The next ‘Downton’?
A new adaptation of literature’s ‘Poldark’ finds refreshed lushness in this tale.
“Poldark” is a passionate British melodrama.
Coming to “Masterpiece Theater” Sunday is a new production of “Poldark,” based on Winston Graham’s novels of love and family, copper mining and class war in late 18th century England. You might want to be there when it arrives if passionate, period British literary melodramas are at all your thing.
One can’t properly call it a remake, given its bookish origins, but for all intents and purposes the new production proceeds from an earlier series, a small phenomenon on both sides of the Atlantic that created a tourist industry in Cornwall in the 1970s, long before “Doc Martin” became synonymous with that neck of the British coastline.
That version, which ran 25 teeming hours, is available via the online subscription service Acorn TV; I fell in love with it a few years ago at the time of a complete-series DVD release.
If the new series follows very much in its steps, and fine new stars Aidan Turner and Eleanor Tomlinson somewhat resemble predecessors Robin Ellis (who has a cameo here) and Angharad Rees, it’s largely because those steps and those parts were well defined on the page. It’s a story in which character, more than chance or fate, drives the narrative. Ross Poldark (Turner) is always going to smolder dark- ly; Demelza (Tomlinson) must ever be a creature of light and spirit. And each seems a shade more modern than the neighbors.
The action starts when Ross — he is Ross to everyone, being local gentry but also a man of the people — returns from fighting in the American Revolution to find his father’s estate in decay. His intended is now betrothed to his much less sexy but well-heeled cousin; this strikes him as problematic, but he is not one to let the grass grow under his feet. And there is a lot of grass in Cornwall.
Demelza is the girl dressed as a boy he rescues from an abusive father and makes his kitchen maid and then, you know, more than that. I don’t want to give details away, since this is a story whose pleasures are very much in the unfolding. Suffice it to say, each will have a lot to learn, and a lot to learn about each other.
The current, eight-hour run is somewhat streamlined and faster-paced than the last, longer one (though a second season has already been commissioned). But what it sacrifices in dialogue it makes up in pictures: a beautiful object, full of beautiful objects.
ROSS POLDARK (Aidan Turner) returns home to his intended (Heida Reed).