Were the Outlander season 3 book changes a good thing?

Photo credit: Outlander/Starz Image acquired via Starz Media Room
Photo credit: Outlander/Starz Image acquired via Starz Media Room /
Photo credit: Outlander/Starz Image acquired via Starz Media Room
Photo credit: Outlander/Starz Image acquired via Starz Media Room /

Outlander season 3 made some major changes from Voyager, but were they really necessary?

There are a lot of questions about changes from “Voyager” in Outlander season 3. Some book fans (nicknamed book purists in many Facebook fan groups) wanted to see everything play out exactly as told in the novel. Ron Moore and Matt Roberts (show EPs) had warned all that there would be major book changes, but nobody quite expected some of them.

The changes were somewhat necessary over all, but that doesn’t mean all were good. Some were beautiful adaptations that made sense for the overall story or helped to bring characters back that some fans feared losing. Other changes seemed odd and out of character for the personalities people have come to know and love in the books.

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But overall, were they a good thing? Were the necessary? The short answer is yes.

Condensing storylines for the show

When looking at the season overall, the book changes helped to condense storylines. Take the murderer in Edinburgh storyline, for example. For a book, this storyline makes sense. Books are longer, pacing is different, and there isn’t as much in the way of time and money when creating the novels. Side characters don’t need to be fully fleshed out in novels told from the first person (in the Outlander novels from Claire’s point of view) since they can come across one dimensional. It’s all about how that character sees them.

In a TV series, the murderer plotline would have just been one more thing to add in an already exciting and tense voyage. It would have been yet another side storyline to weave in fully and flesh out for the sake of the show. TV shows can’t be told from the first person. Side characters have to be fully developed.

Other storylines would have also suffered from being too long and drawn out for a 13-episode season. Jamie’s storyline from the Artemis, to the Porpoise, to being shipwrecked conveniently on the same island as Claire was much longer and detailed. Many of the details were changed to help get from point A to point B for the sake of the TV series.

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Other storylines had to be told

Speaking of Jamie’s storyline, his character needed to be fleshed out with extra storylines told. This is something that has happened with every novel.

Jamie’s storyline in “Voyager” are in third person, which doesn’t quite give the same connection to personality and character that first person does. It’s almost like the reader watching the scenes happen, rather than being there as the character, which is the way TV settings are. However, some of the storylines end up skipped over to focus more on Claire’s experiences.


With changes to individual storylines, other elements need to be adapted and changed. For example, Jamie’s time below deck in “Heaven & Earth” had to be written from scratch, since that’s not how his story goes in the novels.

Fergus’ storyline in “Heaven & Earth” had to be completely written from scratch, since he doesn’t have scenes on his own or alone with Marsali in the novels. These scenes allowed for side characters to develop more, but did mean changes were necessary. Spending time on them meant time couldn’t be spent telling parts of the story from the novels.

The readers no longer know what will happen

One of the things Outlander offers those who haven’t read the books is an unknown adventure. Show-first or show-only fans have no idea what to expect with each episode. They didn’t know Laoghaire would be Jamie’s second wife and had no idea Marsali and Fergus would be together. Fans didn’t know about Lord John and how John and Jamie would meet again in Jamaica.


Some of the excitement can be lost for book fans. They just see their story played out on the screen.

By making changes, book readers get some of that excitement back. They get the unknown adventure again, as they can’t tell if the ending is going to be the same or not. Book fans don’t know if Claire and Jamie really will remain together. The element of surprise adds the feeling fans will get when watching TV shows that aren’t based on novels.

Once changes are made, other changes need to occur. The books are long and pacing can be off for the show, so changing some storylines is necessary for TV. There’s also the added excitement and ability to flesh out more characters. While not all changes seem right, they work together when looking at a season as a whole.

Next: 9 best Voyager changes in Outlander season 3

Did you like the changes from “Voyager” in the series? Share your thoughts below.

Outlander returns in 2018. Follow Claire and Jamie on Twitter for more news and updates about the season.