The Great Doc Martin (Re)Watch Continues – Series 4, Episodes 5 and 6!

The great Doc Martin viewing marathon continues here at Telly Visions – and we’re just one week from the Series 5 premiere! One week! And I’m so close to being all caught up! I feel all sorts of accomplished, you guys.

Anyway, we continue on with Series 4 this week, with “The Departed” and “Midwife Crisis.” These two episodes, while problematic in ways mostly pertaining to Martin and Louisa and the general feeling that their storyline just seems to have stalled emotionally, were actually very entertaining. And, while one did (once again) feature some more obnoxious and uncomfortable presentations of gender issues, it wasn’t nearly so rage inducing as “Driving Mr. McLynn” from last week. Maybe I’m just feeling kinder because I’m so close to completely the rewatch, I don’t know. But at least these episodes felt fun for the most part, even when heavier plots were featured.

Anyway, onward! Click through and come chat with me about the next two episodes in our rewatch, and feel free to leave your thoughts, favorite moments, funny lines, general rants, whatever, in the comments.

Series 4, Episode 5: “The Departed”

This is the One Where: Martin goes to London to meet with Robert Dashwood, who’s in charge of hiring for the surgeon job he’s applied for. Martin is excited to be back in the world of surgery, and Robert is pleased Martin’s apparently “conquered” that whole blood phobia problem. Though that, of course, is not strictly true, so Martin tries out therapy. Also, Aunt Joan may get sued because she locked a kid in her chicken coop. No, really.

Joan and the Worst Class Trip Ever. I feel validated in predicting last week that Joan’s financial struggles would come up again in a future episode –as Joan tries to turn Louisa’s class field trip into a profitable enterprise and panics about the prospect of the Wenns lawyering up and threatening to sue. I’m in favor of this subplot – not that I like to see Joan suffer or anything, but I do love continuity (!) and it gives Joan something to do besides deliver food to the Larges and stand around dispensing wisdom to Martin about the baby situation.  It’s sort of interesting; too, how emotional Joan is about her financial situation, yet in a lot of ways she also doesn’t entirely seem to take it seriously either.  Though I am now curious as to where we’re going with this and whether Martin is going to have to make some hard choices about what he’s willing to do for family, if Joan ends up losing everything.

Portwenn parenting also seems to really need some pointers, generally, because this is the second or third time that the plot hinges on a really obnoxious and totally horrible child being, well, obnoxious and horrible.  Joan was, of course, completely in the wrong to lock a child in a chicken coop and trap him there, no matter how much his behavior may have warranted some sort of punishment.  But, to be fair, Joan is right and he could have hurt her animals, but she should have brought up his behavior with Louisa or his parents or something instead of taking it into her own hands.

The Idea of Martin in Therapy is Intriguing. Martin certainly has many issues that he could probably use some therapy for – the blood phobia, his problems connecting with people, the million and one ways his parents have probably messed him up. And it’s especially interesting that this is something that he, himself, has decided to do – and had made the appointment before Edith suggested it. Obviously, on some level he views this as a means to an end, only, because he clearly doesn’t really want to be there, doesn’t respect his doctor, and doesn’t take the process of therapy very seriously, at least not at first. But he ultimately does choose to try and do the work involved in confronting his blood phobia which, I suppose is a hopeful sign that he might, eventually, decide to work on the myriad of others issues that are surely piling up in his psyche.  

I so wish, though, that we’d gotten a bit more out of that moment where Martin says that he was locked under the stairs repeatedly as a child and he turned out fine. One, because clearly he did not turn out fine and two, because it would be a real service to his character to explore a bit more about the obvious and apparnetly legion ways that his parents messed him up. That would not only be very compelling TV, it would go far toward making Martin’s character more well-rounded and sympathetic in the long run. It's easier to like him when you remember why he is the way he is.

Martin Attempts to Sympathize with Others. I found Mrs. Selkirk’s hallucinations and conviction that she was actually conversing with her dead husband to be an oddly touching subplot – but I also enjoyed watching Martin’s initial reactions to her behavior. He seemed, to me, to be trying to empathize with her situation and actually treat her carefully the first time he talked to her about it – and even later on, when it was clear that she was suffering from some sort of illness, mental or otherwise, he wasn’t nearly as abrasive or mean as he’s been in the past to people who have been a lot less irritating than she was. Is this progress of some sort? Did he feel bad for her? Did he feel extra involved because he was sitting next to her husband when he died? I don’t know – and I’m not entirely even sure if it matters – but I’d certainly like a bit more of him at least trying to be more sensitive to people that are hurting.

Aunt Joan Tells a Lie. Joan goes to see the Wrenns and apologize in person for what she did to their son in the hopes that her sincerity will somehow convince them to not sue her. This logic is unsound/unrealistic, but okay. Of course, the Wrenns aren’t so interested in her remorse, so Joan decides to tell them that Martin informed her Theo’s test results came back and she isn’t responsible for his illness anyway. So there. Martin, naturally, has perfect timing and arrives at that precise moment. Joan puts him on the spot about the test results and he dodges the question, managing to neither confirm nor deny that what Joan said was true.

