Is Reconciliation Boring?

Although I have several other posts I plan to write soon, I had to write this one first.

Throughout S7 I read comments from several actors in this show that claimed that once Martin and Louisa reconciled and the “will they/won’t they” theme was resolved, the show would become boring. These statements are also voiced on the Bonus Features of the series 7 DVD. This stance seems founded on the notion that once the marriage has gained solid footing, there would be no way to develop conflict of the sort that creates good plots. I totally disagree with this position and am ready to do my best to argue against it.

I want to substantiate my view by the use of examples from past series of DM and from reminding all of us of past highly rated shows in which married couples in TV dramedies/comedies sustained audiences by using marital conflicts while also addressing important social and interpersonal topics. We all consider Doc Martin a show with excellent writing and acting, and we are dedicated viewers because of its quality. I find it hard to believe that writers of this caliber would be unable to think of first rate plots once this one was resolved.

There are many ways to add conflict to a marriage without forcing the issue of whether the pair will stay together. We’ve spent 7 seasons/series using that trope and it’s reached its “use by” date. It became stale at the beginning of S7, and the decision to prolong its resolution until the last scene of the final episode meant that S7 became filled with delaying tactics. Despite the assertion from Martin Clunes and others that S7 was, in their minds, the most well written of all the series, I did not consider it as excellent as S5. For me the most significant reason I was not as impressed was the fairly transparent effort to string out whether Martin and Louisa would reunite. As compared to S5, which I will go on record now as ranking the best of all, we viewers were forced to watch a lot of scenes with secondary characters and new characters that did not contribute to the primary plot. Instead we spent time with the holistic vet who hallucinated due to self-medicating, or Al having silly problems with his first guests at the B&B, or Bert once again struggling to serve dinners that would bring in more business to his floundering restaurant. All of these storylines came at the expense of seeing more of Martin and Louisa dealing with their difficulties.

In S5 we started with Martin joining Louisa as they took their baby home from the hospital. What ensued was the many demanding aspects of having a newborn who keeps everyone up at night, confuses and disrupts home life, and needs care when his mother returns to work. The introduction of Louisa’s mother Eleanor added the dimension of her relationship with her daughter and how it related to Louisa’s approach to parenting, as well as how she might be reacting to Martin. (The introduction of two new characters, Ruth and Morwenna, added welcome changes that have had enduring consequences.)

Eleanor is a character who brings into play how work impacts childrearing, how mothers provide role models (both positive and negative), and how difficult it is to reach a level of objectivity when one is confronting one’s mother. For me the contrast in mothering between Eleanor’s attitude and Louisa’s was used to great effect. When Louisa decides in E6 that she can’t stay with Martin, we have been through a series of conflicts between Martin and Louisa that involve the caretaker of the school along with Martin’s disdain for the school, the naming of the baby that includes his tacit disapproval of Louisa’s social status, and his neglecting to include Louisa in several major decisions about their lives as a couple. But it is only two episodes later when Mrs. T has her breakdown, abducts the baby, and Martin and Louisa join together to find him. S5 ends with their reconciliation in what I consider a tour de force conversation between Martin and Mrs. T with Louisa prompting Martin.

Throughout S5 there were many conflicts between this couple that reminded me of typical tense conversations between married couples. To me these were amusing as well as great embodiments of real life situations that we can all learn from. As Terry Gross, host of Fresh Air on NPR, said in a recent interview, we turn to literature and film as a means to hear someone speak really personally and have it affirm our experiences. We don’t need artificial impediments to having a couple stay together to engage in the consideration of important topics that impact us all. What S7 could have done is put Martin and Louisa in therapy where they actually learn something about each other, decide to reunite by E6 or even earlier, and then continue to battle their basic inclinations and demons until we arrive at some sort of agreeable place.

As for the many highly regarded shows that we can turn to for examples of marital strife that are both entertaining and identify important issues of their day, here are a few I would include:

I Love Lucy from the 1950s, in which Lucy wants desperately to perform like her husband. Lucy and Ethel experience many a laughable antic just to get Ricky’s attention. In the process of all the physical humor and absurdity, we also confront a mixed marriage and an immigrant’s change in status, the loyalty of friends, the awkwardness of family interactions, the difficulty of women trying to work outside the home, and the birth of a baby boy. There was no need to place the marriage in peril to find plenty of situations that qualified as conflicts that drove the plot.

The Honeymooners from the early 1950s. Hopefully this classic is one most of you are also familiar with. Ralph and Alice are a working class couple living in Brooklyn who often verbally joust but never actually become violent, and who generally make up by the end of each episode. Ralph’s anger would be replaced by short-lived remorse, and he would then apologize for his actions. Many of these apologies to Alice ended with Ralph saying, “Baby, you’re the greatest,” followed by a hug and kiss. In this show the travails of a couple having trouble making ends meet are brought to light. Ralph regularly comes up with money-making schemes that fail and at one point Alice has to find a job when Ralph is laid off.

A personal favorite of mine was Cybill, which ran for 4 seasons from 1995-1998, won many awards including 2 Golden Globes, and was canceled prematurely for no apparent reason. It had between 10 and 12 million viewers for most of its existence. Cybill has been married twice and has two daughters. She is divorced at the time of the show, however, both of her exes are still very much a part of her life. The show took on many women’s issues as well as neuroses, mother-daughter relationships, and female sexuality. There was plenty of conflict going on in the house while the women coped with handling the men and the daughters.

When we get to 2005, we can mention the TV series Parenthood which received strong reviews and lasted 6 seasons. Most critics thought the writing and show got stronger with each season, and Emily Nussbaum of The New Yorker “cited its ability to be warm and sentimental without being dumb” as one of its strengths. It also had a strong soundtrack. There were many marriages as part of this show with a plethora of conflicts because the show revolved around three generations. The Braverman family faced a variety of hardships that require compromise, forgiveness and unconditional love. The show was nominated for many awards and won several of them.

Currently House of Cards contains a devious married couple whose marriage is not at risk even though there is infidelity and all sorts of chicanery. As I’m sure most of you know, the show deals with ruthlessness and power, especially in politics. It’s been wildly popular and received many awards. (It is based on a British show of the same name.)

I would also include Reggie Perrin because he is in a secure marriage while being disenchanted with his life. (Reggie Perrin is quoted as saying: “My marriage is like an aircraft’s black box. It’s mysterious, but completely indestructible.”) Since Martin Clunes plays the lead role in this remake, I probably don’t have to say much about it.

The above shows are certainly not an exhaustive list, but they are a good representation of the conflicts that could be sources of successful plots without any sign of any marital on again/off again dynamic.

I found the push-pull of the Martin and Louisa relationship highly entertaining and compelling for the first five series and had thought the conclusion of S5 had put it to rest. When S6 began with the wedding, I felt the show had taken the best route, but the steady decline into depression and moroseness of that series made me shake my head in disbelief. The effort to recuperate the show and its humor in S7 is a welcome reversal, but the interminable delay in Louisa’s decision to invite Martin back into the home was not necessary to keep viewers engaged and became harder and harder to tolerate. We understand Louisa’s hesitations and hurt feelings, but surely she would have relented before two months had passed. She’s tough throughout the previous series, yet she’s never been this hard to convince before and we’re hard pressed to accept that after hugging Martin regularly in E4, she would continue his exile from the family.

 

Originally posted 2015-12-15 11:31:45.

59 thoughts on “Is Reconciliation Boring?

  1. MARJE

    I agree with you that with good scripts this show should be able to keep going. I would love to see what happens next. I have often wondered why some good shows have been cancelled when all they needed were better story lines. I hope this won’t be one of them.

  2. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    Marje, as much as I am arguing that there is no reason that strong plots require a delay in the reconciliation between Martin and Louisa, I am not suggesting that the show should continue. My post is about disagreeing with the position that their only means of keeping viewers coming back to watch S7 was to continue to prevent Martin and Louisa from reconciling.

