|Written by||Paul Wheeler
|Directed by||Christopher Barry
|Country of origin||United Kingdom|
|No. of seasons||2|
|No. of episodes||29|
|Running time||50 minutes|
|Original run||5 October 1975 – 4 December 1977|
The romantic saga follows Ross Poldark (Robin Ellis) as he loses his fiancée, the well-bred beauty, Elizabeth (Jill Townsend), to his cousin Francis (Clive Francis). Ross ends up marrying his servant, the unlikely-looking Demelza (Angharad Rees), but his passion for Elizabeth simmers on for years. Set in late 18th century Cornwall, the plot follows Ross Poldark's attempts to make his derelict tin mines a success. Life is hard, smuggling is rife and Ross Poldark finds himself taking the side of the underclass against the ruthless behaviour of his enemies, the greedy Warleggan clan including George Warleggan (Ralph Bates).
Although the emphasis is primarily on Ross and Demelza, there are many other characters with their own stories. In the first series we encounter Dr. Dwight Enys (Richard Morant (first series) and Michael Cadman (second series)), a young man with progressive ideas who prefers to serve the poor communities rather than the rich. Enys has a brief affair with a married actress, Keren Daniel, which results in her murder by her husband. By the end of the first series, Dwight has become involved with heiress Caroline Penvenen (Judy Geeson), who is conflicted between her love for the hard-working Dwight and her desire for a life of leisure. In the second series they eventually marry.
In the second series we get to see much of Geoffrey Charles Poldark (Stefan Gates), the son of Elizabeth and Francis Poldark. He resembles his father, and does not get along well with his new stepfather George Warleggan (Francis has drowned in a subterranean lake while investigating a putative new lode of copper in a mine). Geoffrey Charles begins a friendship with Demelza's brother Drake Carne (Kevin McNally), whom he and his governess, Elizabeth's cousin Morwenna (Jane Wymark), meet in the woods on the Warleggan estate. He also plays an instrumental role in the development of Drake and Morwenna's romance.
Drake is Ross Poldark's brother-in-law and has a working-class background: therefore George considers him an unsuitable marriage partner for Morwenna. George marries Morwenna off to Reverend Osborne Whitworth (Christopher Biggins), whom she despises. Pining for Morwenna, Drake emphasizes building his blacksmith business and spending time with his brother Sam (David Delve), a devout Methodist.
Morwenna and Osborne have a son, John Conan, whom Morwenna cannot bring herself to love. Eventually Morwenna tells Osborne she will kill his son if he forces his attentions on her one more time. Osborne has an affair with Morwenna's younger sister Rowella (Julie Dawn Cole). Rowella's husband Arthur Solway (Stephen Reynolds) discovers his wife's adultery and attacks Osborne, who is dragged to death by his frightened horse. Despite being traumatized by her marriage to Osborne, Morwenna eventually marries Drake.
Sam becomes enamoured of Emma Tregirls (Trudie Styler), who refuses to marry him because she knows that his Methodist congregation will never approve of her. She loves Sam, but knows that her lack of religion and her bad reputation will eventually cause conflict between him and his faith.
However, much of the main emphasis remains with Ross and Demelza, and the series concludes with the death of Elizabeth Warleggan after the birth of her and George's daughter Ursula.
Broadcast and legacy
The BBC adaptation of the first four books of the Poldark novels were broadcast by the BBC during 1975 and 1976. This included eight weeks' location filming in Cornwall. The second series was broadcast in the UK in the autumn of 1977, from the next three books. The series in total ran to 29 episodes.
Poldark is one of the most successful British television adaptations of all time. Poldark series have since been sold in over forty countries. They are particularly popular in the United States, Spain, Italy, Greece and Israel. On video, Poldark outsold every costume drama except for the 1995 version of Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen.
The original two series were shown to American audiences as part of Masterpiece Theatre on the Public Broadcasting System. In 2007 viewers voted it one of the ten best British series ever broadcast on that programme.
A version of the eighth Poldark novel The Stranger from the Sea was made by HTV for the ITV network in 1996, but was not continued. In 2008 the BBC made a half-hour programme entitled "The Making of Poldark" as part of its series called The Cult of Sunday Night. Many of the original cast were interviewed, including Robin Ellis, Angharad Rees, Jill Townsend and Richard Morant.
In 2007, PBS (America's Public Broadcasting System) aired a program entitled "The Best of Masterpiece Theatre" (the umbrella program which transmits many British costume dramas to American TV viewers). In a nationwide survey those viewers voted Poldark one of the top 10 (number 7) best-loved series over 35 seasons.