Poldark Season One Episode One on Masterpiece Classic PBS – A Recap & Review

Poldark Season One opening title x 800

We wonder why tricorn hats went out of style. They were so commanding. In the 18th century all the important men wore them: General George Washington, King George III, Catherine the Great, Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte and Captain Ross Poldark. POLDARK? Who is Ross Poldark you ask? Well period drama fans, if you don’t know who that is by now, let me tell you. After viewing the first episode of the new reboot of the eponymous BBC/PBS period drama Poldark you will never be puzzled by who this gentleman is again—only why you waited so long to make his acquaintance. He’s handsome. He’s brooding. He’s rebellious. He’s right there on your television screens for seven Sundays in a row this summer on PBS.

The Tricorn Hat Hall of Fame x 500

Masterpiece Theatre (now Masterpiece Classic) first introduced us to Cap’n Poldark in  their landmark 1975 screen adaptation of author Winston Graham’s best-selling novels. The two season, 29 episode series was a huge hit on both sides of the pond. Forty years ago English actor Robin Ellis filled those big, black boots. Teenage fan girls mobbed him like he was one of the Beatles. The show made him a star.

This time around the iconic romantic hero nonpareil is played by Irish actor Aidan Turner. Up until this point he has played the trifecta of on-screen para-normal beings: a vampire (Being Human), a hobbit (The Hobbit) and a werewolf (Mortal Instruments). Could this strikingly handsome actor play the most complex romantic hero to grace our screens since Mr. Darcy, Mr. Rochester or Mr. Thornton? We shall see.

Aidan Turner as Captain Ross Poldark in his regimentals x 450

Aidan Turner as Captain Ross Poldark

It’s hard to overlook the dominance of Ross Poldark as a compelling hero; however there are other characters to watch, namely the two heroines who form the love triangle: high-born sophisticated beauty Elizabeth Chynoweth and low-born kitchen maid Demelza Carne. They are complete opposites in many respects which makes for a combustible plot. Rounding off this full-blown, multi-layered, romantic saga adapted by Debbie Horsfield are dysfunctional family members, unscrupulous bankers, ambitious prostitutes, love-lorn spinsters and down-trodden miners. If there ever could be a replacement for our serious addiction to the dramatic exploits of the Crawleys of Downton Abbey, the Poldarks might give them a run for their money.

BRIEF RECAP (there be spoilers ahead)

Set in 1783 Cornwall, Ross Poldark returns home a wounded veteran after serving his King and Country as a Royal Army officer during the American Revolutionary War. His father has died, his estate is in ruins, and his sweetheart Elizabeth Chynoweth (Heida Reed) is engaged to his cousin Francis Poldark (Kyle Soller).

Though it appears to his Uncle Charles Poldark (Warren Clark) that there is little reason for his nephew to remain, Ross refuses his generous offer to rebuild his life elsewhere—choosing instead to fight for everything that he cares for: his estate, his tenants and the woman who jilted him. With the help of his father’s indolent servants Jud and Prudie Paynter (Philip Davis and Beatie Edney) and a street urchin turned kitchen maid Demelza Carne (Eleanor Tomlinson), Ross is determined to rebuild his pride and his family fortune. However, there are evil forces at work.

After the loss of the war with the colonies the severely recessed English economy has crippled the Cornish landed gentry, and in turn the local merchants and the villagers. Tin and copper mines are closing and the tenant farmers, miners and fishermen are starving. The only people to prosper are the powerful Warleggans—ambitious bankers George (Jack Farthing) and his uncle Cary (Pip Torrens). While they lend money, foreclose and scheme takeovers, Ross forges forward against all odds.

FAVORITE MOMENTS

Gambling again Poldark? Tell me again why you enlisted”—army officer

To escape the gallows, sir.”—Ross Poldark

Your crime?”—army officer

Brawling, sir. Free trading. Assaulting a customs official.”—Ross Poldark

Episode one starts off with men in redcoats. (We are at attention.) We are also shown Ross Poldark’s rebellious nature—and he’s not shy about it. He’s in a redcoat. He’s gambling. He’s smug. This is definitely not a Jane Austen adaptation.

