Louisa and Martin: Fast Forward Version

The following post was written by one of our newest blog readers. She and I corresponded through email about the show and she then wrote me about having watched all the series in an inventive manner. I thought you should all have a chance to read how that affected her reaction to the show and to these characters.

I also wanted to add a few remarks of my own. They are better placed at the end of Amy’s post.

I hope you enjoy this interesting approach to reconsidering some of the thornier issues we’ve been trying to address:

First, thank you to Karen for inviting me to write this post.  I was a latecomer to the blog, only discovering it in the spring of 2016 when I started to watch Doc Martin for a second time.  I had watched Series 1-4 on Netflix and then watched Series 5-7 in “real time,” but it was only on the re-watch that I started to look for a resource to understand more about the show and the issues it raised.

Reading all the posts and comments here has been very illuminating, and some of the discussions, especially about S7, made me realize that I wanted to review the entire series (S1-S7) once again so that the earlier episodes were clearer in my memory as I read the blog.  But I honestly didn’t want to watch all the side stories again—the Bert and Al stories, the Penhale and Mrs T stories, or the patient stories.  I wanted to focus on the relationship between Martin and Louisa: how did it start, how did it develop, how did it change?

In particular, I had a few questions to focus on, issues that seemed to trouble viewers and some readers of the blog. For example, did it make sense that Martin and Louisa called off the first wedding? Or were the writers just torturing viewers? And did Martin’s statement that he knew she wouldn’t make him happy make sense? Also, was S6 as dark as I recalled? Were Martin and Louisa really as angry and distant through S6? And then there is S7.  Like many, I had found the characterization of Louisa in S7 wildly different from how she’d been depicted in every other series—as mean, cold, angry, unforgiving. Was that really the case? And what about the much discussed gap between E7 and E8 in S7? On my first viewing, I saw no gap. On my second view, I noticed it and was, like many, perturbed by it.  How would it seem on a third viewing? And then finally, the last scene of S7, E8.  Would it make any more sense to me now?

So here’s what I did.  I started with S1 and over the course of a few days, I watched every episode in order, but fast forwarded through every scene that did not include Louisa and Martin with a few exceptions—scenes with Joan or Ruth and Martin, scenes with the awful Margaret, and scenes with Dr T and either Martin or Louisa.  It usually meant I could watch an entire episode in about 15 minutes or so, depending on the episode.  (I do realize this sounds insane, but hey, I am retired, and it’s summer.)

What did I experience as a viewer doing this? Well, first of all, I really enjoyed S1-3.  In those series, Martin and Louisa are like sparring partners.  The sparks fly, the sexual tension is intense, and the banter is smart, funny, and fast-moving.  In both the Bad Breath kissing scene and the Urine Odor Date scene, I felt more sorry for Martin than outraged or amused and also empathetic to Louisa, but a bit annoyed that she didn’t at least give him a chance to talk it through.  Poor guy was clueless.  And she ran.

Then we get to the Holly episode in S3 and the engagement and called off wedding.  I admit that on my first two viewings, I was thrilled that Martin and Louisa had gotten together.  But on my fast forward viewing my reaction was different.  It was much more obvious that the two of them had never really had a full conversation about anything—just lots of banter and bickering and interrupted dates and kisses that ended up with misunderstandings.  How could they get married? They hardly knew each other.

So this time my reaction to the cancelled wedding was different. This time it made perfect sense.  How could two people who’d done nothing but argue and kiss twice get married? Especially when one was so different from the other? What didn’t make sense was Martin saying she wouldn’t make him happy.  I still think he realized that he wouldn’t make her happy and let her off the hook.  Even she looked surprised when he said that.

Also, what hadn’t made sense on earlier viewings was Louisa leaving town, running away.  Couples can decide they’re not ready to get married without breaking up.  But on further thought, it made sense knowing what we know about Louisa—that she runs away from problems rather than confront them.  Maybe that wasn’t as clear to me on my first viewing of S1-3, but now it appeared to be more consistent with the character’s behavior.

Then we get to S4, a series I’d recalled not enjoying because I was so frustrated that Martin and Louisa were not communicating with each other; it felt like a bad farce where one character walks in the door just as the other walks out.  I hate that stuff.  And I also hated Edith.  On my fast-forward review (which did include some of the Edith scenes), S4 felt different.  This time I enjoyed it.  It was so obvious to me that Martin and Louisa wanted desperately to be with each other, but couldn’t figure out a way to express that to each other.  Edith was nothing but a minor distraction, not a threat.  And, of course, the birth scene was still wonderful.  Who doesn’t love a birth scene?

Now let me stop and observe one thing.  I know that it’s very different to view something a second time when you know how things end.  Of course, S4 felt better knowing that in the end Martin and Louisa would reconcile.  But even my second viewing left me frustrated with them.  It was only by fast forwarding through the extra material that I could really focus and see how much those two were dying to be with each other but stuck in their respective corners.

I also got a different feeling for S5 this time.  Before it had seemed like two lovebirds had turned overnight into enemies.  But focusing just on their scenes together gave me a new way of seeing those interactions.  They weren’t enemies—they were doing what many, if not most, new parents do: struggling to figure out how to be parents, how to stay a couple, and also how to retain their own individuality.  They just were more inept than other couples at expressing themselves in any positive way as they struggled through it.

But for me the biggest surprise was S6, a season I really had not enjoyed the first time and that I almost didn’t watch the second time.  My recollection of it had been that Martin was sad the whole time and Louisa was angry the whole time.  Not so on this fast forward watch.   Yes, Martin was upset and withdrawn once he realized the blood phobia had returned (although I don’t think it ever went away; there are scenes in S5 where he still reacts to blood as well as the birth scene in S4).  But Louisa was not angry.  She was trying her best to reach out to him; she was sympathetic and patient.  She tried to get him to talk to her.  And then she was hurt when he refused to go away with her.  That was the ultimate slap in the face, if you ask me.  And with Margaret appearing, Martin became even more withdrawn, more depressed.  (Who wouldn’t be?) But Louisa kept trying.  Nothing worked.

So her Sports Day explosion struck me this time as not out of proportion to her feelings.  Martin was just being ur-Martin: rude and insensitive.  But this time she just couldn’t keep her frustration and her pain inside.  I felt for her this time, more so than I had on prior viewings.

After the accident she is impatient with Martin, annoyed, and upset.  But when he comes to get her off the plane, she is grateful.  She says she thought he was coming to get her or join her in Spain.  She clearly still wanted to be with him.  And if there is any truth to “in vino veritas” with anesthesia, her words to him before the operation are loving, teasing him about whether he has a bathing suit.  And she does seem to hear what he says about needing help and wanting to be a good husband.  Whether she remembers it afterwards is hard to say.

The final scene when he returns to the hospital is still a painful one for me to watch.  Why doesn’t Martin repeat what he said before the operation? When Louisa thanks him for coming after her, why doesn’t he declare his love rather than saying, “You are my patient and my wife.”  Even I might have gotten on a plane with that reply, and I am not Louisa.  So we are left at the end of S6 with Louisa actually looking sad and upset that she is hurting Martin, but now Martin is the one who shuts down, runs off, just as Louisa did at the end of S3.  I no longer was angry with Louisa for leaving for Spain, instead I was upset with Martin for not opening up again.  So I saw Louisa as the more sympathetic character in S6 in some ways, the opposite of what I’d felt on earlier viewings.

And that brings me to S7.  Let me tell you first my prior reaction to S7.  I hated Louisa in S7.  I thought she was unnecessarily mean and angry.  Not only with Martin, but with everyone except the baby.  I found her cold and unforgiving.  I couldn’t understand what the writers had done to this warm and loving and friendly character.  Others here reacted similarly, and Karen wrote that Louisa had become more like Martin.  I was very put off by what they had done—even more so than I was with the silly therapy.

So let me tell you that watching S7 again, just focusing on the Louisa, Martin, and Dr T scenes, was an eye opener.  Louisa from the beginning is sad, sympathetic, and doing her best to understand Martin.  Yes, she is a bit prickly when he doesn’t get her jokes or pulls one of his OCD things, but overall it was clear to me that the writers were signaling that this was a woman who wanted to stay with her husband.  She just, as she says, doesn’t know what to do—how to get them to a better place.  She wants him to help her find a place to stay; she feels bad that he has to sleep in James Henry’s room and brings him his clock in her nightgown (I mean, how seductive is that?), but he makes no move.  She is happy he is going for therapy.  She looks at him with sympathetic eyes.

In the early episodes it now seems that both of them are stuck in their corners once again, afraid of getting hurt.  They don’t touch each other, not out of lack of desire, but out of fear.  Fear of rejection.  Fear of loss.  When Martin sees Louisa in her bathrobe after her first night back, the look in his eyes is desire.  Just watch that scene and see for yourself.

My take this time is that what triggers the anger in Louisa is the suggestion that she join Martin in therapy and the thought that she herself may have issues and may be part of the problem with their relationship.  She is on the defensive.  She’s been in denial about her own issues forever.  Now Dr T, Ruth, and Martin want her to face her own issues.  I’ve seen many people get angry and defensive in those circumstances.

(I won’t say more about the therapy itself since that’s been discussed here in depth, except to say I still think Dr T had the blood phobia thing all wrong and that the “control” assignment was stupid.  Throughout the entire show and even in S7, Louisa always had more control than Martin.  She chose when to run away from him and when to kiss him; she chose to live separately.  Plus most decisions on smaller matters ended up being hers—James Henry’s name; going on the honeymoon; telling Martin not to kill Buddy or have Peter Cronk arrested.  Martin might be afraid of losing control over his emotions, but not over day to day decisions like what to eat at a picnic.)

But overall Louisa does not seem angry or hostile towards Martin.  She wants him to keep hugging her and is hurt when she realizes it was only that his watch was caught on her sweater.  She tells numerous characters—Danny, Dr T, the Wintons, Ruth—that she hopes to get back together with Martin.  This is not a woman looking to leave her husband, but one who wants someone to help them find their way back and then forward.  “A means to an end or a new beginning.”  Not an end of their relationship.

So we get to the infamous E7 and E8 gap between Martin asking for them to have a make or break discussion and Louisa preparing a dinner of salmon, aubergines, and courgettes.  (Why French names? Why not just eggplant and zucchini? I had to Google courgette.) The first time I watched these episodes, I didn’t see any gap.  I just figured I’d forgotten some line where Louisa or Martin said, “Let’s have dinner to discuss it.”  The second time, after reading comments here, I looked for the gap and saw it.  There’s definitely at least one line missing to explain how the dinner date was planned.

But what I didn’t see this time that others saw was a difference in the character’s attitudes between the two scenes.  Martin seemed resigned to failure in both scenes.  He thought Louisa wanted out or that there was no way to make things better.  He’d given up.  He may have said that Dr T only wanted them to make a list, but from his expression and his words at the end of E7, it seems clear that he thought the relationship was over. At the beginning of E8 he does nothing to suggest otherwise when Louisa is talking about their (somehow planned) dinner date.

Louisa, on the other hand, in both episodes seems to be hoping things can still work out.  She’s afraid Dr T is suggesting divorce.  She doesn’t bring up make or break, he does.  She may be worried about what he’s asking, but she is not acting hostile or angry or resigned.  So I don’t see a radical change between Louisa in E7 and E8; maybe she’s realized Martin is giving up, but I don’t think she had been ready to do that.

Finally, that last scene on the cliff. What the hell were they talking about? I won’t get into the whole “normal” thing because that still makes no sense to me.  I won’t repeat what has been said here about why that was not consistent with what Louisa had said or done in any earlier series.  But what did Martin mean when he said that he couldn’t change how he felt about her, and she replies, “I wouldn’t want that.” Then he says, “I’ve tried, I really have.  But it only made things worse.” What did that mean?

Some people think he meant he tried to change his behavior.  Although I do think he was trying to change his behavior by going to therapy, doing the assignments, tolerating some of the mess and noise, that didn’t make anything worse. It may not have noticeably improved things, but it certainly did not make things worse.  And that would also make no sense coming after his prior sentence about not changing how he felt about Louisa.

I thought the first time and I still think that what Martin was saying was that he had tried to change his feelings about Louisa—to withdraw, not to love her any more. Now that seems even clearer to me after my fast forward viewing of the entire show.  After all, that’s what it seemed he was doing to some extent at the end of S6 when she said she was still going to Spain.  He gave her a rather abrupt answer and walked out of the hospital.  That’s also what he did when she left the first time after the cancelled wedding; he thought about being with Edith (he never once was repelled when Edith kissed his cheek, unlike when Mrs Tishell or even Ruth tried to embrace him; he was perhaps confused, but not repelled).  And each time it made him feel worse because he couldn’t stop loving Louisa.

I realize that watching the show this way is distorting.  The intertwining stories and the way they connect to the main characters and their lives is missing; the things the writers tell us through the mouths of people like the fish monger, the dry cleaner, the vicar, and so is deleted.  I didn’t see how Martin was acting with other characters.  And I knew how things would end, so it had to color what I was seeing and how I felt about it.

But it did help me focus on the story arc of Martin and Louisa’s relationship. And for what it’s worth, here’s my summary of that story arc and the two characters:  They are attracted to each other and intrigued by the mystery of each other from their first meeting, but from the beginning, neither one of them can trust the other; both are incapable of expressing their true feelings.  Both retreat or shut down when they fear rejection.  Neither one is the heavy; they both have shortcomings, and in some ways they have the same shortcomings when it comes to love and building a relationship.  Louisa has always been the one to over-react out of fear of being hurt; Martin always allows her to pull away without a fight.   Karen once wrote that the birth scene metaphorically captures their relationship as Louisa pulls and pushes Martin back and forth.  And Martin lets her do it.  I think that describes it perfectly.

The times that they are somehow able to express their love always seems to come from a crisis where their naked emotions get the better of them—when Peter Cronk almost died, when Holly almost died, when Mrs. Tishell stole James Henry, when Louisa almost died, and finally when Martin is kidnapped and then saves Mr. Winton.  Only when their protective shells are eaten away by the stress of a crisis can they manage to declare their love for one another.

