The title of E5 is Control-Alt-Delete, and there’s no question that control is a major theme in this episode. Martin and Louisa are still jostling for control in their relationship; he has lost the little control over his living arrangements he had when a new neighbor moves in and bothers him; and Buddy continues to follow him everywhere. In fact, Buddy is the default for him in trying to regain some control and almost suffers the utmost penalty for it. But even here Martin gives in to Louisa’s demand that he abort his decision to euthanize Buddy, which leads to Martin seeking the help of an animal rescue person. Alas, she can’t control Buddy either and he is forever finding a way to escape and return to Martin. He’s the one living creature that won’t give up on Martin no matter what Martin does to him.

However, these three keys of the keyboard have more meaning than we might suspect. In terms of their use on a keyboard, they are the way to reboot a PC computer and were originally chosen so that techies working on computers wouldn’t mistakenly reboot a computer when they were working on it. So the keys one has to depress to reboot are not all located near each other. It requires making an effort to hit the correct keys to begin a reboot.

What does it mean to reboot something? We generally reboot our devices when there has been a malfunction and rebooting and restarting will return the device to proper order. It works with TVs, cars, as well as computers; pretty much anything that is mechanical. If we follow that scheme for this episode, and possibly for the series, we can see that there are a number of occasions when either relationships are rebooted or decisions are rebooted, i.e. they are reconsidered and reset. (As an aside here, I want to note that TV shows are also rebooted and this can mean the restarting of a series storyline that discards all previous continuity. We may need that in this show soon.)

In this episode Martin and Louisa try to turn around their relationship by having Louisa be in control of an activity. IMO she has taken control to a great extent already; nevertheless, this time it is she who has been told to make plans and Martin is required to follow them. Although we may consider her periodic “jokes” she makes to Martin a sign that she is being unkind, one effect of her joking is that he is put off balance by them. This time she first explains to him that she has chosen to throw a party and wants him to introduce himself to everyone because they may not have met him yet. He looks quite petrified at this suggestion, but since she has no real plans for a party of that kind, he is relieved to learn that her actual plan is a picnic on the beach. For me, her strategy of switching the party to a day at the beach is somewhat ingenious because a day at the beach sounds much more appealing to him in comparison to a party. (I would have thought she might have wanted to go on a picnic in a more secluded spot, but this is a TV show and they need the interface with a variety of other members of the community. Also, Louisa wants Martin to be more socially active in the village.)

When Louisa arrives at Martin’s door to start their outing, Martin tries to exert control by having made his own picnic food and Louisa is immediately disgruntled and tempted to call the date off. However, they reboot and Martin puts away his picnic basket while Louisa reassesses and continues with the date. Ultimately, of course, many interruptions occur and the date is anything but a nice family outing. Nevertheless, Louisa recognizes that there are certain circumstances that demand Martin’s intervention and he both protects her and James from wild and crazy Angela as well as getting to the bottom of Angela’s mental breakdown. In the end, Louisa acknowledges that she was glad he took control of that situation. They’ve rebooted but not really reset.

As a byproduct of this scenario, Angela learns that medicating herself with animal antibiotics is not very smart. On the other hand, she concedes that she will probably do it again because that is what vets often do. Reboot; no actual change.

The major reboot in this episode is the one between Clive and Sally. Here we have Clive literally telling Sally that he wants to start over and doesn’t want to know anymore about what’s happened in the past. Basically he’s saying he wants to do a “hard” restart, and act as though their relationship is new. He loves her and wants to do everything he can to convince her he’s sincere. She, in turn, responds by reconsidering her actions, chucks the casserole she had prepared for Martin despite his objections, and jettisons the casserole containers she has been storing. She appears to have made a decision to end her obsessive behavior and restart her marriage with Clive. We are all glad to see that happen!

Another pair who reboot their interaction is Ruth and Bert. At the beginning of the episode Ruth has given Bert notice that he must vacate her property. Finding out that he has an illegal still in his van gives her even more motivation to ask him to leave. However, later in the episode Bert brings her a sample of the whiskey he’s been brewing, she tastes it and decides it has promise, and soon she is giving Bert another two weeks to remain on her farm.

We might include Al and Morwenna renewing their personal connection, and we can probably add that Martin’s discovery that Kelly has seizures and not ADHD reboots the approach she should take towards her symptoms.

While watching this episode, and because it’s the episode that I walk through and that I watched while they filmed, I noticed they use several scenes twice. The two that stood out to me are when Martin walks down the alley toward the harbor and when he drinks a cup of coffee in the morning prior to leaving for work. They also repeat with little change the scene where Ruth talks to Bert outside his van. I’m just guessing here, but they may have edited this episode to essentially reboot certain scenes.