    I hate to disappoint anyone who wants a series 8, but it is my position that the show has reached a point where they ought to be happy with it and not drain it of its quality by adding more series. There comes a time in the life of a good series when it’s best to end it. I think that time for this show is now, after the conclusion of S7. As with Downton Abbey, Breaking Bad, The Sopranos, etc., a show cannot sustain its excellence and popularity past a certain point. All of us who are fans of Doc Martin should be ready to accept that S7 did a good job of bringing most storylines to a satisfactory conclusion and leave it at that.

  3. Waxwings2

    Karen, I am with you all the way on this courageous post, “Is Reconciliation Boring?” and it’s high nod to Series 5, which was my clear favorite as well. I agree we were strung along in Series 7 between episode 1 and the end (though tying up the sub stories of the other important characters was important IF Series 7 was to be the last). Your examples show that portraying conflict within a marriage can always be creatively, engagingly accomplished with good writing and an allegiance to remaining true to the characters–rather than writing new character filler-vignettes that string out episodes for getting finally to an end that all had long awaited. I was shocked too when I heard MC label series 7 their best ever in “7 Grumpy Seasons of DM.” But maybe that’s what one says in promotion mode (the purpose of “7 Grumpy Seasons” for PBS in America.) I hope BP will read your post, consider your insights, and take your arguments seriously. A subtitle for “Is Reconciliation Boring?” might have been “Is Forgiveness Overrated?”….

  4. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    It’s very nice to know you agree and I like your suggestion of a subtitle. Forgiveness may possibly be another topic for our discussions.

  5. MARJE

    I see what you mean. I however don’t feel this was the best ending. for me , it was a shock. Just because Louisa says something meaning she now feels people are different (I don’t remember her exact words) and they are together again what comes next? Surely all their troubles cannot be over. I just do not want an end as yet. Love this show too much.

  6. Lemster

    Season four has been my favorite, but the first episode of S5 is my favorite. In this episode M&L communicate directly, actually talking to each other and seemingly on the same wavelength. There is some of the usual DM awkwardness, but by and large it seemed liked two normal people getting on with life. This didn’t last long.

  7. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    Thank you for your comment. Our opinions may vary, but that’s what makes life (and discussions)interesting.

  8. Rane

    The M. Clunes & P. Braithwaite TEAM decided to create a Ellingham/Dr-Detective/Hero that was different from the Doctor-character in the first two “movies.” They chose to create a totally-focused medically-brainy, suited-up dude. The sometimes-strained dialog set-ups between The Doc and BP’s Louisa Glasson character are fascinating to watch — in so many, many ways. I adore _ALL the palpable tension(s)_ [bring ’em on = whatever the living arrangements or distances]. This combo fills a void in TV programming. I marvel at how BP came up with this, and how M. Clunes and C. Catz pull it off so perfectly. Also, the suit, the posture, the delivery, the nerdiness of The Doc is BP-planned, but there are two other marvelous actions that Mr. Clunes does in *all scenes* that rivets my attention. Go, MC! (with Louisa — and with others)! => I’m 100% along for BP’s “marital on again/off again” ride. I looked forward to being strung along for all seven seasons! — [Just got my Season 7 DVDs a week ago: CA USA.]

  9. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    Apparently you are a completely unabashed fan, and that is certainly fine. Not everyone can be so thoroughly willing to accept all the decisions that are made. My mindset is to try to understand what their objectives are and then determine for myself whether they reached them successfully. I enjoy critical thinking and analyzing.

    We all consider the show exceptional and have found it a welcome change from what has become too routine. I won’t watch any more crime shows or too much more violence. We are surrounded by that every day and need a break, even if we have to turn to fantasy. Everyone is entitled to his/her own approach. Enjoy Season 7!

  10. Santa Traugott

    I am not as convinced as you are, Karen, that if they continue into S8, with Martin and Louisa unquestionably together, that they can find an overarching plot driver that is nearly as compelling. I am inclined to think that they should quit while they’re ahead, as a series of episodes that are not connected by some compelling story arc, will, I think, be disappointing, no matter what people say now that they want. Perhaps not to hard-core fans, like us, but to the more casual viewers, who must be in the vast majority.

    The shows that you cite are good examples, but none of them had a lengthy period of “will they-won’t they” tease, followed by a resolution and then on to the trials and tribulations of married life.

    I never thought that Martin and Louisa would reconcile any earlier than the last minute of the last episode, because that seems to be the m.o. of BP, apparently based on a deep-seated belief that viewers would stop watching if the relationship was resolved.

    But I’ve also thought that Louisa did not really intend to reconcile with Martin when she returned from Spain. Hence her defensive and semi-antagonistic posture. Her conviction seems to have been that their marital troubles were all down to Martin, and that since he was unlikely to change, the marriage probably could not be salvaged. The separation was a temporizing step, while she waited for lightening to strike him, possibly, or to get them both used to the idea of separation, or just as a first step while she waited for him to recognize the inevitable. If she had that idea, it isn’t entirely unreasonable that it would take a couple of months for her to come around.

    All that being said, I think if any production team could pull off such a transition, it’s probably BP.

  11. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    I’m kind of disappointed that you think it would be hard to find another plot driver that would be nearly as compelling as the one they stumbled on (so they say). I am not going to suggest plot ideas, but I find it easy to imagine that there could be many others that would satisfy even casual viewers. In fact, those casual viewers were probably never as concerned about the original objective. (You also seem to have a higher opinion of casual viewers than I have, although I am embarrassed to say that!)

    I, too, was pretty convinced that BP would string out the reconciliation because that was so typical of them, but that doesn’t mean I agreed with their decision or with their reason for doing it. For me they chose to stick with their tried and true methodology while also doing their best to find ways to incorporate the return of several characters and have fun including Caroline Quentin and Sigourney Weaver. In the end the characters who were brought back: Clive, Danny, Pippa, Peter Cronk and his mother, Chippy Miller, took their final bows, and that’s worthwhile. MC had fun acting again with Caroline Quentin and enjoyed the cameo appearance of Sigourney Weaver. But to say that this series was the most well written is balderdash/poppycock/bunkum (or any other descriptive noun you want to use) to me!

    I really have a problem with interpreting Louisa’s return as connoting anything other than what we see. Her defensive posture and assumption that Martin is to blame for their marital problems can be attributed to many sources, e.g. she has her own difficulties admitting fault or even realizing she could be at fault; she is defending against giving in too quickly this time; she’s deliberately making him demonstrate how much he wants her back because she’s insecure, etc. I haven’t done this in any formal way, but I noticed many occasions throughout each episode when they provided hints that Louisa wanted to be reunited with Martin. I see no evidence that she didn’t intend to reconcile. In fact, if we are going to use the previous series as a guide, Louisa has always wanted to come back to Martin despite sometimes resisting this compulsion. She can’t continue to be angry with him after cutting off their dating, and helps him easily with Holly and then compliments his skills as a doctor. She wants him to be happily surprised that she’s back from London and pregnant with their baby, and Edith’s presence is a shock and forces her to change course. She wants him to say nice things to her after James is abducted because she wants to get back together with him. Even when she’s about to leave for Spain and Martin takes her off the plane, she goes willingly and turns to him for information and reassurance. I would never consider her return in S7 as anything but a decision to try to make things work out again. Not only are her phone messages kind and pleasant, but also she agrees to marriage counseling, likes the hugging exercise, etc., etc. She has flareups at times, but the general aura is of cooperation. My main impression is that they included the indignant scenes to prolong the reconciliation, which is why I said they were transparent efforts to delay.

  12. Santa Traugott

    so much of this series is ambiguous, and deliberately so. But, people are ambivalent, and even conflicted. That comes through very well!

    I think they have always felt a strong attraction to each other, which they have at times struggled against, for reasons which seemed good to them (and may even have been). So I can imagine that they behave quite inconsistently and give off confusing signals, to each other and to us. And sometimes it seems like, when they’re most at odds, the pull is strongest, and when they’re in a close stage, their reservations come to the fore.

    So I do think that Louisa had hopes that somehow they would reconcile. But I don’t think she really had any idea that it could actually happen, because she believed the problem was with Martin and she doubted that he could or would change. If something changed, and he could prove to her that he was somehow more tolerable to be with, while at the same time they lived apart, well, then, she would consider letting him come back home. But she didn’t want to be suckered (for lack of a better word) into a reconciliation that she had no rational hope would succeed in the long term. And I think she had tried to build defenses against her attraction to him. And really, I think she expected to meet the same old Martin, when she came home.

