Poldark series 2: Aidan Turner is on top form as Ross Poldark returns to BBC1

Ross Poldark faces an uncertain future as the hit period drama returns to BBC1 – read the spoiler-free preview of episode 1

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Life is tough – even for a muscular and much-loved 18th century hero like Aidan Turner’s Ross Poldark.

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Compared with the relative sunniness of series one, series two suggests that life will prove a lot harder this time round for our dashing Cornishman. 

Not only will he find himself getting used to the day-to-day difficulties of married life with Demelza and his conflicted feelings towards first love Elizabeth (Heida Reed); there’s also the small matter of his trial at Bodmin Assizes to consider…

First things first, the quality of the drama is maintained. In fact, if anything, this series seems to have had a budget boost, and the opening sweeping scene has a brilliant aerial shot. Series two picks up where we left off in series one, with Ross arrested for plundering shipwrecked booty from the Warleggans’ ship and for murder. The stunning panorama reduces Ross and the Red Coats to the size of ants as he is frogmarched away and we survey the huge expanse of the Cornish coastline. Everything seems a little grander, a little more epic now.

The overall look, however, is decidedly darker. It was shot in the autumn and winter months, and the first episode takes in the consequences of Ross’s brush with the law, and the aftermath of the death of his and Demelza’s daughter Julia from the dreaded ‘Putrid Throat’ sickness in series one.

In a rather beautiful touch, the pair continue to lay a rose on Julia’s bed every morning. But there are more urgent matters to attend to as Ross faces capital crimes.

Not surprisingly, George Warleggan (Jack Farthing) is delighted by Ross’s travails and he has not given up on his designs for Elizabeth (below). The villains are, once again, also aided and abetted by a certain pig headedness on Ross’ part. As Aidan Turner revealed at the screening, he is not a conventional hero, and is often the author of his own misfortunes.

“He is real and he is flawed and he makes terrible decisions,” Turner said last night. “He mucks up and makes mistakes.”

Ross watchers will be pleased to learn that he does manage to get his shirt off for a bit of manual labour in episode one – despite what he told RadioTimes.com earlier this year. It’s not outside this time, and there isn’t a scythe in sight. Instead he’s down his mine where the camera lingers on his bare upper body as he wields a pick axe.

There are new characters to take in as well. Bergerac and Midsomer Murders actor John Nettles pops up as the kindly landowner Ray Penvenen; his beautiful niece, Caroline Penvenen is another bright new character. Beautiful and spoilt, she quickly takes a fancy to Ross in the episode and is modelled in the TV version, according to executive producer Damien Timmer, on Scarlett O’Hara from Gone with the Wind. Intriguing.

She is meant to be married to a new buffoonish villain, the prospective MP Unwin Trevaunance, played by W1A and The Windsors actor Hugh Skinner – a character sure to provide a mixture of aristocratic villainy and comic relief.

There’s also a moment of epic high drama right at the end, which I shan’t even hint at, but which had the BFI audience gasping.

Poldark fever will soon be upon us. Praise the Lord.

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Poldark begins on BBC1 on Sunday 4 September at 9pm