-->
Reviews

'Doc Martin Special Collection: Series 1-5 + The Movies'

Doc Martin's social ineptitude and crankiness could tire easily, but Portwenn and its residents offer a balance that works well.


Doc Martin Special Collection: Series 1-5 + The Movies

Distributor: Acorn
Cast: Martin Clunes, Caroline Catz, Stephanie Cole, Selina Cadell, Ian McNeice, Joe Absolom, Katherine Parkinson, John Marquez, Stewart Wright, Lucy Punch, Eileen Atkins, Jessica Ransom
Release date: 2013-05-07
Amazon

Doc Martin, a series focusing on a London doctor who moves to the small coastal village of Portwenn, is in many ways a classic fish out of water story, but with a twist. It is the title character, Martin Ellingham (Martin Clunes), which sets the series apart. He is rude, socially inept, and unapologetically unemotional. While the series sometimes walks a fine line in making him a likable or relatable character, Clunes manages to keep that balance from tipping too far to one side throughout the series.

Martin’s reason for moving to Portwenn isn’t immediately obvious, but it's soon revealed that he has developed a phobia of blood, making his career as a surgeon impossible. Rather than give up his career entirely, he chooses a small town in which to practice general medicine, while unknowingly becoming part of the most accident-prone community he’s ever come in contact with.

The citizens of Portwenn are in many ways predictable small town characters in all their quirky glory. There's the smitten-with-Martin town pharmacist, Mrs. Sally Tishell (Selina Cadell); father and son plumbers/entrepreneurs, Bert (Ian McNeice) and Al Large (Joe Absolom); two somewhat naive and bumbling police officers, PC Mark Mylow (Stewart Wright) and PC Joe Penhale (John Marquez); Martin’s various receptionists, Elaine (Lucy Punch), Pauline (Katherine Parkinson), and Morwenna (Jessica Ransom); his no nonsense Aunt Joan (Stephanie Cole); and schoolteacher and Martin’s love interest, Louisa Glasson (Caroline Catz). The large and sometimes shifting cast makes for a great deal of story opportunities, most of which require Martin’s medical expertise at some point.

The series mainly revolves around the various citizens of Portwenn and their usually mundane medical problems, at least at first glance. Martin frequently uncovers some larger issue that has a more personal effect on his patients. In turn, the episodes also focus on the lives of these same townspeople. Their personal entanglements, rivalries, and problems play a role in the series, both with and without Martin’s diagnoses. For example, Bert and Al struggle with their relationship as Al tries to forge his own way and Louisa grapples with her own complicated relationship with her often absent mother.

While the characters are often entertaining, they can also sometimes be grating. Martin’s first receptionist, Elaine, was infuriatingly bad at her job and often mean to patients, yet also inexplicably beloved in Portwenn. The introduction of her cousin, Pauline, to take over her position in the office served as a much needed change that also led to more growth on Martin’s part. As Pauline showed more interest in the medical practice and eventually became certified as a phlebotomist, she also provided the series with a way around Martin’s blood phobia in routine medical testing and more incentive for him to work through it.

Martin’s romance with Louisa is at times sweet and funny, and other times, just plain irritating and baffling. Martin’s behavior can be so extreme that it's often unfathomable why Louisa would be interested in him. His disdain for any polite or friendly interactions, his inability to show much empathy, and his overall brusque nature makes him a fairly unappealing character on paper. It's to Clunes’ credit that Martin does still have his moments of vulnerability that in turn, make him more than a one-dimensional boor.

Additionally, Martin’s Aunt Joan – and later, his Aunt Ruth (Eileen Atkins) – bring out another side of Martin. His love and affection for his Aunt Joan, in particular, is clear from the very beginning. She's as unaffected by his manner as he is by others, but she recognizes their bond from when he was a boy. Aunt Joan serves as a welcome and necessary way to humanize Martin, especially when more about his childhood is revealed.

Doc Martin has certainly grown as a series in its five seasons – with a sixth forthcoming – but it's Martin’s growth as a character, incremental though it may be, that makes the show as watchable and entertaining as it is. Were it not for Clunes and the rest of the cast, most notably Catz, Cole, and Atkins as the mainstay women in his life, that make Martin interesting, rather than just plain annoying. His social ineptitude and crankiness could tire easily, but Portwenn and its residents offer a balance that works well.

The series was preceded by two movies, Doc Martin and Doc Martin and the Legend of the Cloutie. The movies are a jarring precursor to the series in that they bear only a passing resemblance to the TV show. They focus on Dr. Martin Bamford living in Port Isaac and he is friendly, outgoing, and wholly unrecognizable as the Doc Martin from the series. In fact, they are probably better enjoyed as completely separate. In addition to the two movies, the DVD set includes some featurettes that center on location, character development, acting, and directing. They are a nice addition, but fairly light and straightforward.

6

In Americana music the present is female. Two-thirds of our year-end list is comprised of albums by women. Here, then, are the women (and a few men) who represented the best in Americana in 2017.

If a single moment best illustrates the current divide between Americana music and mainstream country music, it was Sturgill Simpson busking in the street outside the CMA Awards in Nashville. While Simpson played his guitar and sang in a sort of renegade-outsider protest, Garth Brooks was onstage lip-syncindg his way to Entertainer of the Year. Americana music is, of course, a sprawling range of roots genres that incorporates traditional aspects of country, blues, soul, bluegrass, etc., but often represents an amalgamation or reconstitution of those styles. But one common aspect of the music that Simpson appeared to be championing during his bit of street theater is the independence, artistic purity, and authenticity at the heart of Americana music. Clearly, that spirit is alive and well in the hundreds of releases each year that could be filed under Americana's vast umbrella.

Keep reading... Show less

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.


60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

Keep reading... Show less
Music

The Best Country Music of 2017

still from Midland "Drinkin' Problem" video

There are many fine country musicians making music that is relevant and affecting in these troubled times. Here are ten of our favorites.

Year to year, country music as a genre sometimes seems to roll on without paying that much attention to what's going on in the world (with the exception of bro-country singers trying to adopt the latest hip-hop slang). That can feel like a problem in a year when 58 people are killed and 546 are injured by gun violence at a country-music concert – a public-relations issue for a genre that sees many of its stars outright celebrating the NRA. Then again, these days mainstream country stars don't seem to do all that well when they try to pivot quickly to comment on current events – take Keith Urban's muddled-at-best 2017 single "Female", as but one easy example.

Keep reading... Show less

It's ironic that by injecting a shot of cynicism into this glorified soap opera, Johnson provides the most satisfying explanation yet for the significance of The Force.

Despite J.J. Abrams successfully resuscitating the Star Wars franchise with 2015's Star Wars: The Force Awakens, many fans were still left yearning for something new. It was comforting to see old familiar faces from a galaxy far, far away, but casual fans were unlikely to tolerate another greatest hits collection from a franchise already plagued by compositional overlap (to put it kindly).

Keep reading... Show less
7

Yeah Yeah Yeahs played a few US shows to support the expanded reissue of their debut Fever to Tell.

Although they played a gig last year for an after-party for a Mick Rock doc, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs hadn't played a proper NYC show in four years before their Kings Theatre gig on November 7th, 2017. It was the last of only a handful of gigs, and the only one on the East coast.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image