On this first episode of the third season of Poldark, there’s a lot of new blood in Cornwall. Baby Valentine Warleggan arrives, ‘early,’ and so do two of Demelza’s dashing brothers and a kind young Chynoweth cousin. With all the new, Mining Poldark listeners should never fear — Robin Ellis and Barrett Brountas are still here to give the full picture, all season long.
Barrett Brountas: There’s another new Cornish bundle of joy on the way, but his parentage is anything but certain. Elizabeth takes her fate–and baby’s birth–into her own hands by staging a fall down Trenwith’s formidable staircase, and blaming the tumble for her seemingly early delivery.
Dwight Your wife has suffered a serious fall. You should prepare yourself…
George For what? Surely there’s no risk to the infant? Or Elizabeth?
Dwight Childbirth can be a precarious business. Particularly when it comes a month early.
Barrett: There’s a new marriage, too — Dr. Dwight and Caroline Penvenen are FINALLY husband and wife, but the previously mentioned early birth pulls them away from their wedding night.
Dwight Are you nervous?
Caroline I would be – were tonight our “first time”.
Dwight A remarkable woman I’ve married.
Caroline And I, a remarkable man.
Barrett: And we have new characters, too–governess cousins, woodworking brothers, all easy on the eye and all new for the new season of Poldark
Elizabeth This is Morwenna, your new governess. And my cousin.
Morwenna I hope in time we can become good friends.
Barrett I’m Barrett Brountas, and this is Mining Poldark, a podcast from MASTERPIECE
As much as this third season emphasizes the new, I’m happy to report that my co-host is the same Robin Ellis, the original Ross Poldark from our 1970s adaptation of Winston Graham’s classic novels. So, hello Robin! Welcome to Season 3!
Robin Ellis Hello Barrett. Good to hear you again. Good to be here.
Barrett Let’s dig through all this newness together in our combined recap, before we tackle more of this ongoing family drama at Trenwith.
Robin “What could possibly go wrong?” says Harris Pascoe. “Plenty”, says Aunt Agatha, Poldark’s resident Cassandra. “There’s a black moon rising and that’s a bad omen.” “Well ,we’ll see.”
Barrett: Indeed we get a wedding, a birth, and two deaths.
Robin Ross’s secret laboring to bring Caroline and Dwight to the altar despite her Uncle Ray’s snobbish objections pays off and put smiles on all our faces; wiped off the next minute when their wedding night is ruined. Dwight is called to tend Elizabeth after she fell. Threw herself down the stairs to simulate a premature birth and convince George the baby is his.
Barrett Demelza visits her dying father and makes her peace.
Robin Ross, worried for the safety of his aunt and nephew, decides to cut ties with Trenwith in exchange for a promise from George to treat the ancient aunt and young nephew properly.
Barrett That’s a deal we can live with. And Demelza too. After all she’s got a baby and two fully grown brothers on the way.
Robin Excellent excellent. My God you covered the ground there. That was fantastic. Really good. Excellent stuff. Oi, there’s a lot to cover.
Barrett There is a lot to cover indeed. Well shall we march right on to the biggest moments of the episode.
Barrett So my big moment is a great scene. You know that I’m a big fan of Aunt Agatha, this woman who is like something kind of like a witch but also kind of powerful. She has her power from being old and no longer being like in the game. I love Aunt Agatha for these reasons. So we have Valentine’s birth and George comes down, baby in arms, triumphant, and smugger than ever and Aunt Agatha is just very sarcastic about it. She doesn’t have anything nice to say.
Agatha Unhand me, you devils! George, tell them to put me down!
George Carry on.
Agatha Elizabeth shall hear of this! Manhandled in my own house? Stay, you vermin! I would speak! That child of yours…
George What of him?
Agatha Cursed, he be! Born under a black moon. No good shall come to him!
Robin Yeah, it’s very scary moment. She is a scary woman and played brilliantly by Caroline Blakiston, I have to say.
Robin Really scary and very King Lear and really cursing, cursing his children. But it’s…it’s astonishing that this this old cronies who calls her is still alive at the age of 95 or whatever. And on very little sustenance. She eats very sparely. Maybe that’s the answer. We should..yeah we can all learn from Aunt Agatha. Eat less and curse more and you’ll live longer. That’s the lesson of this episode.
Barrett That is it. That’s marvelous. Good. Eat less, curse more. So now the next scene belongs to you. What do you have for us.
Robin Okay. My first scene is, it’s all centered round Geoffrey Charles who I was quite, quite astonished by the actor’s performance which was really a lovely performance and the character, who just has no fear. He doesn’t fear George at all. He knows his rights and he stands up for them and he’s very proactive. Harry Markus is really very, very good in this in this part which is quite difficult for a young actor. I think he must be about…maybe he’s a bit older than he actually is in the story. I think he’s about 12. I would think.
