The year of 2014 is shaping up to be a historic one for Scotland.
From massive political questions and debates to anniversaries of important battles and huge sporting events, the world will be watching these shores with more interest than ever before.
And scratch the surface of an incredibly busy calendar; there is more happening across the country that could produce a lasting legacy. Outlander, the fantasy series set in 17th century Scotland, is being given the big-budget US TV treatment and has the potential to become one of the country’s most influential and important media outputs since Braveheart.
First published in 1991, the series of books is the brainchild of Diana Gabaldon and features the romantic adventures of nurse Claire Randall who travels through time to 18th-century Scotland where she falls in love with Highlander Jamie Fraser. Since its debut 23 years ago, the series has become hugely popular across the world. Featuring a mix of historical fiction and romance writing, Gabaldon’s success has brought her a raft of awards and literary clout.
For Scotland, it has also added to the vibrant image of romantic adventure first championed by the likes of Robert Louis Stevenson and Sir Walter Scott.
In 2013, a series was commissioned for US network Starz, with filming taking place on Scottish shores. Caitriona Balfe and Sam Heughan will take the lead roles and are joined by some of the country’s leading acting talent, including Graham McTavish and Gary Lewis.
“The dedication of readers hasn’t gone unnoticed by the producers of the TV show.”
Set for its debut later this year, the series will be broadcast in what is considered a historic year for Scotland. With an Independence Referendum, hosting the Ryder Cup and the 700th anniversary of the Battle of Bannockburn, Outlander is staking its claim as a product of Scotland in the country’s most important of years.
Like most popular works of fiction, Outlander has a loyal following of fans and supporters. And with the announcement of the TV series, it appears a whole new legion of adoring devotees are waiting in the wings.
Outlander‘s production has, on paper at least, positioned itself to capitalise on that popularity.
The leading stars fit the bill, with Heughan providing the muscular machismo needed for the swashbuckling adventurer Jamie Fraser. Set reports and a tantalising trailer of him in action have already set the internet ablaze.
Time-travelling Nurse Randall’s casting provides the perfect foil in Irish actress Balfe. Strong, independent and feisty, the character has all the makings of a TV heroine for the 21st century, even if she is stuck in the 1700s.
The dedication of readers of the series hasn’t gone unnoticed by the producers of the TV show. Where the gulf between production and fandom was once at a premium, it appears that Outlander is setting the trend for a whole new level of connection with the viewing, and paying, public.
As Marina explains, “Everyone involved in the creation of the Outlander TV series has been willing to interact with fans over social media. They all show great enthusiasm and courtesy, and therefore we believe that the series is in very good hands indeed.”
While the series appeal is spread across literary genres, it appears that Scotland will benefit greatly from the show’s broader exposure. And already it seems that the appreciation of everything Caledonian about the books has made Scotland a very popular visitor destination.
The Heughligans are even holding a Gathering for like-minded enthusiasts of the series. What started as a simple question from one of the group has now become a full blown, three-day event taking place in Edinburgh.
Expectations are high from the organisers, who have given estimations of between 80 and 150 fans making the trip to the capital from all around the world. The group has a distinctively international theme, with some coming from as far as Australia and North America for the planned walks, drinks and other festivities.
In keeping with the global reach and appeal of the series, both on TV and in print, a simultaneous event is being held in Boston. Only fitting, then, that a Gathering brought about through cutting edge technology keeps up the tradition with fans across The Pond.
Any profits of the weekend will be donated by group organisers to Leukemia & Lymphoma Research, a charity that is supported by star of the show Sam Heughan.
Scotland’s reputation will be boosted by 2014. With series like Outlander to boast of being home-grown on these shores, it looks clear that there will be more than just politics and pageantry on the calendar.Sign up to our Weekly newsletter