Sunday, June 11, 2017

He's Back!

. . . Ross Poldark, that is! . . . Yes, that "renegade of principle" and the title character of the acclaimed BBC TV series Poldark.

The third season of Poldark begins this evening in the UK on BBC One. It will premiere in Australia one week later, June 18, on ABC TV. Fans of the show in the US will have to wait until October 1, when Poldark returns on PBS Masterpiece. Unfortunately, I have no information re. broadcast dates for other parts of the world, although the Poldarked website is an excellent resource for updates.

Right: Ellise Chappell as Morwenna Chynoweth on the set of Poldark, season three.

Following is the official BBC One "teaser trailer" for the third season (or series, as they say in the UK) of Poldark.

Poldark is based on Winston Graham's acclaimed series of historical novels set in Cornwall at the turn of the nineteenth century. The first novel introduces the young Captain Ross Poldark as a battle-scarred veteran of the American War who, upon returning in 1783 to his derelict family estate on the windswept coast of Cornwall, discovers his widowed father dead and the woman he loves, Elizabeth (left), engaged to his cousin Francis. Bitterly disappointed and close to financial ruin, Ross nevertheless vows to make the most of what he has.

The first season of Poldark covered the events of the first two books in Graham's 12-book series, and saw Ross rebuilding his family estate by embarking on the risky venture of opening the family's long-derelict copper mine. He also rescues a street urchin named Demelza whom he takes on as his kitchen maid and eventually marries (right), much to the shock of members of his social class.

The third season of Poldark will cover the fifth and sixth novels, The Black Moon and The Four Swans. I recommend all the Poldark novels, but have to admit that The Black Moon is one of my favorites. For one thing it introduces a number of new characters, including Demelza's brothers Sam and Drake Carne, Elizabeth's young cousin Morwenna Chynoweth, the handsome navel officer Hugh Armitage, and the truly odious Rev. Osbourne Whitworth. All of these new characters appear in the following PBS Masterpiece trailer for season three.

I've made no secret on this blog of my great admiration for Graham's Poldark novels. This admiration dates back to when I read them as a teenager. I've revisited them over the years and they've undoubtedly had a marked impact on how I've come to understand many important aspects of life and love (as I explain here, here and here).

The BBC adapted the first seven novels into a highly successful television series in the mid-1970s. At the time, that's how many Poldark novels Winston Graham had written, starting in 1945. He would go on to write five more before his death in 2003. That's twelve novels over a period of 57 years. Quite an achievement, especially given the consistently high quality of his writing.

The new BBC adaptation premiered in 2015 year to overwhelmingly positive reviews in the U.K., Australia and elsewhere. The Telegraph's Allison Pearson even went so far as to declare Poldark "one of those rare occasions when a popular drama series delivers something that properly belongs to art."

It's been said that this new adaptation will eventually cover all twelve Poldark novels. If this indeed happens then it will be quite the feat, as the novels cover a period of almost 40 years (1783-1820) and a number of major historical events, including the development of the steam engine and the Battle of Waterloo.

Above: Aidan Turner as Ross Poldark.

Writes Emma Marriott in the book, The World of Poldark:

Ross Poldark . . . seems to exemplify the resilience of the human spirit, a man able to fight back at all that is thrown at him. Limping and bearing a scar to his face, Ross returns from three long years of fighting in a war. . . . Though born a gentleman, there is a rebellious side to Ross's nature – but at heart he has integrity, a belief in moral justice and contempt for the petty rules of law. And it is the flouting of these rules and the rigid conventions of society that so often leads him into trouble.

Adds Poldark screenwriter Debbie Horsfield:

[Ross] straddles two different backgrounds. He's a gentleman so he's from the landed gentry but he has huge, not just sympathy, but love for the common man, his tenants, his miners that he employs. He's in love with a girl who's a gentlewoman's daughter, a girl from his own class, but he ends up marrying his kitchen maid. He has a strong sense of justice without in any way being sanctimonious. He's a rebel and everybody loves a rebel.

