I used to think a GP like Martin Ellingham was within normal boundaries to be seen as able to diagnose and treat the variety of diseases and injuries that constantly appear in Portwenn. After 7+ series of an extraordinary amount of rare conditions coupled by an equally enormous amount of demanding surgical procedures completed or at least initiated in his exam room, I have become much more skeptical. Now I think they have begun to take ME out of the realm of plausibility and into the territory of extraordinary and fantastical. So let’s have some fun…
The show revolves around ME’s medical abilities about as much as it centers on the relationship between Martin and Louisa. Indeed many times it is due to medical emergencies that this pair comes into contact with each other in the early series, and then is very much a part of why Louisa falls in love with ME. As one pole of the tent that I once argued is created by the two settings of the school on one side of the village and the surgery on the opposite side, the many students who have medical problems are the basis upon which Martin and Louisa become a couple. It is also oftentimes the reason why they conflict. He thinks her profession is of little consequence and often says derogatory things about her school. At the same time, she admires his medical skills while also vehemently disapproving of his interpersonal skills. (In the main this is true, although we have seen several times when he acknowledges that Louisa was perceptive in calling on him for help with a student and quite a few times when Louisa has congratulated Martin on handling either a student or the parents of a student.)
At any rate, the opening scene of S8E1 first set me off wondering. There was absolutely no reason to start with a peloton of bicyclists racing past Martin Ellingham as he runs down the hill toward the harbor where, once again, he tangles with the bicyclists who delay his ability to reach his patient whose hand is stuck in a winch of a boat. We never see them again and, if you have been to Port Isaac, they either had to have gathered at the cul-de-sac above the surgery to start their descent or they are supposed to be coming out of nowhere and racing for no reason, and at risk of running into many things, just to stop at the entrance to the harbor for a rest. Either way, their sole purpose seems to be an absurd interference with ME’s ability to get to his patient, but, as usual, nothing stops him. Once he makes it to the patient he is confronted with a lot of blood and his phobia kicks in. Not enough to keep him from taking care of the patient; only enough to make him fight off his initial nausea.
Now, after years of ME identifying a myriad of rare illnesses almost without a bat of an eyelash, and with the number of rare and not so rare medical disorders multiplying rapidly throughout the first 5 episodes, I am ready to declare that Martin Ellingham should henceforth be known as a new superhero, Yellingman (we have to use the “man” ending, right?). Furthermore, we can now put the issue of whether medical accuracy is required of British shows to rest… based on what we’ve seen in this series (and some before), they allow great latitude in the accuracy. (Leptospirosis would be a diagnosis arrived at after testing the blood, spinal fluid, or possibly the urine of a potential victim and leaping to that diagnostic conclusion is a reach; strep infection that causes a mood disorder happens on occasion but the likeliest behavioral change would be the development of OCD or tics and they would take several weeks to months of therapy to eliminate; Dupuytren’s contracture looks very much like Caitlyn’s but releasing the tendon with a needle while seated at a doctor’s desk would be highly irregular and even risky. Most people would go to a hand specialist for surgery. It does come in handy as a way to give ME the finger though! Even kidney stones are not so easy to deal with and passing a fairly large stone through the ureter is exceptionally painful. “Renal colic caused by kidney stones is commonly accompanied by urinary urgency, restlessness, hematuria, sweating, nausea, and vomiting. It typically comes in waves lasting 20 to 60 minutes caused by peristaltic contractions of the ureter as it attempts to expel the stone.” I don’t think Joe Penhale would be able to do this in under 5 minutes and then return to the alter ready to get married. Of course, all of these cases and more are modified for the purposes of the story.) Nevertheless, Portwenn has Yellingman and he is always there to protect and treat the townspeople.
To support my new designation, I will now provide the following additional evidence:
Many of our most well known superheroes have a backstory that has to do with traumatic childhoods. For example: Batman witnessed the murder of his parents; Superman was sent to earth by his father moments before the destruction of their home planet and he is then adopted by a farm couple. “Superman is commonly seen as a brave and kind-hearted hero with a strong sense of justice, morality, and righteousness. He adheres to an unwavering moral code instilled in him by his adoptive parents.” Spiderman is also an orphan, this time being raised by his Aunt May and Uncle Ben in New York City after his parents Richard and Mary Parker were killed in a plane crash. “Spider-Man has the ability to cling to walls, superhuman strength, a sixth sense (‘spider-sense’) that alerts him to danger, perfect balance and equilibrium, as well as superhuman speed and agility… Academically brilliant, Parker has expertise in the fields of applied science, chemistry, physics, biology, engineering, mathematics, and mechanics.” Perhaps a combination of Batman, Superman and Spiderman comes closest to Yellingman.
In addition, nearly every superhero has some sort of weakness or sensitivity; some point of vulnerability, like kryptonite for Superman. ME has his blood phobia. Out of curiosity I checked on the various superhero vulnerabilities and found a site that listed them all. I love what the author of the site says: “Superheroes and supervillains need at least one vulnerability in order for there to be any stakes.” Absolutely!! Without Yellingman’s blood phobia there would be nothing to stop him, or slow him down!
They also have their shields or weapons and ME could be said to have those as well: his suit is his armor (as is his pajamas); his weapons take the form of his medical equipment always carried in his bag as he runs from his surgical office or drives at full speed in his full-size Lexus through the narrow streets of the town and countryside, and he usually saves everyone from certain death or disaster. Sure he calls an ambulance, but Batman, Superman, et. al. call the police. There is no dishonor in collaborating with others. There are also times when the superheroes struggle to complete their exploits much like Yellingman is dragged down the dock when he tries to stop the fairly large sailboat Louisa is on. But, in the end, they find a way to save the day! We also can’t overlook his intimidating manner and his verbal attacks. They can reduce most people to cowering simpletons.
Most of the superheroes also have a love interest: Superman has Lois, although Lana Lang was his first; Batman has many; and Spiderman has several too. Protecting them from danger tends to be the superhero’s most important mission. Plus, much of the interactions between the superheroes and their special women are chaste. They may kiss passionately on occasion, but a bedroom scene is very atypical. Martin’s protective instincts immediately engage when Louisa is in any danger.
They are admired by the citizens whose lives they guard, and they tend to be the first person everyone thinks of to call upon when there is any sign of something amiss.
In all of these aspects of the superhero world we see Yellingman!
You can tell I have grandsons and have seen too many superhero films. Nevertheless, I truly see a lot of similarities and find that it’s not too farfetched to imagine they are getting a kick out of turning ME into a GP of superhuman skills.