5 Differences Between Poldark 2015 and Poldark 1975

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This weekend, the new BBC adaption of Poldark begins on Masterpiece PBS in the US (having already played in the UK). We’ve previewed a few episodes and will podcast it soon. Since I’m the only one on the Frock Flicks staff who remembers the original Poldark series from the 1970s — but I’m sure a few of you out there do too! — I thought I’d point out some differences between the two series.

Obviously, the production values are different, let’s not even go there. I’m not one to be prejudiced against ’70s BBC budget limitations; they did a fine job with what they had back then, and I don’t think it’s fair to judge the way those series were filmed against today’s high-definition productions. Other things I’m not going to point out are actors and performances. It’s perfectly fine to have characters reinterpreted, that totally cool by me.

I’ll try not to give away too many spoilers for the new series, but hey, it’s based on a book and previous TV series, so same with strictly historical tales, you always run a risk! But to me, watching the sweeping epic romantic drama of Poldark is what makes it so good, old or new.

 

1. Poldark 2015 Is Shorter

This time around, we get eight episodes for series one, versus 16 episodes in series one (and another 13 in season two). So, in some places, the plot moves along much faster in the 2015 version — for example, in the 1975 adaption, Demelza isn’t introduced until the second episode, but she’s a significant part of the first episode in Poldark 2015. And with half the number of episodes, there are big plot elements from Poldark 1975 season one that aren’t included … yet? The BBC is already planning series two, scheduled to air in spring 2016 in the U.K. So if they just keep doing eight at a time, I guess they’ll work through a possible six seasons before they run out of the original TV series and the novel’s plot!

Poldark 2015

2015 Poldark has fewer eps, but we get a flashback that the 1975 series didn’t have.

 

2. Ross’ Scar Has Moved

Not a big deal, I suppose, but Ross Poldark’s scar is his trademark, it’s the big reminder that he was away during the war and presumed dead. In 1975, his scar was on his right cheek (camera left), and now it’s on his left cheek (camera right). The 2015 series also leaves out Ross’ limp, which he had come back with from his time in a French prison camp (but it heals up after episode one in the ’70s series). For that matter, in the new show, I don’t think he mentions much about why he was presumed dead and what he was doing during that couple of years, despite the flashback to the American Revolutionary War that he fought in.

Poldark

Scar to the right, scar to the left, is there some significance?

 

3. Elizabeth Isn’t Blonde

The one casting issue I have with the new series, and it’s not even the actress, it’s just her hair color (Kendra will discuss her hair style later, trust me). Heida Reed as Elizabeth, Ross’ former fianceé, is perfectly fine in the 2015 series, but I really liked how Jill Townsend in the 1975 version was pale and blonde. She looked like a haughty ice queen and that made for a good visual contrast to earthy, passionate Demelza, played by red-headed Angharad Rees. Elizabeth is a problematic character in both series — I find it hard to see why Ross is so hung up on her — but having a strong physical difference between her and Demelza helped in the ’75 version.

Poldark 1975

Super-pale Elizabeth in the ’75 version.

 

4. Tin Mines and Copper Mines

Maybe I wasn’t listening close enough (Aidan Turner’s hotness is very distracting, see below), but in the 2015 version, all I heard them say is that the Poldark family mines had copper. But in the ’75 series and the books, they had tin and copper mines, with the tin running out, and they’re hoping to find a new copper source in the mines. Sure, they’re just simplifying it for kids today. And I’m only bringing this up because it’s really about the hats: In the new version, Ross, Francis, and the miners don’t wear the awesome candlestick-headlamp hats! I love those like crazy!

Poldark 1975

18th-century headlamps, FTW!

 

5. Shirtless Ross Poldark

I was young when I saw the first Poldark, and I’ve been slowly re-watching the series on Amazon, but I haven’t found a lot of shirtless Robin Ellis (in an interview, Ellis said he took his shirt off onscreen only once during the 29-episode run). However, in eight episodes, Aidan Turner seems to find plenty of excuses to take his clothes off. There’s naked-ocean-bathing Poldark, shirtless-scything-in-the-fields Poldark, and burning-his-infected-clothes Poldark, in addition to a couple of naked glimpses during romantic scenes. I am NOT complaining about this update.