Pray do not be reckless. I want you to return.”—Elizabeth Chynoweth

It won’t be for long.”—Ross Poldark

You’ll forget me.”—Elizabeth Chynoweth

Never!”—Ross Poldark

In a dream sequence we see Ross and his willowy sweetheart Elizabeth back in Cornwall (in slow motion scenes of course) and learn of their youthful attachment before he departed for America. She teases that he “will forget her.” He replies “Never.” Remember this. Poldarks are like elephants. They forget nothing, and they never forgive.

I seem to have interrupted a party. Is this in honor of the peace or the next war?” — Ross Poldark

Awkard. Crashing the engagement party of your beloved is tantamount to dancing wildly at your cousin’s wedding after too much champagne. Your will never forgive yourself, nor will your family.

Well pick me liver. What could we do? Left alone with no master to guide us.” — Jud Paynter

There are farm animals living in your parlor and your servants are dead drunk in your bed. After the news of your father’s death and your beloved’s betrayal, things can only get better from here. We agree. “Tedn’t right. Tedn’t fair. Tedn’t fit. Tedn’t friendly.

Ross Poldark is alive.” — George Warleggan

That wastrel.” — Cary Warleggan

I rather admired him at school. He said what he thought and did what he liked.” — George Warleggan

Ah, George. One of the wile Warleggans. You think you can befriend our hero and use him for your own selfish purposes? How little you know him—and how little he cares what you think. Later you call him impecunious. That is such a big word for such a small minded man. We shall see who is really impoverished in the end.

What can he offer you but poverty, uncertainty and a dubious reputation?”—Mrs. Chynoweth

Elizabeth tries to high-tail it away from her fiancé’s house and talk to Ross to explain her reasons for choosing Francis, and see if he truly still loves her. Her ambitious mama catches her in her escape and challenges her. My reaction to her questioning her daughter’s intensions was to reply, heck yes. Take poverty, uncertainty and dubious reputation and don’t look back.

Do you believe that breeding can ever be bought?”—George Warleggan

You should ask your uncle.”—Ross Poldark

Zing.

Ross, I know you are not uninterested in the sport. Perhaps you will instruct me in its finer points.”—Mrs. Chynoweth

I feel convinced, ma’am, that there are any subtleties of combat on which I can offer you any useful advise.”—Ross Poldark

Double zing. Who said that Winston Graham was not witty?

There be Garrick, sir. Him and me be friends. Where I go, he goes.”—Demelza

Actor W. C. Field is reputed to have said, “Never work with animals or children.” They steal the limelight. How could Ross possibly have said no to Demelza’s request to bring her dog along with her to Nampara? By putting her dog ahead of herself when she is starving showed him that she could not desert a friend, and neither should he.

Eleanor Tomlinson as Demelza in Poldark 2015

Eleanor Tomlinson as Demelza Carne with Garrick, her dog

MY REVIEW

Sumptuous, invigorating and sexy, this new adaptation by Debbie Horsfield has everything that a period drama fan could possibly desire: swarthy, broody, tousled haired leading man; beautiful, spirited and self-confident leading lady; despicable villains and a supporting cast of likeable characters—all set in late eighteenth-century decaying aristocracy. If Jane Austen and Charlotte Bronte met and drank too much port, Poldark would be their literary love child.

However, even though Horsfield has stayed close to author Winston Graham’s original text, I felt like the pacing was too rushed, lines of dialogue truncated to a bare minimum of words and the editing so precise that we could not linger long enough to contemplate its deficiencies. It is hard for me not to compare this screenplay to the original book, or its closest cousin, the 1975-1977 original Poldark television series, but there you have it. Since I have already been exposed to those mediums there is no erasing that experience. For those who have not read the books nor seen the original Poldark series, you may not sympathize with me, and only feel the energy and heat generated by its handsome star, Aidan Turner, and feel no pain.

