Outlander fans can finally look forward to season six!
Production is now officially underway again, following a long delay due to lockdown restrictions.
The series is currently back in production in Scotland, and executive producer Matthew B. Roberts has reassured fans that the show’s famously (ahem) intimate scenes won’t be going anywhere, despite some necessary safety adjustments during filming.
“I didn’t want me or the staff changing what the story is for COVID. We have a lot of intimate scenes—that’s where we live and breathe.” Speaking to ELLE Magazine, he revealed that the solution came down to “testing, testing, testing,” adding: “We had to figure out how to make sure we tested everybody a million times before they walked onto set and keep that bubble as safe as possible. That was our main focus—making sure everybody feels safe walking onto a set in the studios and locations.”
Despite safety being paramount, Roberts insists he won’t sacrifice the tone of the show: “I don’t know how to write “COVID-friendly scenes,” certainly not an Outlander scene, because we are going to have people next to each other, being emotional—you talk close to people, and that’s where it transfers COVID. We had to figure out, how do we keep Outlander, Outlander?”
He also revealed that some of these solutions included featuring fewer supporting background actors (for safety reasons), meaning that the show will rely on visual effects more.
The news that Outlander is back in production will be a relief to fans, who have even come up with a special name for this prolonged gap between series: #Droughtlander.
Scottish actor and series star Sam Heughan (who plays Jamie Fraser) previously hinted that production might be gearing up to start again soon, ready to return viewers to pre-revolutionary America.
Appearing on an episode of ITV’s This Morning in early November 2020, Heughan said that the cast had been given scripts and attended fittings.
Earlier, Hegughan and co-star Caitriona Balfe had spoken to Starz about what storylines they were looking forward to, claiming they are looking forward to seeing how the Frasers “heal together” after the shocking moments in the season five finale.
Speaking during a Starz interview in September 2020, Caitriona Balfe said that Claire’s healing process was “one of the things I’m most looking forward to, seeing how she copes with all that… how the family as a whole unit heal together or help her to heal”.
The upcoming series will be based on the sixth book in Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series – A Breath of Snow and Ashes. However, the writers have not exclusively stuck to the source material in the past so deviations should be expected – past characters may even come back from the dead…
Read on for everything you need to know about Outlander season six, including what happened at the end of season five, cast updates, trailers, and more.
When is the Outlander season 6 release date?
Outlander is officially in production as of February 2021, following lengthy delays due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Starz announced the “wonderful news” on Twitter with a short video showing the behind-the-scenes departments preparing for the new season.
Sam Heughan previously revealed in March 2020 that the cast had begun filming episode one, although COVID-19 halted production shortly after the actor tweeted.
However, Caitriona Balfe, who plays Claire Fraser in the series, tweeted a month later to say that the writers were “still at work” on season six even though filming had been unable to resume.
In June, Heughan confirmed on This Morning that shooting was supposed to be underway – but that work was being done by the production team to ensure that a return to filming was made as soon as possible.
“We were supposed to be shooting right now and obviously things are still slightly up in the air, but I think you know, I’m hopeful that we’re gonna be back before we know it,” he said. “They’re putting plans in place.”
And during another appearance on This Morning in early November Heughan gave a further update, revealing that things were moving along nicely.
“We have been delayed; we were supposed to start shooting by May,” he said. “But we are gearing up. We’ve had fittings, we’ve got scripts, we are getting there. It’s just such an epic show it’s taking a while to get there, but we will be back for season six.”
Fans may have to ride out the rest of the Droughtlander… but in the meantime, US viewers can watch previous seasons on Starz, and UK viewers on Amazon Prime.
Outlander season 5 ending explained
*Warning: spoilers ahead for Outlander season five episode 12*
Season five was as action-packed and nail-biting as ever, with near-death experiences for both Roger (by hanging) and Jamie (snake-bite); a desperately sad farewell to Murtagh; and Brianna dealing out justice to her rapist Stephen Bonnet, whom she shot out of mercy knowing that drowning (his death sentence) was his greatest fear.
Roger, Brianna and Jemmy also failed to return to the future through the stones, landing back where they started in 18th century America – before realising that ‘home’ meant their family around them at Fraser’s Ridge.
However, the most dramatic and also controversial storyline was reserved for the end of the season, which saw Claire brutally gang-raped by Brownsville resident Lionel Brown and his men.
Lionel – a previous patient of Claire’s – attacked Fraser’s Ridge and kidnapped Claire, before confronting her about her medical pseudonym, Dr Rawlings, and blaming her for his wife rejecting his sexual advances.
During the rape, Claire went into a dissociative dream-scape, imagining her family as they would be if they lived in the 1960s.
Speaking to The New York Times, Balfe explained how the creative team “had so many conversations about how to empower Claire”.
“I felt that if we were going to do the dream-escapes, we had to keep in mind why,” she said.
“They’re not a gimmick, not a reason to wear cool costumes. Claire is experiencing something terrible. This has to show the progression of her mental state, to show that she’s reached a breaking point, that she’s snapped in some way, and is trying to stay in one piece.”
Jamie and his men discovered Claire tied to a tree, Lionel and his men asleep at their campsite – all were killed except Lionel, who was brought back to Fraser’s Ridge for questioning.
John Quincy Myers offered Claire revenge, but Jamie reminded her and John of her Hippocratic oath to “do no harm”.