    But there always was a tug, a magnetic attraction to him, which broke through from time to time. And I think it hurt her a lot to a)hurt him and b) think of their marriage ending. But there was also anger, too, I think, and a lot of defensiveness. I don’t think a quicker reconciliation would really have been plausible, certainly not without Louisa gaining some insight into her own contribution to their problems, which took some time. If nothing else, the therapy provided her with a justification for putting aside her grievances and giving him another chance. I agree that she probably wanted to find some justification for doing, what in her heart, she wanted.

    But I don’t think she was at all ready to take that step when she came back, and she didn’t have any real expectation that it would be possible.

  13. Santa Traugott

    Here’s where I do agree with you: While I think they set it up so that a reconciliation was really not plausible until the last frame, I think the set-up was inherently implausible.

    The idea that the best way to work things out with someone is a trial separation seems nonsensical to me. It usually (but not always) is the first step in a permanent split. I suppose it’s a step she took because she believed that if they lived together, they would have been back to loggerheads shortly and that would be the end of their marriage. But she had no concrete plans whatever for how efforts to reconcile might proceed. It was all up to Martin. And that had to have been a faint hope.

    But it’s implausible to me that she spent three weeks in Spain brooding over her grievances with Martin, and his inadequacies, and didn’t come back prepared at least to discuss with him what was problematic in their marriage, and make clear what needed to happen before she would agree to a reconciliation. Things would, I think, have gotten on track much faster.

    In general, I object to the idea that a woman who’d been married to the love of her life for at most 3 months, with a young child to raise, was prepared to give up on her marriage without at least trying to figure out, with her partner, what went wrong and whether and how it might be fixed. Did she have that little faith in her husband, despite her love for him? (And despite the “better husband” speech, which seems to have vanished into the ether.)

    Again, given the setup, which is what I find implausible, I think the way it played out made as much sense as anything could.

  14. J.C. Lockwood

    I am glad that your hiatus was brief, Karen. I agree with much of your post about reconciliation and the TV couples that you mention are good examples. I still watch I Love Lucy reruns because of the timeless comedy and the couple friendship/conflict with both the Mertzes and the Ricardos.

    Reconciliation and living happily would have been more than plausible for DM and Louisa. There would be conflict and many funny moments in a married couple household with an awkward but brilliant doc and a beautiful but insecure headmistress. Plus there is a baby that is changing everyday and challenging the couple in many ways. Plenty of good ideas for comedy, passion, and conflict.

    Like many on this blog I stumbled on to DM on Netflix (I was awaiting new episodes for Call the Midwife) and the thing that pulled me in beyond the quirky and odd looking DM, was the steady undercurrent of passion between Louisa and DM. From the first time DM walked into a door looking back a Louisa S1E1 through to the infamous like monologue by DM at the castle in S5E8 ( Serrano De Bergerac turned on its head) I was enthralled. Even when disagreeing, not communicating, not in the same place (beginning of S4), and broken up, it is clear that there is passion with the DM and Louisa characters through S5. Reconciled and settled couples can also have passion and keep an audience entertained. But that is not the route that the writers took. I did not find S6 as morose as others. ( Perhaps because it was at the end of my great binge on the show.) However the lack of passion was a problem for me in S6 especially since the couple was newly married. This was also my criticism of S7…the passion between the couple that made the show for me was hard to see or feel. No pulse at all in some episodes of S7.

    With Series 7 all done, I do not think a series 8 makes much sense. We would be looking at 2017 if BP were to stick with its current film schedule of every other year. Also the show has run its course if the writers are wedded to the will they/ won’t they theme. I think as fans of the actors and writers, we can look forward to other tv/film projects that might show their acting/writing range.

  15. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    After reading your last two posts I have reached the conclusion that where we differ is mostly in how real we want to make this situation. When I wrote about whether reconciliation is boring, I was responding to the assertion that had the marital problems between Louisa and Martin been resolved before E8, the show would have ipso facto become boring. When this show began, there was no intention of developing the Martin and Louisa interaction into a 7 series long back and forth battle over the issue of getting married or staying married. At some point the viewers managed to telegraph that they/we were watching not just for the humor in all of the interplay of the characters, but because the on again, off again love match between Martin and Louisa mattered more. The upshot of that was the heavy emphasis on where their relationship was headed.

    I think we agree that we used to care more about the other characters and enjoy the subplots quite a bit. When the Martin and Louisa story took over, we lost much of our interest in the secondary characters. In S7 we really don’t care much about them at all, and that’s a shame.

    So then we have to look at where they took the love match. By the time we reached S7, my position is we were ready for them to reconcile and their reunion would not have been boring to us. As in S6E1 where the wedding is IMO a foregone conclusion and had to happen, I think there would have been very little forfeited if the therapy had been used to reveal some essential truths about each of them to the other and they had had a real epiphanic moment. This could have happened in E4, for example, if during one of their hugs they had opened up to each other. Much of the last 4 episodes could have still been used to show them in therapy and even having assignments, many of which could have ended with something humorous. The point is I disagree that it would have become boring.

    Your effort to come up with plausible reasons for why Louisa acted the way she did is an effort in futility to me. As you say, under typical circumstances it would be strange for one of them to suggest separate living arrangements as a way to resolve their marital problems; it would be unusual for them to make almost no attempt at talking things out and discussing what has been so distressing, especially for Louisa; and it would be odd for the therapist to approach the sessions as little more than an opportunity to dole out assignments and overlook excellent openings for insights into their pasts and their marriage now.

    I was frustrated in S7 because there were too many times when there wasn’t much effort to make things that plausible, and that was such a disappointment. I was prepared for them to take 8 episodes to reach a reconciliation, but I do not believe that was the only way S7 could have been written without becoming boring.

  16. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    Thank you J.C. I appreciate your comments and we seem to be in agreement about many things.

  17. Waxwings2

    Wow. Will wonders never cease! This time, the suspense is over early: there WILL be a Series 8 of Doc Martin, according to an interview with Philippa Braithwaite just published in “Current,” an internal, on-line PBS/public media newsletter in the states. Here is the link to what is an unusually long piece, both for The Current, and our favorite Producer at BP. Read the entire, very informative story here:

    http://current.org/2015/12/producer-promises-more-to-come-from-doc-martin-beyond-new-season/

    Three cheers for Buffalo Productions and the whole wonderful crew of Doc Martin!

  18. Santa Traugott

    I note that she says that there are many interesting stories that they want to explore. We trust that none of them will involve the troubled state of the Martin-Louisa relationship.

    If anyone can pull off this transition, BP can.

  19. Santa Traugott

    I’m really wondering now, if a large factor in the attraction this series has for viewers, is that it is ambiguous enough so that each viewer has to work a little to put the pieces together, to make a narrative whole that satisfies them. When one has to work at something, it adds to the investment, I think.

    So it’s like a puzzle, only one in which the pieces can go together in more than one way, depending on the prism through which they’re viewed. And often what we’re discussing is, the differences between the way we construct the story, and the way someone else does, and whether or not the pieces fit together at all in the way that someone thinks they do. Continuing the puzzle analogy, it’s like saying, you know, that edge piece looks like it fits, but it really doesn’t, and if you move it here … look, it makes everything work better. And so we really are trading our own stories.

    So, as I understand you, some of your frustration with S7 is that you really can’t construct a plausible narrative which isn’t dependent on an outside the story mechanism at work which artificially, or better, implausibly, extends the story.

    And I guess I’m less frustrated, because the story I can tell myself, once I accept the givens, makes a kind of sense to me. In that sense,it’s not really a futile endeavor, even though I realize that many, perhaps most, won’t put the pieces together that way.

    And this whole discussion is leading me to think about ambiguity in narratives — whether it’s important that there be one answer which can ultimately be deduced, or more important that multiple stories can be constructed to explain what’s happening.

    I’m not very comfortable with ambiguity — I’d prefer there to be one “right” answer, no matter how hard it is to get to — but it may be that I have to expand my frame of reference somewhat and accept that in some instances, there isn’t any “right” answer.

