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.

103 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.

  35. Sherry

    Hi Everyone – I am new to this site and relatively new to the world of Doc Martin so it has been wonderful to read all the very interesting posts. I love the in-depth analysis of the scripts and characters – so thank you for the insightful comments and observations about the series we have all come to love so much.

    I would like to comment on the issue of the way the writers of the current series have turned ME and LE into an old married couple who bicker benignly about everyday things and don’t show the slightest physical affection towards each other – they only touch a few times in 8 episodes and the touching is almost incidental. Instead the writers seem to portray a “comfortable” domesticity between ME and LE. Although they differ, (sometimes strongly) about things, they seem to be more tolerant of one another.

    I also think it is intentional that they have stripped the series of any intimacy between the two. It’s not an oversight. And not only that, they have also inserted cameos throughout the series where others show physical or emotional affection/support to ME and LE. A few that come to mind are:

    Mrs Tishell – she touches ME a number of times and grips his arms when he is treating the vicar at Penhale’s wedding. The when Mrs T is standing in for Morwenna at the surgery she almost kisses ME by accident. In another scene ME goes to see her at the pharmacy after Clive dies and he tells her “the village needs you…and I need you.” That made me do a double-take – those are words we haven’t even heard him say to Louisa. He could have left it at “the village needs you…” (the closest I can recall is what he said after he asked LG to marry him (the first time): “I can’t bear to be without you.”

    Tara Newcross (Morwenna’s mother) kisses ME on the cheek after he tells her she is not going to die.

    Beth Traywick touches him quite purposefully at least three times. At the restaurant when ME is having lunch with Chris Parsons she puts her hand on ME’s shoulder and keeps it there throughout the latter part of their conversation. At the surgery she sits on his desk and covers his hand (and he doesn’t pull away) and then, when he treats her at the pharmacy, she kneels in front of him and holds onto his arm for dear life.

    Aunt Ruth touches ME’s arm in a comforting way and tells him she will be there to support him at the hearing.

    Angela Sim – ME walks arm in arm with her when they rescue her on the hiking path after her fall

    Penhale – gives ME a fist bump and ME doesn’t show his usual disgust

    The Elderly Lady (who’s dog had died) – tells ME that he’s a sweet man and has a nice manner

    Morwenna – gets up from behind her desk intending to give ME a hug when he’s leaving for the hearing (something his wife didn’t even do)

    Chris Parsons – touches LE a number of times and almost kisses her. At one stage LE puts her arm around Chris – she doesn’t comfort her husband in the same way when he tells her he might lose his job or when he’s about to leave for the hearing. LE also tells Chris: “you know you can speak to me anytime you have a problem…the same way I feel I can speak to you…” Really?

    I watched an interview on YouTube where MC says (talking about Martin & Louisa in the new series): “we’re having to sort of deal with them staying together, and actually it’s just as much fun…because you don’t have to be all lovey-dovey and different people…it’s good fun to do still.” So I would say the writers and producers planned it and Philippa Braithwaite and Mark Crowdy must have endorsed the removal of intimacy/affection between ME and LE.

    Where will they go with this in Series 9? It might look a bit odd for them to suddenly bring affectionate behaviour in after deliberately cutting it out in Series 8 but then again, anything is possible. Martin, Philippa and Mark will have their work cut out if Series 9 is to be the last one. They would have to tie up a lot of loose ends and one of them is how ME and LE’s relationship will be left in the minds and hearts of the viewers.

  36. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    Thanks so much for contributing your thoughts and joining our group. From your examples and the MC quote, I gather you would agree with another one of our members who said there was obviously no difficulty in portraying affection, and even physical contact, in this series. What was deliberately reduced was that sort of interaction between Martin and Louisa. It’s not as though Martin has not previously demonstrated that he can be affectionate, and it’s clear that even in S8 Louisa gives Martin a couple of pecks on the cheek, but there was an evident decision to restrain them from having anything approaching real passion for each other.

    You have to admit that throughout the years of this show there have been several very passionate kisses between Martin and Louisa. The writers, et. al. have been willing to exhibit that overwhelming welling of emotion at other times, but not in S8. Since they all know that those scenes are popular, and since they’ve really never been lovey dovey, I would expect more affection in S9. I guess they may have thought it should wait until the final series, for some reason.

  37. Amy

    Sherry, I really enjoyed your comment and your observations about all the other expressions of affection or touching that Martin and Louisa experienced in S8, though not between each other. I also was struck by the affection shown between other couples or people, especially Al and Morwenna. The choice to make the relationship between Martin and Louisa so sexless, so cold, is obviously deliberate and VERY strange, IMHO. What did they accomplish other than frustrating their viewers? What possible reason could they have had for making the relationship so cold through most of the series? I think they were jerking us around just because they could.

    I am not sure what S9 will bring. I hope Karen is right, but given how they tormented the viewers in S8 as well as S7 and S6 to some extent, I am prepared to expect more frustration and then a lovey-dovey final scene to wrap the whole show up.

  38. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    You are absolutely correct and I make no promises. Wouldn’t it be nice though to have another series like S5 with its much more natural interactions between Martin and Louisa and their repartee?

    They had some tension, of course, but at least we saw some real sharing going on between them and then the climax of a sense of ultimate union too.

  39. Amy

    Thanks for retrieving me from the trash 8.once again, Karen. 🙂 Let’s see where this one ends up.

    One thing I was thinking about the other day—you know the “love theme” music they’ve used throughout the show whenever there is a scene between Martin and Louisa that has some romantic elements? I don’t think we heard it once all throughout S8.

  40. Sherry

    Thanks Amy and Karen for your comments. Karen you are right about there being several passionate scenes between ME and LE throughout the series – out of all of them the one that stands out is the scorching kiss they share in the taxi – wayyyy back. In S8 there are hints of affection and signs that that they are still ‘aware’ of each other on a deeper level – e.g. when Louisa kisses Martin on the cheek (in the street no less!) after he says he’s made a dinner reservation. MC does a brilliant job of looking like a bashful schoolboy and walking away with a spring in his step. That made me smile.

    Another very telling scene was when Chris Parsons is leaving the surgery after spending the night there. CP apologises once again to LE for trying to kiss her and in the background, where ME is making coffee, he glares at them with an expression of possessive anger. This is extended to the end of the scene when CP takes his leave and ME watches him go with what can only be described as a look of disgust on his face. It signals a massive breach in trust for ME and he loses respect for CP who is essentially his boss. At the hearing he orders CP to “stop talking at me…and get rid of that coffee cup” as if CP is his subordinate – he also completely ignores him in the hearing.

    Amy I think you are right about the ‘love / poignant moment” theme music not making an appearance in Series 8. There were plenty of scenes where it would have been appropriate. Right at the end of E8, when ME looks across the hearing room at LE, would have been one of them but they chose to use silence as a way of heightening the emotion.

    There are many instances throughout Series 8 that show a comfortable domestic dynamic between ME and LE – but it leaves the viewer wondering if they missed an episode somewhere between the end of Series 7 and the beginning of Series 8!

  41. Amy

    We’ve also said we felt that way about the two final episodes of S7—that they left out a scene or an episode to explain where the make or break dinner plans came from. The writers like to leave these holes and leave us guessing.

    One question about this series is—how much time are we supposed to think has passed between the end of S7 and the beginning of S8? In some ways it seems like a significant amount of time has passed (at least a month if not months) because JH is much older and M & L seem so settled in that it seems unlikely that Martin has returned home just a few days before the series started. On the other hand, when Martin makes the dinner arrangements, he makes reference to Dr T’s suggestion that they have a date once a week, suggesting that the series picks up almost immediately after the end of S7.

