Recap for 'Doc Martin,' Episode Four: 'The Portwenn Effect'

Previously on 'Doc Martin'...

In episode three, an outbreak of diarrhea baffled Dr. Martin Ellingham (Martin Clunes) until he traced it to a bogus mineral water business being run by Bert Large (Ian McNeice). Meanwhile, Bert's son Al (Joe Absolom) quit the plumbing business to study computers. Martin attempted to go on a date with Louisa (Caroline Catz) but ended up being pulled aside at the bar by a needy, girlfriendless officer Mark Mylow (Stewart Wright).

This Week's Episode: "The Portwenn Effect"

Written by: Dominic Minghella
Directed by: Ben Bolt

It's another Portwenn gathering -- the kind that brings together the whole town... or at least all the characters we've come to know and probably love. Louisa is there, as is Aunt Joan (Stephanie Cole), Bert Large and Officer Mark. Martin happens upon the gathering and almost immediately Louisa asks him to be her date to an upcoming dance. Martin, claiming doctors cannot attend social events, declines, but Bert and Aunt Joan are clearly rooting for Louisa to snag him. However, Martin did say no, so Louisa instead asks Mark.

Next up, Louisa is leading her class on a field trip to the home of Mrs. Potter (Isabelle Barker), one of Portwenn's bird experts , but one student, Peter Cronk (Kurtis O'Brien), won't have it. He says he knows enough about birds and doesn't need to learn more. Louisa tries to explain that knowledge isn't enough and that you sometimes just need to be polite -- which, yes, is advice that she should probably give Martin -- but Peter insist on being difficult. Frustrated, Louisa orders him to wait outside while his fellow students learn about birds.

Now, how well do you think that turns out?


It actually gets worse. When the old bird lady leads the class out to see her birdfeeders, she finds that Peter has apparently toppled and smashed them.


Martin, meanwhile, finds that Elaine (Lucy Punch) has cleared his schedule in order to allow for travel time. What travel time, you ask? Martin himself is curious to find out. Elaine has scheduled a house visit to the local ranger, but Martin won't have it, regardless of whether his predecessor would have. This is actually a theme for this episode; the disparity between Drs. Martin and Sim arises a second time when Martin tells a patient he won't prescribe an antibiotic for a viral infection, as the antibiotic won't affect the virus and overprescription of antibiotics only leads to antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

Next up: It's Officer Mark. He has a date -- it's Louisa, of course - and he's inquiring about a certain medication he can take. See, he's been receiving some emails and apparently size does matter, regardless of what a woman says. In fact, he wants Martin to tell him if he's, you know, "normal." The cop: Is six normal? What about five? What about a little less than five? Martin makes this face:

In the end, Martin sends Mark on his way. But oh -- he's clearly troubled by the fact that this cop has scored a date with fair Louisa. Moments later, Martin is hurrying out the door and telling Elaine that he'd actually quite fancy a drive in the country. At the ranger station, Martin finds what seems to be a kindred spirit in Ranger Stewart (Ben Miller). He's keen to the fact that Portwenn isn't the most enlightened place in the world, that Elaine is a terrible receptionist and that the overall dullness of the village must wear away at an especially sharp sort such as Martin. Disarmed, Martin immediately gets over the indignity of having to make a house call for a non-emergency.

But then he and Martin get down to the business of the health problem. Stewart explains that the previous doctor prescribed him a sleep aid. When Martin points out that this particular drug can be addictive, Stewart admits that the drugs aren't actually for him. They're for "Ant" -- Antony, who's a "gray" living among the encroaching "reds." Before Martin can even conclude that Stewart is completely cuckoo, Stewart grabs a rifle and fires a shot above Martin's head. Stewart bursts into a tirade about the decreasing population of grays relative to the reds. Antony, you see, is a squirrel. Stewart not-so-subtly declines to unlock the gate and keeps Martin at the station. And that's super awkward, since Martin points out the he has forgotten his prescription pad and therefore can't OK Antony for sleep meds.