Maybe now the writers will give them a chance to learn how to do that without having a life-threatening crisis push them over the edge.

Addendum: I agree with much that Amy has written, particularly about S6 and S7, which have been the stumbling blocks for me. I definitely see Louisa as getting the short end of the stick in S6 and having every right to be angry and downcast. In both S6 and S7 it seems to me there was a deliberate effort to restrain Martin and Louisa from expressing the sincere feelings they have for each other. Why? For one thing it gets viewers frustrated, emotionally engaged, and generally in that place of wanting to yell at the characters. For another thing, it sustains the unresolved conflict between these characters. Notwithstanding the fact that they have had moments in which they opened their hearts to each other, continuing to construct their communication as a sort of coitus interruptus is what produces a craving for them to finally settle their differences.

We know at the end of S6 that Martin plans to return to pick up Louisa from the hospital, and that she will go home with him, at least for a few days. When she tells him the rush to the hospital and the operation don’t change anything, I thought she was explaining that there were still many obstacles they had to deal with, not necessarily that she was still planning to leave for Spain. When he confesses he needs help being a husband and then heads to a bathroom stall following the successful embolization of her AVM, he appears emotionally raw. But at her bedside he is tongue tied again, and we want to shake him. And that’s how to keep viewers watching.

In S7 I am in total agreement with Amy that there were signals throughout that Louisa did not want to end the marriage. Again, their inability to ever just sit down and talk is endlessly frustrating. This time the interruptions mount and their utter incapacity to lay bare their real feelings becomes draining.

What I’ve finally come up with is that some of the strange things that they included in S7 may have been an attempt at continuing the awkward and obtuse ways Louisa and Martin often communicate with each other. In particular, Martin can be very unclear then he expresses himself AND he relates to others on a literal and imperceptive level. So when there are these confusing transitions between some of the episodes, and when Martin and Louisa talk to each other at the end of E8, it may be the writers continuing that same sort of odd means of expressing themselves. It’s not really ambiguity in the sense of implying more than one meaning; it’s really more being nebulous, especially in Martin’s case.

I wonder if we can compare the conversation they have in E2 in which Martin says, “I don’t miss the peace and quiet.” and Louisa says “What?” And he says, “Now that you’re back I didn’t miss it.” And she once again asks “What are you trying to say Martin?”, to which he finally responds, “When you and James weren’t here, everything was neat and tidy and quiet, and now that you’re back, it’s not, and that’s fine.” with the final conversation where they are sitting on a cliff. Martin is trying to tell Louisa that he’s never going to change how he feels about her and he adds, “I’ve tried and it’s just made things worse.” This time Louisa doesn’t want or need clarification because she is in a different and more accepting frame of mind and she isn’t concerned about what exactly he’s trying to say. She knows he’s telling her he can’t stop loving her and that’s all that matters. Again, I don’t think they were going for ambiguity, just recreating his nebulous manner of expressing himself. I admit this is giving the writers something of a pass.

When it comes to the so-called “jokes” Louisa makes throughout the series, I find it even harder to make sense of them. If we agree that Louisa is given some of the same traits as Martin in S7, then we can say that the gift of a sausage might have been meant to have sexual undertones and is also a sign that she is being insensitive. I would consider it similar to the time when Martin brings Louisa breathing strips so that her snoring doesn’t keep him awake. Here they are sharing a bed and what he thinks of is his own need for sleep. It was funny when he did that, but now we judge her harshly as being offensive. The humor is lacking.

Her other efforts of making a joke amount to taking advantage of his lack of insight and general serious demeanor. He’s pulled her chain on occasion, e.g. when he told her he had already filed the papers for naming the baby, but now Louisa seems to be mocking him. Perhaps we are meant to think that she wants to lighten up their conversations, bring a little fun back into their lives. Surely the time when she suggests she will tell Dr. T that he tried to break in while she was in the shower was her way of prompting him to say something warm to her. She tells him he belongs in the house and appears disappointed that he just walks away. But again, that is our cue to be exasperated with both of them.

This post is long enough now and I will quit here. Please let us hear your thoughts on any or all of the above.

Originally posted 2016-08-29 16:20:07.

136 thoughts on “Louisa and Martin: Fast Forward Version

  1. Ian Lamberton

    Good thinking. Good writing. Good concept of best way to review the series as a whole. I hadn’t thought of the fear of failure angle as a consistent motivator, but it makes sense, and it makes their situation the sadder.

  2. Santa Traugott

    Well, as usual, the blog doesn’t have to wait too long before I wade in….. 🙂

    If I were going to rewatch the series in entirety, I’d probably do just as you did. The medical mysteries, and the side stories of Bert, receptionists, aunts, don’t really interest me.

    Yes, it was daft of those two crazy kids to decide to marry on the spur on the moment, and actually, a good thing that the wedding fell apart (and I think the lead characters have said so, in one interview or another). For me, the telling scene is on the balcony, when Louisa informs him that their wedding date has to be moved up to 3 weeks away, and they bravely tell us each other that that’s fine, that’s what they want, when to me at least, it was clear that both were disconcerted at the idea of such a precipitous wedding. As well they should have been.

    As for the ending scene of S3: I continue to think that Martin’s statement that “you wouldn’t make me happy either” is quite genuine, and not an attempt to let Louisa off the hook. The prior scene with the dry cleaner lays it out — his marriage was unhappy because his wife was constantly critical of his faults, even though “she knew what I was when she married me.” Indeed, I think it is quite consistent with later developments that Martin recognizes, or fears, that he may not be well-suited to this husband business, that his inadequacies as a husband will lead to Louisa’s unhappiness, and urging him to change in ways that he’s not sure he’s capable of. Not a happy situation for either of them. And in believing — or fearing — that Martin, as much as she loves him, would not make her happy, and she would constantly be wanting him to change in ways that might not be possible for him ,making him also very unhappy, Louisa makes the principled decision that they can’t be happy together.

    I’m coming to the conclusion that this is in fact the way the remainder of the series largely played out. They didn’t make each other happy, although each wanted to. And then they sort of figured out how to deal with it.

    Anyway, I agree with all you said about S4. They wanted to be together, but couldn’t get out of their own way. It was sad and funny at the same time.

    I follow you most of the way in S6, in that Louisa did really try, at least when she realized that he was floundering, to be helpful and sympathetic. But, I don’t cut her quite as much slack as you seem to. I think she was rather late to recognize that things were going south, with him, and arguably had expectations of him as a husband that were not very realistic and were tough for him to manage. I also feel that there’s a certain sense in which she decided that his funk was about her, and therefore was not able, or afraid to, confront him more directly and clearly. It occurs to me that bailing after just a few months of marriage may suggest that at some level, she had deep misgivings about the marriage to begin with, let’s say around the issue of whether they could make each other happy. The first few months of their marriage were to her, confirmatory that, without significant changes in the way that Martin operated, they couldn’t be happy.

    So she left. I’ve stated before that the whole part of E8 after she got into the taxi and left for the airport, was irrelevant to the plot. When we pick up at S7, E1, Louisa is returning from a stay in which she apparently did not choose to communicate with her husband, and had little or no expectation that he could or would try to change for her. If we had never had the last part of E8, S6, her entrance and behavior in E1, S7, as well as Martin’s, would have seemed perfectly consistent with how we last saw her, getting in the taxi.

    I agree completely that Louisa did not want the marriage to end. It is clear that she still loved Martin, although I think she still had some anger toward him as well (as well all know, feelings are very seldom unmixed). Where I do fault her — and where I think the plotline became extremely unrealistic — , is that she appeared completely unwilling to give him anything to work with. Just — we’ll live apart and then something will happen, hopefully, and we’ll be able to get back together. But what that some thing(s) might be is never addressed, at all, and how that’s supposed to happen when they live apart is also unclear. The reason the therapy is problematic, to me anyway, is that it ought to be covering what each thinks the problem is, and how each wants things to change in order for them to reconcile. So not only was Louisa vague — except in naming his blood phobia, excessive tidiness and fish-eating — but the therapist did not help them achieve any degree of clarity. I really think that’s the fault of the writing and probably deliberately done, ,in that, if Louisa was clear about what she needed, things might have been able to be resolved much more quickly, and that must be avoided at all costs!

    So as we approach the end of E7, Louisa, I think anyway, is still stuck in the idea that he, Martin, has to change in order for them to be happy together, and Martin has come to believe that he is what he is, and that if she can’t accept him, if she still wants him to be, you know, “normal”, then he might as well throw in the towel, as unhappy as that makes him. That’s what the whole subplot of the art teacher and her daughter was about — pointing out that trying to make people be something they’re not only makes them miserable. (Back to the drycleaner.)

    Once that happens — Louisa hears him and understands that he’s told her that he’s gone as far as he can — she has a choice to make. Can she come to terms with the idea that he’s never going to be the kind of man she thought she wanted, but that she loves him — and crucially, needs him (“you’re the one person who has never let me down”) and so she needs to accept him for what he is, “unusual” as that may be. Her answer is clearly, yes, although she may not have even known it for sure until after the crisis, and reflecting alone on the cliff top.

    As for the last scene — or specifically — the line of dialogue, “I’ve tried . . . ” I can’t make any sense of it still. It’s a hash to me, and badly written. To me, there’s no convincing evidence, nor in fact could there be, since it takes place all beneath the surface without any dialogue or interaction with her, that he’s tried to stop loving her. He might have, at a couple of points when she had left him, tried to convince himself that he could go on without her, and would be OK, and that he would get over her. But I think that’s different than trying to stop loving her.

    Anyway — does anyone doubt that S8 will still see Louisa trying to make him conform more to her idea of a husband, or Martin struggling and failing to behave in a less “unusual” manner?

  3. Amy Cohen

    Thank you, Ian, I appreciate your kind words. I do think fear of failure was an issue for both Louisa and Martin. Louisa may not have feared Martin’s rejection per se, but feared that he would hurt her or make her unhappy with his unfiltered utterances and behavior. Martin probably feared that once he let himself get too close, she’d reject him. So I think they both feared a failed relationship.

  4. Amy Cohen

    Thank you, Santa, for your thoughts. There’s a lot here to chew on so I may do it one issue at a time.

    As for the end of S3, what you said is persuasive—that Martin did think he’d be unhappy, but mostly because Louisa would be unhappy unless he changed, not unhappy with her as a partner based on her personality. If she could accept him as he is, he’d be happy with her. On the other hand, she wouldn’t be happy with him as he is so that would never work. So I still think there’s a difference between her feeling he wouldn’t make her happy and his feeling that she wouldn’t make him happy. Gosh, I hope that makes sense. It sounds tautological to me, but I can’t figure out how to say it more clearly.

    OK, I will try it this way: Martin loves Louisa for who she is. Louisa loves Martin in spite of who he is. To me, those are very different feelings.

    The ultimate question is—has that changed by the end of S7? Does she now accept him for who is he and love him for it? Or is she still trying to love him despite of who he is?

    What do the writers want us to think? And what will they do next?

  5. Amy Cohen

    In spite of who he is. Sure wish there was an edit button here!

    S6: I agree that Louisa believed that Martin was in a funk because she wasn’t making him happy. She, of course, didn’t know about the hemophobia’s “return” nor did she have the background about what his mother had said to him or how he’d been treated as a child to understand that his unhappiness had much deeper roots. So why wouldn’t she blame herself? I think that’s a pretty natural reaction among couples—to think you are the cause of your partner’s unhappiness? So I cut her that slack because I think she was blaming herself and he was doing nothing to relieve her of that feeling.

    As for her bailing so quickly, I think we have to remember that she’s got her problems also—with commitment, with fears of abandonment. If we cut Martin slack for his idiosyncrasies—his rudeness, his introversion, his OCD, whatever—why not also forgive Louisa for her fear of being abandoned? She seems just as insecure as Martin about whether she can be loved.

  6. Amy Cohen

    I find your comment about how S6, E8 is irrelevant to the plot fascinating! It does seem that without that last episode, the opening of S7 would work better. So why did the writers do that? Was the last episode added to give us all hope because ending the series with her getting into the cab would have been too devastating?

    These are the times that I have to remember that these are not real people! The writers manipulate the story and the plot for their own purposes, which may not always be purely based on what is best in terms of the art. Santa, do you think they really did mean to end it with E7 but then decided to soften the blow a bit?

  7. Amy Cohen

    S7: I think we all agree that the way the writers used therapy as a plot and character development device was terrible. If they wanted to use therapy to move the plot along, they should have made it more realistic just as they aspire to make the medical plots and scenes more realistic.

    And I guess again I am more willing to forgive Louisa’s inability to work with Martin to figure things out. She said she didn’t know what to do. I think that’s entirely realistic. She had no way, no skills, to use to improve their ability to communicate. If she had, would they have had so many misunderstandings starting with S1? I think she had no clue what to do. And I think many people are that way. Look at the divorce rate—if people knew how to fix things without help, I bet more people would stay together. So I think Louisa really had no idea what to do.

    And I think she resisted therapy because she was afraid to find out what was wrong with her. I bet that’s not uncommon either—that one partner thinks they’re perfectly fine and it’s the other partner who has all the problems. It must be hard for that partner to admit they also are responsible for what’s wrong with the relationship.

    As for your last question—I sure hope the writers take a different path. Let Martin be Martin, let Louisa accept him for who he is, and let them find some humor in his quirkiness as they did in my all-time favorite episode, S6, E1. For me, that should be the model going forward.

  8. Santa Traugott

    I really like the point that he loves her for who she is, and she loves him, despite who he is — “the twenty things about [him] that are crap.” I think there has always been a part of Louisa that thinks she can put up with those twenty things initially, in order to be with the person she loves, but always has in mind that she can probably influence him to change. And she’s always disappointed, because it turns out she can’t.

