Showing Up Out Of the Blue

In Doc Martin there are many people who appear on Martin’s doorstep unannounced. Or Martin appears at someone’s home unexpectedly. I love it when Louisa asks Martin if his mother has ever shown up out of the blue before. Louisa does it all the time!

This sort of event is called an “Inciting Incident” by Robert McKee (you know, the writer of Story, the book I’ve referred to before). We also see these incidents on occasion with other characters, e.g. Joan, Edith, Ruth, Mrs. Tishell, and Bert.

McKee notes that an Inciting Incident must radically upset the balance of forces in the protagonist’s life. Next the protagonist must respond to the Inciting Incident.  “The protagonist responds to the sudden negative or positive change in the balance of his life in whatever way is appropriate to character and world.” However, our protagonist will always want to restore balance. Lastly, the Inciting Incident “propels the protagonist into an active pursuit of this object or goal…But for those protagonists we tend to admire the most, the Inciting Incident arouses not only a conscious desire but an unconscious one as well. These complex characters suffer intense inner battles because these two desires are in direct conflict with each other.”

In DM the person who appears out of the blue on Martin’s doorstep, or to be more accurate, Martin’s kitchen door, is Louisa. Every time she does this we can call it an inciting incident because she always upsets the balance of his life. There are several times when Louisa appears that make the largest impact on him and I thought I would use these as the best examples.

In S7 the location is different because now she is living in the surgery building. By E3, however, she has appeared unexpectedly at Martin’s front door and completed the act of unbalancing his life again. By the end of E3, he is poised to leave at the front door to the surgery when she stops him hoping to reach out to him in her own noncommittal way. When he doesn’t stop long enough, she runs after him and leaves him much more hopeful by offering to do couple’s counseling with him. This series is the “Louisa in Charge” show, although maybe she’s been in that position the whole time.

For this post I wanted to highlight the times when Louisa’s unanticipated appearance incites imbalance and results in Martin pursuing a return to equipoise. I’m sure the examples I choose will not necessarily coincide with ones you would have chosen, and I hope you will add your views to mine. Also, I am aware that Louisa has shown up unannounced on other occasions outside the surgery, and some of those occasions could be considered destabilizing as well. Here I’m trying to pick out the times that are of major significance.

The first consequential time Louisa appears unannounced at his door is when she brings Allison by to apologize. When she knocks on the back door, Martin is mislead into thinking that she has come alone and is pleasantly surprised. She succeeds in making clear to him that she thinks Allison owes him her child’s life. She sends Allison out so that she can have a few moments alone with him. During that time she tells him she wants to stay, to which he responds affirmatively, thinking she means for a visit. What she really means is she wants to remain his patient, and he’s a little disappointed in the misinterpretation; however, she also approaches him and they have a close, personal encounter with a discussion of what they see for themselves in the future and she expresses her own doubts about her plans. Everything that happens after she shows up puts him off balance. He has to answer Allison and accept her apology; he agrees to allow Louisa to stay, whether it’s for a visit or as a patient (although we know he would welcome a visit); and her decision to step close to him and ask him about his plans for the future forces him to confront those in a way he hasn’t before.

The next time that I would call an inciting incident is when Louisa shows up wearing her wedding gown but carrying a letter telling him she has decided not to marry him. She apprises him that the letter says she loves him, but that he wouldn’t make her happy. Although he has also come to the conclusion that marrying isn’t the best decision at this point, her appearance flusters him. He follows her outside, digesting what they have just chosen to do, and watches as she walks away. His pursuit of Louisa has upended his life, but now their decision to part ways is just as disruptive to him. It’s a life-altering moment that once again must make him think about what he will do with his future.

I have to follow that unannounced appearance with the one that begins S4 when Louisa returns to Portwenn pregnant. Here he is just getting his life back in order, with a tinge of regret and forlornness, when in she pops to turn everything upside down again. As in the last scene of S3, Martin watches as Louisa walks away, carrying her suitcase and his baby. It doesn’t get any more unsettling than that!