Poldark 2015

Is it cold in the waters off Cornwall?

Poldark 2015

Hunky fieldwork.

Poldark 2015

All tuckered out!

 

Do you remember Poldark 1975? Are you looking forward to Poldark 2015?

 

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About the author

Trystan L. Bass

Twitter Website

A self-described ElderGoth, Trystan has been haunting the internet since the early 1990s. Always passionate about costume, from everyday office wear to outrageous twisted historical creations, she has maintained some of the earliest online costuming-focused resources on the web. When she’s not dressing up in costumes, she can be found traveling the world with her sweetie and, occasionally, Kendra and Sarah. Her costuming and travel adventures are chronicled on her website, TrystanCraft. She also maintains a popular fashion blog, This Is CorpGoth, dedicated to her “office drag.”

29 Responses

  1. Tracey Walker

    I remember the original series. I was 12 and that was just about right to fall madly in love with Poldark the man and the series. I remember thinking that Demelza was so kickass and Elizabeth was so boring. I love the new series too and reread the first book . (its free on kindle) There are a ton of other books too, so the series will have a lot to tap into if needs be.

    Reply
  2. Cassidy

    I like Elizabeth but it’s mainly out of stubbornness – in love triangles, unless the third wheel is an utter heel, I always gravitate to the one that’s obviously not to be. Outside of my meta issues, I don’t understand why the publicity says “his true love is getting married to his cousin!!” Not … really.

    Reply
    • Mary

      In the old series I couldn’t stand blond Elizabeth. She was so weak, fluttery and confused. In the new one I have somewhat more compassion for her position in wanting her son to inherit plus money and her mother’s health issues. It seems a fairly realistic depiction of women’s places back in Ye Olden Days. Upper class women didn’t usually marry for love and usually didn’t even have a choice. The only reason Elizabeth can “choose” is that she’s a widow. We’re seeing that played out in her situation.

      I always laugh when I hear brides talk about wanting to be “princesses” on their wedding days. Princesses were as a whole, notoriously unhappy people.

      Reply
  3. Robert

    I also recall the 70’s version of Poldark, though I was but a wee bairn at the time I loved the original show. I’m a bit leery of the new version if only because the quality of the acting and writing was so good in the original. I’m honestly afraid the Beeb will do to Poldark what Joe Wright (may his navel be forever infested with fleas) did to Pride and Prejudice in ’05.

    Reply
  4. Hilary

    Because my DVR is apparently smarter than I am, I missed out on the first 2/3 of episode one of the new series. :Q
    I vividly remember conducting long conversations with my friend Lisa as Prudie and Judd after being immersed in the first series, and was thrilled that ‘new’ Prudie seems just as slatternly this time around.
    However–why did Prudie seem to have the only cap in evidence? Everybody else seems to be revelling in bare-headed hippie hair. Not impressed. Also, unless Prudie stole her jacket from Judd, why does it button up the front? It looks like a Coldwater Creek failure from the back of my mother’s closet…

    Reply
  5. Novotenowhining

    I do remember the old series, and for that reason I was loathe to watch the new version. Poldark came across as a cad to me in the earlier version of the story. I finally caved because Mr Selfridge was kind of a jerk, too, especially in real life, and all the good BBC series are on hiatus. Yes, this one has far superior eye candy. I guess I’ll keep watching for now.

    Reply
  6. Lyn

    Yes, I’m old enough to have watched the original series (and have rewatched on DVD recently). I’ve read the books. Was excited about the new reboot but not for long.

    Pretty is as pretty does: all looks and no substance IMO. And historically inaccurate. You might drool over the bare-chested scything but noone in their right mind in that period would have done that, especially not a gentleman!! And why did they have to repeat the first series error of making Demelza a red-head? And yes 100x about Elizabeth not being blonde, and IMO too approachable (no sign of the ice princess yet).

