Preview of Poldark Season One on Masterpiece Classic PBS

Poldark Season One banner x 500

Sooner or later, everything that is old is new again—if we wait long enough! Masterpiece Theatre, and its phoenix Masterpiece Classic, is well-aware of this. Having successfully presented period drama for over forty years they have been a bit redundant at times. I lost track years ago of which version of David Copperfield we were on, so when I heard the news last year that the BBC and PBS were joining forces again to retool Poldark, one of my all-time favorites, I was jubilant. Enough time had passed to ride the Cornish cliffs with Ross Poldark again.

Based on the cherished historical fiction novels by Winston Graham, Poldark was originally adapted for the screen and presented in 29 episodes in 1975 and 1977. It was a sensation on both sides of the pond. Period drama fans still rave about it, including this one! As one of Masterpiece’s early landmark productions it remains the second best-selling period drama series ever created, only surpassed by the monumental Pride and Prejudice of 1995 staring Colin Firth. That is some pedigree.

Poldark Season One, Aidan Turner and Heida Reed x 450

Aidan Turner as Ross Poldark and Heida Reed as Elizabeth Chynoweth

The new seven part series of Poldark premiers on Masterpiece Classic PBS on Sunday, June 21 and continues through August 2. After following the media frenzy as it aired in the UK in March and April of this year, and seeing the new series myself, I can share that period drama fans have the summer to fall in love with Poldark. I can assure you that it will only take about five minutes to be totally besotted.

Happily, this new adaptation by Debbie Horsfield closely follows the plot and characterizations in Winston Graham’s fabulous novels. In 1783, Royal Army officer Captain Ross Poldark (Aidan Turner) returns home to Cornwall a scarred soldier from fighting in the American Revolutionary War. It is a disheartening homecoming. His father Joshua has recently died, his sweetheart Elizabeth Chynoweth (Heida Reed) is engaged to his cousin Francis Poldark (Kyle Soller) and his inheritance, the family estate of Nampara House, farmland and tin mines totally derelict. There does not appear to be any reason for him to stay and he contemplates his Uncle Charles Poldark’s (Warren Clark) advice and financial support to move on and find a new life elsewhere.

Poldark Season One Eleanor Tomlinson as Demelza Carne x 450

Eleanor Tomlinson as Demelza Carne

The local economy does not fare much better. The tin and copper mines owned by landed gentry are in serious decline, while upstart banker George Warleggan (Jack Farthing) extends credit, forecloses and builds an empire on the hard work of others. Bonded to the land, his tenant farmers, and the hope that Elizabeth will return to him, the temptation to leave and take the easy road is not even a serious option for this Poldark. With the help of two of his father’s idle servants, Jud and Prudie Paynter (Philip Davis and Beatie Edney) and a street urchin turned kitchen maid Demelza Carne (Eleanor Tomlinson), Ross fights to rebuild his pride and his family fortune.

If you have not seen the original series or read the twelve book Poldark Saga, let me tell you that there are some big shoes to fill. Captain Ross Poldark is an iconic romantic hero to rival Mr. Darcy, Mr. Rochester and John Thornton. He’s rebellious. He’s broody. He’s the dark Poldark; the one with the youthful reputation as a wastrel, gamester and smuggler floating over his left shoulder. Deeply committed to helping the local villagers, his proletariat views are not welcomed by his own class. In his mind, what is right to be done cannot be done soon enough regardless of the consequences. He abhors aristocrats and their privileged way of life—delighting in thumbing his nose at them in scandalous ways. His two love interests (yes there is a love triangle) are entire opposites physically and socially. Elizabeth, a well-bred, accomplished fair-haired beauty whose duty to her family weighs heavier than her heart’s desire and Demelza, a spunky red-headed miner’s daughter with no education or social skills, but a loyal and compassionate spirit, vie for his affection. He marries one, but is haunted by the loss of the other. The curse of the Poldarks—once their hearts are given they are not easily withdrawn.

Poldark Season One Eleanor Tomlinson and Aidan Turner x 450

Demelza and Ross ride together along the scenic Cornish coast

While the story is strongly character driven, the land is the un-credited star of the series. Produced by Mammoth Screen, Ltd, Poldark was filmed entirely in England with stunning shots of scenic Cornish coastline and moors. Some of the most breathtaking views are of Ross galloping across the seaside clifftops with the sweeping music by Anne Dudley playing over the cinematography by Adam Etherington and Cinders Forshaw. Directors Edward Bazalgette (episodes 1-4) and William McGregor (episodes 5-7) reveal the life struggles of the community and the intimate lives of our key players with sensitivity and aplomb, keenly aware of the challenges of those who live off of nature’s bounties and shortfalls through farming, fishing and mining.

Poldark Season One Aidan Turner and Heida Reed x 450

Ross and Elizabeth share a country dance at the local Assembly Ball

Poldark may be about as far from the refined and controlled elegance of Jane Austen’s drawing room comedies as one could be, but there is no reason for Janeites to repine. There are manor houses, balls, frocks, witty banter and moving love stories to satisfy the romantic in all of us. And for those who crave adventure, get ready for fist fights, riots, prison breaks, duels and pillaging.

Fine fashions, a handsome hero, romance and swashbuckling action may draw many viewers to this new adaptation, but I believe they will stay because the heart of Poldark lies in its compelling story of the struggles and transformation of its characters who face good and evil, greed and revenge, and love and redemption. I hope you will join me this summer as I review all seven episodes—visiting the hearts and lives of fascinating characters.

