Can We Talk?

Why do I feel so disappointed about S8? What is it about this series that simply does not live up to the previous ones? S6 had gotten too dark for me; S7 was too farcical and cartoonish. Nevertheless, I had found plenty to write about and much that made me laugh. This time I have tried to find something that motivates me to write and been struggling. In fact, even the titles of the episodes have not lived up to those of the past. For the most part I have found them trite and lacking any insight into the episode, unlike those of the past.

After doing some thinking, I have come up with the following reasons for my dissatisfaction:

1. To a great extent it has to do with the lack of a story arc for the series. My best guess at one is Louisa deciding to change jobs. It’s the only thread that has continued throughout the series. The only other threads, if we can call them that, are Martin’s blood phobia and, perhaps, the newfound ability of Martin and Louisa to actually get through a conversation without being interrupted. These haven’t been developed enough to carry the series. For some reason the occasions that presented opportunities for worthwhile development were not taken advantage of, e.g. Louisa attending classes with a former student of hers.

2. I am also very disappointed in the writing for this series and in the disjointed plots for each episode. We have previously had episodes in which the main storyline was supported by subplots and in which there were some excellent monologues and dialogues. There were often references to other literary sources or lyrics to songs. There was wordplay and ambiguity. It made the show a fun intellectual endeavor as much as an engaging bit of entertainment.

3. They chose to include almost no affection between Martin and Louisa. In my mind the producers and writers of this show must have been aware that the fans of this show were delighted that the conclusion of S7 reconciled Martin and Louisa and they expressed their mutual love for each other and had a passionate kiss. However, in this series, apart from Martin moving back into the house with Louisa and James, their sharing of duties related to James, and some perfunctory pecks on Martin’s cheek by Louisa, there is precious little to convince us that they are enjoying life together. There are some signs that Martin has taken a few pieces of advice from Dr. Timoney: he makes arrangements for a dinner date with Louisa; he allows Louisa to be “the decider” about James going to a daycare; having a dog; and about the car; and they have a standing lunch date on Thursdays (though we haven’t seen that actually happen). None of these instances leads to any meaningful or affectionate moments.

In this series the most likely bedroom situation appears to be Martin waking up to find Louisa already out of bed. In addition, Louisa tends to be late coming home. James is already in bed, the dog is a nonentity as well, and their conversation rather perfunctory. What happened to those scenes in the bedroom when they talk about a variety of things and actually seem to care about each other like in S5? Why wouldn’t they practice some of the other advice they got from Dr. T, such as saying something complimentary to each other or hugging now and then? Both of them demonstrate concern for the other at times throughout the series, but the deep expression of tenderness and devotion is gone.

4. I am a bit surprised that Martin doesn’t welcome Louisa’s decision to terminate her headmistress position. If anything he should be very happy that she won’t have the stress of the job as well as the course work, and he has always wanted her to spend more time at home with James. Although I would imagine James would still go to daycare regularly, Louisa might be available to drop him off and pick him up as well as find days when she could keep him home. Quitting her paying job is a big move for Louisa since she has never wanted to be a “kept” woman. By considering this change, isn’t she indicating that she’s willing to relent in that area, and perhaps even showing a willingness to trust Martin as her partner? (The fact that he may be forced to take a break from his medical practice and their source of income may be up in the air has not entered into her decision at this point.)

[I want to take a time out here to mention that I have looked up what is the likely procedure for filing claims against private physicians in the UK. According to a site I found that provides the rules for Medical Malpractice Liability in England and Wales, most GPs are covered by the Medical Protection Society and it is they who “will provide advice and may undertake the defense and settlement of the case.” It would be unlikely that he would be forced to stop practicing medicine; his practice manager (Chris Parsons) has recommended that he stop seeing patients until this claim is settled. However, from my perspective this patient will have a hard time proving that ME is incapable of taking care of patients, especially after this series has been chock full of patients he has treated and whose lives he has saved. Moreover, she did not follow his medical advice and there are plenty of witnesses to that.]

