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Poldark: A Review

Forty years after the original television adaptation of Winston Graham’s historical fiction novels, the BBC commissioned a new take of the popular series that has attracted a wealth of positive attention.

Set in the 1780s, Ross Poldark (Aidan Turner) returns to his native Cornwall after fighting in the American Civil War to discover his father dead, their estate and his family’s mine in tatters, and his former sweetheart engaged to his cousin. Sounds like a lot of drama for one man to experience and the intensity of this opening episode sets the tone for the rest of the series that throws its viewers an array of dilemmas throughout each hour-long episode.

Attracting over seven million viewers when its first episode aired on March 8th, much of the attention is gravitated towards Irish star Aidan Turner, who you may recognise as the dashing dwarf Kili in Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit trilogy. Poldark has often been a trending topic with twitter accounts @PoldarksHair and @PoldarkPecs gaining in popularity as well as ones dedicated to star characters @Ross_Poldark and @LandsEndLass, referencing the feisty female heroine Demelza (Eleanor Tomlinson). Only five episodes into its eight-part first series this isn’t bad going!

The show offers a fresh perspective on the harsh social boundaries that existed within the class-obsessed society of eighteenth-century England through the kind-hearted protagonist Ross, already likened to a Robin Hood figure through his charitable attitude towards the poor. He appears to stand between the two classes, honouring his responsibility to his upper-class family whilst maintaining friendly relationships with his mineworkers.  Meanwhile, Poldark’s varied group of characters provide an insight into the range of social division in 1780s England through the downtrodden country girl Demelza to Ross’ wealthy cousins.

Much like its 1970s predecessor, Poldark’s frequent shots of the stunning Cornish coastline is set to boost the Cornish tourist industry and it is easy to see why it fills so many viewers with a wanderlust for one of England’s most beautiful counties. It can be argued that this rural setting helps to set Poldark apart from the stereotypical attributes of period dramas. Whilst it still carries a range of themes related to this genre, there is something unique about the show that gives it a more modern twist. I’m not suggesting that those with no interest in this genre will enjoy Poldark, but there is definitely an edge to the show that may appeal to those more ‘on the fence’ when it comes to period dramas. The outspoken hero, Ross Poldark, who has much more of the Heathcliff about him than the gentlemanly Mr. Darcy many critics have jumped to compare him to, indeed contributes to the show’s edge. The courageous Demelza, who is already stealing the heart of many fans, offers a refreshing break from the refined women of classic period pieces.

With each episode filled to the brim with exciting dramas and held up by a range of talented performances and interesting characters, it may not be to everyone’s taste but for those with any interest in historical drama and wanting to see a unique take on the genre this is definitely one to watch!

The remaining episodes of Poldark will be aired on Sunday at 9pm on BBC1.

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