The last occasion when Louisa shows up out of the blue to cause a marked upheaval is her arrival back in Portwenn in S7E2. I think we are supposed to believe that Martin was expecting her back; however, her arrival pushing James in his stroller while pulling her bag behind her is timed to put him off balance. It’s rare to find the waiting room as crowded and chaotic as in that scene. With so many townspeople there, and Martin unaware that Louisa is back, the shock for him is evident. He recovers fairly quickly, and he wants her there, but we know that Louisa’s return is going to unbalance his life once again.

Margaret’s appearance out of the blue is certainly one that we should count. Previously Joan has thrown him when she appears with a casserole after his disastrous concert date with Louisa. Then there’s Ruth coming to Joan’s funeral and bringing a new force into his life. And we can’t forget Edith and all of her unplanned visits.

Martin has been known to arrive unannounced at times himself. He surprises Joan in the first episode and has shown up at Ruth’s door without warning as well. I would call these inciting incidents too because they lead to significant changes in his life.

There are other times I can think of when the unplanned arrival of one person or another drives the plot, e.g. John Slater, Danny, Eleanor. All of these are inciting incidents that are frequently used to great effect by bringing imbalance to the main protagonists.

Originally posted 2015-09-25 11:36:19.

21 thoughts on “Showing Up Out Of the Blue

  1. Laura H

    What an interesting and thought-provoking topic…inciting incidences. This one has really made me think…so thank you for that! Of the three examples of inciting incidences cited, I totally agree with you that the revelation of her pregnancy to Martin in S4 takes the honors as Supremo Inciting Incident of all the show so far…and I just now had a thoughtful moment that Louisa did exactly the “non-sharing” trip about the pregnancy previous to her return to the village as regards to Martin as she experiences with him in Series 5. The time she appears to jointly call off the wedding at the end of Series 3 has a different feel for me…maybe because they are in agreement in calling it off, though they have chosen different ways of handling that…and his way (not coming to tell her) maybe adds to her resolve. The incident on S7E3, seems more of a pure instance of Louisa “projecting” her fear of counseling onto Martin, yet implying it is his old pattern of not sharing information. My confusion by her change of heart about couple’s counseling is whether Ruth’s recontextualizing the counseling sways her or is it her hearing Martin’s impressive medical performance on the radio and is reminded again that James has a remarkable father and maybe she should do what she can to support “a new beginning?

  2. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    Laura, the inciting incidences don’t have to be exactly the same in essence. My effort was to point out the use of frequent unannounced and unexpected appearances of people as a means of inciting a protagonist (primarily Martin) to have to react and reassess. You’re right, each of these incidents are not the same in some key ways; they just all serve to force Martin to confront both conscious and unconscious desires.

    I can’t say for sure, but my gut is that what Ruth says to Louisa starts Louisa thinking that she should make sure the therapist hears her side of the story and then Martin’s heroics remind her of one of the reasons she’s always been attracted to him. He does take charge in medical settings, so she knows he can do it. I think she wants him to take charge more in their relationship insofar as wanting him to stop her from leaving or wanting him to tell her she’s off base. She definitely likes it when he expresses his feelings for her. Who wouldn’t want more of that? The therapist’s prescription of hugging and compliments should regenerate some of those expressions, although we are going to see a lot of missteps too. They have to have awkward moments for the show’s sake.

    I thank you for your comments and for participating in the conversation!

  3. Santa Traugott

    I think the difference is that he’s not afraid in medical situations — he’s pretty confident in his skills and he knows he’s the only one who can help. With Louisa, he’s very afraid of making the wrong move, most of the time, so he gets frozen. And I think that her reactivity and general “spike–iness” make it even harder than it has to be. But I agree– she would like him to be more active in their relationship. He’s quite passive with respect to her, really.

    More later…

  4. Laura H

    Karen, quite true that the essence of the inciting incidents vary…and could be very boring or at least not show what contradictory creatures the characters are as are we all:) I’m appreciative of the really great way you cited the incidents and made us aware of the use of them for the many reasons you gave as an element of the story, a device to give the characters challenges as to choices they must make. Again, a post that triggers thought and angles not considered before…kudos!

    Personally, I would have liked Martin to add a line to what he said to Louisa the next morning after the previous evening inciting incident. In some ways, it might be courageous that he brought it up again, especially since it seems he got a negative spin from Louisa the evening before…he asks if she’s thought more about the couple’s counseling? I would have liked him to add that he has no control over Dr. Timoney’s recommendations. But he told Ruth he doesn’t want to do anything to make matters worse.