I find it is critical that Buddy is the one part of this episode that can’t be rebooted. He not only represents Martin’s lack of control over his life, but also how some situations resist rebooting. He exhibits dogged determination (pun intended). It’s hard to imagine that Angela can’t keep him from getting away from her so many times, especially in the final scene. But there he is running up the hill towards the surgery with Angela following. Buddy’s hounding of Martin is emblematic of his devotion. Rather than be put off from Martin, Buddy will not be deterred.

Much needs to be rebooted between Martin and Louisa. It’s a good metaphor for where their marriage is at this point.



Originally posted 2015-10-29 11:56:15.

30 thoughts on “Reboot

  1. Doris

    I think Reboot is a fitting title here, because this is what Louisa and Martin are attempting to do with Dr. Timoney. I’ll talk about that later. First I would like to discuss a few topics from E5.

    The dog formula is wearing thing. It was funny in S1 & S2, especially with the scenes where Martin is curled with the dog while asleep. The Scene where he is dreaming about Louisa sitting on him and caressing him was cleaver and funny. Then the scene following his drinking night with Louisa (S2 E 8) with him on the floor curled up with the dog was also funny and cleverly directed. But the scene, in which he’s attempting to euthanize Buddy, is not funny. In fact, I’m sure there are people who watched this that was put off by it. I had to ask myself what the writers were thinking about.

    Then there was the scene, in which Martin starts starring at a teenage girl’s body while sun bathing. Again the writers were reusing the same type of scene from S1. This first time you see it, it’s funny, but not the second time. Also, why did they have the picnic on a crowed beach and not on one the bluffs in Portwenn? It would have been nice to have the picnic at the same location where Louisa had her earthquake dream (S2 E1). I guess the writers needed this for the Vet’s psychotic breakdown scene.
    Overall I thought E5 was the weakest of the S7 episodes. It looks as if the script was written to accommodate Caroline Quentin. This would have been ok, provided that more effort was made regarding Louisa & Martin’s issues and needs. It seems that Louisa’s and Martin’s issues keep getting pushed back, almost as a side line. Since the heartbeat of the Doc Martin series is their relationship and their struggles, I don’t understand why the writers do this.

    Now to get back to the theme of rebooting relationships; the subject of episode 5. By definition, rebooting means to restart something at a known baseline. I agree that the Clive & Sally relationship is one that needs rebooting. Clive shows up out of the blue and wants to rejuvenate his relationship with Sally. Despite the fact that Sally is weary, she is at least willing to give it a try.

    Regarding Louisa & Martin, Louisa Dr. Timoney suggests that Martin’s blood issue is really a control issue. One thing I feel is lost here is that Martin is by profession a surgeon, a highly specialized and demanding field in medicine. I think it is not unusual for people in these high impact professions to have some arrogance. They probable need it. Not every doctor can be a surgeon, just like not every pilot can be a fighter pilot, or an astronaut. The life of a surgeon is much more stressful and I think requires a certain level of emotional detachment, to be successful. In Martin’s case he was a top surgeon, from a prestigious hospital. This one fact appears to be lost in these counseling sessions. I would have thought or hoped that Timoney would have related this to Louisa. Something like “Louisa, Martin is a gifted person and was one of the leading surgeons in London, he can’t be expected to act like an everyday villager”, or “Martin may never be the man/husband you envisioned”. Actually, it was the stress of surgery that initiated his phobia in the first place. Instead he is told that his problem is control and he needs, in essence, to yield to her plans, which he has already done. But I think Louisa needs to come to grips with this, since this has been one of the stumbling blocks. Does Louisa see and accept Martin for who he really is? That’s the question that keeps getting missed. Just my opinion.

  2. Linda D.

    No. Louisa does not always see Martin for who he is. She is intrigued by him and finds him extraordinary. She is attracted to him and falls deeply in love with him. But, there are many things that stand in the way of appreciating his many good qualities and remembering why she fell in love in the first place. She has been in such denial her whole life, about who SHE is, that her M.O. is to try to control and change others to become sort of the fairy tale characters of her dreams. She went through a lot in her growing up and in order to survive the pain and sadness of not being cared for by her own parents, she made up her “normal as you like” version to share with others. Projecting herself as a well educated, respected, and competent person was how she created her persona. And she IS many of these things – much to her credit. She has learned not to trust or count on others and builds walls as defence of being hurt. She needs to feel in control. Trying to change Martin is one way she tries to achieve this control. Of course, we know so much more about each of them than they know about each other. This has been very problematic and has been the basis of many of their “rows”. Tensions between them have often been caused by their perceived differences. Poor communications between them is legendary. Re-booting their relationship will require leaving the past behind and gaining the desire to move past all the unpleasantness, misunderstandings, and mis-cues, to begin a life where they just enjoy each other and their little boy. They must forge ahead building trust and finding ways to be a family – away from constant interruptions and prying villagers. They need to learn to be empathetic listeners and drop the judgment and criticism. They need passion and loving gestures to communicate their true love for each other and for James.

