Poldark, BBC One’s acclaimed and highly anticipated hit television Series 3 returned to the silver screen at top speed. The first glimpse is of Elizabeth Warleggan (Heida Reed) on a spirited horse, galloping at full pelt along a cliffside pathway dangerously near the edge.
Just up ahead the land is eaten away with erosion, with a straight drop down into a wave swept inlet. What is she doing, trying to lose the baby she believes she conceived one wild night of not entirely consensual sex with her former fiancée Ross Poldark (Aidan Turner), the one her second husband George Warleggan (Jack Farthing) believes is his own?
Heaven forbid, Elizabeth wouldn’t be that reckless, or would she.
Set in 1794 on the eve of the French revolution in the opening scenes of Poldark Episode 1, Ross finds himself looking onto this dramatic scene and alarmed rushes to Elizabeth’s rescue… stopping her horse just before it can throw her into the turbulent waters below. She’s not pleased with his intervention and George turns up late on the scene to warn him off.
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Can a man love two women? If you are a known to be a man of vigour like Ross Poldark perhaps you can, although in the final moments of last season Ross Poldark pledged to his fiery, loving wife Demelza (Eleanor Tomlinson) that his true and abiding love was for her alone. He declared he would never allow Elizabeth come between them again.
We would all like to live a much more simple life… one that has no shadows from the past. However can we shed, outrun or ignore them? Well certainly not if you live nearby the windswept cliffs of Cornwall, where the waves endlessly crash against the rocks in a symphony of sound you know will last for eternity.
Demelza and Ross are both working together at Nampara their farm, making much needed repairs before the coming winter. They are also both working hard to rebuild their fragile relationship following the threatening events of the past. He’s infused with renewed energy and fervour and she observes aloud his feverish activity is to keep his mind from thinking.
His retort is that she thinks too much.
George in this first episode is surely at the summit of being unspeakable. He is a villain of the highest order; smooth, scheming and seemingly far more patient, his status, power and wealth considerably expanded.
He doesn’t really need his truly horrid Uncle Cary Warleggan (Pip Torrens) to guide him any more, because he has become a formidable and fearsome force in his own right, not only in the banking world but also as a man to be reckoned with at the highest echelons of society.
George lets Elizabeth know when they get back to the house the safety of their son she is carrying, is her number one priority. He also informs her first child Geoffrey Charles (her first husband Francis Poldark’s son), he wants him to change his name to Warleggan.
Played with conviction by young Harry Marcus, Geoffrey Charles stands up to his stepfather George’s demands, defying his ban to visit his favourite uncle, Ross Poldark and stating boldly that he will keep his Poldark name.
The rich, charming, clever and beguiling Caroline Penvenen (Gabriella Wilde) is at home looking to her Uncle Ray’s frail health. A country squire and a member of the ‘landed gentry’ Ray Penvenen (John Nettles) is dying. Being fed by his ward he’s asking her to please marry into money before he dies
However she rebuffs his wishes because she has made other secret plans with Demelza and Ross Poldark, who are her dearest friends, along with the man she loves, Dr Dwight Enys (Luke Norris).
Ross gets good news and with Demelza’s complicity in coming events, rides off on an errand. Demelza is labouring still when her youngest brother, the very swoonworthy handsome Drake Carne (Harry Richardson), arrives. He wants her to go home with him to say goodbye to her cruel and abusive father who is a dying.
She sends him away with a no, but then ponders on her decision for hours.
Over at Trenwith George tells his Uncle he will address sending Elizabeth’s son to boarding school. However at his bank that day Mrs Amelia Chynoweth Elizabeth’s aunt (Siobhan O’Carroll) who is in straightened circumstances, arrives with her daughter Morwenna (Ellise Chappell).
George puts a proposal they really cannot refuse. Morwenna will come to live at Trenwith and become governess to Geoffrey Charles, in this way helping her mother and sisters to survive and taking him out of his mother’s daily sphere of influence so that she can devote herself to his child.
Ross arrives home to a message from the mine where he finds that the reported mystery caller is his nephew Geoffrey Charles.
He takes him prospecting and then later drops him at home, where in the presence of his family Geoffrey Charles challenges his stepfather George about being allowed to visit his own family.
Brashly giving Aunt Agatha Ross’s good wishes in front of George, having put the cat among the pigeons, he then retires to his room.
When Elizabeth and her Aunt Agatha are at last alone, she warns her that ‘fresh travail will come with the birth of your child’.
Demelza asks Ross is she a bad daughter as they are getting ready to ride out together… on the cliff tops she detours, riding off to visit her father and to say her goodbyes. He tells her ‘they cannot wait’ if she is late.
Looking radiant Caroline dressed all in blue and looking very beautiful, takes leave of her Uncle Ray as she leaves to meet the love of her life. Demelza does arrive at the Church on time, as she and Ross become witnesses for Dwight and Caroline’s very private wedding.
Geoffrey Charles and his new governess Morwenna are out walking together and it is untimely they see Ross and Demelza and Dr Ennis and Caroline leaving the church on their way to the Poldark farm to celebrate.
