What about Buddy?

In talking about Farce I realized I left out an important character — Buddy! His role in this show is so similar to the role of Bob in the 1991 comedy film What About Bob? that I just had to write something about the dog. Plus, we need to lighten up this blog!

If you’ve seen the film, you know that Bob (played by Bill Murray) is an obsessive patient who his psychiatrist (played by Richard Dreyfuss) cannot shake. Like Buddy, nothing Dr. Leo Marvin does can stop Bob from reappearing, including something he calls “death therapy,” or taking Bob to the woods and wrapping explosives around him with the express purpose of blowing him up. Of course, Bob escapes. But Bob never stops coming back and driving Dr. Marvin nuts. He never takes the “hint.” (BTW, that film is very funny and worth seeing.)

In Doc Martin we could call Buddy ME’s nemesis if we use its original meaning: “distributor of fortune, neither good nor bad, simply in due proportion to each according to what was deserved.” In mythology she is an avenging and punishing power of fate. Another meaning is “the just balancer of Fortune’s chance…and the punisher of hubris.” Nemesis is also “one from whom there is no escape.”

I am not going to make too much of this connection other than to say that Buddy fits the notion of the avenging and punishing power of fate by having landed in Joan’s possession. Once Joan brings him to Martin’s home (first where Louisa was living and then at the surgery) and he is introduced to Martin, the little dog gets attached to him. There is no escape.

We can attribute Buddy with all sorts of meanings, e.g. loyalty, determination, tolerance, doggedness. But maybe we should just think of Buddy as a cute ball of fur that is a constant irritant that never stops irritating. In S7 somehow Buddy manages to find his way into the back seat of the car and into ME’s cottage bedroom; he’s also constantly underfoot. We have no idea where he lives now and he surfaces mainly when Martin is nearby. He, too, has taken on a farcical nature. I don’t think we’ve ever seen Buddy as frequently in previous series as we do in S7, and no matter what the circumstance, Buddy avoids all efforts to discourage him.

The dogs have all been used for humor in this show, including the Yorkshire owned by Mrs. Wilson, and the German Shepherds owned by the Flints and, in this series, the Wintons. This time, however, Buddy’s strong attachment to Martin becomes a fixation. Anyone with a dog always craving so much attention would become fed up, especially since the dog is of no help whatsoever. He manages to find Martin at the Wintons, but disappears never to be seen again. He catches up with Martin only to be dropped from the rest of the action. I don’t think there’s a hidden message in how Buddy’s role plays out; he’s just completed his purpose in the series — a nuisance sprinkled with a soupçon of devotion.

Originally posted 2016-02-12 15:26:25.

17 thoughts on “What about Buddy?

  1. Santa Traugott

    Buddy did have one important line — he said Martin was lonely. 🙂

    Tons of people were upset about the attempted doggycide. I don’t know why, b/c it was perfectly clear that was never going to happen, but they were.

  2. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    I know I read those sorts of remarks too, even on this blog. I guess the slightest hint of anything approaching acts of sex or violence sets off silly reactions. It’s hard to imagine ME going through with a deliberate act of euthanasia on any living creature, although he did let Phil Pratt down when his wife died and he ran over Mrs. Wilson’s Yorky. Those cases were out of his control though. On the other hand, he was a pretty big jerk after Helen died!

  3. Laura H

    All good points about Buddy. Personally, even though somewhat exaggerated, Buddy’s appearances were a “feel good” for me, since he is an adorable pooch, and gave cause for quite a few laughs when he outsmarted his human friends and foes. Something that has always puzzled me is the dog picture that hangs in the waiting room of the surgery on the wall opposite Morwenna’s desk. Did it originate during Pauline’s tenure…more, why does the dog despising Doc tolerate it? Inquiring minds want to know. 🙂

  4. J.C. Lockwood

    Well I have sat out a few posts and it seems the feelings about S7 have intensified. I never thought S7 was as awful as all that. Essentially it suffered from flimsy story lines and plot twists that were a bit nonsensical. And I really did miss the romance (albeit teenage like) with Martin giving those heart breaking gazes letting us know that he loves Louisa to pieces without ever having to say a word.