    So yes, probably when she came back from Spain, she was sad, because although she still wanted him to change enough so that his idiosyncracies, faults, flaws, call them what you will, didn’t grate on her or upset her so much, she had run out of ideas about how to change him and she was disabused of the idea that marriage itself would soften or change him. So she believed that she couldn’t live with him as he was, and had no idea how he might change, and then was basically temporizing, hoping against hope that by some miracle, he would make large and convincing enough changes so that they could get back together. (In the direction of normal — no — I still think that came out of left field somewhere, although maybe Louisa is conventional enough that his eccentricities really grated on her.) I still think she might have told him WHAT she needed from him, or used therapy to figure that out if it was inchoate in her mind, as it may well have been. Because how fair is that really — the idea that “I don’t know what I want, I can’t tell you, but you’ll have to try to change and I’ll let you know if it works for me.” Because basically, isn’t that the way things were going, if we accept that she didn’t really know, at that point, what she wanted from him, only for things to be “different?”

    I guess my basic point is, that they are/were so dysfunctional in a relationship together that it really beggars belief, at least for me. And that’s where we just have to accept that these are not real people, but cartoonish versions (in the sense of exaggerated) of real people and their dilemmas.

    I think we are meant to think that she has acquired enough useful insight into her own “not normal” characteristics, and in how what she wants (a more “normal” Martin) is not what she needs (the rock solid Martin she’s married to), that she has decided to give up on trying to shape him into something he isn’t, and just be with him as he is. But I do think it will always be a struggle for her.

    I think perhaps you’re right — they decided in case the series wasn’t renewed or something, they had to leave the audience with a bit of hope, a reason to believe that things would have worked out in the end. But for plot and continuity purposes, as it turns out, the series ended when she got in that taxi. And you can really imagine that as an ending scene, much as Louisa’s walking down the hill ended S3.

  9. Michele (from Australia)

    Hi Karen, I’m probably your newest subscriber. Started watching DM mid-July, and have since watched all seven series, several times over. I’ve enjoyed reading your blog and readers’ comments. I’ve often wanted to comment, but don’t have time to formulate a well thought out response (I have young children). Thank you, too, to Amy for her well considered post today. I haven’t studied literature since high school (I’m an accountant), and love the conversations here.

    Ps. Re the question of the names for the veggies that Louisa cooks for M in S7E8, courgette and aubergine would be the terms typically used in the UK. I use a hybrid – zucchini (from my years in US) and eggplant.

  10. Michele (from Australia)

    Edit – ignore my comment re eggplant and zucchini – turns out I use both the American terms :). As a child we called them baby marrow and bringal.

  11. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    I think you and Amy are putting things together well, and probably better than the writers did. I am willing to guess that all this effort we’re putting into trying to make some sense out of how this relationship could have evolved from infatuation into a marriage somewhat forced by becoming parents, although also accompanied by real love and attraction to each other, and now into a failure to communicate on even a basic level (like planning a dinner date), could be categorized as realistic is going way beyond what was done while the show was in development. Writers certainly want their characters to behave in ways akin to those expected in real life, but it’s hard to imagine them going to the lengths we’ve been going to to arrive at such an in depth analysis of their behavior.

    Anyway, my point is that after all this time we are left with a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma, as the saying goes. They’ve done enough to prick our curiosity and stimulate lots of fascinating discussion, which is pretty darn good from where I stand!

  12. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    Hi Michele! (And from Australia!) It’s great to have you as a new subscriber/reader. Thanks for the explanation of the terms for the veggies. I am fascinated by all the various names we apply to them and how we came to use those variations. Some of that takes place in different parts of America as well.

    Don’t worry about spending too much time writing a comment; just say what you want to say. Your impressions are as worthwhile as anyone’s. We’ve gone all over the place on this blog – literature, script writing, psychology, sociology, you name it. And we also have an interest in plain ol’ ideas about the story. Anything goes.

  13. Amy Cohen

    I realize this is off-topic, but I was curious as to why we in the US call the vegetables by different names than in England—thanks, Michele, for letting me know that the UK uses what I called “French” terms. I assume zucchini came from Italian, and since there was a huge influx of Italian immigrants to the US in the late 19th century (and since Italian restaurants are probably the most popular non-American cuisine here), it doesn’t surprise me that we adopted the Italian name. But then why don’t we call eggplants melanzane?

    And where did “eggplant” come from? And why did we adopt a different name from that used in our “mother country”? Wikipedia has a detailed etymology that I won’t quote here, but is quite interesting. It explains where other names such as aubergine and melanzana came from—an Arabic term that was modified in varying ways—but “eggplant” was first used in 1767 in Europe to describe a small, white version of the vegetable that resembled eggs.

    But there’s no further explanation of why places as far as the US and Australia both use the terms eggplant and zucchini.

  14. Amy Cohen

    Karen, you are right, of course. We are trying to make sense of a fictional relationship that doesn’t really have to conform to the reality of how people really behave. And sometimes I do lose track of that in my infatuation with the series and the characters and my high expectations of what the writers can and should be doing with these “people” who feel so real despite the humor and at times the bizarre plots (being held at gunpoint multiple times, characters with imaginary squirrels and other creepy psychological issues, etc.).

    But that, of course, is part of the fun and fascination sparked by your blog—trying to figure out this relationship and these characters and what the writers are trying to convey about them. So I will revert to form and indulge in the fantasy of treating them as real!

    Santa, I do think Louisa has told Martin what she wants, and I don’t think it’s really that complicated. I don’t even think it’s that she wants him to change in any radical way. All his rudeness and his quirks may irritate her at times, but hey, who isn’t occasionally irritated by their spouse?

    I think she told him in the last episode of S5 that she wants to hear him say nice things to her. Any time Martin tells her that he loves her, that he needs her, that she’s beautiful, that she’s a good mother—she melts. When he tells her he can’t let go in the Hug episode, she melts into his arms and tells him she’s not going anywhere. When she realizes that he only meant his watch was stuck, she is stung with disappointment. She told him in S1 that “we love people like Peter” even though they are different.

    Louisa needs what most of us need in a relationship—to know that she’s loved. All the other stuff would probably be little more than irritants if Martin could only be more reliably affectionate and expressive of his love.

    That’s what I hope the writers will recognize and use as the basis of the humor going forward. Don’t change Martin and how he behaves publicly—he can still grouse and yell at patients. Louisa can still be irked by it, and they can bicker, just as in S1-3. But with Louisa, Martin should be more secure in expressing his love so that we are no longer tortured by the will they stay together or not theme.

    Look at Archie and Edith Bunker in All in the Family or a more current example—any of the couples in Modern Family. They bicker, they are not obviously well-matched (Jay and Gloria, in particular), but we believe they love each other so that a fight doesn’t create trauma, just humor.

  15. Santa Traugott

    Well, I think we all also understand that people can behave in ways that are complicated and confusing, even to the individuals themselves, let alone to their partners or viewing audience! But it’s clear to me that when writing for dramatic effect, sometimes the goal of character consistency and intelligibility of motive is sacrificed, for the larger goal of making a dramatic point.

    The device of interruption is a good example. Nobody always gives up all effort at communication the second they are interrupted, and it just can’t happen that people who want to get through to each other can’t find a few moments when they aren’t interrupted. But that’s a dramatic device that advances the plot, and about which we are clearly asked to suspend disbelief.

    So Martin and Louisa’s many failings as a couple are exaggerated to the point that we just can’t make sense of them realistically, and I think I’m coming to agree with Karen that I have to wonder if it even makes sense to try.

    Their dilemma reaches us in the moment, and leaves us emotionally invested in the outcome, although I have to admit that for me, the continued inexplicability of their actions in any relation to what I think of as even remotely probable is wearing thin. Maybe we’re (I’m) forgetting that this is supposed to have strong comedic elements. Why would we take Desi and Luci’s travails seriously? (only kidding… sort of.)

  16. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    I just want to say that I am so lucky to have you and Amy as blog readers/commenters. You have made this blog so much fun and more interesting. This has been my first, and possibly my only, foray into the blogosphere, and I had no idea what to expect. That a TV show could end up being almost endlessly intriguing and stimulate so many great discussions is something I never would have considered likely. We have to say that even though we can find quite a few places where there were poor transitions, gaps of all kinds, and inconsistencies, the show has inspired many viewers to think seriously about so many topics. That has to mean it’s done plenty right!

    I agree entirely that the humor is paramount and when they limited it, especially in S6 and 7, the show took on a different tone and put us all into another frame of mind. It’s a bit of a shame that the ensemble of characters has taken a back seat to the trials of Martin and Louisa, but that is what the team decided to do. (That may have been due to the studio and perhaps the team thinking that was what the viewers wanted.) If S8 has this couple back in previous form, the show will be the better for it, IMO. I hope they bring back the natural humor of common events in a marriage rather than the forced humor and farcical circumstances that they experimented with in S7.

  17. Amy Cohen

    I agree, Karen, and that’s my hope. Now how do we make sure that the writers know that’s what they need to do!? I sure wish they were reading the blog….

  18. Santa Traugott

    You know, I can’t resist adding here that that’s what I always thought she wanted, for exactly the reasons you list. That’s why the “normal” thing threw me for such a loop. He was moving, he was trying (in S7) to move along those dimensions — be more open and loving. And even more disconcerting of course, was just when he made that tender and moving speech about being a better husband, and we think we’ve seen a breakthrough, it’s at a moment when many think Louisa wouldn’t remember it and it seems clear that it was never repeated. (And that the action would go on as if he never said it.) So yes, that’s what I think she did and should want, I don’t know what “normal” has to do with it, or why she just couldn’t spit it out before she left or when she returned. Maybe not being normal means to her that he can’t show her or tell her nice things, and she’s willing to give up on that now? I just don’t follow. It’s hardly not normal for husbands to be unable to be fluently expressive in intimate ways. Maybe she’s one of those women who believes that if you have to ask your partner to say nice things, it doesn’t count, but I do have to give her more credit than that.

    I keep thinking that if I’m getting confused, it’s because I just don’t understand something, but I’m coming to the conclusion that I don’t understand what’s going on because it’s really not intended to make that much sense.

  19. Amy Cohen

    Well, whether it’s intentional or not, the writers have left us much to wrestle with, and as with real life, sometimes things just don’t make sense.

    I don’t think the “normal” speech made any sense so I dismiss it as bad work on the part of the writers. It was so inconsistent with the attitude Louisa had articulated beginning in S1 that it is just rubbish, as the English say.

    Or if we want to give the writers credit, we could say Louisa was just saying nonsense because she didn’t know what else to say, just as Martin’s words are garbled and unclear. We could say the writers were being clever and showing that the two of them were stressed and couldn’t find the right words. But frankly, that’s giving the writers too much credit, IMHO.

    As for why Louisa doesn’t just come out and say, ” I need you to tell me you love me and show me you love me,” well, how stupid does Martin have to be? She’s told him, she shown him over and over, that she wants and needs that. There does reach a point where asking for it must feel like begging for something.

    And don’t get me started again on S7,E8. Why have him say all those sweet things to her before the operation and then have him say so callously that he only came after her because she is his patient (first) and (also incidentally) his wife, as if he’d have done the same for anyone, which obviously he would have?


    So I’ve decided to disregard the things in S7 and particularly in E8 that don’t make sense and blame the writers rather than try to make them make sense. That doesn’t mean I’m not annoyed by them, but I’ve just decided to accept that they don’t make sense given every prior episode in every prior season. I just think that the writers, probably writing as a committee, got too hung up on S7 and didn’t spend enough time looking back at the earlier series.

  20. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    I think both you and Amy have made marvelous points: you recalled when Louisa said that there were twenty things that are crap about Martin, but that he’s a stick of rock, and that’s evidence for why she is attracted to him. Her parents were highly unreliable and he is the opposite. He may not have gone so far as to never let her down, as she claims, but he has never stopped loving her and has hung in the relationship through many ups and downs. Amy reminded us that what Louisa wants more than anything is to have him say nice things to her, and that one request goes terribly unrequited through S6 after E1. We all notice how little they kiss in S6, or show many signs of affection. Not only that, but Martin mostly squashes any expressions of affection Louisa offers, e.g. she’ll miss him when she returns to teaching, or she missed both him and James when she was at school, or that she would like to spend a weekend away with both of them.

    It seems that you are both onto something that is a consistent message in the show. She is drawn to his strength of character but simply wants and needs him to reciprocate her advances or appear as attracted to her as he once was. Give her some sort of sign that he will never stop loving her. He told her at the end of S5 that he would always love her, and now he’s told her again at the end of S7. In between he dropped the ball, which may be related to his utter obliviousness to how important it is for him to repeat it, but it matters tremendously to her.

    It’s amazing how far a hug or a small compliment can help a marriage. The hugging exercise seemed to be getting them on the right track, but somehow they went off the rails again. Then he says she’s very beautiful, and there’s hope once more, but that falls apart too. So S7 keeps undercutting any attempt Martin makes in the direction of being nice, and the therapist is no help at all.

    That’s where S7 confuses us and why we have the impression that they are transparently putting off the reconciliation until the final episode.

  21. Amy Cohen

    This may now make this column ridiculously narrow, but I’ve just one thing to say that relates to the point about Louisa needing to hear him say nice things and not just once.

    In the scene the morning after they’ve slept together that first time, she asks him to repeat his proposal again. And he says he already has. But she wants to hear it again. So he does, then saying, “Was that useful?” And she says yes, it was useful.

    I mean—-what part of this does Martin not get?

  22. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    She also asks him to repeat that he loves her at the castle after they’ve rescued JH. They have made him incredibly dense for a bright man who never forgets anything about medicine.

    BTW, I think you can expand the space for comments when it gets narrow. Please try it and let me know if it can be opened wider.

  23. Amy Cohen

    Karen, there was no “reply” under your last comment—maybe because the column had gotten so narrow so it defaults to the main comment box? But I don’t see any way to make a comment box wider. Did you mean by commenting without replying to an earlier comment?

    I was thinking today that in my review I hadn’t seen the episode when Terry comes back, and I realized I had somehow missed Series 2, E9—the double episode. Imagine my delight in being able to watch an episode I hadn’t seen even the second time around. It was like watching a new episode for the first time since I hadn’t seen that one since I first watched it probably four years ago or more.

