New Star Trek Beyond Trailer Gives Fans Hope

star-trek-beyond-movieAfter many long months of waiting since the first teaser trailer for the third installment of the current Star Trek reboot movies, I had started to wonder why I hadn’t seen much fanfare since. It had seemed as though the PR machine had gone silent, almost grinding to a halt. The first trailer, with the Beastie Boys soundtrack, had many fans, myself included, viewing this next installment with a skeptical eye. After that, I could hear a pin drop.

I’d gone looking for the release date for the film. Realizing it was due out this summer made me wonder why hadn’t I seen more about it? Last night, the new trailer dropped, and I could stop “waiting to exhale”. It had action and adventure, yes, but most of all, it seemed as though this trailer focussed more on the “heart” of Star Trek. As a long time fan of the original series and the adventures that followed – from Next Generation, to Deep Space 9, through to Voyager – the heart of Star Trek, Gene Roddenberry’s vision, and hope for humanity, is why I kept coming back.

Let’s hope Star Trek Beyond embodies the essence of this beloved franchise.

Here’s a look at the second trailer for Star Trek Beyond, starring Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Simon Pegg, Zoe Saldana, Karl Urban, John Cho, Anton Yelchin, and the always-awesome Idris Elba – due out July 22, 2016.

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Beautiful, Brainy and Bold: Part 1 – Pop Culture and The Rise of the Super Woman

Wonder Woman New York Comic Con 2015

A life size model of Wonder Woman on display at New York Comic Con 2015 for the upcoming Batman v. Superman movie. Photo credit to Peter Parrella at SkeletonPete.com.

“If you want to make a human being into a monster, deny them, at the cultural level, any reflection of themselves.” – Junot Diaz

Human beings have an unconscious need to identify with those around us, to draw cues from our environment and to connect with the faces we see. We’re inspired by the characters we grow up with in the books we read, or see in our favorite films or tv shows.

Literature and graphic novels/comics have taken the lead in creating complex, multidimensional characters (both male and female) of substance. But tv/film has a greater reach to broader audiences and mass appeal. Seeing an image can reinforce something we already know – see that same image over and over again, and how much more powerfully ingrained does it become in our subconscious? This is why it is critical to have live action, visual representations of ourselves, as not only independent and capable, but also powerful.

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The elegant, but deadly Mrs. Emma Peel as portrayed by Diana Rigg in the 1960s British spy series The Avengers (also starring Patrick Macnee).

Dreaming What Can Be
When we’re children, we believe anything and everything is possible. But girls quickly learn that’s not true, at least, not for them. Boys believe they can be Superman, Batman, or Spider-Man. When I was a little girl, I let my imagination soar with Wonder Woman, Batgirl, the Bionic Woman, Uhura, and Mrs. Peel – even Barbara Wright and Sarah Jane Smith on Doctor Who. 
But what about girls after me? Who did they grow up with? Who were their role models? 

We need to see the world as we wish it would be. We look for people who look like us to tell us it’s OK to BE us. If we are constantly seen as background decoration, sexualized, victimized and powerless (or powerful, but only if we’re sexualized or bitchy/angry/bad girls/mean girls), then what message does that send? Women as subservient, hollow or embittered beings? To gain any ground at all, you must sacrifice your body, your honor and ethics. Because you can’t possibly be good, moral, intelligent, have healthy relationships (with men and women) or have high-powered careers and still be yourself, can you?

Girls learn to accept their fates as second class citizens and the “weaker sex” early on. They dream of a White Knight, as they languish in their tower, imprisoned by their inferiority. Their value is less about the person they are and it becomes about being an object of desire or worthy “love interest”. The message – be pretty and patient and you might get your Prince Charming in the end. I wonder how many Rapunzels died of old age waiting in that tower… but I digress…

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The beautiful Nichelle Nichols as Uhura in the classic 1960s sci-fi Series Star Trek.

Pop Culture Representations of Women
In recent years, comic book inspired films and TV shows have hit an all-time high. The Super Friends I grew up with are back in many forms. While overjoyed, I was also dismayed that Batgirl, Supergirl and especially Wonder Woman, have been largely absent from the vast landscape for many years (at least in live action form since the 1970s – not counting a failed attempt at a Wonder Woman pilot or the CW’s Birds of Prey series)… even though Wonder Woman comics have been around since the 1940s.

