Netflix had been offering me as a “recommended” show to watch a series called “Doc Martin”. I had successfully ignored it for months, when one evening, as I was scrolling (and scrolling and scrolling) looking for anything decent, I saw it roll up again.
What the hell, I fired it up, expecting it to be like many of their recommendations. However, it quickly sucked me in with the story, and the cinematography.
Set in the seaside village of Portwenn (actually Port Isaac) in the Cornwall region of England, it is the story of a once masterful surgeon who developed haemophobia (fear of blood), and having given up his senior posting in London, became the GP of the village.
His name is Dr. Martin Ellingham (played by Martin Clunes), and as coincidence has it, in his flight to the interview with the town council, he is seated across from the school teacher in the village, Louisa Glasson (played by Caroline Cates) and the tension that will play out across the series is born (for the record, he stares at her oddly, causing her to move seats, and then awkwardness when she is on the selection committee he is interviewed by before he is selected as the new village doctor.)
Each episode has at least two threads, some personal intrigue involving the Doc, or the persistent characters, the underlying push-pull of the Martin-Louisa romance/feud and at least one incident where the highly experienced, yet socially awkward Doc fixes/addresses the issue (cancer of the larynx of the former teacher in the first episode is a classic example, or the awkward child that needs some heroic intervention to prevent bleeding out in the ambulance on the way to the big hospital).
7 seasons from 2004 to 2015, with 6 to 9 episodes per season, waft and wend their way. From romance, to revulsion, the storyline is compelling, and quite entertaining. As when the Large men switch from plumbing to restauranteur, to running a B&B, the appearance of another surgeon, a woman whom Martin had a history with, and appeared to be making a play romantically with the Doc. You could almost feel the disappointment in the on again / off again byline with Louisa.
Throughout the series, you wonder how someone could have absolutely no social graces as Martin appears to. In the third season, after his aunt Joan passes, Martin delivers a staid eulogy where he rants on about heard disease, clinical obesity, and sedentary lifestyle as endemic to the village. In the 6th season, after Martin’s father passes (they were estranged) his mother shows up, and by watching her behavior, you get a clear picture of how the Doc got the way he did, by the neglect, and indifference his mother shows. Ultimately, she is looking for a handout from Martin, 200 – 300K pounds so she doesn’t have to live in poverty. Martin tells her to bug off, to pack her things and leave. As a parting shot, she takes his grandfather’s clock that Martin obviously prized (his one hobby is rebuilding old clocks).
The 6th season ends ominously, after yet another row between Martin and Louisa, this time promising to be the final straw, Louisa is hit by a car, and in the testing a CAT scan reveals that she has a leaking artery in her brain, that was undiagnosed, and could prove fatal if she experiences high altitude (and she is flying to Spain to spend time with her mother, and take a break to reevaluate her life). Martin rushes to the airport, extracts her from the airplane, and overcomes his returning blood phobia, to put things right.
Hopefully soon, Netflix will add the 7th season.
Doc Martin is a treat to watch. The village is charming, the writing is excellent, the tangential story lines that come and go greatly add to the enjoyment, and regardless of how socially awkward the Doc is, his skills and abilities are recognized as top notch, winning converts as time goes on.