The Great Doc Martin Watch Does Series 5 – Episodes 1 and 2

The great Doc Martin viewing marathon officially wrapped up our trip through the first four series last week, but as I’ve grown rather fond of the name, I am loathe to call this something else, though technically, it’s not so much a rewatch if this is the first time these eps have aired here. Oh, semantics, you are a cruel mistress! Thus, we’ve become just the regular “Doc Martin Watch” since we’re all at least mostly on the same page now – or at the very least, I am on the same page as what’s on our air. I’ll take it.

So, now that we’ve officially all grown up out of our “rewatch” stage, let’s start Series 5. Which, to be quite honest, I kind of don’t know what to make of just yet. There are some adorable scenes, and some funny scenes and some head-scratching “I kind of don’t know what is happening right now” scenes and I guess it’s possible we’ll just have to see how things go, huh?

Anyway, onward! We officially kick off Series 5 with “Preserve the Romance” and “Dry Your Tears.” Sorry to say that the write-ups have fallen about a week behind the actual on-air run, I got a bit distracted by all these exciting Sherlock events going on this week. Click through and come chat with me and feel free to leave your thoughts, favorite moments, funny lines, general rants, whatever, in the comments.

Series 5, Episode 1: “Preserve the Romance”

This is the One Where: Martin’s plans to move to London seem to be put on hold now that Louisa’s given birth but of course no one has any conversations about their relationship or anything ever. Diana Dibbs, the new GP set to replace Martin, arrives in Portwenn and Martin has some doubts about her competency. Aunt Joan dies suddenly and Pauline has apparently been kidnapped by aliens, as she vanishes completely from the face of the earth.

The Curious Case of the Disappearing Receptionist. By far the strangest – well, maybe most jarring, not really strange in the sense of weird – bit of this episode was the sudden disappearance of Pauline.  Since this is one of the few (only possibly?) mid-season break that picks back up with the action almost immediately after the prior series finale, the fact that Pauline literally just vanishes, after we had multiple scenes of her discussing her plans for new organizational systems at the surgery where we’ve already been told she’s being kept on, was really very disconcerting. As was the fact that Al apparently isn’t worried about her or missing her or anything. (I mean, she was just in the crowd of people at Large’s Restaurant, giving everyone the play by play on the baby’s birth. A couple of hours is the max time that can possibly have elapsed?) I’m assuming this situation must have come up due to a scheduling conflict for the actress, but it was definitely not handled as deftly as it should have been.

The New Doctor Arrives. Martin’s replacement, Dr. Diana Dibbs, arrives in Portwenn and starts setting up shop at the surgery with her weirdly overbearing husband.  She seems sort of silly and cute, and is surprisingly friendly. I liked her!  I also like the idea of Portwenn having a female doctor (the subplot of PC Penhale not wanting to visit a woman with his distinctly male health problems was predictable, but somehow still funny).  Of course, Dr. Dibbs immediately starts prescribing all sorts of random additional medicines to people, some of which are incompatible with their current medical conditions, and we find out that she’s on an interesting mix of uppers and downers herself to simply function day-to-day. Sigh. And then there’s her awful husband who seems to have forced her into becoming a doctor in the first place, talks over her and never seems to let her speak on her own.

I do sort of wish they would have gone with a slightly different tack for the replacement GP – rather than have Dr. Dibbs turn out to be fairly incompetent, generally dependent on prescription drugs to function and an emotional wreck, which was all basically an easy way to get rid of the new doctor after one episode, I wouldn’t have minded seeing her stick around for a bit. Not only because I’d generally appreciate more women in Portwenn, generally, but because I think it would have been a nice way to set up from conflict for Martin once he inevitably decides that he wants to stay in the village. And this isn’t even really touching on the fact that as a woman who is frequently bothered by the portrayal of other women in popular media, I feel that if Martin’s replacement were Dr. Derrick Dibbs instead of Diana, I doubt we’d have gone down this better living through chemistry incompetent doctor with a domineering spouse plotline who ends up climbing out a window at her surgery in an emotional panic. But, whatever. Sigh.)