    Ah well, I still watched it all, bought the DVD (mostly to see the full unedited episodes PBS failed to show us). I still prefer the story telling of the 1975 version.

    Reply
  7. ariehl

    I’m not sure that the current series is “faster.” The first series of the 1975 version went through the first four books in the Poldark series, I believe. This one has taken 8 show to go through 2; not so different.

    Reply
  8. ladylavinia1932

    Elizabeth is a problematic character in both series — I find it hard to see why Ross is so hung up on her — but having a strong physical difference between her and Demelza helped in the ’75 version.

    I think Elizabeth is problematic, because many want Ross to move on and simply focus on Demelza. But his relationship with the two women are too complicated for such a simple solution. Ross never gets over Elizabeth. I don’t think he ever gets over the fact that she had rejected him for Francis, following his return from America. And he was not in love with Demelza, a woman from another class, when he married her. He grew to love her. But it was Verity (in the 2015 series), who accurately observed that Ross loved and wanted both women. And I believe his feelings both remained that way until the end of the series, despite his successful marriage to Demelza.

    And historically inaccurate. You might drool over the bare-chested scything but noone in their right mind in that period would have done that, especially not a gentleman!!

    Which is why Ross is being regarded with dismay by his upper-crust neighbors.

    Reply
    • ladylavinia1932

      By the way, no gentleman would marry his kitchen maid, regardless of whether or not he slept with her or got her pregnant. Yet, Graham had decided to follow this route.

      Reply
  9. Adey

    Bit belatedly…Poldark 2015 is actually LONGER than 1975. Because the 2015 episodes – at least the full, UK version not the vandalised cut PBS version – are 58 minutes long. Longer than the 1975 episodes. And, as has rightly been pointed out before, 2015 dramatises the first two books in 8 episodes. 1975 dramatised the first FOUR books in 16 episodes. And the ten-episode Season 2, dramatising books 3 & 4, means the combined Seasons 1 & 2 will be considerably longer that 1975.

    As for comparing 1975 and 2015: I am old enough to have seen, and enjoyed, both. 1975 was a product of its era, and therefore IMO has a much more “stage production” feel. I believe much of the interior scenes were shot on a sound stage in BBC’s Pebble Mill studios. 2015, more faithful to the books, was shot much more like a movie, mostly on location and by an independent production company. I thoroughly enjoyed 1975 at the time. But 2015 has just blown me away. Absolutely wonderful.

    Reply
    • Chris

      You nailed it! 2015 is truer to the books and fantastically produced. I do like both but 2015 is far superior.

      Reply
  10. ladylavinia1932

    Considering that the 2015 version is not completed, I don’t see how the 1975 version can be judged longer. It’s apparent that Debbie Horsfield is merely stretching out the episodes over a longer period of time than the 70s series did.

    Reply
  11. Jo Evans

    I have been a fan of Poldark since 1975 and love both of these series. But when I reread the books, it is mainly the 1975 cast I have in mind. BUT I like the new Dwight Enys (tho I loved Richard Morant but not the actor who took over the part) The original Francis was better too- stroppier and angrier at life. The character I find most difficult to accept in the new series is Elizabeth. Heida is a fine actress and gorgeous…but in the books Elizabeth is blonde and fair…that is her attraction. Also Caroline Penvenen is a fiery redhead and not a blonde bimbo! But these are only small irks, and I do love this series.Long may it continue. Though I hope they don’t continue after the 7th book, as the writing and stories deteriorate quite badly from books 7 to 12. I hope they never film them! As for the 1996 debacle, harriet, least said the better! Forget it!

    Reply
    • Jo Evans

      PS Another niggle….I thought Cornwall was windswept and cold. So WHY do all the women go around with their bosoms uncovered all the time?? The men are sensibly dressed in waistcoats,cravats, top coats etc. Maybe it explains a lot about the ‘morbid sore throat epidemic. Get some clothes on ladies! Don’t wander around on breezy cliffs in the middle of winter with a bit of chiffon covering you! Get a woolly shawl on!