    You said something profound about this particular episode (or did you mean series?) being the Louisa show:)

  5. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    Your point about Martin being brave enough to ask Louisa again about accompanying him to see Dr. Timoney is so true. We would expect him to be gun shy about bringing that issue up again after Louisa’s outburst the night before. Actually I was surprised that the morning after her tirade in his cottage, they pass each other in front of the surgery building and act rather friendly towards each other. It’s as if they dropped it all. She’s in a hurry to get to work because Janice was late, and she runs past him. He notices that she’s late, and she stops to tell him that he should keep an eye on Janice. Almost an everyday conversation between a married couple! Are we supposed to think there are no grudges after all?

    His willingness to ask again may be tied to how much it means to him to have the counseling work. She still thinks he and Dr. T should work on his issues first, but doesn’t totally discount the possibility of joining him. Then , of course, she comes to the conclusion that she should accompany him.

    My comment about this series being about Louisa in charge was directed at how much she is now determining what will happen between them. S6 was so much about Martin’s psychopathology and how it impacted their marriage. This series they have switched that to how much he’s at her mercy. Like so many things in S7, who’s the pivotal character has also been turned around. To a certain extent Louisa has always had a lot of power in that her readiness to break things off has always been a key factor in where their relationship lands. But we did see Martin become the leader in S6 by being the one throughout the series to make most of the decisions. He gives in to taking James to music group and to coming to Sports Day, but he hijacks the wedding ceremony and later tells Louisa what to do after the fireplace explodes, he invites Dennis to dinner, his mood significantly affects Louisa and sends their marriage into a tailspin, and he barks at the doctor taking care of Louisa as well as takes over the AVM operation. He also stands up to his mother twice, finally sending her on her way.

    This series we are seeing a much more assertive Louisa, sometimes to the extreme, and a much more careful Martin. He wants to change, and that accounts for some of this difference, but I think they’ve made a decision to put Louisa in more of a leadership role in S7.

  6. Laura H

    Whoops…my mistake in stating the counseling issue was brought up by Martin the next morning..,my goof.,,you’ve made a good point in correcting that…how Martin and Louisa have the crossing of paths exchange the next morning…the counseling conversation the morning after that. Thanks for the correction, insight about possible grudge dropping, and a great contrast between S6 and S7.

  7. Santa Traugott

    I really can’t add much to your insights. Doors are far more useful in the series than I had thought.

    I think I would put a touch more significance to Edith’s first showing up at his surgery, at the front door. This clearly is going to add a complication to his life, potentially a major complication, although I think we’re never sure of either his conscious or unconscious desires with respect to Edith.

    There’s another doorway scene with Louisa — when she appears at the door of the church in her wedding dress. That basically puts him back “on balance” as I think he had been half-expecting her not to show up.

    I think that Louisa is meant to be the catalyst that drives him to engage with life and emotions, in all their messiness and uncertainty and pain. When she shows up and he invites her in, that’s what he’s inviting. I wonder about the significance of those occasions when he does NOT invite her in, as when she shows up at his back door, pregnant. Her entrance is blocked by Edith, of course, and the fact that they have to have the ensuing conversation in the open air is probably stinging in itself. I think too of when she showed up at his back door, after Eleanor’s surgery, asking him to look after James, but I think also angling to be invited in so perhaps they could start to make up their rift. There was an opportunity for a potentially life-changing encounter that was let slip away, by both of them.

    Another thought is that he lives in a surgery. People, in all their messiness, and confusion and human-ness are always coming through that door, and each one may in some way be a challenge and jolt to his orderly, sterile existence. And they are meant to be.

    But — there’s another role for doors in the series, and that is to show the barriers between them. Chiefly, there’s the famous bathroom scene, where he cannot bring himself to say or do anything that might ask for Louisa to open it to him. Probably because he believes that she will reject him and he wants to spare them both that.

    There’s also the closed door to the pub, in the birth scene, which he finally works up the courage to burst through — a hugely symbolic moment (even if it didn’t eventuate in nearly as much as fans hoped).