    I also wonder how much the writers are just toying with the viewers by leaving so much undone and unanswered. Do they want us to be outraged and strung along before finally giving us the tiniest taste of what we are craving? For S7 the near euthanasia of Buddy and the possible divorce of DM and Louisa outraged and dismayed us all but as mentioned in other posts, we all knew deep down that neither of those things were going to happen.

    I’ll agree with the assessment that the show is just entertainment now. Maybe it is no longer worthy of viewer obsession. I am curious though what a series 8 will bring. But I doubt I will be sitting around waiting for that 1st episode 2 years from now. JC

  5. Santa Traugott

    I wonder if the problems we see in S7 aren’t at least partially attributable BP just having been to the well too often. That is, most of what’s happening with either plot developments or characters is no longer novel and the freshness, hence charm, of earlier series is just not there. It seems like the temptation to keep a good thing going, just that little bit too long, is irresistible even for a production company as sophisticated as BP. That’s why I (along with Karen and some others) think they should not have decided to go on for a S8, let alone S9. But, they may be able to change things up, especially if they get off the will they – won’t they path.

    Yes, I do think they want us to be outraged and strung along before giving us just a tiny taste of the closure for which we are craving!

  6. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    Well, I think your last comment is exactly the misstep in their decisions. They gave us an S6 that took these characters to new lows in such a short span of time (episode wise as well as supposed actual), created a Martin who appeared to be extremely depressed, unable to function very well at home; a Louisa who was baffled, extremely discouraged, and battered; scenes with Margaret that informed us somewhat more about the kind of damaged woman she is; and a Michael and Sally Tishell whose psychological problems suggested some potential methods of dealing with these issues. We were left to ruminate on all of the above as well as how they would resolve most of this. I didn’t think we could find enough to “talk” about for the two year wait, but we came up with all manner of topics during the break.

    After all the speculation and anticipation, we looked forward to a series that addressed much of the above, if not all. I, and I think many of us, expected the humor to return and Martin and Louisa to reunite, but not without at least some interrogation of the serious dilemmas they had been facing. Instead we go a total reversal of S6 with very little interrogation of any of the predicaments they had made so much of. They brought back the humor, but in a way that made us slap our heads in dismay. Now we’re confused by the drastic changes in approach and tone and feel let down as well as sort of double-crossed. We find the humor trite and repetitive, the development of each episode lacking in depth and quality, and the conclusion of the series too simplistic.

    What happened? If they are going to take two years off between series and only produce 8 episodes in each series, they are counting on a lot of loyalty from their viewers. From what I can tell on this blog, there will be a lot fewer members of the audience on 2017. Those of us on this blog are some of the most dedicated and dependable of their viewers, and we’re very unenthusiastic about future series. That says a lot.

  7. Brendan

    Regarding Buddy, I have a comment/question and it’s how he was used in the last episode of s7. There were multiple scenes where the viewer was led to believe that the dog would be instrumental in locating or even rescuing Martin from the Wintons. However, as the episode progressed, the Buddy theme was dropped. My question what was the point of using Buddy in the first place, since the writers had no intentions of really developing the story line? It almost seemed like Buddy was used as filler, which was unfortunate. Personally I think it would have made more sense to use the time spent on Buddy to close the gaps from episodes 7 & 8. For example; e7 ends with the message that Martin and Louisa’s relation has come to an end. But in e8 Louisa is viewed as really wanting to salvage her relationship with Martin. After re-watching e8, I’m still puzzled about what took place between these two episodes, especially regarding Louisa. Could I be missing something?

  8. mmarshall

    I’ve always loved the Buddy-ies in the series! I think the dog represents unconditional, unrelenting love and total acceptance without need of reciprocation. He never gives up, always offers his companionship and comfort whether it’s accepted or not, and seeks the best for those around him. Perhaps he is the embodiment of pure love that the other characters should aspire to emulate, that pure intent that they could access if they could get past their emotional and psychological blockages.

  9. mmarshall

    Now that I’ve read Marta’s lovely essay on “The Kindness Factor” in this show (Nov 2014) , I wish I had included kindness in the description of what Buddy offers: “helpfulness towards someone in need, not in return for anything, nor for the advantage of the helper himself, but for that of the person helped….”

