Things are not going too well for Ross Poldark.
Wounded in the American War of Independence, this British soldier returns home to Cornwall after a 3 year absence. In that time his father has died, his sweetheart Elizabeth is about to marry his cousin, and the family estate is in ruins. Not exactly the perfect homecoming.
Lucky for him he has the devilish good looks of Aidan Turner (Being Human) to get by. A quick look in the mirror would cheer up the grimmest of souls. With his black locks, piercing eyes and permanent five o’clock shadow, this Ross Poldark looks like a Mills and Boon cover in search of a novel. Fittingly, this new BBC production completes the picture with all the hallmarks of a sweeping romance.
There’s the hero on the clifftops looking longingly out to sea, the girl who is betrothed to one but longs for another, panoramic vistas, lush music, grand costumes, action scenes….. It all hangs together perfectly well without any hint of surprise.
Turner, even sporting a sexy scar as Poldark‘s battle wounds, is in just about every scene of this saga. Thankfully is he is up to the task of romantic leading man. When he isn’t riding a horse he’s brooding in Cornwall, determined to polish up the family home. But there are two good-for-nothing servants Jud and Prudie (Phil Davies and Beatie Edney), and who may well have strayed off the set of Les Miserables, freeloading off the family estate and must be put to good use.
Poldark is also forced to endure the wedding of Elizabeth (Heida Reed) to his cousin Francis (Kyle Soller) where we also meet the intended villain of the piece, banker George Warleggan (Jack Farthing). The other key character is Demelza Carne (Eleanor Tomlinson), whom Poldark rescues from a street brawl thinking a young boy was copping a beating. Eventually he offers her a kitchen job, but methinks more will be served up than just kippers and mash.
Based on the novels by Winston Graham, Poldark was first a UK TV series in 1975, starring Robin Ellis. While I don’t recall the finer details of that version, I think it’s fair to say the new version turns its hero into a bit of a rock star. There are even shirtless shots of his ripped torso in upcoming episodes, as well as the occasional nude swimming scene.
This version feels heavily influenced by Scottish highlands period drama, Outlander. But while that one also dabbled in time travel it was brimming in subtext and dark themes. I didn’t feel any of those were at work in this safe and broadly-appealing reworking. A scene where Ross Poldark speaks from the heart to Elizabeth after she has wedded Francis would have made more sense prior to their nuptials.
There’s nothing inherently bad with this production, other than being a little too handsome for its own good, and it’s an easy way to while away 50 minutes. With more depth to the supporting characters and less sign-posting of its plot it has the potential to justify a reboot.
At the moment it feels like a star vehicle for its worthy leading man, who accomplishes everything other than equestrian skills, with cinematic ease.
Poldark premieres 8:40pm Sunday April 12 on ABC.