5. Despite the assertion that they don’t want to repeat themselves, they have been doing just that. Here is a quick list of the many repetitious scenes they have used this series:

  • A contagious disease that affects a group and ruins a party
  • A professional woman self-medicating and becoming crazed. This one, in particular, bothers me. Is this such a pervasive problem in UK that we have it appear so often in this show?
  • A wedding that is called off and the bride leaves town
  • Bert serves tainted food or water
  • Bert lies about where he’s sleeping and how his business is doing
  • Ruth has to warn Al and Bert about her lack of confidence in them
  • A woman uses shells and other “detritus” to create jewelry
  • Mrs. T acts the fool around Martin even after recommitting to her marriage
  • An older woman malingers in Martin’s surgery

6. There are glaring gaps. For example, who buys the farm? Why does James never say another word? Who the heck is Ken Hollister or Hannah Butler or Trevor Dodds? We’ve seen a lot of characters come and go, but these seem to be regular members of the town that we’ve never met before yet everyone knows them. And why isn’t Hannah more upset about the loss of her tent, much less the safety of her guests?

We would wonder about the farm because it has been in the Ellingham family for many years, it’s been a fixture in this show, and we would suppose that whoever buys it would be important to them and the show; we would expect James to say more than one word by now; and we have been introduced to many of the townspeople throughout the show, but Ken owning the pub comes as quite a surprise.

How did Martin’s foot tendon heal so quickly? And Angela Sim’s compound fracture of her clavicle? She doesn’t seem to be in much discomfort when we next see her. How did Mrs. T suddenly become more capable of functioning without therapy? Whatever happened with James and the biting at school?

7. With so many new characters appearing constantly, the show has become choppy with little connection between one episode and the next. Only Angela Sim has returned for a second episode, and then very briefly. I could have imagined her nephew Toby appearing again.

8. In their effort to have some sort of excitement in each episode they have gone to extremes to find medical conditions to take up the time. There are so many incidents in each episode that nothing is fully explored and it’s easy to lose track of what each episode was about. As mentioned before on this blog, plot requires conflict. Where’s the conflict in this series? It’s fine to show Martin and Louisa having a calm home life, but let’s have some spats that typical couples have, and they used to as well. Everything has gotten too sedate. It’s only in S7 that we see the beginning of some action that might not be resolved so quickly.

9. The dog on the bed is particularly inexplicable to me. Louisa has now gone from wanting Martin to get the dog out of the bedroom to allowing the dog on the bed; Martin has gone from throwing the dog out of the bedroom window to ignoring it. Once that takes place, the whole dog issue falls by the wayside very quickly. The only practice he continues to do with the dog is wear gloves to handle it. Is that a gag that is supposed to be funny every time? Even when the dog chews James’s teething ring, nothing about the dog develops.

10. Finally, the routine behavior of the key members of the cast has now grown stale. Some of you find Morwenna and Al more grown up and Penhale somewhat more capable. I don’t see that so much, and I definitely don’t see a change in Mrs. Tishell or Bert at all. Their comedic gimmicks are the same old stuff and they are no longer funny (or even pathos inducing).

I have held Jack Lothian in high esteem for many years and had hoped his larger role as show runner this series was going to add all sorts of enlightened storylines and humor. It is a particular letdown to me that that hasn’t happened. This blog has been my way of admiring the show through analyzing it. Writing the above is painful for me.

36 thoughts on “Can We Talk?

  1. Amy

    Although I share some of your reactions, I am not as down on the series as you are. I have enjoyed watching some of the secondary characters more than in the past, and as I wrote earlier, I have seen some positive character development. I have found the episodes entertaining, humorous at times, and interesting enough to watch. But I agree—something is missing. Something that deflates the whole show.

    For me what is missing is the relationship between Martin and Louisa. As you wrote, there is no warmth, no affection, no sexual tension, no love. I cannot understand how the writers have stripped these two characters of any interesting interactions. It’s as if the writers have never been married and truly believe that marriage kills off sex and love. There was so much potential here for showing how and why Martin and Louisa love and care for each other. It’s disappointing to watch episode after episode where there is barely any eye contact, no hints of desire or intimacy, no physical contact at all. She goes to work without even kissing him goodbye. She comes home, and there is no kiss. We don’t need to see them lusting after each other, but some sense that they are more than roommates raising a child would have made the story more compelling. Some affectionate words, some conversations that are more than about the mundane day-to-day routines of each character’s lives.