When Stewart steps away for a moment, Martin empties two capsules' worth of medication into his glass of water. And that would be a crafty plan if only Stewart would drink it. He doesn't. Instead, he admits to suspecting that Martin might have some sleeping medication in his doctor's bag. Then he makes a big show of welcoming Antony to the table. Unfortunately for Martin, Antony is invisible. Martin grows ever more uncomfortable. Stewart offers Antony his water. Finally, Martin just insists that he has to leave. Stewart insists that Martin say something to Antony, to avoid being rude. Martin mutters some hollow pleasantries to the empty rocking chair and then excuses himself.

Back at school, Louisa is confronting Peter about the smashed birdhouses. Mark offers a deal: He and Peter could rebuild the birdhouses. Peter: "I'd rather be arrested." Peter's mom, Joy (Mary Woodvine) shows up, and though she pledges to pay for the damages, the cop explains that Mrs. Potter hasn't been the first to report her birdfeeders being wrecked. As Joy departs to enforce some maternal punishments, Louisa and Mark get a moment to themselves. Louisa scarcely has time to tell the cop that he's more gentle than she would have expected when schoolgirls show up, taunting "Miss Glassen has a boyfriend."

Later that day, Mark meets Louisa to pick her up for the dance. They compliment each other on their respective attractiveness. At the dance, Mark is all too happy to be spending time with Louisa -- and all too nervous, too. Louisa quickly concludes that she may have a serious misunderstanding on her hands. (Troublemaking Peter, meanwhile, escapes his home and also heads out into Portwenn.)

Mark dances rather enthusiastically. And though Louisa is still keen to explain exactly how she doesn't feel about him, Martin shows up, seeking Mark's help in subduing the deranged Ranger Stewart. Seeing Louisa and Mark embracing, however, Martin leaves, deciding that he could benefit just as well from another source of authority.

Outside the dance hall, Martin bumps into the Al Large, who informs him that Stewart is creating a disturbance over on the other side of town. Sure enough, there's a crowd gathered to watch when Martin arrives there. And guess what? Stewart is smashing birdhouses.

Immediately, the townspeople sense that Martin is to blame and that he's denied Stewart his medication. When Martin explains the Antony delusion, the townspeople happily say that they've known about Antony for years. Before Martin, Al and Mark can stop Stewart, however, he vanishes.

The next morning, Louisa goes to apologize to Peter and his mother. Having seen Stewart smashing birdhouses, she now realizes that Peter wasn't the one who smashed up Mrs. Potters' collection. Of course, Peter's gone.

Martin and Mark, meanwhile, heads back up to the ranger station, chatting briefly on the way. Long story short, Mark doesn't fancy Louisa. That's one problem solved. Inside the ranger compound, a far more reasonable Stewart admits that his military service is Bosnia is probably to blame for his mental problems, and that the slightest sensation can put him back in the mindset of the horrible things he saw there. Cleverly repurposing the bogus wang enlargement pills that Mark has been taking, Martin gives those to Stewart, explaining that they're a faster-acting form of the regular sleeping meds. That's another problem solved. (In fact, as Martin explains to Mark moments later, that was the same prescription that the previous doc gave Stewart: placebo.)

Heading back from the station, they happen upon young Peter trekking through the wilderness. Mark exits the car, tackles Peter and then escorts him back to Louisa's school.

While Mark goes to let Louisa down gently, Martin and Peter have a one-on-one. Peter explains that he's not being rude. He'd just saying what's in his head. Martin can relate. Louisa enters and addresses Peter -- and furtively Martin too -- saying, "You deserve better. Why don't you just speak up for yourself?"

It's moments like that that make us love "Doc Martin."

Hey! I know that actor!
This fourth installment of the show introduces three new characters that you'll be seeing again in later episodes. " Ben Miller, who plays the loony Stewart, is probably most familiar now from his recurring role on "Primeval," which, by the way, will be airing on KCET starting this Sunday. That's what we TV programming types like to call a happy coincidence.

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About the Author

Drew Mackie, associate producer of new media, liked shows about old British people before it became fashionable. He also says silly things on Twitter.
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