The character of Doc Martin was originally born in the 2000 movie, Saving Grace, starring Vera‘s Brenda Bleythen, and former The Late Late Show host, Craig Ferguson. However, the Doc Martin of television fame, played by Martin Clunes, is completely different from his original big screen inspiration.
I first came upon Doc Martin while channel surfing. I saw a burly plumber resting and chatting away while his son fixed the plumbing and a man in a suit with piercing blue eyes and plump cheeks interrogated them in a rather rude way. The burly plumber was in no way disturbed by the man in the suit and the son was not disturbed by his father’s apparent slothfulness. Everyone was in their little own world; this was interesting television.
The plumbers turned out to be Al and Bert Large and the man in the suit was Doc Martin himself. But those three characters are only a small part of the big cast of Doc Martin. There is also Louisa Glasson, played by Caroline Catz, an elementary school teacher and Doc Martin’s long-suffering true love. Mrs. Tischell, played by Selina Cadell, is the town’s pharmacist whose zealous obsession with Doc Martin is apparent to all but her beloved.
Not to be forgotten are Doc Martin’s aunts: first Joan, played by Stephanie Cole, a farmer and later bed and breakfast proprietor through series 5; then Ruth, played by Eileen Atkins, a retired psychiatrist for the criminally insane whose dry wit adds a lot to the show. Both Ruth and Joan act as emotional touchstones for Martin, to whom social niceties and nuances are often viewed as irrelevant until he has a word with one of these matriarchs.
There is also the town’s policeman: Mark Mylow, played by Stewart Wright, in series 1-2, and then Joe Penhale, played by John Marquez, since series 3. Both police constables have a knack for incompetence at the worst possible moment. Lastly, there is Doc Martin’s assistant, played by Lucy Punch, Katherine Parkinson, and most recently, Jessica Ransom. The assistant is always a local girl whose big personality strikes a strong contrast with the Doc’s more stuffy and formal nature.
Doc Martin used to be available to watch for free as a perk of Amazon Prime membership and with that, I was able to watch seasons 1-5. Unfortunately, Amazon has since removed Doc Martin from it’s Prime list, probably due to it’s popularity. Luckily, last Christmas, I received the box set of Doc Martin from Costco, and Season 7 from Acorn TV before it aired on our local PBS station. That was a real treat.
Season 8 is set to air in 2017. It is supposed to be the final season, which of course is sad, but the show has really progressed over the seven seasons so far and it does seem it would be a good place to wrap up the series. The conflict between Doc Martin and Louisa can be quite wearisome to watch, perhaps because it is too much like real-life.
That being said, Doc Martin is a must-watch for any fan of quirky British television. It has changed my life for the better, allowing me to spend hours doubled over in laughter at the antics of life in a tiny town in Cornwall.
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