Ronald D. Moore on the daunting task of adapting the epic, wildly popular Outlander novels to TV and why he’s still paying for killing off one of Hollywood’s most beloved characters. Simply put, Ronald D. Moore likes it big. Really big. Through a jagged prism freighted with psychogenic combustions, desolate spiritual sojourning, and blunt, gory, diffident warfare—familial, romantic, global and, uh, intergalactic—Moore’s finest work as one of television’s finest showrunners, producers, and writers takes audiences to worlds far, far away, often to epochs long vanished, showing them that for whatever star system, colonial starship, constitution class transport, standing stone, alien race, or Highlander battleground they think they’re seeing, every tale is always, only about yearning for home.
Like Battlestar Galactica—and, to some extent, the Star Trek work you did—Outlander is a series that gives viewers what they put into it. It’s not a demanding show necessarily, but the more you bring to watching the show, the richer its pleasures.
When I was putting together the writers’ room for Outlander, I very specifically and intentionally populated it with the best writers I could find, and there was one critical caveat: half of the writers’ room could be fans of the novels and the other half of the writers’ room could not have read any of the Outlander books. I did that because I am acutely aware that Outlander is a show that has to play to two audiences simultaneously. We have to play to the audience that knows the novels and loves them, the audience who is looking forward to seeing how we’re going to bring these beloved stories to life. These are very passionate fans. They know these books very, very well—the characters, the dialogue, the minutest of details—and they have certain expectations and hopes about how the show will portray all of it. But we also have to play well for an audience that has no idea what Outlander is or where these stories are going. We’re always striving to connect with both audiences.