Barrett Yeah I think I was comparing him, when he was in this season, he was around my daughter’s age so it was the big joke at work that we were going to have them have a wedding.
Robin Yeah. The one I’ve chosen is with George, Elizabeth, and Aunt Agatha where he turns up and. George is ticking Elizabeth off, arriving only a month before the baby is due, etc. and says our priority now must be the welfare of the Warleggan heir. Oh poor Geoffrey Charles. He arrives and of course he’s…he’s not the Warleggan heir. Well he’s certainly not going to be in a short space of time. And George is very keen to let him know that. But it does have no effect on Geoffrey Charles’s confidence and he knows
Elizabeth Uncle Ross and Aunt Demelza do not visit us now.
Geoffrey Charles But why should that be? They are Poldarks. And we are also…
George Warleggans. I’ve been thinking, boy, that the time has come for you to take my name.
Aunt Agatha He was born a Poldark.
George But since his mama’s marriage, he is now my son.
Geoffrey Charles Since you wish it, I will change my name.
George Good boy.
Geoffrey Charles To Geoffrey Charles Francis Poldark.
Robin I mean Bullseye really, absolutely terrific. Going down fighting, Geoffrey Charles.
Barrett That’s terrific. I loved that moment. Um, I have many thoughts here. You know as sort of the adult in the room, I’m reminded in this scene that I shouldn’t be like Aunt Agatha. I mean she really is. She loves to needle George but she should be a better role model for Geoffrey Charles because she is sort of you know egging him on a little better or showing how pleased she is by this and those two are going to need protection from George. They’re not.,.George is not a toothless threat you know so as gratifying as it is and it’s so gratifying to see Geoffrey Charles burn George like that, It’s also unnerving. And Elizabeth shows you know we know how alarmed she is because keeping him safe is you know among her biggest priorities. So there’s a lot going on there. I loved it. It’s so much fun and it’s funny because at first Geoffrey Charles he’s sort of like strutting about holding his waist coat with his you know on each side and it looks a little like precious and a little too precocious. you know that kid like a little try hard but then we see that he’s actually very sort of sweet natured but also really sharp, a sharp observer of all the social dynamics and that he’s a smart fellow you know.
Robin Yes and steely too. I mean.
Robin He’s copper bottomed. But he’s steely. Yes he’s…he’s got a backbone. And I think George knows it. And at the end of the scene do you remember Barrett. There’s a shot of Elizabeth just after he said the new name that he’s willing to adopt and there’s a I think she looks pretty, pretty proud of him.
Barrett Oh good. Yeah that’s good. I’ll have to revisit that, I love that because you know he’s her world. Really. Yeah. He’s the whole reason she got into this situation with George. You know if it were just she, she would have taken care of herself.
Robin Also, it’s a distraction from her main worry, which is about to happen, and so it’s so nice. Nice moment of distraction for her.
Barrett It certainly is. And so before we move on…
Let’s hold on for a second and take a quick break to hear a word from our sponsors….
Barrett I understand that you and I have both chosen the same scene as sort of our favorite big scene. Second choice. So, will you lead us on our way?
Robin Well, my second choice is Caroline and Ray is that right?
Robin This is the final scene of I think three scenes, maybe there are four, between Caroline Penvenen and Ray Penvenen, her uncle. And he is lying prone in bed, very close to death. He was diagnosed by Dwight Enys, who had the kindness to come and see him after Ray had been extraordinarily rude to him and snobbish about him not being, I don’t know, good enough for his niece. So Dwight quite correctly diagnosed what they then called Sugar sickness, which is in fact diabetes and in those days well before, a hundred and fifty years or so before, the discovery of insulin, it was really a death sentence because the sugar had nowhere to go and it just basically rotted you. So here he was lying in bed and he’s still, in the previous two seasons, still trying to persuade her to go to London and get engaged to some Lord and he will die happy. But at this scene, she is in fact married. She’s just got married and she comes to see him probably expecting for the last time. And he says he’s had a kind of moment.
Ray I’ve never known the blessing of a happy marriage – but it’s been my privilege to have had the guardianship of you.
Caroline Sssshhh uncle, do not exhaust yourself…
Ray Had I ever married, I might have understood what it is to follow one’s heart and I should not have prevented you from doing so. Can you forgive me?
Caroline Oh Uncle Ray…What if I told you there was nothing to forgive?
Ray Oh my dear girl – my dear, dear girl…
Robin And he dies. And another reason for choosing this scene apart from it being really touching and really the end of a series of events, as it were, ending happily is that the actor John Nettles I worked with at Stratford in 1976 in the same scene he played Thersites and I played Achilles in Troilus and Cressida.
Barrett Oh my God.