  20. Waxwings2

    Ok Santa, I’ll bite. I think the “troubled state of the Martin-Louisa relationship” will definitely continue, but in an evolved form. I suspect that as they carry their old baggage forward, and conflict inevitably arises between these two strong-willed married people, we will be privy to their handling it (probably with some humor) by the new knowledge they will have gained in therapy –not seen on camera, but overheard in the dialogue of Series 8 that reveals their insights about themselves, which will have occurred before Series 8 ever gets started. We will hear some acknowledgement to each other of that new self awareness, but probably not in the way we would expect (deep serious conversations). I think Karen is right in her view that once the couple is committed to staying together (as the Series 7 end suggests), BP has a universe of possibilities for exploring how their “issues” will play out –hopefully with lots of humor, tempered by a new regime of self awareness (which we have to assume, b/c without it the show could really not go on.)

    I also bet the inevitable tensions between them will be ameliorated, if not resolved, by using the tried and true BP device of “rediscovery”–i.e. that each of them rediscovers over and over why they loved each other in the first place (For Louisa–Martin’s brilliance as a doctor, his deep caring for James and his patients; his rock-solid integrity; For Martin–Louisa’s warmth, compassion, personal care for family and friends, and her intelligence, as well as her love for him, the “unlovable”). This could be an unending source of “Peter Cronk-like” rescue scenes or it may expand into crises with James Henry where both parents show their deepest, best qualities to each other.

    Now if anyone can pull off this kind of transition–it will be BP. I trust the brilliant DM writers, in tandem with Team Clunes, to figure out a new Through-Line-Together for this couple–two people we’ve been cheering on for a very long time. BP will surely come up with equally compelling–but different–ways we can continue our cheering.

  21. MARJE

    Waxwings2, I agree with you and I am so glad there will be another
    season. For me this story was not over at all. I want to know what
    happens next to L and M. I am confident the story lines will continue
    to hold our interest. I am only sorry we have to wait so long between
    seasons.

  22. Santa Traugott

    Evolved form would be fine with me! I think probably most good marriages or partnerships “evolve.” I just don’t want them continue with the will they-won’t they story line, which is really past its sell-by date for me. We know that they WILL. I agree that the ending of S7 made that very clear.

    P.S. It’s probably too much to hope for, but my wish list includes outright demonstrations of affection and physical attraction from time to time.

  23. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    Thanks for the update. I’ve stated my opinion about another series and I still think that the end of S7 is a good place for them to conclude the show. As you know, I also think there are storylines that would be successful and compelling without the continuing question of whether Martin and Louisa will stay married. Therefore, I’m not surprised that PB notes that there are other stories worth exploring. That does contradict the contention that without the will they/won’t they theme the show would be boring, but if iTV has optioned another series, they’ll figure out something to write about. Waiting another two years is going to put a strain on the actors/characters, so that should be an interesting thing to deal with. We shall see what we shall see!

  24. Waxwings2

    Agree with all your points Karen. Thanks for clarifying what I was trying to say in my post. No more of the will they/won’t they, but how they stay/how they together–while also working into the show a squirmy two or three-year old for the future!

    The one thing BP has going for itself is a long record of quality sub-themes running through its supporting cast of characters, whom we’ve also come to love. This approach could be revived in future Episodes (Someone on this site I think, pointed out recently that BP did not start out making the Martin-Louisa relationship the compelling theme of the show–it evolved). In the early series, they started out giving almost equal weight to village character themes (Roger, Peter Cronk, Aunt Joan, Bert and Al, etc) running thru the lives of the villagers–in relation to the Doc. In their later series, those through-lines for village characters were diminished as the Martin/Louisa one ascended, and were somewhat replaced by short-lived character vignettes (acted by new short-lived character appearances) that were almost farcical — as opposed to substantive and serious (in a fun way). The sustained main supporting character themes could be revived to good advantage in Series 8.

    But no matter what direction they take the show, I’m sure it will be creative, still compelling, and eagerly awaited by us fans who are now in the millions around the world. And yes, we will be in agony waiting three more years here in the states for it. (Series 7 hasn’t even aired here yet for heavens sake!) Maybe BP will surprise us again and plunge right into Series 8 this summer, reducing the wait time to only a year….👏

  25. DM

    I very much agree with your sense here, Karen, that S7 should mark the end of the programme despite there being theoretically ample and entertaining material to continue the story. I also agree that S7 was not even remotely the best written or put together series either. You only infer as much, but I can state for myself that S7 exhibits such a poor example of moving the story forward that I’d rather we all be spared their ruining it further with more series of the same.

    Likewise, I couldn’t abide the drawn out resolution until the last scene, the rather pathetic if quite literal “cliffhanger” with Martin and Louisa overlooking the precipice with that wholly contrived storyline. Although I cheered as S7 began to unfold as Louisa resisted bounding into Martin’s arms as she had for any slightly meaningful expression from Martin such as, “Oh, Louisa… I love you. I love you,” and, “I can’t bear to live without you,” and, ”I was wrong, wrong about everything,” and, ”because if I’m with you, nothing else matters… what I’m trying to say is, I love you,” and, ”you’re my patient… and you’re my wife” (the latter instance, the exception), only to evaporate with no meaningful or lasting effect on Martin by the time the next series rolled around. But to have consumed every remaining episode with the prospect that Louisa wouldn’t end up conceding their prior status and living arrangement?! (you’ll notice that I refrain from using that term, “reconciliation”).

    Of course it’s that return to “prior status” that leaves the worst taste in my mouth. Despite the few subtle and unheralded psychological developments here, the greatest development portrayed up until this series last episode’s scheduled dinner, is that Martin is now amenable to extending his “carbohydrate curfew” by thirty minutes all the way to 7:00 PM! That’s fairly uninspired and niggardly of the writers, considering the emotionally climactic scene at the end of S6 was Ruth telling Martin, “Then you must change… You’d have to work hard. Harder than most.”– which I suppose we observant viewers were supposed to have forgotten about (sigh).

  26. Waxwings2

    Well DM, you are very brave. Some of us here have tried to gently share our overall disappointment and chagrin with S7, but none of us has been so courageous as to say the Emperor has No Clothes. You did. A relief really. Some of us have selectively offered our disappointment in critiques of moments involving the inadequate therapy scenes, but no one has so thoroughly challenged Series 7’s incoherent, inconsistent and light-weight nature, as you did. I think you captured the disappointment many of us felt between the promise left from the seriousness of Series 6 to the lightweight treatment of it in Series 7. I admire that. You reflect a lot of what some of us have felt, but have been unable to articulate.

    I’m not ready to eschew future shows. I think your public position is particularly brave in light of Martin Clunes’ statement in “Seven Grumpy Seasons” (or somewhere I read) that Series 7, in his opinion, was “our best yet”…So now your view challenging that is out there. What should we do if we agree with you? Lobby BP to end our misery? Ask for better? Hope for one really consistently good script writer (Jack Lothian) for depth and internal consistency? What? I am being slightly irreverent here, but hate to face the logical conclusion of your critique: no more Doc Martin. It is what Karen suggests for very valid reasons, and you too. I just hate to accept it, esp. when Philippa Braithwaite says they have many more stories to tell in this show….

    I think I come down on the side of us saying why we thought things were disappointing (I have in prior posts) and describing how we believe they could be improved—from our perspective as loyal fans. (I’ve thought about it and posted something today along those lines). Surely the BP spirit of the creative community, inclusiveness, respect and integrity, would be open to listening….No? Are you really convinced there is no hope for an improved Series 8? That Series 7 makes it unredeemable? I assume you were a believer up and through the end of Series 6? What do you think really went wrong? I’m interested in your take on this….I hope you will help us understand more about your views on Series 7.

    And I thank Karen for providing this space where we can debate and dialogue about such questions.

  27. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    It’s very gratifying to read what you wrote, DM. I have to say I enjoyed your review of the various expressions of apology that have taken place throughout the 7 series. I’m probably a little more generous than you when it comes to some of the changes they tried to apply to Martin, but you definitely have a point when you say that they had little follow up to Ruth’s comment to Martin. In addition, we’ve been remarking quite consistently that the dramatic speech Martin makes to Louisa prior to operating on her is never heard from again. I guess we’re supposed to have forgotten that too.