Says Aidan Turner about the character he plays:

[Ross] admires hard-working people and treats people with respect – no matter what their position in life. He is an original class warrior!"

Hmm . . . Given the recent (and stunning) electoral achievements in the UK of Jeremy Corbyn and his social-democratic policies and social justice message, Ross Poldark appears to be a fitting hero for today!

Above: Eleanor Tomlinson as Demelza.

Says Tomlinson about the relationship between Demelza and Ross:

Ross and Demelza have a realistic relationship and that is what people like about them. It has never been a fairy tale romance. They have a lot of arguments and problems in their marriage but they have a family and so they question what they should do, whether they should stick it out or separate.

Demelza is such an independent female character who makes her own decisions and cuts her own path, and that is what I and the audience love about her. She is a strong woman for a period drama.

Above: Heida Reed as Elizabeth.

Says Reed about the character she plays:

[Season three opens with] Elizabeth on horseback having lost control of her horse. She is heavily pregnant and the question is, how far along is she? There was no way of telling back then. So she is up to a lot of strange activities, getting herself into questionable physical risks just in case the baby comes early she can blame it on the horse having bolted or having fallen down the stairs. She is covering her bases.

Elizabeth [and her second husband George Warleggan] have that kind of ideal, traditional marriage agreement that was very popular at that time; it’s a very eligible match and that fact holds the marriage together. They both respect this kind of arrangement on the basis of it being sensible rather than romantic.

Elizabeth is very much focused on trying to hide her biggest secret, which has an effect on her marriage.

Above: A scene from season three. From left: Aunt Agatha Poldark (Caroline Blakiston); Morwenna Chynoweth (Ellise Chappell); Geoffrey Charles Poldark (Harry Marcus), Elizabeth's son from her first marriage to Francis Poldark; George Warleggan (Jack Farthing), cradling Valentine Warleggan; and Cary Warleggan (Pip Torrens), George's uncle.

Above: Caroline Blakiston as Aunt Agatha.

And what, you may ask, is Agatha Poldark doing in the home of George and Elizabeth Warleggan? Is not the ruthlessly ambitious banker George Warleggan the nemesis of Ross Poldark?

Well, the home in question, Trenwith, is not actually George's house; it's Geoffrey Charles's, the young son of Elizabeth and her first husband, Francis Poldark (left), Ross's cousin. Francis died tragically in a mining mishap in season two. When he married Elizabeth, George opted to make Trenwith their home, in large part to spite Ross.

Ross invited Agatha to live with him and Demelza and their young son Jeremy in their home, Nampara, but the old woman said she would prefer to live out her days in the family's ancestral home . . . and be a daily reminder to "that upstart" George of whose house it really is.

Above: Rev. Osbourne Whitworth (Christian Brassington) and George Warleggan (Jack Farthing).

Says Farthing about the character he plays:

George’s status, power and wealth have grown since the end of the last series and we find George opening his first bank [right].

He is more of a force to be reckoned with financially and socially. He has the woman of his dreams, Elizabeth Poldark (née Chynoweth), and they are expecting a child so he finally has an heir on the way and is living in Trenwith, Francis and Elizabeth’s house. Naturally he is changing the décor, making it a bit wealthier and gaudier.

Above: Luke Norris as Dr. Dwight Enys.

In talking about his character, Norris offers the following insights.

From the inside out, Dwight's got a very honourable and noble instinct. I think a lot of us would like to think they would act similarly if they had the skill and application. He just has the courage to act on it, I suppose.

In the books Ross and Dwight meet in Cornwall but in Debbie Horsfield’s scripts we met at war and it was Dwight who patched up Ross’s face, so she has given their friendship a longer history and increased the importance of it.

At the end of the last series Dwight has been reunited with Caroline but he had already signed up to the Navy and is obliged to go to war. So at the start of series three he is away on his posting, on the Travail.

Above: Gabrielle Wilde as Caroline Penvenen.