Martin Loses His Aunt. Martin’s Aunt Joan dies suddenly in a traffic accident just as Martin’s about to leave for London. This is very sad – especially since I just watched that last episode where she’s so sweet with Martin the night that he's packing up his house. But, I don’t know, for some reason, the way that this news came out fell a little bit flat for me – Martin Clunes did some great acting with his face again when PC Penhale told him about Joan's death, but I don’t know…I felt like that scene was lacking something for me. Martin’s not a terribly emotional person, so it’s not shocking that his reaction isn’t exactly floods of tears or anything like that, but given that Joan was really his only family, and certainly the only family he has that actually treats him as such, I was expecting something a bit more. I don’t know what exactly, it’s hard to express it. But something about it was certainly off for me.

However, the scene where Martin takes the baby out to Joan’s farmhouse and sees her glasses on the kitchen table and a baby gift on the bed was really touching. And I am glad that someone remembered about her dog! I am sure he will find his way to the surgery eventually. Or he better do.

Martin and Louisa Make Up, Sort of, But Apparently Not Really. Despite the fact that Martin and Louisa had an emotional confession and sort of romantic reunion at the end of the Series 4 finale, things between them still seem a bit on the awkward side here.  It is a bit frustrating, though, that after we all got so excited that we finally seemed to make some forward progress in their relationship, that it still seems so very “one step forward, two steps back” with them. After all the crying and kissing and bedside (couchside?) confessions of feelings, it would have been nice to see some continuation of all the things that were said/done when the baby was being born. Instead they both seem determined to possibly never talk about it again, ever.

It’s interesting that both of them are so careful with one another – neither of them mentions Martin’s impending move more than they have to, there are cautious mentions of visits and holidays together, and the three of them settle into domestic life surprisingly easily. Of course, neither of them can manage to address the actual status of their relationship, but that they talk around it a lot and act suspiciously couplelike throughout the episode, without ever officially saying whether or not they’ve got back together. There’s the fact that they’re basically living together for the moment, under the guise of Martin needing a place to stay, and going all around town as a happy family. It’s nice to see – but it would be nicer if they managed to have any sort of conversation about it, though I suppose that would be asking for the moon. It was all oddly sweet though, so I’m not complaining about that, merely observing that after everything they’ve been through, a verbal acknowledgement that things have changed between them (when they so clearly have) would have been a nice gift for the fans.

That said, as we’ve at least apparently moved away from the two of them behaving as though they aren’t anything at all to one another, I suppose I’ll take it. 

Oh, Look, My Intense Secondary Embarrassment Has Returned. Honestly, sometimes, I don’t know how Louisa puts up with Martin. When the two of them are at the market and Martin’s basically bellowing comments about problems she’s having with certain intimate parts of her anatomy to the entire shop complete with hand gestures to illustrate the specific parts he’s discussing, I had to cover my face with a pillow. How how how after all this time has he not learned that this is not good public behavior, how. “Preserve the romance,” indeed.

It’s the Little Things. Sometimes it still surprises me how much I enjoy the most random small things about this show. Mrs. Tishell’s ongoing Martin obsession is somehow still funny after all this time. And PC Penhale’s ringtone just kills me. I love it so much. Please let that stay around for the rest of the season. I want it to ring at every single possible inopportune moment ever.

Series 5, Episode 2: “Dry Your Tears”

This is the One Where: Martin asks Louisa to move into his house so he can help with the whole parenthood business. Yet he refuses to make any sort of decision about his impending “moving to London” situation and Louisa’s not too keen on the idea of relocating there herself. Aunt Joan’s heretofore unmentioned sister Ruth arrives in town, and I’d mock that a whole lot harder if she wasn’t Dame Eileen Atkins.  Who is awesome.

Aunt Ruth is Awesome. Martin’s other aunt Ruth – the one we’ve never heard of before right now – arrives in Portwenn for Joan’s funeral.  Normally I detest these sorts of “Poof! New Convenient Relative You’ve Never Met!” plots, but Dame Eileen Atkins is pretty high up there on my list of Fabulous British Women Whom I Would Like to Grow Up to Be, so I kind of don’t care. And Aunt Ruth is fabulous, so it doesn’t even feel like cheating to handwave the fact that we’ve never had any inkling she existed before right now.