    When viewers are mislead too often, especially after being recognized as observant and aware, it’s rather disappointing to be expected to admire or accept a series that leaves much to be desired. No matter how much they assert that this series was excellently written, we can’t be fooled. I don’t know where they’re headed in the future, but I hate to see the show end up deteriorating. If you’re right about the amusing setting of the last scene being a “cliffhanger,” which I had not thought of before, it’s just one more moment in the last episode in which they are making a mockery of the story. The show is a dramedy, but this time they may have put too much emphasis on the comedy and left too much out to make the ending believable. Is the joke on us or on them?

  28. Linda F

    In Canada, we have a wonderful tv series called Murdoch Mysteries. They drug out the will they/won’t they for years but now Detective Murdoch and Dr. Ogden are married. This is still a very good show in it’s 9th season and the marriage didn’t hurt the show at all.

  29. mmarshall

    Thank you for your blog, Karen. I have thoroughly enjoyed all the discussions here! I agreed with you when you thought the series should end with S7, as I thought they jumped the shark with the hostage scenario and drew out the marriage reconciliation/separation as far as they could. The last episode left me so frustrated because I wanted to see much more growth and understanding come from therapy and both parties really trying to understand each other. Among other things, I really wanted to see Asperger’s Syndrome explored and understood. I think ME has AS compounded with his poor childhood experiences and I fully expected the therapist to quickly recognize this and address it. She tried to tackle the childhood, but there’s a lot to be gained by understanding the AS as well. (An aside: I think Peter Cronk was a good example of someone with (probably) AS who had a kind, nurturing childhood as opposed to ME’s emotional abusive one.) They therapist at one time seemed to be speaking to ME’s AS when she pedantically explained what a date was and what would be expected of him. Once the explanation was give, we saw ME’s anxiety lessen and he could handle the task. This is one coping skill Louisa could be taught to help ME’s AS symptoms. Anyway, I had hoped to see exploration of this condition, understand of it and acceptance that can aid tolerance as it played into their “we are who we are” theme. I think people with AS don’t have to be fixed as much as understood. The final scene of S7 was so like the S1E4 when ME was taken hostage by the squirrel-seeing man, shot at, and forced to deal with his psychosis. The repetition seemed too much, and the scenerio was rather preposterous that I tired of it quickly. The S1 episode ended with a theme about accepting people, even crazy people, for who they are, creatively seeking solutions for them and above all loving and caring for them unconditionally. Perhaps S7 was a reprise of that whole idea. But I wanted to see Louisa truly embracing that idea as it related to ME and her relationship to him.

    Hearing they may plan another seasons has me conflicted, because as much as I love the show, I feel they’re straining at the task now. I do think they could have more stories about this couple without them needing to contemplate divorce every season. They will still have plenty of struggles to work through and how they learn to live with each other could provide plenty of comedy as well as tender moments. I would love more treatment of Asperger’s Syndrome, too.

  30. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    I’m always glad to know more people have been reading the blog. What you bring up is something I’ve been thinking about addressing soon, i.e. that Louisa doesn’t need to forgive; she needs to accept. I have written a couple of posts on Asperger’s, my most recent one was titled “Asperger’s” and appeared on Jan. 4, 2014. Many readers of this blog disagree that ME has Asperger’s even though he has many of its traits. I also think that there is some danger in associating any particular disorder with ME and they have deliberately avoided that. I recognize that once we diagnose ME with a specific disorder, the options of where they can take the character get curtailed, and they wouldn’t want that.

    It’s hard not to notice the similarities between ME’s behavior and those associated with Asperger’s. I like your comparison of Peter Cronk with ME, although his mother’s anxiety disorder would have certainly given him problems. What you mention gets us back to how much our childhoods impact us, and they really should have done more with that in S7.

  31. mmarshall

    I like your idea of Louisa not needing to forgive, but accept. I think the end of Season 7 was getting to that with “we are what we are.” But I wanted it to go farther. Season 8 had better head in that direction! Season 7 could also have been themed, “Martin doesn’t need fixing, just acceptance.” I realized that with my young son when he was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. My first instinct was to fix him. But this condition isn’t really fixed. It’s worked with, edged are smoothed out, and most of all accepted by all in his life.

  32. MARJE

    I agree with you. I wanted the last episode to go further and since it did not, I want another season. I did not feel like this was a real ending for this couple, but a beginning. Louisa finally was getting it. Accept Martin as he is at least in his socializing outside of their marriage. I think they can come up with some really good story lines for these two and not have them always threatening to end their union.

  33. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    Thanks for providing another piece of evidence that resolving the question of whether a couple will stay together in a TV show is not a recipe for turning the show into something boring.

  34. DM

    Hi, WaxWings. Well, in regards to Series 7 I’d much rather feel brave, as you presume, than merely let down :-(. Much of my disappointment stems from what I can reason from the ending of S7E8 and the theme of “normal”, upon which Karen had previously generated some discussion but also implied she may revisit here: S7E8 – Back to the Future. Since I hadn’t been able to contribute at the time, I’d rather not jump the gun if Karen intends to delve into the subject again anytime soon.

    Additionally the two emotional climaxes that bracket S7, first is S6E8’s scene, “Then you must change… You’d have to work hard. Harder than most,” and then Martin’s agonized cry of desperation at S7E8’s conclusion, “I’ve tried, I’ve really tried. It’s just made things worse” which by my analysis, are simply “irreconcilable. My argument would be that the only way to reconcile them is to recognise that the creators are now content to engage in cynical sophistry by resorting to contemptuous plot devices and contrived logical fallacies (did I just say that?!).

    Whilst still avoiding pathologising, it’s important to remember that Martin’s character continues to exhibit a very real but ameliorable mental health disorder (not a neurodevelopmental disorder as in AS, but what is consistent with Martin’s horrible upbringing and Aunt Ruth’s account of emotional abuse and onset). There’s also a major depressive disorder from S6 that’s still sitting there for all of S7 like Chekhov’s gun, fully loaded and waiting to be discharged (in a household with a toddler now). All of which might have been addressed by being consistent with the psychological narrative structure they’ve well established (with or without any realistic, yet what could have been humourous and entertaining, therapy). Meanwhile, the creators have Martin’s character cravenly berate patients for ignoring or downplaying medical issues, (at least the somatic ones) as in S7E8 with, “Just avoiding the issue won’t make it better. Never has.” To instead continue to assert that Martin merely suffers from a bad case of “grumpy” is becoming too pathetic (for me) to watch.

  35. Waxwings2

    In response to DM:

    Thank you DM for your reply to my queries concerning your views on the “integrity” of Series 7 and the “incredibility” of a Series 8…

    And now it is I who have pies to bake for tomorrow, and a household full to cook for and feed. But I wanted to acknowledge your post of today, and let you know that I am thinking about what you said. Will try to comment further beyond this brief response….

    I still believe you are very brave to publicly call out the writers and producers of Series 7 who gave us (IMHO) a disappointing follow up to Series 6—a series that was so deep and so serious that it demanded a legitimate, consistent follow up series—if its audience was not to be made fools for taking it seriously….Personally, I do feel foolish for taking Series 6 seriously. I expected (and we were led to believe) something very different and more substantive would occur than what we got in Series 7. (If only there had NOT been a Series 6, I might not have been so deeply disappointed with S7!!).

    I think you are brave because there is such a cult built up around the DM show that anything done is applauded and championed as “terrific” or “the best.” But S7 was not the best, and several of us on this blog site have said as much. And you are ever the brave one because Martin Clunes himself has “characterized” S7 as their “best ever!” Ouch. I guess one could make such a case if S6 had not existed. I dwell in, and cannot escape Series 6, as should we all if we are to understand S7. S7 was a huge disappointment and not at all up to the writing of S6—if consistency and attention to medical/psycho details are to be credible. In S6 we had a serious medical/pyscho disorder in the Doc that needed attention, which it did not get in Series7. Period. End of story.

