Dive deeper into this episode with exclusive sketches, production designs, and fun facts delivered directly from the Outlander crew.
Originally, I wanted to play the entire battle of Culloden, more or less in real time. However, the reality of production and budget limitations eventually meant that I had to go at this in a different way. The first draft was estimated to take 21 days to shoot, and since we typically shoot two episodes in 24 days, it quickly became apparent that this wasn’t realistic. I did briefly consider doing it anyway and then trying to make up the budget and production deficits over the course of the season, but it seemed like a mistake to start Season 3 in the hole, so I opted instead to rewrite the sequence. My approach was to think of the battle as a surreal, hallucinatory experience as seen through the eyes of Jamie as he lay near death on the battlefield. Because I’d written the entire battle already, it gave me a leg-up on reconstructed the sequence of events in a non-linear way. In the end, I think the filmed version turned out to be a more emotional and unique way to tell the story and it’s one of those occasions where production limitations force you to be more creative.
However, I am fond of that original battle narrative and so here is the entire version as written in my first draft, dated July 15, 2016.
The dragonfly in amber was added much later in the draft. We were looking for a way to set up the discovery of the object which Claire saw in the museum back at the end of Season 2. It’s a bit clunky, to be honest, and I was never really happy with it.
These scenes between Frank and Claire were added just before shooting. We’d gotten a projected running time on the episode after the table-read in Scotland (a table-read is where the entire cast reads the script out loud for the first time) and it was projected to come in at roughly 38 minutes. Usually, I take the projected timings with a big grain of salt since they’re often wildly inaccurate, but since this was nearly twenty minutes short of our typical length I decided to write some additional material just in case. By that point, we’d prepped the episode and settled on the locations and sets and I didn’t want to just invent something that would disrupt the production and throw it into chaos on the eve of shooting, so I determined that whatever I added to the script would have to take place on the existing sets and with existing cast. It was also clear that the Jamie story was full and that the only place to add something was in the Frank/Claire story. I wasn’t sure what to add, but decided to walk down to the Randall apartment set on our soundstage and see if something inspired me — I’d done this before back at Star Trek and BSG when I needed a scene but didn’t know what to write. I walked around the Randall apartment for a bit as the crew continued to work on the set and finally my gaze landed on the fireplace and I suddenly had an idea of Claire cooking in the fireplace. Terry had cooked that way for me and the kids many times at our home and I realized that it would connect Claire not only with her childhood with Uncle Lamb but also with her life with Jamie. I went back to the office and pounded out these scenes in about an hour. As so often happens, scenes that were written with little time or planning turned out to be some of the best in the show.
The scene of Claire staring into the mirror was originally the first beat of the 1940’s story.
The discussion of the Truman/Dewey race of 1948 was written well before the election of 2016, so it was not intended to comment on the parallels in the two biggest presidential upsets in American history.
A lot of the dialog and scene work in the cottage with the wounded Highlanders and the British soldiers is drawn directly from the book. Probably the biggest change was in giving the lead role to Rupert, whereas in the book that character was already dead by this point. I saw it as an opportunity to give our Rupert a fitting good-bye and I’m very fond of his actual exit line.
Frank’s speech listing the great events and people of British history is an homage to my favorite musical, “1776.” It’s from a speech given by John Dickinson, a delegate from Pennsylvania to John Adams as Dickinson questions why the colonists would ever choose to forsake their great British heritage. “1776” played on my local TV station every year on the 4th of July and I still watch it to this day every 4th — even in Scotland — and it was a great joy to find a way to honor it in our show.
I was very specific in stage direction that I wanted to keep the firing squad at a distance because I didn’t want to be caught up in the individual executions, but rather to hold them at a remove and hopefully to create a colder and more affecting tone to the methodical way the British went about the task.
The montage of Claire waking up over and over again was something we tried in the cutting room, but ultimately couldn’t make work. The footage just wasn’t there to support the idea.
Somehow, ending with Jamie arriving at Lallybroch works better on the page and ending with the baby works better on screen.
This scene with John Grey and Hector was written as something that would possibly work during the Culloden battle or later as a flashback. It was shot, but in the end, I decided that it really didn’t work in either place, so it’s now just a deleted scene.
“Having set the scene for Outlander’s Culloden so convincingly in Season 1, I received a call from National Trust for Scotland after it aired to check that we hadn’t filmed at the real Culloden site without permission. Season 3’s Culloden was filmed on the edge of the same moor that we used in Season 1—in a field that was roughly 7 acres as opposed to the real battlefield which is an area of approximately 80 acres.”
-Hugh Gourlay, Supervising Location Manager
"The Art Department made this for the scene in Episode 301 when Frank buys the Boston townhouse. I actually didn’t know about it—the Art Department did it as a surprise. The bigger surprise was…we cut the scene in post for length. But I still have the sign hanging in my office in Scotland.”
-Matthew B. Roberts, Executive Producer/Writer
“We undertook a great deal of historical research for Culloden, covering weapons and tactics, as well as the disposition of combatants and later bodies on the ground. We also looked at many other films and shows to examine how they told the story of large scale battles and brought the audience into it—what we could learn, and what we could improve or do differently.
Ultimately it was felt far more compelling and poignant to put the audience in amongst the carnage and chaos, right with Jamie, and not to try to convey the whole historical event from some imagined overall vantage point; an individual experience reflecting the limited visibility and sense of the overall that any one person amongst it all would have. The visceral hand-to-hand impact of only what can be seen in the immediate surroundings; the confusion, the passion, the fury, fear and desperation. Moving backwards and forwards in the loose chronology of events; further serving to put the audience in that unreal, confusing world
From a Visual Effects perspective, the key challenge was to help seamlessly create the feel of the large numbers of fighters on both sides, with only somewhat limited numbers of actual artists practicable to film. This was in part a collaboration between Camera, Special Effects and Stunts departments using well planned camera angles, staging and smoke, but of course also involved adding many more fighting figures, or indeed ‘carpets' of bodies, into the shots, during post production. While some additional material was shot at the location, these were mainly shot separately on a couple of special days of filming set aside for the purpose. Filmed against green screen we could then position as required to better populate many shots and ‘dress’ the scenes. Various enhancements and additions to smoke & snow levels and blood were also added.”
–Richard Briscoe, VFX Supervisor
“I love this moment — I snapped it just before we called action. You can see Tobias preparing to ‘become’ Black Jack”.
–Matthew B. Roberts, Executive Producer/Writer
In this photo you’ll see Tobias is doing his own stunts.
There were two exterior locations used for Culloden – Torbrex farm (Culloden Moor) and Craggan Farm (Culloden Moor cottage). Indeed, there were 9 locations in all featured in Block One; 4 locations for Block Two; 7 locations for Block Three; 6 locations for Block four; 2 locations for Block Five – a total of 28 locations in Scotland (not including the stages at the studio).
“We stacked real supporting artists on stuffed dummies to create the mounds of bodies around the Culloden Battlefield.”
–Matthew B. Roberts, Executive Producer/Writer
On average, there were 160 supporting artists per day during the shooting of Culloden, with 184 on the biggest day. The total number for the entire Culloden shoot, including our 2nd Unit was around 1,100.