In Depth

Poldark: Five things that make the Cornish series a hit

A bare-chested Aidan Turner is only one part of the show's successful formula

Britain may be in the middle of a heat wave, but Poldark viewers have been experiencing hot flushes for another reason – the return of a topless Aidan Turner.

Turner's early, shirtless scything scenes are the stuff of TV legends and it seems audiences can't get enough of them. Last Sunday, as fans settled in to watch the second episode of the third series, they were treated to a double helping of chest-baring.

Not only did Ross Poldark (Aidan Turner) appear in bed without his shirt, but in another scene, young Drake (Harry Richardson) bared all to wash in a stream.

Fans took to Twitter to gush about the scenes.

But while Radio Times readers have voted Poldark's shirtless scenes the best TV moments on TV for two years running, the secret to the show's success lies in more than flashes of tanned, rippling pecks and abs - surely.

Here are five things that make Poldark a hit.

Manual Labour

Ross comes from the landed gentry, but his military background and his early financial difficulties have made him a doer. Seeing a gentleman who isn't afraid to get his hands dirty, instead of sitting around drinking port and complaining about how hard it is to get good help these days, is a refreshing change. It also leads to shirtless scything and mining, of course, but that's just an added bonus.

Fighting Social Injustice

It isn't just that Ross works to get himself out of debt, he continues to work alongside his men even after earning enough money to sit back.

Poldark makes it clear this is a time of great social injustice, with dastardly toffs exploiting the poor. But when Ross sees the dire conditions of the local tenants, he sets out to rebuild the local economy starting with his family's old mine. He's becomes a role model for the socially conscious, non-idle rich.

Seaside Setting

The appeal of the lush Cornish setting cannot be overstated. Sunny beaches, crashing waves, sea fogs and misty moors all contribute the spectacular beauty of the show. Last year, The Guardian reported that Poldark had been a boon for tourism, with a noticeable spike in Cornwall's visitor numbers. A tourism survey discovered a fifth of respondents said the show was the reason for their visit.

Romantic tension

Poldark is filled with romantic intrigues, starting off with Ross returning home from war to find his sweetheart Elizabeth (Heida Reed) about to be married off to his cousin Francis (Kyle Soller). He then falls in love and marries Demelza (Eleanor Tomlinson) - but the pull of his old love remains, however, and this tension hovers over the series.

Feisty heroines

While there's a lot of focus on the bare-chested men of the show, Poldark would not be nearly so appealing without its leading ladies.

Elizabeth may have given up on Ross and married his cousin, but only because she thought Ross was dead. Now she cannot help her lingering feelings. Meanwhile Demelza, the ultimate rags-to-riches story, maintains her compassion for those less fortunate.

There are also plenty of other notable women in the show, including Caroline Penvenen (Gabriella Wilde), the "beautiful and manipulative" niece of wealthy landowner Ray Penvenan (John Nettles) in series two, while this year Morwenna Chynoweth (Ellise Chappell) has appeared to provide support for Elizabeth - while catching the eye of Drake.

Poldark: Steamy trailer for season 3 introduces new heartthrob

2 June 

A new trailer for the Cornish period drama Poldark is giving viewers a sneak preview of the upcoming third season, as well as a revealing glimpse of a new character.  

The trailer, released yesterday, announces that the return of the BBC series will see Ross Poldark (Aidan Turner) dealing with "new family, new loves and new battles as the French revolution casts a shadow over life in Cornwall".

It opens with Ross and Demelza (Eleanor Tomlinson) vowing to face whatever challenges life sends them as long as they have each other.

George Warleggan (Jack Farthing) is shown introducing his new son Valentine (although there is still some doubt about whether Ross is the father).

But the highlight for some commentators is the first proper look at Demelza's strapping young brothers Sam and Drake, played by Tom York and Harry Richardson. Richardson's Drake, in particular, is causing quite a stir.

Ben Allen in the Radio Times writes that while Aidan Turner "ruled out getting his kit off" for the new series of Poldark, the new trailer suggests "another character might be stepping into the breach".

Because "Poldark's creators know exactly what the people want", says the critic, "Drake is quickly seen bathing shirtless in a stream".  

Jabeed Waheen of the Daily Mail says that "hunky" Turner's refusal to do any more topless scything will allow Australian actor Richardson to "take on the resident beefcake" role and expose his "eye-popping buff torso" for the first time.

Indeed, the BBC is "not letting us get through a long, hot Cornish summer without some shirtless men on display", says Digital Spy.

