9pm, BBC One

It’s the end for Ross Poldark. But how will it end?

Looking back as this fifth and final series begins, it’s difficult to credit that it’s only been four years since writer Debbie Horsfield’s canny Poldark reboot first came galloping onscreen to remind us what Sunday nights should really be all about. It might have been because it appeared just as the dulling influence of Downton Abbey had almost smothered all the life out of mainstream historical drama, but it felt like an eternity since we’d had a period piece with quite this kind of full-on, swashbuckling swish and swagger.

In adapting Winston Graham’s books, Horsfield injected a new sensitivity and a greater awareness of the female characters, which, along with those now famous, rapturous widescreen shots of the Cornish coast, made her series a different beast to the BBC’s more claustrophobic 1970s adaptation. At heart, though, the new Poldark was so unashamedly old fashioned that it felt fresh, and at the same time, like something that had always been with us.

Admirably, as it bows out, Poldark ventures into new territory again – although fans shouldn’t fear, there’s nothing drastically different to spook the horses. Until now, however, Horsfield has worked within the guidelines laid down by the first seven Poldark novels. Graham went on to write another five books featuring his clan of characters, but the eighth in his cycle is set over a decade after the events covered in the last TV outing. Rather than make that jump forward in time, Horsfield has elected to write an entirely new chapter for the saga, picking up the story where we left off at the end of series four. Graham purists might object. But they will be drowned out by the applause from fans hoping to see Aidan Turner remove his blouse one more time.

Of course, Horsfield is hardly starting out from a blank page. The last series ended with the momentous death of Elizabeth, the woman Ross once loved, despite her incredible drippiness, and with whom he fathered a son, despite her being married to his arch-enemy, Evil George Bastard Warleggan (Jack Farthing).

Horsfield dives wholeheartedly into the aftermath. Elizabeth may be gone, but she remains ever present for Evil George, who, while slumping into depression and shunning his children, has yet more reason to loath Ross. The opportunity for waging war with him again comes when Ross responds to a plea from an old Army friend, Ned Despard (Vincent Regan), who is languishing in a London gaol due to his actions in Honduras, where he has been accused of stirring revolt. Riding to his aid, Ross, always on the right side of history, finds himself on the fringes of the growing struggle against the slave trade. Meanwhile, George is siding with a human sneer who has built his fortune on that same slave labour.

Horsfield plays true to Graham’s spirit, dropping the characters among the actual events and figures of the time, but motivated by their own flaws and passions. Turner, who gets a chance to become a kind of rogue Bond, secretly recruited by shadowy elements of the King’s secret service, remains excellent, driving the action with his rare blend of black-browed brooding and flashing, lively wit, aided by the nuclear-powered chemistry he shares with Eleanor Tomlinson as Ross’s beloved Demelza.

There are eight episodes to indulge in, so don’t mourn just yet. And when the series ends, there’s still reason to hope Poldark might one day come back: Horsfield hasn’t ruled out eventually adapting the later books Graham wrote, featuring the older, middle-aged Ross. In the meantime, fans can only adopt Demelza’s signature look, staring out to sea from a lonely, windswept clifftop, hoping for his return.


Monday 15

Stargazing: Moon Landing Special

9pm, BBC Two

Continuing the steady stream of programmes marking the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing, Brian Cox and Dara O Briain head to Cape Canaveral for a feature-length report on how the iconic launch site is faring today. Fifty years on from Apollo 11, it remains the busiest spaceport in the USA and is currently preparing for the launch of a brand new spacecraft, the Starliner, which will be the first ship to blast off from Cape Canaveral carrying a human crew since the last Space Shuttle flight in 2011. O Briain and Cox explore the launch tower that has been prepared for the impending launch, while Hannah Fry meets Sunita Williams, the astronaut who will be one of the first to fly the Starliner. Fry also takes the controls of the spacecraft, and attempts to dock the spacecraft in one of its training modules.

Tuesday 16

Chasing The Moon

8pm, BBC Four

The Day We Walked On The Moon

9pm, STV

It was exactly 50 years ago today – 16 July 1969 – that Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins blasted off on the mission that put the first humans on the lunar surface. Marking the date, BBC Four’s Chasing The Moon offers a handy six-part history of the international space race of the 1950s and 60s, showing in double bills from now until Thursday. Tonight’s episodes cover how the frenetic competition between the USSR and the USA first began, and how it was the Soviets who led the way at first. Meanwhile, in ITV’s The Day We Walked On The Moon, key members of NASA’s Apollo 11 team – including Collins and several of the Mission Control crew – recall how the mission unfolded, with contributions from interested onlookers, including the sons of Armstrong and Aldrin.

Wednesday 17

The Invention Of Boris Johnson

9pm, Channel 4

If you’ve not yet heard enough of Boris Johnson’s own words, there are yet more of his own words to be heard in this profile of the man who is looking likely to be our next prime minister as of next Monday. As the final exciting hours of the hot Conservative leadership ballot deflate, the film sifts through countless archive interviews and many of the man’s newspaper columns to try and build a picture of his track record. Later tonight, by sheer coincidence, the Horror channel is screening the pretty terrible 2012 movie The Apparition (2.40am), which is about a group of people who have to try and fight to survive the impact of a life-sapping abomination, after they themselves have foolishly summoned it from the mouldy depths of hell. No one survives. Food for thought. Food for thought.

Thursday 18

The Directors: Sidney Lumet

8pm, Sky Arts

After time as a child actor, further study at the Actors Studio, and an early career in live TV, Sidney Lumet staked his claim among America’s most beloved movie directors with his first film, 1957’s Twelve Angry Men, boasting one of Henry Fonda’s most memorable performances. The long career that followed was variable, but Lumet made at least two more classics – 1975’s Dog Day Afternoon, and Network in 1976 – along with a bulging fistful of films that, while they’ve never quite had the recognition they deserve, just look better every year (including the uncharacteristic 1972 Sean Connery outing The Offence, and 1982’s The Verdict, with a spellbinding Paul Newman). This profile examines how his background helped Lumet form a particular productive relationship with actors, and how, time and again, he brought to the Hollywood screen the feel of his home turf, New York City.

Friday 19

A Night In With Bros

10pm, BBC Four

Striking while the Goss iron is still hot, BBC Four follows up/ cashes in on the recent success of the much talked about Bros documentary After The Screaming Stops with a night of programming curated by Luke and Matt themselves. Preview material wasn’t available at the time of writing, but the main part of the evening will see the brothers looking back over some of the best loved TV shows of their childhood and clips of the musicians who have influenced them most, interspersed with new footage shot as they prepare to hit the road for their imminent comeback shows. Later, at 11.30pm, there’s another chance to see That Bros Film again. Then, from 1am, come two documentaries on two very different singers, as selected and introduced by the boys themselves: Sinatra: All Or Nothing At All; then Robert Plant: All By Myself.


Moon Landing Live

8pm, Channel 4

Exactly fifty years on from the day, this feature length documentary recreates the final stages of the Apollo 11 mission in real time through footage shot by the astronauts, and recordings of their communications with Mission Control as humankind made the first attempt to set foot on the moon. The reconstruction brings home the tension as the spacecraft separates and Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin begin the descent toward the surface and into the unknown: left in the relative “safety” of lunar orbit, Michael Collins has no idea if he will see them again. And, after the landing is successful, the flag has been planted, and President Nixon has called with his congratulations, the pressure begins to build again, as the three spacemen begin the attempt to get safely back home to Earth.