  3. Post author

    Welcome back Linda! I appreciate your remarks but have to say that the sort of intercourse you would like to see is not likely to happen in this show. Martin and Louisa can improve their communication skills to a certain extent, but they will never get along without conflicting often because that is the basis for the show. What I want to see is an end to the will they/won’t they stay together dynamic and move on to the many marital tensions that can take us back to addressing the common issues marriage entails, and having children entails.

  4. Paul

    Doris makes an interesting assertion regarding Doc Martin. That is, he is by profession a brilliant surgeon (one of the top vascular surgeon). I agree with Doris that his profession makes him unique from a rather doctor and certainly makes him different from the Portwenn GP stereotypes. He is by far head and shoulders above the previous GPs. Frankly; he is wasting his talents being a GP in a small village. Does Louisa appreciate the fact that he was willing to throw away the opportunity at restarting his career as a surgeon (at a prestigious hospital), for her? Additionally; he grew up in a type of aristocratic family, which is another reason why he doesn’t fit in very well with the village population. This is not to say Louisa had no grounds to feel hurt and angry by Martins behavior in S6. However I didn’t see much support from Louisa when it came to the return of his blood phobia either. She questions him about it, asks him if she is the reason for the re-occurrence. But nothing in the conversation suggests her willingness to work or help him through it. She merely tells him to call the psychiatrist.

    Finally using the reboot metaphor, it now looks that Louisa wants to re-calibrate Martin to her own settings before any rebooting takes place.

  5. Santa Traugott

    Let’s see — I don’t know quite how far to carry this analogy — she’s Android, he’s iOs? Mac vs. PC? it certainly seems that level of incompatibility. 🙂

    It’s always seemed to me that a man who had, after all, freely given up a return to a setting and career far more suited to him and with which he was far more comfortable, got pretty short shrift from a wife who was willing to leave him a a few bad weeks (because, folks, that’s what they were — they couldn’t have been married for more than 3-4 months, and the first part of that was apparently OK enough) and can’t make up her mind whether or not to take him back. I honestly cannot understand what she is thinking, if she is even thinking at all. He should live in the village as her ex-husband and share custody of James Henry? perhaps stand by while she marries again? Nothing he’s done adds up to enough to merit a second chance? a free pardon and a willingness to start over?

    She would find, I think, that pride and hanging on to grudges are pretty cold comfort over the long haul. I’m pretty sure it won’t get that far, though.

    Yes, she does want to change him to her “settings” particularly the ones reading sociability with villagers, tolerance for noise and disorder, balance of power within the household, etc. Eventually, she’ll have to choose between this fantasy Martin and the real one she can have. Unless and until he decides he’s had enough.

  6. Post author

    Well, this post certainly went in a direction I wasn’t expecting! I never thought we would go down the road of computer terminology. But, that’s part of the fun of writing these posts.

  7. J.C. Lockwood

    More thoughts on EP 5:

    I am enjoying reading the various perspectives on DM characters. I will add a word about the short therapy scenes. I actually find them to be helpful to give viewers a precursor to the episode. I believe longer therapy scenes might bore us as viewers and complicate the episodes and the narrative of the show. It is good that we see one issue for Martin and Louisa to work on during each show. In ep5 we see Dr. Timoney explore the issue of control with Martin and Louisa and that theme plays out in the show. Martin is controlling. Louisa is defensive. How will they manage to grow as a couple without making an effort to break those patterns? The title of the episode indicates a movement toward reboot/ reset for the couple and other characters in the show. I felt that was set up at the end of ep. 4 with themes revisited from earlier episodes when the couple first connected.

    On to the role of Buddy and what he symbolizes in the show. Martin has had a dog at his side from the start of the show back in 2004. When the first black dog died (in real life) he was quickly replaced by Buddy brought to Martin by his Auntie Joan. I believe that Buddy is a metaphor for Martin. Martin has nothing but disdain for the dog and is constantly running from him. Buddy represents Martin’s contempt for himself and his attempt to escape from himself. Ruth, the first therapist Martin saw(name?) and Dr. Timoney have mentioned these themes to Martin before. Perhaps this has been commented on earlier in the blog but the importance of having a dog present for all 7 series and Martin hating it more and more… and never warming to it seems to be a major theme through out. His constant attempts to get away from it, fighting it, disgusted by it, trying to get rid of it, killing it. That is Martin all over. The funny side of it all is that the actor Martin Clunes is an absolute dog lover. So kudos to him for handling the acting so well. Looking forward to the final 3 episodes but I do want to know how the writers are gonna get this couple back together in the time they have left and make it somewhat realistic. -JC

  8. DM

    The chronology for Martin’s character is that for years he apparently did nothing to address his haemophobia after he’d exiled himself to Port Wenn until he tries to face a bloody cow’s heart and liver and the blood pricked from his own finger. In S4 he forces himself to nearly tolerate a fraction of one whole session with a therapist, listens to some “Berlitz-like” lessons on CD to recertify as a vascular surgeon in 8-easy lessons, and then begins to attempt to desensitise himself to the sight of blood. Since being “cured” as such, we are repeatedly assured by his confident face replete with nausea and disgust that he is again ready to cut up bodies again and deal with all the exigencies of the operating theatre until we are made to believe from the appearance of his more so nauseated and even more disgusted face that his phobia has “returned”.

