Differing Opinions: Books vs TV Series

I have said many times and will keep saying it: I love discussion. Differing opinions and asking questions is what helps us all come to better understanding of any given topic. Being able to grasp another’s point of view gives us new insight and expands our thinking. This is good.

What I get frustrated with is complaining/whining/griping/bashing. There is a big difference and it’s all in how it’s presented and, going forward, discussed. A topic came up on social media today that really brought this into focus for me. It’s happened before but I managed to catch this one from the beginning and, for a change, am not mulling it for days before writing. The idea came easily how to present this so here I am.

Now, I am not saying what branch of social media this came on, nor will I name any names as I’m not trying to get people in trouble or start a war. If they want to make themselves known that is their prerogative. 


This is what the discussion was about. The fact that ‘The Team’ chose not to include this scene in the television production. What sort of set me back was the original post which I will quote here:

“Still irritated they did not cut there initials _ rather Claire gives Jamie a big amber rock instead”

My first thought was, “Why STILL irritated?” The decision was made, filmed and it’s long passed. It can’t be changed, why complain about it now? And – to me – making the statement this way IS a complaint. There is no question trying to understand why this decision was made, no discussion for options; just irritation. My alternative to this might be. “Too bad they felt this couldn’t be filmed. Perhaps it could be incorporated in the future. Fans love it!” 

Please understand, like most fans of the books this is a favorite segment of mine! It’s something I might do myself and it comes across as so raw and real. This is also something that comes up over and over in through the life of the story. It’s a poetic and beautiful thing woven into the fabric of Jamie & Claire’s love story.

However, I can also look at it from the perspective of it being a great enhancement, a special touch whenever it comes up, it is not a critical piece to move the story forward. Given the time constraints of the series versus the books, I can easily understand the decision to leave this bit aside. Here are my thoughts on why the decision went as it did. Maybe. I have no inside info, just experience in theatre and my own thinking with some common sense.

The initial filming would have taken a great deal of time. Camera angles, how to make sure the ‘cuts’ are consistent over multiple takes. How to do the blood to be consistent and not mess anything up between times. If I remember right (and I may not) filming was already going long because of weather issues.

It also would have been time consuming as the series progresses due to make-up issues. If they had decided to do this scene, it would be two more scars that need to be consistently applied any time they ‘might’ be in the camera view. They would be on the actors’ hands, which tend to be on camera a lot and noticed. They would have to be consistent in each scene. Hands are not the easiest place to ‘stick’ something and have it stay where you want it due to movement and constantly touching/brushing against things.

The argument was made that, these were small cuts and not often visible so they wouldn’t have to keep doing them. Yet, if they had chosen to do this scene with all the implications, there would be fans furious if they didn’t continue to see these scars on camera. It’s a no win in the long run.

I would imagine, because – while a wonderful enhancement to the story – the scars aren’t a driving component, ‘The Team’ chose to leave this out allowing time (both in front of and behind the camera) for other things.

In listening to / watching many interviews and panels, something that Ron Moore has said many times really resonates with me. He, and ‘The Team’ are trying to make the best TELEVISION they can. It isn’t a book – it has completely different constraints and driving points. Ron likes the material, but ‘sees’ it differently than anyone else because he is using a different set of eyes. He is looking as someone who has worked – very successfully – in making television shows for many years. Producing / show-running good stories that play well on screen and will last. So far, he and ‘The Team’ have done a damn fine job! IMHO

Have I been disappointed in some things with the show?    YES

Have I wished something could have been added that wasn’t?    YES

Were there things the show did that made me say WTF?!     YES

Have I had some interesting, stimulating discussions about all these things? Some – unfortunately on SM it tends to dissolve into argument and I don’t enjoy that.

I’ll probably get bashed for this post by people saying they have every right to disagree and ‘discuss’ opinions about the show. I totally agree. What gets old is the ‘angry’ people that bash and complain; that get ‘irritated’ by a difference and slam the show and Ron and whoever else rather than actually discussing the idea and why it went as it did on screen. I feel sorry for them. Discussing means listening to the POV of others and weighing that against your own ideas.

A last thought…..I can guarantee that there will be X number of people that love something with an equal number that hated it. Every ‘fan’ has their own special things that absolutely should have been on screen – there is simply no way to accomplish that with the time they have. Every single fan is right – for themselves. In the end, ‘The Team’ does the best they can to make good TELEVISION (not a reproduction of a book on screen) and Ron works to keep it faithful to the overall story, while appealing to a television audience.

Let’s be courteous to each other when voicing opinions, asking questions and having discussions. We all have our special bits from the books that are important to us, but we all view the story differently from our own perspectives, history and experience. I really enjoy ^most^ of the differences as it gives me a different view/perspective of the story and so makes it bigger and more rounded for me.

OH! And this discussion today did stay courteous and was indeed a ‘discussion’ as it progressed! The exchange just gave me a clear idea of how I wanted to explain this.




15 thoughts on “Differing Opinions: Books vs TV Series

  1. dot65jean says:

    I am just extremely HAPPY that this marvelous story was brought to us!!! I am thrilled with both the television adaptation and with every book! I hope I live long enough to read the end of the story. At age 68, time is of the essence! Thank you to all associated with “Outlander”!

