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Better Together in Outlander?

by Ethan Tussey

by Zach Finch for IN MEDIA RESStarzs Outlander tells the story of Claire Randall, an English nurse living in 1945 who accidentally travels back in time to the Scottish Highlands circa 1743. Claire quickly becomes entangled in the social and political strife of the period as she attempts to return to her own time.
This scene is from the first seasons fifth episode, entitled The Rent. At this point, Claire is under the protection of the MacKenzie clan. She accompanies some of the clan leaders as they collect rent from tenants, and notices that they squeeze additional coin from the peasants. She deduces that the MacKenzies are actually raising funds for an armed rebellion intended to bring about Scotlands independence from English rule.
In this clip, Claire attempts to warn her friend, Ned, that the cause is doomed. Fearing of accusations of witchcraft, Claire refrains from divulging too many details regarding the future defeat of the Scots in 1746 and the subsequent Highland Clearances.
The certainty with which Claire insists that Scottish independence is impossible is strange, given that this is a time traveling series. Her attempts to dissuade the Scots from fighting rest on her knowledge of a history which could be changed by her actions, but she believes Scottish defeat is the only outcome.
This episode aired in the US (but not the UK) just days before the September, 2014 referendum on Scottish independence. Two campaigns debated the fate of Scotland: Yes, and Better Together. Better Together raised doubts and fears about an independent Scotland, while the Yes campaign argued independence was possible and desirable, given the democratic deficit experienced by Scots governed by a Conservative Westminster administration. Though the Nos won, 55% to 45%, significant support for an independent Scotland means that the issue remains open.
Alternate history texts, like Outlander, fascinate because of their ability to imagine possibilities and play with the contingencies of history. The series failure or unwillingness to entertain a Scottish victory to an eighteenth-century conflict, which many historians believe could have resulted in an independent Scotland, is noteworthy. Perhaps Outlander suggests that England and Scotland are meant to be together.

Emergent Media and Outlander

A clip from Starz series Outlander

from Outlander (2014)
Creator: Ronald D. Moore
Distributor: YouTube
Posted by Ethan Tussey
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