    I had forgotten all about the fact that Martin gave Louisa a birthday card and asked her to go to dinner just before Louisa sees her father appear. No new revelations, but it was fun to see what felt like a fresh episode, and although I did find Jonathan annoying and fast forwarded through all the chough nonsense, I enjoyed going back to those days when Martin and Louisa were still flirting and bickering and the will they-won’t they stuff still was amusing and engaging.

  24. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    OK, I THINK I fixed the comment narrowing issue. Once again, the only way to know is if you try it. Apparently my comments were “nesting” and now I turned that off. Or at least I think I did! I certainly don’t want anyone to think that a comment can’t be made!!

  25. Amy Cohen

    Yep, looks like they aren’t nesting any more. Have you thought about having them post in chronological order rather than reverse chronological order? I know that when I was trying to read through the comments, it was often hard to find where a discussion started because newer comments were above the older ones except where someone replied to a specific comment, and then they nested in chronological order under that comment.

    This, I know, is not the fun part of blogging!

  26. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    Well at least they aren’t nesting anymore. Now, the question is does it make more sense to have the newer comments at the top. Hmmm. It could be annoying to new readers to have to scroll through all the other comments to get to the most recent ones OR it could help provide some continuity to the discussion.

    Maybe I’ll try setting it up in reverse order and see if that works better. Thanks for being my workhorse!!

  27. Amy Cohen

    LOL! I haven’t been called that before. Sort of like it… 🙂

    I can only speak for myself, but when I read a blog, I like to read through the comments in the order in which they were written so I can see how the discussion evolved. Must be my linear brain. I don’t care what was said most recently if I don’t know what came before.

    Others may feel entirely differently about it, but for me scrolling to the bottom and then scrolling up gets confusing.

    Thanks, Karen!

  28. Amy Cohen

    And I hate to tell you this, but replies are still nesting underneath when I reply to an earlier comment instead of going to the bottom box to make a new comment.

    On my blog, I don’t get the long discussions with replies to comments and then replies to replies and then replies to replies to replies etc., so I don’t run into this issue. I guess it’s a sign that your blog generates a lot more discussion. I should only have such a problem…

  29. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    I went back and changed the order of the comments and I also made sure I took out the nesting. This time it should stay that way!!

  30. Amy Cohen

    Looks like it did! The one thing this will change is that people may have to reference whose comment they are responding to—e.g., where you say “you and Amy” addressing Santa and me. That worked when the comments nested, but now someone might not know who the “you” was. I don’t think that will be a problem once people get used to the idea that you can’t reply right below a comment. I’ve seen this format on lots of blogs, and it does seem to work. I think nesting works fine as long as there aren’t multiple replies to one comment.

    We will see what others think!

  31. Stephany

    Holy Cow – I have been away from this blog for a while and now I have enough reading to carry me through to next spring when things around Doc Martin heat up again. Thank you Amy for your fresh inputs, Karen for carrying on and Santa and Australia and and. You know we will never figure this couple out because they are not real – lol. I have to leave now but I will be back

  32. Santa Traugott

    I’m glad that Amy discovered “On the Edge.” On first viewing, I didn’t care for it, but I liked it much better when I watched it the second time.

    As for the ending scene the hospital — “You’re my patient….and my wife.” It’s interesting that people have such different reactions to a scene. I just thought he had made an effort to pull himself together and was being his usual med-speak,stiff self . He had opened up to her pre-surgery, and knew that his marriage was still in jeopardy. Perhaps he felt at that moment that further pleading of his case would not be effective, and would be stressful or painful for Louisa. Remember — he doesn’t think he deserves her (according to Aunt Ruth). And maybe too much pride there — damned if he’ll beg, after she’s just told him she’s leaving anyway. And maybe too, he thought they’d have a bit of time to talk things over before she left again. So, while I wish he could have found it within himself to offer a warmer valedictory, I can’t say that my reaction is “Grrrrr.”

    OTOH, a male friend’s reaction to the scene was, she thinks he doesn’t love her anymore, because of his behavior as S6 went on, and his behavior in that scene just added to her misperception. Interesting.

  33. Santa Traugott

    BTW, someone on FB posted an interview Caroline did on one of the morning shows, promoting the new season of DCI Banks. They got in a couple of questions about Doc Martin also — basically, were they finally going to make a go of it. So Caroline actually hedged a bit about that (although saying she hasn’t read any scripts yet). She thought “will they – won’t they” was done but probably the next series would show two people who really shouldn’t be together but who loved each other, having decided they really wanted to make their marriage work, try to muddle through that process together. I thought she made it sound like it wasn’t entirely a given that they would succeed. But maybe I’m just rabbit-eared at this point.


    So make of that what you will. I think they won’t be able to resist focusing on That Relationship. But it could be interesting to see them work things out, for a change.

  34. Santa Traugott


    Interview that Caroline did on on of the morning shows.

    Maybe focus on how two people who really shouldn’t be together, but who love each other, decide to really try to make a go of their marriage, and how they muddle through the process. I thought she made it sound like the outcome wasn’t a given, although she did say that the “will they – won’t they” was done. But see what you think — I may be a tad rabbit-eared, picking up implications that aren’t there.

    I would say, if they split up by the end of S8, I for one would hope they’re truly done and we never have another iteration.

  35. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    I saw that interview too and heard her say they would be muddling through, although she sounds like she is not involved with the development process and really doesn’t know what’s in store. I did not get the impression at all that there was a plan to have them struggle to stay together again.

    My best guess is that they could continue to stick to the routine of having them begin S8 as a relatively happy couple and conclude with them going through some hardships. I think we would all like to see the “will they-won’t they” nonsense end. Their marriage will have to be rocky or we wouldn’t have a show of the type we have come to like so much; however, I can’t believe that they don’t realize that the viewers want this couple to stay together now. I am certain that will matter and affect the choices they make. I feel the need to repeat that the show is a dramedy and the humor is an important element. Louisa (Caroline Catz) is key to the show. They would be stupid to overturn those aspects of it.

  36. Santa Traugott

    Didn’t mean to post the above twice but blog was behaving very strangely at that point.

    “They NOW know that they love each other…” So maybe the theory that she didn’t really know that he loved her is supported? And I think in all of the discussions above, we should have kept in mind that Martin never knows really that she loves him….. just because at some level he doesn’t really believe that anyone can love him, let alone someone he’s as undeserving of as Louisa. So NOW knowing that key thing seems like a huge advance.

    “And they ACCEPT that they have to try to make a go of their marriage” ;… which I think would have been the point of having the actual wedding, but of course, people don’t always understand this point immediately or intuitively. So maybe Louisa gets that she can’t bail when things get tough, and Martin gets that he can’t shut down and shut her out. Maybe.

    I agree, she doesn’t know really what’s in the scripts, but I think her understanding of her character and her relationship with Martin is always interesting, because it comes from somewhere….. and isn’t it the basis of how she plays her?

    One hopes the comedy — what a friend calls “the sparkle” — returns!

  37. Amy Cohen

    Good morning—thanks so much for posting the clip, Santa. I don’t know how to find these things. YouTube?

    As for the interview, the interviewer starts by saying something like—at the end of the last series, Doc and Louisa are apart. Are they going to get together? So I thought that this must be referring to the end of S6, not S7, since they clearly are together at the end of S7. So is this an old interview? I didn’t think so since most of the interview is about her other show, but I can’t tell.

    Santa, your comment about the last scene of S6 in the hospital is really interesting—perhaps it’s all a big Rorschach test for all of us. I see a man essentially ignoring his wife’s need for some emotional connection—treating her as if she was just another patient to whom he happened to be married, even though we know he loves her. Like I said above, I found his statement cold and insulting.

    I think your male friend is right—that she doesn’t really know if he loves her. He doesn’t want to go away with her, he’s depressed, he doesn’t talk to her but talks to Ruth instead, he doesn’t touch her. And he never says “nice things” to her except when she was under anesthesia.

    So assuming that is a new interview, maybe CC is right in saying that NOW they know they both love each other. We as viewers always know they do, and we all generally assume Martin wasn’t sure of her love for him. But perhaps we have overlooked Louisa’s insecurities, something that was more apparent to me on my fast-forward third watch of the series.

    I mean—she almost married Danny until he was ready to go to London for a new job. She wants to be #1 in someone’s life. After all, she was never #1 in her parents’ lives. Why should she even believe that Martin loves her, especially after S6?

    I sure do hope that what CC predicts comes to be. Watching them struggle to be together could be quite humorous and touching—if done well.

  38. Amy Cohen

    One other comment about “On the Edge”—when Louisa is talking to her father at one point, she says “you always took good care of us after Mum left.” Who is “us”? Is there some secret sibling who’s going to show up at some point? Or did I hear incorrectly? Or is this just one of those things that were said early in the series that are dropped later on?

  39. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    The interview is new Amy, and mostly done because the other series CC is in, DCI Banks, has just started being shown in UK. In that series she has done so well too that they have made her a regular and she is probably indispensable at this point. CC has the ability to turn her characters into major forces.

    My take on her use of the term “us” is that it’s a Britishism referring to her and her father. If they come up with a sibling at this point, we would all find it ridiculous.

    From my perspective, BTW, Louisa never considered marrying Danny as an option. She used him to make Martin jealous. There are too many times when she looks back to see if Martin is noticing her with Danny, and then there’s her slip of the tongue while talking to Danny in the classroom, for me to be convinced that she had any more than a passing interest in Danny. Danny and Edith sort of play the same role in this show, the vehicle for bringing Martin and Louisa together.

  40. Santa

    Amy, that’s never been made clear, but some have pointed out that the use of “us” in England is a colloquialism for oneself, used instead of “me”.

    At any rate, it does leave open the possibility of a sudden sibling appearance.

  41. Amy Cohen

    Karen, I look at the Danny relationship differently. I don’t think she was just using him to make Martin jealous. I don’t think she’s that evil or manipulative that she would have let Danny think she was seriously considering marriage if she wasn’t. Also, the look in her eyes when he first asks her is both surprise and happiness. She’d been hanging around with him for days (weeks? months?) by that time. Yes, she still was looking at Martin longingly, and I don’t for a second think she loved Danny. But he seemed like an option, and she was a woman close to 37 and wanted kids. And Martin kept disappointing her.

    Plus she is annoyed when she finds out the villagers were gossiping about her possible marriage to Danny. If she wanted to make Martin jealous, wouldn’t she have wanted him to know? As Joan realizes, Martin had to act or lose her. But Martin can’t get himself to do anything. Instead Louisa realizes that Danny is shallow and ambitious and not as reliable as Martin, so she breaks up with him.

    So my take is that although in the end she would never have married Danny and she was not in love with him, she was seriously considering him as an option.

    And yes, Danny was a plot device like Edith, but I do think the writers wanted us to believe that Louisa was seriously considering Danny as an option. Maybe out of desperation, not love, but nevertheless an option.

  42. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    That’s fine if you believe they sold the relationship well enough to convince you that she was truly attracted to Danny. The amount of times she reciprocated his advances is, to me, not that different from how much Martin gave to Edith, but we’re splitting hairs. I agree that she had to have been looking for someone she could consider seriously as a spouse given her desire for children and her contention that she just needed to find the right man. I just think Danny always came on too strong with his religious beliefs, his use of her childhood nickname, and his erratic nature. They provided enough hints for me to be pretty sure that he wasn’t going to be her ultimate choice.

    Also, and I know this is being too practical or too objective, but I have trouble watching or reading a story without being aware of the end game. If Louisa decided to marry Danny and move to London, where would the story be? The London destination seems to be a regular fantasyland this show. If we move to London, life will be better. But when Louisa actually does live in London for 6 months, it doesn’t turn out to be such a dream location after all. It reminds me of Emma Bovary having the goal of living in Paris throughout Madame Bovary. She never gets there either. Of course such cities are not the dream settings we imagine them to be.

    I digress. No one moves to London in this show, and they never will. That Joan encourages Martin to act is more because she wants to see him with a woman, and knows he is infatuated with Louisa. In the end, however, it’s Louisa who makes the final move. We’re not surprised either because we are aware that she is not actually very attracted to Danny. Danny’s presence has made Louisa more alluring to Martin and convinced her that he’s not the right man.

  43. Amy Cohen

    Oh, I never once thought she would choose Danny in the end for all the reasons you listed. As I said, it was clear that she was not in love with him. But I did think they were trying to convey that she was considering it. I think there’s a difference between a plot device that holds one in suspense (which this did not) and one that lets you see a character’s decision making process, even if you know before the character does what they will do because it’s necessary to keep the show moving along. Obviously if Louisa had married Danny, the show would be over.

    It’s like we know that the Wiltons (and all the other characters who hold Martin at gunpoint) are not going to kill Martin because that would end the show, but we still believe that Martin is frightened and want to know how the writers will get him rescued. We knew Louisa wouldn’t choose Danny, but we can believe she is sincerely considering it and want to know how the writers will make sure it doesn’t happen. I think that the writers weren’t just trying to convey that Louisa was using Danny to make Martin Jealous; I think they also wanted us to believe that she liked Danny, cared about him when he almost died, and thought at least briefly about marrying him.

  44. Santa Traugott

    I will go further — I think that Martin would have allowed himself to drift into a relationship with Edith, if she hadn’t overplayed her hand (and that chambermaid hadn’t swished her ponytail). He was lonely, unhappy, believed Louisa didn’t want him, and she was comfortable, familiar, and flattering.

    I think both were fairly plausible, although of course we knew that neither alternate relationship was going anywhere.

  45. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    I agree with you that whenever a major character is put in a position to change the trajectory of the story, we are generally savvy enough to question whether that turning point event will truly happen. In some shows/films it does, and surprises us. I think many viewers are willing to take seriously the prospect that Louisa might choose Danny or Martin might return to Edith. The writers want to make it plausible and the circumstances suggest it could happen. It’s probably less likely in a show like Doc Martin, however. We might even argue that Danny comes along in S2, which makes him more viable as a love interest because Louisa and Martin haven’t established much of a relationship yet. And Edith arrives when Louisa has left town and Martin is at loose ends.