    I also want to mention how unusual it is that the therapist walks out to the driveway to greet her arriving clients. Maybe she just has no anteroom where clients can wait. But it still seems a bit odd to me, and I wonder why it was done that way. Actually, she isn’t really set up to see many clients, in that there is no barrier between what little foyer she has and the consulting room itself, so pretty hard to hold sessions with any privacy at all if there was someone waiting!

    You and Laura are raising an interesting question about the power balance between them. In some ways, S5 and S6 showed power struggles, largely to be expected when people who marry for the first time, well past their youth and used to almost complete autonomy, try to merge their lives.

    But in S7, as it has played out in the first 3 episodes, Louisa has ALL the power. Martin has ceded it entirely to her. It is totally up to her whether, when and how they reconcile. And her exercise of it is not pretty, partly fueled by a lot of unacknowledged anger at him.

    I think she needs to see him become more equal in decision-making about their marriage, to take some strong stands sbout what HE needs from HER and ultimately to understand that even her undoubted thrall over him has limits, and that she could lose him. Right now, he’s taking whatever she hands out, with a good deal of dignity, but that probably isn’t going to last forever.

  8. Laura H

    Santa, I think you’ve added quite a lot to previous points. I took away from your comments more to think about..,thanks! For one thing, I have a new appreciation for–I’m guessing–what might be called staging…as to who appears at what door and how the encounter plays out and the possible “art” involved in the subtle nuances of where, when and how. As a sidebar, MC complimented Director Ben Bolt in a behind-the-scenes clip by saying the directir showed up with a scene already run through his head, which might mean kudos to him (and other directors) for these doorway inciting incidences…the impact of them possibly attributable to the director? Unlike Martin’s mother arriving out-of-the-blue formally at the front door, Eleanor is not seen arriving at the door but let’s herself in:)

    I wonder, too, about Dr. Timoney’s meeting both Martin and Louisa on their separate visits out front of her house. Are we to take from that both have equal experience on first meeting her…that we’re not going to get any feeling of favoritism on her part of either Martin or Louisa?

    I believe, too, that Dr. Timoney is seeing Louisa as the catalyst for working on Martin’s issues…perhaps attachment disorder, OCD and blood phobia, Louisa points out (problems to work on, she thinks, before the couple’s counseling.) Doubtful the Dr. can do anything about him eating fish:)

  9. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    You know I think doors and doorways have been used to great effect in this show. You may remember my posts from Jan. 30, 2014 and Feb. 6, 2014 that were called just that. In those posts I considered the doorways as threshold spaces that, once crossed, were a significant sign of transitions in the lives of these characters. I went through almost all of the doorway scenes, and there are many, and those that aren’t crossed are like barriers. However, here I’m looking at them as places where people appear without warning, which is why these scenes incite a re-evaluation of desires. It’s related, but not quite the same.

    Anyway, I agree that Edith’s arrival is quite momentous and throws his life into a tizzy, especially after Louisa reappears. The fact that he lives in a surgery and the nature of his job is to have people show up unannounced all the time is a good point. He’s always vulnerable to intrusions. But most of those patients don’t disrupt his personal life, although we could say Mrs. Wilson and Robert Campbell do. I think I would call those visits inciting incidents. Mrs. Wilson makes him think about being attractive to women and Robert Campbell reignites his blood phobia (and then threatens his aunt).

    I also agree that seeing Dr. Timoney waiting outside for Louisa was strange, and they chose to have Louisa meet the doctor very much like Martin had — she asks if the doctor is in and is taken aback when she finds out this young woman is the doctor. I don’t know why they would have chosen to do that except that, as you say, there isn’t much of a waiting area. I guess we could say that Dr. T really isn’t there to see patients, but to work on a book, and isn’t doing her writing in a place she would normally use in practice. I have had doctors come get me in their waiting rooms, but it’s certainly not common.

  10. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    I have to think that the use of doors and doorways is deliberate and well thought out. Maybe one director started it and it soon became a trope of the show. Yes, Eleanor doesn’t just arrive out of the blue; she literally barges in and even picks up the baby. Martin always leaves the kitchen door unlocked, although lately I’ve noticed they lock it at times, and Eleanor looks to have come in the front door. During office hours, the front door would be unlocked too. At any rate, having her enter as if she feels free to do as she pleases matches up with her general behavior. She is a woman who knows no boundaries.

