BLOOD OF MY BLOOD TV series update!

Clapboard for first day of filming on BLOOD OF MY BLOOD

Big news today about OUTLANDER: BLOOD OF MY BLOOD, the new prequel series! They began filming on January 22nd, and today we finally got our first casting announcements! They also released more details about the show that we hadn't heard before.

From today's announcement in Variety:

The series will examine the lives of Jamie’s parents, Ellen MacKenzie (Slater) and Brian Fraser (Roy), as well as the origin story of Claire’s parents, Julia Moriston (Corfield) and Henry Beauchamp (Irvine). Per the official description, “The series will center on these two parallel love stories set in two different time periods, with Jamie’s parents in the early 18th century Scottish Highlands and Claire’s parents in WWI England.”

“We’re thrilled to be telling the stories of these two couples,” said Matthew B. Roberts, showrunner, executive producer and writer on both “Outlander” and “Outlander: Blood of My Blood.” “The origins of their relationships explore universal themes that transcend time periods and we’re so excited for fans to discover and fall in love with these characters and their love stories the way they have with Claire and Jamie.”

We have known for a long time that this series would tell the story of Jamie Fraser's parents, Brian Fraser and Ellen MacKenzie. But we didn't know until now that the show will also tell the story of Claire's parents, Henry Beauchamp and Julia Moriston. I was very surprised to hear that, because we know virtually nothing about Claire's parents. There's very little in the OUTLANDER books about them. (More about that below.)

New cast members for BLOOD OF MY BLOOD

The leads for this series are:

- Harriet Slater, as Ellen MacKenzie, Jamie's mother
- Jamie Roy, as Brian Fraser, Jamie's father. (His name is very appropriate, don't you think? You may recall that "Jamie Roy" was one of Jamie Fraser's aliases in VOYAGER, used in his smuggling operations in Edinburgh. And by coincidence, the actor's middle name is Brian!)
- Hermione Corfield, as Julia Moriston, Claire's mother
- Jeremy Irvine, as Henry Beauchamp, Claire's father

To be honest, I was taken aback at first by the news that this series will tell the stories of BOTH sets of parents. We know the general outlines of Brian and Ellen's story from what Jamie and Old Alec told Claire in OUTLANDER:

“Hair like fire,” Alec said dreamily, enjoying the warmth of the oil on his back. “And eyes like Colum’s--grey, and fringed wi’ black lashes--verra pretty, but the kind would go through ye like a bolt. A tall woman; even taller than you. And sae fair it would hurt the eyes to see her.

“I heard tell later as they’d met at the Gathering, taken one look and decided on the spot as there could be none other for either one o’ them. So they laid their plans and they stole awa’, under the noses of Colum MacKenzie and three hundred guests.”

He laughed suddenly, remembering. “Dougal finally found them, living in a crofter’s cottage on the edge of the Fraser lands. They’d decided the only way to manage was to hide until Ellen was wi’ child, and big enough that there’d be no question whose it was. Then Colum would have to give his blessing to the marriage, like it or no--and he didn’t.”

(From OUTLANDER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 24, "By the Pricking of My Thumbs". Copyright © 1991 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)

Diana Gabaldon is currently writing a prequel novel telling Brian and Ellen's story, but we don't know how far along she is or when it will be published.

What about Claire's parents? We know hardly anything about them, except for their names (from the Beauchamp family tree in the OUTLANDISH COMPANION Volume 1) and the fact that they died tragically, in a car accident when Claire was only five years old.

I knew what it was now, that ancient distress. It was that phrase overheard, the words by chance the same that a small girl had once heard spoken, whispered in the next room by the strangers who had come to say her mother would not be coming back, that she had died. An accident; a crash; fire. Burnt to bones, the voice had said, filled with the awe of it. Burnt to bones, and the desolation of a daughter, forever abandoned.