    I think they tried to make a convincing case for the possibility that the Martin and Louisa connection might be at an end while also giving us enough evidence that they are still attracted to each other. They have also provided a sufficient amount of evidence for thinking Martin and Louisa should not stay together. They started that game in S2 and continued it through S7, and we have come to call it the “will they-won’t they” dynamic. But as time has passed, many of us thought that premise grew tiresome and, for me, once Louisa showed her cards in S1, I expected them to be a couple.

    I was the most concerned about a potential serious injury to Ruth in the episode in which Robert Campbell stalks her. But when Martin and Penhale arrive and Penhale does his usual shtick, then they started Ruth’s engineering of the injection that stops Campbell, and Penhale flops over the couch, the suspense evaporated, as it was meant to do. At least they didn’t totally turn it into a joke. Martin does get a deep cut across his palm.

    But, as you say, ending the relationship or the life of one of the key characters would be highly unlikely.

  46. Amy Cohen

    I agree that the writers made it easy to think that Martin would go along with Edith’s invitations to have a relationship. When she asks whether her kiss on the cheek was appropriate, he says yes. He does not look at all repelled by her advances, although perhaps a bit surprised. And most telling, he carefully inspects that bed for bedbugs, indicating he had every intention of sharing the bed with her that night.

    But then the writers suggest that he has the sudden realization as to what a huge mistake it would be as it might forever damage any chance of a relationship with Louisa. It was one thing for Louisa to have a relationship with Danny in S2, as Karen said, because she and Martin had done nothing but share one kiss at that point. She owed Martin nothing. (And I do think we are supposed to think she and Danny were intimate—all those dinners together with wine, his arm around her, rubbing her back, their history, etc.)

    But by the time Edith appears in S4, Martin and Louisa have told each other they love each other, have been intimate and even almost married, and are having a child together. It would have been very hard for Louisa to take him back if he’d been with another woman while she was carrying his baby. So we had to know (and hope) that that wouldn’t happen, and although the writers teased us well, they pulled back. Thank goodness for the pony-tailed maid to make Martin’s brain overcome his libido!

  47. Amy Cohen

    LOL! Well, as has been noted many times on the blog, for some reason they keep things pretty chaste with Martin and Louisa while not shying away from the sex lives of other characters, including Aunt Joan! But they’ve also made it quite clear that Martin is interested in more than Louisa’s mind. They’re just leaving the rest to our imagination.

    One of my favorite lines is when the midwife accuses Martin of being a man, and Louisa says, “He is not,” and Martin responds, “Yes, I am!”

    And remember he did have that erotic dream about her, so there’s that…

  48. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    I hate to say this, but his checking for bedbugs does not necessarily mean to me that he had any plans to have sex…he doesn’t trust the cleanliness of any bed but his own. Edith may have had designs for the evening, but I can’t be sure Martin ever did. He certainly didn’t look pleased to be sharing a room, and he changes clothes in the bathroom. I would guess he didn’t immediately leave because he’s always so flummoxed by women coming on to him.

    He must have a libido of some kind even if it’s only when he’s totally emotionally shattered. They do have a baby, you know!

  49. Amy Cohen

    I guess my comment showed up after all.

    Karen, I guess we will have to agree to disagree on what Martin’s intentions were. If he didn’t want to sleep with her (in more than the literal sense), why wouldn’t he have gotten his own room when she said something like, “Well, when people are going to spend the night together, it’s customary that they share a room.” How much more blatant could that be? And he agrees. He doesn’t say “I thought we were just attending a conference together.” He sees her sexy underwear, closes the drawer quickly, but he then checks the bed. I can’t imagine that the writers wanted us to believe that he was thinking, “I guess we will just share a bed,” when the woman is clearly giving a very different message as to her intentions.

    Yes, he left, but as with Louisa’s even longer deliberation before turning Danny down, I think we were supposed to believe that Martin had every intention of having sex with Edith until he came to his senses as to what that would mean.

  50. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    I can see how you can argue that there was some innuendo about staying together, but I always think he is so clueless that when Edith asked him to come with her to the meeting and spend the night, he never thought that meant having sex or even staying with her. He figured he was getting his own room when he checked in. I still think that his reaction to seeing her underwear in the drawer was more along the lines of surprise and then confusion. Rather than leave at that point, he just went along. He sure found a lot to keep him busy and not spend time with Edith. That corset thing she was wearing was no turn on for him!

    Oh well, once again it’s hard to know what the intention was except to make it ambiguous, which is generally a good thing for writers to do.

    I cannot explain why I still find some comments from you and Santa in the trash now and then. Of course, I always rescue them, but I am lost about that.

  51. Amy Cohen

    Maybe someone out there just wants us to stop commenting!? 🙂

    I agree with everything you said–about him thinking he was having his room, having no expectation of sleeping with her, being confused by the underwear, etc. It surely wasn’t all his idea, but somewhere in some episode (I think with Mrs WIlson?), someone says to Louisa that when men see something on their plate, they eat it (or something like that). I think Martin saw something on his plate and was going to eat it until his common sense prevailed.

    I think we just see things a few shades differently. I wonder what others saw.

  52. Michele

    I hadn’t noticed the pony-tailed maid before. Must rewatch that scene! I didn’t see Martin as being sexually attracted to Edith at all, but rather as awkward and out of his depth. Had he stayed the night, I think she would have either had a very tough job seducing him or (more likely) ended up disappointed.

  53. Joan Yow

    I’ve really enjoyed this conversation. My friends and worse, my daughter, make fun of me for being so interested in a television show. Seeing that other bright women have the same interest allows me to ignore their teasing.

  54. Amy Cohen

    Joan, If my daughters knew that I not only have watched the show multiple times, but also not just read a blog about the show but have written a post and comments on the blog, I’d never hear the end of it. So you are not alone. I am just so glad that I found Karen’s blog because now at least I know that I have a place to talk about the characters and the show where no one will raise an eyebrow!

  55. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    Thanks Joan. We are all a bit nuts insofar as how much time and interest we’ve taken in closely analyzing this show and its characters. Let’s think of it as a learning experience in which we’ve expanded our knowledge base and had deep discussions about all sorts of important topics. Nah! Let’s just admit it’s been fun exchanging ideas and meeting each other through this blogging thing and a show we all find thought provoking in many ways.

  56. Joan Yow

    I’ve tried to explain the thought provoking discussions of this blog and it’s attraction to me but to no avail. I’ve noticed that the show attracts some but not others for reasons unknown to me.

  57. Amy Cohen

    Joan, there’s no accounting for taste—why some people love horror movies and others don’t, why some like farces and others don’t, why some like dramedy and others don’t. Variety is the spice of life, right? We here just know we have better taste!

    OK, here’s a silly question: why in the world was Louisa flying back to Portwenn in the very first episode if she lived there? Where was she coming from? I realize it doesn’t matter, but it’s a small plot point that just bothers me. I’d think that a teacher would not be flying back from London but taking a train if she traveling. The things that keep me awake at night…. 🙂

  58. Michele

    Amy, I’ve wondered the same thing re Louisa flying. Call it artistic licence. Perhaps she’d had a wedding/funeral/meeting in London and needed to be back in Cornwall in time for Martin’s interview, and the train wouldn’t get her there as quickly.

    Here’s another one: in S1E1, Aunty Joan says that he hasn’t been there (Cornwall) since he was 11. Later (I think S3E4) we discover that he’d been at her 60th birthday party, and then in S4E2 Edith recognises ‘Aunty Jill’ and we deduce that Martin introduced Edith to Joan prior to proposing to Edith. Either both of those meetings happened somewhere other than Cornwall, or the writers conveniently forgot the timeline from S1E1. Perhaps we know the storyline better than the writers themselves!?

  59. Amy Cohen

    I like that explanation, Michele. Just wish there’d been some line somewhere to explain for people like us who study the storylines so carefully.

    And yes, I’ve also wondered about the inconsistencies in the “when did Martin last see Joan” story. If Joan was 71 when she died, then Martin would probably have only seen her eight years before at her 60th (assuming about three years between Series 1 and the beginning of Series 5 when Joan dies). And even if the party wasn’t in Cornwall, certainly it seems that Martin brought Edith to Cornwall, which had to be long after he was eleven!

    And was Louisa eleven or twelve when her mother left? And when had she last seen her? I can’t recall the exact episode right now, but there was some inconsistencies there also.

    I’m glad to know I am not the only one who is irked by these things!

  60. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    My two cents is that I, too, have never been able to make sense of when Martin and Joan last saw each other for exactly the reasons you mention. How could she have met Edith and say she hasn’t seen Martin since he was 11?

    I’ve also wondered about Louisa’s flight to Portwenn. Why was she flying in? Somehow she and Martin are on the same flight but she arrives after him at the meeting. I guess she might have stopped somewhere before coming to the meeting. It’s odd that she is on the council that appoints the next doctor but doesn’t suspect anything about who he might be while on the plane. (It’s also somewhat amusing that he ends up being asked to determine who the next head of the school should be when Louisa is a candidate.)

    All of these inconsistencies affect our sense of continuity and add up after a while. I’d hate to think they weren’t noticed during the editing and production phases. But they weren’t considered important enough to fix, apparently. No way to explain that.

  61. Santa Traugott

    I just always thought that Louisa was flying from PortWenn to the meeting, b/c it was faster? And the meeting wasn’t held in PW but in someplace midway between London and PW? We know there’s an airport in NewQuay — maybe she was flying from there. But then why were she and Martin on the same plane? I don’t think there’s sense to be made of it.

    BTW, there’s an interview with Caroline Catz somewhere in which she says that Louisa has just recently returned to her home town of PortWenn (from London?) to take a teaching job there. So she and Martin are both “outsiders” in a sense.

    We have to keep in mind that S1 was a pilot, and it was very much up in the air whether there would be a S2. After that was commissioned, I think they may have paid more attention to consistency, but they have never hesitated to sacrifice it in the interests of a good storyline.

    What makes my head spin is trying to figure out what age James Henry is at any given time. And how much time has elapsed since Martin came to the village.

  62. Linda F

    I heard Caroline say in an interview that Louisa had been away and was coming back home so she and Martin were both sort of new to the village. I’m writing this from memory. I thought this was strange that if she was new to the village after being away for years that she was already on this panel to pick the new doctor. Maybe her boss (the headmaster) volunteerd her for this. I’ll go along with the thinking that she flew because she had to get back in time for this meeting. Maybe she had to wait for her luggage and Martin didn’t have any luggage because he was only there for the day.

  63. Amy

    Santa, the interview was definitely in Porternn. Remember in S7 that Martin takes Louisa to dinner at the Castle and says he picked the spot where they first met (not counting the plane).

  64. Santa Traugott

    Hmmm. You’re right — it’s also the place where they searched for the baby in S5E8. All I can think of is that they intended, back in 2004, for the hotel to stand for some intermediate location that both Martin and Louisa had to fly to. And then never worried about the inconsistency on the grounds that very few of their fans would spot it.

    Maybe Louisa was returning from a weekend in London?

  65. Amy Cohen

    Well, once again we all want to make the show conform to real time and space, and it’s just not cooperating! Santa, I also have tried to figure out the timeline. Karen and I emailed a bit about it and came up with 3-4 years since his arrival. But who knows?

    S1 feels like it’s just a few months. We don’t really know how long S2 was with Danny hanging around. That could be weeks or months. S3 seems to cover a relatively brief period—maybe a month or two? S4 has a gap of 6 months from the end of S3 and lasts three months til the end of Louisa’s pregnancy. S5 starts right after S4 and seems also to last about 3 -4 months, from the size of James at the end. S6 seems longer than the others, maybe because it was so dreary. But James doesn’t turn a year old until S7, so S6 is probably about seven-eight months? And S7 also seems to end just a few months after S6 ended, if we assume that Louisa was in Spain for three weeks and that L&M were meeting once a week with Dr T and had maybe five or six sessions.

    So putting aside S1 and S2, from the start of S3 until the end of S7 seems to be about two years or so. If S1 and S2 are also each about 2-3 months, that means it would be three years from when Martin arrived in Portwenn until the end of S7.

    But who knows? Certainly Martin Clunes and Caroline Catz look a hell of a lot more than three years older than they did in 2004…. They can’t escape the real world of time and space!

  66. Kathy

    Okay – I had just about given up on this blog because it seemed so negative about Louisa – and then Amy showed up with her comments with which i am in complete accord. I have always felt that I understood Louisa’s actions – a few brief thoughts …. I can’t figure out how to respond to various comments so I’m going to list a few that I remember here:
    Living with the Doc and loving him can’t be easy – for instance, she can be quite playful which is what her teasing is meant to be; she doesn’t intend to be mean … at some point, she will realize that he just doesn’t get it.
    Aubergines and courgettes are the British names for eggplant and zucchini as I recall from shopping in Cornwall grocery stores. I write DM fan fiction and i did some research on this when I wrote a short story, “Make or Break” that focused on the time between S7,E7 and S7,E8 …. just a fun little story, not an in-depth analysis.
    Amy and Joan – my children also think I’ve gone off the deep end in being such a fan. They just roll their eyes whenever I bring up the show, which i do way too often for them. But I’ve never told them or any of my family that I write fan fiction – they might have me committed!! I only tell my DM friends.
    With respect to time frames, I have learned to just suspend my disbelief – the time inconsistencies just drove me crazy until I just started to follow Bert’s advice and go with the flow. There are a number of inconsistencies in DM and you just have to let them go.
    oh … regarding “On the Edge”, it’s one of my favorite episodes, one I didn’t like at first, but have grown to love. It’s just plain out funny, such a farce. And even there the Martin-Louisa love story progresses, albeit in its usual slow motion fashion.

  67. Amy

    Kathy, where do we find your story? I’d be curious to see what you wrote about the “gap.” When you say you researched it, do you mean you were able to find out what the writers had intended?
    It’s so funny about eggplant and zucchini v. aubergine and courgette. I’d seen the aubergine term before and thought it was French, never had seen courgette. Then I posted here and Michele also explained that it was UK usage. So I was quite pleased when I took one of those quizzes you see online and it was about how well I knew British terms. Two of the questions asked about aubergines and courgettes! Things you learn on the internet.

