Outlander Season 2 Review

  • Series Title: Outlander
  • Season: 2
  • Episodes:  13
  • Discs:  5
  • Network:  Starz/BBC
  • Cast:  Caitriona Balfe, Sam Heughan, Duncan Lacroix, Tobias Menzies, Romann Berrux, Andrew Gower
  • DVD: Widescreen DVD (R1, NTSC)

I enjoyed Season 2 of Outlander even more than Season 1. The first episode actually takes place in 1948, with Claire returning to Frank in her present. Frank proves to be a very understanding and loving man, even vowing to care for Claire’s yet to be born child as his own. Thus the rest of the season is a flashback. Episode two opens this flashback in 18th Century France. Claire and Jamie go to see his cousin – noting that “I seem to remember you have a head for figures,” the cousin heads off on a wine-buying trip, leaving Jamie in charge of his wine shop, as well as giving he and Claire the run of his household. Thus the two have their needs met, and are placed to quickly to move in circles of the French court. Claire, determined to prevent the disaster of Culloden, talks Jamie into sabotaging Bonnie Prince Charlie’s attempts at raising money (later in the season this seems to suggest Claire and Jamie may have caused the disaster they are desperate to prevent). Jamie spends his days running the wine shop and his nights hanging out with Prince Charles and the Jacobite supporters in a brothel. Claire, meanwhile, makes friends in the aristocracy, including Louise and her ward, Mary. Claire, however, being a practical and modern woman, is bored. She has nothing to do, not even housework as the servants in her household do everything for her. Claire ends up working as a nurse at a charity hospital run by nuns, and befriending a local apothecary. This first half of the season is brilliant, the clothes, and the opulence of the French court are beautifully rendered, and Claire gets a beautiful wardrobe. Jamie is no slouch in the clothes department, as he manages to make 18th Century men’s fashion look good. Though, fortunately, he never dons a powdered wig – even in the most formal circumstances. Though some of their plans succeed, Claire and Jamie also make enemies in France. In the end, a friend gets the price removed from Jamie’s head and he and Claire return to Scotland (in part because they are no longer welcome in France – Jamie is arrested for dueling with Jack Randall; Claire is, yet again, accused of being a witch; and Claire also has a miscarriage and her first child with Jamie is stillborn.)

In Scotland, Claire and Jamie, now in much more practical, but still gorgeous clothes, travel first to Lollybroach to visit with the Murrays. They then travel to the castle of Clan MacKenzie to try to rouse as many troops as possible for the Jacobite rebellion. Yes, after half a season of Claire and Jamie trying to crush the rebellion by diverting it’s finances – the plan now is to see that the Scots win. Sigh. But the story draws you in, despite the shadow of disaster that hangs over the entire situation. By the end of the season, Claire reveals she is, once again, pregnant. Enjoyable is not the best word to describe the second half of the season – the “fish out of water” humor of part one is gone. However, it is very good, and addictive. Several characters from the first season return, played by the same actors. The scenery is gorgeous and wild. The costumes are really good, and authentic-looking. And it’s the middle of a war – there’s dirt, blood, mud, and death. But remember how the season started? Yeah, even more than part 1, we feel the inevitable coming – Culloden and Claire’s return to 1948.

The last episode of the season, takes a time jump forward for Claire. It’s now 1968, and she and her daughter, Brianna, visit Scotland for the funeral of Rev. Wakefield. Claire’s daughter begins to fall for the grown-up, Roger. We find out Frank is dead. Claire is now a surgeon. Brianna is an angry girl, having recently lost her father. She discovers that Claire went missing for three years – and that during that time she had an affair with her real (biological) father. Claire tries to explain the truth, but no one believes her. By chance, Brianna sees a lecture by a Scottish nationalist. This nationalist turns out to be Geillis, the “witch” burned at the stake in season 1, but not before revealing she’s from 1968. Claire finds her notebooks, and discovers she’s been taking “courses” at the local university. Unlike Claire who accidentally traveled through the stones; Geillis is obsessed – with Scottish nationalism, with Bonnie Prince Charlie and the rebellion, and with learning what she needs to know to live in 18th century Scotland. However, she’s also extremely dedicated to her cause, and a bit mistaken in her beliefs as to how the stones work. The season ends with Claire, Brianna, and Roger seeing Geillis disappear through the stones, and Claire learning that Jamie survived the rebellion. And thus we will have a Season 3.