    As for Martin’s reaction to Chris’ attempt to kiss Louisa, I had a few reactions to that. First, I thought Louisa’s response to Martin about why Chris would do that was revealing. She says something like, “Maybe he finds me attractive.” I wasn’t sure how to read that—was she suggesting that she felt like Martin didn’t find her attractive or that he couldn’t imagine that another man would?

    On the other hand, Martin’s calm acceptance of the occurrence, at least with Louisa, revealed a degree of trust and confidence in Louisa—that he wasn’t accusing her or worried that she had initiated it or wanted Chris’ advances. He doesn’t even get angry with Chris, and we know he knows how to express anger and disgust verbally when he wants to. Yes, he seems a bit annoyed with Chris in ways we haven’t seen before, but he also tolerates Chris sleeping in his house and is still on speaking terms with him despite his moves on Louisa. I am not sure most men would react that way and certainly not someone like Martin who could barely stand to look at Danny Steel.

  42. Sherry

    The passage of time anomaly also struck me as being a bit odd. But I suppose the writers wanted to hit the ground running so to speak, with M and L being past the making up part of things and already settled into domestic life together. The reference to Dr T is what actually throws everything out, doesn’t it?

    An interesting take on the Chris/Louisa/Martin incident Amy. Louisa’s line “perhaps he just finds me attractive.” is definitely a reaction to her being stung by Martin’s remark. But after she says it, Martin looks a bit taken aback and stares down at Chris. There are so many things one sees on a second viewing (or third 😛 ) aren’t there? Such as little nuances/ inflections in speech or the micro expressions that MC is such a master of.

    As far as Chris sleeping over is concerned – I saw that as Martin extending his ‘duty of care’ as a doctor to monitor Chris’ condition – maybe as a friend too but he certainly wasn’t pleased about it and neither was Louisa. She looks really put out and gives an eye roll of note when they are helping Chris down the stairs at the pub.

  43. Amy

    So many things we could say about that incident, especially these days with sexual harassment claims everywhere. Should Louisa have gone to his room at all? Didn’t you see it coming when they were sitting next to each other on the bed, him confiding in her his marital woes? I certainly felt uncomfortable with that scene and sensed that Chris was going to try and do something.

    So are we supposed to think that Martin is so naive that he can’t understand why another man would try and kiss his wife? Or is his libido so low that he can’t even imagine something like that? And once again, wasn’t that an opportunity for the writers to have him respond in a way that would show he finds her attractive and does understand why another man would as well?

    I don’t think he was pleased about it, but I also don’t think he was angry—just totally perplexed. Maybe it’s a product of his morality—he would never imagine being tempted by another’s man wife, so how in the world could Chris have been?

    The more I think about it, the more I am confused about what the writers were trying to say about Martin in the scene and its aftermath.

  44. Amy

    GRRRRR. In the trash again. (Sherry, for some unknown reason, my comments often end up in the trash and have to be retrieved by Karen. It seems to happen with every other comment, but I did respond to you, and Karen will at some point find the comment and post it.)

  45. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    For me Louisa’s reaction was the weird part. If a clearly inebriated man who has been a friend, and is my husband’s only male colleague who has any influence over him, were to attempt to kiss me, the last thing I would think is that he might be attracted to me. First I would assume his drunken state was to blame, then I would consider him compromised by the turmoil in his marriage (especially now that Louisa has been studying psychology). The last thing I would think of is that it was a compliment of some kind!

    Martin is always thinking of the medical explanations before anything else, and the man has been having seizures. Some brain damage would be near the top of a doctor’s differential diagnosis, although Chris’s background of alcoholism should probably be his first notion.

    I might have thought Martin would be most surprised by the fact that Louisa had decided to talk to Chris about her concerns without telling him first. He was very unhappy when she withheld the fact that she was pregnant from him, and when she neglected to tell him Danny was coming back with a busload of children. She had good intentions, but would he see it that way?

    (Talk about perplexed! I cannot for the life of me understand why or when your comments end up in the pending category!!)

  46. Amy

    Well, I didn’t meant to suggest at all that Louisa was flattered—repelled would be how I’d describe it (and how I would react also). But when Martin attributed Chris’ conduct to brain damage, it’s understandable that she might react by being insulted by Martin—that the only a man with brain damage would be interested in kissing her. Sure, Martin is being the doctor first, as always, but he could have responded in some way that was more reassuring to his wife and more upset with his so-called friend. The whole scene was creepy, if you ask me.

    As for concealing her reasons, I suppose Martin had bigger problems at that moment than worrying about Louisa’s actions. Maybe he raised it behind those closed doors we can’t see behind.

    Now let’s see if this comment goes through!

  47. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    I was saying that it was Louisa whose reaction to Martin that Chris might have been attracted to her was her implying that her sense was that Chris found her attractive. For the record, if an inebriated man tried to kiss me and then fell on the floor and had a seizure, I really doubt I would think he was attracted to me. I think I would be like Martin and be worried about his welfare. Regardless, Martin’s seen Danny want to kiss Louisa and come to her defense so her sensitivity on this subject doesn’t seem logical to me, but the whole thing was relatively inconsequential in the end and Chris was depicted as being exceptionally contrite about it.

    Yes, those closed doors. Behind them are all sorts of things missing from S8!

  48. Santa Traugott

    A note about the the length of time between S7 and S8: I took it to be about 7 or 8 weeks, and that is based on Penhale’s comment to the vicar that he and Janice had been together about that length of time. But I still don’t think that 8 weeks is enough time to settle into the relatively congenial but apparently passionless relationship we see in S8.

    I agree that the decision to withhold signs of passion/a sex life is deliberate. I don’t quite know what that’s in aid of. Are we to assume that couples who have settled into domesticity no longer have any passion for each other? So that, the lack of same is an indicator of how comfortable they are together? I don’t get it. I sometimes suspect that the producers take a kind of perverse pleasure in frustrating their audience.

    BTW, I thought S5 was also strange in that respect. They began living together after an emotional reconciliation, and at some point Louisa decided to move to London with him. Certainly not as just friends? I recognize of course that she was post-partum in early episodes, but we see nothing more than a cheek touch until the very last episode; there is no sign or any indication that their relationship had progressed beyond roommates raising a child together.

    And even then, the kisses (except for famous taxi scene) are rarely accompanied by real embraces. It’s very stylized and chaste. I wonder what that’s about, also.

  49. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    For me S5 had those efforts by Martin to take JH on a ride in the car to calm him, the willingness to clean up when Louisa breaks something, the lack of anger when she tells him the coffee maker is broken. It also had bedroom discussions about naming JH in which Martin smiles subtly while Louisa looks at the baby sitting on the end of the bed, and one about Martin needing to dance to help quiet down the baby. In my mind those were good signs of domestic harmony in which they behaved as a loving couple. There wasn’t much kissing or hugging until the last episode, but the overall climate between them was warm.

    Even the scenes with Elinor generally united them, and Louisa asks her mother to keep her sips of wine a secret from Martin, giving us the impression that his feelings matter to her.

    I think the kiss as the baby is being born was quite powerful. The one under the tree after the concert was sort of like the one in the taxi, with Louisa being the instigator and quite passionate. Then the one at the end of S5 seemed very loving, and the kiss at the end of S7 was another that involved Louisa making the more impressive move. Along the way Martin has moved to kiss Louisa on her back deck, when leaving her house after the first night together, and a couple of other times. We shouldn’t forget their loving kiss in the lodge following their wedding either.

    All in all, there have been enough moments of affection to qualify as revealing definite love between them, but I would agree that the show is mostly very chaste. I would guess that may be another way of portraying Martin’s inability to show emotion, but then he is clearly very distraught when Louisa decides to stop dating him after the concert, and Joan picks up on his emotional lows at times. My vote for most likely reason for keeping the physical affection to a minimum is that they are doing their best to locate the show within the sort of PG audience level where they figure their audience resides.