    Going with the flow is probably the best thing to do, but hard for me to do.

  68. Michele

    Ah ladies, welcome to the world of fanfiction. There’s enough material out there to last us until series 8 next year. Google Doc Martin fan fiction make or break and you’ll find it. I think Kathy goes by ke0212.

  69. Santa Traugott

    It’s amazing what intense feelings, pro and con, these characters evoke. There certainly is a lot of Louisa-bashing, especially compared to criticism of Martin. I suppose that’s because Martin Ellingham (let alone Martin Clunes) is way more charismatic, and because the story is really written from his point of view and on his side. I just have 2 or 3 basic ideas: In most couples, there is an equal level of dysfunction of each; most relationship problems are interactive and “fault-finding” as it’s usually done is pretty pointless; and most important — BP started out by having Louisa way more functional than Martin (and even then, she had a lot of critics) and to keep the story going, they had to give her more and more “issues” and arouse more sympathy for poor Martin, who couldn’t help how egregiously inappropriate and insensitive his behavior was, even as it drove her away. (That’s moderately saracastic). Finally, their behavior as a couple at certain points is so unrealistic as to be cartoonish. So what’s the point of bashing either of them!

  70. Amy

    Kathy, I really enjoyed your story. I left a review just now on the FanFiction site.

    And I will say that I don’t generally read fan fiction because it usually fails to depict the characters in a way that is true to how they behave on their shows, but I think your story captured them accurately.

  71. Amy

    I agree, Santa, that it generally takes two to un-tango in a relationship (although certainly there are cases where one partner is really abusive), and I do think that the writers have tried to strike some balance when it comes to Martin and Louisa. As I commented above somewhere, she has as much fear of rejection and abandonment as he does. But her behavior in public is more socially acceptable so we see her as more “normal” (that word again). In terms of relationships, she may be just as dysfunctional as Martin.

    And maybe I’ve been tone deaf, but I haven’t seen much Louisa bashing here (and I haven’t read other sites). We focus more on Martin because that’s how we’ve been set up by the writers. We are supposed to identify more with Martin’s feelings because he is the central character. The writers spend a lot more time showing us how Martin feels after Louisa leaves him each time, including in S3 after the concert date. We see him talking to Joan and later Ruth about how sad he is. We see him unable to focus at work. The writers don’t show us as much about Louisa’s hurt and sadness each of those times. So if people are less sympathetic to Louisa, it’s because the writers have done less to show us how she is feeling.

    But CC does an outstanding job of conveying with her eyes and her expressions just how sad, heartbroken, disappointed she is every time they separate, even though it’s been her choice each time. I think that’s what I noticed even more the last time I watched the episodes—that if we shift our focus from Martin’s reactions to Louisa’s reactions, we can see that she is just as heartbroken and wants the relationship to work as much as he does. That made me able to identify this time as much with her as with Martin.

  72. Santa Traugott

    I didn’t mean “Louisa bashing” going on here 🙂 We’re very temperate, I think, compared to other sites.

    I think Caroline Catz said it best — she had to come to terms with the fact that the love of her life is never going to be who she wants him to be. I think she is incredibly drawn to him, and at the same time, knows that many things about him are very difficult for her to accept and make him very difficult to be with. But she keeps going back to him b/c she hopes that this time it’s different. When she came back from Spain, she must have come to the conclusion that she couldn’t do this again, and she’d have to have hard evidence over a period of time that he had changed before she could go back to him. As it worked out, it seems to me, he showed her some of what she needed, and for the rest, she just made a decision to take him as he was rather than lose him entirely.

  73. Amy

    I also think she realized that it wasn’t just Martin who was messing up the relationship—that she was also. As Dr T said, she kept setting him up to disappoint her by expecting him to be someone he wasn’t. And she ran off every time he did despite knowing that he was going to be tactless, speak medical talk when embarrassed, and fail to say “nice things” to her. So I do think it wasn’t just that she realized he was trying and that she couldn’t expect any radical change; it was also that she realized she had to change as well.

    Or at least we can hope so.

  74. Santa Traugott

    Yes, that too. That’s why I said it’s usually interactive and usually roughly equal levels of dysfunction.

    Maybe in the early series what we thought was Louisa being more “normal” was really that she was more conventional and socially attuned, but all those insecurities, abandonment fears, etc., were just waiting for the right dysfunctional relationship to elicit them.

  75. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    I am coming to this conversation very late because I had a busy day today, but have to object to the blog having been prone to being negative about Louisa. Far from it!! I have written several posts over the years that defended her against the anti-Louisa sentiments expressed elsewhere. We have to acknowledge when Louisa is portrayed as doing insensitive things, but generally I have been quite sympathetic towards her and I think the writers have provided ample evidence to support defending her.

    I agree with Santa that we are mostly shown the story from Martin’s perspective and that makes us more sympathetic towards him. Furthermore, he has far more personality defects and psychological problems, and that makes us more inclined to take pity on him. (And there is always the factor of Martin Clunes being popular and attracting more positive feelings due to that.) But Louisa has been defended on this blog quite often, both in posts and in comments.

    As for the rest, I cannot add much. We have Louisa’s admission at the end of S7E8 that she’s unusual too and that she is partially responsible for their marital strife. I’m guessing they want us to take that as a resolution that they are both at fault, and move on.

  76. Kathy

    Sorry Karen – I probably read a post at a time when a number of my friends had been raking Louisa over the coals; I was getting tired of defending her actions and I mus have read a similar comment here on your blog and I just took it the wrong way. I couldn’t tell yo when it was except that it was after series 7 aired in England. Obviously that didn’t keep me away entirely since I read this post in full.
    Amy, I’m glad you enjoyed “Make or Break”. The research I did was on the vegetables; I wouldn’t have any idea how to find out what the writers or producers were thinking when they made the last two episodes. And after I learned something about the vegetables, I kind of got carried away with the aphrodisiac theme…so it was definitely a fun story to write. btw, your review didn’t get posted. Sometimes the site malfunctions and doesn’t post readers reviews – not sure why. I know what you mean about the many ways fanfic writers portray the characters, but it difficult to get them right even when you try. After trying to write the Doc as both disagreeable and sympathetic, I am even more impressed with the writers and Martin Clunes that they are able to convey the complexities of his character.
    As for what is coming in the next series, there really have been no fanfics written on that – I think we are all wondering where they can take it from here … and you guys have offered up some interesting ideas

  77. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    No worries, Kathy. I’m so glad you didn’t give up on the blog! I thought this would be a good time to mention an op-ed Anna Gunn from Breaking Bad wrote in 2013 in the NYTimes (where else?). Although I do not think that Caroline Catz has suffered nearly as much anger and vitriol directed at her because of viewers thinking Louisa is not treating Martin nicely, there may be a little bit of the same sort of circumstances going on in this show.

    As Anna so correctly states: “Because Walter is the show’s protagonist, there is a natural tendency to empathize with and root for him, despite his moral failings. (That viewers can identify with this antihero is also a testament to how deftly his character is written and acted.) As the one character who consistently opposes Walter and calls him on his lies, Skyler is, in a sense, his antagonist.” We can easily say that about Martin Ellingham and Louisa, by substituting psychological disorders for moral failings.

    I was also impressed with Anna’s references to other TV wives getting the same negative responses. (“It’s notable that viewers have expressed similar feelings about other complex TV wives — Carmela Soprano of “The Sopranos,” Betty Draper of “Mad Men.” Male characters don’t seem to inspire this kind of public venting and vitriol.”)

    Is it a continuing problem that women who perform in antagonist roles are treated differently from men who inhabit off-putting characters, as Anna suggests? It’s something to consider here as well.

  78. Amy

    Karen, this is a great topic for a new post! Are you sure you want it lost here? It’s a great topic on its own, and I’d love to give it some thought. What do you think?

  79. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    I’m not sure I have enough knowledge about the reactions of viewers to strong female characters to write a post about it. Or do you have a different subject in mind?

    To be continued…

  80. Amy

    I was thinking generally about the idea that we tend to see a work primarily through the eyes of one character (obviously there are many exceptions) and that as a result, that character gets the most sympathy. I never watched Breaking Bad, but I got the point of the Anna Gunn’s op-ed. And we had been commenting earlier about why Martin seems to get more sympathy than Louisa—why are viewers harder on Louisa. In part it’s because we see a great deal more of what Martin has experienced because he is on camera a great deal more than Louisa.

    I also wonder whether male characters get more sympathy due to sexism. A woman with issues may just be seen as a whiner or a crazy lady or a bitch, but a man with the same issues may be seen as sad or powerful. I think I reacted to this in part based on years of teaching and knowing that if a man was tough, he was seen as challenging whereas a woman acting the same way was a bitch. A man who was empathetic and kind was a good guy; a woman was too weak. My female colleagues and I struggled to find the right middle path all the time.

    And maybe more central characters are male so it’s a combination of both that and sexism that may lead viewers to be more sympathetic to what might otherwise be an unlikable male character—Martin, Archie Bunker, Columbo, the Breaking Bad character, and I am sure we could come up with others., but I am too tired right now.

    Anyway, just a thought.

  81. Santa Traugott

    I agree with Amy — it’s both that the dominant character, the one whose point of view we mostly see, is usually male, and also that there’s a very curious, complicated reaction by women (used generically, not point at DM fans!) to other featured women characters. The examples of Carmen Soprano and Betty Draper were great.

    Certainly men don’t appear to have the same reactions to Louisa! (There have been a couple of cranks on the Caroline Catz fan page, who just appear to want to stir up trouble, but those aside…..)

    Perhaps we need to think of series (or novels, movies?) where women were the “above the title” star — do many come to mind? In TV, I can think of Murphy Brown, and Xena the Warrior (or something). Also, Helen Mirren, in Prime Suspect. There must be others — and if not, why not is instructive in itself. —
    but I don’t watch enough TV to be able to come up with them. But the point would be, do these women attract the same sorts of endless second guessing and criticism that say, Louisa does, and if not, why not?

    Yes, I think the reaction by fans to Louisa (and I’m not sure it’s because she’s a STRONG woman) is a topic worth further discussion. But maybe it would be helpful to link back to at least a couple of blog posts Karen has written on Louisa and on strong women, if I remember rightly.

  82. Amy

    Other series where a woman is the lead character or title character (and I am dating myself here): Maude, Mary Tyler Moore (though very likable, of course), Veep, Ally McBeal, and…I am drawing a blank.

    Other shows with unlikable male leads: House, Newsroom, House of Cards, and another blank. Monk? There are shows I’ve never watched or watched only a bit, but know enough about to think they could be added to either list.

  83. Amy

    Mad Men is a really good example that does parallel Doc Martin in these ways: Don Draper could be seen as a terrible person—a womanizer who lies and cheats to get what he wants and treats many people terribly. But audiences loved him anyway and felt sorry for him because of his bad childhood.

    The women he married—both Betty and Megan—stirred up considerable fan hostility, Betty for being cold and aloof, Megan for being needy and weird (and fans hated her teeth). Instead of feeling sympathetic to these two women for being used and victimized by Don, people hated them and loved him.

    The only female characters who seemed to get fan sympathy were Peggy and Sally. And both of them were like the fans—loved Don even though they could see all his flaws and occasionally call him on them. I actually think Louisa is more like Peggy and Sally in that way—she doesn’t let Martin take advantage of her, calls him on his 20 crap things, but loves him anyway. Fans get mad when she is perceived as being mean or hurting Martin. The loyalty is ultimately with Martin as it was with Don.

  84. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    Sorry to have dropped out for a while. I had some appointments to keep this morning. Essentially I think the comments you and Amy have been making cover the key elements of what has always been a problem for women. If they are strong, demanding, and, heaven forbid, aggressive, they are considered bitches and generally viewed as unappealing. Men with the same or similar traits are viewed very differently and more sympathetically.

    I know I can’t come up with a plethora of examples, but as far as lead females in a drama I think of Robin Wright’s character in House of Cards or Diane Kruger’s in The Bridge. To me they deliberately have Robin Wright wear severe hair and clothing that looks pretty stark and a bit butch, although it’s hard to take the sexiness out of Wright no matter what she wears. Kruger plays a detective with Asperger’s and is allowed to act out on her inability to recognize acceptable behavior from unacceptable, but how much viewers objected to her, I really don’t know.

    Another abrasive female character who had her own show is Roseanne. But since it was a comedy, I’m not sure her behavior was as offensive, although I bet it was to some. Her show lasted 9 seasons of 24 episodes, so it was pretty popular. There’s still the Cybill show that I’ve mentioned before and that was cancelled prematurely, possibly due to bringing up female situations that some found uncomfortable. Currently there’s Two Broke Girls, also a sitcom that has lasted 5 years so far and Allison Janney in another sitcom called Mom that has been on since 2013. These are all comedies, which I would consider pertinent because viewers are fine with strong women when they can laugh at them. I also thought of Geena Davis in Commander in Chief, which I liked a lot, but only lasted one season. Does that prove that when a woman has a serious role in a drama that puts her in charge, the show doesn’t do as well? Also, Homeland has Claire Danes as a fairly unstable woman who is also strong and highly driven as well as capable. She might be one of the few bright spots out there. She’s leading a drama and bossing many men while being a equal opportunity offender. I guess we could say that Downton Abbey had plenty of strong female characters too.

    We can point to enough examples of women as female leads in TV series that we are hard pressed to really know what exactly led to their standing as a series. I would never have known that Anna Gunn had received death threats over her role in Breaking Bad if she hadn’t written the op-ed piece, nor would I have been aware that the other actresses she mentions had also met with nasty attacks. These days it’s hard to know what people are willing to say on the internet.

    I like that Louisa is presented as self-sufficient, strong-willed, and feisty along with attractive and generally compassionate. She has every right to speak up when she feels she’s been mistreated. To my way of thinking, she shows both a soft, feminine side and an independent, confident side along with a smattering of insecurity. I like the way they’ve included many capable women in Doc Martin who can handle quite a number of difficult situations without depending on a man to save the day. I have written about them in several posts and still feel the same. Why some viewers can’t accept Louisa’s combination of personal characteristics, and want to attack her, I can’t explain except to agree that they are responding to the perspective of the main protagonist and seeing things from only his point of view.