    Let’s face it—when you look back at the blog, probably 90% or more of the content deals with the relationship between Martin and Louisa. The rest of the characters are the fluff that surrounds them. By turning Martin and Louisa’s relationship into a non-entity, they’ve killed the heart of the show. It’s as if they believed that because people were tired of the will they-won’t they theme, they were tired of seeing anything at all between M and L. What a shame.

    They also have made it seem as if neither M or L truly love their son. They aren’t happy to see him when Mel drops him off, Martin throws him into the arms of the caretaker at the nursery when he drops him off, Louisa doesn’t look at him when she feeds him, and they never, ever really talk to him. Who treats an 18 month old like that? Martin and Louisa may be turning into their own parents—so self-absorbed that they barely notice their adorable child being ignored by both of them. Watching them as parents was another way the writers could have added warmth and interest to their two main characters, but no, instead we see them buying a car that gets more attention than their son.

    So yes, I share your disappointment though it’s all focused on the failure to make M and L interesting this year. Only E7 had anything interesting about Martin and Louisa—watching him struggle with his blood phobia and his reaction to Chris Parsons’ visit, watching Louisa struggle to resign from the school and commit to her new career choice. But if I had started watching DM with S8 (actually, if I had started with S6, E2), I never would have continued watching. Having said that, I will watch S9 to the end.

    FWIW, on the DM Facebook group for S8, most of those who comment have LOVED this series, and those who make negative comments are usually attacked for their criticisms. (I never comment—just lurk.) People seem to love the action-packed episodes, the humor, the storylines. The only common “criticism” is the wish for more affection between Martin and Louisa.

    I am hoping for more with the final episode of this series. But even if it is great, it will feel much like S7 to me. Seven episodes that were just building up to a final episode that is more interesting and satisfying.

  2. Roscarrock

    It’s like you are reading my mind. I agree on ALL points in your post. The show has lost its way, I’m afraid. Our family used to wait with great anticipation for each new episode, but the bloom is definitely off the rose now. Now many of us are indifferent if we see it or not.

    You’ve brilliantly pointed out virtually everything that has gone astray with Doc Martin. I just re-watched “Old Dogs” as a sort-of sanity check, and what a thoughtful piece of writing it was. In fact, the entire first 3-4 series of episodes were like that. Each episode was a mini-feature in itself. In this case, the fate of Mrs. Steel, with a complete story arc ending in a satisfying resolution. I mean, isn’t this Story-telling 101?

    I too have noticed many repeated plot devices. Yes, that has happened in the past but there’s something ham-handed about the way they are reused these days. Just shoehorned in as if someone said “Well this worked in the past, let’s just cram in a version of that and we can move to the next scene.”

    One other change I’ve noticed is the inclusion of gratuitous “eye candy”. One thing I admired about the early series is how they were able to produce an interesting top-notch dramady while using more or less average looking actors. Not only did this add to its authenticity, but it helped focus attention on the heroine, Louisa. Now most every episode introduces a twenty-something girl into the show for seemingly no other reason than to try to appeal to a younger demographic. Am I wrong?

    I could go on, but you’ve said it better than I could. Just know there are others who feel the same. Thanks for your blog.

  3. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    Its very nice to receive your endorsement despite the sad fact that when we agree it means we are saying this show is declining in quality.

  4. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    I see the Facebook reactions too and can only assume that these women would like anything Martin Clunes is in. Also, we all have different tastes and watch shows with different ideas in mind. They aren’t doing much analyzing; they’re enjoying seeing people they know who were walk-ons and not watching with a critical eye like I’m prone to doing.

  5. Amy

    I think you’re right about the FB groups. I don’t pay much attention to them, but I am curious to see how other people react to an episode. I was surprised by how much they all are raving about the series.