  50. Amy

    I tend to agree with Santa that it is done deliberately to frustrate viewers. Sex is too often a theme in the other stories to think they want to keep it PG—from the very first episode with the married woman and the surfer, sex is often an underlying issue in a number of the collateral stories—for example, Eddie Rix and his wife using sadomasochism to bring a spark back to their sex life, Mark Mylow worrying about his size and taking enlargement pills, Clive taking Viagra, the honeymooners alluding to sex with Martin, Joan having sex with the painter, and most recently Chris lunging at Louisa.

    Maybe a child could watch and this would all go over his or her head, but I think showing some real affection between M & L wouldn’t turn what is already at least a PG 13 show into an R rated show. Lots of shows meant for a younger audience or meant to be “family friendly” show couples—especially married couples—being affectionate beyond a meager peck on the cheek.

    So I think the decision not to show much affection between M & L is a deliberate attempt to torment their viewers, especially this season. They’ve always doled out the physical affection in a very limited way. Every season except for 3 really had only one real embrace—the taxi in 1, the drunken kitchen scene in 2, the birth in 4, the castle in 5, the wedding in 6, and the final scene of 7. The writers/producers clearly knew that they were teasing viewers, often holding out to the last episode if not the last scene to reward us with a kiss. In S8 they didn’t even do that. It would have been easy to end S8 with an embrace as Martin thanks Louisa for being there to support him, but no, instead we get chit chat in the car. IMO, this was a very conscious effort to annoy the audience. But why? Why frustrate the hand that feeds you? I just don’t get it.

  51. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    After I wrote my response I thought someone would bring up those scenes!

    I guess we all agree that there was a deliberate decision to withhold affection between Martin and Louisa in S8, and there’s really no good explanation. There were plenty of times when it would have made sense to give them a moment of warmth. Besides the one you mention, I would add the time after the boat rescue where Louisa kisses Martin as he stands on the front entrance area. Or when he’s at loose ends while not practicing medicine, or when she decides to leave to talk to Chris Parsons. Heck, they showed more affection during S7 when they were in therapy!

    The whole thing is rather curious. No doubt about it!

  52. Sherry

    I am also not so sure that the PG ratings are an issue – the bloody scenes in some of the episodes would also affect the PG rating – possibly more so than the odd embrace or kiss would. Maybe MC and CC just don’t like playing the ‘lovey dovey’ scenes – or after the famous taxi kiss Philippa Braithwaite might have said “that kiss was way too realistic Martin Clunes! – no more kissing for you!” 🙂

  53. Amy

    If that’s the reason—that the actors don’t like those scenes or that their spouses don’t—well, then as the Brits say, that’s RUBBISH. It’s their job. I have never seen MC in anything else or CC, but I assume both have done love scenes many times. It’s their job, after all!

    I blame the writers/producers, and I do believe they do it to tease us. But I think they’ve gone too far this time and drained the romance out of the show. I am now glad there is only one more series (I hope) because I’d rather they end it than turn it into a truly bad show.

    I think it is very telling that it is this very issue that has drawn the most attention here—not the substance of the plots or the underlying issues or the nature of the characters or the writing—things that usually are the focus of this blog. The show has left us with only one big question this season—why was there no romance, no physical affection between Martin and Louisa?

    I think that’s just what the writers wanted—to frustrate and bewilder us and make us come back in the hopes that they can revive the love story before the show takes its final bow.

  54. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    Even though I am not an avid MC or CC fan, I have seen a few of their other shows and in every case they have had love scenes. I couldn’t get through all of William and Mary with MC because it was so saccharin and overly kissy face, not to mention regular bedroom scenes. That show was not produced by Philippa but they were married while he was filming it. CC has also done many shows in which she kisses men passionately and even some in which she acts in some fairly sexually explicit scenes. The actors are not the reason for the change.

    As Amy says, this series has given us very little to sink our teeth into and left us with the rather absurd emphasis on why there was so little affection. The only interpretation of that we can come up with is a deliberate choice by the producers and writers that they would frustrate viewers with this series and possibly satisfy them with the next.

    Many of the fans on FB seem perfectly content with S8 despite its lack of depth and affection. We are the ones looking for more substance while Buffalo Pictures may be reading its fan base well. We are probably the outliers, I guess!

  55. Amy

    I have no idea whether we are more typical fans or the FB fans are more typical. But there were a number of people in the two Facebook groups I follow who expressed disappointment in S8 and were soon called out by others as being negative and whiners (whingers?) and malcontents, etc. I think there is little tolerance there for any criticism (which is why I don’t bother commenting there). So the viewpoints there are skewed because negative comments are silenced.

    But let’s face it—at this point BP is going to do its thing without regard to what any of its fans say. They’ve made a fortune off the show and their sponsors won’t care about the content. They know people will watch, and that’s all that matters.

  56. Santa Traugott

    Totally agree about William and Mary. Just cloying.

    Martin Clunes has done a lot of R-rated stuff. See or don’t see — Dirty Tricks. He said once that his wife doesn’t like it, and also that he doesn’t enjoy watching those scenes with her (!) — but still, I can’t think that Phillippa being jealous is the reason.

    I think that really, they don’t want any emphasis at all on The Relationship. Let them be an old married couple, bickering “benignly” as Sherry said, and get on with the plot. But the big point is, what plot?

  57. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    The ironic thing is how much fans were looking forward to seeing how this couple would function as a married couple and what they were given is what you call “an old married couple.” They may be older than most couples with a young child, but they are newly committed to each other and we would think they would have a renewed love for each other. To me it’s strange that they didn’t at least offer the fans some sort of loving interaction and/or put together a plot that could connect the two series that are supposed to be the conclusion of the show. They could have made more of Louisa’s decision to quit as headmistress and take up child therapy, or there could have been other storylines that were carried over from one episode to another, but nothing was built up sufficiently. As Amy said previously, the blood phobia only became a significant issue in the last two episodes. What plot is a good question.

  58. Sherry

    Some really good points all round and Karen, that’s exactly it – the writers / producers have substituted the newly reconciled, affectionate stage of the relationship, where you would expect the odd hug or even a tender look between the two, for a settled and familiar existence. It is supposed to make us see that they’re truly together now – that they can bicker and differ over the mundane things of married life such as getting a dog and waiting 20 minutes for dinner, without it blowing up into something bigger. It works in one way, but as the first episode unfolded, my reaction was that the introduction of this new life together (to the viewers) still lacked the one ingredient that has also been missing from previous series – the overt affection that cements the relationship. In previous series we know why it was lacking so we can accept it up to a point, but in the opening episodes of this series it is like watching a couple who are about to celebrate their 5th or 10th wedding anniversary when in reality it’s only been a number of weeks. That’s not normal. (BTW my comment about Philippa Braithwaite in my previous post was said very much with tongue in cheek – I realize that they are all professionals and PB intervening would never happen. It’s just my quirky sense of humour running away with me) 🙂

    As others have pointed out, the other BIG missing element in Series 8 is an identifiable arc that runs throughout. The fact that we are trying to find an arc speaks volumes, doesn’t it? The blood phobia is there but not really as an overarching theme. There is an element of the need for happiness and compromise that runs through some of the episodes but I wouldn’t exactly say it is an arc either. Martin asks Louisa a number of times about her being happy. Louisa, whilst being less prone to blowing up at Martin, stands her ground strongly on a number of issues – studying, the dog, the car, the nursery – and more often than not Martin compromises in order to ensure her happiness. But it’s not really an arc either. There have been other elements, such as gender issues – the vicar being a female and receiving rather discriminatory comments from Penhale as well as Clive and Sally Tishell. Or the issue of older women studying and being stereotyped. But whilst they highlight these issues in certain episodes they still can’t be seen as part of an arc – or at least I can’t connect the dots.

