play all three Randalls so we can keep Alex’s story intact. Tobias isn’t going to have much, if anything, to do as Frank in this season. Claire has a few memories of what happened when she got back in 1948, but that’s it. They will have to do some tricky camera work to have him interact with himself as Alex and Jack, but that isn’t exactly unprecedented.

So. A 13-episode breakdown of Dragonfly in Amber, following the books pretty closely:

Episode 201 – Through A Looking Glass Darkly

I would condense all of the stuff from part one into this first episode. It’s a nice episode for montage, anyway, with all of the research bits and various travels into the Scottish countryside. It’s hard to decide which parts to keep, but you obviously need to have the first scene, where Claire and Bree visit Roger, and you need to have the scene where he visits Lallybroch. You also need the scene where Bree and Roger go to Culloden, and then the one in the garage since that’s where Roger finds the Reverend’s notebook that gives him the information about Bree’s parentage. Fiona will be there, although perhaps not quite so intrusively as she is in the book, since her flirtation with Roger isn’t really important in terms of the overall story.

Honestly, I think you can cut most of the stuff with Bree and Claire, and the several visits to the manse. Maybe keep the part where Claire wakes up from her erotic dream of Jamie and whispers, “You are so like him” to her sleeping daughter.

I would end the episode at St. Kilda’s, in the graveyard, with Claire collapsing on Jamie’s tombstone.

Episode 202 – The Pretenders

I would start this episode with the briefest of scenes in the manse, with Claire explaining the truth about what happened at the stones. We would open in medias res, so that you don’t bore the viewer with an overview of things they already know from last season. Instead, I’d start with her telling them about the Abbey, and then flash to the 18th century.

There, we’d get Abbott Alexander telling them Charles is in Paris, and then maybe montage some of the journey to Le Havre. There, we’ll get morning sickness and sex, and then break Claire’s perspective and follow Jamie to meet with Jared. Then back to Claire, then to the ship in the harbor. I’m tempted to say that they should pad this episode out with more direct conflict with Le Comte, but it may be enough just to do the plague ship. The episode should definitely end with the plague ship being destroyed.

Episode 203 – Royal Audience

This episode would be all about the Fraser’s introduction to the Court. We’d see a little bit with Jared because they need to introduce Mary’s uncle (and the subsequent conversation Claire and Jamie have about Frank, and Jamie being reassured that BJR is dead), but it would focus on the parties. There would have to be some kind of episode conflict, probably using the Comte since he also appears at society events. But this is where we’d see the King’s levee, Claire puking in the fountain, Raymond’s apothecary shop, Jamie’s story about dueling over Annalise de Merriac, and Alex Randall. I’d move the bit with Alex to the end of the episode, so it leaves the audience assuming it’s BJR. Of course, that only works if, as I said, they cast Tobias as Alex. (Edit: or maybe have them do a hazy dream-effect, and then at the beginning of the next episode, it clears to reveal the new actor.)

Episode 204 – L’Hopital des Anges

We open on Alex, and the realization that he is not BJR. Then I would have the scene where Claire dreams of Frank, and have her and Jamie’s talk afterward. Then we’d have the party where she meets Herr Gerstmann and he suggests she go to L’Hopital des Anges. The conflict in the episode will start with Jamie forbidding her to go, and then we’ll get the encounter with Charles and the monkey, and Claire waxing with Louise de la Tour. I would move Jamie’s meeting with Fergus up a little bit, and have her tell him, if he’s going to be getting into so much trouble and allowing Fergus to put himself in danger, then he shouldn’t mind if she does what she is meant to do. He will acquiesce, and we’ll get the introduction of Mother Hildegarde and Bouton. This may also be a good place to put Jamie having to discipline Fergus – maybe on Claire’s first-ever trip to L’Hopital she refuses to leave and gets home late, and Fergus demands that Jamie punish him.

Episode 205 – Deceptions (NOTE – this is the episode that can be trimmed in order to expand the episodes focused on the Rising – the only really important bits are what they learn from the cipher and Claire’s poisoning)***

I would open this episode with a montage of Claire at L’Hopital des Anges, possibly with some intercutting to Raymond. Then have the scene with Louise’s illegitimate pregnancy, some action shots of Fergus stealing and returning letters (nice bits of tension- will he be caught?), Jamie bringing the cipher to Mother Hildegarde, Claire’s poisoning, and the implications that St. Germain is still out to get Claire. I would probably excise the bits with Mssr. Forez. He’s interesting, historically, but doesn’t do much for the plot. I’d probably get rid of the bit with Jamie and the whores, too. Not plot-relevant, and we don’t need the Claire/Jamie conflict. The end of Part Two in the book makes a great end to the episode- Claire feeling Faith for the first time.

