Executive producer Ronald D. Moore recently spoke with Collider about the series, including how he came to the source material, changes from page to screen, and determining the number of episodes for the season. Moore also discusses not focusing on the time travel aspect of the story, developing characters, filming in Scotland, and more. Below are a few excerpts from the interview, which can be read in its entirety here on Collider. The site warns the interview contains a few spoilers, so as always, read with caution.
Collider: How did you come to this?
RONALD D. MOORE: As Battlestar Galactica was winding down, I was having dinner in Vancouver with my wife, Terry, and my producing partner, Maril [Davis]. We were just talking about future projects and things we all loved, and it turned out that the two of them, independently, loved these books and never talked about it. They started to get excited and talk about how great Outlander could be, but I hadn’t read it. So, they had me go off and read it, and I just saw it, immediately. I love history and I like historical fiction, so I was pulled into the period. I really like the central character of Claire. So, by the time I got to the end of the book, I thought, “Okay, yeah, this is a series. I can see how these episodes lay out, over a season.” There were eight books, at that point, so that’s many seasons. I was sold. I have always wanted to do a period piece, and I could do two period pieces, with the 1940s and the 18th century.
Now that you’ve established a relationship with Diana Gabaldon, do you feel more constricted, knowing that she’s reading the scripts, or do you feel a real freedom to change what you feel needs changing?
MOORE: I don’t want to just keep puffing it and making it sound like it’s so great, but it really had been great. She’s been very open to it. I’ve always said, from the very beginning, that I wanted to make it as faithful to the book as I could. And Starz said, “Make it faithful to the books.” That was always the goal. And then, you put the cards up in the room with the writers, and you start with the book version of events and the book scenes, and they don’t always work in an hour. The book was not designed to be adapted. So, you’re taking something that was written for a different form, and now you’re translating it and you have to figure out what works in an hour episode. You have to ask, “How does it gather shape? What’s the arc in this episode? Where are we starting and beginning?” There’s a scene with Claire where they’re on the road and, suddenly, she ends up in the hands of Jack Randall, and there’s a great scene between the two of them when he punches her in the stomach. It’s a really great scene, but when you look at the book, it’s not that many pages. It’s just a few pages. But we said, “That should be a full episode. We should make something bigger out of that.” So, in some instances, you’re taking what’s there and you’re actually expanding it. Other times, you skip over something. Sometimes you move the chronology slightly because you couldn’t quite figure out how to get from A to B in this order, so you re-sequence it and keep going. You’re constantly juggling the particular constraints of what you’re doing for episodic television, but you’re always getting back to where the book is taking you.
Was there a back-and-forth discussion about how many episodes to do for this season, or did you always have a set number?
MOORE: I’m not even sure where the number 16 came up, initially. I think Starz said, pretty early on, “We’d be willing to do 13, 16 or 18. Tell us where you think it is.” I think 16 was a number that was floated very early, and then I had to lay it out and see if it would be 16. It actually laid out pretty well at 16, and there was a natural break at the mid point, in terms of the story. It was up to Starz to decide if they wanted to separate them into two different sections and broadcast them that way, or not. So, 16 quickly became the number.
MOORE: Yeah, but we’re not quite to those discussions yet. Dealing with Starz gives you a lot of flexibility, in terms of their orders. Once we start talking about the second season, I’ll approach it the same way. We’ll break down the book, put it up on the board, and see what the natural flow is and how many episode we think it will take to tell the story.