    Instead of ‘happiness and compromise’ what about ‘loss and compromise’ as an arc or theme? Penhale being jilted, the vicar being jilted, Chris Parsons being dumped by his unhappy wife, Trevor Dodds’ (sheep rustler) wife leaving him, Caitlin Morgan’s husband leaving her, Sally losing Clive, Ruth and Izzie’s compromise (and loss for Ruth), John Rahmanzai ‘losing’ his father (both figuratively and literally), Mary Rawlings losing her border collie Jerry, Al and Bert losing the business, a home and also each other to a certain extent and Al later compromising on the revival of the whisky still, Chris losing his credibility as a boss (and confidence as a man), Louisa compromising by giving up (losing) her teaching career to be with James Henry, and Martin’s, albeit only potential, loss of his career and Professor Langan’s compromise that he can continue practicing as long as he gets help and is monitored Notice that a lot of these examples highlight a break-up of relationships in contrast to ME and LE’s relationship which is now more solid than before – almost a reversal of sorts. I am sure there are other examples.

    Could the arc simply be that Martin and Louisa are making their marriage work at last? That despite their differences they are really making an effort? It runs through all the episodes and culminates in Martin saying that he is glad he is a GP in Portwenn (and that also settles the issue of whether he still hankers after being a surgeon again)?

  59. Amy

    Sherry, the loss and compromise theme is very intriguing—great insights! And I like the idea that Martin and Louisa stand in contrast to those whose relationships have failed (Al and Morwenna also are in the category of so-far successful relationships). I suppose you could add the story about Morwennna’s mother—who almost suffered a loss but through compromise of some principles learned that her condition was treatable. The sailing instructor was losing her hair. And Louisa’s classmate was losing her mind!

    As for the lack of affection, I’ve been married for 41 years and cannot imagine a day when my husband and I are as unaffectionate as Martin and Louisa. Sure, we aren’t randy teenagers anymore, but whenever we separate for the day, there’s a kiss goodbye and a kiss hello. And I can’t imagine us not giving each other a hug or at least a comforting touch on the hand or arm when something upsets one of us—whether as minor as water spilled on a computer or as major as facing a career-threatening hearing. The way M & L are depicted in S8 is not in my experience how any happily married couple interacts—including my parents, who have been married for 66 years. M & L act more like a couple who are struggling to be civil with each other “for the sake of the children.” Even friends show more warmth, more affection.

  60. Sherry

    Too true Amy – definitely not normal behaviour by any standards. I did think of putting Amy Vincent’s hair loss in as well (lol) and the loss of the sheep and alpaca but thought that might be pushing it a bit 🙂 Good thinking on Tara Newcross – yes she stood to lose her life if it wasn’t for Morwenna getting her dad to compromise and give contact details for the doctor in Nairobi. Also Ken the publican losing his pub due to his problem with alcohol and Mrs T almost losing it over Clive’s death.

    And speaking of classmates – I loved that scene when Louisa tells Martin about her ex-pupil who was in class with her and he says “What? As a case study?”and Louisa says “No but she should be…she could be a sociopath” and Martin says “Oh…I see…a local girl.” The look on Louisa’s face is absolutely priceless. I laughed so loud at that.

  61. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    Sherry, I too find your observations intriguing. First, it’s good to know that you consider the lack of overt affection abnormal for a couple in these circumstances. Although I have seen plenty of British TV shows that display what we can call typical acts of affection between married couples, a part of me wondered if the lack of affection had something to do with a difference between our American habits versus British ones. I guess that was not a factor after all.

    Then your comments about having difficulty finding an arc complement our own while pointing out to an even greater extent the challenge in determining an arc at all. As you say, the fact that we are struggling so much to come up with an arc speaks volumes. However, your thoughts on the theme of loss and compromise come closest of any we have so far proposed. I must admit that I did not recognize the many examples you have turned up, and it all adds up to quite a series of occasions of loss. The only thing that gives me some hesitation is that if that was supposed to be a theme, it was certainly much too subtle for most viewers (including me), and that would be unusual for a TV show. Plus why would they choose a theme of loss (and compromise)? The idea of compromise is somewhat easier to understand since both Louisa and Martin are now doing a lot more compromising so that they can find contentment in their marriage. Loss is a little harder to get a handle on, especially in a dramedy.

    We could use your suggestion and say that this time they are using Martin and Louisa as examples for successful relationships as opposed to using others in contrast to M and L. Or we could go the route of the film Inside Out and say that without experiencing loss we cannot truly reach happiness, or perhaps the full recognition of fulfillment in life.

    The nagging hesitation I have is that, as I once argued to Amy, it is odd to have a theme that is never discussed in any significant way. Sally acts out her loss in some ways, but then she’s past it fairly quickly. John doesn’t seem to feel much sense of loss for a father he never had a good relationship with, and Ruth has gotten over her love for Izzie too. They found a substitute dog for Mary Rawlings, which seems to satisfy her. Bert is always losing his businesses and Al has very little luck in business as well. But your examples are the closest we have come to finding a theme. They do all end uneventfully and without much notice, except for Penhale constantly bringing up that he was jilted at the altar (which is meant to be funny).

    I am not so convinced about the notion of M and L finally making their marriage work being some sort of arc. By the end of S5, we’ve heard Martin tell Louisa that despite all of the things he dislikes about Portwenn, he wants to be there because of her. The ending of S8 sort of reiterates that in a more understated way. We know that Martin is thinking about Louisa when he looks over at her before asking what it will take for him to stay in Portwenn. And then he says he’s glad he’s there near the very end of the episode. At the end of S7 it was settled that they would go home together and stay married. Making things work is sort of implied. We just didn’t expect that to mean without much apparent affection!

  62. Santa Traugott

    I half-wonder how old these writers and producers are. There comes a point where we all realize that our life’s journey involves quite a lot of loss.of people, places and things, but with just average good luck, that’s not something that people recognize until maybe their late 30’s or so. Dogs die, businesses fail, jobs are lost, marriages break up, friends or the husbands of friends pass on….. maybe they’re just writing about the ordinary small dramas that we all encounter, and become all too familiar with. I must say, they don’t dwell on them with any degree of sentimentality, quite the contrary, and that’s all to the good, imo. Rather bracing, in fact, which in fact, since they’re English, may be the intent.

    Sheri — thanks for the clarification of Phillippa’s reaction to love scenes. Until you’ve followed someone’s posts for a while, you don’t pick up where they’re joking or not joking! And I must say, this has been presented as a serious hypothesis on the FB fan pages.

  63. Amy

    I wonder whether we can categorize the losses this season according to the seven stages of grief:

    SHOCK and DENIAL: Sally’s initial reaction to losing Clive
    PAIN and GUILT: the vicar, Chris Parsons
    ANGER and BARGAINING—The sheep rustler? And Tara Newcross on the bargaining end
    DEPRESSION and LONELINESS—Chris, Sally, the vicar, Joe
    UPWARD TURN: Sally, Joe
    RECONSTRUCTION: Sally and Joe
    ACCEPTANCE and HOPE: not sure

    I am stretching it, I know.

  64. Sherry

    Thanks Karen – and nope – I don’t think the British vs American habits have anything to do with the lack of overt affection in the series. I think it’s been contrived to frustrate the fans – and my goodness, they have succeeded, haven’t they?

    I take your point about the ‘loss’ part of my arc theory. The only time Loss is really discussed is when Ruth and Louisa (separately) speak to Martin about Sally’s aberrant behaviour and Penhale brings up his own loss and dejection a number of times throughout the series (to Ken, Bert, Ruth and Astrid). I suppose the Loss thing does seem a bit extreme though. Did the production team sit around the boardroom table at their planning sessions and say “let’s make Loss the theme this time folks” – I somehow don’t think so but it comes up so often that Philippa and Mark Crowdy must have noticed. According to MC, Philippa (and by implication Mark too) goes through at least six drafts of each script and would know them inside out. They would surely have picked up that there are a lot of marriages/relationships on the rocks and lots of people exhibiting loss, loneliness and dejection – all except ME and LE. It’s almost as if they have presented us with a juxtaposition – look how far they’ve come! They have come so far in fact, that Louisa can persuade Martin to go and give comfort to Mrs T knowing of Mrs T’s obsession with him.

