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by Alison Willmore
January 11, 2014 2:30 PM
4 Comments
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'Battlestar Galactica' Producer Ronald D. Moore Adapts Another Cult Fan Property With Starz Series 'Outlander'

Sam Heughan and Tobias Menzies in 'Outlander' Starz

With his Syfy series "Battlestar Galactica," executive producer Ronald D. Moore took a beloved '70s science fiction series and reworked it into a sprawling space drama that tackled themes of faith and what makes us human, winning fans and acclaim from within and outside of genre fandom. For his next series, Moore is adapting another property with a passionate fandom -- the "Outlander" series of novels by Diana Gabaldon, which tell the story of a former World War II British Army nurse named Claire Randall who ends up getting transported to 18th century Scotland, where she meets and becomes romantically involved with a man named Jamie Fraser.

Starz, who are planning on debuting "Outlander" later this year, emphasized the devotion of "Outlander" fans in a teaser reel that, along with early footage, showed crowds holding up signs and shrieking in a way that recalls "Twilight." Moore came to the TCA winter press tour with Gabaldon and stars Caitriona Balfe and Sam Heughan to talk about the new series, but also to essentially reassure fans that the series would be true to the books.

"You still have to write the show and make the best that you can. It’s not a democracy."

Gabaldon assured that Moore had looped her into the conversation about making the series, spending a weekend talking through not just the story but the backstory and extra materials she had. She also noted that having the series be too painstakingly true an adaptation wouldn't be a good idea: "Television is a different medium and to do a literal page by page translation of the screening would just not be a very good TV show." She noted that, in instance, Moore had suggested an opening scene that wasn't in the text showing Claire at work during the war to establish her competence and skill.

"I saw my role from the beginning as not reinventing this material but adapting it and delivering it because there is an audience for it," Moore said. "There is a dedicated base of fans who love these books who have read them for many years and I take that obligation seriously. I want to give them their story, but I do have to translate it into a different medium because there are differences of being a reader and being a member of an audience. So in writer’s room, we always start with the book. Maybe we change or maybe we add some things that could have happened but aren’t mentioned there. Maybe we have to change something, but we always take pains to get back to where the book takes us because that’s our job."

Of pressure to meet fan expectations, Balfe said "It doesn’t serve you to think in that way. I think there’s a responsibility to do the best job that you can do, but that’s every job. It’s just really nice to know that you have this built-in audience -- I think of it as an added bonus." Gabaldon noted that as an author she looks to do what's best for the books, not what the fans say they want, and Moore added "That was the attitude I took on 'Battlestar' and 'Star Trek,' which had very devoted, passionate fan bases. You still have to write the show and make the best that you can. It’s not a democracy. You can’t just like throw it out there and do what the fans want because they all want different things."

As for whether the series skews female, Moore said "I loved the book as soon as I read it," and added "the fan base and the readers are predominantly women, but they have prosthelytized quite a bit with boyfriends and husbands, and it’s a great page-turner. You’re propelled into this big epic tale right from the get go, and I think the show will be the same way. I think it really, truly can appeal to both men and women."

Check out all our coverage of the Winter 2014 TCA press tour.

4 Comments

  • Fran | June 17, 2014 9:25 AMReply

    I've read everything that Diana Gabaldon has written. I recently received the latest book of the Outlander series. I look forward to the TV adaptation. Thanks for making my favorite books come to life.

  • David A. | January 18, 2014 3:21 PMReply

    I don't know if it's quite fair to call Outlander a "Cult Fan Property" (unless this is how you label ANY book that has sold 20m+ copies). They are just very involving, VERY well-researched works of historical fiction (w/just a TASTE of sci-fi due to the time travel plot device). You can tell that before she started writing these, that Dr. Gabaldon was an experienced researcher (w/a hard science Ph.D.).

    In my own case, I've enjoyed the series because of its vivid descriptions of life in 18th Century Scotland and Colonial America. I'm descended from one of the VERY early Scottish colonists, and reading stories set in that time period give me a MUCH better idea about what daily life was like for my ancestors. I have learned SO MUCH from the books, and am very much looking forward to seeing Ron Moore's adoption of them (was also a fan of his work in Star Trek/Roswell/BSG/Caprica).

  • Muldfeld | January 11, 2014 4:16 PMReply

    In your second to last paragraph, it's a bit confusing near the end. You mention Gabaldron not following what fans want in her writing of the books, but then follow that sentence with a quotation about writing "Star Trek" and "Battlestar Galactica" that should clearly be attributable to Ronald D. Moore.

    Thanks for the interview. I can't wait to see Ron Moore, Ira Steven Behr, and Toni Graphia, who are among my absolute favorite writers! This is a dream team! I know nothing about the books, but am eagerly awaiting this more than any other piece of fiction.

  • Alison | January 12, 2014 12:37 PM

    Re penultimate paragraph -- sorry about that, a clause in that paragraph got deleted when I did an "undo" later in the piece. Fixed!