But aside from introducing "Aidan Turner's competition in the swoon-worthy stakes", the website says the actor has also revealed that fans can expect a more action-filled series this summer.

Speaking of what's in store for viewers, Turner said: "We were running around with guns and breaking into prisons and there is a lot of espionage involved, it's tonnes of fun and great to break it up for Ross."

The actor says that the arrival of new characters has been a "new lease of life" for the show.

Poldark season three premieres on Sunday 11 June on BBC One.

Preview YouTube video Poldark: Series 3 Trailer - BBC One

Poldark's Aidan Turner spills secret that fourth series confirmed

10 April

BBC period drama Poldark is set to get a fourth season, star Aidan Turner has revealed.

"We've planned series four - we actually start filming in September," he told the BFI & Radio Times Television Festival in London, adding: "It was a secret."

Fans eagerly awaiting the third series will be delighted by the news. The new adaption of Winston Graham's 12-novel Cornish saga, which was previously adapted for television in the 1970s, has been a massive hit since it hit our screens in 2015.

It returns later this year – and Metro reports that the scriptwriter, Debbie Horsfield has also dropped some clues about what viewers might expect.

Series two shocked many viewers with an ambiguous and seemingly violent sex scene between Ross (Turner) and his former fiance Elizabeth Warleggan (Heida Reed). By the end of the run, Elizabeth, now re-married, found out she was pregnant while there was a tense stand-off between Ross and his wife Demelza (Eleanor Tomlinson).

Horsfield, however, told the festival that Ross might not be the father of Elizabeth's baby after all.

She said: "The books are really ambiguous about it. It's never said, 'Oh, it's obviously Ross's baby.'

"We may wish it to be - certainly for drama it makes it more interesting - but the book is not clear at this stage. We're not saying at this stage either."

A trailer for the new series implies Ross and Demelza's relationship is still tense, with plenty of brooding stares from Turner and wistful glances from Tomlinson.

It also shows a very pregnant Elizabeth and her anxious-looking husband, George Warleggan (Jack Farthing).

In addition, there are a lot of newcomers in the trailer. Elizabeth's cousin Morwenna (Ellsie Chappell) joins the Trenwith household as a governess and Demelza's handsome long-lost brothers Drake (Harry Richardson) and Sam (Tom York) turn up.

And dashing new aristocrat Hugh Armitage (Josh Whitehouse) is bound to catch the eye of the local women and possibly cause headaches for Ross.

Fans desperate to know what happens next can, of course, read novels five and six of the Poldark books, The Black Moon and The Four Swans, which are the basis for the new series.

Poldark will return to BBC1 in June.

Poldark: Six questions for season three

17 January

Poldark is to come up against its Sunday night rival Victoria one more time in the fight to be named Best Period Drama at the National Television Awards.

The shows duelled for the attention of costume drama fans last year, with both airing at 9pm.

ITV's Victoria, which tells the story of the British queen's first few years on the throne and her romance with Prince Albert, eventually pulled ahead of the BBC's Cornish-set drama in the ratings war - but will that translate into awards success?

They face some stiff competition – also nominated for the period drama crown are Call the Midwife, Peaky Blinders and Netflix's 1980s sci-fi thriller Stranger Things.

TV fans can vote for their favourites on the NTA website ahead of the awards ceremony, which will be broadcast live from the O2 arena on Wednesday 25 January.

The nomination caps off a stellar second series for Poldark, with millions tuning in to watch Ross (Aidan Turner) finally succumb to temptation and engage in a torrid tryst with one-time love Elizabeth, which left her pregnant and almost cost him his marriage to Demelza.

So what can fans look forward to in season three? 

 What will happen to Elizabeth's baby? 

The big bombshell is that Elizabeth is pregnant - and based on the murmurings of Aunt Agatha, there is a strong suspicion that Ross is the father. 

George Warleggan thought he'd won when he married his rival's former love interest, but he hasn't if her baby is a Poldark. How will George react when he finds out Elizabeth is carrying the child of his enemy? Will he pretend the baby is his to save face, or punish Elizabeth and the child somehow? 

We do know that Elizabeth's cousin, Morwenna (Ellise Chappell), will be joining the Trenwith household as governess to the child in season three. But George is not a man to be trifled with, so it seems Elizabeth and the baby may be in for a hard time. Or will canny Aunt Agatha come to their rescue?

 Will Ross stay true to Demelza? 

After Demelza threatened to leave over his infidelity with Elizabeth, Ross finally admitted what viewers have all been thinking – that his "idiocy has been spectacular". 