    Karen your point about the suggested arc being so subtle that one has to have it pointed out is significant in that throughout the entire series the producers and writers (and Martin Clunes as well I am willing to bet) have inserted symbols and comedic devices in very subtle ways as well. Some appear throughout and others are inserted as a one-off so that the viewer might only notice it on a second viewing or even a third. One that springs to mind (S3 E2) when ME goes to LG’s cottage when she’s got the tummy bug – they are in her bedroom – on her bedroom window there is a blue Star of David which is only fleetingly visible. It wouldn’t mean anything unless you know that Caroline Catz is Jewish. Also – in the very beginning of that same episode, ME is selecting vegetables at the grocer when LG approaches and he holds the veggies in a very suggestive way – MC’s face is completely deadpan but you can actually see that CC had a hard time trying not to laugh. Speaking of vegetables – there are a number of scenes where onions appear in very odd places too – on the dashboard of Louisa’s car when she goes to see Roger Fenn in hospital and in the shed when Martin is listening to his therapy CD (S4 E6) – I think there are other instances but I can’t recall them now. What it signifies though I haven’t managed to work out.

    The Buddha is a constant but understated piece of continuity as well. To my knowledge it has never been explained. We know Edith Montgomery recognizes the statuette when she visits ME in his consulting room – and ME is very protective of it. When he is about to move out of the surgery he grabs it from the removal man and says “I’ll take that – it’s valuable” then straps a seat belt around it in his car. But nowhere does he profess to be interested in Buddhism (or any religion for that matter) – even when the vicar pointedly asks Martin if he ‘practices” he thinks she’s referring to medicine.

    And then there are the clocks – not so subtle but definitely part of Martin’s persona (I have always thought the writers chose this hobby well, in that it so resembles his profession as a surgeon – both require the delicate and intricate repair of tired and worn parts). There must be loads of other subtle symbolism – some of it just plain good-natured mischief on the part of the cast who are only human and also like to have a bit of fun on the set.

    OK so I was a bit off topic there but it’s nice to share some of these obscure finds 🙂 Please tell me if my posts/comments are too long and rambling.

  65. Sherry

    Amy – could the Acceptance and Hope be Martin accepting that he has to deal with his blood phobia once and for all and the Hope is that he will get to remain with Louisa in Portwenn?

  66. Sherry

    Santa – I totally agree about ‘ordinary small dramas’ that should be included to add depth to the main stories but I can’t help thinking that because there is no clear theme in this series, the one thing that seems to span all the episodes is this drama of foundering relationships and people losing major things in their lives. The other is Martin and Louisa making a go of it as a married couple.

    It might be a good exercise to look at the arcs in each of the previous 7 series and see how easy or difficult it would be to identify them. Just to give perspective to our confusion at trying to find one for Series 8.

  67. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    Sherry you are pointing out many sorts of objects and inside jokes that have appeared throughout the show, most of which have nothing at all to do with the arc of the story. They are also often meaningless and at times Philippa has been asked about them and said so, e.g. the onions. So I would make a major distinction between some relatively silly things inserted into the scenes at times and a plot line that is hard to discern from the way in which it has been included in the episode.

    Two items that might have some importance are the Buddhas and the clocks. I have written about Buddhism in a post, although I am not sure whether it actually has any meaning in this show. The clocks were a key facet of Martin’s life, beginning in his youth, and they come up in conversation quite often, but for some reason they have been eliminated over the last two series. There have been some theories about that, like when his mother took the clock that had belonged to his grandfather and he had fixed, he was so crushed, he wanted nothing more to do with clocks. After S6, and his regular escape to his office to work on the clock, it was a surprise to me that he had given it up entirely by S7.

    I have written some posts about previous story arcs in either individual episodes or in some series, and they have sometimes been associated with the titles given to the episodes. All of those appeared in an obvious enough way that I considered them deliberate and planned. Sadly, I could not identify anything like that in this series.

  68. Sherry

    Thanks Karen. I take your point about the silly things inserted into scenes not being a part of the arc of the story and my apologies if it came across like that. I just find it amusing and wonder which one of the cast or crew was responsible. I know that being on set can be tedious with very long hours so it’s not surprising that they will find ways to amuse themselves.

    Alas I have not yet had time to read all of your posts and will definitely try and get to the ones where you discuss previous story arcs.

  69. Amy

    Sherry, I enjoyed your comment, and as a relative newcomer myself, I know there are lots of topics I missed when they were first discussed. I don’t think you need to apologize—it’s hard to read everything Karen wrote and every single comment. And we’ve all repeated ourselves hundreds of times…. I hope you won’t feel discouraged from continuing to comment because I, for one, really find your comments interesting and insightful.

    As for the story arc idea, I like the idea of identifying the arc of each season and have been thinking about it. But I think we need to distinguish the story arcs from themes. The story arcs may be easier to identify than themes, and frankly until I started reading Karen’s blog, I had not really thought about some of the themes she has identified. Now when I rewatch, I do notice these things more; for example, I was watching the episode in S2 when Al is wondering if Bert is his biological father, and this time I saw that the issue throughout the stories in that episode concerned the definition of family—who is a father, who is a mother: Al, the Flynts, and even Mark Mylow’s sister raised the issue of who is your real family, those you relate to by blood or those who love and care for you.

    So there may be themes in particular episodes and this one (what is family) certainly occurs in many episodes. But that is not the same as a story arc. So what are the story arcs in earlier seasons?

    S1: Boy meets girl, girl doesn’t like boy, boy and girl are intrigued by each other, boy gets and then loses girl.
    S2: Boy 2 appears, Boy 1 is jealous, Boy 2 makes a play for Girl, Boy 2 loses Girl, Boy 1 gets and loses girl
    S3: Boy and Girl inch towards being a couple, they are a couple, then they aren’t a couple.
    S4: Girl returns pregnant, Boy and GIrl can’t get on the same page, Girl 2 tries to take Boy, Boy and Girl get together
    S5: Boy and Girl are together, Boy and Girl are apart, Boy and Girl are together
    S6: Boy and GIrl marry, Boy and GIrl argue, Boy and Girl split up, Boy recognizes need to change
    S7: Boy tries to change, Girl resists, Boy finally gets GIrl back
    S8: Boy and Girl are together……zzzzzzzzz Flatline.

    The problem with S8 is that there is no story about Boy and GIrl; throughout the other seasons the M & L relationship formed the shape of each series; the other stories—Al and Bert, Penhale/Marlow, Ruth/Joan, the parents of M & L, and the patients were all just there to add humor and dramatic tension and occasionally a parallel story, but the story was always Martin and Louisa.

    That is wholly separate from the question of themes, such as the meaning of family, happiness, the ability to change, what is normal, and other themes that have popped up in various episodes in various seasons.

  70. Roscarrock

    Speaking of inserting silly things, I wonder if this has ever been noticed. S3E2, “The Morning After/Movement” (when the show was still oh-so great), DM and LG run into each other while shopping and have a conversation about Louisa’s anemia and how she’ll be coming in for a blood test later.

    Throughout the conversation, DM is holding part of his shopping in his hand, some produce items.

    Have those produce items in DM’s hand ever been noted in the years upon years of discussion of the show?

  71. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    Sherry, I am not surprised at all that you haven’t read everything on this blog. It’s taken us more than 3 years to write them! I was in no way implying that you should have read them, only that my desire to go back through each series to locate a theme is not so keen right now, and that’s to a great extent because I have spent time doing that while writing this blog.