Many of us got tired of hearing studio exec excuses, “Superhero Girls don’t sell”. Previous superpowered females (featuring leading ladies Supergirl, Catwoman, Elektra) failed to impress, and have been cited over and over again as examples as to why it is now 2015 and we still don’t have a Wonder Woman movie (one is finally due out in 2017).

Market forces determine what we see. Really? I’m female. I have money to spend and I want to see more of my gender as powerful leading ladies. More importantly, I want my friends’ children to see it too – especially their young daughters. One friend, a schoolteacher, reported to me that most of her students did not even know what feminism or the suffragist movements were. That’s telling and disconcerting. As I’d feared, we’ve taken a step backwards in gender equality since the 1970s. Apparently, we’d come a long way and then promptly had forgotten what it meant.

Girls are discouraged from taking risks, from entering into scientific fields, or entering into law enforcement and the military. It’s not lady-like. I’d been similarly discouraged when I was younger, but I’d seen my heroes excel at math/science/martial arts/law enforcement, so I believed it was possible. At one point I wanted to be a detective, a lawyer and a forensic scientist. I didn’t become any of those things, but I toyed with them all as career options because I felt it was possible. The Bionic Woman and Mrs. Peel were secret agents for heaven’s sake! Beautiful, brainy and bold! That what’s I wanted to be too!

Whoopi Goldberg often relays a story from her youth. She was inspired by the beautiful Nichelle Nichols. Seeing a woman of color in a prominent role in the hit sci-fi series Star Trek gave her hope. She credits Nichelle’s portrayal as Uhura for inspiring her to become an actress herself, and one with with a message… diversity and gender equality matter. Representation matters. For those who don’t feel this is necessary, I would argue you are already at the top of the food chain. Congratulations. This isn’t aimed at you. It’s for others who feel they don’t matter, because they’ve been getting the wrong message.

 

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Natasha Romanoff (or Romanova), aka Black Widow, in The Avengers as portrayed by Scarlett Johansson.


NYCC 2015: Diversity and Gender Equality Matter
Largely ignored when it comes to representation in media, let alone in badass, kickass roles where women are the protagonists, we want to stand up and be counted. We want inclusion. We want to be more than just the girlfriends or sidekicks, or the hot vixen of the week. And while film execs say market forces and “box office trends” determine what we see, we want to BE the power – the heroes and the leaders – a driving force in film in television. Women make up more than 50% of the population, but you wouldn’t know it based on what we see in the media. In Marvel’s Avengers, Black Widow was featured prominently, but many took issue with her role being marginalized in general, as she wasn’t given a standalone film, like her male teammates (Thor, Captain America, Iron Man, and The Hulk).

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DC SuperHero Girls by Mattel on display at New York Comic Con 2015 at the Javits Center. Photo credit to Peter Parrella at SkeletonPete.com.

From Marvel’s Jessica Jones to IAmElemental, New York Comic Con 2015 (NYCC 2015) proved one thing, women are a force to be reckoned with. Geek Girls took to the internet and the results are evident. On the NYCC floor, newly minted IAmElemental action figures and Mattel’s DC Superhero Girls were proudly on display. No longer in the shadows, they took their rightful place next to Batman, Superman, Spider-Man, Captain America and Wolverine (some of MY favorite male superheroes).

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IAmElemental action figures were on display at New York Comic Con 2015 and at Sweet Suite15 this year. Photo credit to Peter Parrella at SkeletonPete.com.

This year, many of NYCC 2015’s panels featured themes on female empowerment, gender equality and diversity. Panels aimed at media professionals, creators and consumers included provocative and thought provoking topics on gender and diversity such as:

  • A (Wo)Man’s World: Closing the Gender Gap in Pop Culture – including speakers from the UN for Women’s “He for She” campaign.
  • Marry, Do or Kill? What Will it Take to Shatter Female Stereotypes in Comics?
  • Geeks of Color, Third Generation Edition: Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger
  • Secret Identities: Creating Transgender Characters in Comic Books
  • Crip Culture and the Media: Perceptions of Disability in Film and Television
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Melissa Benoist as Kara/Supergirl on the new CBS Series Supergirl debuting tonight, Monday, October 26, 2015.

