The Great Doc Martin Watch Continues On with Series 5 – Episodes 3 and 4

Our Doc Martin viewing marathon here at Telly Visions officially kicked off our journey into Series 5 last week, at long last! (Unfortunately, we’re still a week behind here versus what’s currently airing on TV 26, but well, this is a lot closer to being “on the same page” with everyone than I’ve ever been, so I’ll happily live with it.) 

Let’s continue right along with Series 5 this week, then, shall we? Up next are “Boho with a Shotgun” (that’s really the episode title?) and “Mother Knows Best.”  On the whole, Series 5 is still much more appealing generally than Series 4, though to be honest there’s not a tremendous amount of forward story movement in either of these episodes. Though there are some great character moments for almost all of our major players and that’s what a lot of us tune in for anyway. It's easy to live with.

Click through and come chat with me and, as always, feel free to leave your thoughts, favorite moments, funny lines, general rants, whatever, in the comments.

Series 5, Episode 3: “Boho with a Shotgun”

This is the One Where: Aunt Ruth has some seriously bizarre neighbors living next to her farm, one of whom steals her hubcaps and is maybe poisoning his mother. Martin’s not exactly getting along with new receptionist Morwenna, who gets some “magic” pills from her grandfather to improve her professional performance. And Martin and Louisa struggle with sleep deprivation thanks to their unfortunately still-as-yet-unnamed baby.

This has got to be the weirdest title ever for an episode of this show – even more than the ones with profanity – yet I suppose it pretty much is exactly what it says on the tin.  The medical case-of-the-week is a bit too strange/surprisingly boring for my taste, except for the fact that Ruth gets to do a lot of things and continue on being awesome all over the place.

Aunt Ruth Remains Awesome. At the moment, Auth Ruth is one of the most enjoyable parts of the show. She, is getting all the best lines, has the best delivery and is just generally all around fantastic.  And I know that I said this last week, but I can’t get over how much Ruth is like Martin, but a more socially capable less overtly mean version. I think their relationship is fascinating, because I think Ruth is probably the only person who really undersands how Martin sees people, because it’s the same way that she does, she’s just nicer about it. Her handling of confused Michael and getting the gun away from him was inspired. Not to mention the fact that just the image of Eileen Atkins toting a shotgun was fantastic in and of itself.

It feels a bit…well, almost rude, somehow, to say that it seems as though Ruth’s gotten to do more in three episodes than Joan did for four series, but nevertheless it feels like a fairly accurate statement. This has largely to do with the fact that Ruth is afforded an agency and general freedom of storyline movement that Joan was not – she frequently interacts with characters who are not Martin and who have nothing to do with him – while he does become involved in the saga of her crazy neighbors, the story isn’t about him and she makes as much if not more progress in treating them as he does. She is also allowed to have things going on that are hers and hers alone – I’m still very fond of her friendship with Al, I like that her background as a psychiatrist isn’t there simply for show, and I think it’s excellent that she’s been given enough of a history and personality of her own that she resonates beyond just being “Martin’s aunt.” I would really like to see that continue.

Sidebar: I haven’t laughed as hard at anything on this show as Ruth’s “Is he really a policeman or just pretending to be?” comment about PC Penhale in quite a while.

Too Bad Aunt Ruth’s Neighbors Are Crazy. As previously mentioned, this particular medical plot of the week just did nothing for me – and it was also a bit odd that Joan apparently never mentioned or had issues with her bizarre neighbors when she lived before now. (Though Martin’s comments about half the village population being attracted to shiny things, so they probably weren’t that odd were funny.) Shirley Dunwich and her son Michael have a tremendously unhealthy co-dependent relationship. Michael regularly “finds” things  (i.e. steals them) and Shirley has been becoming increasingly suspicious, forgetful and paranoid in recent weeks.  At one point she even tells Martin that she thinks her son is trying to kill her.  Of course, he is not, and Shirley’s really managed to give herself arsenic poisoning from the wallpaper in her house.  All of this crazy ends with an armed standoff in the Dunwich house (because of course, they have guns.) It’s very silly and not one of the best sub-plots this show's ever had. (Though PC Penhale, Professional Hostage Negotiator, was funny.)

The Continuing Saga of Martin and Louisa. Louisa decides that she and the baby are going to move to London with Martin.  Allrighty then. To be fair, they are acting awfully couply and domestic, and the appeal of keeping their family together is obvious for both Martin and Louisa. And really, at this point, everyone – whether part of the fictional universe of Portwenn or not -wants them to keep their family together, so let's just go with it. Personally, I’m fine with these developments (especially as we all know the odds of them actually moving to London ever at all are pretty much nonexistent, but I imagine the point of television is learning to suspend one’s disbelief), but it does sort of feel as though we’ve skipped a step in the development of their relationship. (Again.)

Fans have waited so long for the two of them to make a real romantic commitment to one another – couldn’t we just have one conversation, even if it’s tiny, just one, where they actually talk about what they mean to each other and have one or both of them explicitly state out loud that they are together for reals and not just because of Unfortunately Still As Yet Unnamed Baby, but because they want to be, for them. This is not asking for the earth – and it would be eminently logical and expected for either or both of them (but particularly for Louisa) to really need something like that before they move too far forward too quickly.  Or, you know, uproot their entire lives. But, of course, Louisa doesn’t seem particularly wired to ask for something like that, and, as Ruth would probably advise, she’ll have to be the one to initiate that sort of conversation, because Martin won’t.