"There is a lot of loss for Caroline in this [season]," says Wilde. "She loses her uncle and she begins to believe she has also lost her husband, Dwight Enys, too when he goes to fight in France. Whilst she is struggling with the grief of her loss, she really develops her relationship with Ross and Demelza and cements herself within society in Cornwall, becoming very much a part of that world. With the sadness Caroline endures throughout [season three] we see her grow up a lot."

Above: Josh Whitehouse as Hugh Armitage, a new character in the story and one who will have a marked impact on Demelza.

"Hugh is met by Demelza at the beach when he first returns to Cornwall," says Whitehouse. "[They] really connect and become friends but there is an attraction and he can’t take his eyes off her or deny the way he feels towards her . . . and possibly the way she feels about him."

About the character he plays, Whitehouse says:

I really feel like I can relate to Hugh as he is a creative, he is into the arts and literature and is a genuine romantic. Hugh refers to himself as an artist and I, myself am an artist, and like Hugh I also write poetry and music and so his interests are things we genuinely share.

He is an aristocrat, born into riches and high society but there is a misunderstood part of Hugh’s story and so my aim is to try and get people to understand him, to see him for who he is. I wanted to portray him in a way that would allow people to feel for who he was and where he was coming from and try to bring some light to Hugh rather than purely seeing him as a villain. He is a person who follows his heart and acts out of love, despite the fact that it could be seen as quite controversial and may have serious consequences.

Above: Geoffrey Charles Poldark (Harry Marcus) and his governess Morwenna Chynoweth (Ellise Chappell).

"Morwenna is very conscientious and gentle," says Chappell, "but underneath the surface there is a little bit of fire and a rebellious streak that she doesn’t even know exists."

Above: Demelza (Eleanor Tomlinson) an her brothers Sam (Tom York) and Drake (Harry Richardson).

Above: Harry Richardson as Drake, Demelza's youngest brother.

Says Richardson about the experience of playing Drake Carne:

Drake has so much energy and exuberance and this incredible passion for life, which is exciting to play. He goes on this incredible journey from boy to man as he starts to realise what is important to him, what his beliefs are, where he stands on love and religion and life and where he is going to sit in society.

It is an incredible opportunity as an actor to go on a full, well-rounded journey.

Above: Tom York as Sam, Demelza's oldest brother and a dedicated Methodist.

Says York:

Sam is a fascinating character to explore because he has a powerful conviction that he carries with him; he is a fervent Methodist and is on a mission, as he perceives it, from God to save the souls of the people of Cornwall. It is very rare as a young man to get to play a part where there is a real principle.

Sam has had a tough life; he had an abusive father, his mother wasn’t around, he lives in poverty, his sister leaves and as the oldest of the family he is trying to look after everyone else. He soon finds this very dogmatic, rule based form of Christianity and it saves his life. In 1794 religion was such a powerful aspect and God is in everyone’s lives but especially in Sam’s.

Following is an excerpt from Winston Graham's fifth Poldark novel, The Black Moon, one of the two novels that provide the source material for season three of Poldark.

In this excerpt, Sam and Drake are carrying on their shoulders are large beam of timber through Warleggan property when they encounter Morwenna and Geoffrey Charles. Although not obvious at the time, it will prove to be a momentous meeting for Drake and Morwenna.

They were now on the same path they had taken from Illuggan in March, and they presently came to the fork in the track where in March they had attempted to cross some fields and had been turned back with ugly words by the Warleggan gamekeepers. They had never attempted to cross the fields since but both were well aware from later experience that the way through the fields and the two small woods beyond cut at least a mile off their journey. They stopped for a minute. There was no one in sight. You could not see Trenwith House or any of its buildings. There was a barn of some sort in the next field.

"I say risk it," said Drake. "They can't be everywhere all the time." So they crossed the field, which was grazing land, though not even cattle were to be seen this evening.

The second field was barley, and the old right of way ran across the middle of it towards the wood on the other side. The barley had been sown to ignore the old path, but in the main had not grown thickly over it, as if even ploughing had not destroyed the impress of years. They went through the middle, waiting every moment for the angry shout, even the shot.

It did not come. They lifted themselves over the broken stile into the wood.