    My eye is not as critical as yours as I tend to watch for pure pleasure, but I don’t get that pleasure when things don’t meet my standards! I am, for example, less disturbed by repeated storylines (Martin has even had a few of the same medical issues this series—he used the same test for Parkinson’s, he had someone with a cyst that needed draining, he had to inflate a lung with a bottle of water, he had another gout case, etc.). I don’t mind that the dog stories go nowhere (did they ever?) or that there are new characters who come and go (though I was confused by the owner of the Crab and Lobster—wasn’t it a younger red-headed man who once was buying contraband wine?).

    But I am overall disappointed in the lack of any consistent development from episode to episode. It’s more like an old fashioned sitcom or medical show where there is no continuity from episode to episode. The tendon injury is a good example of that. I’ve been walking around in one of those boots for over a month now—how did his foot heal so fast? Or the lack of development of JH—he talks in episode one and is silent ever after. And where has Ruth been? Is Eileen Atkins just not able to participate as much as in the past? And what happened to Al’s high blood pressure? Is running a pub not without stress?

    So yes, I agree with much of what you said, but perhaps am not quite as unhappy. Maybe seeing the actors play their parts in a beautiful setting is enough to keep me watching even if I am no longer in love with the show.

  6. Brendan

    Series 8 of Doc Martin has been a wash for me. I expected more creativity, but instead the writers gave us the same old theme. Also, I find Doc’s offensive mannerism and personality tiresome, along with the routine of eccentric patients. Why couldn’t the writers have taken the episodes in another direction, like having Louisa and Martin celebrate their one year anniversary with a trip out of Portwenn, or something?

    Actually, the only reason I have been watching the S8 episodes is Caroline Catz, who in my opinion makes the show.

  7. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    Well it seems we have a number of us who have been less than thrilled about this series. There are so many storylines that could have been put to good use, and it is quite surprising to see the choices they made instead. I wish we could know what entered into their decision making, but they seem to know they have a core audience that enjoys the show almost without fail. As long as they have the numbers, they can argue that they’ve opted for the correct approach and that’s all that iTV will care about.

    I think CC makes the show too. I have always said, and I continue to believe, that without her, there is no show.

  8. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    All really good points. I truly find it sad that they don’t ask more of Eileen Atkins. She is an excellent actress whose portrayal of Ruth is wonderful. I always like her dry wit and clear-eyed insights. Her stay in Cornwall is barely interrupted with learning lines and being on the set in this series.

  9. Amy

    Ruth saved S6 in my opinion with her conversations with Martin and also S7. Their conversations were the only ones where we heard what Martin was really thinking, and Eileen Atkins conveyed both compassion and professional distance so convincingly. She brought out Martin’s vulnerability much more than his interactions with either Dr T or Louisa. Plus I love her sarcasm.

    As for CC, she delivers the most nuanced performances on the show and has the most charisma. But the writers have short-changed her in S7 and S8 by making her much colder and meaner, IMHO. She always played Louisa with a bit of a hard edge masking her insecurity and need for love, but I am no longer seeing either of those but just the hard edge.

    As I look back over the whole series, I now think they should have ended the show either at the end of S5 or after the first episode of S6.

  10. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    As a person who has watched the show many times over, you are well equipped to come to that conclusion. I completely concur. At the end of S5, we have an excellently conceived and delivered monologue in which Martin opens his heart to Louisa and says what he’s really wanted to say to her. The fact that he gives the speech to Mrs. T but we all know he’s actually speaking to Louisa works well because he would have a hard time saying these things to her directly even though he wants to. She contributes in a both amusing and perfectly crafted way to his speech and we see her recognize that he’s addressing her. Once Mrs. T returns James and is dispatched along with Ruth and Penhale, Martin and Louisa have a lovely moment together and then walk off hand in hand holding James. I found it exceptionally well executed and satisfying. The speech covered everything from how Martin has always felt about Louisa to how he is irritated by the town and its residents, but he wants to stay there because he wants to be with Louisa.

