Season Three, Episode Five: Ross Poldark, Action Hero

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Cue the action music — Ross Poldark, reluctant hero, is riding into action in France. He’s successful, bringing home Dr. Dwight and the dashing Lieutenant Hugh Armitage, but what ongoing consequences will his recklessness bring?

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Barrett Brountas:  The subtitle for this third season of Poldark should probably just be Ross Poldark, Action Hero, and this episode lays it on rather thick.


Ross The prisoners will be sleeping, so let’s endeavor to pass through unnoticed. At all costs, give no impression that we’re here to free prisoners.

Henshawe Aye, th’ last thing we need is a mad stampede to escape.

Ross Follow me.


Barrett We’ll forgive Ross’ baser instincts, though, because he manages to rescue Dr. Dwight and the dashing Lieutenant Hugh Armitage from a French prison!


Dwight I cannot abandon these men – there are only four surgeons in the entire camp.

Ross So we should go home without you?

Hugh Enys, you have more than discharged your duty.  Don’t be a fool Enys. We’d all escape if we had the chance

Barrett Sadly, Captain William Henshawe dies in the adventure, and we’re reminded of the risks at the root of this all.


Ross I should never have let him come. I should have foreseen the consequences.

Demelza How could you? How can we ever foresee what will come of our actions?

Barrett I’m Barrett Brountas, and this is Mining Poldark, a podcast from MASTERPIECE. I’m happy, as always, to welcome back my co-host, Robin Ellis, who played Ross Poldark in the 1970s adaption of the series.  Hello, Robin!

Robin Ellis: Hello, hello Barrett! Here we are again.

Barrett Let’s get a full recap of the French raiding party and more before we dig deep into our main scene choices, shall we?

Robin This is two assaults and a surrender. George storms Tregothnan House Lord Falmouth’s vast gaff, where incidentally I spent a night long ago and had my shirt ironed by Lady Falmouth, more of that later perhaps, the heart of Cornish high society and falls flat on his face. Ross storms stinking Quimper jail and rescues Dwight and, not planned, Hugh Armitage, Lord Falmouth’s nephew but loses Captain ‘I’ll take my chances’ Henshaw and I’ll bet I’m not alone in saying I’ll miss his cheery face and sensible disposition.

Barrett It’s an adrenaline pumping albeit heart wrenching episode that swashbuckles is like it’s never swashbuckled before. Drake, Morwenna, and third wheel Geoffrey Charles’ toad adorned idol comes to an end when Aunt Agatha warns Morwenna that George is sure to punish Drake for their burgeoning romance. Osborn Whitworth is already dreaming of his honeymoon

Robin Poor George. Troubles come not single spies but in battalions. The news that Valentine has rickets, a condition usually afflicting the vulgar, shocks him to the core. No one must know and still no invitation to the Falmouth ball.

Barrett While George seeks to raise his own status by undermining Ross’s, the captain and his band of brothers are breaking Dwight out of the hellish French prison. In his ‘goodbye cruel world’ mission stow away Drake gets the gang out of a jam but Henshawe sadly is killed. The bittersweet reunion on the shores of Hendrawna Beach leads to a tear filled memorial service and the heartbreaking dulcet sounds of the Carne Family Singers. Would it be in poor taste to share my appreciation for the earnest young man who is hiding under all that scurvy and prisoner beard. Hello Lieutenant Armitage.

Robin Yes, trouble ahead.

Barrett Haha, I’ll say.

Robin Other things hidden under that beard as well as a face.

Barrett I’ll say, I’ll say. Oh boy. Hang on. Well you have the first scene here. Why don’t you lead us away with your choice for one of your favorites.

Robin Okay. Well this is that sort of top entail of George’s campaign really to ridicule Ross in Lord Falmouth’s eyes and pursue his own ambition with Lord Falmouth who can appoint his own MP’s. And that’s George’s ambition really. The first scene is the discovery that Valentine has rickets which is this really horrible bone disease that afflicted many people, especially children, in the 18th, 19th century and it’s sort of a lack of vitamin C I think is the…no no, it’s vitamin D deficiency that causes it.