    I really appreciate that you have started reading this blog at all and hope that you will continue to comment.

    My view on the various props and silly additions to the show is that the actors enjoy having a laugh and lightening the mood at times and the set designers probably do too. I also think that once some of these odds and ends have been noticed, they think it’s fun to yank us around a bit by placing them in other locations and removing them. I think we sometimes take ourselves too seriously and they think so too. Sometimes an onion is just an onion!

  72. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    Thanks for coming to my rescue. I agree that there is a difference between a story arc and a theme, however, I think you have been extremely reductive in your rundown of each series. The Boy/Girl dynamic certainly is predominant, but not the only major story arc. For example, although S6 is about marriage followed by argument, depression plays a significant role along with the return of the blood phobia. When I look at each series, I could probably find a way to insert how the blood phobia inhabits a weaker or stronger position as we go along, and that could be developed as a theme.

    I am a little less likely to put so much emphasis on the simple personal development between this couple even though their relationship took on more and more of a central role as time has passed. I have previously argued that reconciliation is not boring, and I will stand by that, so simply saying that they are now together and that has been a sleeper isn’t true for me. How that resolution has been handled has made it a sleeper, IMO.

    The show has introduced many pertinent topics for discussion and those have been the reason for this blog. In addition, the skill with which those have been incorporated into the show has occupied some of my time. I want them to return to that sort of complexity!

  73. Amy

    I was purposely being reductive; of course, there is more there. But the story arc (as opposed to themes and issues) is always centered on Martin and Louisa and how each character (mostly Martin) evolves in that relationship. In S1 and S2 we slowly learn more about what makes Martin tick (and the blood phobia is a part of that plot development. S3 and S4 reveal how much they love each other and yet push against each other; S5 and S6 show them trying to be together despite their differences, and S7 and S8 bring them back together. I don’t honestly think there is much more to the “story arc” as opposed to the themes and issues that run through those stories as threads. Sure there are stories about Al and Bert and the others, but they don’t really develop into an arc. Those characters barely change and we learn very little about their inner lives along the way. I think the story (as opposed to the themes) is about the personal relationships and development. Aren’t almost all stories? Aren’t plots always about man—whether it’s man v man, man v nature, man v God, etc? Even stories about animals are generally in fact stories about human beings, aren’t they?

    And you know I agree with you that reconciliation is NOT generally boring, but the way the writers handled it this season, there was no story arc, no development, no conflict. That’s the reason for the zzzzz. I could have seen an interesting story arc with them reconciled—e.g., M and L move back in together and find issues of conflict such as L wanting to go back to school, then there is some tension (and humor) as they work their way towards resolving that tension, concluding with Martin and Louisa being a team as they work together to support her ambitions. Or it could have been the blood phobia. Martin is sued by angry patient, Martin resists getting help while Louisa insists he does, Louisa supports him as he is sued, Martin and Louisa become a team helping him overcome his phobia.

    But as written, there was no real development of conflict or resolution—perhaps because they’ve made Martin so passive in accepting everything Louisa wants to make her happy though still having him put his foot in his mouth now and then. But even that creates no conflict because Louisa just rolls her eyes and shuts her mouth when he does it.

    And I do agree (as I’ve said in earlier comments) that there were no obvious themes in each individual episode or overall, but I like Sherry’s loss theme and I still see a theme of the struggle to balance family and career. I don’t think it’s as hidden as you do—or certainly no more hidden than the themes in earlier series. But we can agree to disagree. 🙂

  74. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    The lack of conflict and resolution is basically the void here. Plot requires conflict and in S8, the opportunities for conflict came and went without so much as a peep. Martin puts up some resistance to Louisa starting a new career, but that barely causes any tension. And within each episode the same thing happened…possible conflicts arise and disappear without much development. Mrs. T is supposed to be struggling with her loss of Clive and talking to him as if he’s still there. Ruth worries she is headed for another breakdown, but all is well after Martin makes a visit and tells her he depends on her. No mess, no fuss! Maybe his superhero powers engaged and solved the problem! Hey, maybe that’s what happens in many of the cases…his superhero powers come to the rescue and resolve the conflicts. The sailing instructor with alopecia? Gone. The friend of Louisa’s who drives erratically? Gone. JH’s biting tendencies? Gone. JH’s new ability to talk? Gone.

    That’s the major deficiency in this series. Nothing develops!

  75. Sherry

    Thank you Amy for your kind words. And indeed, I think there is a very fine line between an arc and a theme. Some themes run through the entire series – the blood phobia, the ‘will they, won’t they’ between Martin and Louisa (firstly will they get together? and later will they stay together?), the constant friction between ME and the villagers and then Mrs Tishell’s obsession with ME etc. Or are these extended arcs? Oh dear…very confusing. Anyway, be it arc or theme, Series 8 is lacking in both except perhaps for the Loss one I identified in the absence of anything more overt.

    Amy your summary of the arcs reminds me of Mrs Tishell’s ‘damsel in the castle’ monologue: “one moment you’re together, then you’re not; then you’re getting married, then you’re not; then she’s gone, then she comes back; then you’re going, then you don’t; then you have a baby and you’re living together and then you’re not and then you’re going away again and then you come back here…” and she ends with a line that sums up how the viewers feel: “I can’t stand it anymore…” 🙂

    I tend to agree with your observation about S8 – that there is no real storyline with Martin and Louisa. The only overarching thing is that their marriage is “working” – something that needed to be embedded in the storyline in order to move away from the will-they-won’t-they situation which, as MC put it in a recent interview, they milked for all it was worth. The result however, is a marked lack of conflict/drama between the two. The only incidents that stood out for me were a) when Martin confronts Louisa about signing up for the course (which also didn’t really develop) and b) Louisa’s decision to buy the car. Even getting the dog wasn’t really a point of conflict between them and the dog has always been a point of conflict or irritation for Martin. The writers possibly use this to highlight just how much Martin is willing to compromise to make Louisa happy.

    There is a part in the car scene that made me go back and watch it again – besides the funny part where Louisa is the one who kicks the tyres of the car (that’s usually a guy thing isn’t it?), it’s the part where Louisa says she is going to buy the car and Martin says they will obviously look at others first. Louisa then says no, she is going to buy it, “…it’s my money Martin.” Martin looks almost humiliated. The camera stays on him for a beat longer than usual to highlight his expression. I suppose this establishes that she is financially independent of Martin and shows her exerting her desire to be her own person even though it comes across as defiance rather than assertiveness. It has been said before somewhere here that the car was almost an arbitrary thing – and apart from this episode, the car doesn’t feature again in the series. Excuse the pun but I just see it as a vehicle for highlighting the differences that still simmer under the surface of their relationship. It also highlights their new found ability to not let things blow up into a situation where one of them moves out!

    I also consider the family/career struggle to be a prominent and very important theme. This is something that goes way back in the series. Remember the impetigo episode where Louisa allows the infected children to stay at school because their parents need to work? The issue comes up time and again throughout and was also a major point of conflict between Martin and Louisa with little James Henry as well.

  76. Sherry

    Karen, your posts are always very interesting, well researched and well written. I try to read at least one (plus all the insightful comments that follow) every time I visit your site and that’s almost every day, time permitting. I will definitely continue doing so.

    Your point about the missed opportunities to develop conflict in numerous scenes hits the nail firmly on the head. Even the longstanding animosity between Martin and Angela Sim, the vet is watered down. The disdain for Beth Traywick is largely put aside and Martin becomes almost acquiescent in his dealings with her. The incident with Chris Parsons trying to kiss Louisa was glossed over and leaves the viewer wondering whether Martin has an opinion on the matter at all (other than medical) whether he lacks the ability to show a bit of jealousy or possessiveness (in the past he has). He is vocal about the student friend almost killing his wife with her bad driving and he shows a bit of professional one-upmanship / rivalry (in front of Louisa) with Sam the lecturer but when it comes to someone pawing his wife (drunk or not) he says nothing. Even Danny (way back) got more of a blasting.