    You state that the only way to accept the (serious content) differences in S6 and S7 is to “recognize that the creators are now content to engage in cynical sophistry by resorting to contemptuous plot devices and contrived logical fallacies.” Yes, you did just say that, and it is exactly spot on. As is your observation that Martin’s character “continues to exhibit a very real mental health disorder” (one consistent with his horrible upbringing of abuse) and this is in tandem with the leftover S6 problem of his “major depressive disorder” that’s sitting there in all of S7 like “Chekov’s gun” waiting to go off. Bravo for the great analogy!) You label it as a problem of inconsistency and that is exactly correct, as I see it. They didn’t address any of these. We are left to accept in S7 what they “made” of the Doc’s problems exhibited in S6 — or not. But they didn’t address them at all. My problem is that Series 7 is totally inconsistent with S6. And we are the fools left holding the bag for believing there would be some connection between the two.

    Earlier, I kept thinking that that inconsistency would be diminished if only one writer were at the helm (Jack Lothian) and this problem might have been avoided. The episodes seem so chaotic and inconsistent or not connected…..And yes, this is all juxtaposed and highlighted as hypocritical with Doc Martin’s character constantly berating his patients “for ignoring or downplaying medical issues.” That is exactly what the writers of S7 did. They ignored the medical/pscyhological issues to make a series built on farce and contrived devices, not rich in the possibilities they created in Series 6. Why? Why did they do this?

    Unlike you, I keep redemption an open possibility because I am such a great fan of the DM show. I still have faith that the producers will right the listing ship. I long for better and will cheer them on to do better and be more consistent to their characters and story plot lines. In the case of Martin Ellingham, it is dealing with his early childhood traumas and abuse. This remains yet unaddressed even at the close of S7, and as such, will/should continue to haunt the relationship between Martin and Louisa in S8….

    Now off to make figgy pudding for tomorrow’s dessert. As the 16th century West England/ Cornish song says, “We wish you a Merry Christmas…”

  36. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    I do indeed plan to revisit several of the themes we’ve discussed before, including something to do with “normal” as opposed to “abnormal” as concepts. I apologize for taking so long, but I have been traveling and having trouble finding enough time to put together a post that I feel covers these topics satisfactorily.

    As I’m sure you know, I too am bothered that we were led to believe that the childhoods both Martin and Louisa experienced, and the blood phobia, and the depression, etc. would be the key elements to be reckoned with, and then they were dropped. It’s facile to simply ask us to be happy that Martin and Louisa have decided that none of this matters anymore, and just share a kiss and head home together.

  37. Santa Traugott

    I think I am less disappointed in any of you, for a couple of reasons. First, I never expected much more of S7 than a stringing out of the decision to reconcile until the last frame, and I was always pretty sure that the mechanism for their reconciliation would turn on Martin being the one to give up on the relationship, and putting Louisa in a situation where she was the one forced to decide whether to “fish or cut bait.” That’s BP’s idea of “keeping things fresh”, I think.

    Second, since BP is all about “show, don’t tell” I never expected much from the therapy sessions. We saw only 2 minutes out of 45 or 50. It sort of looked like therapy, and the exercises and interpretations might easily have happened, and it was a convenient framing device, but it was never going to be more than that. Contrary to popular impression, there is nothing really of high dramatic value in most therapy sessions, most of the time. They just were not going to make the dramatic choice to spend lots of time in a therapy session. I’m sorry, folks, I don’t think there’s very often much that is humorous or entertaining in sessions.

    As for the depression: Martin is dysthmic, probably always has been so, and no reason to believe that will change. Unless of course, he was started on appropriate meds, which might help a lot. You are quite right — it’s worse than ironic that he has a treatable medical condition which is being ignored by him. While he was extremely depressed in S6, probably meeting criteria for Major Depressive Disorder, I think we are meant to believe that this, like the return of his phobia, was stress-induced, and that the shock of Louisa’s accident, her leaving him, and the conversation with Ruth on the hill, jolted him out of it. We did see him “changing” after the conversation with Ruth, not only in tossing Margaret out on her ear, but in his visit to the hippy with the sore throat, where he was much softer and even apologetic. The weeping in the bathroom after the surgery was meant also to signify that he had “hit bottom” and there was no way to go but up. I think he is very sad in S7, but not depressed per se.

    What does bother me is that we are definitely led to believe that S7 is about Martin “changing” or attempting to change. (By the way, his statement at the end that “I’ve tried, I’ve really tried” is so ambiguous as to whether he tried to stop loving her, or tried to change, that I have to believe it was intentionally ambiguous. Either way, it’s a nonsense statement. There’s never been the slightest evidence that he tried to stop loving her, we have seen him try to change, and there’s no reason to believe that either of those options made anything worse.) But then the conclusion at the end, by Louisa, is that it doesn’t matter — she has to accept him as he is, because she too, is flawed. So, I don’t really like that conclusion — change IS possible, he can become a better husband, and not only that, we have seen him be more open and responsive (or so it seems to me) throughout S7. He does behave like a jerk sometimes, and she responds with childish “fight” or “flight,” neither of which solves the problem. Those things CAN change, because they are behaviors, and essentially and in the end, choices. But Martin’s behavior is cartoonishly outlandish and childish, and Louisa’s reactions are cartoonishly ineffective and immature. There aren’t any real issues between them, that couldn’t have been settled by adult discussion and negotiation. So that’s a bother to me — I don’t want my constant reaction to be, “oh grow up, people.” Since both seem to be stuck in childhood issues, perhaps that is what needs to happen, but the show seems to have opted for just accepting it and moving on to the next stage.

    There is a lot of disjuncture between series, it seems to me. We pick up in time not far from where we left off in some respects, but in other respects, the relationship or main story has taken two steps back. I think this has to do with the structural problem that they never quite know whether the series will be renewed or not, so they have to leave it in a place where it COULD end, and then, since they are starting out again in a re-commissioned series, they have to retreat somewhat from that position in order to keep the “drama” going.

  38. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    Santa, I very much respect your opinions about S7, even though my impression of what you wrote is that you were quite disappointed. I think all of us could have predicted that Martin and Louisa’s return to living together would not take place until the final episode because that has been the typical model all along. If they had truly wanted to keep things fresh, they could have modified that, but apparently they were convinced they’d lose viewers if they did that.

    When you come to think of it, the fact that they do follow some sort of a formula that regular viewers can identify is part of the problem. Furthermore, although therapy sessions may not be tremendously entertaining, neither was Martin sitting in a dark room brooding, and that happened often in S6. I certainly don’t know as much about therapy as you do, but it seems to me that certain revelations during a session could have been used to elicit dramatic interludes, especially if they had to do with childhood events.

    I very much agree that Martin changed somewhat at the end of S6, and I was ready for more of that in S7, but what we saw was not nearly as impressive as they could have made it. Then, as you say, the statement he makes at the end of E8 is deliberately ambiguous as well as rather opaque. We can’t make much sense of it, or of Louisa’s arrival at the judgement that she can accept him as flawed because she now understands that she too is flawed. Gee, isn’t that a stunning insight after two months of holding back and believing that Martin needed to deal with his blood phobia, etc.!

    I don’t quite see the disjuncture between series as such a hurdle. They handled the break between S4 and S5 easily, barely skipping a beat. I consider the two year intermission problematic for many reasons, most of all because they don’t review what happened previously and make the assumption that viewers tuning in must be aware of the story. They must not be too concerned about new viewers. If they have always operated with the knowledge that they are going to need to wait for ITV to determine whether the show will be renewed, then they should be prepared for that eventuality and have some plan in mind. I find it somewhat hard to believe that they have no idea what will happen because both S3 and S6 ended rather disturbingly. Every show has that uncertainty, and the best way to reduce that is to know where you want the show to go from the beginning. Most writers will tell you that you should know the ending before you start writing the story. A TV show may be different from a novel, but it is important to have a goal in mind. That’s how Vince Gilligan planned Breaking Bad and why he refused to add more seasons to the show despite its popularity.

