Appellate Judge James A. Stewart may be afraid of the sight of blood, but that doesn't make him a surgeon.
Our reviews of Doc Martin: Series 3 (published January 13th, 2010), Doc Martin: Series 4 (published June 23rd, 2010), Doc Martin: Series 5 (published May 15th, 2012), and Doc Martin: The Movies (published August 3rd, 2011) are also available.
"You're such a people person, aren't you?"
Dr. Martin Ellingham (Martin Clunes, Men Behaving Badly) is a brilliant doctor, but he might not even realize that people person comment was sarcasm. He used to be a surgeon, but he's now a general practitioner in the Cornish seaside town of Portwenn, thanks to a phobia of blood that now leaves him woozy whenever he sees a nasty wound. Doc Martin: Series 2 is the second of three seasons of the British medical dramedy. The character originated in a movie co-written by Craig Ferguson. Yes, THAT Craig Ferguson.
Facts of the Case
Doc Martin: Series 2 contains nine episodes, including a double-length season finale, on three discs:
• "In Loco"
• "Blood is Thicker"
• "Always on My Mind"
• "The Family Way"
• "On The Edge"
I didn't see Series 1, so the first episode of Doc Martin: Series 2, like many a series full of small-town characters, was a bit confusing as I tried to figure out who's who. Those problems quickly disappear, mostly because of the focus on the central character of Doc Martin, Portwenn's only general practitioner. Martin Clunes gives Martin Ellingham a permanent expression best described as a bewildered scowl, signaling that he doesn't understand people and doesn't want to. The doctor, who always wears a suit and even has an odd walk, can be picked out of any crowd in Portwenn. Louisa, the woman he's afraid to admit he loves, describes Doc Martin as "gruff, monosyllabic, well-meaning, but rude." She also considers him genuine and sort of likes him, too, even though she's ready to slap him any time they get close to a romantic conversation. He's a commanding presence, at times rudely telling patients to shut up, but at others, sternly showing genuine concern. The cluelessness which Clunes gives Doc Martin is the key to his likability, despite the way he pushes ahead in line at the local grocery, ducks out of being the best man at Mylow's wedding, or gives tourists directions that would send them tumbling off a cliff. When he tells Louisa that "Sick people don't want a laugh. They want a doctor who knows what he's doing," it's not a nasty rejoinder but a simple statement of fact. The show also humanizes Doc Martin by showing the way the world seems to drop on him, the way pigeons do, and offering glimpses into a childhood in which he was raised by his Aunt Joan because his mother simply didn't want a son.
The above-mentioned Louisa, who becomes headmistress at the local school over the course of the season, is Doc Martin's sort of romantic interest. That gives him the chance to quietly simmer for most of the season, since an architect from London has captured her attention. She's socially adept, but Caroline Catz gives her an edge as blunt as Doc Martin's, at least when pointing out his shortcomings. Doc Martin's best—er, only—friend is copper Mark Mylow, who sometimes bumbles, making a stakeout way too obvious, but turns out to be dependable. He accepts Doc Martin's rough edges for the most part, even working up the nerve to stand up to a pushy sister because of the doctor's example. As the season begins, there's a new receptionist, Pauline, who manages to do things her own way despite his demanding ways. The main cast is rounded out by Mrs. Tishel, the chemist in a cervical collar who's in awe of Doc Martin, and bumbling handyman Burt, who's always looking for an angle, and his son Al, who wants some space. There's also a stray dog that hangs around the surgery, despite—or because of—the fact that Doc Martin hates dogs.
The stories are the dramedy mix you'd expect, giving Doc Martin a chance to temper and overcome—at least for a while—his less appealing qualities with concern and heroism. Two late season entries give him the best challenges. "Out of the Woods" has him conquering his dislike of the woods to save Mylow, while "On The Edge" finds him trying to help a fall victim and keep Louisa and Pauline safe while dealing with a mentally ill hostage taker. The results are both the funniest and the most dramatically satisfying of the season.
Picture quality is great. There are lots of great shots of the hilly Cornwall village and countryside, although if you're paying attention, you'll notice that a lot of this show takes place in Doc Martin's surgery. The sound comes through loud and clear with a beautiful tango-like theme that's ever present.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
Doc Martin can feel like its opening sequence, which uses time lapse to show the village of Portwenn in a sort of fast-forward, and its title character makes things a bit edgy. If you want your small-town dramedies to be cozy, it could disappoint. There's also a glut of medical dramas hitting the airwaves this season, so you might not want to rush into another surgery.
Doc Martin turned out to be very easy to watch; the first night I popped it into the DVD player, I watched four episodes in a row. I even came to like the lead character, though I'd never want him as a hostage negotiator.
Doc Martin can wipe that bewildered scowl off his face, because Doc
Martin: Series 2 is not guilty.
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