    How can Louisa fail to support Martin in those efforts? I’m puzzled too.

    I appreciate that neither the haemophobia nor its treatment are presented in any realistic way by the programme, even for a phobia, let alone one as unique as blood-injection-injury phobia. Nonetheless, would Dr. Ellingham, even at his most empathetic, countenance a patient for not attending to a treatable condition by which their quality of life suffers for so much as a persistent rash? I think not. Any realistic efforts at therapy, now that Martin has finally smacked himself through that doorway, would include his own separate parallel sessions, not just to explore at depth the issue of the blood phobia, but the patterns of behaviour from S6, and all the well established patterns since childhood. Even then, no real therapist would immediately dismiss any insight Martin might volunteer for the its origins as depicted and conclude instead its cause was “control issues”.

    Of course the programme is not about realism, but if it were, I for one can imagine Louisa’s character doing all she can to help and support Martin to resolve his haemophobia. But portrayed as it is, it’s hard to imagine any partner, whatever their qualifications, of being able to do much when the issue remains so nebulous for the phobic himself- let alone one whose offer of help from any quarter is always so unwelcome.

    I’ve contended that the core theme in Doc Martin is of self-identity. The relationship between Martin and Louisa that garners our focus, is forever storm-tossed and at risk of foundering because the relationship still lacks any solid moorings in self-identity. You’ve noted yourself the distinction, the prestige, the “duty” not to waste his talents, the familial “obligation” that attends being a brilliant surgeon. That collective perception is the sort of reason an individual might subsume his entire identity in order to “be” a surgeon, let alone someone we understand growing up unloved and awkward, who didn’t fit in at home or at school and garnered no attention from nearly anyone but for his clumsiness, unsociability, and being funny-looking.

    Bear in mind too that the story we’ve been given would seem originally to be that Martin wasn’t just a surgeon by profession; Martin wasn’t even Martin then, he was a surgeon. By this I mean his whole psychological identity was of a surgeon (we don’t even know if this identity was largely imposed by his narcissistic father or his mercenary mother). The story is that the haemophobia irrupted into the consciousness of a vascular surgeon thereby releasing himself from being merely a top surgeon with the chance now to be himself (and to have any profession he wants, including as a surgeon). Becoming a GP instead, it seems, was just another way he himself liminally found to evade that central issue. That, at least, is my interpretation based on the psychological narrative for the story being told: Martin is its Hero and his quest is to discover himself, and Louisa is his steadfast Inspiration.

  9. Santa Traugott

    This is indeed a Quest story — maybe I would put it as a quest to discover the split off and buried parts of himself, and reintegrate them, so that he can be the person he was meant to be — his authentic self.

    Sometimes I have thought the quest was for the Maiden or Princess, which, like many quest stories, he would find, then lose by his own flaws, then finally find again, this time for good.

    But maybe there is a blend of the two, in which it is Louisa who both represents the split off parts of the Self, but also, if he is to be with her, he has to find and integrate those parts of his buried self which can tolerate intimacy and warmth.

    A Doc Martin friend, who is a minister, likes to look at this as a story of redemption, and maybe the above is another way of saying that.

  10. Post author

    I feel forced to respond to your comments even though I am neglecting to respond to previous ones first because you pinpoint some key failures of both the character development and of the therapy in this show. I want to say immediately that I plan to write a lot more about the therapy, which I wholeheartedly believe is woefully lacking and extremely misleading in this series. I will look forward to any contributions you can make to that post when I’m ready to publish it. Of course the first therapist was even worse than the one we have in S7; however, the first attempt was a one-off and this one is supposed to be possibly seven weeks long. Naturally the desensitization method that was mostly self-administered failed. Those efforts are rarely successful. Not only that, but the show depends to a great extent on Martin having a blood phobia. It is ironic, humorous, incongruous, and responsible for much of his embarrassment in the village. To me it was a well-chosen problem for him to have and worked well for the scheme of the show overall. When they turned his blood phobia in S6 into something that became overwhelming to him and took him into a major depression, I was disconcerted because we were being asked to form our own conclusions about what led to that. We went from the first episode during which he is able to be spattered with blood that is spraying out of a nicked carotid artery, finds a way to temporarily stop it, and walks casually up a dirt road with the blood covered man as well as a blood soaked wife with no difficulty at all, to E3 when the sight of blood brings on the nausea he thought had been conquered. Is it being married and the stresses that coincide with that? Is it simply the nature of a phobia that was never properly treated and dealt with? As you say, “neither the haemophobia nor its treatment are presented in any realistic way by the programme,” and this despite all the protestations that medical conditions must be presented accurately on British TV. (Maybe they don’t see psychological dysfunction as a medical condition.)