    I love your idea of the therapist wanting to use Louisa as a catalyst for working with Martin. I don’t know how this works in marriage therapy, but playing off each of the members of the marriage probably is a means of getting to the crux of their problems. I’m sure it helps to see how they interact with each other, their body language and their eye contact, etc. I laughed when you listed his issues and concluded she can’t do anything about his diet. I guess that would be down the list of problems to deal with!

  11. Laura H

    Yes, Louisa’s objection to Martin eating a lot of fish has more to do, I think, with a point she angrily and a bit out of control makes or even throws out for added punch. Possibly, it is similar to her speech in S5E6 when she decides she doesn’t want red snapper, green beans and rice for supper,opting for an egg. As she says to him, the conversation is not about eggs:). Of course, she’s upset with him about the making decisions on his own. Maybe the fish has just become a symbol of that to her. When she includes a judgment that he has OCD, that one is a bit harsh, as she got a confession from Martin in the previous Episode that he doesn’t miss the tidiness of the house now that she is back…perhaps that is a bit unbelievable to her and not something she yet trusts. Martin is tidy, yes, but calling him OCD might be another extreme in the heat of anger. And what is she really angry about? To be fair, maybe Louisa has had it in her mind from S6 with Ruth’s giving Martin a recommendation of a therapist when the blood phobia has come back, that if that were fixed, all would be solved, and when she asks him whether the house is too small or maybe it is her, he says no. Possibly, she’s had it in her mind from that that she is off the hook…it’s all him. In Series 7, she’s mentally been thrown a curve ball that this too young a therapist is going to pin Martin’s problems on her. Not a good feeling. Looking at it this way, I’ve got a bit more respect for her in indeed “keeping an open mind.”

  12. DM

    My favorite incitements go all the way back to S1. They are employed right out of the gate out of necessity to move this story along, and reveal anything about the character of Martin Ellingham outside of his medical role. Without such doorstep incitements, how else would this withdrawn and reclusive character ever have any interactions to make for a story? Even several of the storylines in S1 are meant to isolate Martin’s character even further making the doorstep interactions necessary- and makes the persistence of Louisa’s character stand out that much more. It’s in S1 Haemophobia that Louisa’s doorstep incitement meant to reassure Martin that Peter was alright that quickly devolves into Martin’s self-pity for even trying to interact that Louisa challenges him only to incite his inveterate anger. But Martin’s very next scene demonstrates that she has incited more than anger, appearing in a passionately erotic dream.

    By the same token Martin’s ultra-phlegmatic character is meant to make Louisa seem overly reactive. Yet the scene in S7 of her redressing the nanny for getting herself locked out whilst James’ is in her care or the scene just before Sport’s Day in S6 with the dropped sports equipment don’t portray Louisa as temperamental or spiky by nature, but reasonable by my interpretation. These seem to me examples, to further appropriate McKee’s use of the verb, of Louisa’s behaviour in regards to Martin being incited by frustration.

  13. DM

    I think of Louisa’s S7E3 outburst of defensiveness as fairly “normal”. Let’s not forget what she endured in S6 as well as prior series where she was incredibly patient with the effects of his phobia and behaviours. Bear in mind too that a phobia, any phobia, is only determined to be as such when it significantly impacts the life of the sufferer. It is thereby fair to say that a surgeon or doctor suffering from haemophobia would be off the chart in terms of “significant impacts” (hence the programme’s raison d’être). Since family members living with a phobic in the real world endure a meaningful loss of Quality of Life, Martin would have been irresponsible, to say the least, to leave it so long untreated (not to mention dissonant with the rest of his character- which makes the fiction more interesting to watch).

    I like your sense of the fish comment, it’s humourous though it has some basis in the frustration it engenders when dealing with rigid and inflexible others. The OCD comment may be more of the same. However phobias and OCD are highly comorbid, meaning having a phobia there’s something like a 20x chance of having OCD as well. There are also categories of OCD, a variety of obsessions and a variety of compulsions, and a whole spectrum of disorder. Given Martin’s haemophobia and host of behaviours, any obsession would likely be of a “contamination” nature- if anyone were suggesting a diagnosis, which I wouldn’t and neither will the programme, I suspect.

