The 13th episode of Outlander, “Dragonfly in Amber,” marked the second season finale the Starz series. (Tear!) We asked Executive Producer Ronald D. Moore to look back at the challenges of adapting Diana Gabaldon’s second book, Dragonfly in Amber, to the small screen — and what we can expect in season 3.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: How long did you know you wanted to use the Chamber Brothers’ Time Has Come Today for the finale?
RONALD D. MOORE: Quite a while. I think it was actually in the script. I think [writers] Matt Roberts and Toni Graphia came up with that as their end title song. Everyone just sort of loved it from the beginning.
And the title card featuring the scene from The Avengers!
That started with Matt. I think we were talking about doing something with an old television and a clip. At first he said, you know, it should be Star Trek. I giggled and thought that’d be funny, and then immediately I thought it has to be one with Scotty, one where he is wearing his kilt. Then I looked up when Star Trek was actually on the air in the U.K. and it turns out it wasn’t on in 1968. We still wanted to start with a clip that puts us in that time period. What would have been shown there that was iconic and American audiences would get? I think it was Marina Campbell, who’s our assistant, came up with The Avengers.
Let’s go back to the start of the season, when you began the action in the ’40s rather than the ’60s, when the book actually starts. Was this a way to give Tobias Menzies more screen time?
No. It’s just that starting in 1968 was too big of a leap for the TV audience, because the last time we saw Claire and Jamie, they’re sailing off to France. I just thought fading into 1968, when Claire not only returned to the 20th century, but also has a grown daughter was too much. It was big enough to say that she returned to the 20th century. So you saw her return. You still had the shock value of that. Then we could hold off the 1968 stuff until the end of the season.
The political machinations got pretty dense in France. What was it like for the writers, trying to keep the story clear for the viewers?
It was very tricky. In the book, the section in Paris is even more episodic. The Comte St. Germain’s story is over here and there’s the relationship with Master Raymond over there and then the Duke of Sandringham. We kept trying to find ways to unite the storylines. For instance, the big dinner party where everything goes askew … the book doesn’t have either Prince Charlie or the Duke there, and the dinner party is unrelated to that plot. We knew we wanted to play the dinner party because it was such a key moment in the book. But then we tried to work a way so that it also fed into the Jacobite plot. Those were our struggles — finding ways to unite various plot threads to go through events much, much faster.
What did Diana Gabaldon think about how things were addressed in France?
She said, “I think you’ve guys have done a nice job. This is tricky material.” She was very supportive.
Did you decide early on to show more of Prestonpans and less of the Battle of Culloden?
Yeah, but that also follows the book because the book doesn’t take you into the Battle of Culloden. That was an easy decision to make. The book did detail a lot of Prestonpans. It also dealt with the Battle of Falkirk, which we decided not to do because we just said, let’s do one big battle. Prestonpans seemed like the best one to do for a variety of reasons.
I understand you shot Prestonpans in a tent with lots of smoke.
It was historically accurate, because it was a surprise attack in the wee hours of the morning. A lot of their numbers were cloaked in fog. That helped to panic the British, because they had no idea how many they were dealing with and where they were coming from. There was a certain disorientation on their part when the Highlanders just came screaming out of the fog.
Were you happy to take the action out of Paris?
I think everyone wanted to get back to Scotland, because it felt like Scotland was home to the show. Season 1 was a love letter to Scotland. There was a sense that when we were in Paris it wasn’t really Outlander, even though it was with our principal characters.
One last question about those France scenes — did French dildos really exist and look like that?
They did actually exist. And I think they looked like that. I think dildos have been with us since the Egyptians.
After finding your Jamie and Claire, was it a walk in the park to track down an actress who could play Brianna?
No. It was difficult. They’re very tricky roles to cast, especially when you’re casting the adult child of two of our leads. So, you want to see both characters in her immediately, which is a big challenge in terms of who that actress is going be. She also has to literally play the daughter of Claire in the episode. She has to have a certain chemistry with Roger. And even though she’s in the episode a lot, she’s not as big in the next season. The roles of Roger and Brianna grow over the course of the books. At first you’re just seeing the two of them for briefer periods of time. All those things added up to a very complex casting process.
Brianna is raised in Boston, but you went ahead and cast Sophie Skelton, who is from the U.K. Did you consider casting an American?
We did talk about that. We looked at Americans. I think there were some Canadians in the mix. It was a fairly wide net.
Brianna is supposed to have a Boston accent, but Sophie ended up not using one. Why?
Boston accents are tricky. It’s easy for them to become a caricature pretty easily. We’ve got so many accents going on in the show. It just didn’t feel like we needed to go there, as well.
Was it important to find a sexy man to play Roger?
He just needed to be charming and funny, and you had to instantly like him and feel like he was a good match for Brianna. Richard Rankin had that in spades. Everyone just immediately likes him when they meet him.
Are you starting production on season 3 any sooner this year?
We’re ramping up now. We are working on scripts and stories. We will probably be on an accelerated overall production schedule now that we have two season pickups. So we can start actively planning season 4 as opposed to waiting for a pickup. Season 3 is a traveling show. It starts in Scotland, but then it’s a sea voyage. There are pirates. It’s in Jamaica. It’s in the New World. And book 4 is in the New World and suddenly in North Carolina. So having the ability to make long range plans about where we are shooting certain elements and where we want to dedicate resources is enormously helpful in planning the show.
Can you say where season 3 will be shot?
Our home base will always be Scotland. We’re looking at various options for where to shoot the ships and where to find tropical beaches and jungles to play the Caribbean section of the story. Hopefully, we’ll find a place that has both things at once so we’ll only have to make one big trip for the company.
Does a Waterworld-like Outlander season excite you?
It will be great. They’re challenging shoots. Anything having to do with the water is very challenging for any production. But my production company is called Tall Ship. This to me is going be a lot of fun. There are big logistical and technical difficulties involved.
How much longer are we fans going to be able to enjoy Tobias?
Unfortunately, his role will come to an end relatively soon. It’s not over yet. We’ll still see him in season 3. But other than occasional flashbacks to Frank or Jack, their story pretty much ends in book 3.
Of all those killed off this season, which one would you have wanted to keep alive?
That’s a hard one to say. I think we all will probably miss the Duke of Sandringham quite a bit. He’s a great character. I lament his loss.
Don’t forget to join me and Amy Wilkinson for the final installment of Outlander Live on Monday at 2 p.m. ET on EW Radio, Sirius XM 105. Diana Gabaldon is our guest!