The Great Doc Martin (Re)Watch Continues – “On the Edge”

The great Doc Martin viewing marathon continues with the two-part Christmas special “On the Edge.” I’m never sure whether holiday episodes like this count as part of the season that they follow or the one they precede and I’ve seen some conflicting reports as to how fans of the show tend to categorize it.  But, since I believe it’s the only Christmas special the series ever did, I trust everyone knows which episode I’m talking about, whichever season you think it belongs in!

Anyway, whatever you call it, click through and come chat with me! Leave your thoughts, favorite moments, funny lines, etc. in the comments.

On the Edge: Parts One and Two

This is the One Where: Martin’s under investigation because of his rude and condescending attitude towards patients. Pauline considers leaving Portwenn. Louisa’s father Terry returns to town accompanied by his bi-polar friend Jonathan. Bert Large leads bird tours. And Martin, Louisa and Pauline get taken hostage.

The Extended Format: The Good and the Bad. I had mixed feelings about this being a two part episode – on the whole, I think it worked, and wouldn’t mind seeing this show do more extended episodes or two-parters. The extra time allows a lot of flexibility for deeper character insights, especially for those – I’m thinking of Louisa and Pauline specifically – whom we tend to see predominantly through scenes that are mostly with or about Martin. It was really nice to see some smaller subplots that were really just about the women themselves, and that didn’t have anything to do with Martin at all. Unfortunately, the over-arching medical case focusing on Louisa’s father’s friend Jonathan and his bipolar disorder was not very compelling and, quite frankly, I found the kidnapping bit of the plot to be over the top and kind of ridiculous. I know that we often have some ridiculously silly bits on this show – the episode that was literally about toilet humor, the teenage girl crushing on Martin, Stewart’s imaginary squirrel friend – but it’s been the sort of charming, quirky ridiculous that’s easily forgivable. Unfortunately, this episode goes for the ridiculous that isn’t the fun kind, dragging out a plotline that involves Jonathan, skipping his meds and kidnapping people. It feels a bit like we’ve taken characters we love from Doc Martin and dropped them into some other show for a bit.  So, the framework was a bit odd for me – and I do think it would have worked better if the bulk of the A plot focused on a character we knew and/or cared about. It occurred to me how much more compelling I might have found this episode if it was Stewart or someone like Mark in Jonathan’s place, or something similar.

Martin Faces a Professional Review. Martin faces a professional inquiry over reports that his manner of interacting with patients is rude and condescending.  Even though we know that this storyline is unlikely to really go anywhere – Martin will always be who he is, and the curmudgeonly attitude is a linchpin of the character – it’s still nice to see the show openly acknowledge that the way Martin sometimes treats people is not okay and that should be remembered even while we laugh at his commentary. It’s still a hope of mine that we’ll eventually see a Martin who chooses to moderate some of the worst elements of his personality because he cares about the people in Portwenn, but if I have to settle for knowing that Martin cares about the village and its inhabitants even when he might not act like it, then I suppose that’s okay. As long as we’re regularly allowed moments like this, as an outlet for some of our own frustrations with his behavior.

And, as a sidebar note, I’d love to watch an episode where Martin actually has to go to those classes about improving how he interacts with patients. That would be comedy gold.

We Meet Louisa’s Father Louisa’s dad, Terry, returns to Portwenn. He apparently left the village on somewhat bad terms, having been accused of stealing money from the lifeboat fund. Terry has always insisted he was innocent and Louisa has always defended her father to the rest of the village. Unfortunately, her faith turns out to have been a bit misplaced, as Terry admits to her that he’s actually guilty of stealing the money. Louisa is heartbroken and embarrassed that she spent so long defending him to her friends and neighbors in the village. It’s lovely to see Louisa get a plot within this episode that has nothing to do with Martin, and that’s all about her. For all that I like her a lot as a romantic partner for the good doc, I still feel that we don’t necessarily know her that well as Louisa, independently, and this was a needed look behind the scenes into her past and family. Though Terry was a bit annoying (and certainly his friend Jonathan made the plot nonsensical in places), I wouldn’t mind seeing him come back and visit again. I'd like to see Louisa adjust to the realization that her father isn't quite the man she thought he was, as well as figure out what sort of relationship she can have (or even wants) with him in light of that information.

Bert Large’s Latest Business Venture. The small subplot surrounding Bert’s latest moneymaking scheme to give guided tours of the supposed rare birds that are nesting in the cliffs outside the village is exactly the kind of quirky, hilariously little weird thing that I love about this show. And that was even before they accidentally blew the birds up.

The Kidnapping Plot. Entirely too over the top and ridiculous for  my taste – and it just felt so out of place – like something you’d never thought you’d see on a show like this, complete with knives and explosives. I liked a lot of the other elements of this episode, in terms of character work, so I’m going to feel free to ignore a lot of the technical elements of this plot. I know that with specials and extended episodes, shows often feel the need to go a bit overboard in terms of creating big, impactful story moments, but honestly I would have happily watched more of Bert’s bird watching story instead.

The Continuing Saga of Martin and Louisa: Round and Round We Go Again. Martin and Louisa – despite their wine-fueled heart to heart in the last episode, still seem very far apart this week. Martin gets Louisa a birthday card and asks her to dinner, but their moment is interrupted by her father’s return, before they can talk about anything to do with their relationship status.  I do have to wonder, though, how long the writers can keep coming up with plausible reasons to bring the two of them right to the edge of a real relationship and then back off. I’m rooting for the two of them – I think Louisa obviously cares for Martin and that being around her blunts a lot of his sharper edges – but it’s frustrating that twice now we’ve had some sort of forward progress for them be completely derailed by Martin saying something completely awful and socially tone deaf. Him calling her feelings a kind of romantic delusion is a degree of magnitude worse than implying her breath smells bad, but it’s from the same playbook, and suddenly we’re just right back where we were. And despite being kidnapped and threatened with death – that age old excuse for talking about feelings long hidden - it doesn’t seem to spark either of them to any sort of change.  So, yeah, I’m a bit curious as to where we go from here with their romance. It would be nice to see whether Martin can realize that the things he says are hurtful in addition to being truthful and whether he makes an effort to tone down some of his harshest behavior for Louisa’s benefit.

From the Shallow End: No Sign of Mark. I’m now extra nervous about my prediction from last week that Mark’s going to leave Portwenn. The offscreen mentions that he’s gone to Hawaii (though I guess I should be proud of him for taking his honeymoon alone) are unsettling – I can only hope that he come back!

Next week, it's on to Series Three!