George My son has rickets?

Elizabeth Dr Choake believes…

George Dr Choake is mistook! My son is not some commoner’s child, nursed on gin and housed in squalor! He’s had the best of everything.  No-one must hear of this. My son will not be deformed!

Elizabeth George! Do not say that! Dr Choake believes he can be cured.

George There’s to be a gathering at Tregothnan.

Elizabeth Lord Falmouth’s?

George The St Aubyns and Godolphins will be there. Our invitation is conspicuous by its absence.

Elizabeth Are you so keen to go? These events are often so dull.

George Presence at “these events” is what confirms one’s status in society.

Elizabeth If the Godolphins are going, Lady Whitworth will be there. She could procure you an invitation. Could you not speak to Osborne?

George I could – if I had positive news for him. But while Morwenna continues to prevaricate, I can hardly beg favours of his mother.

Barrett Well I love that scene because of course as George’s is going on and on, what’s Elizabeth doing? She’s tippling away at her at her potion filled drink right because she can’t, she just can’t take it. She’s sort of checking out. I think she’s finding it hard to sympathize, isn’t she?

Robin She is, yeah. I mean I think maybe the tipple is giving her a bit of independence in a sense, you know, kind of Dutch courage in the sense of standing up to George..

Barrett  I like these exchanges with Elizabeth and George this episode but there’s another scene between the two of them that I like very much as well. So Ossie has already told them that Ross’s name is being floated for MP. This is appalling to George. He’s just destroyed by this.


George  Ross Poldark? A contender for parliament?

Ossie According to my mother – who has it from the Boscowans.

George How can he even presume…?

Ossie I’m not sure he does. He’s merely been mentioned, not yet approached.

George Nor should he be! Is such a man to represent us? Well, he certainly won’t be receiving my vote.

Barrett And then, Tom Harry breaks in on George and Elizabeth and shares with him that Ross is on this mission to rescue Dwight and the other prisoners in France


George That really is excellent… A prison break – on French soil – with respectable men – who are surely being led to their deaths? He’s played right into our hands!

Elizabeth But how could this affect us?

George By affecting Ross’s standing amongst the local worthies. You must see, my dear. How can such a reckless fool represent the district in parliament? It is a question I feel duty bound to ask tonight at Tregothnan.

Barrett but that that line, it’s kind of like, remember when he tried to have Ross hanged a few episodes ago or sometime last season, like now he’s resorting to trying to make Ross look foolish in front of important people. That’s just delightful.

Robin Yes everything is only important if it’s to George’s advantage and he sees everything in that light, and certainly this. Yeah it’s very entertaining to see him so excited by the potential of Ross’s supposed stupidity. And yes wonderful.

Barrett So what did you have next as one of your favorites.

Robin Okay. Well my next scene is very short scene very touching scene really. And it’s very dark, it’s at night, and it’s Ross finally leaving for the escapade. And it’s Ross and Demelza, and Demelza saying goodbye to him.


Ross I’ve left word with Grace that they will answer to you till I return. They will expect you daily.

Demelza  P’raps I’ll venture below an’ take a pick o’ my own!

Ross No doubt you’ll find a new lode!

Demelza I’ve been thinkin’ – I’ll not tell Caroline where you’ve gone – for fear of raisin’ false hopes.

Ross I must go.

Demelza I do not ask you not to be reckless, for I know you cannot promise something, which is so against your nature.

Robin They kiss and it’s very tender and it’s a lovely, very small but lovely and significant scene.

Barrett Yeah it is it’s very sweet and I like the quietness of it. So, you and I understand share the next clip which is a beautiful moment with Henshawe right?

Robin Oh good, good, good. Yes absolutely. 