From here it should be easier. They were not sure how far it was yet on private land, but they knew the path came out at the first cottages of Grambler village, and that could not be far. The whole of the wood which they now entered, which was perhaps half an acre in extent, was azure with bluebells. The young elm and sycamore leaves were bursting out in a brilliant pale green through which the slanting sunlight dappled the ground. Halfway was a clearing where a tree had recently fallen and only a few sprouting saplings grew. The caterpillar ends of bracken were thrusting up among the bluebells. The fallen tree and an old stone wall would provide a resting place for the beam.

"Let's stop for a while," said Drake. "My shoulder's fair crackin'."

"Not for long," said Sam. "I'd be easier out o' here." But he lowered the beam, took the piece of sacking off his shoulder and began to massage it.

They squatted a few minutes in sweating satisfaction. A thrush came down near them, balancing his fan of a tail, then chattered affrightedly and flew off. Some small animal, probably a squirrel, moved in the undergrowth but did not show itself. Overhead the sky was high and brilliant, as if it had never been exposed to the sun before.

"Phew! I've no sprawl to move yet," Drake said. "I reckon we shall've earned this piece o' driftwood by the time we get him home."

"Hush!" said Sam. "There's someone abroad."

They listened. At first there was no sound, then quite close someone was talking. The young men dived for cover. In the following pause a blackbird began to sing, his clear pellucid song taking no account of anything but the summer's evening. Then he too fluttered away as a rustling increased and there was the clack of a heel against stone.

Two people came into the clearing. One was a fair-haired boy of ten or eleven, the other a tall dark girl in a plain blue dress with muslin fichu and a straw hat in her hand. Held in the other arm was a sheaf of bluebells.

"Oh," said the boy in a clear voice. "Someone has cut a tree down! No, it has fallen! I wonder if they know . . . But what is this strange piece of wood?"

The girl fished in a pocket of her frock and took out a pair of steel-rimmed spectacles, which she put on to stare at the beam. "It looks like a piece from a barn – or a ship. Someone must have brought it here. Recently too, for the bluebells have all been stepped on."

She turned and peered around. Drake made a movement to show himself but Sam caught his arm. But the damage had been done: the young boy's sharp eyes had seen the yellow of Sam's kerchief.

"Who is it? Who's there? Come out! Show yourselves!" Although he spoke in a commanding tone the boy was nervous and took a step away as he spoke.

They came slowly out, dusting the broken twigs and bracken from their clothes, rubbing their hands down the side of their trousers.

"Day to you," said Drake, as ever politely pleasant in a crisis. "Sorry if we started you. We thought to rest awhile and had no wish to disturb no one."

"Who are you?" said the boy. "This is private property! Are you my uncle's men?"

"No, sur," said Drake. "Leastwise, thinkin' ye mean Mr Warleggan. No, sur. We was just carren this piece of timber from St. Ann's over to Mellin. Tis all of six mile and we thought to lay our burden down for a few minutes, for the beam is some heavy. I trust we done no wrong."

"You're trespassing," said the boy. "This is our land! Do you know what the penalties are for trespass?" The girl put her hand on the boy's arm but he shook it off.

"Beg pardon, sur, but we thought this was a right o' way. We seen the stile and years ago when we come this way there was naught to let or hinder us." Drake turned his open smiling face to the girl. "We intended no wrong, ma'am. Perhaps you'll kindly explain to young Mr Warleggan that we 'ad no thought to trespass on private land –"

"My name is not Warleggan," said the boy.

"Beg you pardon again. We thought as this was Warleggan land –"

"This is Poldark land and my name is Poldark," said the boy. "However, it is true that until a year ago village people were allowed to go this way, though never by right. It was only that my family had long been indulgent in such matters."

"Mr Poldark," said Drake. "If your name's Mr Poldark, young sur, then maybe you'll see fit to overlook this mistake, because we're related to Captain Ross Poldark, who, twouldn't be fanciful to suppose, may be related to you."

The boy looked at their working clothes. He had a high fresh colour and a natural arrogance of manner inherited from his father. He was tall for his age and rather plump; a good-looking boy but with a restive air.