Kara from Krypton Lives
Tonight, CBS airs the highly anticipated pilot for Supergirl. It’s been a while since we’ve seen her live – not since Laura Vandervoort played her on Smallville, or Helen Slater starred in the poorly received theatrical release in 1984.

Highly anticipated, but also being viewed critically, some early reviews of Supergirl have been mixed. Some are worried it might be too “fluffy” or saccharin – too (dare I say it?) girly!

Can Kara become the hero our little girls need? Will she be an inspiration to a new generation and become what Wonder Woman, Uhura, Mrs. Peel and Sarah Jane Smith were for me? Time will tell.

In the coming weeks/months, I’ll attempt to take a look at the rising trend in The Super Woman, and female-centric role models for empowerment in pop culture, to see if these women are the heroes our little girls (and boys) need and deserve. Stay tuned.

Supergirl airs tonight, Monday, October 26, 2015 on CBS at 8:30pm EST.

Review: Doctor Who Series 9: Episode 1 – The Magician’s Apprentice

Hello friends and fellow Whovians. While I don’t like to post spoilerific reviews, there may be a few tidbits given away in this one. If you haven’t seen the Doctor Who Series 9 opening episode, Magician’s Apprentice, proceed at your own risk. – SylverWhisper

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Sarah Jane Smith (Elisabeth Sladen), The 4th Doctor (Tom Baker) and U.N.I.T.’s own Dr. Harry Sullivan (Ian Marter) in a powerful scene from Genesis of the Daleks (1975)

You see, if someone who knew the future, pointed out a child to you and told you that that child would grow up totally evil, to be a ruthless dictator who would destroy millions of lives… could you then kill that child?”
The 4th Doctor in Genesis of the Daleks

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The 12th Doctor (Peter Capaldi) on Skaro

Painful Realizations…
The Magician’s Apprentice starts off Series 9 with more of a bang than a whimper, from the word go, on a war-torn planet in the heat of battle. A little boy is running for his life from sounds of weapon fire. We don’t know who the little boy is (not yet) and we fear for his life, as does a ragged young soldier attempting to rescue him, only to succumb to deadly hand-mines (you read that correctly), land mines in the form of creepy hands reaching up from the ground to grab you and pull you under. When The Doctor arrives on the scene, he’s too late to save the soldier, but not the little boy, only to find out the boy’s true identity… and OUCH, what a realization that is…

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Younger (angrier) Kate Lethbridge-Stewart in Downtime, portrayed by Beverley Cressman, Kate from the current series (Jemma Redgrave) in the middle, and Brigadier Alastair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart (as portrayed by the late, great Nicholas Courtney).

The Family Business…
Meanwhile, back at U.N.I.T. HQ (haven’t seen Torchwood make an appearance in a while), the United Nations Intelligence Taskforce is investigating the mystery of planes hovering in the sky, apparently “frozen in time”, as they desperately try to call The Doctor (their former “scientific advisor”) for help.

Kate Lethbridge-Stewart (Jemma Redgrave), as many of us know by now, has taken up her father’s mantle (I miss The Brigadier terribly and keep hoping former U.N.I.T members like Sergeant Benton, Jo Grant and Mike Yates will show up). It’s ironic, given their initially tumultuous relationship, as revealed in earlier classic episodes and spin-off media (Downtime), The Brig and his kid had a rocky road.

However, it’s great to have a Lethbridge-Stewart in command of U.N.I.T. again, but to see her team falter (when trying to locate the missing 12th Doctor) only to have Clara point them in the right direction, while it’s great to see Clara step up and take charge, seemed a bit off. I want my U.N.I.T. to be more on the ball. Or at the very least, to show a bit more fire when a civilian starts pushing them around! Get it together, U.N.I.T.! Where’s Brigadier Bambera (Angela Bruce) from the 7th Doctor story Battlefield? She wouldn’t take sh*t from anyone, not even Clara Oswald.

