Jamie, BJR, and what happened at Culloden

As we wait for Season 3, here's something I have been thinking about recently:

* * * SPOILER WARNING!! * * *

If you haven't read VOYAGER (Book 3 of Diana Gabaldon's OUTLANDER series), there are spoilers below! This post also contains spoilers about the first episode of OUTLANDER Season 3. Read at your own risk.









If you've read the OUTLANDER books, you know that Jamie Fraser woke on the battlefield at Culloden with Black Jack Randall's corpse lying on top of him.
The body of a man lay across his own. Its dead weight crushed his left leg, explaining he absence of feeling. The head, heavy as a spent cannonball, pressed facedown into his abdomen, the damp-matted hair a dark spill on the wet linen of his shirt. He jerked upward in sudden panic; the head rolled sideways into his lap and a half-open eye stared sightlessly up behind the sheltering strands of hair.

It was Jack Randall, his fine red captain’s coat so dark with the wet it looked almost black. Jamie made a fumbling effort to push the body away, but found himself amazingly weak; his hand splayed feebly against Randall’s shoulder, and the elbow of his other arm buckled suddenly as he tried to support himself. He found himself lying once more flat on his back, the sleeting sky pale gray and whirling dizzily overhead. Jack Randall’s head moved obscenely up and down on his stomach with each gasping breath.

(From VOYAGER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 1, "The Corbies' Feast". Copyright© 1994 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)

So Black Jack Randall died at Culloden. That much, we know for certain. But what we don't know is exactly how it happened. As Diana Gabaldon put it in a post on Compuserve in 2008:
Jamie knows Black Jack Randall is dead--but not how. Did he kill him? If so--how, in what frame of mind? In the grip of the Red Thing, as he might kill any enemy in battle?  Specifically, coldly, knowing who it was he killed?  In vengeance?  From mercy? From simple necessity? He doesn't know, and thus has only his own forgiveness as a shield. But he both wants the truth and fears it--and his memory is coming back.

Fans have speculated about this for more than twenty years. What exactly happened on the battlefield that day? It's one of the great unresolved questions of the OUTLANDER series.

Here's where it gets interesting:
  • With OUTLANDER Season 3 premiering in September, we're going to see a version of these events play out on screen. We know that they filmed the Battle of Culloden, and according to multiple people involved with the show, we will see that battle in the opening episode of Season 3.

  • Diana Gabaldon has said that she has written a scene for Book 9 (GO TELL THE BEES THAT I AM GONE) in which we find out What Really Happened at Culloden. She shared that scene with Ronald D. Moore and Maril Davis prior to the filming of that episode.
Here's what Diana said about that on Compuserve on September 25, 2016:
So, is the film version identical with the 'real' version? No. It's been adjusted for television <g>, in terms of visual drama--it's not nearly as messy and violent and grunting and confused as the real thing, but neither is it a sell-out or betrayal of What Really Happened. It just does what the show always does--separates the elements of the original, plays some up and some down (occasionally omits things for time or dramatic flow--that wasn't done here), and gives you a reasonably good visual account of the original, though somewhat condensed and refracted.


I do want to put it on record though, that I wrote What Happened _before_ the show executed their version of it.

This poses a real dilemma for fans of the books, including me.  Will you watch the TV version of events, knowing that we won't get to read Diana Gabaldon's version until BEES comes out, possibly in 2018 or 2019? Will you skip the battle scenes in Episode 301, and wait for the Definitive Version of Events as told in BEES? Or do you fall somewhere in between?

How do you feel about the fact that the answer to a question that has fueled speculation among OUTLANDER fans for decades will be revealed first on the TV show, rather than in the books? (Personally, I don't like that at all.)

Here's my take on it. The version of What Happened at Culloden that we see on TV will be (like everything else in the show so far) the writer's/director's/actors' interpretation of events, not necessarily exactly the same as what actually happened. In my opinion, the only definitive version of what happened will be in the book -- in Diana's words, told exactly the way she wants to tell it.