    The next thing I have to agree with is the strange way Louisa’s behavior is portrayed. She worries over his disappearance in the woods when he’s looking for Mark; she expresses sympathy when Mrs. Wilson slaps him; and she is generally depicted as caring and sympathetic towards others. In S6, however, she expresses very little concern and, as you say again,”it’s hard to imagine any partner, whatever their qualifications, of being able to do much when the issue remains so nebulous for the phobic himself.”

    Now we are in S7 and Martin is no longer depressed nor is his blood phobia nearly as problematic. In fact, he’s essentially back to where he was when we first met him. He balks at the sight of blood and gets somewhat nauseated, but carries on and completes all procedures with hardly any trouble at all.

    We could argue that keeping things consistent isn’t a requirement of a dramedy, and that’s a fair point. But it’s hard to take anything seriously if the characters aren’t consistent, and I always thought we were supposed to consider this show as using comedy to address some truly pertinent philosophical questions about family, marriage, women’s issues, etc. That’s what got me so interested in watching the show.

    I’m not sure if the core theme is self-identity, but if it is, that’s a fairly profound subject and psychological in nature. So are we watching a show that wants to address weighty topics by using humor, or are we now watching a show that has given up on that? When they brought in therapy sessions, they must have known that we would expect to see those sessions do something of value for this couple. To a great extent, IMO, the most important thing therapy has done for them is to force them to spend an hour together each week. But we only see a few minutes of each hour, and we know nothing of what has taken place in those sessions apart from what we’ve been shown. For those viewers in the UK, this series is about to end and I doubt very much that there will be a realistic, or even pseudo-realistic, representation of how Martin has discovered himself.

  11. Santa Traugott

    Too true, Karen. As far as the show is concerned, Martin’s therapy took place on that hillside with Aunt Ruth, and the rest of whatever changes he made or will make are based on that moment of illumination. The therapy turns out to be a device to prod Louisa off of her little island of pride, stubbornness and unwillingness to compromise (as Caroline Catz described her). This is likely building to a similar moment of illumination for Louisa, at least about the nature of her feelings about Martin. After which, things will be as fine as they can be with our couple.

    Those of us who have had to do with a mental health profession are disappointed in the way therapy is portrayed, but since therapy is mostly talking, and this series is mostly showing, not telling, I don’t think we could really have expected very much from their depiction of therapy.

  12. Post author

    I find your thoughts on Buddy very interesting. For me they go too far in terms of projecting a lot onto Buddy. To a great extent I always put more emphasis on the comedic value of various actions than on the hidden meanings. I am willing to believe that MC came up with his character disliking dogs simply because he thought it would be funny and because this doctor is angry at everyone and everything and it follows he would dislike dogs. Because the British are extremely fond of dogs, as are Americans and people throughout the world, being hateful towards a dog sets Martin Ellingham outside the norm even insofar as something as basic as that.

    We are all wondering how the ending of this series will be believable enough for all of us to accept it. We don’t have long to wait!

  13. Post author

    Santa, you’re probably right that they used therapy as a device, and it works from that standpoint. I am disappointed anyway because using therapy in this manner is devaluing it and even mocking it. We could say that the assignments are a way of turning the talking into action, but being given a different assignment each week with little discussion about its impact during the next session takes it into the realm of absurdity. “How did it go?” “Not well.” “So let’s try this then.” And now that we’ve tried several assignments over a period of seven weeks, all being reported as having been failures, let’s just call the marriage off. That won’t be considered a failure.

    If you remember, “The Sopranos” showed Tony Soprano in therapy, and it was a great addition. It was very funny to think a gangster was struggling with his conscience, then he had some visions of having sex with the therapist (a good example of transference), and finally, after several years, the therapist figures she’s not getting anywhere with him. And she isn’t. Those scenes showed them talking, and their trouble understanding each other, and what the goal of therapy was supposed to be. It was useful to the storyline. Other shows have used it to good effect too. It can be done, and I am sorry it wasn’t here.

  14. Linda D.

    This is EXACTLY right Paul. That has been the crux of the problem from the beginning. She has not really appreciated that he has been forced to give up a lot because of his blood phobia and has not appreciated his latest efforts to change for her. he has sacrificed a lot for her. It has not been the same in her case because she is too busy trying to have the upper hand to realize what is truly happening with Martin. Even though he has been a difficult man to live with, he deserves better.

  15. DM

    I very much look forward to those pending posts, as indeed for all the topics you choose to delve into. I may perhaps have one more comment on this one still, should time allow. I do hope that no one was truly mislead by the portrayal of the therapy sessions is S7 or what might be accomplished in a mere 7 fifty-minute joint sessions spread over 7 weeks, even if “in therapy”, most of the actual therapy happens outside of “therapy”. I believe you and I are in agreement that the depiction here was ultimately meant to serve the exigencies of the storytelling.