Episode 206 – Malchance

This is just about the half-way point, and the whole of Part Three in the book makes a nice episode. It starts with Claire and Mary Hawkins being attacked, and ends with Jamie agreeing not to kill BJR until after he’s fathered the child that will one day be Frank’s ancestor. In the middle, we have the revelation that Claire is Le Dame Blanche, the disastrous dinner party, Raymond acknowledging Claire’s skill as a healer (help to heal) and trading information for the true story of the party, Jamie and Claire encountering BJR at Sandringham’s, Dougal in Paris, Claire getting BJR arrested, and then the awful scene between Claire and Jamie when she begs him not to kill BJR for Frank’s sake.

Episode 207 – The Best Laid Plans of Mice and Men

I can’t decide if this episode should bother including the bit at the stud farm. It would be hilarious to watch Fergus with the stable boys and the horse, but they don’t get that much info there. So it might be better to go straight into planning to hijack the wine ship with the fake smallpox outbreak. There would have to be a little bit in here about how they know about the wine venture, but that’s easily explained by Fergus’s letter thefts. ((Assuming the previous episode was trimmed, there also needs to be at least some hint about the cipher promising money for landing on English soil – that becomes relevant at the end of the book, and very relevant in Voyager)). Something less random would have to draw Jamie to the whorehouse where he sees BJR raping Fergus. It needs to be something associated with their plot against Charles, something that will really make Jamie think that what’s happening is his fault. Then the episode ends with him and BJR dueling, and Claire collapsing in a pool of blood as she miscarries.

Episode 208 – The Coming of the Light

This episode has a lot of ground to cover. We have to get from Raymond healing Claire, to Fontainebleau, to Claire’s deal with Louis to get Jamie out of the Bastille, to the wizard’s duel and the supposed death of Saint Germain, to Jamie and Murtagh’s successful sea venture, to Jamie’s return to Claire. I would end it with her lie – that she didn’t have sex with Louis – but I would make sure that the audience already knows that it is a lie. It isn’t playing fair with the reader in the book when Claire lies to us, too.

Episode 209 – “I Am Come Home”

Start with Jamie and Claire reconciling in France (from part four), but probably skip the cave. It’s interesting and beautiful, but not plot-relevant. Montage to Scotland, and then the little bits of daily life at Lallybroch. Rabbie’s seizures, Ian and Jamie’s difficulty after Jamie tells Ian about BJR, and end with the letter from Charles and the Bill of Association, and Jenny telling Jamie to ask Ian to come. The Ian/Jamie conflict would be the driving force of the episode. ((NOTE – this is also a place where trimming could happen. If so, the battle of Prestonpans would end the episode.))

Episode 210 – The Flames of Rebellion

This episode would definitely have the infamous encounter between Jamie and young Lord John, and I think it would be best to go through the battle of Prestonpans, intercut from Jamie’s PoV and Claire’s. Then, it would have to segue to Edinburgh, and Colum and Dougal’s arrival. Colum dies, and Claire makes her deal with BJR for information. The episode ends with Charles sending Jamie to Beuly. ((If the earlier episode is trimmed, there is more time to expand on BJR and the MacKenzies.))

Episode 211 – The Stuart Witch

Again, lots of ground to cover. Highlights: Jamie eventually gets his Fraser family’s support, but is incensed when the Old Fox wants to take credit for the Lallybroch men. I would probably skip the part where they go back to Lallybroch, and just have them go back to Edinburgh and find the men in the Tollgate. I’d cut the bit where Jamie and Simon go to talk to Charles, maybe the whole bit where the men are imprisoned. Honestly, I would cut the whole section with Lovat, if not for that important line – “One Fraser from the Master of Lovat’s regiment…”) Claire encounters Mary, and Jamie and BJR become unwilling allies over Alex and Mary’s unborn child (Damn all Randalls!). I am fairly certain that the night of Alex’s death is also the night Claire got pregnant with Brianna, so there will probably be sex. Then the episode has to end with the battle of Falkirk, Rupert’s death, and Claire in the hands of the English.