This first episode set up the plot with accuracy and expediency. The performances were promising, especially Turner as the mad, bad and dangerous to know Captain Poldark, and Pip Torrens and Jack Farthing as the Warleggans of Slytherin House. Eleanor Tomlinson transformed from a ragged street urchin into a radiant beauty with the alacrity of a fruit fly, but it was not troublesome to the eye.

Poldark continues next Sunday on Masterpiece Classic PBS with episode 2. Join us during the live Twitter event by using the hash tag #PoldarkPBS

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

Disclosure of Material Connection: We received one review copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. We only review or recommend products we have read or used and believe will be a good match for our readers. We are disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

25 thoughts on “Poldark Season One Episode One on Masterpiece Classic PBS – A Recap & Review

  1. I pulled out Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug yesterday afternoon and watched it, just to see Aidan in both roles. Not having read the book nor viewed the first TV series…I’m waiting. I do know the plot, having looked the books up on Wikipedia. But the first episode was just setting the stage more or less. I can foresee many conflicts between classes, between workers and employee and between individuals. Demelza cleaned up nicely but she is already a complex character, with her background, her faithfulness to her dog and her new circumstances, even sitting in front of him on the horse and witnessing the conversation between Elizabeth and Ross. The cousin struck me as wimpy. Hated Elizabeth’s mother from the get-go! Much worse than Mrs. Bennet.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I own the first 2 Hobbits and love them. I am waiting to purchase the extended version of the last movie in the trilogy them it becomes available in November. Turner had a small role and not much dialogue, but he still shined even with the costume and make-up.

      This is only the first episode, and like a novel, there is a lot of set up for future conflict and action. I can share that it gets even better from here.

      Like

      • The extended version of the last Hobbit movie is out, at least here in the States. I got extended versions of each. And I do expect Poldark to get even better as I have read so many good things about it.

        Like

  2. Laurel Ann, I live for your ‘recap and review’ posts! So satisfying! I haven’t seen the earlier Poldark version, so I’m watching this as a first-timer. But how can you not like anything described in this fashion: “If Jane Austen and Charlotte Bronte met and drank too much port, Poldark would be their literary love child.” Brilliant! Just a brilliant description!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. The Hobbit! So *that’s* why Poldark looks familiar! I don’t remember the earlier series, but so far I am enjoying the current version. Gorgeous scenery, and I don’t (just) mean Aidan Turner. LOL your line, “If Jane Austen and Charlotte Bronte met and drank too much port, Poldark would be their literary love child.” LOL! spot on :-D Excellent review and recap.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Haven’t watched it yet – for those who missed it, just FYI – the PBS app (At least the iPhone/iPad one) has the first episode available to stream until July 19th. (Masterpiece episodes tend to stay available for about a month after broadcast, and are released to stream usually within 24 hours of broadcast.) We pulled the cable plug a few years ago so much of my TV viewing is done slightly after the fact now…

    Thanks for the review – and thanks for calling out the spoilers as well! I hope to see it this week!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. As I was watching Episode 1 all alone on the couch last night, I kept thinking to myself that this is a period drama that men would enjoy too – now I just have to convince the menfolk of my house to join me. So far (since I’ve only seen episode 1) it seems to me that Ross Poldark is a man’s man, and he conquers his problems with sheer determination, muscle, sweat and a certainty of what is right. His persona is commanding, and whether it’s enthusiastic or begrudging, people respond to that. I was completely mesmerized by him!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Loved your recap and review, Laurel Ann! Since I rented and watched the 70s version of Poldark a month ago, I know the story. Aiden Turner is downright gorgeous, but I can see why Robin Ellis became a ‘rock star’ 40 years ago. There was something about his presence that set my heart aflutter. Like you, I wish the episode had lingered a bit longer in certain places, but that’s a minor quibble on my part. To me, the real star of the show was the breathtaking scenery of the Cornwall coast. I absolutely loved it, and I can’t wait to watch the rest of the series!