(From THE FIERY CROSS by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 53, "The Frenchman's Gold". Copyright © 2001 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)

Claire was so young when her parents died that she has few memories of them. So what are the writers going to use for source material in writing the story of Claire's parents?

The answer to that is obvious: they'll have to make it all up from scratch. So fully HALF of this series will be exploring a completely made-up plot involving Claire's parents, while the other half at least has the potential to be somewhat based on Diana's as-yet-unfinished Brian/Ellen prequel novel.

I'm not happy about this. I was feeling cautiously optimistic prior to today, thinking that there was enough potential for drama in the Brian/Ellen prequel story to fill the whole season, even if Diana isn't yet finished writing the prequel novel. But now I'm feeling really apprehensive about this totally made-up half of the show involving Claire's parents. We'll have the writers inventing huge parts of the series, dealing with Henry and Julia's backstory, that have nothing to do with anything Diana has written or plans to write, and I do not like that prospect AT ALL.

Just about the only facts we know about Claire's parents are that a) they died in a car crash when Claire was five years old, and b) one or both of them must have had the time-travel gene, in order to pass it on to Claire. Aside from that, the writers have room to take the story in any direction they want, because the usual "guardrails" they had with OUTLANDER (an existing book or books to adapt) are not there. And that, frankly, is what worries me. If they decide it would be cool to send Claire's mum or dad or both on a time-traveling adventure, for example, they can make that happen.

Diana Gabaldon says that she has no plans to write the story of Claire's parents herself. Here's what she had to say about Claire's parents in a post on TheLitForum from February 21, 2019:

Basically, it comes down to who talks to me, and who I personally find interesting.  I don't find Claire's parents interesting at all (not that they _couldn't_ be; it's that I don't care enough to try to dig into them), so you probably won't get a novella about them. 


My personal impression is that they never knew they had the ability to time-travel, and were leading perfectly ordinary lives as a middle-class bank manager and a primary-school teacher who'd left teaching to raise her daughter.

Unlike with the OUTLANDER series, the writers on BLOOD OF MY BLOOD will be free to create whatever they want for Henry and Julia's part of the story, "untethered", if you will, to anything Diana has written or plans to write. I don't know if I'll want to watch that, to be honest. That's not an adaptation. That's a completely new story! And that isn't at all what I thought we were getting, when they told us the prequel would focus on the story of Jamie's parents.

I have never liked it when the OUTLANDER writers invent entire subplots that have nothing to do with anything in the books, and the inclusion of Claire's parents as major characters strikes me as "inventing entire subplots", on steroids! It might turn out to be compelling TV, but is it OUTLANDER, if half of the series (or more) is completely made up from scratch by the writers?

So my first reaction is, I'm very much looking forward to Brian and Ellen's story, just as I was before, but I am apprehensive about the other half of the show. I'm willing to give BLOOD OF MY BLOOD a chance, but I don't trust the writers when they stray too far away from Diana's source material, so the idea of relying so heavily on completely brand-new material for much of this show makes me uncomfortable.

UPDATE 2/7/2024 7:08 pm: Diana Gabaldon posted this on TheLitForum today in reaction to one of my posts where I voiced similar concerns. (For those of you who don't know, TheLitForum (formerly the Compuserve Books and Writers Community) is Diana's longtime online hangout, and I have been moderator of her section of the forum since 2008. You have to sign up to read or post on the forum, but it's free.)

In essence, the Prequel show is a collaboration, rather than a straight adaptation. I truly don't have either time or interest in writing about Claire's parents (there's a _reason_ why they die early in the books), but fans have been (...looking for a better term than "yammering", which seems impolite...), um, politely but urgently requesting more story about Claire's parents. I'm not going to write it, and Matt wants to. So--given the rather odd admixture of this show already, I thought why not? Matt's a good writer and he plainly loves these characters--and whatever he writes for the show is not likely to affect anything in the book (not saying I might not borrow a good line, if I hear one...<g>...with permission, of course...), so I see no real problem to his doing that storyline. (Not to say that it might not become more complex, later, but we'll be discussing things throughout the production.)