Episode 212 – “Sing Me a Song of a Lass That Is Gone”

It’s too complicated to get Claire all the way to Sandringham’s estate, so I would just say that he’s taken over a local Scottish estate and Claire is brought directly there, along with Mary (who BJR has sent back to her family, although she is now protected by his name). Then the events cascade, leading to Hugh Munro’s death, Murtagh killing Sandringham for what happened in Paris, Jamie killing Dougal over Claire, signing the Deed of Sasine and sending it to Lallybroch with Fergus, then Jamie and Claire marking each other in the croft and Claire’s flight through the stones. ((see note below for how trimming would affect this episode))

Episode 213 – Hindsight

Brianna refuses to believe, but Roger is convinced. The changed wedding ring will come into play here, because it isn’t going to be engraved, and it won’t allow for that moment of absolute sorrow from Claire. Of course, it’s rather unlikely that a surgeon would never have removed her rings in twenty years, but I whistle past that when I read the books. In any case, Claire will present Roger with the choice to try and save Gillian Edgars. Of course he tries (and they fail), but in the process, Claire proves irrevocably to Roger and Bree that time travel is possible. The season ends with Roger quoting the line about the “officer from the Master of Lovat’s regiment” who survived. “He meant to die on Culloden Field,” Roger whispered. “But he didn’t.”

———-

If the decision is not to use the framing device, then all of the episodes get shifted. What I listed as 201 would become 212, and 202 would become 201. If the decision is not to use Tobias as Alex, that would cause subtle shifts in the way things are shot and written, and how much you can get away with in regard to the physical similarities. Does Tobias have a brother that acts? Or a very similar-looking cousin?

***Another thing I noticed while breaking out the episodes is that, like Diana, I spent a lot more time with episodes in France than I did with the actual Rising. It may be better for the show to shift things a little more and devote another episode to the ’45. Some of the court intrigue and plotting can go, and I marked the episode where pretty much everything can be cut or at least slipped into another episode (For example: is it really important that Mother Hildegarde solves the Goldberg Variation cipher? They could just get that info from a stolen letter). Also, although I love the quieter moments and character development at Lallybroch, that can be trimmed, too. Those cuts would allow for more time with the MacKenzie brothers and BJR’s deal with Claire, as well as providing a whole extra episode to split between dealing with the Frasers at Beuly and BJR marrying Mary Hawkins. I would call that episode “Damn All Randalls.” The existing episode 211 would then start at Falkirk. Everyone loves Rupert, and we need to have some time to grieve his death in the church. But then I stand by Claire’s capture and transport to Sandringham needing to happen much more quickly than in the book, and I would end the episode with Sandringham’s death. Then the final episode of the 1740s section would start with the party’s arrival at Culloden House, and end with Claire going back to Craigh na Dun.

I’m actually way happier with that breakdown, but I’ll leave my initial thoughts up since they follow the book a little more closely.

Whenever we get an episode order for Voyager, I’ll break that down, too. Although I would actually like to see Voyager as two seasons of twelve episodes. One season for before C & J are reunited, and one for after.

What do you think of my episode breakdown? What would you do differently? There are all kinds of things that could probably be cut, and characters that can be conflated. Leave a comment with your ideas.

Speculations – Time Travel

This is going to be a bit of a ramble and a wander through my ideas. I may go back and edit/revise my blogs at some point, as I tend to post them immediately with only cursory (spelling) revision. They could all stand to have some cutting and tightening.

Anyway.

Idea One: Time flows concurrently, no matter when you are. In (I think) episode two, my husband, who has not read the books, asked why Claire is in such a hurry to leave. “Can’t she just go back to the moment that she left?” He’s coming at this from a Back to the Future time travel perspective, where you program a date and time into the DeLorean’s dash, floor the gas pedal to 88, and bang: the flux capacitor delivers you to your time period destination. But that isn’t how things work in Outlander.

(EDIT- in a recent (April 2016) episode of The Scot and the Sassenach, Alastair referred to concurrent timelines as “San Dimas Time.” In the movie Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure (which is getting another sequel!!), for every hour that they spend moving in time, an equal hour passes in San Dimas.)

We don’t truly understand Outlanderverse time travel yet, even in the books. All of the characters that can do it have theories about how it works, but we have few definitive answers. The “default” seems to be that you always go 202 years from the point when you left. That suggests that time continues to run concurrently, no matter when you are.