    Has Martin’s character been mellowed a bit too much? Is Martin being turned into a hen-pecked character – a “yes dear, no dear” man? I sincerely hope not. The fact that he has previously always been his own man and stood his ground with his well-developed sense of integrity – to the point of rubbing everyone up the wrong way, was always a major draw card – for me at least. Amy used the word passive – and whilst in certain circumstances it could be an endearing characteristic (as in Martin giving in to Louisa to ensure her happiness) generally it takes some of the edge out of the character.

    I really hope someone at Buffalo Pictures reads what is discussed on this site. I think it would give them an insight into how the viewers are interpreting their scripts and whether what they intended has actually hit or missed the mark.

  77. Amy

    The familycareer issue has been a constant throughout the show—how many times has a character said to DM, “I can’t take off—I need to work”? It’s a frequent response various patients and parents give to DM when he prescribes rest for them or their child: the impetigo cases up through the bridesmaids for Penhale’s non-wedding. It is obviously a real problem for working people, and the Doc obviously can’t get his upper class head around the reality that some people live paycheck to paycheck and can’t afford to miss work. It’s another way that he appears to be a fish out of water.

    I assume that, as is true here in the US, in England today both parents have to work in order to support a family and thus there is a struggle to balance family and work, especially when a family member is ill. The writers and producers have made this almost a political point of view in the show. From the time JH was born, M & L have hassled over whether or not Louisa should work—Martin at first wanting her to stay home, Louisa wanting to work but having misgivings when she actually has to return to work in S5 up to S8 where they differ over home care for JH versus a day care center and Louisa struggles to figure out how to have a career that gives her more flexibility and more time with her child.

    I wrote an earlier comment about how often this was an issue in S8 alone—-not only with M & L, but with Morwenna’s parents leaving her to be missionaries, Al leaving Bert to make a go of it with the pub, Mrs T regretting not spending more time with Clive instead of in her shop, Dr. Sim’s nephew being left behind while his parents travel, and so on. And, of course, both Martin and Louisa were abandoned by their own parents who sought to pursue their own interests—whether professional or personal.

  78. Elle

    This show is through with romance. Penhale and Janice were thrown together and rushed to the altar. Al asked Morwenna on a “real” date at the end of 7, and in 8 they are planning time away and sharing a bed. Little time was spent on the “dance”. Even the morning bed scene with the couple, Morwenna’s hand was “placed” on his shirtless chest. Hardly a charged romantic moment by any standard. Were of any us remotely interested in Penhale and Janice or Morwenna and Al? Anyone?
    This show is through with romance period.

  79. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    You definitely have a point! Romance has never been hugely prominent in the show anyway, although Bert was pretty good at it when it came to Jennifer. And, no, I had no interest in seeing Joe and Janice being romantic, or Al and Morwenna.

    Your blunt appraisal seems to hold out little hope for S9 in terms of Martin and Louisa displaying much physical affection for each other. In 8 series, we can count the number of scenes where they have kissed on both hands, so love scenes have not been numerous. And yet viewers always want more of them and never lose hope for some reason. If you used FB as a guide to this show, you would guess that their kisses are the most important part of their union. One picture of them kissing is replaced with the next, more updated version, for the title scene.

    This is the fantasy world created by people’s imaginations and dreams. The publicity photos are more accurate…the two of them either standing together, possibly even turned a little away from each other, or holding their son and doing their best to look like a family. One photo did have Louisa and Martin striking a pose from the end of S7 and showing them with their heads touching and her hand on the front of his suit, but I’m guessing that was chosen to satisfy the TV advertising bodies.

    If S9 is the final series, however, there might be at least one more kissing scene. We better not be expecting fireworks though, right?!

  80. Santa Traugott

    Is there a happy union in this series? ARguably, the closest thing to it might be the ranger and Anthony.

    Al and Morwenna seem to have settled into a normal, working relationship, but that is the only other alternative, that I can remember right now at least. Well, all right, Martin and Louisa, though without any apparent spirit of romance, appear to have settled in for the long haul, albeit somewhat grimly at times.

    The writers apparently take a rather dim view of romance and relationships in general.

    It’s always puzzled me a bit, though, since Martin Clunes’ account of his own marriage is that it is idyllic. Why all the characters in their series should be denied anything approximating that outcome, is a little odd. Surely they know that it is possible!

  81. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    Sometimes I wonder about a marriage when the spouses feel the need to fawn all over each other. I can’t remember exactly where I saw this, but not too long ago on some late night talk show a guest mentioned how he’s noticed that some people always change the subject to their spouses. It was funny and true, and I think MC does it fairly often. I think he considered it a diversionary tactic.

    There’s no clear explanation for why they’ve chosen to have most couples act fairly unenthusiastic about being together. One couple who were always having sex was Julie and Mark, but then it turned out she had an ulterior motive. Penhale’s wife acted pretty intense at one point but she, too, had a reason, and it wasn’t a desperate love for Penhale! Maybe you’re right, Stewart and Antony are the best of the couples!

  82. Amy

    I was in the car riding home from Boston when I read your comment, Santa, and so I started to think about happy couples who have been in the show (though I agree—most are not and there are many single parents). So here goes: Morwenna’s parents, the honeymooning couple in S5 E8, the elderly blind woman and her husband in the wheelchair, the Wenns (the badger roasters), Al and Morwenna, the sadomaschist couple (whatever makes you happy), the drunk couple who are invited to dinner by Martin, the woman who owns the day care center and her husband, Roger Fenn and his wife, the singer, the Wintons (very devoted, perhaps too much so), and Tommy the taxi driver and his wife. Now these couples may have their own issues, but at least on the show they seemed united and committed to each other.

  83. Sherry

    My favourite quote on happiness comes from Viktor Frankl’s “Man’s Search for Meaning”: “Happiness cannot be pursued; it must ensue. One must have a reason to be happy.” He cites meaning and purpose as being reasons that people find happiness. He equates happiness to laughter in that you can no more command or demand that a person laughs than you can demand that they become happy – they have to have a reason to laugh – a joke or funny situation. I suppose it’s a matter of ‘what would make you happy?’ as opposed to ‘I must be happy.’

    So in the context of DM, Martin wants Louisa to be happy – he is always looking for ways to ensure her happiness. And ironically, because he doubts himself as a partner or husband, he feels that he can’t make her happy therefore, for him it follows that she must find it elsewhere – in her career or studying or in James Henry or in getting a dog.

    Until Louisa (and later James Henry) entered Martin’s world, medicine gave his life purpose and meaning and, by implication, a kind of happiness. The blood phobia almost robbed him of that. Maybe his happiness now depends on Louisa’s level of happiness. At the end of S8 when he says, “I’m glad I’m here”, he might just be acknowledging that he can attain ,or has attained, a degree of happiness – that his family and his life as a GP is his purpose – brought firmly home when he almost loses it all by being struck off. It is reflected in the look on his face when Louisa says to him (in Chris Parsons’ hotel room), “what will happen if you’re not the Doc anymore?” What indeed.

  84. Sherry

    The point about happy marriages (or the lack thereof) is interesting. Even the ones Amy has listed all exhibit a level of dysfunction with the exception of the McLynns – her dedication to her husband is notable – driving her disabled husband around even though she herself is partially sighted (not a very wise thing to do but nevertheless). Also the Wintons – dedicated to the point of being a danger to themselves and others. Even Marigold (the road kill lady) and her husband – dedicated but dysfunctional).

    The incidence of single parents in the series is also interesting. Among others: Bert, Mrs Trappet (the estate agent), the other estate agent with the child who contracts Kawasaki disease, Bobby Richards’ mother, Mrs Cronk, Alison Lane (with Delph) – even Louisa at first. I am sure there are others.