Elizabeth goes into early labour and to disguise that her baby is coming a month early, quite literally throws herself down the stairs. George sends for his Dr, who sends word he cannot come yet because he has to attend another client who is dying.
Geoffrey Charles suggests Dr Enys should come and help Elizabeth much to George’s chagrin, and naturally being a good and caring doctor he takes leave of his new wife on their wedding night so he can look to Elizabeth’s well being as she faces a troubled ‘early birth’ for her child.
George’s Uncle hearing about Elizabeth and her fall, berates his marriage choice, telling him if it comes to a choice between mother and child, obviously the child would take precedent!
Demelza and Caroline are waiting together while her brand new husband is delivering the child, which will be vexing says Caroline seeking to understand how her friend feels, little knowing the truth of the baby’s conception.
Dr Enys wants to know when the other Dr George has sent for is coming because he’s anxious to get back to Caroline before the night ends. He discovers the Dr has been summoned to help Caroline’s Uncle Ray Penvenen who is dying.
He straightway sends word to her so that she may go back quickly back to her Uncle Rey’s side.
At Trenwith where Elizabeth is having a very hard time of it, a black moon has risen… which is for superstitious Cornish folk, a bad omen.
Everyone is watching… “…it is the coming of the shadow of death”, warns Aunt Agatha.
The black moon (the addition of a new moon in a month or season, generally occurring every 29 months) was considered a special time in Pagan society, a time when rituals and spells were considered both powerful and effective.
Ross Poldark rides out with Caroline, escorting her to her Uncle’s property where pleased to see that she has returned to see him, before he dies, Ray Penvenen tells Caroline to ignore what he has asked of her before, and that she should follow her heart.
Feeling happy and relieved she tells him she has and is married to Dwight Enys and gains his dying blessing.
Demelza’s father dies too and his eldest son zealously declares he will go forth into the world and save souls as asked and wants his reluctant brother Drake to go with him.
Over at Trenwith Elizabeth finally gives birth to her second son and they defy the odds and both live.
George feeling empowered at last, carries his son down into the main parlour at Trenwith, little knowing Ross is outside the window watching as he tells them all he will be named, Valentine.
Aunt Agatha not letting him off the hook tells George… a baby born under a black moon – well nothing good will come to him. George goes to the window and looks out at the moon, which is now blood red.
Ross is still watching and listening when George orders his servants take Aunt Agatha to her room, where it is clear he means to keep her locked up.
The waves crash down on the seashore the morning after and Ross can be found running along the beach for all his worth… he’s trying to relieve all of his frustrations.
Dwight has left for Falmouth to report to his ship without consummating the marriage. Caroline is deeply saddened she cannot see him again before he goes back to sea.
Geoffrey Charles and Morwenna are walking along the clifftops and she’s telling him he must be prepared for change now the new baby Valentine has been born.
Ross goes to see George observing that fatherhood changes everything, telling his rival he has come to make a bargain.
“My terms” says Ross to George. “You possess so many things I hold dear, my family home Trenwith, my family mine, my great aunt and my nephew…if you hold them all dear then I will retreat to my own world and never cross into yours again. That’s the bargain”.
Morwenna and Geoffrey Charles on their long walk meet Drake and Sam. Having buried their father, they are now on their way to Nampara to talk to their sister Demelza.
They don’t know Demelza and Ross are walking on the beach arm in arm together.
Ross is telling her about the bargain he has made with George… that we have no more to do with Trenwith… there will now be no connection between our two families. And while that sounds like the whole episode is doom and gloom, in the end it’s only good news for Ross, because Demelza tells him she is with child again.
When the first TV series Poldark was shown in the 1970’s it was a huge success. Screening on Sunday evenings at 6.30 on, the story is that all across England vicars in their parishes moved or even cancelled church services rather than trying to get the congregation to attend while Poldark was on.
The first seven Poldark novels by author Winston Graham were adapted for the first historical series by a living author produced by the BBC and today it continues to serve them well with Aidan Turner as a very dashing Captain Ross Poldark and Eleanora Tomlinson as his fabulous frank and fiery wife.
Carolyn McDowall, The Culture Concept Circle, 2017
Series 3, Episode 1 of 9
Ross Poldark – Aidan Turner
Demelza Poldark – Eleanor Tomlinson
Aunt Agatha – Caroline Blakiston
Morwenna Chynoweth – Ellise Chappell
George Warleggan – Jack Farthing
Dwight Enys – Luke Norris
Elizabeth Warleggan- Heida Reed
Drake Carne – Harry Richardson
Caroline Penvenen – Gabriella Wilde
Sam Carne – Tom York
Ray Penvenen – John Nettles
Amelia Chynoweth – Siobhan O’Carroll
Cary Warleggan – Pip Torrens
Geoffrey Charles – Harry Marcus
Director – Joss Agnew
Producer – Roopesh Parekh
Producer – Michael Ray
Writer – Debbie Horsfield
Author – Winston Graham
Production Company – Mammoth Screen