Saturday, March 02, 2019

Saturday and Sundry Drama Series

During the past few evenings we've been time travelling - in mind only - as we watched two drama series, set in 17th and 18th century England.

Amazon Prime enticed us to watch, first, three seasons of the 2015 version of Poldark currently on offer, which I supplemented with a DVD of season 4. Season 5 (said to be the last) is still in production.

Poldark is set in the late 1700s, after the end of the American War of Independence, from which our hero, Ross Poldark returns as the tale begins. Ross Poldark is played by Aidan Turner with just the right blend of swashbuckling sweetness and a touch of the enigmatic. The setting is beautiful Cornwall, near Truro, in the far south-west of England. The series' female lead, playing Demelza, in true "My Fair Lady" tradition, is Eleanor Tomlinson.

I've been so taken with the story that I've now started on Winston Graham's set of Poldark novels, upon which this TV series, as well as an earlier one in the mid-1970s, were based.

The series has romance, politics, everyday life in 18th century Cornwall and London, human foibles and enigmas, with intervals of action and adventure. There's a satisfyingly evil villain of the tale, wonderfully played by Jack Farthing as George Warleggan. Coincidentally, we'd just watched Jack Farthing in a really whacky comedy series, Blandings, in a role which could hardly have been more different from that of George Warleggan. For an excellent example of a truly versatile actor, just take a look at Jack's performances in an episode of both Blandings and Poldark!

 Jack Farthing as George Warleggan

 Jack Farthing as upper-class twit Freddie

I suppose Poldark could be seen as a very well-done, well-acted and well-presented historical soap opera but really, it's much more than that.

The older 1975 series sounds, from what I've read of it, to be a little different in tone and detail from this more recent version. Perhaps in some ways it was nearer to the novel, but perhaps in some other ways not as true to the novel's basic intent and flavour. I won't know this until I find a way to watch the older version, and have read several of the novels. I intend to do both.

After we finished Poldark, I spied a dramatised version, aired in 2000/2001, of Lorna Doone at Amazon Prime. There had been an earlier version of this story too, in the mid-1970s.

I'd had a vague, and mistaken, idea that the story is set in Scotland ("Ye banks and braes o' bonny Doon...."). It isn't, it's set in the Devonshire/Somerset area of south-west England, a little to the north and east of Poldark's Cornwall. It is an adaptation of a novel by Richard D. Blackmore, published in 1869. There is a link to Scotland but one that isn't explored in this short (3 episode) TV series. Any link to Scotland relates to a time before the Lorna Doone plot begins, when the once aristocratic Doone family, were stripped of their ancient Scottish lands and heritage. Reasons are left untold, but I'd like to know! The Doones moved to an area of Devonshire near Exmoor which became known as Doone Valley. The clan turned into outlaws, frightening, pillaging, burning and killing local farmers and villagers. Our hero and narrator, in Lorna Doone is John Ridd, a yeoman farmer, whose father was killed by the dreaded Doone gang. When both were children, John met Lorna without knowing her family background....Romeo, Juliet an' all that! But there's more, with a bit of 17th century British history thrown in!

Lorna Doone is a much shorter series, and therefore the tale is more rushed than Poldark's, more detailed and leisurely telling, but it's still a worthwhile watch. It could well serve as an introduction to a classic British novel. Lorna Doone was originally shown as a 3 hour TV film, now arranged into 3 episodes for Amazon Prime. Here's the starry cast list:

I'd recommend both series as good ways to leave behind the cares of 2019, Trump, Brexit et al and do a bit of mental time travelling. It serves to remind us that though we do have problems in 2019, they are not nearly as severe as those many of our ancestors had to face.


Wisewebwoman said...

I remember watching the original Poldark on PBS, good lord, must have been 40 years ago? Can't remember much about it and I haven't read the books. I'm not a subscriber to prime, otherwise I'd give it a decco (as we say!).

I did read Lorna Doone at one point. Enjoyed it.


Twilight said...

Wisewebwoman ~ Yes, it would've been 1975-ish I guess! Long ago! I'm not sure we even had a TV - or one capable of accessing all on offer back then. I think we rented a TV. I do want to see the older version of Poldark at some point - I enjoy doing comparisons. :)

We're watching more on Amazon Prime now than on Netflix. It used to be t'other way around, and we found Amazon clunky at first - it is still, but there's a wider variety of stuff now, a lot of older shows too. Netflix seems to be pushing its own fare more and more now, and it ain't always that good. I'm considering subscribing to a year of BritBox as a trial. I'd be happy to drop Netflix, but Himself isn't in agreement - yet. :)