I would like to see more of that friction/friendship between the U.N.I.T team and The Doctor again – showing both sides of an argument. It was the backbone of The Doctor’s relationship with The Brigadier, someone he respected, even when they disagreed. However, there was no doubt The Brigadier was a fighter and a leader, and loyal to The Doctor ’til the end. I want to see a more bad-ass Kate. I want to see her on the battlefield, like her father – right in the thick of it – not just in a control center away from the action.

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Terry Molloy as Davros and Peter Davison (my Doctor) as the 5th Doctor facing off in Resurrection of the Daleks (1984).

“I’m not here as your prisoner, Davros, but your executioner.
– The 5th Doctor in Resurrection of the Daleks (1984)

The Moral Dilemma…
For those who had a chance to see the Series 9 opener, the themes in Magician’s Apprentice may seem familiar. They should, even for the non-classic era Whovian. The Doctor has struggled to make a final decision to take out The Daleks (and Davros) before they could become too powerful and wipe out whole worlds over several incarnations.

The question that keeps haunting The Doctor, especially since the 4th Doctor story Genesis of the Daleks (a clip from that story is featured in this episode) is – can/should time travel be used to re-write some of history’s most tragic wrongs and change the course of its bloodiest events. Can a time traveller prevent evil dictators from committing atrocities that would kill thousands, perhaps even millions, or down the line, billions upon billions of innocents?

However, aren’t those events meant to be “time-locked” (as we’ve heard often in Doctor Who – only to have the greatest of time-locked events changed – The Time War itself) due to their scope? How will the outcome of those events shape the future of others for generations to come? Perhaps for the better? Who has the right to make that call? Does The Doctor (aka The Lonely Angel, aka The Oncoming Storm) have that right?

Of course I’ve always wanted to see The Doctor go back in time to stop Hitler and the rise of Nazi Germany. Instead, we have Davros and the Daleks to take their place. The Doctor has had many opportunities to avert the Daleks’ creation by destroying their creator, yet he has always failed, often due to his own lack of action.

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The Time Lords of Gallifrey (Timothy Dalton in the center as the Lord President of the High Council) from the 10th Doctor (David Tennant) finale The End of Time (2009-2010).

Then came the Time War… and the greatest regret for The Doctor. It cannot have escaped him that his earlier selves could have prevented The Time War and the eradication of countless worlds, including The Fall of Gallifrey (yes, I know it “falls no more” but bear with me here).

When you meddle in time, which version of events do you choose to influence? The moral dilemma keeps coming up: which timeline is worth preserving? Or meant to be preserved? We’ve seen it in come up in Doctor Who over and over again and we’ve seen this play out in other shows as well – Star Trek, Heroes, Continuum – after all, it’s the Butterfly Effect. Change a tiny event in the past and it can have dire consequences in the future.

The Time Lords had a strict “non-intervention” policy, but they’re not around to enforce it now. And let’s face it, the Gallifreyans did in fact interfere, using the CIA (Celestial Intervention Agency), when convenient, and then disavowed any knowledge of wrongdoing. So we don’t know how many events they actually shaped to their liking, but they had knowledge and oversight the average person would not possess.

The Doctor, as a Time Lord, has a sense of responsibility to keep timelines stable and in tact. But he’s been known to meddle, again, because he can see the fabric of space and time and which events are “time-locked”. If he wanted to, he could have gone back to save former companions Adric (Matthew Waterhouse), Katarina (Adrienne Hill) and other people he cared for, from dying, but wouldn’t dare contravene the The First Law of Time.

That Was Then. This is Now…
As The Doctor has grown older, he’s become more flexible when it comes to bending these laws. Perhaps, he’s grown more unstable himself. In his 9th incarnation, it was fair to say he was suffering from PTSD from the Time War and from the actions he remembered taking as The War Doctor (as we now know, he remembers incorrectly, as we learned from The 50th Anniversary Special with John Hurt). He has since, tried to redeem himself (in his 10th and 11th incarnations), but the pain and regret still linger…

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Missy (Michelle Gomez)

Friends and Foes…
When faced with another chance to rid the world of Davros, which road will The Doctor choose? Or did he already make that choice without realizing the consequences? The Doctor is not a murderer. He is most certainly not a child-killer, as he states in his speech in Genesis of the Daleks. But is willful neglect the same as murder? And was he, inadvertently, the architect of the very future he attempted to stop? And what happens once he realizes that abandoning that child on the battlefield of that war-torn planet, Skaro, left a fractured being that would go on to become one of his most despised enemies? Will he go back in time and finally make that one terrible choice? Will he kill an innocent child?

