SPOILER ALERT! Don’t read until you’ve watched Sunday’s season 3 premiere of Outlander.
What a fight! And to think it may have gone on longer.
Before production began on the season 3 premiere of Outlander, executive producer Ronald D. Moore had big plans for the Battle of Culloden — a fight that wasn’t depicted in Diana Gabaldon’s best-selling book series but something he wanted to re-enact for fans. (Back in September, he told EW: “It just felt like for the TV show, we’ve been promising this for a while and it just felt like we should have something. We should give the audience some sense of what happened on that moor.”)
Initially, his thought was to go big.
“My first draft when I wrote it, I wrote the whole battle from beginning to end,” he tells EW of the conflict between the French-backed Highlanders and the British army. “Because the battle, in truth, only took about 15, 20 minutes. So in reality, you could play the whole thing in real time. This is really how it took place. So I wrote the battle from Jamie’s perspective, taking him through the whole thing. But it was just too much. We couldn’t really produce it. It was gonna take too many days out of the schedule. It was going to be too expensive, and it would’ve squeezed down so many other elements of the show that I eventually just said, ‘All right, we can’t do that.'”
Instead, Moore decided to depict the war in a series of hallucinatory memories. “I realized as I started doing that, I could get all the important pieces and not have to shoot all the connecting pieces in between them. It just gave it a much more emotional kind of component. If you’re playing it as a linear battle, you get involved in the story. Where are they? Who’s shooting who? Where’s the cannon? What time do we charge? Are we ready to charge? But doing it this way, I was able to make it much more emotional. It didn’t need any dialogue at all, and you were really inside Jamie’s experience. Even that moment between him and Black Jack [Tobias Menzies] could play out without dialogue because it was this heightened moment of emotion between the two antagonists finally coming together on a battlefield and then collapsing on each other.”
Adds Moore, “It’s one of those situations you read about a lot where a production problem that at first seems like a real blow ultimately makes the show better because it forces you to think in a different way. This is a good example of that.”
Even better, Moore had Gabaldon’s approval.
“She usually sends us an email with her thoughts and comments. On that one, she was very pleased. She was very excited,” says Moore. “I think she was excited to think that we were gonna do the whole battle initially. So I think she was disappointed about that, but when she saw it, I think she was very happy. It’s a big chunk of time.”
Outlander airs Sundays at 8 p.m. ET on Starz.