The Great Doc Martin (Re) Watch Continues – Series 2, Episodes 3 and 4

The great Doc Martin viewing marathon rolls right along this week as we continue on with Series 2, with "Blood is Thicker" and "Aromatherapy." It’s interesting to me that for the first few episodes of this season, the show seems to really have taken on a much more ensemble feel – not that it wasn’t full of strong characters before, but I am especially impressed by how we can now have storylines going on that are independent of Martin and may not have anything at all to do with what the “main character” is doing.

Also, I now have favorite episode. I just loved “Blood is Thicker” to bits!

So, click through and come chat with me! Leave your thoughts, favorite moments, funny lines, etc. in the comments.

Series 2, Episode 3: “Blood is Thicker”

This is the One Where: A new doctor who specializes in herbal remedies comes to town, Al discovers Bert may not be his natural father, and Martin treats a rural family with a mysterious unseen mother.  

This episode uses the ensemble perfectly. This is the episode where, for me, this became a true ensemble comedy. Obviously, this was always technically the case, but this was the first time where it really felt like all the sub-plots featuring various other Portwennians were given an equal amount of time and attention compared to Martin’s storyline.  Additionally, the non-Marti plot was allowed to be just as – possibly more – compelling as the story that he was involved in, which was a great step up from some of the Series 1 efforts where secondary character stories seemed like an afterthought.  It was a perfect balance and once which I hope they repeat often in future. 

It’s thematically well done, too. I sort of enjoy the tension of this episode’s title and the themes that it presents. Yes, the saying goes that blood is thicker than water, but, as we see in this episode it’s not the only thing that binds people or creates a family. And while we see that family can be motivation enough for almost anything, sometimes it means less than friendships you’ve made for yourself. A great exploration of this issue all around, I thought.

Wherein Al and Bert Large Break My Heart. I loved the entire Bert and Al plot this week. Loved it to pieces. They were both sympathetic and it was just so moving all around – on both sides. I love plots like this where it’s impossible to be angry with either of them, because they’re both trying to do what they think they need to do. And Bert just loves Al so much! Moments that just killed me: when Bert’s face just crumples after Al doesn’t believe the name on his birth certificate and the absolute perfection of Al sitting down to fish with him after he’s come to terms with the fact that whether or not biology confirms it, Bert’s his father in every way that matters. I wanted to hug everyone.

Aunt Joan Does Something Useful! To be quite honest I’ve felt largely ambivalent about Joan since I started watching this show. She sort of fits a  character type that I tend to find fairly grating – that of the feisty older/elderly relative who’s full of wisdom and scrappy life advice. But it was lovely to see her interact with other townspeople besides Martin, and her scenes with Al were really well done and emotionally affecting, especially when she asked him what he would do if it Bert weren’t his father. This time out, we still got the whole feeling of Aunt Joan as font of wisdom and life advice (the role she tends to play with Martin anyway), but in a way that was very natural and unforced.

Another Doctor in Portwenn? Having seen this now, I am quite intrigued by the concept of Martin having some sort of professional competition in Portwenn (and whether that would be impetus enough for him to really reevaluate the way he treats people). Unfortunately, Sandra is awful - completely unlikeable and borderline incompetent and it’s a relief when she’s basically driven out of town.  But now I’m fascinated with this concept and hope it’s something we come back to at a later date. (I mean surely the town could use more than one doctor? Right?)

The Flint Family. Once we had the whole stomach flu situation reintroduced I was so sure I’d hate the Flint family storyline, but I was so surprised by how it engrossing it turned out to be. That the creepy boys from the middle of nowhere who are completely strange and obsessed with taxidermy are really just doing everything they can to protect their father, who’s basically gone mad and thinks he’s also their mother was just heartbreaking. And they didn’t tell anyone because they were afraid that their family would be broken up, and they couldn’t handle it and just wanted them to be like everyone else. Amazing to me that such a creepy and unsettling plot could be that affecting.