    I enjoyed the first episode of S6 immensely too, as you know by reading this blog. I can even see how having them end a very eventful and sometimes tender honeymoon night walking up a dirt road arm in arm covered in blood and pushing an injured man in a wheelbarrow might have worked as a final episode too. This episode was also brilliantly written and performed and included many good conversations between Martin and Louisa plus a lot of humor.

    What I think we’ve been missing is that combination of witty banter with the evidence of love these two are supposed to have for each other. That made the show and showcased the outstanding writing and acting in it. Since then we’ve seen very little of that.

  11. Santa Traugott

    Doc Martin was an extraordinary success and I agree with Karen that it should have ended with S5. But Buffalo Productions literally hit the jackpot with this series, and I just don’t think they could resist going on. The major engine of Doc Martin has always been the relationship between Martin and Louisa, and the rest is pretty ancillary. So when that is resolved, much of the reason to “stay tuned” goes away, at least for me. How many times can we laugh at Bert being dodgy or Mrs. Tishell being loopy?

    I agree with all the criticism about the lack of any affection between Martin and Louisa. The decision to frustrate their viewers has to have been deliberate– they didn’t just forget to show that there is real affection between them, despite their many incompatibilities and disagreements. It isn’t that other plot lines or characters were so compelling that they didn’t have time for the brief gestures that would have changed the atmosphere. Are they completely unaware of how important this might be to viewers? That’s hard to believe. So why did they deliberately choose to frustrate their viewers? That is the mystery to me. I really have no theory that seems plausible to me.

    I think there’s a sense In which the Martin-Louisa story preempted what might have been the main premise of the series. I don’t know whether this was in Dominic Minghella’s mind or not, but it has hints of a hero’s quest kind of story. That is, a flawed hero has a precious gift (his surgical Midas touch) but because he can’t deal with his humanity — the capacity to feel sympathy and empathy to others — he loses this gift, and now he is on a quest to regain it. So he is sent into exile, where his life experiences might cumulatively teach him what it is to love and be loved, to be part of a community, and at that point, his gift will be returned to him. And he gets to marry the princess.

    Of course, the problem with this formulation is that MArtin Clunes has always said that he didn’t want Martin Ellingham to be “cured.” So this fairy story is truncated, turned upside down, fractured. But nevertheless, that’s the bare bones of it. I think even Louisa was intended to be part of this process — of humanizing him. But the series is unsatisfying in its current incarnation because it is in stasis — the resolution of the quest is that he gets the princess, who is now apparently incapable of the intimacy he has been longing for, and he hasn’t really gotten much better with respect to the villagers.

    So I think the only possible story arc at this point might be the final resolution of his “quest” — the return to him of his gift, the cure of his blood phobia. The phobia has been emphasized all season and now it has come to a crisis. Will he be returned to practice on condition that he get real treatment for it (which we won’t have to see, I don’t think)? That’s where the series is going, I think, but it’s really not a story arc in which people are much invested, as the winning of the princess has taken center stage and once that is resolved, the dramatic tension is resolved, and people feel like something is missing.

  12. Amy

    Santa, that is a fascinating hypothesis, and it seems right on to me. That is, that there was an arc intended from the beginning to have Martin be cured at the very end—and that Louisa was part of the cure and the prize he gets to keep for being cured. It makes so much sense to me in terms of storytelling.

    And I dismiss Martin Clune’s protests about never curing the Doc as nonsense that only would apply until the show ended. In fact, that’s why I still believe, as I commented earlier, that the show will end with his blood phobia being cured. The only question is whether they stay in Portwenn or return to London so he can be a surgeon again. I think they will end up in Portwenn because the total cure for Martin will not only be ridding himself of the blood phobia, but also recognizing that he is needed and appreciated in the village in a way that he might never be in a large city hospital as a surgeon.

    So perhaps the writers and producers never anticipated the success of the series. Perhaps S5 was where they wanted it to end. Martin had sort of cured himself of the blood phobia by then, and he had the princess. He then could make the loving decision to stay in Portwenn despite being cured of his blood phobia in order to make his princess happy. Happily ever after, end of fairy tale, end of quest. To me, that final scene of S5 was written as an ending (though I do love S6 E1 as my favorite episode so I’d have missed that).