We know that’s not The Doctor’s style. Right? That’s The Master’s style, or in this case Missy’s (Michelle Gomez), whose relationship with The Doctor seems more grey than ever before. There is a precedent for this. The earlier Jon Pertwee incarnation and Roger Delgado’s Master had a friendly rivalry and a grudging respect for one another, that sadly, we never saw developed further once Roger Delgado passed away. Though Michelle Gomez is brilliant and gives us plenty of laughs and gasps, I miss Roger Delgado’s saner, charismatic version of The Master to this day. I imagine there’s a reason for Missy’s sudden attacks of nostalgia and sentimentality for The Doctor’s friendship in this incarnation (she keeps referring to their friendship in Magician’s Apprentice). Will she be the voice of reason this time around? Can she, of all people, save The Doctor from himself?

Time’s Champion? Or Time’s Bitch?
When all’s said and done, the question we’re left with – are we all time’s bitch? Are events pre-determined? Are we all just pawns with our role to play? Even The Doctor? Are certain truths inevitable? Are The Daleks inevitable? Or can their course be altered? Should it be? Should that timeline be tampered with? Even to destroy possibly the greatest evil that has ever lived? And what repercussions will that have for the rest of the universe?

We’ll find out tonight when Part 2 – The Witch’s Familiar airs.

Fore more, check out the Series 9 Episode 2: The Witch’s Familiar trailer of Doctor Who below.

Doctor Who Series 9 airs on BBC America on Saturdays at 9 pm ET, while British fans can see it on Saturday evenings on BBC One.

Attention Female Sci-Fi Writers: Doctor Who Needs YOU!

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Sandman and Doctor Who writer Neil Gaiman

Recently, Sandman and Neverwhere author Neil Gaiman, commented on the lack of female writers in Doctor Who.  He would know, having penned two stories himself (The Doctor’s Wife, Nightmare in Silver) for the current series.

But that can’t be right, can it? I thought long and hard to myself, and truthfully, while I can recall female directors and producers (after all, the series was birthed by the late Verity Lambert and producer Julie Gardner was instrumental in helping Russell T. Davies bring back Doctor Who in 2005), I can’t – off the top of my head – recall female writers for the series. This really gnawed at me.

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Verity Lambert and Russell T. Davies

FROM FANDOM TO CALLING THE SHOTS

Often, I cite Paul Cornell as one of my top writers for the current series. Paul writes compelling science fiction and drama, as evidenced in The 10th Doctor story (originally written for 7th Doctor Sylvester McCoyHuman Nature and Father’s Day (for 9th Doctor Christopher Eccleston). Even upon repeated watchings, I am always moved to tears by these episodes.

Back in the day, it was Robert Holmes who wrote some of the best stories for the classic era, including The Deadly Assassin and Talons of Weng-Chiang (for 4th Doctor Tom Baker) and Caves of Androzani (for 5th Doctor Peter Davison). Surely, my favorite sci-fi show of all time had just as many female writers, right? Right? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?

I owe Doctor Who for inspiring my love of science fiction and desire for self-expression. I was one of those fanfic and fanzine writers who felt compelled to expand on The Doctor’s universe. Yep, I was one of the ones people snickered at. We found refuge at conventions and dared not share our creations with the uninitiated. They wouldn’t understand… They just wouldn’t get it. 

Times have changed, and some of those same con-geeks and nerds are among some of the most successful writers and producers in film and television today. Fanboys Peter Jackson (Lord of the Rings), Russell T. Davies (Doctor Who, Torchwood, Queer as Folk), Mark Gatiss (Doctor Who, Sherlock) and of course, Steven Moffat (Coupling, Doctor Who, Sherlock), all started as fellow nerds and Whovians. But that’s a rather testosteroneladen list.

