Acorn Media // 2007 // 323 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Appellate Judge James A. Stewart (Retired) // January 13th, 2010
"People will think I got anemia just to spend more time with you." -- Louisa Glasson, to Doc Martin
That probably would be the way to the heart of the awkward, blunt Dr. Martin Ellingham (Martin Clunes, Shakespeare in Love), known as Doc Martin to his patients, much to his dismay. The doctor in the Cornish village of Portwenn vomits at the sight of blood and annoys patients so much that a few would risk their lives rather than trust him, but he's got a knack for saving people. Since Portwenn seems to be setting records for bizarre accidents and epidemics, that's won him a few admirers, most notably Louisa (Caroline Catz, Murder in Suburbia), the pretty schoolmarm. In Doc Martin: Series 3, Martin and Louisa set off on the path toward matrimony, which, in their case, has more hills and dangerous cliffs than their Cornish village.
While Doc Martin naturally centers around Doc Martin, you'll also find the usual cast of Portwenn characters, including Pauline (Katherine Parkinson, Pirate Radio), Martin's receptionist, who becomes a phlebotomist in this series to help the doctor with his blood issues; Martin's Aunt Joan (Stephanie Cole, Waiting for God), a strong farmwoman who often sets her nephew straight; Bert Large (Ian McNeice, Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason), the local plumber and general entrepreneur, who turns his attention to the restaurant business; Joe Penhale (John Marquez), the new constable, who isn't as by-the-book as he seems; and Mick (Joseph Morgan, Alexander), an ex-con who may be what Bert needs to get his restaurant started.
Doc Martin: Series 3 features seven episodes on two discs:
* "Tick Tock"
Louisa passes out while reading her class a story about a handsome prince, but it's Martin who comes to her rescue. Martin finds new P.C. Joe Penhale unconscious at the wheel of his van, and a mother steals pills from the surgery.
* "The Morning After"
Louisa's dinner for Martin is ruined by an electrical short, so they head for Bert's, where blood in the salad ruins dinner. A teen wants a contraceptive pill, much to Martin's annoyance.
* "Love thy Neighbor"
Louisa's neighbor, a psychologist, can diagnose Martin on the spot, but can't see his son's problems. Martin's angry at new constable Joe, who's afraid to leave the station to handle a vandal who's keying cars.
* "The GP Always Rings Twice"
Louisa's shocked when Martin almost hits a beautiful hotelier with his car; she's even more shocked to see the hotelier hit on Martin. Martin's shocked at Aunt Joan's affair with a young painter. Meanwhile, Al Large returns to Portwenn.
* "Breaking Up is Hard to Do"
Louisa breaks it off with Martin, but they can't get away from each other, thanks to Louisa's visiting friend, who injures her back in a fall. Pauline's scooter is repossessed due to gambling debts.
* "The Two of Us"
A controlling sister interferes with an elderly woman's recovery from surgery. Meanwhile, there's another epidemic in Portwenn; this time it's fungus.
* "In Sickness and In Health"
Martin's calmly seeing patients on the morning of his wedding. His calm will soon be disrupted by: a bridesmaid who has an eye injury and gives birth on the same day, a vicar fighting over his bottle, a plumbing problem at Bert's restaurant, the arrest of the florist, a distressed pig, and a mixup at the cleaners.
How good is Doc Martin? Let's put it this way: I wasn't planning to turn in this review this early. I found two TV series box sets in my assignment package, and was planning to watch them both an episode a night. However, I really got into Doc Martin, and finished it in three days -- and it took restraint to make it last that long.
The romantic theme running through the season is a scream. Martin isn't much for romance. He thinks yams (for anemia) and snoring strips are romantic gifts for Louisa, and always puts professional duties first, even on his wedding day. Martin's affection for Louisa mostly comes out as excessive concern with her health, but the romantic storyline brings him out of his shell, apparently further than the doctor has emerged in his life. While all of this is hilarious, and I always found myself waiting for his devastating bungle in each encounter with Louisa. Martin Clunes plays it with enough innocence and genuine, although awkwardly expressed, emotion to make Doc Martin sympathetic. The romance gives the doctor the chance to grow as a person, and fans of the series will notice it in his other interactions. Heck, you wouldn't have expected the compulsively honest Martin to give a patient a placebo in the first two series.
Caroline Catz as Louisa keeps up her end of the duet. Her Louisa alternates between affection and infuriation as Martin bumbles through romantic moments, prodding Martin toward a proposal even as she considers going to another doctor to avoid seeing him. She seems to be somehow in tune with the unexpressive doctor -- they work together well in the inevitable emergency situations -- making their connection seem like something that's meant to be, even if it seems unlikely.
You've probably seen a few wedding-day-gone-wrong episodes in your days in front of the telly, but Doc Martin goes into it with an extremeness that's bound to make you laugh as the disasters keep coming fast and furious, building up to a bittersweet, yet bizarre, conclusion. This could be the series' best episode yet, although "Breaking Up is Hard to Do," which shows the two lovers' emotions seeping through even as they decline to discuss them, comes close.
The 1.78:1 picture was beautiful, making me want to visit Portwenn, even if the winding and narrow, possibly medieval, roads looked dangerous and the village seems to have severe health and safety problems. The green landscape, rocky coast, and quaint village get their moments in every episode.
By the way, Portwenn is actually Port Isaac, and Doc Martin has made the village a tourist attraction, according to the Cast Trivia text that accompanies this set. There are also filmographies of the main cast.
What doesn't work? The subplots about Pauline's gambling problem and the arrival of Mick, the ex-con, just seemed to be shoehorned in. A better subplot, about P.C. Penhale's problems, doesn't get developed as much as it could have been. It seemed at times like the writers wanted Doc Martin to be more like Ballykissangel, with its ensemble and lightly sudsy plot juggling, but they couldn't wrest the show away from Martin Clunes and Caroline Catz.
If you're as worried about the sight of blood as Martin, some of the emergency scenes could make you squeamish.
I can't tell you how happy I was to notice on IMDb that a fourth series of Doc Martin was just completed on Britain's ITV, after a lengthy gap. I'm looking forward to it. I want Doc Martin to last as long as The Simpsons, if not Coronation Street.
If you've seen Doc Martin before, you'll want to see Series 3. If you haven't, go back and watch one of the earlier seasons; you're sure to want this set next.
Oddly, the DVD package notes that this season's episodes all have different titles when they appear on public television.
Not guilty. Accept no placebos.
Review content copyright © 2010 James A. Stewart; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Acorn Media
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 323 Minutes
Release Year: 2007
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Official Site