      Reply
  12. Lori Craig

    New Poldark is filmed much better and everyone looks luscious as does the scenery. But the old Ross had a sense of danger about him and also you believed he could be a Captain. I don’t think the new Poldark as handsome as he is would have made if above Lieutenant. Still the filming is lovely and the story still intriguing.

    Reply
  13. ladylavinia1932

    Heida is a fine actress and gorgeous…but in the books Elizabeth is blonde and fair…that is her attraction. Also Caroline Penvenen is a fiery redhead and not a blonde bimbo!

    Yet, in both the 1975 and the present series, Demelza is a redhead, instead of the dark-haired woman from the novels.

    Reply
  14. Judy Payne

    Things are a bit behind here in Oz. We only got new series 1/2 way through this year. I’m really enjoying it though, the actors, the dramatic scenery, even the music which stays as an earworm for most of the week between episodes. I watched the first series with my Dad (now departed) when I had just started working, so the thought of it still arouses a bit of nostalgia. Then when I had the opportunity to make the Aussie pilgrimage back to the motherland in 1979, I rekindled my link with the novels when I visited a friend in Launceston. I then started buying and reading all the books whilst I travelled around on buses and of course, ended up with excess baggage when I returned home. Sadly, a cousin borrowed my novels and I no longer have them to share with my husband.

    Reply
  15. Kathleen Norvell

    I’ve seen both versions and I still love Robin Ellis as Ross. He defined swashbuckling and dashing. I’m glad he’s still around to play the judge. I devoured the old version and recently re-watched some of it (my PBS station showed it at odd hours and I had a hard time finding it). While I still believe that Elizabeth needs a good spanking, I always thought Elizabeth in the 1975 one was indeed the ice queen, but stupid as a basket. At least the current one isn’t quite so dithering and always running to Ross to solve her problems. And I will always love the late Angharad Reese as Demelza. She was both feisty and adorable. And frankly, I thought the costumes were better and more interesting in some ways. At least they didn’t all look the same.

    Reply
  16. ladylavinia1932

    Elizabeth needed a “spanking”? I see that many fans are still so disturbed by Ross’ continuing feelings for Elizabeth that they feel the need to constantly find a reason to insult her. I find this attitude interesting . . . especially toward a fictional character.

    Reply
  17. Kathleen Norvell

    Well, I didn’t say it, but of course, Ross needs a kick in the breeches for his behavior. I never could see what he saw in Elizabeth (in either version). While we have reactions to various characters, I wonder what the viewers think of them. I have a visceral reaction to Elizabeth, just as I have one to George Warleggan. I think part of it is because while the actress who played her in the 70s was icily beautiful, I don’t find Heida Reed particularly attractive. I know that’s shallow, but at least I can understand why Ross might be hung up on an ice queen. I just don’t find any redeeming qualities, even her clothing, in this one.

    Reply
    • ladylavinia1932

      Elizabeth Poldark was not an ice queen. She was an introverted woman, whose insecurity led her to live her life as society demanded. That was her real problem. Demelza’s real problem was that she was an insecure woman, unsure if her husband truly loved her. Worse, she could not solely claim her husband’s affections, because he remained in love with the first woman in his life – Elizabeth. And because of t his insecurity, Demelza was inclined to express herself with occasional bouts of anger or blaming Elizabeth for Ross’ feelings for her.

      Despite both women being insecure in their own ways, Ross and his massive ego was to blame for all of the mess caused by this so-called “love triangle”.

      Reply
  18. sandra

    I must have watched one or two episodes of the 70’s POLDARK, because I have faint memories of them, but I didn’t like it. For the life of me, I can’t understand why it was such a megahit. I greeted the news of a remake with a huge yawn, and didn’t watch, until I finally caught up with it in reruns. Now I’m totally hooked and counting the days until Season 3.

    Reply
  19. vivienne Denney

    I was reluctant to watch new series having watched original in 1975 plus have read all the books. new series enjoyable, but prefer the originL Think the characters of prudie and jud far better in original poldark. Alzo prefer the original portrayal of Elizabeth. overall the acting of the characters better in 1975, in my opinion.

    Reply

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