    One thing we find troubling about a S8 is that they are digging deep to come up with new storylines, and that partly seems disingenuous and partly motivated by their own enjoyment. (By the way, reading 50 scripts and revising them is not very demanding over a period of eleven years.)

  39. Alan G

    I watched S7/E8 this past evening and although I wasn’t all that appreciative of the plot the episode incorporated I thought the ending was magnificent. I also thought that between E7 and E8 all the loose ends had been tied into neat little bows involving the various other characters. And although I was not guaranteed that anyone would live happily ever after, including Doc Martin and Louisa, such is life. But in the end all the characters had purpose and we were left with a peek into their very promising future just before each individual door was closed.

    I am not a passive fan and have been an ardent viewer ever since the series began to include owning the entire series. But unlike what seems to be a majority here, it’s time to end it on a high note, at least for me. I will be left with my fond memories and am almost positive that I will not be viewing any further subsequent series should they be filmed. Continual upheaval, discontent and turmoil is not my cup of tea and at some point surpasses reality.

    It’s been an enjoyable and memorable ride and one of the only TV series that I have watched from beginning to end. The only other one was The Fugitive which aired back in the 1960’s. But for me, it’s time to move on.

  40. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    Actually your view that it’s time for the show to end is shared by many on this site, including me. I agree with your review and wrote about S7E8 in a previous post. I hope you have a chance to read it because I imply the same sense that you have that they found a way of concluding most of the storylines that have been the force behind the show for so many years. We’re generally happy with the way S7 ended, although the writing was not of as high a caliber as it should have been and the reconciliation between Martin and Louisa was too predictable and pedestrian.

    Thanks for writing and adding your thoughts!

  41. Santa

    Apparently, there will not only be a S8, but a S9 has been commissioned. One big question will be whether they’ll take up right where they left off, so we get to see how they actually settled in together, or whether they pick up a few years later, with kid(s) in school. That fits better with their now apparent age. But not much in between — I’m guessing that toddlers on set would be a nightmare.

    Those of us who do want to see more of the Ellinghams have to hope that there is some plan to add freshness and intrigue without resorting once more to will they – won’t they, although I think there is a small chance that Martin will be a grieving widower when next we se him.

    My feeling is not that the writing has deteriorated, but that they’ve wrung all they can out of the initial story premise and we’ve seen things become predictable and that is disappointing.

    BTW, Karen, I’m one of those who thought the low key character of the resolution was just right. That they would reconcile, that Louisa would come around, and how that would be framed, was all pretty obvious, but satisfying to see it play out. High drama endings have not worked out so well in next seasons, so maybe this quiet acceptance of their indissoluble bond is more hopeful!

  42. mmarshall

    Santa, I’m curious why you say “high drama endings have not worked out so well in the next seasons”? Each season since S3 has had what I thought was a high drama ending and I’ve thought that the next season often didn’t include the same emotion as was in the season ender, even when it was only supposed to be the next day, such as after the birth of the baby. It seemed their pattern was to take emotion down to low at the beginning of the season and build it up to high by the end. It did feel to me a bit formulaic, especially in S7. Is this what you were talking about? Do you think they could change the pattern at this point?
    If they’ve commissioned 2 more seasons, I think they might do something like they did in S6 and S7 — build a conflict in one and resolution in the next.

  43. DM

    For me, the dissatisfaction with S7 had little or nothing to do with the therapy and its depiction, for which I had few expectations. The problem for me was that the therapy, as depicted, was presented instead of any actual psychological (or character) development that would have moved the story forward. Likewise for the banally formulaic cliffhanger or “cliff-sitting”, as it were, at the very end. My dissatisfaction was due to the overall insipid storyline of S7, which after this latest seventh series brought to mind a very different saying about “fish”– the one that includes “house guests” and what happens when they’ve simply gone on too long.

    We apparently are in agreement that any depiction of therapy was going to be either realistic or entertaining, let alone humourous– that was always going to be a creative challenge. The problem in this case was that it was neither (although I did laugh out loud at the inane summation of, “You are without a doubt, one of the most challenging cases I have ever come across”). Of course it wasn’t going to be depicted over enough sessions for basic trust to have been established for meaningful therapy to even have begun. I similarly attempted to dispel others’ expectations of the common misconceptions once therapy began about how it might work here in my prior scant comments on the subject.

    I have also long admired the programme’s adherence to the good storytelling dictum of, “show, don’t tell”– “normal-ly” (I will say for now). However, that has usually been by masterfully discriminating what it is that they choose to “show” (and often, in my opinion, what they skillfully chose to neither show nor tell). Perhaps the problem in this case was that the creators felt compelled to show psychotherapy, and thus deliberately chose to do it badly using that tricksy “reverse psychology” to make viewers remorseful for wanting to see it (and Louisa too, apparently)– I don’t know. Nonetheless, in the end they cravenly decided to smack Dr. Timoney in the head just to disparage the whole idea of therapy and show that she could be induced into novel behaviour– a technique that apparently works for any other character besides Martin.

    I agree that the depression of S6 served a distinctly alchemic purpose that did not extend into this series (hence my great disappointment with only the most niggardly development of the transmutation begun in S6). But how is Louisa’s character supposed to make sense of it? She has no awareness of these factors– should she just believe it’s stress-induced and await another episode of depression, perhaps in a few more months when his son has confounded him by uttering polysyllabic words? Louisa certainly realises by now that the haemophobia is merely symptomatic and neither just returns nor ever goes away, it is recurrent or recurrent paroxysmal that varies between more acute and less acute until Martin makes a genuine effort to address it.

    We do know that psychological distress can nonetheless be a powerful motivator and the distress presented by Martin at the end of S6, not to mention the newly discovered self-awareness, could have made a profound effect. Were you as surprised as I from the end of S6 to the start of S7 that in the time elapsed Martin waited so long for even the most perfunctory of inquiries about a therapist? He had 3 weeks since Louisa left for Spain plus what might have been “several weeks to months” (I am told) following her AVM embolotherapy before Louisa would’ve been allowed to travel (despite this being Port Wenn, it was “unlikely” that there was no follow-up surgical or radiotherapy treatment even after the unorthodox catheterisation). My problem is that Martin’s distress incredulously evaporated (especially if he feared that if Louisa went she wouldn’t return), only to be replaced once again by his familiar passivity and customary inaction. This essentially amounts to psychological regression, which invites the prospect of ongoing progression/regression that will be even more excruciating to keep watching than the unrelenting “will they/won’t they.”

    My point about Martin’s “agonized cry of desperation” at S7’s conclusion since the imperative at the end of S6 of, “Then you must change… You’d have to work hard. Harder than most.” was the pathetically meager effort by Martin (please excuse the dramatic license, i.e. sarcasm):

    • five (5) gruelling psychotherapeutic near hour long exhausting sessions with Dr. Timoney over a strenuously protracted six week course of “talking” (four in joint sessions with Louisa)
    • the tortuous misery of engaging in mandated acts of affection with his wife
    • the soul-wrenching ordeal of accompanying Louisa out for– a meal, together, to eat, in public, at a restaurant (i.e. a date)
    • to undergo the indignity and degradation of picnicking with his family only to be forced to consume shockingly inhumane levels of sodium and fats
    • to suffer the excruciating torment of living on his own, all by himself, without anyone to talk to, to share with, or to open up to, in wretchedly cramped quarters where he must withstand the humiliation of ritualistic smacking of his head (slightly more often than usual, that is)
    • the frightful mortification of possibly having to purchase another espresso maker for his temporary abode (oh, the humanity!)

    It was in this context that we should question the totality of Martin’s efforts which hardly constitutes “hard work” and the paucity of his efforts that provoked his, “I’ve tried, I’ve really tried. It’s just made things worse” anguish *. If this is a harshly unjust assessment of what Martin’s character endured over the course of the six weeks or so of S7, I’d dearly love to know how. Or to put into terms Martin might relate to: he put in less time in therapy than perhaps a single moderately invasive surgical procedure– with less of the committedness of lancing a boil.

    Of course, what is most disconcerting in this assessment is that we can be sure that Martin’s character did indeed take Aunt Ruth’s words to heart– we know because the alternative of Ruth’s counsel was, “…then leave the poor girl alone”– which was precisely what Martin was preparing to do in the first part of S7E8.

