Adaptation Drama

'Outlander: Season One, Volume One' DVD Review: Quantum Leap, Braveheart style

April 10, 2015Ben MK

Official Studio Synopsis: British combat nurse Claire Randall is reunited with her husband after returning from the battlefields of World War II. While on their second honeymoon, she walks through one of the ancient stone circles that dot the British Isles and is suddenly transported to 1743 Scotland, torn by war and rogue Highland clans. Hurled back in time by forces she cannot understand, Claire is catapulted into intrigue and danger when she is accused of being a spy. Forced by circumstance to marry an outlawed Highlander, she finds herself falling in love and torn by her loyalties to two men in vastly different times, all of which may threaten her life and shatter her heart.

Distributor: Sony
Release Date: March 3rd, 2015
Format: DVD
Video: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Audio: English 5.1 Dolby Digital
Subtitles: English, English SDH, French
Run Time: Approx. 459 Mins.
Feature Rating:  

What would you get if you crossed Braveheart with Quantum Leap, then added a dash of Danielle Steele for good measure? The answer might look at lot like Outlander, the Starz original series from Ronald D. Moore, one of the creative minds behind such hit TV shows as Star Trek: The Next Generation, Helix and the revamped Battlestar Galactica. No, this isn't a serialized version of the 2008 sci-fi movie starring Jim Caviezel. Based on the series of books by author Diana Gambaldon, Outlander taps into the same general vibe as HBO's perennially popular Game of Thrones, albeit with a slight twist — its heroine, Claire Randall (Caitriona Balfe), is an Englishwoman who takes a nearly-two-hundred-year step backwards in time, going from 1945 to 1743 Scotland, where she's regarded as an Outlander.

The storyline follows the adventures of Claire, a former World War II medic, as she struggles to find her way back to her own time, and back to her historian husband, Frank (Tobias Menzies), all the while trying to gain the trust of the Highlanders of the Clan MacKenzie — led by brothers Colum (Gary Lewis) and Dougal (Graham McTavish) — as well as trying to evade capture by Frank's evil 16th century doppelganger, Captain Jonathan Wolverton Randall, aka "Black Jack." Along the way, she meets and falls in love with a handsome young rogue named Jamie Fraser (Sam Heughan) and is helped by a druid witch named Geillis Duncan (Lotte Verbeek), but she never loses sight of where she came from. The question is, does she still belong in 1945, or does her true destiny lie with Jamie?

Whether you're a history buff, can't get enough steamy romance, or prefer your TV shows with a touch of sci-fi and fantasy, Outlander has something for everyone. The show's debut season returns to Starz (or Showcase, for Canadian viewers) in April 2015; but if you're looking to catch up, look no further than this Season One, Volume One DVD set, which serves up the series' first eight captivating episodes:

  • Episode 1: Sassenach - As the Second World War draws to a close, so too does Claire and her husband Frank's five-year separation. However, no sooner are they reunited do they find themselves separated again, when Claire is inexplicably sent back in time after touching one of the ancient standing stones at the mysterious Craigh na Dun.
  • Episode 2: Castle Leoch - Trapped in 1743, Claire is rescued from Black Jack by members of the Clan MacKenzie and taken to Castle Leoch, to meet the clan's Laird, Colum. It's here that her talents as a nurse come into play, as she uses it to tend to Jamie, who's suffering from injuries sustained in a battle with British Redcoats, leading Colum to retain her services as the clan's resident healer.
  • Episode 3: The Way Out - Seeking to escape from Castle Leoch and find her way back to Craigh na Dun, Claire attempts to win the trust of Colum and his men. But that will prove easier said than done, as her modern medical skills give some people cause to believe she might be a druid witch.
  • Episode 4: The Gathering - A gathering of the Clan MacKenzie may provide Claire with just the opportunity she needs to escape. However, circumstances conspire to prevent her from making the clean getaway she envisioned.
  • Episode 5: Rent - While accompanying Dougal, Jamie and a few other members of the Clan MacKenzie on a mission to collect rent from the people of the lands, Claire is horrified to witness Dougal exploiting Jamie's injuries to drum up sympathy for their cause. Later, she is even more disturbed when she recalls her history lessons and realizes that their cause is a lost one.
  • Episode 6: The Garrison Commander - The Clan MacKenzie's rent-collecting trip ends with Claire being rescued by a group of Redcoats. But just when she thinks she may have finally secured her way back to Craigh na Dun, Claire once again comes face-to-face with Black Jack, whose threats of violence put her in her most vulnerable position yet.
  • Episode 7: The Wedding - After being rescued from Black Jack's clutches by Dougal, Claire realizes that she and Jamie must be married if the clan is to have any chance at protecting her from Black Jack's wrath. Once wed, she and Jamie get to know each other better and share a passionate night together.
  • Episode 8: Both Sides Now - Back in 1945, Frank searches desperately for Claire, even though everyone around him insists he face the reality that she's left him for another man. Meanwhile, Claire finds a way back to her own time nearly within her grasp, before it's cruelly snatched away from her.

Audio/Visual Rating:  

Outlander's DVD transfer does an admirable job of transporting viewers back to 1743 — as well as 1945 — Scotland. Scenes set in the more modern timeline employ a distinctly desaturated color palette, whereas the colors really come to life in scenes that take place in 1743, particularly when it comes to shades of green, red and blue. Otherwise, detail is superb for a standard definition presentation, allowing for the beauty of the series' period production design, costumes and scenic Scottish locales to shine through. And the accompanying Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is outstanding as well, immersing viewers in the sound of Celtic melodies, crackling fires, wind and rain. Of course, it doesn't match up to how the show looks and sounds on Blu-ray, but it's certainly the next best thing.

Extras Rating:  

It should be noted that the majority of Outlander's extras have been saved for the Blu-ray release of Season One, Volume One. However, Sony’s two-disc DVD release does include the following special features:

  • Outlander: An Epic Adaptation (7:12) - Creator Ronald D. Moore, author Diana Gabaldon, as well as members of the cast and crew, discuss the books and adapting them for television.
  • Authentic in Design: The Dresses & Kilts of Outlander (6:32) - Costume designer Terry Dresbach, as well as members of the cast and crew, discuss the show's period costumes, their authenticity and the sheer variety.

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