As much as I liked Aunt Joan, generally, and appreciated the role she was meant to serve as a an emotional connection to Martin, she herself never had much in the way of interesting storylines. We had that one random episode back in the first season where it came out that she cheated on her husband, and we’ve had the ongoing subplot focused on her financial difficulties in Series 4, but mostly she was just supposed to be cuddly sort of quirky Aunt Joan, who wasn’t much of a character in her own right. Though, obviously, a perfectly nice lady who loved Martin very much. I find Aunt Ruth much more interesting, not just because I love Dame Eileen, but because she’s only been part of the series for one episode yet has already been allowed to develop something of a personality and her own storyline/character connectons that have nothing to do with Martin.

Her dry commentary is very entertaining and she’s just so much like Martin, albeit with a smidge more in the way of social skills –  her comment about being someone who either alienates or overshares was awesome.  We learn that Ruth is a psychiatrist, and that Joan has left her the farm in her will. Ruth seems leaning toward selling the property, but of course by the end of the episode she’s decided to keep it.  She also seems to be developing a very oddball friendship with Al Large, which is simultaneously bizarre and sort of sweet. I don’t know if that will be an ongoing thread throughout the season, but both Al and Ruth need something to do, so I’m not entirely averse to it.

Aunt Joan’s Funeral Takes Place. The village comes together to say goodbye to Aunt Joan. The funeral hearse is late, near disaster occurs when the pallbearers almost drop the coffin, PC Penhale’s amazing ringtone disrupts the service (yessssss!) and Martin gives the absolute worst eulogy in the history of time. And of course neither of Martin’s parents show up, the jerks. As I said about the last episode, I certainly don’t expect Martin to erupt into floods of tears or anything, but it would have been a nice tribute to Joan – and a nice chance for the audience to say goodbye to the character, too – if he’d managed to talk about anything other than clinical obesity and heart disease risk. Sigh.

Chaos Reigns at the Portwenn Surgery. Don’t we all miss Pauline now, huh? The surgery is a mess without anyone manning the ship, so to speak, with patients getting cranky, the phone ringing nonstop and things a general disaster. Louisa tries to help out by playing receptionist, but the workload is a bit too much for her along with trying to manage the baby and she ends up falling asleep at the desk. And thus, we’re introduced to the latest slightly irritating local girl who will serve as Martin’s receptionist: Morwenna Norcross, who seems less annoying than Pauline initially was, but less capable as well. (Though the scene where Martin grabs the wrong baby in the surgery is pretty funny.)

The Medical Case of the Weak is Kind of Boring. Possibly I didn’t care so much about the medical plot-of-the-week with the funeral director’s son Harry. The father was so creepy and the son was such a doormat that it was hard to get really invested in their plot (and did anyone not think that whatever was wrong with the son was somehow the father’s fault?). And also the bit where Harry fractures his leg because Martin knocks him over was a bit ridiculous. I was actually much more interested in the brief sub-plot where Ruth thinks she’s dying and turns out to have misdiagnosed herself, likely because I already care about Ruth more than either of the Potes.

Martin and Louisa Continue to Tread Water. We continue along in this episode with Martin and Louisa behaving very couple-like without having actually ever had the “Are We a Couple Talk”.  The two of them move into the surgery for the couple of weeks that Martin’s supposed to remain in town taking care of Joan’s funeral details and they’re all sorts of domestic and talking about weekend trips up to London, or even Louisa relocating to London herself, and yet nothing about what they are to one another. I suppose we should all be glad that they’re at that point in the relationship where they don’t need to talk about their relationship status, but it seems terribly unfair to leave the viewers hanging about it after four seasons of waiting for them to really be together. And can we stop dragging out “Martin is moving to London!” plot? Now he’s got some completely manufactured reason for a two month extension in Portwenn – but we all really know he’s not going to be leaving, not really, so why must we continue to drag this out? It’s a very weird sort of inertia – where it seems as though their relationship is making progress, only maybe it isn’t, really, and does any of this count anyhow if they both think it’s temporary? Woud Martin and Louisa even be behaving this way in the first place if they didn't think he was eventually going to go away? I don't know. I'd be curious about that though.

So far I like Series 5 better than Series 4, though, which is a relief to say. It feels less like the whole series is treading water, in a way, despite the fact that Martin and Louisa's relationship sort of is. At least some progress has been made! So I’m curious to see where we go from here. And more Aunt Ruth, please!

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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