Even though they’ve figured out quite a bit about time travel by book eight, Claire knows nothing when she first touches the stones, not even that she could possibly steer with a gemstone. So no, Steve (that’s my husband), she can’t just go back to the moment she left. That’s proven by seeing Frank dealing with the loss of Claire in episode 108 (EDIT: And again in episode 201, when she comes back in 1948). The same amount of time has passed for both of them, and he’s spiraling into despair and desperation.

In the book, Father Anselm says something similar. It has been nearly a year since Beltane by the time Claire and Jamie are at the Abbey, and he says, “won’t your husband have moved on by now, tried to put his life back together, perhaps even found someone else?” So it is a generally understood time travel principle in the Outlanderverse that time runs concurrently.

Idea Two: Outlander is a stable time loop. One of the fun things about time travel stories is figuring out how the author makes it work. Now, I don’t mean the physics involved (although both the show and, in the books, Brianna, try to explain it in terms of places of pooled energy), but rather how time travel affects the world.

A couple of time travel tropes:

  • The stable time loop. This is where everything always happened the way it happens. The Pern books are an example of a stable time loop. Lessa makes the enormous jump back in time to bring the Weyrs forward because she knows the Weyrs have been deserted for years and, therefore, she must have always done it. For the most part, the Outlanderverse is a stable time loop. It is hinted at that, if Claire and Jamie hadn’t managed to undermine Charles’ attempts to raise funds, that he might have been successful during the Rising. So not only did they not stop it, but they may have contributed to its failure. Since the Rising has already happened for Claire, it can be said that she was meant to go back in time and take part in those events.
  • The multiverse. This is time travel where things can be changed. But, in order to avoid paradoxes, each time something is changed, a parallel universe is formed. Back to the Future is a multiverse. Changes to past and future cause a new timeline to be spawned (as explained in the second film). Sometimes that’s a good thing (Marty’s much more successful family) and sometimes it’s bad (Biff’s gambling-land).
  • The paradox. HG Wells’ The Time Machine deals with paradox. It isn’t a stable time loop because things can be superficially changed. The protagonist tries to change the past, but both can and can’t at the same time. If his wife lives, what was his reason for building the time machine in the first place? So every time he “saves” her, time “fixes” itself by making her die again.
  • The everything. Doctor Who is an “everything” time travel show, depending on what the writers need that week. We’ve had paradox episodes (the one where Rose saves her father’s life) and the show has famous “fixed points” in time that not even the Doctor can change. Sometimes these turn out to be stable time loops – like with the 10th Doctor in Pompeii. But there are also indications of a multiverse. For example: why don’t people remember, in the 11th’s time, all of the things that happened with 10? That has yet to be answered satisfactorily.

There are other time travel paradigms, but those are some of the main ones.

The only clue we have that time travel might not be a completely stable loop is the reference that Roger makes, in An Echo in the Bone (pg 225 in the hardcover edition), to the newspaper notice having changed. But that’s ret-conning, because in the end of A Breath of Snow and Ashes, we’re given the scene where the printer uses the wrong month because the slug for the correct month has gone missing.

Diana has ret-conned before. Originally the Montauk Five disappeared in New England; Bree remembers that a body was found in the mountains somewhere there. But when we meet Donner, he says they used the stones on Ocracoke. And, to muddy the waters even more, Robert Springer/Otter Tooth’s journal indicates that he came through at the circle near the rhododendron hell that Roger found. Some people point to this as evidence that travel between stones as well as between times is possible, but I don’t know about that.

In any case, I’m not sure what to make of the different death notice. But every other “can we change the past” question has been answered in the negative (or, if you accept that they are “changing” things just by being there, that those changes were always meant to have happened), so I’m still sticking with the stable time loop.

I think one of the reasons for the ret-conning is because at first, Diana didn’t dig into the whys and wherefores of time travel. It was just a mechanism that got her outspoken 20th-century heroine into her 18th-century Scottish story. But as the series has progressed, the story has required some changes to her original ideas, and some of the ideas have been clarified and codified. There’s a whole bit when Roger and Bree are back in 1980 where they write out a “Time Travelers Guide” a la Douglas Adams.