A little thing: it is interesting that Louisa already seems to be chafing against Martin’s apparent assumption that she is meant to be the chief minder of Unfortunately Still As Yet Unnamed Baby, especially and particularly when he appears to need something. Yet it’s very sweet watching the two of them awkwardly attempt to figure out how to get the baby to sleep and sort the basics of parenting, while at the same time determine how they’re supposed to be relating to one another now that so much between them has changed. Still, it’s Louisa that has to get up to tend the baby in the night, it’s Louisa that has to take him out for a walk when he’s crying. It will be interesting to see if that sort of All-and-Only-Mum-All-the-Time sort of life will be enough for her – I think she loves taking care of the baby, obviously, but I don’t think that’s all she wants to do, and I don’t think that she wants to be the only one responsible for the occasionally frustrating day-to-day basics of childcare. (The look on her face when all that woman in the road could think to talk to her about was breast feeding tips spoke volumes. I wonder when the last time was she had a conversation with someone that wasn't about the baby or some wildly inappropriate personal part of her anatomy?)

All of that said, Martin reading the baby a medical journal about cancer treatments? Disgustingly cute.

Morwenna: Surprisingly Not That Irritating, Actually.  Considering how long it took me to warm up to Pauline, I’m a bit shocked that I actually kind of like Morwenna. She’s a silly girl, to be sure, but she means well and she tries hard and she wants people to like her so badly that it’s sort of difficult not to. It should be interesting to see how she fits in to life at the surgery, considering that she is quite different from Pauline, at least in the sense that she doesn’t seem to have the same instincts to handle Martin’s personality/general way of dealing with people.

Series 5, Episode 3: “Mother Knows Best”

This is the One Where: It’s Portwenn Fun Day in the village and a competition springs up between Large’s Restaurant and the Crab and Lobster. PC Penhale is very emotionally invested in the annual Fun Run. Louisa’s mother arrives unexpectedly and has a very disturbing method for helping Unfortunately Still Unnamed Baby sleep through the night.

Somewhere Along the Way PC Penhale Became Kind of Adorable. Everything about PC Penale is awkward and basically embarrassing, and yet, somehow also completely sweet. He means so well and tries so hard, even I am apparently not immune to wanting to hug him. (Even if it has taken me a while. I did love Mark to pieces back in the first couple seasons.) Penhale is of course is taking his position as the person in charge of the Portwenn Fun Run very seriously and has a ridiculous fondness for his bullhorn. The bit where he gets locked in a…what was that anyway, a storage cupboard?...with Al Large was sort of silly and pointless, but at least mildly entertaining. I'm pleased that it looks like he's getting a bit of his own storyline in the next episode because his character does deserve to occasionally be something other than comic relief.

The Continuing Saga of Martin and Louisa. Domesticity continues apace at the surgery, as Martin and Louisa continue to adjust to living together with Unfortunately Still Unnamed Baby.  Louisa has to go back to the school for a work day and Martin is left to handle their son on his own, to occasionally hilarious effect. And both of them are, of course, exhausted, because the baby has managed to avoid sleeping through the night.

Poor Martin. This is the second episode in a  row that Louisa’s fished for a compliment (obviously the only way she’ll ever get one) and he just hadn’t the slightest idea what she was asking for or what to do. He must be such a challenge to go out with. But he actually manages to do exactly the right thing for once, when Louisa’s so upset about her mother drugging her child. Bit shocking that “I bought a fish” could actually at any point be taken to be a romantic statement, but surprisingly, it was. And maybe Martin is terrible at a lot of the basics of romance and relationships, but that was a pretty spot on assessment of and reaction to exactly what Louisa needed at that moment, so maybe there is hope for them yet.

Louisa’s Mother Arrives in Town. Louisa’s mother Eleanor returns to town after a seven year absence, ostensibly to see her daughter and bond with Unfortunately Still Unnamed Baby.  She’s incredibly annoying – very over the top and needlessly dramatic and irritatingly new age-y with herbal tonics and whatnot. In case it wasn’t obvious, Louisa isn’t anything at all like her mother, and it’s a bit sad how awkward and strained their relationship has become.

Eleanor manages to convince Louisa to let her babysit for a while, and miraculously seems to have a gift for keeping the baby quiet.  Of course, this gift turns out to be the fact that she’s dosing the child with her special “tonic”, which is, of course, alcoholic and therefore knocks him out. Dun dunnnnn. Martin and Louisa are rightfully furious.  

This episode does provide a very interesting look at Louisa’s childhood – and why she is the way she is. She clearly loves her mother very much, but has never really gotten over her leaving, and doesn’t know how to relate to her and doesn’t trust her. It’s very sad. (Part of me wonders is this isn’t the reason that Louisa’s so accommodating even when it goes against her own interests, because given the behavior of her own parents, she’s got to have an abandonment complex the size of the United Kingdom.) And given the revelations of both Eleanor (who apparently also gave the same alcoholic concoction to Louisa as a chid) and Ruth (who reminds Martin that his father used to live him in a room alone to cry as a baby) it’s a wonder that either of them have turned out to have any parenting skills at all. 

Personally, I find Eleanor annoying as anything, but I actually wouldn’t mind seeing her stick around for a few episodes because it’s so rare we get any insight into Louisa as a character on her own and what makes her tick. Putting up with Eleanor would be well worth it if it meant that we could get more of Louisa’s perspective on her relationship with Martin, parenthood generally, and their impending plans to move.

Little Things: I don’t know why I find the oddball friendship between Ruth and Al Large to be quite so charming, but I absolutely do. It’s very sweet and unexpected and, I think, good for both of them.  And Mrs. Tishell’s continuing crush on Martin remains entertaining, as well as her brief catfight with Eleanor. Obviously there’s some old school Portwenn history going on between the two of them and seeing more of that would be awesome.

Seriously. SOMEONE NAME THE BABY. He’s going to get a complex at this point!

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 Threads or Blue Sky at @LacyMB. 

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