I'm sure the battle as seen on TV will be visually exciting, very dramatic, well-acted, and riveting to watch. <g> But I would be willing to bet that seeing it on TV won't have nearly the same emotional impact as reading about those events from Jamie's POV in the book, overlaid with his 30-plus years of remembering only fragments, wanting to know more, but fearing those memories at the same time.

I'm not going to avoid watching the TV version of events, but for me, the version in Diana Gabaldon's own words is the one I'm far more interested in. And I'm positive it will be worth waiting for. <g>

What about the rest of you?


Connie said...

I feel exactly the same! I would much prefer reading Diana's version first, but will I be able to keep myself from watching the TV version? Hard to do!I'm sure Ron and Crew will do a great job, but they (due to time constraints) can never give us the detail and feeling that Diana's writing can do. She has pages and pages!

Elise Skidmore said...

I agree with you, Karen. Diana's words are _the words_ I go by. Truth be told, I've been watching the show, but I don't have the love for it that so many seem to. For me, they've made too many changes that affect the core of the characters. I watch mostly out of curiosity (it's hard not to), but there is no sense of "must see" or "Droughtlander" for me. That said, I'll probably watch when it airs, but it's not going to be "the real thing" for me until Diana's book comes out.

Anonymous said...

As a fan since Outlander was first released, I don't mind spoilers that Mr Moore & Ms Davis got from Herself~they are fans of the books too so I have faith in their vision, they have a pretty good track record so far Rereading the series for the 8th time, along with the Lord John books, novellas & other publications ❤

Unknown said...

I confess I tend to look away at the more gruesome stuff in any movie or show, including Outlander. In fact I bleeped through a good portion of the season 1 episode between Jamie and Black Jack. So I might miss some details one way or the other with the Culloden scene :-) I'm wondering if what we'll see on screen will be of them fighting but not the FINAL death blow. Clearly we're going to see some of the battle between them, but they can still cut to the scene of Jamie waking up and still leave the HOW a mystery. Maybe Diana showed them the section from book 9 so that whatever they filmed will work with what will be revealed to readers in the next few years, but in a way that doesn't give away the most compelling piece that has been haunting Jamie through books 4-8. That's my theory anyway. Thank goodness we don't have too much more time to find out!

JustKat said...

OK. I realize that at a certain age memories start to get jumbled and sometimes in the attempt to reassemble the past, occasionally, there might be a tendency to mske things up...so I'm wondering if maybe that's what I'm doing as I struggle with what I swear is a real memory of a passage (maybe ine if Jamie's PTSD nightmares) that describes Murtagh shooting (or stabbing) BJR _just_ as he was about to cleave Jamie's head in two (or run him through)...we know Murtagh breathed his last at Culloden, but I could have sworn, his last heroic & typically Jamie-centric act was, once again, saving Jamie's, er, ass...that said, sometimes when I fall asleep reading, my brain keeps the storyline going & maybe _that's_ where the false memories come from...help?

Anonymous said...

I'm anxious to see what part Murtagh plays in the scene. In flashbacks Jamie remembers Murtagh running towards him. Perhaps Murtagh dies trying to save Jamie from BJR. The books and Diana's written word can't be duplicated on a tv series. Although I enjoy the series, it doesn't resonate the way the books do. I'm Outlander obsessed and have read the series many times over, loving it more each time. CASR

Anonymous said...

The book is the book and the show is the show. I will enjoy both on their own terms.


Anonymous said...

I'm tired of Ron Moore's version of Outlander and everything to do with the TV series.

Anonymous said...

How aewsome would it be if Bees came out prior to Season 3. Then we would have best of both worlds. Those of us that read thw books would know the "truth" and those that dont can just watch. Oh to dream..... :)

Unknown said...

