In several interviews over the years Martin Clunes predicted that Martin Ellingham will be an appalling father. I suppose it makes for good copy to describe the Doc as grumpy, brusque, unsociable, and also likely to be a terrible father. However, the evidence from the show really belies that prediction. Maybe the problem is mostly due to semantics because appalling is a strong word and MC was being hyperbolic when he used it. Also, he may not have seen the scripts for series 5 by that time. Nevertheless, series 5 shows Martin Ellingham to be anything but an appalling father.
Throughout series 5 I couldn’t help noticing the many occasions when ME is willing to join L in the care of their baby. We know that the baby cries a lot at night, not only keeping M and L awake, but also making enough noise to bother many of the villagers. Louisa complains about not getting enough sleep and not being able to think straight, and she is up with the baby more than Martin; however, it’s Martin who takes the baby for a ride in the car one early morning to try to calm him, and the only evidence that he is feeling any ill effects from lack of sleep is when he asks Mrs. T for some paracetamol (or analgesic). Martin also has no hesitation in taking care of the baby when L goes out with her friend one night. He changes the baby’s diapers regularly and even takes care of him when Mel, the childminder, gets mad and leaves. From the earliest moment, ME is shown holding the baby, taking the baby with him to Joan’s house and letting L take a nap, allowing L to have a lie-in while he takes JH to have breakfast with Ruth, and running around town holding the baby because he can’t find anyone else to care for him. There are some times when ME and L clash over who should take the baby and whose job takes precedence when the day begins, but these are common problems with working couples and give us a knowing chuckle. I got a kick out of seeing ME’s method of carrying the baby because it was new to me and it seems to work very well. (Truth be told, I also laughed when ME is changing JH’s diaper and leaves him on the floor without a diaper so he can go get some cream. In my experience with male babies, you better cover them with something if they’re not wearing a diaper or you are in for a serious dousing.)
I don’t know whose idea it has been, but there’s rarely a time when JH is nearby that ME doesn’t touch him in some way – hand, foot, head. He also shares the duties of keeping JH when L can’t take him to school after they briefly separate, and he doesn’t object to dressing JH from time to time. In short, he is a caring, involved, nurturing father and never forgets about his son no matter what is happening. Mike needs to leave, ME takes JH; L has a car accident, ME takes care of JH; L needs an emergency operation, ME takes him in his car seat and remembers to tell Penhale to take JH to Ruth. He may have some trouble with the toys in the kitchen and the children’s songs on the radio, but that is pretty minor. He’s not thrilled to take JH to the music group, but it’s generally rare to find Daddys in those groups and he does it after all. I’ve seen men in those settings, although the ratio of women to men in those classes is probably 10 to 1.
All in all, ME’s fathering is exemplary rather than appalling and another way in which he is unlike his father. He may become demanding of JH as he grows older, but I would be surprised if he ever yells at him over something as insignificant as excitement over a captured butterfly, as we know his father did when he was young. He is also unlike his mother who is uncomfortable holding JH close or feeding him. What has actually happened is that JH is a very important part of the relationship between ME and L, and ME doesn’t want to lose L or JH. Despite the extra hub-bub at home, ME is very attached to JH and we see him relating to him on a very intimate basis several times, not the least of which is when he tells him he’s “sorry about all this” in the final episode. Any concern L had that ME would not want a child has been dispelled by the way ME treats his son from birth through his first 9 months.
Originally posted 2014-01-13 01:00:43.