Mark, Please Never Leave This Show. Really. Mark is my favorite. The scene where he’s sort of excitedly recounting to Martin the story of his first dead body and the woman whose husband’s body had been decomposing in her flat was completely inappropriate and hilarious. And then his total anxiety about going into the Flint house and insistence that they couldn’t be there without probably cause! I so want Mark in every storyline. He’s that awesome.

The Continuing Saga of Martin and Louisa. Not a lot of movement on the Martin/Louisa relationship during this episode, but I was struck by how uncomfortable the scene where Martin eavesdrops on Sandra and Louisa turned out to be. And honestly, I know she’s still hurt about the awful things that Martin said to her, but it felt very wrong for her to tell someone who is basically a perfect stranger about Martin’s blood phobia.  I know the whole town pretty much knows now, so it’s not a big secret anymore but it felt quite rude and vaguely like a betrayal.

Best Line: “Did you kill that dog for me?” - Martin

Series 2, Episode 4 “Aromatherapy”

This is the One Where: Martin gets a new patient who smells awful. Radio host Caroline maybe has a drinking problem. Mark meets a girl.  

Sadly, I thought this episode was mostly just okay, probably because I loved “Blood is Thicker” so much. But also the main plot of a sad old gentleman with a body odor problem was just that…sad.

More Great Ensemble Work. I am so hopeful that this nice balance of really using the supporting cast will continue. I think it makes the show much more compelling when multiple characters are featured and the storylines aren’t focused exclusively on Martin. I’m fine with him popping in and out and showing up to save the medical day and whatnot but showing a plot’s emotional ramifications for other characters is a sign of a strong show. And, in a long-tail way, it matters more to us, I think, if the people Martin’s being rude and/or impossible toward, are people we care about.

Unfortunately, the Medical Cases Felt a Bit Predictable. Or maybe I’ve just watched too many mystery shows lately because I was able to guess what was wrong with both Caroline and Mr. Cooke. Well, I shouldn’t make myself sound too incredible – but I did manage to figure out that what was wrong with Caroline wasn’t a drinking problem and that Mr. Cooke probably had some sort of hidden stench cause – much like the elderly lady and her flat that Mark referenced last episode. That said, Felicity Montagu did some great acting as Caroline, and I just felt terrible for her during the whole episode, especially when she was slowly realizing that the entire town thought she was a drunk and no one would listen to her. I must admit to some confusion about the Mr. Cooke mystery however – when the social services team was cleaning out his house (or maybe even before that, I’m not sure) wouldn’t someone have thought to clean out his bag? Wouldn’t someone at some point have noticed that he had a particular type of distinctive smell attached to him? Did he really take that bag everywhere?

Mark Meets a Girl! I am just so happy that Mark got a storyline of his own that I don’t even mind the fact that I thought Julie was a bit on the dull side. But his dry run testing of the restaurant was so endearing, as was his total disappointment when he called to cancel it.

Pauline Annoys Me. There, I said it. And, yes, I’m still mad about her not being Elaine and everything, so I freely admit that some of this irritation is based on factors that have nothing to do with her actual character. But, besides that fact, her horrible attitude toward some of the townspeople – staring out the window and laughing at Caroline and being so obviously disdainful of Mr. Cooke even though it’s obvious that he can’t help what’s wrong with him – is so offputting. 

Best line: Pedestrian: I wouldn't park there, love, if I were you. Caroline: Really? And if I were you I wouldn't come out in daylight, love.

Lacy Baugher

Lacy's love of British TV is embarrassingly extensive, but primarily centers around evangelizing all things Doctor Who, and watching as many period dramas as possible.

Digital media type by day, she also has a fairly useless degree in British medieval literature, and dearly loves to talk about dream poetry, liminality and the medieval religious vision. (Sadly, that opportunity presents itself very infrequently.) York apologist, Ninth Doctor enthusiast and unabashed Ravenclaw. Say hi on Twitter at @LacyMB