Previously on 'Doc Martin'...
Well, it was the first-ever episode, so Dr. Martin Ellingham (Martin Clunes) arriving in the rural English town of Portwenn, repulsing the population with his sour attitude, semi-winning over the winsome schoolteacher Louisa (Caroline Catz) and finally deciding to remain as Portwenn's general practitioner.
This Week's Episode: "Gentlemen Prefer"
It begins with a dog. It's actually a dog who appeared in a few scenes in the pilot. Forgive me, but I skipped over the mystery mutt, as there was enough exposition with the human characters. But he was there, hanging out around Martin's new Portwenn digs despite Martin's best efforts to drive him away. This time, Martin literally drags the dog outside, but the scrappy little guy darts right back in as soon as Martin's receptionist, Elaine (Lucy Punch) opens the door when she arrives for work.
Life hasn't improved for poor Martin. Elaine still cannot grasp the basic requirements of being a receptionist and especially has trouble filling out prescriptions accurately. (She's assigned a female patient to take an erectile dysfunction drug, for example.)
To make matters worse, Martin cannot grasp the basic requirements of being Portwenn's doctor. He's not simply the medical professional who treats the residents' ailments. By the way they treat him -- and his office -- he's a member of the community who's expecting to make small talk, care about people's personal lives, avoid mean-spirited humor (such as the crack "Collect 1,000 loyalty points, you get a free coffin") and even offer patients tea and a biscuit.
Once again at a breaking point, Martin angrily asks the people in his waiting room to leave. Offended, the Portwennians shuffle away. "You won't last five minutes here," remarks a raspy voiced gentleman. Martin stops him and asks, "Wait a minute -- do you have a problem with your throat?" In the exam room, Martin tells the man, Roger Fenn (Jeff Rawle) to see a specialist. But Roger -- himself a lump of unpleasantness -- leaves, not wanting to trap himself in a loop of consults with know-nothing doctors.
The capper? Elaine took a call from a mother whose son exhibited vaguely appencitis-like symptoms. Only her sloppy penmanship means that Martin can't tell what the child's name is or what phone number he should call. Fed up with Elaine's failures, Martin terminates her, calling her the "single most incompetent person he's ever met." It's made all the more awkward by the fact that Martin shortly thereafter meets Elaine's father, Bruce (Nick Brimble) and his fiancée, Carmen (Elizabeth Woodock). Bruce invites Martin to the wedding, as a thank-you for giving Elaine a place of employment.
Fortunately for the ailing boy, Louisa, a school teacher, can quickly point Martin in the right direction. And while Martin quickly diagnoses the condition as being tonsillitis, not appendicitis. (Apparently, the symptoms can be similar. Who knew?) But the mother's elation at this news ends when her older daughter comes home and announces that the good doctor fired Elaine. The mother is indignant. Her response: "They say Elaine's a good girl!" The whole town has found out, in fact, and has groupthink-decided to give Martin a collective cold shoulder.
Because it's never just one thing with Martin, he also gets into a fender-bender.
The other driver, of course, is Roger, who may actually be the only person in Portwenn who's grumpier than Martin. They're both furious, but Martin more or less wins this fight when he informs Mr. Fenn that his raspy throat my result from cancer of the larynx. That's shuts Mr. Fenn up pretty well.
At the office, the dog is still pestering. Martin attempts to toss a stick over a steep cliff, but the dog won't chase it. (You have to wonder: Why is that dog hanging around, anyway?) While attempting to kill the dog -- because let's be honest, that's what he would have done had the dog run over the cliff -- Martin again bumps into Elaine's father and his floozy wife, Carmen, who talks like the British version of a gangster moll. They explain that Elaine can sometimes be difficult to get along with, but she's a good person at heart. Then Martin's unofficial dog engages in some canine copulation with Carmen's tiny purse dog. And... scene!
Following the break, Martin soon arrives at Roger's home. He walks in on Roger singing, in fact, and it's clear that he formerly had a career in music. More recently, he was a teacher, but Louisa now has his job. He's clearly seen better days, to the point that Martin doesn't need to actually tell Roger the results of his biopsy. Says Martin, "I can book you in for surgery Friday -- the 13th, actually."
Martin attempts to deliver his clingy dog friend to his Aunt Joan's farm, but as if by magic, the dog is hiding in the backseat of his car on the drive back home. Similarly, when he gets back to the office, Elaine is there, wanting to collect all due payment so she can go abroad. She's unwilling to accept her father's marriage, despite Martin's awkward protestations that she should attend the wedding.
Martin goes to the hospital to visit Roger before his big surgery. There, Martin bumps into Adrian (Rupert Young), a former protégé who is now himself speaking to a group of med school students. Adrian asks if Martin is here to "knife a bigwig," forcing Martin to admit that he's dropped surgery. Again, we have to wonder why. (Adrian tells his students that he'll explain shortly, though that explanation happens offscreen. Hmm.) Immediately after, Martin bumps into a patient who has a nosebleed. Blood smeared all over his blazer, Martin races to a bathroom. There, he stuffs his coat into the trash bin. (Again, hmm.)
Roger isn't happy to see Martin. "I've got cancer, but you look worse." Martin admits to Roger what you may have expected ended Martin's surgery career: He can't stand the sight -- or smell -- of blood. Roger accepts the confession. "Your secret is safe with me." Martin: "It's not like you'll be abele to tell anyone anyway." Always with the retorts, that Martin, but hey -- these two awful, cantankerous men can relate to each other in spite of their awful, cantankerous natures.
And hey -- cool scenery on Martin's drive home, right?
Martin arrives at Elaine's father's wedding. Louisa is there. She's impressed that Martin bothered to form an actual, human relationship with Roger, who's also in attendance, though Martin encourages him to speak as little as possible. Elaine shows up too, surprisingly. It's not a great affair for Martin, though, because his sitting on his lonesome for a big chunk of the reception.
Finally, Elaine approaches him and suggests that maybe it would be better if she returned to his office. Martin suggests that this could work if certain ground rules were set, and Elaine agrees -- like her starting at nine, not half past eight. Yeah, see, they both meant rules that suit them. You can't win them all, Martin.
Hey! I know that actor!
Because I have a theory that there's only about 50 working actors in all the United Kingdom, and they just and they just appear together in varying configurations in every British movie and TV show. If you watch enough of them, people start to look familiar.
From the way he hints at Martin's past, you might think that Adrian becomes a major player on the show. He doesn't, and so far into the series run, Adrian only appears one more time. However, Rupert Young, the actor playing the character, may look familiar to people who watched the NBC/BBC team up mini-series "Merlin." He played Sir Leon. He's also appeared on "Foyle's War" and the upcoming KCET series, "Primeval."
Jeff Rawle, the actor playing Roger Fenn, does become a series regular, however. He's had a long career as a character actor, having appeared in everything from "Remington Steele" and old-school "Doctor Who" to more recent fare such as "Mi-5," "New Tricks," "Harry Potter and Goblet of Fire" (he played Amos Diggory), and even the previous Martin Clunes series, "William and Mary."
This go-around, there actually wasn't any bit of British lingo that needed explaining. But what about the strangeness of Martin's job set-up? Did you notice that his patients don't have to pay? Ah, yes -- now it sinks in. He literally is the town doctor, hence why he had to be approved by the board of citizens in the pilot. A government that just provides healthcare. Could you imagine?
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