    But money was too irresistible so they came back for two more seasons and now for another two. So they had to have the blood phobia reappear and the princess disappear so that Martin could start the quest all over again. The fans (i.e. the money) were fed up with the chase of the princess, so he got her back finally at the end of S7, and now they have to cure the blood phobia in S8 and S9 so that we can go back to where they already were at the end of S5.

    Brilliant, Santa (in the American sense as well as the English sense of the word)!

  13. Amy

    Continuing along with your hypothesis and wondering also why the writers have deliberately given us so little affection between M and L, could it be that they are stretching out the princess element into S9 also—that is, that M and L will also only achieve true happiness once the blood phobia flaw is cured? If that was their thinking, they’ve sorely frustrated their viewers this season.

  14. Doris

    This new series has been a disappointment for all the points outlined. Personally I expected more excitement, but instead we get the same old plot devices. I could even accept the reuse of old plot themes, if the writers had offered some new twist, or something unexpected. The biggest problem I found was that the writers decided to leave the fundamental ingredient that made the Doc Martin series so interesting; the relationship between Martin and Louisa. The show is built around this chemistry and is lacking in the current episodes.

  15. Santa Traugott

    I have to say (anticipating Karen!) that I don’t know if this arc was conscious. Just that, there are basic plot lines into which most dramas fall. It’s sort of part of our literary heritage that we understand the conventions and can draw on them, and play with them, and turn them upside down, etc. I think Martin Clunes sincerely never intended for his character to be cured — and in part, that makes the whole thing, playing against the conventional plot line, which gives it a degree of interest. But that is wearing thin, and I think that maybe, in order to draw the thing to a close, they might want to return to the traditional storyline.

    OTOH, they seem to take pride in frustrating the wishes of their audience, and in coming up with unexpected twists, so who knows! I think we won’t find out until approximately this time in 2019.

  16. Amy

    I actually think that more often than we know, writers of these tv shows know exactly where they want it to end right from the start like writers of books and plays and movies do. I know that the creator of Mad Men has said he always knew what the last episode would be. And I’d think in any show where there is an ongoing conflict/problem (unlike shows that are truly just episodic with no continuing story) that the writers have some resolution in mind when they start even if they do not have every plot detail that will get them there.

    The problem with TV, unlike books and plays and movies, is that the writers don’t always control how long the story will have to last—will it be cancelled before the expected resolution as was the case with Bloodlines or will it go on much longer than the writers could have anticipated as with Doc Martin? When it’s the latter, we end up with ridiculous plot lines, repeated stories, and often frustrated viewers who wonder where the magic has gone. I believe that happened with How I Met Your Mother, which was so clever for many seasons and IMHO became unwatchable by the last few seasons.

  17. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    Thanks for your remarks. I don’t know why they thought moving to a plethora of medical conditions would make the show exciting for us, but many of us do not agree with that plan. They realized a long time ago that the reason people tuned in was due to the Martin and Louisa relationship. Just because they have arrived at a point where they plan to stay together doesn’t mean viewers have lost interest in them as a couple. I wish I could explain what the producers and writers were thinking.

  18. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    Santa, you have suggested the idea of the quest motif previously, and I think it is a very well developed hypothesis. For me it’s too complex for the concept of a TV show for all practical purposes. What you have is the framework for a novel. If someone had written a novel based on your theory, and either Dominic or Philippa had read it, even then I would doubt they would keep all of your wonderful ideas when they pitched it to iTV. It’s just too intelligent and too literary. Or if they had liked all of the ideas at first, then it would be very likely that someone would eventually argue that all of that was not necessary for them to go ahead series after series.

