Set in 18th-century Cornwall after America’s War for Independence, seen on Masterpiece Theatre in 1975, this epic saga of passion, adventure, and heartbreak is a British Gone with the Wind. Robin Ellis stars as Capt. Ross Poldark, a young hero who returns home to find his estate in ruins, his inheritance gone, and his beloved Elizabeth (Jill Townsend) engaged to another man.
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Limping and scarred, Ross Poldark returns from the American war to Cornwall after a daring escape from a French prison camp. He finds his debt-ridden father dead, his estate in shambles, and his beloved Elizabeth engaged to his cousin Francis.
Ross tries to drink away thoughts of Elizabeth but eventually returns to work restoring his estate. A chance meeting at the market brings Demelza Carne, an ill-bred urchin girl, into his household. Meanwhile, his cousin Verity comes to him for help after falling for a man with a dark past.
Ross supports Verity’s romance, leading to tragic consequences, while his opposition to the wealthy George Warleggan makes him enemies with the most powerful man in Cornwall. His relationship with Demelza deepens but is complicated by the class divide.
While Demelza remains in misery at her father’s home, the Poldark family is struck by bad fortune and a series of tragedies. Elizabeth flees her unhappy marriage and runs to Ross to rekindle their romance, but Demelza’s secret threatens to come between them.
Ross and Demelza grow closer with their marriage and the birth of their daughter. However, both their families disapprove of the union, and Elizabeth can barely hide her contempt. Ross also considers a risky new business venture, and Demelza plays matchmaker for Verity.
Ross’s business plan attracts the attentionand the ireof the Warleggans. Later, he makes matters worse with a daring rescue mission to free his unjustly jailed tenant from certain death. Tensions run high at the Warleggans’ charity ball, where Ross exacerbates the grudge.
The whole family feels the repercussions of Francis’s betrayal, although Ross is distracted by a murder that casts suspicion on one of his employees. The crime sends the usually honorable Dr. Dwight Enys into a tailspin of doubt and self-loathing and sets Ross on a course that may ruin the Poldarks.
Demelza tries to make peace with Elizabeth and Francis, but her goodwill has grim results. Mad with grief, Ross finds himself entangled in yet another scandal after his attempt at aiding a wrecked ship devolves into chaos and violence.
Arrested for his role in the shipwreck riot, Ross seems doomed to an unfair trial. Francis seeks to make amends with Demelza, but his guilt over his part in her husband’s fall from grace threatens to push him over the edge.
Demelza does everything in her power to stop Ross from being unjustly convicted, but the odds are stacked against him. The key to the trial lies in the hands of former servant Jud Payntera tipsy layabout easily swayed by drink and coin.
Furious over Ross’s continued success, the Warleggans hatch a plan to financially devastate the Poldarks. At the same time, Ross and Francis agree to settle their quarrel and begin again as partners. Jud, too, has a business proposal for Ross, but it comes with many risks.
After an irate Warleggan and his henchmen punish Jud for his loyalty to the Poldarks, Ross’s simmering dislike for George boils over into violence. Demelza has some surprising news, but her husband’s reaction is even more shocking.
Demelza puts herself in mortal danger by trying to improve their financial situation. A newly optimistic Francis pays a high price for his partnership with Ross, and the family seems to be on the brink of ruin once againuntil an anonymous benefactor steps in.
Ross and Demelza are overjoyed by the birth of their son and their change in fortune. Life appears to be going well for the Poldarks, until a villager’s treachery puts Ross in danger and separates Dr. Enys from his betrothed.
Ross escapes the fracas unscathed, but the villagers are not so lucky. Robbed of their land and livelihoods by George Warleggan’s greed, they whisper about revolt. Desperate to leave Cornwall, Elizabeth makes an unforgivable decision, and Ross risks everything to change her mind.
After her husband’s deception, Demelza looks for revenge from some unlikely sources. Tensions run high at home and abroad: the villagers are in open rebellion and war with France lies on the horizon. The discovery of tin at the family mine gives the Poldarks financial stability, but their marriage threatens to collapse.
George Warleggan now owns the home of Ross’s elderly aunt Agatha. Ross protests to no avail, but Georgewhose wife, Elizabeth, is pregnantcannot easily dismiss the ominous words Agatha utters about "a child born under a black moon."
Demelza Poldark is expecting a child of her own, but Ross is preoccupied with other newsthe wreck of Dwight Enys’s ship off the coast of France. Meanwhile, Demelza’s two younger brothers, Sam and Drake Carne, generate more friction between the Poldarks and the Warleggans.
After narrowly escaping execution in France as a spy, Ross continues the search for his friend Dwight. Drake also runs risks as he pursues a relationship with Elizabeth Warleggan’s young cousin, Morwenna.
George Warleggan makes his own plans for Morwenna’s futureand plans of a distinctly different sort for Drake. Only Ross’s intervention saves his young brother-in-law’s neck, an act of generosity that Drake is determined to repay.
A daring raid to rescue Dwight from a French jail succeedsbut at great cost. Back in Cornwall, tension fills the Warleggan household after their infant son falls ill; Morwenna is unhappily married off to a vicar; and Aunt Agatha’s final words shock George to the core.
George sets out to find the truth about his son. Dwight marries his sweetheart, Caroline. And Morwenna’s recently arrived younger sister, Rowella, attracts the attentions of Morwenna’s husband, Ossie.
Ossie and Rowella form a new bond as Ross and Elizabeth rediscover an old one. More interested in social status than romance, George concentrates his efforts on getting elected as the local member of Parliament.
Members of the Warleggan and Poldark families become mired in jealousy. George takes out his hatred of the Poldarks on poor Drake Carne, but it is the gentle Morwenna who proves particularly ruthless in exacting retribution and getting just what she wants.
Corn prices are rising, miners are rioting, and Ross is divided between his loyalties to the Crown and sympathies for the poor. When a new election is called, he decides to run for Parliament against George, who risks not only losing his seat, but also his wife.
Marital tension pervades the Poldark home, although it’s nothing compared to the rancor between Morwenna and Ossie. Tragedy lurks for Dwight and Caroline, while George finds yet another way to hit back at Ross.
A party at the Warleggans’ attracts the great and the goodas well as the uninvited Ross, who manages to steal some moments with Elizabeth alone. Meanwhile, Drake faces an excruciating choice when he learns about the fate of Morwenna’s husband, Ossie.
Drake disappears, suspected of murder, and George’s plans to hurt Ross begin to take effect. But it is the actions of Demelza that not only nearly bankrupt the Poldarks, but also put Ross’s life on the line.
Ross accepts a duel, risking a conviction for murder. Newly pregnant Elizabeth considers extreme measures to safeguard her marriage and family. And Drake makes one last play for a life of happiness with Morwenna.
"Romance and pure escape"The New York Times
"Sweeping, swashbuckling, exotic"The Washington Post
"Raging ambition, terrible betrayals, frustrated loves, daring deeds, and a marvelously dashing hero"The New York Times
BAFTA TV Award Nomination for Best Costume Design (1978)
BAFTA TV Award Nomination for Best Make Up (1978)
Emmy Award Nomination for Outstanding Achievement in Special Musical Material (1978)
TP de Oro (Spain) Award Winner for Most Popular Personage (two awards, Robin Ellis) (1980)