The Great Doc Martin (Re)watch Begins: Series 1, Episodes 1 and 2

Starting tonight on WETA, we’re broadcasting Doc Martin from the very beginning, and going straight through all four series every Saturday for the next few months.  It’s all leading up to something a lot of people have been looking forward to, namely, the long-awaited premiere of Series 5. (It's coming in April, so start getting excited.)

However, this title might be a bit misleading – while it’s certainly a rewatch for a lot (most?) of you, this will be my first proper trip to Portwenn.  This should be a fairly interesting ride, as I know a fair amount of the basic big Doc Martin plot details as a result of just spending a lot of time around anglophiles, but I don’t know the characters or how they relate to each other at all. I’m intrigued!

So, I hope some of you – especially the big fans out there – will click through and come chat with me! List your favorite moments from these episodes in the comments, characters you like, funny lines, whatever strikes your fancy!

Series 1, Episode 1: “Going Bodmin”

This Is The One Where: Doctor Martin Ellingham becomes the new GP in Portwenn, promptly offends local school teacher Louisa Glasson, meets a colorful cast of local residents and accidentally uncovers an affair.

Snarky antagonism is the new meet cute. Even if we all didn’t know that Louisa and Martin would end up romantically involved, you can basically guess that fact if you’ve ever watched any sort of television before.  Though Martin is so rude and antagonistic to everyone that this trope is a tiny bit less obvious and far less annoying than in similar shows.

Where is this place? Portwenn is beautiful.  The town, the coast, the hills, even the constantly muddy roadway that Martin keeps driving through, it’s all gorgeous.  

Martin Clunes is pretty awesome, but Doc Martin is really prickly. Curmudgeonly is Doc Martin’s thing, that’s half the appeal of the show, but his character is very abrasive, especially for a pilot episode.  It does help that he clearly feels awful about exposing Mrs. Spencer’s affair and that he brings his public humiliation on himself because he’s distracted by feeling bad about it, but wow, he does need to work on his social skills.  Martin Clunes is wonderful though – his delivery is impeccable and his facial expressions are fabulous (especially the scene where his aunt is killing the chicken). I'm expecting he'll grow on me in time, this seems to have been what happened to everyone else.

Character I wish was going to stick around: Elaine. It’s unfortunate that this is one of those moments where I’m sad that I know plot details – I don’t want to know that Elaine leaves Portwenn eventually, though it probably counts for something that I am not quite sure when that happens.  She’s possibly the worst receptionist in the world, but other than that she’s fantastic.  Entertaining, confident, and most importantly, not willing to take crap from Martin, she’s exactly the kind of “sidekick” a character like that needs. Lucy Punch and Martin Clunes have great comedic chemistry.

Loving the local color. Some people have problems with British comedies and their seemingly endless parade of quirky locals who all have strange personality ticks. I am not one of those people.  The supporting characters introduced here are wonderful – though the Large boys are my personal favorite – and despite their traditional Britcom quirkiness, they mostly seem like people you could know. 

Going bodmin. I had to look up what “bodmin” meant when I started this episode. Oddly, that’s a bit of slang I’ve never heard before.  Google tells me that the word comes from Cornwall and, really, just the idea that someone thought it necessary an actual term for “someone who went mad wandering ‘round the moors” is fabulous.

Best line: “I don't care if I seem a bit Bodmin or a bit lonely or how far it is to Delabole. It's just a dog.” (Note: I so hope that dog comes back!)

Series 1, Episode 2: “Gentlemen Prefer”

This Is The One Where:  Doc Martin’s surgery officially opens, but the townies all use it as their official group hang-out.  Martin fires Elaine and the entire town is annoyed with him.

Yay, the dog is back!

Explosion of Portwennians! While the scene at the beginning with the entire town congregating at Doc Martin’s surgery was funny, there were almost too many people involved in that scene.  Since we haven’t met most of them yet, trying to figure out who all these people might be is confusing.  

Maybe Doc Martin should have been a pediatrician. He’s actually kind of charming with the sick little boy, both while he’s treating him and later in the episode.

Everyone Loves Elaine. I love how the town loves Elaine. Yes, she made a mistake, and Martin overreacted and they probably should have just talked it out or whatever, but the fall out is extremely entertaining.  The small town reaction to immediately close ranks around one of their own and find increasingly innovative ways to punish Martin is hilarious. It also goes to show that despite her occasional laziness and inattention to detail, Elaine is a good person.

Life advice from Doc Martin. The scene between Elaine and Martin when he tries to convince her to go to her father’s wedding is very sweet. Why can’t he interact like this with more people?  I loved that he decided to go to the wedding himself, though. 

Roger Fenn: Patient and Plot Point of the Week. Have to admit that the patient-of-the-week story in and of itself was a bit on the boring side, mostly because Roger was fairly abrasive for most of the episode.  This sub-plot was partially redeemed by the scene between Roger and Martin in hospital before Roger’s surgery when Martin finally admitted that he’s a surgeon who can’t operate because he’s become afraid of blood.  Roger’s dry, understated response to Martin’s confession (“You probably want to keep that quiet.”) was perfect, and I found myself kind of liking the two of them as unexpected, prickly friends.

 Best line:  “Your secret’s safe with me.” “Well, it’s not like you’re going to be able to tell anyone is it?”


Final Verdict?  I’m intrigued by Martin Clunes’ performance, and by this series in general – it’s very different to the sorts of things I generally tend to watch. Looking forward to next week.