    For good measure, I spoke to my son who works in TV and film (as you know) and he said the general rule is that when you hope to sell a show you convince the studio that it will be successful by using comparisons to other successful TV shows and films of the same genre. In this case, Minghella would have used Northern Exposure, Doc Hollywood and possibly even House as examples of productions that had similar ideas and had done well (or had been sold). When pitching a new show the usual method is to condense the main structure and make it sound simple and cost effective. Setting the show in Port Isaac is perfect because it is a circumscribed space; using the archetype of a city physician who’s a fish out of water has worked before; and his having a blood phobia and being socially inept is not that different from Joel Fleishman in Northern Exposure who is neurotic and from NYC and lands in a small town in Alaska, or Gregory House who is an injured doctor whose social skills are abominable but whose diagnostic skills are amazing. (FYI, The Good Doctor is a new show on ABC and is already a hit. What’s its premise? The series follows Shaun Murphy, a young surgeon with autism and savant syndrome from a small town, where he had a troubled childhood. He relocates to join the prestigious surgical department at San Jose St. Bonaventure Hospital.) This stuff sells!

    The show might have started out with an end in mind, but once it got extended that often goes out the window. They have said they never know if they’ll be re-commissioned after each series. The only way to control the ending is to shut down the show after the original ending has been reached. Most production companies would have trouble turning down another series, and, in this case, look at all the spinoffs they have in other countries. This is the goose that laid a golden egg!

    In interviews they always claim that they had no idea the love intrigue would become so central to the show, and I find that very dubious, but that could mean they had planned to make the show with an emphasis on the doc and his medical ability. Then we would be left with S8 being emblematic of how they first conceived the show. I don’t know how they could have thought going back to that would make sense at this point when they know that the key to the show has been the Martin and Louisa duet, but it’s hard to judge what others have in their heads.

    Anyway, they had turned the show into a very good interrogation of family and marriage with a very good balance of drama and comedy for the most part, but they miscalculated for this series and I sure hope they aren’t headed for the demise of How I Met Your Mother. I’m not sure curing the blood phobia is that essential. Whether it gets cured or not it’s been useful in many ways and continues to be. It hasn’t kept Louisa or the town from wanting the doc around and I can’t believe it will end his career.

    Thank you all for throwing out all these ideas. As Santa says, what they hope is that we will want to know what happens and continue watching in 2019.

  19. Santa Traugott

    I can’t remember — did the Northern Exposure doctor wind up with the woman he was interested in?

  20. Amy

    I don’t remember either. But my recollection was that the love theme was not the major focus of that show unlike DM. I mostly remember it being about quirky characters in a strange environment and that was what made it interesting. Joel’s personality and perspective seemed “normal” and to me, he was the everyman, not the fish out of water (perhaps because I am also a neurotic New York Jew). In DM, they all are fish out of water in some ways, except Louisa. She seems to be the “everyman” character on DM in many ways.

  21. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    Yes he did, but then the show ended with it going off the rails to a great extent.

  22. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    There were several love themes, but the one with the doctor became much more central to the show as it went along. Also, unless a NYC Jew seems commonplace in Alaska to you, he was a fish out of water.

  23. Amy

    I meant he was the “normal” seeming one to me, unlike with Doc Martin. He might have been the fish out of water in Alaska, but he was the one the typical viewer probably most identified with. I don’t think that’s true in DM.

  24. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    I kind of liked his receptionist Marilyn. And his girlfriend Maggie was level-headed too. Maybe he seemed “normal” to you because he was from NYC and the others were extremely wacky, although at times they seemed like they made a lot of sense. That’s a little along the lines of the townspeople in Doc Martin at times giving Louisa or Martin sound advice.

    You may think I’m nuts, but I actually think there are viewers who identify with Martin. Some think his behavior is like Asperger’s and they have husbands like that, or other family members. Others, like you sometimes, feel bad for him. It may not be so black and white!

  25. Amy

    PS I don’t remember Marilyn and barely remember Maggie. I do remember John Cullum and his very young wife. So don’t trust anything I say….

  26. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    Marilyn was the somewhat rotund Alaskan Native American woman who was very laid back and matter of fact. She saved Joel many times by telling him how to handle certain patients. She was great.

    It’s funny how some characters stick with us.

