Martin Ellingham – Superhero

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.

Below find a picture of Yellingman:

13 thoughts on “Martin Ellingham – Superhero

  1. Amy

    This is so much fun! As a lifelong fan of Superman, I may now have a better understanding of my fascination with DM. I love all the parallels you mention—just brilliant!, Karen! I just smiled and giggled all through this post. And I love the new name for Martin—Yellingman! I think you need to create a comic version of DM. 🙂

    It is disturbing to realize the show has jumped the shark on medical accuracy, but for most viewers that goes right by us.

    Now I am going to go ponder the rest of the Superman story (the one I know best—although my grandsons love Spidey and Batman more). Where is Martin’s Fortress of Solitude? Who are his archenemies like Lex Luthor? And will he ever find happiness with Louisa Lane, or will he have to hide his true powers from her forever under the meek exterior of his Clark Kent alterego?

    Thanks for starting my day off with a smile.

  2. mmarshall

    I agree with ME has SuperHero! It relates well to your previous post on Louise as SuperWoman and all her unbelievable achievements! I like this video montage of scenes from DM to the music “It’s Not Easy” [To Be Me — a superhero!]

  3. Kathy

    Oh Amy. I would never say that Yellingman hides under a meek exterior … seems pretty arrogant to me. even in S8E5 when Mrs. Tischell says he’s always right, he confidently replies, “Yes.”
    Karen, I giggled and laughed out loud at your essay this morning as well, such wonderful parallels you have identified for us between the Doc and superheros. I have always felt that Louisa fell in love with Doc the hero and not necessarily Doc, the man. Perhaps I was only wrong in that I didn’t think of him as Doc the superhero.
    With respect to the medical diagnoses, I find myself suspending disbelief more and more … and I don’t have more than the typical layman’s knowledge of medicine. I did have the Dupuytren’s contracture; my rheumatologist was able to treat it with injections, and it was a while back so I don’t remember exactly what she did, but nothing like what the Doc did …. but it did enable the patient to give him the finger, as you said.
    This season is a bit of a cartoon (probably Jack Lothian’s influence), but it’s light and magical, and that’s what I’ve always loved about the show.

  4. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    I don’t know about his fortress of solitude except for his office, but not really. However, Mrs. Tishell could be a stand in for his nemesis. She certainly gets under his skin.

    I’m so glad this was fun for you too. When it came to me, I also laughed a lot.

  5. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    I always love the humor and, finally, E5 made me laugh. I would definitely agree with you that this season is much lighter while also being about less momentous things. Since this blog is a place where I try to analyze rather than recap, I have had less to write about. I have a few other ideas still to come though, and the series isn’t over yet.

  6. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    Thanks m. (I’m sorry your comment had to be rescued from my trash.) I had not seen that video before, but it is very different from the way I was picturing him as a Superhero. Whoever made it was being much more sentimental than I am. The song is totally different from one I would have chosen. I might have chosen “Holding Out for a Hero” or any song that mocks the idea more than takes it seriously.

  7. Amy

    Kathy, I was thinking of his tentativeness with Louisa (in the older seasons), not his attitude with patients. He certainly was meek about moving forward with Louisa.

    MMarshall—I enjoyed the video. And I am glad to see I am not the only one whose comments occasionally end up in the trash.

    And Karen, I still think there are things to discuss despite the lighter tone—for example, the way they are depicting Martin’s attitude towards Louisa’s desire to be a child psychologist (dismissive again in E5 and a bit jealous it seems of her teacher Sam) and Louisa’s concerns about JH becoming too much like Martin.

    So far that child has not shown much interaction with even his parents so I’d be worried also! But, of course, that’s probably because it’s hard to get a child that young to “act,” though certainly other movies and tv shows use young children more naturally than we are seeing here. I mean he’s supposed to be at least 15 months old, but he doesn’t talk, he stands in a playpen with a pacifier, he cries when his father lifts him out of the playpen, and he sat in the nursery and didn’t react when his father showed up (albeit late) to pick him up. I recall my grandsons (if not my daughters) at that age, and they were smiling, talking, interacting, moving constantly, kissing, etc. That kid is weird! I’d be worried also if I were Louisa! So is it because they found two lousy child actors or are they depicting him this way deliberately?

  8. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    I have a couple of other ideas and will write more, but my mind is not whirring as much as it used to. (Maybe I’m just getting older!)

    The interaction with the twins who play JH is curious to me too. It seems they could have found livelier boys or maybe they try to put them into a scene when they’re tired? I don’t know. In Full House the Olsen twins were much more animated, so we know it can happen.

  9. Dale Marie

    I have also been a little surprised at Jame’s lack of development. When my children were that age they were talking or babbling a lot and coinstantly moving and getting into things and being generally underfoot. I had expected to see him getting into the surgery pulling things off shelves and generally making a mess for Martin to deal with.

    Martin had clearly expressed his dislike for passifiers and how he thinks they negatively affected a child’s development so I am surprised to see James with one all the time now. Just a couple episodes ago when Mel brought James home early he had a passifier and Martin made a face and pulled it out of his mouth.

    Maybe the children playing ther part of James need the passifier to calm them. I just don’t know where the writers are going with James. Louisa is concerned about him becoming like Martin. They should have her talk to Ruth who could tell her that Martin was a normal child who became withdrawn beasuse of, as Ruth states, ”the remoteness of his father and the coldness of his mother”.

    I Laughed out loud at the end of the last episode when Louisa worriedly hoped that James would not become a lonely boy and Martin said “Why on earth would he? He is growing up in a perfectly normal household”.

  10. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    That pacifier has bothered me too. Who can say what the reason for its use is, although they are giving us mixed messages about it.

    You’re recollection of Ruth’s comment that Martin was a sensitive child until the age of 4 brings up an excellent point. At this age most children, including Martin, tend to appear “normal,” whatever that means. For me the reference to their household being “normal” was deliberately because of the irony of saying that, especially after ending the last series by saying that most people aren’t “normal.” IMO we are now in the arena of being facetiously teased by these terms and I’m not going to react this time!

  11. Kathy

    I believe the twins they selected were extremely difficult to work with and they required the pacifiers most of the time just to get through the scenes. That was the scuttlebutt going through the village while I was there this summer. I guess it is difficult to know how the children are going to behave during four to five months of filming when trying them out. I suspect BP did the best they could once they started filming with the boys.
    They do seem to use the children as props more than actual cast members. Too bad they couldn’t get some twins like the ones they used in series 3 of William and Mary – those children would have been perfect.

  12. Elle

    Yellingman! Very clever and funny blog.

    I had the same thought about the child actors. We can recall scores of movies and tv shows that cast that perfect little child actor. Its a head- scratcher that the producers have used JH as just another plot device. This is the offspring of ME, after all! The tired cast of players in this little village needs a spark and I think a mini ME cast to play JH could be a brilliant move.

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