  14. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    I think your position that Louisa may consider therapy essential to ridding Martin of his blood phobia, and then he would be more functional, makes a lot of sense. They start out S6 with a definite understanding between them. They both want to marry, Martin agrees to the one night excursion, they kiss lovingly and then have a nice conversation about when they first met during which Martin makes a joke. Even after the fireplace sends soot everywhere and they take off into the woods, we see them working together for the most part. They have some disagreements, but nothing serious. The next episode has them attending the school program together and agreeing to let Michael watch James. Then they agree that Dennis and companion are drunkards and morons. Despite the episode ending with Martin wondering if Louisa washes her hair frequently enough, the episode ends pretty well. Martin takes Louisa into his exam room before dealing with Dennis, which shows her preferential treatment. It isn’t until Robert Campbell shows up and Martin’s blood phobia returns that Martin becomes wrapped up in that to the detriment of their marriage, especially since he doesn’t tell Louisa. To any lay person, Ruth’s suggestion that he see a therapist about this recurrence of his phobia might mean that is the fundamental problem that, once solved, will return normalcy to the marriage.

    I’m glad you have more sympathy and respect for Louisa. I remain convinced that she has many good reasons to be acting the way she does and that they are meddling with our sympathies for the purposes of the story.

  15. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    OCD also frequently accompanies Asperger’s, although they haven’t wanted to go so far as to diagnose Martin with that. I think they shy away from making any specific diagnosis because that gets into an area they aren’t willing to engage with. As you say, Martin is generally able to function while afflicted with the phobia until S6. Now, in S7, he seems back to managing it fairly well. He still gets nauseated at the sight of blood, but he can carry on. It’s lost a little of its previous humor, but that’s to be expected after all these years.

    Don’t you think his character would want to find a solution to the phobia but would probably also hate to admit any problems that need therapy? He has a tendency to believe that he can figure it out and treat himself. Plus, he has a lot of disdain for therapy in S4 and for the therapist. This time he’s more motivated and she’s a much more appropriate choice. He previously tried to use the CD the first therapist sent to him, so he’s never been totally closed off to realizing he needs help.

    I like your point that family members of people with phobias suffer a loss of Quality of Life. One more reason to feel sympathy for Louisa! She loves a very complex man with quite a few psychological problems. She may give lip service to accepting people who don’t quite fit in, but she has discovered it’s not that simple.

  16. Laura H

    DM, good points about ME needing to address the blood phobia, though I’m needing insight as to how it impacts Louisa? If you mean a connection between the return of the phobia having a connection to his insomnia, as Ruth suggests in S6, I can see his negligence in not addressing it for Louisa’s sake if not his own? We may also get a bit of a drift that Louisa is somewhat embarrassed by ME’s throwing up on Penhale also

  17. Santa Traugott

    I think the problem with the blood phobia is not the phobia itself, but to Louisa’s mind, the idea that he did not share with her that it had returned, and how concerned he was about it. That was a huge violation of her expectations of what being married means — that there is sharing and intimacy. That’s what she’s really angry about, imo. And the anger covers a lot of hurt.

    But he’s beginning to be able to share more of himself with her, and she notices that, but probably is not quite able yet to fully trust it. Nor should she be.

  18. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    Don’t you think it’s both? She definitely resents not being told that the phobia has returned, but doesn’t she also think his mood is affected by it and getting it treated will resolve some of his difficulties?

    She is beginning to hear more about his childhood from him. So far we don’t see much reaction from her, but we may soon. We should!

  19. Santa Traugott

    Yes, I think that’s right. She may certainly think that the return of the blood phobia was the trigger to his difficulties, thus the first thing that should be fixed. And I think I would be angry also if my husband had a serious emotional problem that created difficulties between us, that he refused to accept proper treatment for.

    If he continues to drone on in that distant way about his childhood, I don’t see how she’ll pick up on it. But maybe. Somehow though, I don’t think that’s going to become a focus.

  20. DM

    The correlation between possible OCD-contaminants and blood injection-injury phobia does not mean, I believe, that in Louisa’s mind that the phobia is the threat which must be slain. Going back to S1 and what she learned and how she learned it in the back of that ambulance, some part of her response is emotional to all the emotional distress Martin has experienced after and since haemophobia first reared its ugly head and deprived him of “the one thing I’ve ever been any good at”. But some part of Louisa’s response since then, even as an intelligent layperson, is that the haemophobia represents an irruption of Martin’s psychological development. And that, in no small part, is the story that develops from Doc Martin.