    Liked by 2 people

  7. I might have let my anticipation build to an unrealistic level because though the cinematography was breathtaking and the actors well cast, I was waiting and waiting for something to reel me in. And I’m really hoping the season is not going to linger with Elizabeth–ugh! She’s married–time to move on–both of them!

    It is still early. The table has been set. Now just to wait to see how everything is served up.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I think you’ve just about got it spot on, Laurel. My only quibble was that the series wasn’t long enough and thus, as you say above, it did seem a little rushed at times. Everything else was pretty darned gorgeous!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Great intro to Poldark and good review of first episode. I agree that it felt a bit rushed, but was fairly true to the book. I missed Jim Carter, though. He was mentioned as one of the men who helped Jud stave off Carne’s miner friends, but I thought it odd that he wasn’t in the first episode at all really.

    I was disappointed that Ross’s scar wasn’t more prominent, and I don’t think I’m alone in that.

    Overall, though, a very enjoyable start to what promises to be a good series.

    Like

    • Interestingly observations Jane.

      I have read some recent comments about the first episode. They said it was boring and slow. With all of that action? I think it is because it is so whip-neck fast that viewers have not engaged with the characters yet. That will change as the series progresses. Compared to the intimate scenes and dialogue of Downton Abbey, this is a big change in film making styles.

      Jim Carter is in this first episode, but just peripherally. He has more air time in ep 2.

      The small scar thing is interesting. And, they really played down the ankle injury. If you have seen the 1970’s Poldark, Ross’s scar was on the opposite cheek! Some UK viewers were complaining that the scar looked like his eyeliner ran! Too funny!

      Thanks for your comments. Best, LA

      Like

  10. Laurel Ann,
    I had only heard of the novel and prior series before this recent one was released, so I didn’t come to “Poldark” on Sunday with the same background you did. I think that did make it easier for me to accept the narrative style and pacing of the show without questioning it, as I had nothing to compare it to, and I definitely felt no pain at all while watching Aiden Turner :) . He’s a very compelling hero, and I’m looking forward to seeing more of the series!

    Like

  11. Watched the first episode streaming a few days ago; coming to this without any prior background, the pacing felt very rushed and it was difficult for me to care about any of the characters, but I’ll give the second episode a try since many times a first episode is nothing but setup for upcoming events.

    Have to laugh about the “eyeliner” comment; I was looking at his scar during the episode and thinking I had a lipliner just that color in the 90s…not the most realistic makeup job I’ve ever seen. Mr. Turner is nice to look at though, bad eyeliner job or no…

    Like

  12. Reblogged this on Poldarkian and commented:
    Did you catch the fabulous premiere of Poldark on Masterpiece Classic on Sunday? Here are my thoughts on episode one. (there be spoilers ahead. Be sure to to watch episode two next Sunday. Ross dances, George wiles and Demelza washes her hair!

    Cheers, Laurel Ann

    Like

  13. Pingback: Poldark Season One Episode Two on Masterpiece Classic PBS – A Recap & Review | Austenprose - A Jane Austen Blog

  14. [“Could this strikingly handsome actor play the most complex romantic hero to grace our screens since Mr. Darcy, Mr. Rochester or Mr. Thornton? We shall see.”]

    I just watched the premiere episode. Yes, Mr. Turner can play this very complex character . . . with one hand behind his back and hopping on one foot. Besides, I saw him in “DESPERATE ROMANTICS”. Blew me away.

    I’m really curious to see how Heida Reed deals with the Elizabeth Poldark character. She is another favorite of mine. I find her extremely complex and interesting. I guess it’s because she is not an ideal character. And I don’t find ideal characters that interesting.

    Like

Comments are closed.