    Most of my other comments there were meant to outline Martin’s resistance to resolving his blood problem no better evidenced by the fluctuations you recite, from acute to subclinical. The fact that it remains is to remind us viewers that he has yet to truly confront it (and not last season’s kettle of red herrings being related to Louisa, marriage, the baby, clutter, noise, personal-space, etc.). The rest were meant to argue my belief that it’s untenable to suggest Louisa should know just how to grab this particular bull by its horns on Martin’s behalf- especially, I would add, as she’s been scripted (for the most part understandably) into a defensive position, though I would argue that that position is anything but unsympathetic to Martin.

    You make a good point which I almost included in my last comment: there’s a very good reason the writers didn’t ascribe to Martin cynophobia (a fear of dogs) rather than haemophobia (psychological and narratively). It’s imperative for the story and as tantalisingly imperative for his identity.

    Speaking of haemophobia and therapy… someone sent me this link this past week of a timely little video on the subject that your readers and Doc Martin fans may find humourous (PG-13?):

  16. Linda D.

    Absolutely spot on Karen. The “will they, won’t they” is well worn out and in my view, they WILL decide to be together. We can’t continue with that any longer. The meaty issues will be HOW they forge ahead on a NEW PATH and it will be an opportunity to bring in some great storylines about the trials of everyday family life that everyone can identify with – IF there is a Series 8. I REALLY hope there is but have my doubts it will happen. There is a place for more great comedy than has been the case in Series 6 and 7. I just did not feel that the “schtick” in Series 7 was appropriate nor improved it in anyway. I was actually frustrated by it and about the “drop in” or “drop back in” characters who took a lot of time away from the central issues and added nothing great to the story. Martin hitting his head, slipping down ladders, or falling over Bert’s tools just seemed like useless fluff to me. All the members of the cast, but especially him, have capacity for really funny stuff but first they need to clear away some of these heady issues and get past them.

    I want the tables to turn for Martin and Louisa too. I want HER to start being HIS best friend and supporter and to show him that SHE will do anything for HIM. That would include wanting sincerely to help him overcome the blood phobia and being willing to help him return to be a surgeon. It would mean teaching him to be a better husband and father and learning how to be a better wife. I want both of them to be closer and more affectionate and for there to be more family time for James. Surely, they see a need to break their patterns to give him a better life than they had!

    I want to see all the other characters progress in their storylines too. There is much that could be done there!

    Fingers crossed for Episode 8 and prayers for Series 8!

  17. Santa Traugott

    Two comments about the blood phobia: it has always interested me that, as someone presumably well connected in London medical circles (and even presumably with an HR department at his hospital) he apparently did not attempt treatment for his blood phobia before relinquishing his career and moving to Portwenn. There are treatment protocols for phobias (and were even then) that have a pretty good success rate.

    I don’t think the creative team thought there was a reason to think of a back story about that, and I can’t spin a hypothesis about what this avoidance of treatment speaks to about him in our story, but as a therapist. I would be thinking about that. Of course, it may be as simple as that he quite rightly suspects, as most people do, that desensitization/exposure treatments involve actually exposing yourself to the feared stimulus. But as a doctor, he’d be exposed to it one way or the other anyway… so why not deal with it, in some committed fashion?

    The other point is that I was initially quite exercised by how Louisa fastened on the blood phobia as what he needed to be working on. But from her point of view, it was with its reappearance that things started to go downhill, and she may be assigning it a large role in their problems (with which I don’t agree, by the way). I think it was his reaction to its reappearance, which was his withdrawal from her and attempted concealment, that did the real damage.

    But secondly, it may be that she thinks that his willingness to deal with this issue would indicate an important change in him, and that its actual disappearance would be a marker of major change, sufficient change so that she could trust in the resumption of their marriage.

  18. Post author

    I would suspect that there was no effort to come up with a reason the blood phobia wasn’t treated in London. They (possibly Dominic Minghella) knew how odd (and humorous) it would be for a vascular surgeon to have a blood phobia and never felt it was necessary to think about what someone with those circumstances would do to overcome it. They simply needed a reason for him to move to Portwenn. We are the ones reaching back in time to try to make some sense of why the phobia wasn’t addressed prior to leaving London. Arriving in Portwenn with a blood phobia makes him a laughing stock among the villagers, makes us laugh because he has to face bleeding of all kinds as a GP, and now it’s been positioned as a major factor in his marital problems. They seem to drag it out whenever they need something to animate the plot.