  2. Sherry Riley says:

    I think I remember Toni Graphia talking about the reasoning behind the decision to not use the”bloodletting” moment at Craig na Dun in episode 213. Though I was disappointed, I was more focused on the fact of Claire gong back to 1948. I couldn’t stop crying.
    The nitpicking will probably continue until the last season has concluded…hopefully for another 7 – 9 years. I hope that I’m around to see it.

  3. Deb says:

    I totally agree with you. Diana’s books have so much in them that the show could not possibly include everything. The reason that this scene was not in the show has been discussed quite a bit by the show runners and makes sense why they would not include. Your point about having to make sure the scars were put on everyday also makes a lot of sense. The one time they were not, some fan would definitely notice!

    There are people on social media who criticize other shows for not exactly following the books. I think they refuse to be happy that the show has been filmed and is wonderful and that some things just don’t translate from word to film.

    • rynawolfe says:

      The people putting Outlander on screen not only bring their own background, history & experiences to the mix interpreting the material – but their knowledge and expertise of how to make good TELEVISION. Ron as the one making final decisions for the overall look and feel of the show is very successful in his field, but he is definitely NOT the ‘typical’ Outlander reader. All this combines to bring about good television based on this marvelous story. The books are huge and ‘The Team’ has limited time to shoehorn all that material into a few hours and make a story in those constraints that is consistent and flows.

      Sometimes I think certain people would be happy if they just filmed the ‘best scenes’ and threw them out for people to watch – which from the comments I saw on last season would include LOTS of sex scenes. This might make for good weekly drool sessions, but would not make a good, long lasting television show.

  4. Rae Volpe says:

    We have to remember, the books have many more words than can ever be used in a television series unless we want each episode to last for 2 or 3 hours , next to impossible. I think the production company is doing a great job to capture the essence of the books which is what is important to me. We are each entitled to our own opinion and should respect each other’s point of view.

  5. Gail says:

    I, for one , liked the amber stone with the dragon fly, it fit well with the series.. But then, I am just so happy to see the series on TV. And yes, I have all 8 books and have re- read them multiple times..

  6. Mary King says:

    The books and shows complement each other. I am an Outlander reader since 1999 and I love Ron and the team’s production. We are very fortunate to have someone who values quality in all aspects of Outlander, the show. Thanks for your article, Beth!

  7. doggerell59 says:

    I agree with you – it looks like there are going to be a few changes in Season 3 too, and I admit to being disappointed as the scenes like the one you mentioned are perfect as they appear in the books; I do understand the problems involved in including everything, but some of the changes are painful, such as leaving out the farewell scene between Jamie and Claire when she returns to the 1940s, just before Culloden

    • rynawolfe says:

      Yes the scenes are perfect as they are in the book – as they are only in your head so you visualize them exactly as you want to.

      One thing to consider – some things that are ‘perfect’ in the book just won’t translate well on the screen. Not necessarily because they won’t work cinematically, but because they will never meet your or everyone else’s expectations. The RED DRESS is a excellent example. It was one of those things the fans simply felt MUST be done and it was – but many, many people criticized it because it wasn’t “right”. Almost every comment I read had a slightly different idea of what this dress would look like and how could Terry have possibly gotten it so WRONG. Yet Terry took her ‘image’ from the description in the book just as all the fans had. It was right to her. Some of these scenes – like the farewell scene – would take too much time and book fans would have been disappointed no matter how it was filmed because it would never match what is in their heads. J & C were together for HOURS in that scene, even taking time to sleep a bit, then the initials and then another hard, hurried coupling. How on earth could ‘The Team’ have done all that justice in the time they had?

      • doggerell59 says:

        You’re right – they couldn’t – so we have to be satisfied with what we’ve got, which is pretty damn good; I always remember the BBC’s production of “Pride an Prejudice” where they added a scene which wasn’t in the book – Darcy (Colin Firth) appears, rising from the lake, in a wet shirt! – which sent Austen fans wild for two reasons – first, it sexed up Jane Austen’s original (I thought it was sexy enough already), and second, the purists were outraged at their audacity to “rewrite” a classic. Guess they will never be able to please everybody and, on the whole the series has been massively enjoyable.

  8. Isabelle says:

    I am now reading the books. I think Outlander has done a wonderful job. Can’t wait for season 3.

  9. Claire @ bletheringbylinley says:

    I totally agree! I think I come from a different perspective because as much as I’ve enjoyed the books I (*ducking flying objects*) actually prefer the series – I think the series writers have done an amazing job at distilling all the best stuff from the books. So I find it amazing when I see book readers complain about stuff that, to me, seems so minor compared to the fantastic job that the TV production does overall. Either way, there was some famous author who, when asked about Hollywood having ‘destroyed’ his books, replied: “They destroyed nothing – they’re right there on the shelf where they belong.” (Err, that was paraphrased!) I think you need to enjoy the books for what they are and enjoy the series for what it is… and not get your knickers in a twist over either!

  10. I first discovered the show and then began reading the books! For me that hearkens to the integrity of the show. I also work in the film/tv industry so the show really hits my visual story-telling-sweet-spot. So far, I’ve enjoyed reading the books post-season as I find it enriches certain elements of the characters’ interiority and story. And I adore Ron Moore and the Producers and I find their work to be of the highest caliber in TV right now…perhaps I’m biased! Thanks for your article.

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