His "true, real and abiding love" is not for Elizabeth, but for Demelza, he said, and promised his former lover "will never come between us again". 

But what will happen when Ross discovers Elizabeth is carrying his child? And how will Demelza react when she hears the news?

Or will he end up with Elizabeth?

"I will never again be guilty of such recklessness," said Ross at the beginning of the final episode of season 2. This may be true, but his prior recklessness in bedding former fiancee Elizabeth may yet catch up with him next season.

The controversial tryst left many viewers wondering whether Elizabeth's pregnancy would end Ross's marriage and the fiery hero would get together with his secret paramour.

However, there isn't much enthusiasm for that turn of events on the Poldark forum on [1]Reddit, where fans have been discussing Elizabeth's merits as a character.

"Elizabeth is very much a product of her upbringing, her era and her station in life," says Redditor Mtempissmith. "She was raised basically as privileged chattel. She was raised to do her duty, to marry well. She is selfish and accustomed to servants and having men give her whatever she wants."

Others say they find the character fairly unappealing.

"Maybe she had more depth when she and Ross were together before he went to war," says Talesofineptitude, "but she is basically a whiny spoiled brat who doesn't know how to fend for herself."

This hasn't stopped some sites speculating that she will end up with Cap'n Ross.

"The upcoming season will likely show the two characters to end up together," says Headline and Global News confidently. 

 Time will tell whether the scriptwriters take the same view.

 What will happen to Caroline and the doctor?

Dr Dwight Enys's reunion with his impatient sweetheart Caroline Penvenen added a heart-warming note to the season two finale. But the course of true love never runs smooth in Poldark. The good doctor has joined the navy and was due to set sail into almost certain danger - the books are set over a period in which Britain was involved in the French Revolutionary Wars. Luckily, Enys is set to appear in series three, along with Caroline. So will Dwight return unscathed to his beloved? Or will war put their love under pressure?

Who will be joining the cast?

Luckily for viewers thoroughly turned off by Ross's caddish behaviour this season, there's a new hunky aristocrat on the scene: Hugh Armitage, played by Josh Whitehouse. Handsome and romantic, he's bound to set hearts aflutter - on screen and off.

Next season's Poldark will also feature a new vicar, Osborne Whitworth, who is set to become an ally of Warleggan, Radio Times reports.

The "sex-crazed" clergyman was played with camp gusto by Christopher Biggins in the 1970s original. This time around, Christian Brassington, who played Boris Johnson in Channel 4's When Boris Met Dave, will take on the role.

Also set to cause mischief are Demelza's two brothers, Drake and Sam. Free-spirited Drake (Harry Richardson) is set to strike up a romance with the Warleggans' new governess, Morwenna, who also happens to be Elizabeth's cousin, which can only end in trouble. 

Meanwhile, it seems Sam (Tom York) will be having a romance of his own with yet another new face. Ciara Charteris, who starred in BBC2's mini-series Close to the Enemy, has revealed she has begun filming on series three. 

Charteris appears to be playing Emma Tregirls, a gypsy who falls in love with street preacher Sam, Digital Spy reports.

Also joining the cast is Shameless star Sean Gilder as Tholly Tregirls, a "reckless womaniser" and former friend of Ross's father.

 When is it on? 

Reports suggest Poldark series three could air as early as spring 2017 to avoid clashing with Victoria series two, the blockbuster ITV drama thought to have drawn some viewers away from Cornwall this season. The BBC has not yet confirmed the air dates, but it's worth noting that the first series of Poldark aired in spring, so fans could see an early return of the next series.

Poldark: What will happen in season two finale?

3 November

There's only one more episode left to go in season two, but the BBC's Poldark has left plenty of unanswered questions to be explored.

The aftershocks from Ross's controversial tryst with Elizabeth continue to be felt and his marriage to Demelza is looking rocky.

Fans of Winston Graham's original Poldark novels may have an inkling of what is to come, however, as many of this season's plotlines are lifted from the fourth book in the series, Warleggan.

Last night's episode mirrored the closing chapters of the novel, with Demelza's anger over Ross's infidelity almost driving her into the arms of Captain McNeil – only for her to pull away at the last moment, unwilling to abandon her marriage just yet.

Graham wrote four Poldark novels between 1945 and 1953 and then left fans in suspense for two decades before the fifth novel, The Black Moon, was released in 1973.

When will season three air?

Winston Graham may have kept his readers waiting 20 years, but fans of the TV show won't have to wait that long to find out what happens next.

No exact date for the third series has been given, but based on the show's filming schedule, Digital Spy estimates new episodes could be on our screens by next spring. 