    As far as Louisa’s response to “the return of the phobia”, I don’t imagine that she nor most viewers, considering how its “remission” was depicted, believed it had ever gone away. As Louisa knew less than we viewers, she took it on faith- her faith in Martin, that he’d done much more to facilitate a triumphant return to surgery. Louisa’s response to the blood phobia in S6 probably was not her embarrassment, but empathy for Martin’s embarrassment and the additional distress it causes this proud man who only wants to care for people, albeit their health care. Louisa would know too at a deep personal level, that Martin’s development and happiness entails a sense of belonging in the village and with at least some villagers, and anything contributing to Martin withdrawing even further would threaten his development (and their and their son’s development).

    I believe as Santa does, that Louisa’s response of dismay in S6 is felt as hurt, even justifiable hurt, now that they are married and with a child and that they are “in this together”: his development, her development, and James Henry’s development too. Let’s take note too that the development of Martin’s psyche and treatment for psychological “issues” is not meant to be a question of the blood phobia or not. His not seeking help when it first irrupted, not telling Louisa, or awaiting his midlife transition, or rather waiting to endure his descent into “blackness” and major depression is tantamount to a patient not telling his doctor-self of all of their symptoms or all the other drugs they’re taking lest there be any adverse reactions. These are all responses which Dr. Ellingham gives no quarter and suffers no fool which we are reminded of in every single series, including this one. That is no coincidence. The collective inanity of his patients, of the entire village, is reflective of his own personal inanity for not taking it on and the threat it represents to his and well-being, as well as his wife’s well-being, and his family’s well-being.

  21. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    DM, you have put a new perspective on this condition for me. Of course Martin explained when his haemophobia first appeared and the circumstances as he saw them. That should mean that Louisa can at least remind herself of when he was willing to confide in her and how it affected him. It should also be rather obvious to her that his childhood was problematic-she’s seen the picture of him as a 6yo and heard how he was sent away to school at a very young age and how difficult the trip to school was, and she’s met his mother and seen how awful she is. (I just have to mention here that to some degree the description of his means of getting to school by taxi, then a train, then a bus, or something like that, is somewhat humorous. That seems rather absurd when you think about it. Regardless, the point is that his parents cared so little about him they sent him on his own when he was very young.) What you’re saying is she really should be able to put all of this together and grasp how much damage has been done to his psyche and his self-assurance. So we really are supposed to look at his condition as brought on by his terrible home life as a child which then led to a paralyzing moment prior to operating on a patient when he was confronted by the fact that she was a member of a family, and a person with all sorts of relationships, and the surgery became impossible to perform. Perhaps being phobic of blood is only something he landed on after he couldn’t go through with the surgery. Am I getting close to how you’re looking at this?

    I like how much credit you give to Louisa for being concerned about how much the return of the haemophobia would embarrass him. I have frankly never looked at it that way, and I give Louisa more credit than many other viewers. I’ve always seen her as being mostly worried about how his behavior impacts her. I have also never thought he cared one iota how the townspeople look at him. He seems perfectly content to be known as an excellent doctor and someone who will treat any medical problem anywhere he has to go, but that socializing or interacting with the villagers is not of any interest to him. He only participates when Louisa wants him to.

    Her happiness depends on contact with others, or at least it used to. This series we don’t see much of that at all so far.

    My experience with doctors and how they treat themselves derives from being married to one and being surrounded by many. I would say their motto is “do as I say, not as I do” because so many of them don’t follow their own advice or knowledge about various symptoms. They are very much inclined to deny their own medical conditions, and some of our friends have paid the ultimate price for being so foolish. You are absolutely right to say that he is doing the same thing as the patients he often calls idiots when he doesn’t seek proper help for his phobia. That’s a great way to look at it and I missed that irony. It takes Ruth’s clearheaded declaration to him that he isn’t suffering from a medical problem to set him on the right path. Now he is concerned about his family’s well-being more than he is troubled by his haemophobia or anything else.

    If I followed what you wrote, that is a very new way to look at this show and its development over the 6-7 series. I have to say that I find it somewhat hard to think this was all part of the initial plan, but it’s a fascinating original idea!

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