Barrett Yeah they’ve arrived they’ve gone down the river. Like in the Heart of Darkness and they’ve gotten to shore.


Ross When I first mooted this venture, I imagined we’d be part of the Royalist landing, taking advantage of the chaos to break into the prison. But now we’ve come on ahead, we’re that much more exposed. Since this is not what you enlisted for, I feel you should be given the chance to remain here. Tholly and I will make for the prison.

Henshawe Nay, Ross – speaking for myself, my mind’s set. We’re here for Dr. Enys and we’ll not go home without him.

Zacky ‘Tis what we all signed up for.

Ross Can I ask men to take such a risk?

Henshawe Yet how much have I risked, across the years, alongside you – knowin’ I might lose all, riskin’ it anyway. Mining’s a risk. Loving’s a risk. Living’s a risk. So tonight? I’ll take my chance.

Barrett What did you think of that?

Robin I thought it was really wonderful. And of course it’s absolutely filled with atmosphere of this isn’t going to turn out very well. You just know that it’s loaded with that kind of ending and it’s very sad because Henshaw is such a lovely character. He really is the kind of solid and uncritical, critical but in a very positive way, force in Ross’s life, and Ross’s mining life. He’s really the backbone of the whole thing. He’s terrific. And I must say Jon Hollingsworth, the actor, does a wonderful job. So that’s why I said I think we’re..I hope, I mean I hope there are other people feel like I do, that we’re going to we’re going to miss that. We’re going to miss it. And this trilogy of lines “Minin’ is a risk. Lovin’ is a risk. Livin’ is a risk” and it’s just wonderful. There you go. I mean what else can one say? It’s just very, very touching and a great kind of tribute to him and anyway. Yeah, I’m glad we had the same reaction to it. It’s not a very long scene, it’s a short scene, but somehow it packs a real punch. Emotional punch, it’s lovely.

Barrett Yeah I agree that you know it’s not going to end well. When he gets this, these lines, you know it’s not going to end well for him but he deserves them. And. I love how they sort of cut to different people and they cut to Drake when he says Lovin’s a risk. Right? Because that’s the message that Drake needs to take away.

Robin That was well spotted, I didn’t spot that. No that’s nice. Very nice. Yeah.

Barrett It is nice. I think we both chose it because we also know that podcastin’ is a risk.

Robin You said it. You said it Barrett. Absolutely. Yes. It’s a good one.

Barrett I’m going to dash into my next scene here, which is when they’re there on the escape and they’re rowing as hard as they can to get back to Trencrom’s ship in time before it leaves and they’re not even sure they’re going to make it in time. They’re not sure that Drake is going to survive his injuries. Ross is feeling just completely destroyed over Henshawe’s death and it’s not a sure thing they’re going to make it to shore, that they’re going to make it to the ship and then he begins having this like nightmare sequence. Even though you know he’s awake but…and in this sequence everyone is sort of blaming him for the horrors that they’re going through.


Caroline You let him die. You let him die!

Demelza You are a disgrace! Selfish, vain glorious, reckless.

George One can only agree. You are the most despicable of men.

Demelza Ross! Ross!

Barrett I chose this because we never ever ever go inside of Ross’s head. Right? Because he’s an action man and what he does often tells us how he feels or you know afterwards he sort of thinks about what he’s done and then with Demelza’s help comes to understand how he feels. So this scenario was so different. I wanted to…I wanted to talk about it with you and see what you thought of it.

Robin Well I thought it was very impressive, in fact I nearly added it to my list because it was, because it’s a short, very short. I mean there very short scenes here and this is quite stunning really. He’s hallucinating in a sense. He’s so tired, so absolutely out of it and the effort of rowing really a huge distance I suppose from Quimper to the boat is just appalling. And he goes into a kind of trance, sort of hallucinatory state, where his imagination, I mean it’s not actually conscious thoughts I don’t think, he’s having all these thoughts and accusations crowd into his brain. So it’s involuntarily, they’re there and they’re horrific and they’re horrible in a way I suppose they spur him on and in a way all these people pointing at him and shouting at him and accusing him of this. And the appalling thing of losing Henshawe is so traumatic for him. But in an in an odd way it spurs him on and you know he’s so in a trance that exhaustion doesn’t hit him until he gets to the boat which is good, but it’s a stunning sequence and it works, I think. It’s always a risk to do that kind of thing but it just takes a…put another dimension into the gung-ho escape thing.