  85. Kathy

    I tend to agree with all that Amy and Santa have posted here regarding a general tendency to judge women, both in real life and in fiction more harshly than men. I’ve begun to think I am an outlier in that I couldn’t stand Don Draper and i liked, or at least felt sorry for, Betty, and I totally felt a kinship with Peggy. Like Santa I don’t watch enough TV these days to really come up with other examples.
    Perhaps with respect to Louisa, we only get very subtle hints about how much she really cares for Martin and wants to be with him (from series 4 on) and we see much more of her annoyance with or misunderstanding of him. I’m sure Karen has written on her strength before because she is a strong woman, and perhaps because she is a teacher we think she should be more perceptive of what has made him the way he is. Of course she is perceptive, seeing the man he truly is behind the gruff, rude exterior. Didn’t she tell Janice that most people see him as cold and uncaring, but he isn’t like that at all (I’m paraphrasing here). She’s just not perfect and we want her to be.
    It is interesting how men do seem to love the character of Louisa – they may have more experience with women like her … don’t many of us confuse and perplex our husbands at times? If the brilliant Martin E has trouble understanding his beautiful wife, then they can be forgiven their obtuseness as well!

  86. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    Good points! If people want Louisa to be perfect, they are living in fantasyland. The way they’ve written the ME character, he wouldn’t be the least interested in a namby pamby woman anyway. Besides, we’ve talked frequently about needing conflict for the plot to work. There’s always that to remember.

  87. Amy

    It’s funny that we are all really Louisa fans for all the reasons mentioned in the last several comments–her strength, her warmth, her insecurity, her independence. I would add her intelligence and her drive. No matter what Martin tries to do to persuade her to be a stay at home mother, she knows she would be unhappy and would miss her career.

    So who are these people who are bashing Louisa? (As I’ve said, I don’t read other fan sites, and now I am glad I don’t!) And what are their complaints? Is it just that they don’t like how she runs off from Martin or snaps at him? I mean, he snaps at her plenty. And not always as a response to her snappiness. For example, he tells her to shut up when she asks him about his parents. (True, it was right after his mother told him she never wanted him, but Louisa didn’t know that.) He tells her he won’t go away with her with no explanation. He lectures her on what she eats (a BIG no-no, if you ask me) and how she keeps the house. Why don’t these Louisa-bashers feel sympathy for her?

    I come back to what I said before: sexism. It may be 2016, but many people want their women characters compliant and soft and sweet while the men can be…otherwise. Roseanne and Murphy Brown and Cybil and Maude may be exceptions, perhaps because they are more purely comedic shows, perhaps because there is no romantic lead the audience falls in love with. Roseanne and Maude had husbands, but neither was a romantic character, more foils for their wives’ humor. If those female characters treated a man the way Martin sometimes treats Louisa, I bet the audiences would soon have turned on them even though they were the lead characters.

    As for Robin Wright’s character on House of Cards, she and the Kevin Spacey character are both despicable! I think those are two characters everyone just loves to hate. They are more cartoons than human.

  88. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    Oh, I should say that I have written about strong women in this show. Some of my earliest posts were about them. Please see “Women’s Issues, parts 1-3.” I also have a post titled “Strong Women Leads” which references a Frank Bruni article about that subject. In addition I have a post called “A Bit More on Louisa,” and another called “In Defense of Louisa, S6.” So I have done my best to express my support for how Louisa has been portrayed, even though her character has suffered from some inconsistencies that I can’t explain or defend. See what you think.

  89. Amy

    I have read them all and will go back and re-read them. (FWIW, I never saw Louisa treated harshly by anyone here.) I do think that from the very start Louisa was portrayed as strong—from telling Martin off on the plane to challenging the all male panel that interviewed him for the job in S1 E1, she was outspoken and opinionated. I think that we are supposed to think that is what in part made her attractive to Martin. She was smart, articulate, and not about to worship him or any man. She’s as three-dimensional as any female character on television and not at all a stereotype. I liked her from the start! But I guess there are many who don’t?

    I don’t recall from your earlier posts whether you and anyone commenting felt there were any women depicted in sexist ways. Certainly there are many wacky or unlikeable female characters (Elaine, the doctor who briefly replaces Martin, Pauline, the vet, both Eleanor and Margaret, the vet Sims, Mrs. Winton, the cat lady, and so on), but there is also no shortage of wacky or unlikeable men (the loan sharks, Stewart, Penhale, Bert, the new headmaster, etc.). At least they are even handed in portraying men and women as similarly weird.

  90. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    I don’t remember exactly when or where, but there have been remarks about Louisa being too harsh and not understanding enough; that she should make more of an effort to accept him and his offensive comments; that she gave him too hard a time over the dinner invite of Dennis and Karen in S6; and should never have asked him to appear at the Sports Day.

    My own opinion differs from the above in many ways, but I also find more of the other women more likeable than you do. I liked Pauline a lot. That doesn’t mean I liked everything she did, but overall I got a kick out of her and considered her a great character. I also felt they did a good job with Eleanor. They created a character who is clearly self-absorbed yet trying to redeem herself with her daughter. She seemed a believable combination of damaged and good hearted. I’ve written about the men and how there really are very few who appear competent and high achieving. As compared to the women, I think the men in this show are the ones who are depicted as mostly erratic and dimwits.

  91. Amy

    Just to clarify—I said wacky OR unlikeable. I liked all of those wacky women except for Margaret and some aspects of Eleanor. I liked Pauline a lot as well as Elaine and Morwenna. I just meant they were not necessarily the most flattering portrayals of female characters.

    Same with the male characters—I like Penhale, Bert, and others even if they are a bit wacky.

    And I am more skeptical of Eleanor’s motives than you are. Did she really come to help Louisa or was she really there for business?

  92. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    Oh good, we can agree that despite being on the weird side, e. g. Elaine and some of the other women like the cat woman, or the woman who cooked road kill, our overall reaction was they were likable enough (to coin a phrase). There are lots of quirky women and men in this show, as they are intended to be. What I think we’re both saying is that they favor the women when it comes to villagers who seem capable and hardworking.

    Eleanor is an interesting animal. She definitely came to Portwenn partially to make a deal for fish/seafood, but her first stop was to see the baby. Louisa had written her and she claimed she was there because she considered it an invitation. At the very least they attempted to make it appear that the key reason she came was to see Louisa and the baby. After that they added the other odd tendencies like her formula to calm the baby, needing to be a part of the action, and her business arrangements. She wasn’t a reliable person with whom to leave the baby, but she did her best even if it wasn’t acceptable. I am willing to think that her mothering skills match up with enough of those experienced by others that many women related to her on a personal level. I certainly did! Neither my mother nor my mother-in-law were helpful to me when I had babies. They weren’t quite as bad as Eleanor, but they could have been a lot more interested.

    I suppose the idea of a small village generally includes a lot of wacky, quirky people. Maybe we could say that about almost any place!

  93. Amy

    (I won’t get off into politics, but your quoting of Obama’s line in 2008 reminds me that much of the reaction to women like HIllary is also sexist- I think much of the hostility towards her is a reaction to her being -a strong, opinionated woman who dares to think she can be President. I know people have other reasons, but I still believe that’s part of it.)

    Well, Eleanor certainly was more affectionate to James Henry than Margaret was. But where had she been for all those years? Suddenly she appears back in Louisa’s life? Yes, grandchildren do have a magical effect on many of us, but I just wasn’t convinced that this narcissistic woman who abandoned her daughter was really coming back out of maternal love.

    And that raises another timeline question. We have been told that Eleanor left Louisa when she was 11 or 12 (I think both ages are used in different episodes), but there was some discussion in S5 between Eleanor and Louisa about it having been seven years? And then Eleanor says something, and Louisa’s response is, “I hardly knew you by then.” I can’t recall the exact line right now, but maybe someone here can straighten that out for me??

  94. Santa Traugott

    One thing that occurred to me is that Eleanor came back when Louisa was 18 or so and suggested she come live with her in Spain? And then flitted off again?

    Like some of the other characters, (Louisa?) I can’t really tell whether Eleanor is portrayed as complex and multi-sided, or that her portrayal is inconsistent to meet plot needs. She’s pretty manipulative and had no scruples about pawning JH off to Angie. Also, it’s pretty clear that one of her main motives in coming to Portwenn was to arrange for reliable seafood supply for her business. Seeing Louisa and her new grandson may just have been icing on the cake.

  95. Kathy

    When Eleanor first left the village and whether she came back is another of those time inconsistencies that drove me crazy – and now I just don’t let my self think about it.
    I do remember reading some of your “strong women” posts Karen. I belong to a group of DM fans and many of them were bashing Louisa for a while and I got very frustrated with them. An interesting side comment is that one of the group loves the show, loves Martin Clunes, but hates the way Martin Ellingham treats Louisa … so typical of so many men, she says. The show does provoke all kinds of reactions based, I suppose on the baggage and life experiences that we each bring with us when we watch it.
    I’ve been trying to think of some of the strong men in the show. There certainly are some who appeared only once or twice, and off the top of my head, Chris Parsons and Roger Fenn come to mind. Stu Mackinsie ( school board head in s2 and S4) also the father of the girl who had a crush on the doc in S1 or S2 (I can’t remember). And I quite liked Mark Mylow; despite his insecurities I think he was competent at his job.

  96. Amy

    Santa, that was my sense also—that Eleanor had invited Louisa to live with her, perhaps after high school, and by that time Louisa hardly knew her because it had been seven years since Eleanor left Portwenn. And it sounds like you and I have the same perception of Eleanor. I think she is very self-involved, had selfish reasons to come to Portwenn and also selfish/narcsisstic reasons for wanting to see her grandson. Any grandmother who leaves her grandchild with a random teenager is not really all that concerned about his welfare.

    Kathy, I agree that we all react to characters and stories based on our own baggage. I think the writers want us to love both Louisa and Martin as well as all the secondary characters (receptionists, aunts, police officers, Bert, and Al) because otherwise, why would we watch the show? But they make each character nuanced enough that we all see slightly different facets of each and react differently. If Martin was just an arrogant, rude, gruff man who yelled at everyone, we might laugh for a while, but eventually be annoyed; they had to show the soft and vulnerable and moral side of him to keep us interested. Same with Louisa—if she was just a sharp tongued, impatient, and strong-willed woman, we might not find her as sympathetic, but her warmth, her insecurity, and her ability to see the good in Martin make us fond of her.

    It would be interesting to know what makes some people react so differently from others to the same characters.

  97. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    It looks like I’m alone in giving Eleanor some credit for wanting to see her grandson, and that’s fine. She’s certainly very self-interested, and her willingness to leave JH with a delinquent makes her even look worse. Some of that was likely done for humor sake, nevertheless, it can’t help but shock us. On the other hand, when she’s with Louisa she acts as if she cares, and Louisa turns to her for comfort when she leaves Martin. At that point Eleanor does the right thing and encourages Louisa to come in before she starts crying herself. She’s a good character because of this mixture of behaviors and we viewers also end up realizing that neither Martin nor Louisa had mothers who were worth much. Ultimately that’s what is being intimated.

    All this talk about Eleanor has brought me back to the huge lapse in S7 when there is so little mention of how their family histories played a role in how they react to things during their marriage. To me that is a major deficiency in S7.

    I agree, Amy, that we had to be shown some redeeming characteristics of many of the folks in the show or we would have had trouble enjoying the show. For me Al is the most deserving of our compassion. The poor guy has trouble in love, in business, with his father, lost his mother early in life, and yet carries on with some exasperation but in fairly good humor. He should find a little luck sometime!

  98. Amy

    Well, even Martin cared about his horrid mother and called her mummy. We always hope our mothers will love us against all evidence to the contrary. It was no surprise that Louisa would go to her mother, who still left her again anyway.

    (I wasn’t talking about my mother, who has been a wonderful and loving mother. )

    And I also am fond of Al. Will he ever find a receptionist who stays in Portwenn? Do you think they always intended Elaine and Pauline to leave, or did those actresses just leave the show? Poor Al.

  99. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    I don’t know anything for a fact, but both of these actresses have gone on to perform in other shows. It’s possible they didn’t want to come back.

  100. Santa Traugott

    I don’t really know where this comment belongs, but maybe at least tangentially, here.

    On a South African show promoting all things ITV, MC said this about S8:

    “Clunes, who plays the title character, a surgeon with a phobia of blood and cauterised flesh, said audiences would see how his relationship with love interest Louisa Glasson developed.

    “We’ve used up their ‘will or won’t they’. But what they realised is that he can’t live without Louisa and neither can she [live without him].

    “Therapy made him aware things could be addressed but he’s going to continue being grumpy,” Clunes said.”

    As we surmised, the will they – won’t they is done as a story line, and hopefully their struggles going forward will be portrayed in a more comedic light.

    The part of the comment that interested me was ” [he] realized he couldn’t live without Louisa.”
    To my mind, it lends support to the idea that when he said “I’ve tried…but it just made things worse” he was in fact talking about trying to change how he felt about her. Where any predicate for that statement might be is still beyond me, as I thought he had realized this at the end of S5, for heaven’s sake, but maybe that interpretation is a little more credible now.

    Unless it’s totally ex post facto rationalization of the line.

  101. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    Thanks Santa. I saw that too and did not think to post it here. It’s about time they realized the “will they-won’t they” storyline has run its course. Your mind is always working when it comes to trying to decipher what those final few lines in S7 were supposed to mean. My view is so much more simplistic. I wouldn’t put too much weight on how MC verbalizes the upshot of how ME feels about Louisa. If you really take it apart too much you might have to go all the way back to S7E7 where he’s the one who delivers the ultimatum. If he realized he couldn’t live without Louisa, then why was he ostensibly ready to make plans for living apart?

