Next month, Poldark will hit TV screens in the U.S., after a hugely successful run in Britain. Not that Ross Poldark is a stranger to American soil. Episode 1 begins with him fighting in the American War of Independence on the British side, then returning to his native Cornwall to find that all is not as he left it. His father is dead, the family mine has closed, and his sweetheart Elizabeth is marrying his cousin Francis. Not one to lay down and give up, Ross begins the long, hard struggle to improve his fortune.
Poldark has been a sensation in Britain, with a lot of media coverage. Initially, there was much comparison with the original Poldark series from the 1970s. (Robin Ellis, who played Ross Poldark in the original has a cameo as the Vicar in Episode 1). But the country was soon won over by the new adaptation and the sight of Aidan Turner scything his way through a field, topless. Poldark finished in Britain on 26th April 2015, with a tear-filled episode, a huge cliffhanger, and the promise that Poldark will return for a new series next year.
So what can new viewers expect from Poldark? Here are a few things to look out for:
Anyone familiar with Aidan Turner (Being Human, The Hobbit) will know how well he can smolder. As Captain Ross Poldark, he smolders constantly. You can almost see the smoke coming off him! Those of a susceptible nature may want to be sitting down when they watch, as a precaution against swooning.
The Cornish tourist board must be loving the positive coverage their county has received as a result of Poldark. Expect a lot of lingering camera shots of cliffs, fields, rocks etc. For those unfamiliar with British geography, Cornwall is a county in the extreme South-west of England, on a coastline that was rife with smuggling in the 18th century. Cornwall has a distinct and independent identity, and its own (Celtic) language, which would still be spoken by a lingering few in Poldark’s day, and has since been revived. So if you think there are some odd-sounding names in Poldark, that’s your explanation! The rustic characters in the series give a good delivery of the Cornish accent and dialect (I’m told by those who ought to know). How easy or hard you find it to understand, I leave up to you.
Silhouettes on cliffs. Lots of them. Which leads me to my next point…
No episode of Poldark is complete without at least one or two shots of Ross galloping moodily along the cliffs. In an #AskPoldark Twitter Chat, Aidan Turner said he did 95% of the riding himself, on an Irish horse called Seamus, who he loved. It shows.
It’s probably not a coincidence that Poldark is set during a time of financial hardship. Ross is involved in a constant struggle to make his mine profitable and keep it out of the hands of the grasping Warleggan family. We see the common people desperately waiting for the fishing fleet so they won’t starve, or turning to poaching to feed their families. Not only that, but with no health and safety, the copper mines are dangerous places. And with only basic medicine, falling ill can easily become a death sentence. The Cornish coastline may be picturesque, but rural life in the 18th century was tough.
Hurrah – that’s what we like here! To my mind, Poldark seems like an old-fashioned period drama, the type I grew up with. It’s not just that the camera generally stops at the bedroom door (which it does). It’s just a good, old-fashioned story, taking turns I didn’t expect, and showing that love can be found where and when we least expect it.
You will need tissues. You have been warned…
In the United States, the series is to be broadcast in June 2015 on PBS, shown as part of the 2015 PBS Masterpiece series. Poldark commenced screening on ABC TV Australia on 12 April 2015.