  27. Joan Yow

    I was disappointed when I couldn’t get my daughter to enjoy Doc Martin and someone pointed out that there are many different tastes in the world .I thought about that and began sitting back and enjoying the show as presented. When Philippa said on the Rock the Doc interview she thought Series 9 would be the last I felt abandoned. I saw a list of people who had became hooked on Doc Martin while in the hospital as was the case with me. I thought they felt abandoned too. So many were in the hospital for very serious illnesses and they continued to rely on Doc Martin as an escape from their circumstances. I think so many people have become dependent on this show like the cast, the fans,and the businesses in Port Isaac that Buffalo Pictures and ITV should decide to keep the show going so that everyone does not feel manipulated. I’ve enjoyed series 1-8 and would not change anything except it’s demise.

  28. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    Joan, I hear you and understand your feelings about this, but every show must end at some point. I’m glad you’ve found the show so satisfying. If I hadn’t admired the show’s combination of humor and drama and the many great topics it addressed, I would never have started this blog. But that also has made me more discriminating about its quality and had an effect on whether I think the quality has been maintained.

    The fact that these actors have carried on this show for a span of 13 years and somehow managed to sustain the ruse that they have only aged 3-4 years is amazing. We can’t expect them to be able to do that forever though. It’s hard to look like you’re in your early 40s when you’re in your mid to late 50s. The construction of the show, however, requires that.

    The best we can hope for is that they put together an excellent final series and they make the finale exceptional. I guess we have to accept the proverb “all good things must come to an end.” For me a key factor is for a show that I have admired end when it’s at its best. Knowing how and when to end is one of the most important aspects to any story.

  29. Elle

    I have one comment and its already been expressed. Sadly, not much of this series has sparked much of my interest other than the whole look of the show. The color, the sharpness, the sets are brighter so it continues to have that same appeal and draw for the viewer.. Louisa’s evolution and her choice to change careers was an interesting development. The married life of Martin and Louisa has been amusing to a point, but also lacking (expressed here by others).

    The spark or the moment of clarity happened in E8 of 8 as I watched the final scene. He will be “cured” of his blood phobia, and Louisa will ,in the final moments of the last show, inform him that she would
    be happy to follow him and leave PW.

    (thanks for this forum and your insightful commentary)

  30. Elle

    Martin could practice a specialty medicine (internal) and very likely there wouldn’t be any exposure to bleeding patients. Why isn’t that an option. At his age, his surgical career might be winding down but he could certainly consult on cardiovascular diseases or disorders. If Martin Clunes is determined that this character cannot be cured, the writers certainly have other options.

  31. Amy

    Karen, I don’t want to post anything that will spoil the last episode for anyone who hasn’t seen it, but will you be posting again? Or should we just comment here tomorrow (assuming US viewers will watch tonight on Acorn)?

  32. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    I haven’t watched it yet myself. What I think I plan to do is write a post addressing what occurs in the last episode. I will try to do that as soon as possible, so try to give me a little time. I like to think things through before writing and then it takes me a little time to organize my thoughts. You know I’m unable to just quickly react. I have this voice that always tells me to check everything before publishing it. It’s the teacher/obsessive in me!

  33. Amy

    I am in no rush—just didn’t want to spoil it for anyone as I hate when things are spoiled for me. Take your time—I will be happy to wait to read whatever you write. (And I am the same way with my own blog—if not with my comments on your blog!)

  34. Dale Marie

    Karen, I also await your analysis of E 8 written by your favorite, writer for this show, Jack Lothian. I agree with much of what has been written about S 8 and I have posted that I have been disappointed in the series and especially the lack of affection between Martin and Louisa. I only became engaged emotionally in this series with E 7. I also thought that episode 7 would have been a good cliff hanger to keep us interested in seeing Sesion 9 but I thoughly enjoyed E 8. I have loved this show and, even disappointed as I am now with S 8 as a whole, I will watch Series 9 where I expect thay will resolve Martin’s blood issues and he will stay in Portwenn.

    I am not as down on the show as others are and I trust the writers and producers to end the show with a great Series 9.

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