    I’m with you about his having already declared his everlasting love at the end of S5 (he also told her that he can’t bear to be without her in S3). She heard him then, but she’s needy enough to want to hear it repeated now and again. In that interview he also says that she can’t live without him either. So there we are…they have arrived at the conclusion that they want to be together and now will have to deal with what that means. I, for one, think we have spent too much time trying to suss out what the hell he was saying at the end of S7E8. All we need to know is that S8 will no longer have them haggling over whether they should stay together.

  102. Santa Traugott

    You know, I think they deliberately made that line ambiguous, and I think that was a poor choice. My son keeps telling me that I am way too rational a thinker when it comes to things that are essentially not rational or don’t make sense — by which he means that I can’t stop trying to make sense where there is none., and so please stop tormenting myself! (He says this nicely, as he has the same propensity.) I think you’re right — this is one of those situations!

  103. Amy

    Well, thank goodness for this bit of news! It’s about time.

    And, Santa, for what it’s worth, I also tend to overthink and struggle to make sense of everything said. I still think that what Martin meant is what you wrote above. And I do think there were predicates for it—in fact, I even think the ultimatum itself was another attempt on his part to stop caring about her. And I think he’d tried before—when Danny was around, when Edith was around, every time she walked out on him. He tried and he couldn’t. It’s not something they can really show, is it? It’s all internal, and since Martin isn’t Mr. Expressive to begin with, it’s even harder to know when he is shutting down his feelings.

  104. Santa Traugott

    I agree, mostly, in that I think his usual defense would be to shut down his feelings and deny them, and try to tell himself it didn’t matter and he didn’t really care. We probably saw that operating quite a bit in earlier series. In fact, I think he probably didn’t want to get involved with her to begin with, but couldn’t help himself.

    But I’m not sure I’m seeing anything like that in S7, where he just seems almost desperate to get her back. Of course, as you say, there’s no way TO see it, it’s all internal. So why just throw that in there, more or less out of left field (at least to me).

  105. Amy

    Oh, I don’t think he really meant he was doing that in S7, except perhaps at the end when he seemed resigned to failure. I think in S7 we see Martin doing everything he can to salvage the relationship until he gives up. He was not at that point pretending not to care, even within himself. He tells Dr T and Ruth how desperately he wants Louisa back. I think by S7 he knew he couldn’t stop loving her; I think he is referring to earlier times—-those I mentioned before—where he really had tried to stop loving her, whether that was after she rejected him in S3, or after the failed wedding, or when she wouldn’t let him be involved when she was pregnant or when she went to her mother in S5.

    But can someone explain to me why he wouldn’t go away for a weekend with Louisa in S7? That one just bugs me! (I can hear Karen thinking, “It’s a plot device! Stop trying to fit the characters into real people!)

  106. Kathy

    You mean why he wouldn’t go away with her in S6 for a weekend? That was when he was in the depth of his depression/breakdown or whatever it was. I’m not sure he could have done anything out of his routine at that time.
    btw Amy, I think you are spot on about the times when he tried to stop loving her, but it just didn’t help. He has finally realized that he will never stop loving her, no matter whether they stay together or not.
    I am so relieved that they won’t be going back to their old “will they/won’t they” theme. ‘It’s time for something new” to quote the Doc from Series 3.

  107. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    Well, we’re really making the team that develops this show very happy with all this speculation. If any of them happen to read these comments at all, they will be delighted that there is still a discussion about what could have been going on in the minds of the main characters. I think the goal of every writer is to stimulate a lot of speculation and inspire this much concern for the characters. What I’m not sure of is that each word was weighed as much as we have done.

    I like the reference to saying “it will be time for something new.” At this point he has apparently given up working on the clocks, so it fits very well.

  108. Amy

    Yes, thanks, Kathy, I did mean S6. I watched that episode today, and it still just seems so harsh. And I still understand completely why after hearing that, Louisa had given up on trying to reach him and was so angry at Sports Day. Since he didn’t open up as to how he was feeling, how could she feel anything but rejected and unloved?

    You know, the more I watch the show, the more impressed I am with how the writers have slowly built up the layers in the characters so that we, the viewers, learn more about them, whereas they barely learn anything about each other that would help them understand why each of them acts the way they do. I don’t know how much they mapped out the whole thing back in 2004, but I do find it all so artfully done.

    Like a finely tuned clock, in fact. 🙂

  109. Michele

    Love reading all your comments. I agree with Santa that Martin probably couldn’t help falling in love with Louisa. Throughout the series his head says one thing (that its best to be alone, as he can’t be hurt that way), but his heart can’t help how it feels, and its an internal struggle, resulting in the comments about her bad breath (S1), erotomania (S2) and smelling faintly like urine (S3) and not going to the church for their wedding (S3). I haven’t given enough thought to when his head stops fighting his heart – what a good opportunity to watch S4-7 again!

    As for S8, I would like to see how Martin and Louisa move forward together as a couple, compromising and tackling life (for example buying a family home, taking a holiday, finding balance between family time and two demanding careers) with the humour and distraction that village life brings. I don’t want to see the writers fix his grumpiness. Instead, I hope to see how Louisa comes to terms with the fact that while he can’t radically change, she can be secure in his love for her and James. While I’m waving my magic wand, I’d also like to see them work through and make the decision to have another baby, and enjoy the pregnancy together. But all of this not in a cheesy Hollywood happy ending way!! Hope I’m not asking for too much 🙂

  110. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    I am on board with all of your ideas for S8 with the possible exception of having another baby. Louisa has expressed a desire to have lots of kids, but at the moment one seems plenty while they adjust to married life. If you like the idea because that would indicate they’ve been having sex again, then I would suggest they could hint at that in other ways. In my mind they could end the show with Louisa finding out she’s pregnant again. That could either be a moment when Martin looks shocked or pleased, or somewhere between. Fade out.

    Please keep your magic wand nearby!!

  111. Amy

    Can you imagine how annoying Martin would be to Louisa if she became pregnant as a 40 year old woman? His medical talk might drive her over the edge, nagging her about being a geriatric mother with all its attendant test, risks, etc.

    I agree with Karen. One season of pregnancy is probably enough. I’d rather see them be romantic than saddled down with a pregnancy.

    Not that I don’t like babies, but I think watching them interact with each other and with JH could be interesting and entertaining and romantic enough for me!

  112. Kathy

    I agree that it would be too soon for a baby, although it would be funny in a DM way to watch Martin drive Louisa crazy with his hovering. I like all the rest of all your ideas, and one last comment. I think one of the reasons we love this show is because it never takes the cheesy Hollywood approach. Let’s hope they never do.

  113. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    If you mean by cheesy, that they make the couple too kissy face or cutesy, I totally agree. Some viewers seem to want that, but I agree with you that they need to keep ME grumpy and abrasive to most people. I really don’t think they are likely to change that in him. He’s always treated Louisa differently, however, and I think we’ll see a bit more of that with some prodding from her.

  114. Santa Traugott

    There’s a fanfic called Battling Demons which has the Ellinghams fostering a young child. I suppose they could go that route if they wanted to add the complications of another child. Although maybe they need to steer completely clear of fanfic plots.

    So in a way there’s a symmetry of their “can’t live without” journeys — ME came to understand this by the end of S5, and gave up a lot for a life with Louisa, and Louisa comes to a parallel understanding and decision by the end of S7. I can buy that. Reading Karen’s mind, I’m betting she would say that she doubts very much that was the original intention, but it does seem to me to have worked out that way.

    It’s sort of like putting an addition on to your house — you can always tell it wasn’t there originally, but that some effort has been made to make it fit in . You haven’t put a Tudor addition onto a Cape Cod.

  115. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    Maybe they planned it so that every odd numbered series they declare their overwhelming love for each other.

    I do think the writers, et. al. look at where they are and where they’ve been when they start thinking about the next series. There is some effort to keep things congruous for sure. I love that image of putting an addition on a house. I think that’s exactly what happens with these stories. Check out the second series of Broadchurch to see another example.

  116. Michele

    I’d settle for a hint of romance instead of Louisa actually conceiving a child! Will be fun to see James as a toddler.

  117. Amy

    I keep thinking about the house metaphor (being the daughter of an architect), and I almost feel like they added to the foundation as well as several additions and modifications. They added to the background of the characters (the foundation), changed the relationships between the characters (renovation, alterations), and added new characters (additions). Sorry for the belaboring of this metaphor.

    Some series definitely have planned endings like How I Met Your Mother and Mad Men; supposedly their creators know exactly how they want the series to end, but the storylines keep twisting as long as the show gets renewed. I assume even a show like DM has a planned “ending” at least in the sense that M & L will be together. But it would be interesting to know how far in advance the creators of these shows map out the roadmap for the overall series when they start, given that they never know how many seasons there will be.

  118. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    Amy, to the best of my knowledge most map out the ending from the very earliest time of plot conception. They know where they want to go even if they may not get there. I do not have that confidence in this show. They may have had some notion of how they would like it to play out, but I have the distinct feeling that they haven’t followed that direction. My sense is that they wait to see if they’ll be picked up again and then decide on a story arc for that series.

    (I mentioned in a previous post that Vince Gilligan wrote Breaking Bad with a particular ending in mind; Julian Fellowes knew how he wanted Downton Abbey to end; and the writer of The Walking Dead knows what his ending should be. It’s one of the accepted tenets of good writing that you have an idea of how you want the story to end when you start writing.)

  119. Amy

    Thanks, Karen. I didn’t watch either Breaking Bad or Walking Dead, but it’s hard for me to remember the ending of Downton Abbey. Didn’t it just end with everyone being happy? It certainly wasn’t a particularly dramatic ending as compared, for example, to Mad Men. So what was his goal? He did end it at a certain time period, and I assume that was planned. But could he really have planned for Matthew to die?

    Getting back to DM, what direction do you think they had originally intended?

  120. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    Well I didn’t watch Downton Abbey! I know, heresy!! But I watched the final episode because my daughter wanted to watch it and I was visiting her. (I had watched the first two series so I had a little background.) The finale did wrap things up in a generally happy way and I think Julian Fellowes said he originally intended to end the show sooner. I’m guessing both Maggie Smith deciding to leave and Fellowes being out of storylines led to the show being concluded then. I believe Fellowes had only meant to write about this family and location through a certain time period and should have stuck to that.

    What I am saying about having an ending planned is not always what happens. My understanding is that Vince Gilligan had a plan and stuck to it even though the popularity of his show meant that he was offered a lot of money to keep it going. But most people would extend, as they have with Doc Martin. In that case, the original plan is dumped and they hope to find a way to make it look like there is continuity and plot development. It doesn’t always work so well.

    (Another show that I liked very much is Happy Valley. In that example the actor playing the main character and the writer said they had told the story and would not be bringing the show back. Now they have supposedly been rethinking that and may come up with another series. I hope they do, as long as they find a really good plot again.)

  121. Amy

    It does seem that all TV shows, no matter how good, have a limited lifespan, and when they go past their “sell by date,” they begin to go sour. Storylines repeat, mystery siblings or evil twins appear, characters couple and uncouple so many times that you become numb, and, as they say, the plot “jumps the shark.”

    It makes me wonder why that happens and also why the creators don’t realize it is happening. I always remember as a kid when after five seasons, Dick van Dyke or his producers called it quits on his tv show. I was sad because I loved the show, but it was a smart move since he saved the show from the fate described above.

    But what is it about a TV series or any “literary” work that makes this happen? Human beings and life stories don’t have limited story arcs, so why should fiction about them? I suppose it has something to do with our need for a beginning, middle, and end to stories that becomes distorted when the middle of those stories becomes too lengthy and convoluted, throwing us off the natural path of a story. Real life is not a story, though we often want to impose the structure of a story on it to make some sense of it.

    PS Thanks for reposting the Goal Line post. It answers my earlier question.

  122. Jane

    I wonder if it will develop that Martin must somehow return to surgery in order to find peace. Then Martin and Louisa would have to work through her desire to be in a village and his to be in a city.

  123. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    Hello Jane! Nice to hear from you. (To explain one thing, since you are a new participant I am required to read your comment before it appears on the blog. It’s a precaution because, unfortunately, I get all sorts of off color comments that I wouldn’t want on the site.)

    My response to your suggestion is that I don’t know why he couldn’t be a surgeon in Truro or some other nearby town. It wouldn’t be as grandiose as being a surgeon in London, but it might suffice. Also, there have been rumors about other possibilities. One was that Louisa might decide to take another career path and leave teaching.

    In my mind there is little chance of them moving away from Portwenn because the village is always referred to as another character in the show. But I’ve been wrong before!

  124. Michele Carpenter

    I agree with you, Karen, that he could return to surgery in Truro, and that it would be unlikely that the Ellingham family would leave Portwenn. It would pose a challenge to writers as ME’s patients have always been an integral part of the story. Perhaps he’d have to maintain a local practice (ably run with the help of a younger GP) and perform surgery in Truro a couple of days a week. Would be nice to have Chris Parsons as a regular character, thus giving Martin a friend.

  125. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    You’re so right about the patients being integral to the plots. I like your thoughts on how they could add characters too. The actual clinic in Port Isaac has four GPs, so adding another doctor would be both realistic and a great opportunity for more conflict. It would also be nice to see someone with whom Martin could have some sort of friendly relationship. He had it with Roger Fenn as well as Chris Parsons and it would soften him a bit. At times we see him relating to Al on a certain level of friendship, but Al to me has his own specific role and introducing another character would be a better choice. Thanks for writing!

  126. Santa Traugott

    Amy, when Martin Clunes was in Australia and in the promos for the release of the Islands of Australia documentary, he gave a lot of interviews and occasionally talked about what was next for Doc Martin. It was in one of those interviews that he said that they might be looking for new accomodations, and that Louisa might be considering a career change. But I can’t give you a specific cite, I’m afraid.

  127. Amy

    Thanks, Santa. I keep thinking they should move to that big house that’s right up the hill from the surgery.

    I wonder what kind of career change Louisa could find in Portwenn. Not exactly a place with a lot of professional alternatives.

  128. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    I guess that must have been where I saw it. Thanks for the memory prod. I doubt we can put much stock in anything he said so many months ago because they were probably still throwing ideas around at that point. But one never knows!

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