Episode 208: The Fox’s Lair
Do Claire’s actions as a healer change the future? To what degree?
It seems that on a daily basis, Claire is impacting the lives of those around her, whether by providing antidotes to poisoning, avoiding epidemics, cleaning and treating wounds that would otherwise fester, or suggesting certain crops to avoid future starvation.
Does each small change lead to larger consequences? Will the lives touched by Claire lead to ripples that magnify over time to cause significant future changes?
Or is the future already written? Was Claire always destined to travel back in time and touch these lives?
Does there exist some alternate future in which Claire Beauchamp Randall never travelled through the stones? A world where none of these people of the past would have had the opportunity to cross paths with Claire and therefore suffered death and disability she could have prevented?
Fortunately, for the purposes of Outlander, we have been given The Gabaldon Theory of Time Travel in The Outlandish Companion!
The Central Postulate of The Gabaldon Theory of Time Travel:
A time-traveler has free choice and individual power of action; however, he or she has no more power of action than is allowed by the traveler’s personal circumstances.
Most notable historical events (those affecting large numbers of people and thus likely to be recorded) are the result of the collective actions of many people.
From The Outlandish Companion by Diana Gabaldon
From Episode 208: The Fox’s Lair:
Jamie: We know what will happen if the Jacobites lose the war. But what if they won?
Claire: But…they don’t. It’s the verdict of history.
Jamie: Have ye given up on changing the future then, Sassenach?
Claire: After Paris? Haven’t you?
Jamie: Aye, Paris was a bitter disappointment. But the future can be changed — you’ve proven it. Tammas Baxter lives because of you. Paris was spared an outbreak of smallpox because of you. Louise de Rohan will have the child of Prince Charles Stuart because of you.
So many lives have been touched by Claire, starting in the first episode of season one, “Sassenach.” Had Claire not intervened and had left Jamie to the mercy of Rupert and Angus to reduce his dislocated shoulder by brute force, he could have been left with permanent nerve damage, deformity or weakness in his dominant arm. How would that impair his ability to wield a sword and defend himself?
When young Tammas Baxter was dying from poisoning after mistaking lily of the valley for wood garlic at the Black Kirk, Claire saved his life with an antidote of belladonna. He now potentially will go on to grow into adulthood and have children of his own. Will his descendants go on to change history as we know it?
How many lives were saved when Claire identified smallpox among the crew in La Havre and prevented an epidemic? To what degree do the dozens (hundreds?) of people she saved from smallpox go on to have a significant impact on the future?
And what of the countless seemingly small actions Claire has taken with her patients such as care for wounds and mild ailments that could have become much more significant and potentially life-threatening without her intervention?
According to The Gabaldon Theory of Time Travel, with free choice and individual power of action, Claire has changed the future of those she heals. However, these actions will likely not change notable historical events as those types of events would require the actions of many to take place.
Considering all of the potential descendants of the lives saved, what are the odds that one of them may act independently to change history, whether via assassination of a significant figure or a groundbreaking discovery? What will the future look like in a world where Claire Beauchamp Randall Fraser has had the opportunity to heal, cure, and prevent illness in so many?
Fortunately, today brought the very exciting news that we will have another two seasons to consider this question as we see Voyager and Drums of Autumn brought to life on screen!
Questions, comments, concerns, or suggestions for future Outlander medicine topics? I’d love to hear from you! Leave a comment here or find me on twitter @SassenachDoctor.