“It’s a big transitional year for this show,” Outlander executive producer Ronald D. Moore says of the upcoming third season of the Starz drama based on Diana Gabaldon’s bestselling books.
Set to debut September 10 on the premium cabler, this 13-episode run of the Caitriona Balfe- and Sam Heughan-led time-travel series has newborns, old lives, heartache and a reunion across the seas and ages — aka, classic Outlander. Already with one Comic-Con panel under his belt this year with the Battlestar Galactica reunion yesterday, today sees Moore back in Ballroom 20 with Balfe, Heughan, co-stars Tobias Menzies, Sophie Skelton and Richard Rankin, and fellow EP Maril Davis.
Before today’s panel, Moore chatted with me about where this far-flung season based on Voyager — Gabaldon’s third book in her eight-book (so far) series — is coming from, where it’s going and where it could all end up. He also discusses whether he would ever be part of another Galatica revival, and how much SDCC has changed since be first started attending the confab.
DEADLINE: With Season 3 set to launch in just under couple of months, what is the theme for you for this run of Outlander?
MOORE: It’s a transitional season. You know, the franchise kind of pivots from this point because, it’s not really a huge spoiler, but essentially, the show will relocate to the American colonies after this season. So they’ll always have a foot in Scotland, because there’s always a piece of the story that will continue to play out in Scotland, but Claire and Jamie and their family really do kind of relocate to North America after this season and establish a place called Fraser’s Ridge, which is up in the mountains of North Carolina — and that’s where the rest of the season in the books takes place.
So this is a really important year because it’s leaving sort of one setting, traveling literally across the Atlantic Ocean. You know, we went down and shot on the Black Sails ships and sets in South Africa to do that section of the story, and then end up in the Caribbean, and then eventually into the American colonies. It’s a big transitional year for this show.
DEADLINE: Another transition of sorts for you guys is that Outlander Season 3 is premiering in mid-September, a shift from Season 1 opening in August 2014 and Season 2 debuting in April 2016. How will moving into a more traditional premiere spot affect the show, especially for production purposes?
MOORE: It doesn’t really change the dynamic of a show. I’m sure Starz could speak more directly to scheduling and how it affects various marketing aspects and that kind of thing, but creatively, it didn’t really affect the show at all. We are trying to put the show on more of a yearly basis, so hopefully we can stick with a fall premiere date going forward. So we’re sort of overlapping production, but that’s because I think the fan base would really like to have an annual date instead of a moving date.
DEADLINE: So the fall premiere is going to become the norm for Outlander?
MOORE: You know, there’s no guarantee, but hopefully we kind of stick with a fall premiere from this point. It’s been difficult for us because it takes us a long time to shoot the show. It’s very complex logistically. It’s a big period piece that travels and goes to different countries and continents and doesn’t really have standing sets, and it takes us a long time to produce it. So we don’t want to skimp on the production value of the show, but we also want the audience to have the benefit of yearly premieres.
DEADLINE: Speaking of behind the camera, will Diana Gabaldon be penning an episode or two of Season 3 like she did for Season 2?
MOORE: She did not do one for us this season. She’s writing another book, and she was a little too caught up in that. Behind the cameras, a lot of the same team came back. We had some changes in the writing staff. We actually expanded the writing staff quite a bit, in large part because we are sort of on an accelerated prep schedule now, and we had to be able to have enough writers to start writing onto Season 4 while we were producing Season 3.
DEADLINE: Mapping out this upcoming season and Season 4, how much further do you see Outlander going?
MOORE: Well, Diana’s still writing the books, so I would assume that we could go as long as she keeps writing a compelling story. The books are still wildly successful. The storyline still engages people, and I could see this going on for a very long time.
DEADLINE: Is that always how you saw it? When you initially put the show together, did you see this as a five-season show, a six-season show…
MOORE: When I approached it, I knew that it was an ongoing book series and an open-ended saga, so I sort of had that in the back of my mind. Really until Diana’s decided what the end of the story is, I can just see the show continuing to move forward. Also, as long as the audience is willing to go along for the ride with us, because it feels like there’s a long, compelling tale that people could lose themselves in for many years.
DEADLINE: On that, last year Outlander skipped Comic-Con, but you were here personally. What was that like?
MOORE: It was odd because I’d done them so many years in a row with Galactica. Then I took a break, and then you get used to just being there, you know, with Outlander, and it’s odd to skip one. I did a couple of smaller panels, but nothing officially for the show. You know, you kind of miss the big rooms, and you miss seeing all the fans, and the cast, and all that, because it has become an event on everyone’s annual calendar.
DEADLINE: On Galactica, you had a reunion panel this year at Comic-Con, similar to the one at ATX earlier this year. Of course, you are busy with Outlander but the fan reaction makes it pretty clear the appetite is there for more Galactica. Would you do more? Say, a limited series?
MOORE: (laughs) I feel like our show has pretty much said what it needed to say, and we’re done. I didn’t really leave the door open for a reunion show. If you did that, if you picked up the story from where we left off after the finale, A, there’s no Battlestar Galactica left, and B, everyone’s on Earth, and there are no spaceships anymore. It would be such a completely different idea, that it really wouldn’t be Battlestar Galacticaanymore.
Now, given the environment that we’re in, sure, they’re going to reboot it at some point. Somebody’s going to and they’ll take another whack at it, just like we rebooted the original. So, you know, I can’t be precious about the idea that no one could ever touch this show, because it was a remake in and of itself.