So, clearly Diana is OK with what they've decided to do, at least for now. That's good, but it doesn't really change my reaction at all.

All we can do is hope for the best. I will certainly be watching when the show premieres on STARZ. (Possibly sometime in 2025?) Stay tuned for further updates as we learn more!


Kyla DW said...

I tend to agree that if DG had wanted to tell us the story of Claire’s parents she would have. It’s a bit sketchy of the writers to ride on DG’s coattails to launch this narrative. Besides Uncle Lamb was Claire’s real parent and seems like a much more interesting character.😉

Linda in Nevada said...

I'm in total agreement. We've already seen what happens when the writers "take over" and create full episodes on their own, and, IMO, it isn't always pretty. They have turned a prequel into a whole different show. I doubt if I'll be watching.

Anonymous said...

If their idea of a "compelling" and adaptive TV storyline is Claire and the ether debaucle, along with the two hysterical soap opera-style monologues, I fear the damage that a newly-invented Julia & Henry storyline could do to the integrity of Miss Diana's characters and Outlander world.🙁

Alison S said...

I agree with the above comments and your observations generally Karen, butI would add that I will be curious to see what is produced. Matt Roberts seems to be the one driving this and he has professed a deep love for the Outlander books and Diana’s story. He was a driving force in the push to turn it into a TV series I believe and has written early episodes. I am not convinced he and some of the other producers and writers are satisfied with Diana’s story as it is which is why they have tweaked and changed it - inventing storylines which supposedly lend themselves better to the visual medium. It is almost like there is a feeling that the TV series must outperform the the books, win movie prizes and be better remembered. The vast number of TV watchers only don’t know any story other than the one they are fed by the writers and this will probably continue. STARZ and the TV version have made lots of money via sellable goodies and promotions. Does this diminish Diana’ story? It certainly puts her story in competition with the TV adaptation and this prequel will not really be an adaptation but a new story written by someone else but using some of the main Outlander ideas. I guess this is always the dilemma for writers whose books are sold to be televised but I am glad they have worked closely with the author until now even if she hasn’t always had the final say.

Alison S

vivian said...

I understand what you are saying but just because Diana is not interested in the story of Claire's parents doesn't mean it can't be an interesting, if new, story. Matt Roberts seems committed to a quality product. I'm looking forward to "learning" if Claire's mother or father or both have the "time" gene.

Darlene D said...

To say that I am beet red with rage would be an understatement.
I love the story Diana Gabaldon wrote and eagerly await whatever she plans to write, because her mind continues to intrigue me. The small mind of Matt Roberts _incapable of creating his own characters and weaving them into his own story, but appropriating another author's creation and then 'tweaking it' to exercise his limited 'creativity'- is of no interest to me. I wasn't particularly interested in BoMB to begin with, once I realized that it is not going to be Diana's story, but whatever he and his Claire obsessed writers decide to concoct - using Diana's characters and taking them in God knows what direction (we already know that there will be a strapping, brooding Murtagh vying for Ellen's love, which fundamentally changes the dynamic that Diana established in the book - effectively throwing Diana's concept out the window). But they have been pandering to the book audience (which has been steadily abandoning their 'tweaked' Outlander boat for a while) with a promise of the Ellen/Brian story for a year and NOW, at the last second, they throw a monkey wrench with this completely non-Gabaldon Beauchamp invention?

This is coming from the team that gave us the key ring (which had to be abandoned and replaced!), Jamie marrying Laoghaire despite knowing that she tried to kill Claire, Murcasta and ethergate ... what good can come from scratch out of that sorry bunch ... No, thank you, I'll pass and wait for the mother of all the characters to put her words on the paper.

Anonymous said...

They should have done a Lord John spin off.

The books are THERE. Diana has said she would like something done with Scottish prisoner.
Lord John has many, many fans, surely, they couldn't mess it up??

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