Barrett Yes, yes, yes, yes.

Robin And so, good choice, good choice here. I’m glad you mentioned it. Yeah, absolutely.

Barrett Good. One last note about Henshawe’s parting which is that why did we have to lose Henshawe when there were two people along on the mission that we’ve never seen before? Whose names we don’t even know and we’ll never see again?

Robin Good. Well I suppose you have to ask Winston Graham that really. It must be in the book. I didn’t check it, but it must be in the book. Funnily enough when we did it, it wasn’t Henshawe, because Henshaw was played by an older actor and maybe it was felt that this older actor would wouldn’t look quite up to it on this terrible dangerous mission. And I can’t remember who it was that got killed. But our sequence was unforgettable really. A very awful start, where we got on the boat at Foy, and we had a day’s shoot out in the sea, the open sea, and everybody was seasick. Completely seasick. We were strewn across the decks. Except me actually! I wasn’t seasick. It’s just a matter of chance. A matter of good luck.

Barrett Oh great. So what do we think about our hero this episode? How heroic was Ross?

Robin Well I think we have to say he was incredibly heroic. I mean he…he rescued Dwight miraculously really. And along with him trouble. He didn’t know that, but Falmouth’s nephew Hugh is going to cause him a lot of trouble. But I would say he’s pretty heroic. What do you think?

Barrett I think he’s high heroic. He did succeed in his mission. He wanted…he let everyone have a chance to leave. You know he brought home an extra officer. And he you know had a good parting with Demelza, where he sort of had her permission to be reckless. So, I think that he, I don’t know. I think I’m gonna give him an eight.

Robin Good. Well I I’d certainly be up there I think, just to… I think I give him an eight and a half. I mean he went back, having known that, he knew the dangers, he knew it. I mean it wasn’t sort of as though he was going into the unknown. It’s worse knowing the danger that you’re going into anyway. And it really was an impossible, mission impossible really, this one. And yes he went for it because of his love and respect and all the rest of it for Dwight. And he did it and he did it and he succeeded so eight and a half.

Barrett Perfect. Well deserved. Well thank you so much for another terrific discussion of a swashbuckling episode with our hero acting appropriately heroic.

Robin Thanks. Thanks Barrett enjoyed it very much. Here’s to the future. Yeah.

Barrett Until next time Robin thank you.

Robin Bye for now.

Barrett Okay. Bye bye.

Barrett Coming up next, love, romance and mortal peril.


Morwenna But we are in the world and we must keep to its rules.

Drake Must we?

Morwenna Yes! And if you don’t know that by now…

Drake I don’t know anything, Morwenna. Except for what you tell me. So look me in the eyes and tell me you don’t love me.

Barrett Come with us, next, on Mining Poldark.

You can join us in our rewatching adventure here on Mining Poldark by watching the entire series on PBS Passport — a new member benefit from your local PBS station. You can watch select MASTERPIECE titles like Poldark, Downton Abbey or Victoria as a part of the Passport experience. To learn more, visit

You can also follow along with us on the PBS MASTERPIECE Prime Video Channel, available as an add on service to your Amazon Prime membership.

MINING POLDARK is hosted by me, Barrett Brountas, and Robin Ellis. We’re produced by Nick Andersen, with help from Robyn Bissette. Meredith Wheeler is our field producer. Tina Tobey-Mack and Elisheba Ittoop are our sound designers. Susanne Simpson is our executive producer. The executive producer of MASTERPIECE is Rebecca Eaton.



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