Robin And he then went on to huge television fame with Bergerac and Midsummer Murders and etc etc. He’s a fine, fine actor and he’s played this part really wonderfully I think because Winston clearly when he arrives, he wrote it had really double thoughts about the gentry as it were in Cornwall. He lived in Cornwall twenty seven years and brought up his children there and he, you know, there was a lot about the gentry that he didn’t really like I think, and Ray represents that, but in a kind of three dimensional way and generously I think at the end Winston decides to give Ray a good death. A sort of realization. And so for many reasons, although it’s a very short scene, it’s a very, very touching scene, which moved me to no end.
Barrett Those insights are incredible. You sort of articulated exactly why it works so well and what’s all that goes on behind it. I love that. He has been given a good death.
Barrett It means everything. I think that one of the reasons we watch shows like this and we come back to them again and again is this sort of emotional truth, you know? And how we in our own lives have experiences that we see reflected on the screen and how they give us hope.
Barrett And they give us and they console us. And a scene like this touches people as they….
Robin It does.
Barrett …sort of feel their own lives and their own losses and that their own loves and I just, well, all I can say is Horace says that I should stop crying.
Robin Haha Excellent! You’d make a very good Caroline actually.
Barrett Oh my God! Well, now you’ve cheered me up. Oh, but that’s fascinating about the gentry and the class and you seeing what Winston Graham is up to there. I thank you for that. That’s terrific. And my third choice of the episode is a goodie. It is the big meeting in the shiny new Warleggan bank where Ross comes to George’s office, sits across from him at the table, and he makes an offer.
George Why have you really come?
Ross To make a bargain with you.
George Always assuming you have something I want.
Ross I do. Myself. Out of your life. So these are my terms. You possess things I hold dear. My family mine, Wheal Leisure. My family home, Trenwith. But most importantly, my great aunt and nephew.
George Is that all?
Ross Have a care for them. Do not use them as a means to injure me, or you will wish you had never been born. In return I will remove myself from your life. You will live in your world and I will live in mine – and there will be no need for our paths to cross ever again.
Barrett We don’t get a yes from George. We don’t know but I liked…what I liked about this scene is it kind of sets an entirely new dynamic and over the course of Season Three we’re gonna see how that plays out because when George goes home and reports the news to Elizabeth that Ross is out of their life and never the twain shall meet, she looks kinda mad. Or sad but certainly not happy. So how is that going to play out to come? It’s gonna be good stuff. That’s why I liked it. Now I understand you chose this scene too. So, tell me about your thoughts.
Robin I did. Yes. I was puzzled by this scene because I don’t quite know why Ross did this. I mean he says the, you know, the reason is he doesn’t want George to use his relatives as weapons against him as it were and mistreat them. And that’s a strong reason. But it’s still slightly strange to me but then I’m thinking Ross actually as Pascoe, as Harris Pascoe, said is you know you are in a very good position, you know you’re… everything is going very, very well. As I said, you know, what could happen says Harris wonderfully.
Barrett Right, perfect time to blow it up.
Robin Absolutely, yeah. So, Ross, in a sense, feels quite confident I think in an odd way okay. He’s sort of lost a lot. He’s lost a lot and he cedes to George the platform for a moment but one gets the impression that Ross really knows that this isn’t by any means the end of the story and he francies out. He’s slams down the glass and francies out, not even as you say getting an answer from George, but he knows that basically that it’s going to work, and it’s just a sort of nice moment of the situation between them they’re two actually successful men. I mean George is huge, hugely successful, only in money terms, but Ross, you know, Ross has got through an awful lot of trouble very recently and in practical financial, well yes quite, in financial terms, he’s well placed. So, I thought the scene was very interesting to watch and a significant moment in the history of Ross and George between us as you say, So…yeah
Barrett Yeah new lines are drawn.
Barrett It’s funny because… Look, earlier in the episode he’s creeping around Trenwith like… Ok, so he is out all night the night of the moon and the red sky and then he comes back. Ok. And he comes back and Demelza’s out there at the pump and he rides back, which really reminds us of another night when he was out all night.
Robin Absolutely. Yeah.
Barrett Yeah. And he hasn’t sent word about where he is.
Demelza How look’d Elizabeth? Must be near her time. Or within a month of it.
Ross I know little of these things.
Demelza And care even less?
Ross Would you rather I care more?
Barrett So this brings up something bad and old. And what does he do? Does he you know make her feel better about it? No I was just like sprinting on the beach. What does he do? Nothing. He says, I need to go talk to George and rides off. And I was like ohhh!.What are you doing? And what I don’t understand is if he has to come around to this point where he wants to make this offer to George to just steer clear of one another. And if he came to understand that by witnessing the abuse of Aunt Agatha then what did he go to Trenwith for that night and why was he creeping around outside that window? Doesn’t make any sense to me.
Robin Well I think he, you know, he knows the birth is about to happen because he knows Dwight has been called to Elizabeth and there’s been an accident and he just can’t keep away because he knows very well that there’s an almost 98 percent chance that it’s his child.