I'm puzzled as to what else could be revealed that hasn't already.I recall Jamie Fraser recollecting what had happened in book 8 I think it was. Murtagh intercepted an attack from BJR on Jamie & died while diverting that attack. During the course of which he fatally wounded BJR. I seem to recall Jamie never laid a finger on the man. I'll have to reread to check I've got that correct.

Unknown said...

You're not making it up or confused. It's there in black & white. I read it too. Fail to see how anyone could miss it!

Beth said...

I will have to watch and then wait for things to be revealed fully in Bees. I can't "not" watch but while I am watching, I will know much more will be revealed in the book. Thank you for your insightful post, Karen.

Gaby said...

Of course I'll watch it! I also always read Diana's spoilers. That being said, I know it won't be exactly what Diana wrote as I think the series strays a bit too far from the books. I Love watching the series, but I love the books much better! I'm on my 6th reading of the books and each time I read the books over again, I discover something that I've missed before!

Unknown said...

Or if one of Diana's little snippets she gives of her book ahead of time, could include this scene!

Angela Hickey said...

Of course I will watch.. and when Bees comes out, I will still enjoy it, as I am sure it will give more detail and perspective. I can't ever imagine the show spoiling the books. We read these books over and over.. if we only read them for plot, we would only read them once

Mary Tormey said...

Hi Karen , I love the books more than the series so I personally would rather here it from Diana , however. I like the show too so I hope the Culloden scenes are done the way Diana and us fans want it to be , I know that TV and books are two very different things so I expect the scenes to be more dramatic , so I'll put faith in the writers on the show to do the scene justice , but I would rather read it in Book 9 , which I hope will be Out within the next two years or so, please post more soon. Happy Week. Sincerely ,

Jaci said...

Murtagh does intercept Jack Randall but it states that Jack dodged just in time to miss the fatal Dirk to the kidney and Jamie watches them roll out of view. The next we see is Murtagh sitting against the tree and dying, but it doesn't actually say how Jack Randall dies or how he comes to be on top of Jamie. That info is still a mystery.

Mary Tormey said...

Hi Karen , having read the books more than having seen the show I rather the scene come from Diana , but also like the show so I hope they do it justice, please post more soon. Happy Week. Sincerely

Mary Tormey said...

Hi Karen ,I have been loving the books a lot longer than the series , so I'd rather find out what happened to Jamie at Culloden from her next book , but books and TV are always going to be different , they each have different audiences and so each has to cater to that difference , but I like the show , so I hope that the scene is done the way Diana and the fans what it to be , will be watching season 3 in the Fall , please post more soon. Sincerely Yours .

Linda Smith said...

Yes, I'd like it if before the release of Season 3, Diana would release this one snippet of how BJR is killed

Unknown said...

At this point, in spite of multiple readings of the books and watching each episodes multiple times, I'm getting them mixed up! Annoys me alot since the tv has really strayed so often that they seem practically like different stories. So no problem with yet another version from Moore and company, always for "practical" reasons. Masterful job just very different in spite of terrific casting.

Susanlynn said...

The books are my favorite reading material, and the TV show is my favorite TV show. I realize that the tv series is an adaptation of the books and can accept changes most of the time. However,I just do not understand why certain changes were made. Sometimes , it seems that the TV writers want to show their own creativity instead of sticking to the original ideas of the author . I will watch season three, and I look forward to Bees. I wonder if Diana would consider using daily lines to let us know her version of what happened to BJR at Culloden before season three begins . That way we would know what "really happened" before we see the TV version of what happened .

Anonymous said...

Thank you. I knew I had read that Murtagh saved Jamie and that he (Murtagh) died sitting up against a tree. (To be honest, I'm hoping in the series that Murtagh survives. Love him.)

Anonymous said...

I realize that I'm months and months late on this posting. Although I knew of the series and books, I couldn't afford Starz until summer 2017. Season 3 is the first time I watched the show in 'real' time.

That said, I liked how the series handled the death of BJR. It's still a mystery of who killed him and how he came to be lying on top of Jamie.

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