Aidan Turner, who plays Ross Poldark in the BBC's new adaptation of the historical novels, said his character has shades of Darcy, Rochester, Heathcliff and Rhett Butler.

What links those latter characters is that they were all created by female authors, and are all partnered in their respective novels by fearless, independent women. Cathy and Scarlett could be downright intimidating - I wouldn't care to meet either of them on a Saturday night after they'd had a few drinks - whereas Jane and Elizabeth Bennett are dignified and proud.

But Ross Poldark, and his flouncy love interest, Elizabeth, were created by a man, so whilst Ross does indeed have flavours of those Byronic heroes, Elizabeth is utterly vapid. We are only one episode into Poldark so she may yet prove me wrong, but in tonight's opener she was a black hole, bending light and distorting gravity with her monumental dullness.

Had the author of Poldark been a woman this might have changed; she may have been feisty and rebellious. She might have thrown off the soft cousin and marched back into Poldark's arms, but only after restoring his fortunes and getting his tin mines functioning again. Alas, the growling, smouldering Poldark isn't granted a Scarlett or a Cathy, but is given a silly, hand-wringing milksop to lust after. How can we anticipate any tumultuous love affair between them? I feel we must look elsewhere for the drama in this series.

I assume, from her hair colour, that this drama will come from Demelza. On market day, Poldark rescues a bruised urchin and takes her home to work as kitchen maid. After a cold shower - 'she be seethin' wi' crawlers!' - it's revealed she's actually a pretty thing with tumbling copper hair. Is this the fiery maiden who'll provide the love interest for our tortured hero? I hope so, because Ross Poldark can't hope to be mentioned in the same sentence as Heathcliff, Rochester etc if he doesn't have a female who's his gutsy equal. So far, the only memorable thing about Elizabeth was the purple lipstick she wore, and even that irritated me. Ladies of the era often had to bite their lips and pinch their cheeks to create blush and lip colour; they certainly didn't have an Avon catalogue to hand.

Despite the glossy lipstick, Poldark excelled in creating the desolate, wild atmosphere of neglected 18th century Cornwall, even down to the dust motes and the horse dung. This was the dilapidated world Ross Poldark found when he returned from the wars in America. Coming back a hero, and having inherited a scar resembling the blackened tear of a resentful clown, he learns his father has died and his inheritance is worthless: the land is barren and the mines are exhausted. Added to this, the wispy Elizabeth has long assumed him dead, so has agreed to marry his rich cousin.

There is nothing for Poldark to claim but his filthy and neglected home, which lies in the lazy care of his father's old servants, a couple of crimson-faced yokels, coated in sweat and smocks. Again, any attempts at being Darcy or Heathcliff are thrown askew here as the servants are surely comic characters. Heathcliff would have bashed their teeth in with an iron bar, whereas Darcy would coldly have had them removed from the premises.

'Well, prick me liver wot could us do?' exclaim the yokels when Poldark asks why they've not taken better care of the place. These sweaty bumpkins brought a comedy element into the story which just didn't sit well with the rest of the plot, concerned as it was with pride, betrayal and broken loyalties.

But the yokels don't damage the story, they just send it skittering off on a little funny turn, but it always gets back on course.

It's obviously being compared to Banished as the BBC inexplicably decided to launch them both in the same week. I'd say it's superior to its BBC2 rival; Banished is all gung-ho and concerned with plot and action, with folk constantly being hanged or threatened with hanging, or just having escaped hanging, whereas Poldark has been more graceful and measured, setting the scene and creating atmosphere and quiet despair. When Banished need to create despair they just go 'bloody 'ell, more 'angings!'. There's nothing so coarse and crude in Poldark - except the yokels.

I was more inclined to think of Broadchurch rather than Banished, as Poldark is packed with scenes of people musing on clifftops, looking out to the sunny West Country sea. As Poldark strode along the cliffs I was expecting him to run into a pair of barristers having a bitchy consultation or see a weeping woman in an orange anorak go stumbling by.

So there was no Broadchurch-style hysteria and no Banished-style violence. This will lead to yelps from some that Poldark was boring or slow. Instead, it was graceful and lithe, setting down layers, introducing characters, and taking its time. It gave us dazzling Cornish sunlight, and then some dusty daylight fumbling its way through grimy glass. It gave us ladies in silk gowns then ruffians setting up dogfights in the square. Poldark will not be hurried into declaring itself.