Of course, the Wenns ultimately turn out to be at fault for their son’s illness because they employ an au pair who has some problems maintaining basic standards of hygiene.  So, Martin is ultimately off the hook for Joan’s lie – and, not that I want something bad to happen to Aunt Joan or anything, but I do think that this story would have been so much more interesting if Joan had turned out to be at fault in this situation. Despite Martin’s rant about having to put being a doctor first and their subsequent spat about what “family” means and all of that, he wasn’t actually forced to make the hard choice about covering for Joan or upholding his principles. What would he have done, really, if it came down to it? He insists to Joan that he doesn’t want to compromise his integrity so that she “can save face,” which seems to indicate that he doesn’t quite understand how dire his aunt’s financial situation is, not really. Joan is all the real family he has – and we’ve seen him make hard decisions to support her in the past - when he sold his London flat so she could keep the farm. I wonder what he would have decided to do had he known the full extent of the situation – I’m not sure that he wouldn’t have ultimately chosen professional integrity over hiding Joan’s mistake, but it would have been really good television to watch him struggle with it a bit more. Especially given Martin’s own recent dishonesty and decision to openly mislead people about whether he’s “over” his blood phobia.

The Continuing Saga of Martin and Louisa. While it is highly likely that a Martin in therapy would ultimately be better equipped to have a relationship with someone, we don’t get a lot in the way of movement in the Martin/Louisa storyline in this episode. (Sidebar, I do wish we were getting some indication that Martin was actually working on something in therapy besides the blood stuff, but baby steps, I suppose.) The previous episode was so hard to watch, thanks to Martin’s apparently draconian views about pregnant women in general, yet there is no real follow up to any of that here. There is a great scene where Martin basically calls Louisa hormonal and she says she’s fine with being a person who feels and expresses emotion; honestly, it was lovely to see Louisa doing a bit more standing up for herself in the face of his comments. But, it’s also a bit of a cop out to just completely avoid the issues that so dominated the last episode.

Series 4, Episode 6: “Midwife Crisis”

This is the One Where: Martin meets Molly, Portwenn’s new midwife who will be looking after Louisa and her pregnancy. Everyone seems to have some sort of obnoxious opinion about gender roles to share. Martin gets the job in London and Louisa finds out – by hearing Edith talk about it. Bert gets hit on by his new cook who likes to cook with some very strange ingredients.  

Louisa’s Midwife Arrives. While Molly the Midwife is sort of annoying in a lot of ways – and clearly is no fan of Martin’s at all – it’s nice that finally we get a handful of scenes that are about Louisa’s feelings and perspective about Martin and the baby situation.  There’s a bit too much of Molly sort of pushing her all-feminism-all-the-time views, but  we get so little of Louisa’s viewpoint as it is, and certainly almost never without Martin present, that it was worth it, no matter how brief the scenes turned out to be.

Roadkill: Now on the Menu at Large’s Restaurant. Marigold, Bert’s new cook, keeps hitting animals with her car on the way to work. And, for some reason, Bert is cool with buying the dead animals from her and cooking them up for the restaurant. This subplot is actually quite gross (the dead animal thing) and creepy (Bert’s weird flirtation/crush situation with her). Ick.  And that’s before we find out that Marigold’s actually been accidentally poisoning her husband because she’s been cooking him meals made with spoiled meat from the dead animals while back at their house. Apparently he likes the flavor. (Ugh. How is this actually more disgusting than that episode where everyone had diarrhea?)

Just Because Molly the Midwife’s Views Are Obnoxious Doesn’t Make Martin’s Any Better.  While I appreciate that the show is trying to offer (at last) an alternative viewpoint to Martin’s as regards Louisa’s pregnancy and working full time and gender roles, etc., it doesn’t do anyone any favors to make Molly quite so stridently anti-male and obnoxious.  Her constant going on about the male-dominated heath system oppressing women and female patients needing to claim their power blah blah blah is just too over the top in the other direction for me – and it’s hard to take it seriously because it’s, well, not presented seriously. So I am left torn – I’m glad that this is an issue that has not been entirely dropped without comment, but by making Molly’s behavior so ridiculous, it makes the entire situation sort of pointless. Ugh, I don’t know. I suppose I should be grateful that Martin didn’t go on again about the impossibility of women being mothers and working and all of that again, because I don't think I could have stood that. But I'm also not going to suddenly agree with Martin's point of view just because Molly is an idiot, either.

It’s the Little Things. While this episode’s main plots featured some seriously annoying aspects, this installment was full of a lot of really well done little moments sprinkled throughout the pregnancy and “will Martin move back to London” storylines. Pauline’s anxiety that Martin trying to take back over doing the blood work at the surgery means that he’s planning fire her was touching. And Martin’s fumbling breakfast conversation with Joan, where he tells his aunt about his decision to move back to London was also very sweet.

Edith: Still Ruining Everything. I suppose on some level Edith is good for Martin in that she at least does seem to genuinely want to help him deal with getting over the whole blood thing – albeit for what seem to be predominately selfish reasons.  But, it’s hard to remember that maybe she has redeeming qualities when she’s the one who keeps dropping in at Martin’s house uninvited, interrupts his chat with Louisa and proceeds to talk loudly about his relocation plans, which of course is how Louisa finds out that Martin is planning to leave. Ugh. While I am in no way surprised by this  - Plot Roadbock is indeed what she’s here to do – it’s still exceptionally annoying that things like this keep happening. And that’s not even mentioning that Martin really should have made it a priority to tell Louisa himself – not that he didn’t try and not that there weren’t a few extenuating circumstances and of course we all knew that something exactly like this was what was going to happen, but still. I’d have liked to see the scene where he had to tell her himself.