However, Marsali never took such an oath, which she later used to her advantage when she poisoned Lionel using Claire’s newly-made syringe.
Outlander season 6 episodes: What will happen next?
Fall-out from Lionel’s death – and Claire’s trauma
Jamie returned Lionel’s body to his brother, who swore revenge on the Frasers – meaning that season six will likely deal with the fall-out from Lionel’s murder, and Marsali’s part in it.
We will also likely see Claire continue to cope with her trauma from series five – and will likely be aided by bother her husband, Jamie, and daughter, Brianna, who are all also rape survivors.
And of course, there’s that teensy tiny issue of the looming American War of Independence, with further danger to be faced in North Carolina – and Jamie’s own mortality is clearly weighing heavy on him.
In the series five final episode, he ominously told Claire: “When the day shall come that we do part, if my last words are not, ‘I love you’, you ken it’s because I dina have time.”
In an fundraiser interview hosted by Starz in September 2020, both Balfe and Heughan mentioned the “repercussions” of Claire’s rape in season five.
You can listen to their conversation here from around nine minutes in.
Marsali and Fergus
In May, Lauren Lyle (who plays Marsali MacKimmie Fraser) teased plot details for her character next season. She told TV Line that season six will see a chance for Marsali and Fergus (César Domboy).
“We love the fact that they’re one of the only couples that don’t fight that much, and we don’t argue that much. I mean, there’s stuff I can’t really talk about,” she said.
“I do know some stuff is going to happen with them next season that’s very much them together, so that will happen, but it’ll be a totally different situation to what you’ve seen them in before,” she added. “A lot of what Marsali is about this season is protection and really having found her place and her meaning on the Ridge.”
In the books, Marsali (currently pregnant in the series) also gives birth to a baby boy, Henri-Christian, who is born with dwarfism, and the little family face cruel persecution from superstitious locals – with Fergus’ mental health suffering as a result.
Beyond the central Fraser family, in the book A Breath of Snow and Ashes, Jocasta’s maid Phaedre (Natalie Simpson) and butler Ulysses (Colin McFarlane) play a larger role – it’s Phaedre who discovers that her mistress and Ulysses were having an affair, and Jocasta is terrified of her new husband, Duncan Innes, discovering the truth.
However, in the series, Jocasta and Ulysses appear to have a (so far) more platonic relationship – the latter even aids his mistress in her romance with the doomed Murtagh. But could the series writers introduce the romance afresh in the upcoming series six?
We also learnt in June that author Diana Gabaldon is planning a sequel book about Jamie’s parents, Ellen and Brian Fraser.
Yes. It's in progress. https://t.co/ZBIoaMXwqe— Diana Gabaldon (@Writer_DG) June 8, 2020
Since Gabaldon is so involved in the TV adaptation, writing several scripts, it would stand to reason that her new writing about Jamie’s parents might inform future seasons – could we see another flashback to young Jamie, as we saw right at the beginning of season five?
Sam Heughan, who has played Jamie from a young Highlander to a settler and patriarch, also told Gold Derby that he could “see where the end might possibly be” – could season six herald the end for Outlander, paving the way for possible spin-offs?
“As we get further along in the lifetime of this show, we’re going into season six now, and I think and I can see where the end might possibly be,” he said.
“And it’s hard to think about that and to think about what will happen when the show is over.
“I think we’ll all miss it greatly. We already are with Droughtlander and with everything going on in the world.”
Outlander fans have also recently been speculating about whether we’ll ever find out if there was a hidden reason behind Jamie’s ghost appearing way back at the start of season one, staring up at an oblivious Claire, while Frank Randall in turn tried – and failed – to approach the ghost.
Fans now believe that it was Jamie’s ghost from Purgatory, waiting for Claire to potentially die in her own, modern timeline.
One fan wrote on Reddit, “Remember in DiA [Dragonfly in Amber] in that beautiful monologue about God giving him a rare woman, he said it would be worth enduring 200 years in Purgatory. I don’t think that 200 years was randomly included.”
Could we see Jamie dying before a heartbroken Claire returns to the present day?
Could dead characters return?
Speaking on a a panel called the End of Summer series, hosted by Facebook, Outlander author Diana Gabaldon teased that some characters that she’s previously killed-off may make a return.
Asked by series producer Maril Davis if she has ever renegaded on storylines, Gabaldon said she had: “As my husband has said, ‘You can’t tell if anybody in your books is really dead unless you saw them go [dying noise] right in front of you.’”
Could this mean that a character like Black Jack could make a shock return to the show?
Who is in the cast of Outlander season 6?
All being well, we’ll likely see the return of all four central characters, including Caitriona Balfe as Claire Randall Fraser; Sam Heughan as Jamie Fraser; Richard Rankin as Roger Wakefield; and Sophie Skelton as Brianna Randall.
However, we won’t see Duncan Lacroix return as Jamie’s godfather Murtagh – the character died in season five.
In terms of the behind-the-scenes crew, we already know that one vital member of the production team won’t be returning for season six.
In May 2020, Outlander’s cast and crew have announced the departure of production designer Jon Gary Steele from the show following the series five finale.
Is there a trailer for Outlander season 6?
There’s no sign of a trailer yet, but we’ll keep you posted with any updates.