Cheers, Laurel Ann

Images courtesy of Mammoth Screen, Ltd., Masterpiece Classic PBS © 2015, text Laurel Ann Nattress © 2015, Austenprose.com

34 thoughts on “Preview of Poldark Season One on Masterpiece Classic PBS

  1. Ah, I have lived long enough to see a new “Poldark!” What’s left to hope for: a new “Mansfield Park,” done right this time? 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I sent a tweet about this – marked it on my calendar. I have heard so much about this but never read the story nor viewed it before.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I am really looking forward to this one!

    I keep hoping for a reboot of Trollope’s Palliser novels. I tried the older one, and couldn’t get into it at all. The production values did nothing for me.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Speaking as one who’s seen it all, you’re in for a treat everyone. Yes, I am old enough to remember the earlier dramatisation with Robin Ellis and Angharad Rees but was never one of the many who swooned over his Ross Poldark – that would have been my sister. She even named her hamster Ross!

    Aidan Turner is, not to put too fine a point on it, drop-dead gorgeous as the eponymous hero. The rest of the casting works really well, too, and Cornwall looks absolutely fantastic on camera. Robin Ellis even turns up as a judge a couple of times.

    Set your recording devices people!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hi Anji, it is great to have a seasoned Poldark fan chime in. It’s hard to over-look Aidan Turner’s dashing good looks isn’t it? His acting though, makes him a fantastic Ross so it all balances out. Eleanor Tomlinson is also a standout as Demelza. I enjoyed the Ellis/Rees Ross and Demelza too. Both couples have their strong points.

      Thanks for visiting today. I look forward to your further comments on the series as we progress through the episodes this summer.

      Like

  5. Excellent review–I am racing through book 1 and loving it.

    >Captain Ross Poldark is an iconic romantic hero to rival Mr. Darcy, Mr. Rochester and John Thornton. He’s rebellious. He’s broody. He’s the dark Poldark; the one with the youthful reputation as a wastrel, gamester and smuggler floating over his left shoulder.

    Yes!!!!! I cannot believe I missed the book series and original BBC adaptation, but I intend to make up for lost time by becoming an ardent fan-girl now.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Jane, so glad to hear you are reading the first book and enjoying it. Yes, you will be a fan girl for sure. It is a beautifully crafted production with many emotional moments. Much to look forward to since there are 12 novels to adapt. The BBC has committed to season two and thinking about producing 6 years worth of Poldark (2 novels per year). Period drama fans will eat this one up..

      Like

  6. Thank you for this! I’ve been intrigued about this series since I first saw a preview for it on PBS awhile back. I didn’t know it was a series back in the 70s and I guessed it was a book, but now I want to soak up all versions of it before June 21 (wow, that doesn’t leave me much time, does it?!) Ciao! Must rush off to the bookstore again! ;)

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I can’t figure out why, but I never saw the older Poldark and I’m pretty sure I would have liked it. This sounds fantastic and I can appreciate many of the points you made on this one. I’ll have to clear some viewing time for this.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Sophia, I know you are a great reader, so please dive into the first 2 books as soon as possible. Winston Graham is a treasure that you will discover and cherish. The older Poldark series has not aired on TV for years, so it is understandable why many may not be aware of it. It is available on DVD and Netflix if that helps. I trot it out and have a Poldark-a-thon about once a year. I hope you read your reviews on your blog soon!

      Like

  8. I can’t wait for this to begin!! I rented the 70s version from Netflix and devoured it. I can only imagine how much better this one will be.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Oh yes. Graham is a remarkable writer and this is a worthy series — very. I’ve thus far watched all 8 from downloaded files my daughter got for me on my computer, and I’ve begun to watch them comparatively with the very great 1975 mini-series. I got myself a British DVD set — there are 8 episodes, 4 more or less cover Ross Poldark (novel 1) and 4 more or less cover Demelza (novel 2). Well in the 1975 the mini-series was 16 episodes long and the first 4 more or less covered Ross Poldark and the 2nd 4 more or less Demelza. What I’ve found is the new series departs in different ways from the older one: there are some striking departures in the older series, but the new one accumulates them to make a different effect. Both mean to be transpositions (more or less recognized as faithful) but one spoke to the 1970s and this new one to us. The first two books reflect the later 18th century but also very much the post WW2 era when they were written (1945 – 1947).

    I’ve a big website if anyone is interested — links, posts, papers, information of all sorts:

    http://www.jimandellen.org/poldark/Poldarksection.html

    I find all the characters powerful and fascinating. I like all three heroines from the first set of books equally: Elizabeth, Demelza, Verity. I even can sympathize with a fourth, Keren. When I was on the message board for the Poldark society (a while back), my gravatar was a still of Jill Townsend from the 1977-78 series as Elizabeth.

    Ellen

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Ellen, thanks for stopping by and commenting today. I am well aware of your scholarship on this author and the 1970’s adaptation and am very grateful for it. I look forward to your thoughts on this new reboot.

      Best, LA

      Like

  10. I remember the old series with Robin Ellis. I’m really looking forward to watching this new one. Great to have a series set in 18th c. I’m sure it’s a stunner.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Virginia – since your have seen the original series, it will be hard not to compare them. They both have their own qualities, and even though I love the original, the production values and script on this one is superior. I can’t wait for Poldark Fever it hit the colonies!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Syrie, thanks for the complement on my preview. That is very flattering coming from a novelist and screenwriter of your caliber. I know that you are a huge movie buff and think you will be especially interested in the choices that fellow screenwriter Debbie Horsfield made in adapting Graham’s novels. I look forward to your impressions.

      Like

  11. I would expect the production values to be an improvement over the original. I anticipate enjoying the new one. We seem to get so many series set in 19th c. and now the first half of 20th c. is popular, so once again I say, I look forward to one set in 18th c.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Pingback: Vacation Reading | The Bubble Bath Reader

Comments are closed.