The action will be taken from The Black Moon and the first half of Graham's sixth novel, The Four Swans.

New cast members include Harry Richardson and Tom York as Demelza's brothers, Drake and Sam, and Ellise Chappell as Elizabeth's cousin, Morwenna.

Meanwhile, the role of womanising vicar Osborne Whitworth – played, somewhat improbably, by Christopher Biggins in the 1970s TV series – will be taken by Christian Brassington, who viewers may recognise as the face of Boris Johnson in the More4 drama-documentary When Boris Met Dave.

Season three will also herald the arrival of yet another heart-throb, this time in the shape of Josh Whitehouse, described by E News as "the next Eddie Redmayne". He plays aristocrat Hugh Armitage.

The book picks up several months after Elizabeth's marriage to Warleggan, when she gives birth to a son, Valentine, with more than a passing resemblance to a certain brooding mine-owner.

A leap into the future might prove frustrating to fans who would rather see some of this season's loose ends tied up in the finale, but what better way to keep viewers wanting more than ending with a "who's the daddy?" cliffhanger?

The Black Moon also introduces Demelza's brothers, Sam and Drake, who come to live at Nampara, an event that leads to a romance that threatens to dangerously escalate the Warleggan-Poldark feud. 

The new roles have been cast for season three, so this plotline will definitely make it to the small screen.

Dr Enys has been relegated to the background of the action for the last couple of episodes, but fans will be pleased to know that the war with France returns him to centre stage in the fifth book – although as a prisoner of war.

And Ross's willingness to risk life and limb to rescue his pal might also go some way towards re-endearing him to viewers turned off by his conduct towards Elizabeth.

Poldark series two: Did 'rape scene' cross the line?

26 October

It was the moment that had fans of Winston Graham's Poldark books in nervous anticipation. How would the BBC tackle the novel's most infamous scene, which appears to depict brooding hero Ross forcing himself on the recently widowed Elizabeth?

Written in 1953 and set in the even less progressive 1790s, Graham's fourth novel in the series, Warleggan, includes an intense scene between Ross and his old flame in which she resists his advances but is forcibly carried to bed.

The action ends there, leaving it to the reader to decide exactly what transpired.

The BBC's adaptation also stopped short of showing the full encounter, although a scene set the following day attempted to make it clear Elizabeth had no regrets.

However, for some critics and viewers, that was too little, too late.

There was no getting around it, says Gerard O'Donovan in the Daily Telegraph, Elizabeth said no, "no matter what the BBC might say".

"Even if all was shown to be okay between Ross and Elizabeth the following morning, that is simply far too late," he writes.

Scriptwriter Debbie Horsfield has denied writing a rape, comparing the encounter to a similar scene between Scarlett O'Hara and Rhett Butler in Gone with the Wind – which has also been widely decried as a glamorisation of rape.

Perpetuating the familiar trope that a woman can "say no but mean yes" only made the encounter more offensive, says Zoe Williams in The Guardian, who argues there is no getting around the fact "to get to stage two, the no-longer audible 'no', the rapist has had to go through stage one, ignoring the 'no'".

Can Ross be redeemed?

Christopher Stevens in the Daily Mail, who says the controversial scene left millions of viewers "aghast and horrified", says he is not sure. Now Poldark has "squandered the adoration of countless fans as he committed the one crime we never thought him capable of doing".

When he returned to his wife Demelza the next morning she knocked him flat in the farmyard dirt, adds Stevens, who says that "in the eyes of many disillusioned viewers that's exactly where he belongs". 

So does Demelza know?

It seems likely that she does, or else what other reason could she have to punch her husband? Her servants Jud and Prudie (Phil Davis and Beatie Edney), and Elizabeth's Aunt Agatha (Caroline Blakiston) probably know about the incident also, and now poor Demelza must live with the humiliation.

What will Elizabeth do?

How Elizabeth responds now will surely have consequences for her, Ross and Demelza. Will Elizabeth accuse Ross of rape? Given Elizabeth's hard-headed approach to life, it seems unlikely that she would reveal the truth and risk her intended marriage to Warleggan. But will her betrothed find out? And if so, what will he do?

And can Ross and Demelza's relationship survive? With two episodes remaining in this series, it's a lot to resolve, or will it spin out over the next series as well?

How will the Poldarks live?

Assuming Ross and Demelza stay together, what will they do for money now that the mine has collapsed? Can they make the farm work, or will Ross turn to crime? Ross has already dabbled in smuggling, but will he risk it again? Whatever happens, Ross has to make some money soon, or he will be well and truly ruined.  

