The ‘Outlander’ Obsession: How the Starz Series Became a TV Smash Hit

This is an excerpt from TV Guide Magazine’s Outlander Forever Special Collector’s Issue, which is available for international pre-order online at OutlanderForever.com and available nationwide on newsstands now.

Before Outlander even started steaming up our TV screens on August 9, 2014, the sexy saga had superfans. They were the deeply devoted readers of author Diana Gabaldon’s bestselling time-travel romance series. The frisky franchise already numbered seven volumes when Starz announced in June 2013 that its fiery couple, Claire Randall and Jamie Fraser, were coming to television. Early buzz was deafening — and it has never let up. Call it the ecstatic moan heard round the world.

But that initial fervor was no guarantee the epic drama would turn out to be the cultural phenom it is. After all, TV had never seen this kind of genre mashup: a love story with a sci-fi twist, plus some historical fiction thrown in.

How would that fare in a lineup of procedurals, medical shows, and family dramas? Adding to that, the first book alone had 600-plus pages, rich with descriptive passages, action, quirky characters, multiple time periods. Taking it successfully from page to screen was going to be no small feat.

Swipe right to executive producer Ronald D. Moore, then most famous as the showrunner of reimagined sci-fi favorite Battlestar Galactica. He’d also worked on multiple iterations of TV’s Star Trek franchise. Not only could he build fantasy worlds, but he could merge them with grounded, real human stories. That combo has been the kilt pin to Outlander success season after season.

When the show debuted, critics raved and viewers swooned. Shot on location in Scotland (historic castles! snowy mountains!), it boasted meticulously researched period costumes by Terry Dresbach (Moore’s wife, who’d introduced him to the books) and no-expense-spared sets by production designer Jon Gary Steele. Sealing the deal: the chemistry between leads Caitriona Balfe and Scot Sam Heughan. Book fans suddenly had a lot of company.

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