"Related to my uncle, Captain Ross Poldark? In what way related?"

"Cap'n Poldark wife, Mistress Demelza Poldark, is our sister."

This was a statement rather beyond Geoffrey Charles's knowledge to refute, but he looked sceptical. "Where do you come from?"


"That's far away, isn't it?"

"Twelve mile maybe. But we don't live there now. We d'live at Nampara. That is, at Reath, just over the hill from Nampara. I'm working in the house for Cap'n Poldark, carpenter and the like. My brother Sam is down the mine."

The boy shrugged. "Mon Dieu. C'est incroyable."


"So perhaps it was my uncle who sent you to get this beam?"

Drake hesitated but Sam, who until now had let his younger and more charming brother do all the talking, interposed to remove the easy temptation. "I'm sorry, no. Your uncle didn't know anything nothing of this. But d'ye see, with the assistance and to the greater glory of God, we been building up an old cottage. We been working on it two month or more and wanted a long beam fourteen, fifteen foot long for to carry the roof. And this was washed in at St Ann's and we bought him and was carren home."

"Excuse the question, ma'am," Drake said. "But I b'lieve I see you at Grambler church most Sundays?"

She had taken off her spectacles again, and looked at him coldly with her soft, short-sighted beautiful eyes, "That may be so."

But Drake, however deferential, was hard to put down, "No offence meant, ma'am. None at all."

She inclined her head.

"In the second pew from the front," he said, "right-hand side. You have a rare handsome hymn book wi' a gold cross on him and gold edges to the leaves."

The girl put down her sheaf of bluebells. "Geoffrey Charles, as it was customary in the old days to come through the woods . . ."

But Geoffrey Charles was looking at the beam. "It is off a ship, isn't it? See, here is a hole that must have had a metal rod through it.
And the corner has been chiselled away. But all that will surely weaken it as a beam, won't it?"

"We reckon to cut that end off," said Drake. We only d'want fourteen feet and this is nigh on eighteen."

"So why did you not saw if off before you left St Ann's? It would have made it that much less heavy to carry." The boy chuckled at his own astuteness.

"Yes, but maybe we can find a use for the stump. Good oak be hard to come by. Where you've paid for him all ye dont like to take only the part."

"Is it very heavy?" The boy put his shoulder under the end that rested on the fallen tree and lifted. He went red in the face. "Mon Dieu,
vous avez raison

"Geoffrey!" said the girl starting forward. "You will hurt yourself!"

"That I will not," said Geoffrey, letting the end down again. "But it is heavy as lead! Have you already borne it more than two miles?
Try it, Morwenna, just try it!"

Morwenna said slowly: "It is only two fields after this wood to the public way again. You will see the old path still marked. But when you go do not loiter. "Thank you, ma'am," said Sam. "We're in your debt for that."

Her dark sober glance went over the two young men. "I think there will be two men in the furthest field now milking the cows. If you were to wait a half-hour they would then be gone and you would run less risk of being stopped."

"Thank you, ma'am. That's a kind thought. We're doubly in your debt."

"But before we go let us see you lift it!" cried Geoffrey Charles. "I cannot imagine you carrying it three miles more!"

The two brothers exchanged glances. "Aye, we'll do that," said Sam.

So, watched by the young woman and the young boy, they heaved it upon their shoulders. Geoffrey Charles nodded his approval. Then they lowered their burden again.

Geoffrey Charles, his earlier hostility gone, wanted to stay on, but Morwenna took him by the arm. "Come, your mother will wonder what has become of us. We shall be late for supper."

Smiling, Drake picked up the bluebells for her and put them into her arms. Geoffrey Charles said: "I have not seen my Uncle Ross for some time. Pray give him my respects."

Both the brothers bowed and then stood together watching Geoffrey Charles and his governess return through the trees the way they had come.


Morwenna Chynoweth said: "I think, Geoffrey, it might be -- advisable that we should say nothing of having met those young men."

"But why? They were doing no harm."

"Your Uncle George is strict about trespass. One should not want to get them into trouble."