Idea Three: How Time Travel works, as of MOBY:

  • Using gemstones (possibly also blood and fire) helps you steer beyond the standard 202 years. This doesn’t quite negate San Dimas time, because it seems like it would be quite difficult to come back moments after you left.
  • Precious metals provide some protection (speculation that Claire’s gold wedding ring protected her on her first trip, and the gold and silver together on subsequent trips).
  • It’s easier to travel at the equinoxes and solstices, although possible (not recommended!) at other times.
  • There are some metaphysical speculations that connection to a particular person makes travel “easier.” When Jamie takes Claire to the stones the first time in Outlander, and she starts to enter the time passage, she can feel both him and Frank. Later in the books, although it isn’t “fun” for them, Jem and Mandy travel VERY easily because they have a deep psychic connection to each other and their family members. (More speculation about the nature of travelers below.)
  • You cannot travel to a point at which you already exist. Roger tried and almost died.
  • It is not advisable to travel forward, although we don’t know why. In “The Space Between,” Saint Germain wants desperately to do it because he is trying to extend his life. Raymond tells him it is a bad idea, and Joan’s voices tell her to tell him “don’t do it.” I was so mad at the end of the story that we switched back to Michael and Joan’s PoVs and didn’t find out what happened!! Diana, I am totally OK with waiting longer for a main series book if you will put out a “what happened next” story.
    • PS – Raymond has almost certainly traveled forward, given that he was originally from the prehistoric Orkney Islands. I think he’s come unstuck in time, and that’s why he tells Saint Germain not to try to go forward.

Side rant: some people have said that they couldn’t stick with the book series after Dragonfly because it started getting “too weird” or “too sci-fi” for them. I don’t think it is sci-fi enough. I love reading about the mechanics of time travel, and I am DYING to read the Raymond story that Diana mentioned (in the National Geographic article about the Orkneys) that she’s planning. But I’m a fantasy writer, and worldbuilding fascinates me. YMMV.

Idea Four: Wild Speculations.

  • The blue aura of Raymond’s family is a sort of “extra energy” that travelers have. It allows them to enter the passage, and depending on how strong it is, protects them in the space between time. This is why some people still die in there. The aura allows them to do what we might consider “magic.” Raymond tells Claire she has a blue aura in Dragonfly in Amber (it’s why he calls her Madonna), and she sees him through a haze of blue light when he heals her after her miscarriage. The blue light healing/connection is seen again with Dr. McEwan in MOBY and with Saint Germain in “The Space Between.” There is some indication that this aura is connected to an ability to manipulate physical reality. Claire is an excellent diagnostician because she can use that sixth sense to figure out what is wrong (physically and emotionally) with a patient. We know that it’s more than just reading people’s body language cues and palpating their abdomens because she does it to a skeleton (that turns out to be Geillis Duncan, who, by the by, is someone Claire has already/not yet killed with her own hand – talk about freaky time travel dynamics). Dr. McEwan has taken it a step farther- he can, in a limited way, manipulate people’s actual flesh (he says he knows what the body should feel like, and he attempts to make it more like how he knows it should be). He uses this to heal people, notably Buck and Roger.
    • From the Daily Lines snippets that Diana posts, Claire will be experimenting with using Dr. McEwan’s healing methods on Roger in Book Nine. I almost called it “Blue Magic,” but in the Final Fantasy game series, blue magic is when you can copy other creature’s attacks and skills. Not the same thing!
  • Mandy and Jem are very strong travelers, probably because both of their parents can do it. Even though Jem is haunted by his experience at the stones on Ocracoke, he has no problem going after Mandy when she dashes through at Craigh na Dun. And the two kids have a very strong psychic link with each other and their parents (and, to a lesser extent, other people). I think their auras are much larger than normal as a consequence of having two time-traveling parents.
  • At least one of Claire’s parents was a traveler. We’ve gotten stories about Roger’s family as travelers (from Gillian herself, to Buck, to Jerry MacKenzie), but nothing about Claire’s family. There are hints in the last couple of books that she may be related to the Beauchamp family that Percy Wainwright has married into. And it is not unreasonable to speculate that the child Percy seeks (who may or may not actually be Fergus) is the progenitor of Claire’s family line. I don’t think it’s Fergus, to be honest. But if there is such a child, and if said child reappeared and took up the family name, then escaped during the Terror to England and started using the English pronunciation of the name…it makes sense. Also, when Lord John goes to visit the Beauchamps, he notes that the brother is a terrible card player. Hello glass face? The corollary to this supposition is, if Saint Germain really did have a child with the lost sister, and that child is Claire’s great-great-whatever…Saint Germain might actually be her many times great-grandfather. MIND BLOWN.

I could ramble on about this forever, but I need to go and do my actual job that makes me actual money. Anyone else have some speculations about time travel in the Outlanderverse? What’s your favorite time travel story, other than Outlander? Do you love or hate a particular time travel paradigm? Leave me a comment and let me know!