Ronald D. Moore has a rich history of producing exhilarating sci-fi dramas for TV — but the man who cut his teeth on Star Trek: The Next Generation and rebooted Battlestar Galactica didn’t want to get too far-out when adapting Diana Gabaldon’s best-selling novel. Outlander centers on combat nurse Claire Randall (Caitriona Balfe), who travels from 1945 to 1743 and emerges as an ”outlander” in war-torn Scotland, where she is forced to ally with Jamie Fraser (Sam Heughan), a young Scottish warrior who ends up stealing her heart — despite her having a husband, Frank (Tobias Menzies), waiting back in the future. On any other genre show, the writer would likely depict Claire’s trip to the 18th century with energy beams or swirling stars, but this isn’t just any time-travel story. ”Big light shows, twisty time, or ripple effects…any of those choices felt like it was gonna take us out of this very real world that we were working hard to establish,” Moore says. ”We [wanted] to give it an authentic sense so the audience would go, ‘Okay, I believe that.”’ Here, Moore explains how he tackled the most pivotal scene in the book series — and how he sent Balfe reeling to achieve it.
In The Book
Gabaldon describes how Claire — looking for a plant in a field — suddenly experiences ”a blind drifting through the fog of noise,” much like a time when she fell asleep as a passenger in a moving car. ”The driver of the car took a bridge too fast and lost control,” writes Gabaldon, ”and I woke from my floating dream straight into the glare of headlights and the sickening sensation of falling at high speed.”
In The Script
Moore flew to Gabaldon’s home in Arizona to discuss the adaptation and how he was going to film the ”transition.” ”Everyone kept asking me how I was going to do it, and I didn’t know, so I read the passage again. It was right there on the pages of the book. I thought, ‘Let’s literally do the car crash. Let’s make it somewhat abstract and have her tell us how this is as close as she can come to conveying the feeling.”’
On The Screen
To film the sequence, Moore and his crew rented a vintage car and attached it to a moving gimbal that would take Balfe for a wild ride. ”We put the actors in there, called action, and they would flip the car over and it would do a full 180. We put stuff in the car because we wanted to see it fly toward the ceiling. We just flipped her in that car about a half dozen times. It was a pretty cool thing to see.”