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Buffy, BSG and Torchwood writer Jane Espenson

THE MORE THINGS CHANGE

What about the rest of us? Geek girls, fangirls, nerd girls – whatever label you choose. We’re out here, ready to produce the next Doctor Who, Star Trek or Star Wars, given the opportunity. And yet, my short list is, well, rather… short. This shouldn’t be so hard…

Maybe Buffy and Battlestar Galactica alum Jane Espenson (she also wrote for the Doctor Who spin-off Torchwood starring Arrow’s John Barrowman) should have a go as head writer/show runner for Doctor Who? She’s written for just about every sci-fi/fantasy series in recent history (the ones I care about anyway), including Game of Thrones and Firefly.

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“Outlander” author Diana Gabaldon with her two Jamies

Perhaps Outlander author, Diana Gabaldon, should try her hand at writing for our favorite Time Lord? Considering Outlander’s connection to Doctor Who it wouldn’t be a stretch. I wouldn’t mind a return to purely historical Doctor Who stories like The Aztecs, The Crusades and Marco Polo (from the William Hartnell/First Doctor era).

Fellow Whovians, which female writers would you like to see pen a Doctor Who script?

NEXT UP

Series 8 continues… Stay tuned for tonight’s episode of Doctor WhoFlatline.

Airing Saturday, October 18th at 9pm on BBC America.

Hunky Highlanders, Time Travellers & Fair Ladies, Oh My!

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Ron Moore (Star Trek, Battlestar Galactica) is back again, this time as the Executive Producer for the Starz Original Series Outlander, starring Caitriona Balfe and Sam Heughan.

WHAT IT IS 

Outlander (not be confused with the 2008 movie of the same name) is based on the series of (currently 8) novels by Diana Gabaldon. Outlander follows the adventures of Claire Randall (Balfe), a World War II combat nurse. While on a trip to Scotland (near Inverness) with her husband Frank (an academic, played by Tobias Menzies), with whom she has only just been reunited after a 5 year absence, Claire manages to fall through time, 200 hundred years into the past. Right place, wrong timezone. That’ll teach her to roam about an ancient mystical site (stone circle and everything), where only hours before a Samhain ritual had been performed.

Sadly for Claire, she ends up smack dab in the middle of the conflict between the British Redcoats and the Scots in 1743 (one of many leading up to the famous and bloody Battle of Culloden in 1746).

Lost and confused, Claire dodges musket fire and an attempted rape at the hands of Captain Black Jack Randall, a British soldier and nasty piece of work, who happens to look a good deal like someone from Claire’s past (or is it future?) life… hmmm… (having a Dark Shadows flashback, but I digress).

KILTS and BODICE RIPPERS

Twice injured and twice saved by Claire, Jamie Fraser (Heughan), a Scottish rebel, is more than just a little grateful. Luckily in helping Jamie, Claire proves herself useful to his clan, saving her own skin in the process. She can use all the allies she can get in this wilderness. Claire is a rational person, but she knows she’s not in 1945 anymore.

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Sparks fly from the word go between Claire and Jamie (for some reason the words bodice-ripping come to mind whenever he’s on screen) and one can only hope for some steamy scenes involving the pair (hopefully sooner rather than later, please…).

IMPRESSIONS

I found the pace of the first half of the opening episode a bit sluggish. Thankfully, things pick right up once we’re in 1743. Though I found Claire’s voiceover as a plot device, a bit overused, and even jarring at times, I can forgive it. Hopefully, as the series progresses, there’ll be less of a need to telegraph her thoughts in this manner. I did enjoy the references to Celtic magic and pagan rituals, and hope we’ll be seeing more of that as time goes on.

Outlander has all the makings of a successful drama – romance, conflict, beautiful locations, and a strong heroine in Claire. She’s a woman ahead of her time – in both worlds. Even by today’s standards, Claire is intelligent, skilled, passionate, tough, and outspoken. A formidable woman indeed.

From what I’ve heard, fans of the books can rest easy, as the television adaptation (thus far) seems rather faithful.

For more on the Outlander series of books, visit Diana Gabaldon’s site.

For a look at the TV series, check out the official Starz trailer below.

Outlander airs Saturdays at 9pm on Starz.