Matt B. Roberts had one hell of a task ahead of him when he signed on as the writer of “A. Malcolm,” Outlander Season 3’s sixth episode. But wow, did he deliver.
As everyone from Ron D. Moore to Maril Davis to Caitriona Balfe and Sam Heughan have said repeatedly since Outlander began: the show owes a great deal to the people who work tirelessly behind the scenes to make it all work. We decided it was time to recognize those people who may or may not get a mention on the credits as they scroll by. The first in our series showcased Arron Cuthbertson for his outstanding job with the extras in “The Battle Joined.” We gave a well-deserved shout out to Annie McEwan and the amazing make-up team for helping to create “Cave Jamie” in “Surrender,” and a heartfelt thank-you to Toni Graphia and Matthew B. Roberts for their unique decision to end “Of Lost Things” with a montage set to a re-worked iconic Bob Dylan song. Now it’s time to single out Matt alone, this time as the screenwriter for the unbelievable episode, “A. Malcolm.”
I suppose it’s possible at some point in television history, there was a more anticipated episode for a show. The finale of M*A*S*H, perhaps, which ultimately was watched by 121 million people, basically the equivalent to the population of Mexico? The end of Seinfeld? A mere 76 million tuned in for that one.
But in an era of social media that certainly didn’t exist for those shows, I think we can both agree that A LOT was riding on “A. Malcolm”—all of it very public by a fandom that is, um, known for giving its opinions.
I was one of those people. In a post to Ron D. Moore, my colleague Anne and I weighed in about what we hoped the Outlander production team would—and would not–do in its adaptation for Voyager. In that post, I was blunt on this episode in particular. After what I called (in another post) a sexless Season 2 that had lost some of its focus, I wrote: “But on the Print Shop Reunion scene I am begging you to follow Gabaldon’s lead. The woman did it right. From Jamie’s fainting, to their getting reacquainted, to showing photos of Brianna, to eventually and ultimately their reunion sex (yes, Ron, we have got to see this reunion sex. No fade to black. We need to see it.) My two cents on this scene would be this: Ask yourself WWDD (What Would Diana Do) and then read it, and just do it exactly the same. This would be a very good time to cut and paste.”
And while our post was to Ron—because, of course, this was early days and we didn’t know who was writing what episode—dear God in heaven Matt, you GOT it! You did exactly what was needed to render this an emotional, human 74 minutes of amazingness—you did cut and paste some of the best moments of dialogue and scenes. But then you added your insightful dialogue and direction in between to create something that was absolute magic.
As a writer myself, I can’t imagine the pressure of sitting down to write and keep all those other potentially naysaying voices out of your head. To just allow yourself to trust your instincts and follow your writing gut.
Now I know it was a team effort and believe me, I appreciate Director Norma Bailey’s guts in taking on this iconic episode as her Outlander directorial debut. She is one brave woman. And I also know the editing process is not necessarily all in your control, even though you are one of the executive producers. All that aside, the reality is that the episode starts with the words and those, sir, are all yours.
And so, I say, on behalf of thousands of vested and vocal Outlander fans, thank you. For one of the best episodes of TV ever, for making our PRINT SHOP dreams come true, and for helping to bring Outlander Season 3 back to center.
With admiration from an Outlander fan,