Poldark was a bona fide phenomenon when the BBC re-launched it in 2015 – and not just because of that topless scything that Aidan Turner is now doomed to talk about, with an increasingly strained smile, every time someone waves a microphone in his face. But last year’s sophomore run lost out to Jenna Coleman’s Bambi-eyed Victoria in the ratings, while Poldark himself turned out to be, at best, a bit of a twonk – betraying proud lioness Demelza (Eleanor Tomlinson) with sopping wet Elizabeth (Heida Reed), I ask you – and, at worst, a rapist.
What a joy it’s been, then, to witness the windswept historical saga’s ripping return to form during a barnstorming third run, full of whiplash-inducing plot twists and delicious gothic melodrama. (Who can forget those Hammer Horror scenes of Aunt Agatha, God rest her soul, wailing ‘That child of yours, cursed ’e be! Born under a black moon!’ as Elizabeth was noisily delivered of the Warleggan heir during the stygian gloom of a lunar eclipse?)
Newcomers Drake and Morwenna (Harry Richardson and Ellise Chappell) stole viewers’ hearts as the most luckless of star cross’d lovers – not least when she was married off to the odious, libidinous Reverend Whitworth (a series-stealing turn by Christian Brassington – a dead ringer for the young Christopher Biggins, who played the role in the 70s). I’m not sure I’ll ever shake the image of him slipping off from the dinner table to… um, relieve himself after catching a glimpse of Morwenna’s sister’s stockinged foot.
Alas, Ross was still too busy playing the hero, locking horns with the black-hearted George Warleggan (Jack Farthing in great boo-hiss form) or staring moodily out to sea to attend to his poor, neglected wife, who eventually surrendered to the overtures of the smitten Lieutenant Armitage (Josh Whitehouse). In Sunday’s finale, the lovestruck fop, who’s going blind, persuaded our heroine to have a roll with him in the sand dunes ‘so that I may go into the darkness knowing that I once tasted heaven’. As chat-up lines go, it certainly beats ‘Do you come here often?’
Judas, what daft, gripping, brilliant fun it’s been.
Jodie Whittaker pretending to be… a doctor? It’s a PR gift (even the trailer features a child talking about ‘monsters’), but in this new drama, the Time Lord elect plays Cath, a Yorkshire nurse attempting to pass herself off as an A&E doctor in an Edinburgh hospital. Whittaker is fabulous, of course, and writer Dan Sefton – a practising physician himself – clearly knows his stuff. But it’s not for the squeamish – I had to close my eyes whenever Cath went near a scalpel.
Billy Connolly: Portrait of a Lifetime
I’ve never much cared for Billy Connolly’s scatological humour, but as a man he exudes warmth and humanity – qualities captured by three Scottish artists (including Jack Vettriano, no less) as a 75th birthday present in this lovely, moving film. My favourite of the finished efforts was by Rachel Maclean, who dressed the ailing Big Yin up as his own walking joke book, complete with big slipper, tea-cosy hat, nasal hair sporran and – but of course – ‘a wee beige jobby in a toilet’.
Published in Waitrose Weekend, August 17, 2017
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