Inspiration often emerges from the unlikeliest places. For New York Times bestselling author Diana Gabaldon, the creative revelation responsible for her wildly popular Outlander series struck thanks to something that, from a distance, seems odd, but actually is like the stars themselves had aligned. In a 1966 episode of Doctor Who, Britain’s long-running science fiction classic about a time-traveling alien, the Doctor (Patrick Troughton) met Jamie McCrimmon (Frazer Hines), a heroic, kilt-wearing Jacobite Scotsman who survived the Battle of Culloden. If that description rings several recognition bells, that’s because it should. Jamie McCrimmon from Doctor Who is almost entirely responsible for Outlander’s best character.
How Did ‘Doctor Who’ Inspire ‘Outlander’?
When professor, mother, and three-time degree holder Diana Gabaldon decided to pursue her lifelong dream of becoming an author, she turned to history for inspiration. In Gabaldon’s words,
“I thought I’d write a book for practice, just to learn how, and thought perhaps a historical novel would be the easiest thing for me to write […] Well, I happened to see a [Doctor Who] rerun in a weak-minded moment, and was taken by a minor character — a young Scotsman from 1745, who appeared in his kilt. ‘Well, that’s fetching,’ I said. ‘Yeah, why not? Scotland, eighteenth century.’ So that’s where I began, knowing nothing about Scotland or the eighteenth century, with no plot, no outline, no characters — nothing but the rather vague images conjured up by a man in a kilt (which is, of course, a very powerful and compelling image).”
Thus, romance’s greatest wife guy, Jamie Fraser (Sam Heughan), was born. And, technically, almost every way Outlander became Outlander emerged from that dashing Doctor Who Scotsman. Regarding Claire Fraser’s (Caitríona Balfe) origins and her romantic connection with Jamie, Gabaldon told The Guardian in 2021, “The only thing I knew about novels was that they should have conflict, so I was thinking, well, what kind of conflict was going on in Scotland in the 18th century? That’s an easy one to answer, it’s the Jacobite risings. […] I thought it would be good if I had an English female to play off these guys. We’d have sexual tension, that’s conflict, and maybe they’d fight over her or want to kill her or whatever.”
Gabaldon’s first of many intentional choices for her sprawling series traces back to that one chance moment involving a Doctor Who re-run. However, the illustrious Jamie Fraser sharing a name with Jamie McCrimmon’s actor, Frazer Hines, was entirely coincidental. Gabaldon’s blog states that she never saw the cast’s names “owing to the local PBS station cutting off the [Doctor Who] credits in order to run pledge appeals.” The Fraser name emerged from Gabaldon’s research into the Battle of Culloden and its Jacobite survivors, one of whom carried the last name of Fraser. Sometime after Gabaldon completed Outlander with the name Jamie Fraser set in a Standing Stone, she discovered Frazer Hines’ name. That, my friends, is destiny in action.
What Is ‘Doctor Who’s Jamie McCrimmon Like?
Beyond his excellent legs, how does this Doctor Who companion compare to fans’ beloved Jamie Frasier? Overall, there aren’t many similarities beyond being Scottish, handsome, and noble-minded. The Doctor meets Jamie McCrimmon in the 1966 story “The Highlanders.” A member of Clan MacLeod, a real Scottish Highland clan, and a piper from a familial line of pipers, Jamie is grappling with his clansmen’s deaths at Culloden when the Doctor stumbles onto the scene. Believing the Doctor an enemy and grieving the Jacobites’ loss, the vengeful, hot-headed Jamie is eager enough to kill the Doctor. That animosity doesn’t last long. Jamie becomes the longest-running companion ever in Doctor Who’s 60-year history and one dearly devoted to the Doctor.
It’s in the smaller yet vital details that Jamie Fraser and Jamie McCrimmon sees eye-to-eye commonality. Their basic values align: honor, duty, loyalty, compassion, and bravery. Jamie McCrimmon is a model of historical chivalry in the only good sense, courageous and caring at the drop of a hat. His women friends call out his period-accurate sexism (as they should), but he’s a sweetheart who’s instantly and continually protective of his space family. That often manifests as the punch first, ask questions later kind of gallantry, but for all Doctor Who plays up Jamie’s baffled reactions to futuristic technology, he’s far from unintelligent. He rolls with everything he witnesses, no matter how spectacular. He dubiously enters the TARDIS and leaves only because of tragic circumstances. And he’s not socially clueless; Jamie’s family dynamic with the Doctor includes snarkily barbed banter and confronting his alien friend when the Doctor’s callousness endangers innocent people.
‘Outlander’ and ‘Doctor Who’ Continue to Overlap
Frazer Hines played Jamie McCrimmon from 1966 to 1969. He reprised the role for several specials as well as 2023’s Tales of the TARDIS, a BBC miniseries reuniting classic Doctor Who performers through new adventures. Born in Yorkshire, England, and initially a child actor, Hines credits Jamie’s Scottish brogue to his acting experience playing Scottish characters and his mother’s heritage. “All my holidays were spent in Port Glasgow at my grandmother’s as a kid,” he said. “But I actually had to tone down Jamie’s Highland lilt for Doctor Who.”
After Outlander was published in 1991, Diana Gabaldon gave Hines the first book. Impressed, Hines believed in Outlander’s cinematic potential and tried to turn it into a series, intending to fulfill destiny and star as Jamie. The production company passed, citing the expense of filming in Scotland. Decades later, Hines and Gabaldon met in person. Once Outlander finally made it to screen, Hines guest starred as the governor of Wentworth Prison in Season 1, Episode 15. Of the experience, Hines said, “It was nice as I was on set with Diana and Sam and said, ‘Let’s get a picture of your two Jamies’.” He added, “Sadly I wasn’t back in a kilt — so Diana never got to see the legs again which started it all.”
To fully close the loop, Sam Heughan, the man behind Jamie Fraser and the ultimate GOAT, loves Doctor Who and half-jokingly wants a crossover between the two series. “I’d love to do sci-fi,” he told Radio Times. “It would work. I could come out of the TARDIS – that’d be awesome. Let’s make this happen!” As delightfully outrageous and humorous as it seems, Heughan happens to be friends with frequent Doctor Who writer-actor Mark Gatiss. If it means the Jamies can meet face-to-face in some form, why not a special offshoot episode? Stranger things have occurred in both time-traveling series — if none as perfectly fateful as PBS’s Doctor Who schedule coinciding with Diana Gabaldon turning on the television.
Outlander is available to stream on STARZ.