    When it comes to Louisa, most of the time when Martin shows signs of appearing repulsed by blood, she offers to help. His explanation of how the phobia started is what brought them together initially; now it threatens to tear them apart. I would suggest that her emphasis on it is a smokescreen to avoid dealing with the real issues and is being used as something she can point to as a condition he has been struggling to overcome for years. The writers, et. al. brought it front and center during S6 and now they are kind of stuck with it. They’ve already reduced its importance as a reason for Martin’s deep depression since he’s not depressed anymore, but his behavior towards Louisa in S6 had a lot to do with his preoccupation with its return. Like Martin in S6, she’s looking at his phobia as a quick way to manage their difficulties as a couple when their problems are not medical.

  19. Doris

    Is the haemophobia really the cause for Louisa’s departure to Spain? Or was it Martin’s treatment of her and the phobia being an aspect of his overall problem? Did this start with the honeymoon disaster? I always felt Louisa felt somewhat cheated out of the honeymoon she wanted (a topic for another discussion). But the real reason why Louisa left, I believe, was she couldn’t deal with Martin’s indifference and him shutting her out. When Martin’s mother shows up, unannounced and informs him about his father death, and starts sowing discord whit her coldness. This is where Louisa and Martin’s relationship begins spiraling down. Actually, there was an opportunity for Martin to salvage the relationship and avoid Louisa leaving. This occurs when Louisa asks Martin to if they could get away together. This was something she really needed, as well as Martin. Sadly, Martin totally misses this and rejects here overtures. It all comes to ahead in E7, when Martin completely sabotages the school awards event. It should be remembered that this was very important to Louisa. Then Louisa suffers a near fatal accident when Martin walks off and she runs after him. She is so angered and disappointed that she doesn’t even want him in the ambulance. But his behavior doesn’t stop here; Martin embarrasses her and himself in the hospital, with his obnoxious behavior. It is at this time she decides to leave and re-evaluate things.

    But what caused Martin to shut Louisa out in the first place? Was it his mother appearing out of the blue and telling him his father died two weeks earlier? Was it the bad memories he had about his mother? Was it the stress of marriage and juggling his medical responsibilities with parenting and marriage? Martin appears to be clueless about how his behavior affected Louisa until he has the talk with Ruth. He is told bluntly that he must change if he is to keep Louisa. This is what season 7 is about.

  20. Post author

    I hate to answer for DM, but in my mind we have been led to believe that the return of the haemophobia in S6 resulted in Martin becoming more withdrawn than ever and was involved with his becoming depressed. He shuts out Louisa and that is why she isn’t happy. All of the events you mention contribute to her decision to leave. The haemophobia returns before his mother reappears, but she compounds the downward spiral, as do his new living arrangements, etc. Their relationship is always a roller coaster ride, sometimes headed up, sometimes down, sometimes plateauing and seemingly running smoothly until the next curve.

    S6 was headed down and we have anticipated S7 to be headed back up. So far we are still on an unpredictable track with continuing dips and rises. I still haven’t figured out what we are supposed to think about their marriage and its future, and I imagine that’s the way this series was designed.

  21. Mary F.

    I see we are all having issues with how Series 7 is presenting…the writers have fallen back on the will-they-won’t-they theme, the usual pattern of hapless patients, interruptions, dogs and very little about moving the couple forward. Its getting pretty tired if you ask me. With only 3 episodes left, they need to make up for a lot of lost ground and opportunity to bring this couple not only back together but with a much better understanding and appreciation of each other. Maybe the feeling I am searching for and not finding is “hope”. I hate to sound pessimistic but its starting to stretch the limits of “willingness to suspend disbelief”. I won’t miss the final three episodes though, of that I am certain!

  22. Post author

    I think you are picking up on a general sense that we viewers have been asked to accept a lot that is really not so plausible anymore. In particular, the constant interruptions that plague their efforts to communicate have become so exaggerated that we have trouble accepting them. The writers, et. al. took us in a serious direction in S6 and now they want us to forget all that and return to having a laugh about their lack of communication. Maybe they think a two year break means we’ll go for almost anything.

    And what you say reminds me that we have been told they don’t like to repeat themselves. There’s a fine line, perhaps, between keeping the characters as expected and becoming bogged down in the same old same old.

  23. DM

    I agree with your very astute observations. The necessarily short therapy sessions are indeed great framing devices for the storytelling. I would have found it more effective if more excerpts had been presented over an episode or more episodes perhaps, and thus served as a better compendium of Martin and Louisa’s issues (and thereby allowed us to sort out the false positives inserted there by the writers and the desultory methodology of their therapist).

    You’re right how the dog(s) (Buddy or Gremlin) have been at Martin’s heels since the very first series, following him relentlessly despite all of his efforts to avoid or ignore them. They are vile, germ-infested, parasite-ridden, disgusting pests– not unlike his patients and nearly every villager, it seems. Fortunately, Martin’s identity as purely their doctor protects itself from having to relate to them or care for them in any way except medically (an identity slightly less impervious than a vascular surgeon). Maintaining that identity depends upon denying even the possibility of any unhealthy and contemptible, to use your accurate term, impulses within himself and masks his authentic identity by setting himself apart as having nothing in common with the whole disgusting lot of them– unless the disgust that irrupts as his blood-phobia tells him otherwise.