What about Dr Dwight?  

Enough about those pesky Poldarks, what about the poor doctor and his star-crossed love affair with Caroline Penvennen (Gabriella Wilde)? Can love possibly triumph after Caroline's stern letter telling Enys to stop writing to her? Will he overcome her doubts, or will he give up and run away from it all? Dr Dwight's chat with a young naval officer seemed to raise the idea that the idealistic young doctor might be considering taking to the seas to forget his heartbreak. 

Poldark airs on BBC One on Sundays at 9pm. 

Poldark: The big questions after action-packed episode seven

17 October

Episode seven of Poldark had hearts racing – and there wasn't even a moment of nudity or shirtless scything.

Smugglers, ambushes, soldiers and planned elopements kept viewers and critics on the edge of their seats, with some declaring it the best episode yet and many wondering what would happen next.

How did Ross cover his tracks?

"Oh my goodness," says Viv Groskop in The Guardian, who writes her heart hasn't beat so fast since she last watched The Shining. A blood-stained customs and excise officer was on the rampage, while Ross hid under the floorboards. "Heavens the tension!" Fans, however, were left wondering how Poldark had managed to hide himself so successfully.

How will Ross get away with it?

Episode seven was "packed to the gills" with action, says Gerard O'Donovan in the Daily Telegraph, and left Poldark a fugitive once again. His escape across the cliffs and tussle with law enforcer Jim Vercoe were all "terrifically exciting", says the critic, but "how will he evade justice now he's been so clearly identified by Vercoe?"

Was it the best Poldark ever?

Ben Dowell in RadioTimes wonders if this was "one of the best episodes ever". It was "a breathless night of drama, fast-paced and atmospheric" with "a beautiful autumn mist adding to the melodrama", he says. "What a night."

Can it be topped?

"Given the tumultuous and distressing events of tonight's episode, the average viewer would have been forgiven for thinking this was the series finale," says Cameron L McKewan at Digital Spy. But there's still three more to come. McKewan suggests the show will have to work hard to top episode seven "because with breathless action and a heartbreaking separation, this was as memorable as Poldark gets".

Poldark series two: Everything we learnt in episode six

10 October

It's episode six of Poldark and Christmas has come to Cornwall. While it first looked to be a dour affair, with Ross facing debtors' prison and everyone still a bit miffed about Francis drowning in the mine, a spectacular present from an unexpected benefactor turned it all around.

So what did we learn this week?

Lady Caroline has a heart of gold

Lady Caroline Penvenen is no stranger to an act of charity – after all, she did give Dr Enys all those oranges for his vitamin-deficient patients – but she stepped it up a gear by paying off Poldark's debt the moment it was about to crush him.

Exactly why Caroline decided to step in and save the Poldark household from ruin remains to be seen, but "perhaps, beneath that lofty, waspishly indifferent exterior, there beats a warm and generous heart after all", says Gerard O'Donovan in the Daily Telegraph.

The Warleggans are down but not out

It was a moment of sweet revenge for Ross – and viewers – as he revealed Lady Caroline's timely intervention had scuppered George Warleggan's plan to ruin him.

However, George wasn't discouraged for long and his ominous statement that "there are other ways to punish him that do not involve money" suggests his thirst for revenge will now be taking a different form. No clues as to how George's villainy will manifest itself next week, but it will probably have something to do with the two men's shared fancy for newly minted widow Elizabeth.

Ross and Demelza have still got it

Safe to say, married life hasn't been easy for Ross and Demelza so far, what with money trouble, the death of their firstborn and Demelza's justified fears that her husband is still carrying a torch for Elizabeth.

All that seemed to be forgotten as the pair enjoyed a saucy Christmas clinch by candlelight. However, if Demelza finds out Ross sold off his last shares to help Elizabeth – a move that would have left his wife destitute had he been carted off to debtors' prison – the season of goodwill to all men will come to an extremely sudden end.

We're starting to worry about Ray

Uncle Ray, that is, and his determination to drive a wedge between Lady Caroline and Dr Enys, who, after a flirtation that seemed to stretch on for an eternity, made their love official with a woodland kiss in last week's episode.

However, Uncle Ray warned his flighty ward that the doctor was punching above his weight, status-wise. "So far, John Nettles has played the character with an avuncular spirit," says Digital Spy, "but now his true colours come shining through."

Dr Enys refused to be cowed by accusations he's getting above his station - but Ray could prove a tricky adversary in the future.

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