Acorn Media // 2009 // 367 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Appellate Judge James A. Stewart // June 23rd, 2010
"It wasn't hard to find you, Ellingham. I just followed the trail of outraged people." -- Dr. Edith Montgomery, who, inexplicably, is falling for Dr. Martin Ellingham
Doc Martin: Series 4 puts the good doctor (and inept human being) into a sort of a love triangle. His almost-bride, school headmistress Louisa (Caroline Catz, China), has returned pregnant to Portwenn. At the same time, he's been reunited with Dr. Edith Montgomery (Lia Williams, Blanche-Neige, la suite), who left him at the start of his medical career. Edith, all-too-typically for a TV love interest, hopes that editing a journal article with Martin will bring them closer together. Edith is a fertility specialist at the nearby hospital, which makes the triangle a little too perfect -- and annoying for Louisa.
Meanwhile, Martin's trying hard to overcome his fear of blood once and for all, practicing on organs from the butcher, watching film of surgery, and even pricking himself with a needle, in hopes of returning to surgery in London. As usual, Portwenn's status as the most accident-prone village in the known universe, not just Cornwall, is providing him plenty of practice -- and hindrance.
Doc Martin: Series 4 features eight episodes on two discs:
* "Better the Devil"
It doesn't help Martin's efforts to master his fear of blood that he's dealing with a kid who landed on a pencil while running in the hall, a badly botched ear cleaning, and his own wound from landing on glass. Reunited with lost love Dr. Edith Montgomery, Martin immediately accuses her of misdiagnosing a patient; this somehow turns romantic.
* "Uneasy Lies the Head"
Louisa has plans for her baby, but not for Martin. The headmaster's eccentric behavior makes Louisa's return to teaching an uneasy one. An infertile patient resents that fertility has been wasted on Martin.
* "Perish Together as Fools"
When PC Joe Penhale's painter brother (played by Martin Marquez, brother of John Marquez, who plays Joe) starts losing memory and coordination, Joe suspects drugs, but Martin's checking for a genetic condition. Receptionist Pauline (Katherine Parkinson, Pirate Radio) moves in with boyfriend Al, if only because her brother has moved back into the house.
* "Driving Mr. McLynn"
Al's fixing Louisa's plumbing, but Pauline's got the obvious wrong idea. Aunt Joan's fender bender tips Martin off to secrets both drivers are hiding. Louisa returns to her headmaster post, and Martin doesn't like it.
* "The Departed"
During Louisa's class field trip to Aunt Joan's farm, angry Joan (Stephanie Cole, A Bit of a Do) locks a misbehaving boy in the chicken coop. Meanwhile, the man sitting next to Martin on the train dies, and his widow (Gwen Taylor, Stephanie Cole's castmate in A Bit of a Do) claims the man's spirit told her she's ill and should see Martin right away.
* "Midwife Crisis"
Martin prescribes antibiotics for Louisa's urinary tract infection, but the new midwife doesn't want her to take them. Bert's serving roadkill at the restaurant, and you know that illness will soon be on the menu. A medical emergency means Martin won't get to a job interview in Truro.
* "Do Not Disturb"
Martin discovers that Edith has booked a single room with a double bed for an overnight stay at a conference. At the hotel, Martin diagnoses a room service waiter's illness and joins the hunt for a chef's missing finger, much to Edith's dismay.
* "The Wrong Goodbye"
When a teacher falls ill at the village festival, Martin realizes that the taxi driver taking Louisa to the hospital is ill from biofuel poisoning. He's got to race against time to save them.
If you haven't seen Doc Martin before, Series 4 won't be a good place to jump in. Louisa's pregnancy takes the bickering between her and Martin to a new level, and it could get really annoying if you're figuring out who these people are. Fans of the series will want to snap it up. I'll admit that I'm in the latter category, and suggest that newcomers track down an earlier season so they can get to know Martin, Louisa, and the entire village of Portwenn better.
Martin's Aunt Joan is concerned that Martin doesn't care about the baby. This is where it's good to have seen a season or two of Doc Martin before. If you have, you've noticed that Martin is at his most annoying with Louisa when he does care. Now that Louisa is pregnant, Martin is as annoying as Portwenn is accident-prone. The way Martin Clunes and Caroline Catz tip viewers off about the couple's underlying feelings with their expressions and gestures will have you wanting to know how things turns out. As usual, I promised myself I'd parcel these out, one a day. I started out doing fine, but ultimately couldn't resist; I watched the last three in one sitting.
Watching Martin wrestle with his central issue, his fear of blood, also will hold viewers' attention. Here, Martin Clunes tells the story almost entirely non-verbally. Dr. Edith Montgomery, Doc Martin's new romantic interest, turns out to be very helpful in this, and Lia Williams gives a strong performance as the similarly singleminded fertility doctor, even if the writers are a little too obvious with her character. This storyline also gives Katherine Parkinson as Pauline some good moments, since the receptionist doesn't have to handle "the blood stuff" anymore and is feeling less useful.
Having a lot of major storylines surrounding Martin this season means less emphasis on most of the supporting characters this season, although Stephanie Cole as Martin's Aunt Joan continues to play a big role in his life and Selina Cadell (The Madness of King George) as chemist Mrs. Tishel adds great comic relief as a sounding board for all Martin's life changes.
As always, you'll want to visit Portwenn, actually Port Isaac. The houses, shore, and countryside are beautiful, as is the transfer.
There's some new trivia text included. Among other tidbits, fans who read it will be introduced to the new dog that's following Martin, who loathes germy canines, around Portwenn, and learn that Lia Williams' sister-in-law is a gynecologist.
While Doc Martin isn't all that heartwarming or sentimental, Series 4 can be predictable. It has to be, for one simple reason: Doc Martin has to stay in Portwenn, or else there's no Series 5. There are a few surprises, but the storyline stays true to the characters, so you'll figure out the arc's basic outline pretty quickly. It still ends hilariously.
The trivia text hints that there might have been some pressure in England for a sort of, possibly happy ending this time around: Caroline Catz says angry fans let her know Louisa and Martin should end up together. There's no wedding at the end, but there's hope, so fans should be pleased.
How well does Martin Clunes play Doc Martin? Enough that you'll suspect the dog documentary he did between Doc Martin series (mentioned in the trivia text) was the actor's way of reminding viewers that he's not really like his TV character, who lists dogs among his dislikes and phobias. Doc Martin is not always likable, especially in some of his bickering moments with Louisa this season, but the improbable character always comes across as believable and human. That makes Doc Martin believable and human, and worth watching.
I don't know whether there's going to be a Series 5, but I'm looking forward to it.
Not guilty. This virtual visit to Cornwall is perhaps better than the real
thing, at least when an accident-prone spot like Portwenn is concerned.
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: 367 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Not Rated