    Buddy too will not be so abiding. Rather than finally confronting the dog in this episode, Martin finds it more expedient to dispatch him- once and for all, regardless of its health. Fortunately, Louisa inspires Martin at the last possible moment to reconsider exterminating Buddy. This is one of several scenes this series that some interpret as Martin doing something because Louisa wants him to do- as if Martin can only learn to be a better husband and person by Pavlovian Conditioning! That interpretation misses the greater importance of Martin perhaps finally doing what Martin truly wants to do; after all doesn’t killing the dog, or arresting Peter Cronk for drug crimes seem exactly like something his narcissistic father or mercenary mother would want to do?! (for some reason such an interpretation seems to go hand in hand with condemning Louisa’s character since Martin has now done just what she wanted in order to please her, and the spiky woman still isn’t happy!).

    The rest of us love our pets because they accept us for who we are. Yet Buddy arguably refuses to do so; never accepting Martin for what he presumably is, seemingly always expecting Martin to change, insisting that he can or should behave differently somehow. Or does he? Perhaps Buddy senses something in Martin that he doesn’t accept about himself, or even recognise in himself. considering all of Martin’s protestations (“That’s not my dog!”). Perhaps Buddy senses that Martin’s behaviour masks a different, truer identity that he obviously can’t express?

    Louisa’s character is every bit as persistent as Buddy (though again Louisa earns condemnation from some for this). Martin pushes her away any number of times until she, well- runs away. That is an oft repeated rebuke against Louisa, although I find it more interesting that she keeps returning (as does Buddy). What if Louisa shares the same sense as Buddy that there is more to Martin’s true identity than what he presents, than he himself is aware? Whatever that sense is, one shared by many viewers it seems (despite being told he is merely “grumpy” or “gruff”), would have to be frustrating to Louisa’s character and frustrating for her to express, even to herself?

    Sorry for expounding on so much symbolism, but I hope that adds to your own great insight. Perhaps too it’s a little more to think about which may stave off some of the exasperation and negativity many of the viewers here have been feeling lately 🙂

  24. Santa Traugott

    I truly think that from the beginning — expressed in the taxi scene at the end of S1 — Louisa has had the gift of seeing the hidden, split off Martin. That’s the pull that keeps her coming back, I think, and she continually hopes that he will be more present to her, and every once in a while, when he’s been especially withdrawn or she somehow loses hope that he can share himself with her, she leaves. Because if all there is to be in their relationship is the surface guy — well, he’s pretty difficult, isn’t he, no matter how much quirky charisma he has?

    The note of sadness in S7 to me is that, starting with the “better husband” speech in the hospital, he has be trying to be present to her in this way, and she clearly either isn’t yet getting it, or more likely, trusting it enough that she can return to their marriage. After all, he’s cracked open a time or two, and then more or less swiftly repaired the breach. Who’s to say it wouldn’t happen again this time? So I can see her point. Nevertheless, we believe she will once again take the leap of faith that is necessary, because she truly loves this man.

  25. Mary F.

    I also must add that there is a distinct difference in the way Martin is portrayed by MC from the first few series to now. Although he was emotional and condescending in the beginning, you could always sense the vulnerability of a sad and lost little boy underneath. This vulnerability seems to have hardened over the years much like the hardening of a soft shell crab. Its calcified to the point where I feel his acting has become almost corpse-like….he betrays so little of what he is really feeling and his outbursts seem ever more bloodless. I really hope that this earlier and amazing quality of his acting will re-emerge at some point. Soon.

  26. Post author

    The Martin of S1 is so different from the Martin of the rest of the series, and intentionally so, that I always hesitate to make too many comparisons between them. I find we went from Martin being shut off in S6 to Louisa being shut off in S7, which goes along with the plan they seem to have had of reversing many things.

    I was somewhat surprised to hear MC say that they never know when they make each series whether there will be another because S6 and S7 have been such mirror images of each other and, if S6 has been the last series, the show would have ended on a very unclear note. But I know that’s happened with other shows. Here, though, we have a dramedy that would have ended on a down sweep, and that would be very odd.

  27. Post author

    Your assessment of MC’s acting startles me somewhat, especially because I thought they had S6 particularly showcase his dramatic acting skills. He appears quite emotional at times. To me, S7 has him rebounding to his previous behavior and approach. But each of us reacts differently and we are entitled to our opinions.

  28. Amy Cohen

    Not much to add to what everyone else has said, except to say I felt the same way watching S7. The writers seemed not to know where to take the show after the darkness of S6 and tried to reboot as if S6 didn’t happen. You can’t take the main character down such a dark and twisted path in one series and then try to act almost as if he was never that dark in the next series.

    It’s almost like the reboot on Dallas when they erased an entire season by making all into Bobby Ewing’s bad dream. I almost wish the DM writers had done the same with S6!

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