Robin And so he’s drawn in a way back to the scene of the crime.
Barrett That’s right.
Robin It’s a hard way of putting it but he can’t keep away and it was really strange seeing him look through the window. Do you remember George strides, well not strides, but wanders to the window at one point and I think, oh my word, he’s seen Ross, but actually he’s looking at the moon I think in fact. But it’s a nice dramatic moment. And Debbie Horsfield has contrived this extraordinary atmospheric, I don’t know how long it goes on but probably 20 minutes of the episode, where the black moon is playing a major part and all over the place there is chaos. You know there’s at Trenwith, they’re all emotionally disturbed. Elizabeth is going through the throes of a terrible birth and Dwight is regretting not having his wedding night, you know it’s all up in the air. And it’s beautifully brought together in television terms I think.
Barrett Yeah it is. It’s fantastic. So, but this is precisely why Robin I’m giving Ross a five because as good as he was in arranging that wedding that behavior riding back after staying out all night and creeping around in the dark outside of Trenwith to witness the birth of his son out of wedlock is to counteract any good that he’s done here. So he’s neutral. What do you think?
Robin Well as we were discussing the scene just now, I thought oh wow it’s coming up I’ve got to decide and 5 is exactly the same as what I thought, what you thought in fact. I give it a five.
Barrett Well he’s neutral in the middle.
Robin Yeah yeah, personally I mean he’s sort of on the way up. Who knows. Well we’ll see.
Barrett Well it’s Ross. We’ll see, we’ll see. Anything can happen really, as long as there’s no more eclipses. You know he has a better shot. Well thank you so much for another delightful, delightful discussion of Poldark. I’ve loved it.
Robin It was lovely I enjoyed it very much, Barrett, Thanks very much.
Barrett The wonderful Caroline Enys, née Penvenen, is a personal favorite of mine on Poldark. So, it was a real delight to get to interview the actor who brings her to live, Gabriella Wilde, for our companion MASTERPIECE Studio Podcast. Let’s hear a bit of that conversation right here.
Barrett When we first meet Caroline she’s a spoiled and bored young woman whose only outlets for amusement seem to be toying with Unwin and tending to Horace. Can you talk about her transformation into the woman that Dwight and viewers have come to love?
Gabriella Wilde: I think you know her transformation I always wanted Caroline to be seen as what I saw her for, which was she’s, you know, she’s not a nasty person. She is not kind of jaded to the world or anything like that she is chippy at the beginning and rude and she seems spoiled. She’s just incredibly naive and like you said she’s bored. You know I think she has a brilliant mind. She’s very quick. She’s frustrated by her position in life. And she’s had a hard life. She’s an orphan. She didn’t have her parents. And as I said before as well she doesn’t seem to have many women in her life. And I think potentially quite a lonely existence although a very social one. I think with Horace as well, for me, that was always something that I thought was charming and funny, but at the same time quite sad. I saw him as a sort of almost like a child carrying around a teddy all the time, it spoke to me of potentially her loneliness. And I think her transformation really comes from understanding that deeper layer to her. That she, when she comes to Cornwall, is presented with the opportunity to rise to the occasion to be the sort of good hearted person that she really is whilst maintaining you know her wit and her charm and you know she does enjoy to sort of stir the pot and push people and see if she can toy with them. But there’s never any malice in it. I think she just sort of likes to test people.
Barrett: So, what else do you think in her has spurred viewers to really take a shine to her?
Gabriella: I think I think first you know she’s real. You know no one is perfect just sweet or just horrible. I think we all have good and bad in us and it’s kind of watching that in her and you know she’s also…she’s funny you know and she’s bright and she’s quick and it’s fun to watch a woman in those days kind of talk circles around some of the men. You know I love that sometimes she’s insulting people and they don’t really realize until after she’s left the conversation. You know it’s fun to play a character like that. You know she’s not kind of sitting there waiting to be rescued by a man you know. She’s very much happy to rescue herself and potentially him as well.
Barrett You can hear the rest of my conversation with Gabriella Wilde, and my colleague Jace Lacob’s interviews with much of the rest of the Poldark cast, on our MASTERPIECE Studio podcast, available at pbs.org/masterpiecestudio, or on Apple Podcast, Stitcher, Radio Public or wherever else you listen to podcasts.
Coming up next time, our new characters find new love in Cornwall:
Geoffrey Charles D’you really think they’re related to Aunt Demelza?
Morwenna It seems unlikely. They seem very low-born.
Drake Ye might’ve picked more had ye not wasted time talkin’ to I. So I’ve picked ’em for ye.
Barrett That’s next time 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 pbs.org/getpassport.
You can also follow along with us on the PBS MASTERPIECE Amazon Prime Channel, available as a part of 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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