  10. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    Brendan, the best I could come up with was that Buddy is another example of something farcical in this series. They get a kick out of having the dog around and decided to add him in as often as possible. However, he is also another example of a red herring, or storyline that leads nowhere.

    Your puzzlement about what might have transpired between E7&8 is something others have discussed on this blog, so you are not alone. First Martin’s ultimatum comes as a surprise because Louisa had just convinced him to accompany her to Dr. T’s office to hear what new recommendation she has for them. Next, we see them drive up to the surgery and Louisa act somewhat defeated after Martin tells her he can’t go on living like this. But the following scene is Louisa greeting Martin at the front door looking cheerful and happy to see him. She is looking forward to their dinner date that night. Then Dr. T appears, Louisa joins Martin in a sign of unity, and they agree that they won’t miss her. Go figure!

  11. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    You know, all of what you say about those values the dog represents is true, and we always postulated that the dogs were included for that reason. However, during this last series I began to suspect that Buddy was taking on a less significant role just as so many other characters did. Now he is more just a thorn in Martin’s side and not really functioning as anything other than that.

    Most of us are animal lovers and dogs are generally loved for their nonjudgmental devotion to their owners. We can just accept that as given. Of course the dogs are another way to make ME appear gruff, and that adds humor. It’s also funny to see the Yorky being taken home in the car and then being carried in a newspaper after getting crushed under Martin’s car; and the German Shepherds being stuffed as a gift or standing guard. At this point I’m not convinced we should go farther.

  12. Linda D.

    I thought the Buddy part in the last episode was really missing something. Here was that poor little dog doing his best to lead Penhale and Louisa to Martin only to be made fun of and dropped from the rest of the episode! We know he can run for miles so why didn’t he show up at the Winton’s or come dragging Martin’s bag in from the moor? I think acknowledgement from Martin in the form of a pat on the head or an “attaboy” as they sat watching the helicopter was warranted. The fans would have loved to see a change of heart on Martin’s part. It would have opened up a neat new storyline for Buddy too.

  13. Santa Traugott

    I think that it was kind of a joke — poking fun at conventions like Lassie, where the dog shows up and leads rescuers to the little boy down the well or something. Especially the moment when Buddy is trying hard to get Penhale’s attention, going around in circles. Penhale says “what’s that, boy…trying to tell us something?” and then laughs and gets into the car. I think that do that a lot on the series. Another example is Mrs. Tishell, vamping in the tower, with a scene from Romeo and Juliet. They sort of quote things, in order to poke a little gentle fun.

  14. Amy

    Isn’t Buddy in some way a reflection of what both Martin and Louis need and have never had? Unconditional love? And what does Martin do with that offer of unconditional love? Kicks it away just as he and Louisa both somehow push away the love each offers to the other. And yet like Buddy, they both keep coming back to each other for more.

    The day Martin actually pets the dog with affection will be the day he is ready to accept love from others as well. I’ve known many people who can bond with their pets much more easily than with people because the pet’s love is so unconditional. If you can’t trust your dog, how can you ever trust another human being?

    So maybe Buddy is just there for humor, but I’ve always seen the dog subplots as more than that. I admit to being a dog and cat lover, so perhaps it’s my biased perspective.

  15. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    Since you haven’t been able to read all the posts and comments yet, I’ll note that what you say about Buddy has been said before, and it’s certainly a factor. This particular post was meant to throw in another point about Buddy and about how S7 became farcical by the last episode. S6 had been so serious and dark that I think they wanted to lighten things up in S7 and may have gone too far and become farcical in many ways.

    Martin Ellingham will never hug Buddy or any dog unless they change his general demeanor, and I don’t expect them to do that because that is the essence of the show. He may become softer towards Louisa, however, although nothing approaching the overt affection some viewers wish for. That would again be out of character, and they don’t plan to ever “fix” him. I wouldn’t want them to!

  16. Amy

    OK, I’ve not had a chance to read all the comments or even all the posts. Just going through a few at a time.

    Thanks.

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