"Agreed." He chuckled. "But they are strong! One day when I grow up I hope I shall be as strong."

"You will. If you eat well and go to bed early."

"Oh, that old tale. You know, Wenna, I wonder if there was a word of truth in their story of being related to Uncle Ross. Mama has told me that Aunt Demelza was low born, but I had not realized as low as that. It may well have been a fable to enlist our sympathy."

"I have seen them in church," said Morwenna. "I remember seeing them; but Captain Poldark comes so seldom that I have no way of knowing if they were in his pew. I think they sat at the back."

"The younger one is funny, isn't he? Such a funny smile. I wonder what their names are. I must ask Mama some time about Aunt Demelza."

"If you ask your mother about them she is sure to discover our secret."

"Yes . . . Yes, I am not good at keeping a secret, am I? So I will leave it a few days . . . Or why do you not ask? You are so much cleverer than me!"

By now they had reached the far side of the next field and the gate which led into the garden of Trenwith. The chimneys and gables of the house were to be seen among its surrounding trees. As Morwenna lifted the latch of the gate they heard footsteps behind. It was Drake halfway across the field running and leaping among the grass and stones to overtake them.

He came up smiling and gasping for breath. In his hands was a large bunch of bluebells, much larger than the one Morwenna carried. He handed them to her.

"All that time you wasted talking to we. You might've picked as many more so I've picked as many more. Thank ye, and good eve to you."

They stood and watched him trot back. Morwenna looked around to see if there was anyone about who might have observed him. Among the bluebells were pink ragged robin and white milkmaid. Having regard to the speed with which it had been done it was a pretty bouquet. Morwenna knew from his eyes that it was meant as a bouquet. She resented the impertinence, coming as it did from one of his station. But he had gone running and hopping back into the woods.

– Winston Graham
Excerpted from The Black Moon:
A Novel of Cornwall, 1794-1795

pp. 62-68

Finally, from Australia, here is ABC TV's trailer for Poldark, season three.

Related Off-site Links:
Meet the Cast and Characters of Season 3 of Poldark – Alex Flether (BT, June 9, 2017).
Poldark Stars Pose in Promo Shots for Third Series – Julia Pritchard (Daily Mail, June 5, 2017).
Poldark Season 3: French Revolution "Casts a Shadow" on Cornwall – Sachin Trivedi (International Business Times, May 31, 2017).
Is Poldark Going to End After 5 Seasons? – Ben Dowell (Radio Times, May 29, 2017).

UPDATES: Poldark Recap: Series Three, Episode One – Ross Gallops Back Into Our Lives – Viv Groskop (The Guardian, June 11, 2017).
Poldark Season 3 Review: Drama Returns with a Cursed Child, Two Deaths and a Truce – Jessica Earnshaw (Express, June 11, 2017).
Poldark Series 3, Episode 1 Review – Sally Newall (The Independent, June 11, 2017).
Poldark Series 3, Episode 1 Review: It's Getting Dark – Rob Smedley (Digital Spy, June 11, 2017).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Return of the (Cornish) Native
"A Token of Wildness and Intractability"
Ross Poldark: Renegade of Principle
Poldark Rides Again
Poldark: Unfurling in Perfect Form
Thoughts on the PBS Premiere of Poldark
Meanwhile in Cornwall
The Renegade Returns

For more excerpts from the Poldark novels, see:
"Hers Would Be the Perpetual Ache of Loss and Loneliness"
Time and Remembrance in the Poldark Novels
Passion, Tide and Time
Demelza Takes a Chance (Part 1)
Demelza Takes a Chance (Part 2)
Captain Blamey Comes A-Calling
Rendezvous in Truro
A Fateful Reunion
A "Useful Marriage" for Morwenna
A Sea Dragon of an Emotion . . . "Causing Half the Trouble of the World, and Half the Joy"
Cornwall's – and Winston Graham's – Angry Tide
Into the Greenwood
"I Want You to Become a Part of Me – Each to Become a Part of the Other"

Images: Mammoth Screen/BBC.

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