Outlander is a gorgeous show. The costumes are beautiful. The settings are beautiful. The characters and their motivations are clear and make sense. What Claire and Jamie do, even when they are swept up in events beyond their control, makes sense. The story is from Claire’s point of view, though we see Jamie on his own dealing with Prince Charles in France, and the Scottish generals and Clan leaders in Scotland (rather than disappearing and reporting back to Claire). The acting is always top notch. I enjoyed Season 2 very much and I highly, highly recommend it.

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Star Trek The Animated Series Review

  • Series Title: Star Trek:  The Animated Series
  • Season:  The Complete Series
  • Date:  1973 – 1975
  • Episodes:  22
  • Discs:  4
  • Cast: William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, James Doohan, George Takei, Nichelle Nichols, Majel Barrett
  • Original Network:  NBC
  • Production Network:  Paramount; Filmation Animation

Star Trek: The Animated Series (ST:TAS) does manage to feel like original Classic Trek, especially towards the end of it’s run. The main drawback to this series is the animation – it’s Filmation, not the best animation company, and it’s very flat. Now animation is much better than this – but even back when ST:TAS was made there were other companies and other countries that produced much better animation. Also the early episodes in ST:TAS often are remakes or sequels to episodes of the original series. As the Animated Series moves on, though, the stories become more original, and by the end of the animated episodes there are a number of pretty good episodes – or at least good ideas.

The second criticism for this series is it is a kids’ version of Star Trek. I wouldn’t really say it’s “dumbed down” (because among other things I hate that phrase). But especially the early episodes seem to play for laughs and for children. Later episodes improved a bit and ST:TAS felt more like the Classic Trek we know. The series does feature the cast from the original series, with the notable exception of Walter Keonig (Chekov) who gets to actually write an episode – so that’s something. The navigator is Mr. Arex – an intelligent being with three hands. We don’t learn much about Arex, a missed opportunity, but I did like him. We also occasionally see a Catperson as Communications Officer instead of Uhura. However, Nichelle Nichols, Majel Barrett, and James Doohan all did extra voices according to the special features on the set’s last disc. At times you can tell a “guest” voice is Nichelle or Majel or George Takei, which can be distracting. On the other hand, the actors were given a chance to show their range – and all did an excellent job playing various aliens.

The aliens on the show were some of the most inventive we’ve seen on Star Trek (though, flat, because: Filmation). But it was nice to see Star Trek doing aliens that looked alien and alien vistas that didn’t look like Southern California or a Paramount back lot. The entire Animated Series also manages to stay away from dipping in to the Paramount Studios cast offs which were so common on the Classic Series (which did Rome/Greece several times, as well as Nazi Germany, and 1930s Chicago Gangsters). It was nice to get away from the lack of originality of visiting historic Earth periods in Outer Space.

One of my favorite episodes was “The Eye of the Beholder”, Kirk and Company were investigating the disappearance of a Federation scientific team – only to discover the planet was a zoo belonging to a highly evolved species – and the previous crew were taken as exhibits (as were Kirk and his beam-down team). But I liked the aliens which looked like purple and pink snails – but were more intelligent and scientifically advanced than Kirk and company. “Albatross” has Dr. McCoy arrested for murder, because after he administered a common vaccine – the entire planet succumbed to plague. McCoy angsts about whether he made some soft of ghastly mistake, while Kirk and Spock travel to the planet to figure out what happened. It’s a good medical mystery, not immediately obvious (other than McCoy’s non-guilt of course) and I liked the cooperation between Spock, McCoy, and the aliens of the episode. There are other good stories here too, so the show is worth watching.