    I apologise for going on and on or sounding like a downer, but I am just so dismayed at how the creators seem to have completely lost their way. What only makes it worse is the fatuous rhetoric that attests to S7’s writing as the “best ever” and the article WaxWings kindly linked for us attesting to “there are lots of stories we want to explore, and we want to do them well” (which hardly reads as if S8 is a done deal, by my parsing). This rhetoric seems more intent on convincing themselves than it does on remaining viewers (examples of contra-apophasis, methinks?).

    * I suppose I hadn’t realised the controversy and confusion over this statement. I first thought it an editing error wherein there was a beat-and-a-half rather than two after Louisa’s statement (thus a reflective pause?) and a reference to the prior, “I can’t go on living like this.” If it was meant to convey that he’s “really tried” not to love Louisa, as you allude, it certainly would be consistent with the earlier mutilated sentiment, “I don’t miss the peace and quiet”. By any interpretation, the problem remains that Martin’s “trying” is indistinguishable from his “not trying”.

  44. Santa

    Maybe your description of the pattern is better…goes to a crescendo, then starts again on a lesser note.. But the ending of S4 was very dramatic, and S5 seemed to take two steps back and go downhill from there. Same with transition from 5 to 6 ..the brief honeymoon and then downhill in sentiment as things disintegrated.

  45. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    As I’m still not at my home computer and writing on my iPad is definitely a challenge where I am, I want to reply mostly to your last two paragraphs. Although I have no way of knowing how much they truly believe this last series was well-written, it seems more likely that those avowals stem from promoting the show rather than honest appraisal (as Santa once said).

    For me your rundown of how this series disappointed is expressed well. My contribution would be that when they decided to prioritize therapy throughout this series and prepared viewers for that approach to resolving some of the marital issues, they should have known that therapy would not be the best vehicle to use. They say they consulted a therapist, and PB is quoted as thinking the therapy sessions worked well as being associated with each episode’s plot. How is that possible!? But once they decided on using therapy, they needed to apply it in a more realistic way.

    Apart from the therapy, the whole depression routine throughout S6 that ends so precipitously in S7, followed by Martin’s return to the more slapstick physical humor, the verbal abuse of his patients, and the inability to talk to Louisa or even find a therapist while Ruth is away, is certainly not very respectful of the viewers who have been trying to take the show seriously.

    What they will come up with in future series is beyond me. I’ll write more soon.

  46. DM

    If I may add to my earlier comment in case some were further mislead by S7: Martin speciously announces to the therapist, Dr. Timoney in S7E2, “You will diagnose attachment disorder,”– which is not true. “Attachment disorder(s)” are a constellation of symptoms in children and is not a legitimate diagnosable disorder. Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) is a severe and relatively rare disorder that affects children which left untreated into adulthood can develop into actual distinct psychological disorders. What is often mistakenly termed “attachment disorder” is a vague and overly broad description for a pseudo-scientific treatment known as “attachment therapy” that puts children and their parents through highly questionable and unproven therapies.

    Dr. Timoney never challenges Martin’s misunderstandings of “attachment disorder” nor do they ever “explore them together”. Had they done so, Attachment Theory * would have been explained as the legitimate and well-studied scientific theory that describes the underlying emotional bond of close interpersonal relationships that begin from infancy. Furthermore, had there been any such exploration with a competent therapist, that therapist certainly would have dispelled Martin of his incorrect belief that attachment in children is an all-or-nothing prospect to properly form later attachments as Martin characterises of himself with terms such as “failure” and “inability”.

    * “Attachment Theory was founded by John Bowlby who studied maladjusted children and the effects of maternal deprivation following WWII. Bowlby was born in Britain to an upper-middle class Victorian family whose father was an eminent surgeon to the Royal family. He rarely saw his father whilst growing up and, according to the custom of his class and time, saw his mother only briefly each day after teatime. His primary caregiver until age 4 was his nanny who then abruptly left the household and later suffered the sudden loss of his beloved godfather. At age 7, Bowlby was sent off to boarding school which he later described as a traumatic experience. He’d intended to follow in his father’s footsteps as a surgeon, but changed course after several years to instead pursue developmental psychology, later to become a psychiatrist and psychoanalyst.

  47. Santa

    Thanks so much for this. It was an egregious error. It made me really wonder about the advice they were getting. Let’s hope it was their own idea of something that sounded plausible. Nevertheless, risibly wrong.

  48. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    Yes, DM, you are absolutely right. Both Santa and Abby noted that mistake and I left it out of my post on the problems with how therapy was depicted. It is, of course, also another fault in how the series was written. Somewhere along the line they made a decision to use therapy as a means of organizing the episodes and overlooked the pitfalls.

    Despite all the concerns Martin expresses to Dr. Timoney along with his fallacious diagnosis of attachment disorder, none of them are addressed during therapy as far as we can tell. It was a setup destined to be unsatisfactory in many ways, and yet they appear to think it worked well. One man’s meat is another man’s poison!

  49. DM

    I hadn’t wished to leave the impression that by mentioning a “disorder” in my prior comment that I was referring to or endorsing Martin’s mistaken assertion regarding “attachment disorder”. We know that Martin’s character tends to speak authoritatively, if not pretentiously, on various subjects. I’m sure the creators were aware they’d strayed into controversy on that particular subject although their self-vaunted attention to medical accuracy has been increasingly lacking (and it’s not just psychological accuracy, since the depiction of care for Mr. Winton’s goiter was off, not least of which since, “it’s just a [ultrasound] scan,” somehow magically turned into a mildly invasive biopsy). And no, I haven’t forgotten it’s just a television programme with a good deal of latitude in terms of plausibility 🙂

  50. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    Well, although this is “just a television programme,” and may be allowed a certain “latitude of plausibility,” we have been told ad nauseum about the requirement that British television must be accurate when it comes to medical conditions and treatments. In this series there was a lot of license taken with the medical procedures (even to the extent that ME neglects to wear sterile gloves while drawing blood in some scenes) as well as the therapy.

  51. Amy

    I agree. I want to see some real change in their relationship. This ending was a cheat. and the whole Series 8 felt like a stalemate. Very little progress was made, and they ended almost where they began—knowing they love each other and not knowing how to live with each other.

    Of course, I am only talking about the Martin-Louisa storyline. Ruth, Al, Bert, Mrs. Tishell, and Penhale all actually did have storylines that moved forward. All could still use more resolution, however.

    I expect we will see lots of wedding bells by the end of Series 8 and (I hope) more progress between Martin and Louisa. Maybe as James moves from baby to talking toddler, he will be a catalyst for change between his parents.

  52. Santa Traugott

    I think they have committed to two more seasons, or at least ITV has. I’m not certain that S9 will actually come off — I think it depends on ratings for S8, and I have to wonder if those will keep even to the S7 level if the big engine of “will they – won’t they” is no longer driving the plot.

    In response to an earlier comment of yours — they do it every other year because they can! Their argument is that it takes that long to get things right, plus that they want to give their daughter at least one summer where both parents are not working day and night. But Emily is 15 or 16 now, and I don’t imagine that applies much any more.

  53. Amy

    Here’s one site indicating the next season is the last:

    http://www.express.co.uk/showbiz/tv-radio/634370/Doc-Martin-series-8-Martin-Clunes-final-series-Ian-McNeice

    I’ve seen others also.

    I think one more is all they need to redeem themselves (and the two main characters) after this past season. At least I hope so.

    If they do a Series 9 waiting yet another two year period, it will be 2019—fifteen years after the first season! I had some difficult suspending disbelief seeing how much older Clunes and Catz looked than they had at the end of Series 6. Could being apart for three weeks really have aged them THAT much? 🙂

    I hope Series 8 ends it and ends it well.

  54. Amy

    Karen, I actually had read this post before, as you can see from my comments. I have a feeling the references to The Honeymooners and I Love Lucy had been implanted in my head from reading this! Scary how memory does that. But once again, I agree with your analysis here.

    (I haven’t found the post that discusses the humor in S6E1, or then again, maybe I did and forgot? Getting older can be a pain!)

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