  85. Sherry

    Apologies everyone – my last two comments should have fallen under the “Another Look at Happiness” post 🙁

  86. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    Sherry, even if your thoughts ended up here by accident, I want to thank you for them. I agree entirely with what you wrote about happiness and about the couples.

    I have read Frankl also, and his views, as quoted by you, are in close agreement with what others are asserting. Meaning combined with purpose lead to happiness. In one of my earlier posts I noted that ME derives meaning and purpose from his work, and therefore experiences happiness (or contentment) on some level. You seem to acknowledge too that he now is admitting that he has achieved some happiness in Portwenn.

    The question Louisa poses is both expressing what Martin must be thinking and what all of us viewers are meant to wonder. He’s already said that surgery was the only thing he was ever good at. Now we know that he’s excellent at being a GP too. However, we wouldn’t expect him to want to try anything else outside of medicine, nor will he end up doing that. Can you even conceive of an outcome in which he makes so little progress with his phobia that they determine he can no longer practice in Portwenn?

    I have the same sense as you about the couples who appear to be in a good marriage: most of them are fairly dysfunctional. But, to some extent, their behavior is due to the need for humor in the show. Even a partially blind woman driving her infirm husband while he navigates is an absurd means of dealing with the need for getting around, and she does run him into walls when pushing the wheelchair. They all have some sort of absurdity despite acting as though everything is good between them. There is a definite lack of normal, every day marriages and people in this village, and that seems deliberate and for laughs.

  87. Elle

    The producer, in particular PB, seems in control of the creative vision of this show. How different the show is as compared to when the creator, Dominic M was involved is a discussion that we might pursue. Has that been discussed here in this forum?

    I think this show is at a point where the producers are just really looking to give each of these fine actors and their characters a fresh coat of paint. Penhale taking a deeper look at his lonely existence; asking Ruth for therapy. Louisa changing her path and going back to school; Martin’s change is evident and even doing more surgical procedures. Al running a legitimate business and in a committed relationship; Filling in the blank spaces of Ruth’s mysterious past and revealing secrets. I have not read through the new postings and replies but while scratching our collective heads we might think of S 8 as a season for change and growth.

    One last comment that isn’t related to the above but has become increasingly bothersome to me is Morwenna’s constant interruptions into the personal space of Martin and Louisa! Martin’s reaction is even more odd that he is always so yielding to her. I want him to point and say “get out” or at least look a little peeved that she is interrupting his private time with his wife. There are numerous examples of this and I find it really, really bothersome.

  88. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    I don’t think we’ve ever spent much time looking at how the show changed after Minghella. Mostly what was clear was that after S1 there was a deliberate decision to make ME surlier and more disagreeable. He lost any sense of humor and inclination to see humor in actions that take place around him. Whereas he was amused by the VW sinking in the water at the harbor in S1, in S2 he would have sneered at the stupidity of the people of Portwenn, or something like that. To the best of my recollection, MC made some direct remarks about their, and his, desire to make ME a rude and hard to approach man. My understanding of this decision was that they considered it more likely to be humorous and give it an edginess.

    Some of what you say about the change in the characters is hard to judge until S9. I mean, Penhale has sought help from Ruth before by calling in to the radio show with a masked voice that she easily identified and then catching up to her later. He’s spoken about being lonely fairly often. One time I remember is when Al is down on his luck and looking for a place to stay. Penhale offers him a bed and says something along the lines of not having anyone to talk to. It remains to be seen if Louisa does pursue a different career. She has left the school before only to come back. Al looked like he was about to have a successful business when he started the B+B with Ruth’s backing, but that took a dive. The bar could too. He’s also wanted to marry Pauline but that fell through. For me, Ruth’s out of the blue confession that she had a love affair with a married man many years ago was very strange, and I have mentioned that before. After telling Louisa she’s had quasi-sexual encounters in her past and that she has a tendency to share too much, we are now supposed to believe that she had a sexual liaison with a man, brought him to the farm at Portwenn, and no one ever knew about it. Really!? I find that very hard to accept.

    I agree with you about the frequency of Morwenna’s intrusions into their personal space. At the very least, she could knock. I guess we could chalk those up to continuing interruptions of their conversations that have been a staple of the show, but I would agree that he should appear more annoyed about them. In some of the earlier series she has seemed to be a sort of link between the two of them, e.g. during their wedding reception, but now she’s acting too comfortable with wedging herself between them. I have to imagine they are once again considering her behavior amusing even if we don’t see it that way.

  89. Roscarrock

    For me, S1 was THE definitive DM, and how MC should have played him forever. S2, was not bad, though. Because we had no frame of reference, DM seemed “grumpy” when compared with our expectations of bedside manner. My theory has always been that BP caught wind of the “we love ‘grumpy’ Doc Martin” fan reaction and just took it too far, eliminating any trace of humor, humanity, empathy, or pathos in general from the character. Traits that I considered were what made DM such a special character.

    But perhaps I’m preaching to the choir here.

  90. Amy

    Karen, just to address your comment about Ruth’s sex life: She says to Louisa at the funeral: “…a series of quasi-sexual encounters at a very young age.” I did not interpret that to mean that she had no adult sex life, but rather that she was somewhat affected by her distant parents and her early exposure to “quasi-sexual” encounters, making her socially awkward with a tendency to overshare.

    Are Morwenna’s interruptions any different from all the interruptions they’ve had with medical emergencies and patient calls? What makes this any different? I think Martin sees Morwenna as an ally and a friend more than he ever saw Elaine or even Pauline. Morwenna gave him emotional support when Louisa left and seems to “get” him more than anyone else aside from Louisa and the aunts. I think that’s why he doesn’t yell at her in the same way he yells at others.

  91. Amy

    Well, I had a good run–about five comments in a row went through without a problem. But now…another one has disappeared to purgatory somewhere.

  92. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    Rescued again! So weird!

    If Ruth was supposed to be oversharing and had gone on to a “normal” adult sex life, then why would she even mention her quasi-sexual encounters? She has never married, does not show any signs of being interested in romance of any kind, and has supposedly dedicated her life to working with the criminally insane. Not a very good place to meet someone. Unlike Joan, there is never any mention of a paramour of any kind and she is all business most of the time. I doubt she used the kitchen table for anything other than eating (😉).

    Until S8, if it even crossed my mind at all, I was always assuming that she had been turned off to men and sex due to the quasi-sexual events. To me it sounded possibly like she was alluding to sexual abuse and became a forensic psychiatrist as a reaction. The idea that she had a lover at any time seemed totally out of character for her IMO.

    Morwenna’s interruptions when he’s in his office and it’s an emergency are totally within bounds; it’s the ones when he’s in his kitchen and it’s something insignificant that are somewhat intrusive, especially now that Louisa and he are living there together. When Beth Traywick barges in and demands to be seen right away for no important medical reason that I think Morwenna should not disturb them in their personal space.

    While we’re talking about personal space, I want to say that Sally is also often intruding and this time I considered it particularly odd that he would allow a woman who has stalked him for years, kidnapped his child, and always acted strange around him, to work in his office. I don’t care how desperate he was for help at his front desk, she would be the last person I’d permit to sit there. And I would think Louisa would have been shocked and upset about it too. I sure would be! That was another case where I found it hard to accept the choices they made.

  93. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    I don’t know which way I might have preferred him. When I saw S1, I accepted him as portrayed. I made the adjustment to the harsher version without much trouble. Unlike you, however, I think they left just enough compassion and caring in him to keep him a sympathetic character. He doesn’t have a sense of humor, or very little of one, but he does have humanity. Any doctor who runs to help people in distress night or day has to have some humanity in him, don’t you think? In S8 he actually tells Chris Parsons to stay at their house so he can keep an eye on him.

    On this blog there are several posts on kindness that might convince you of his humanity too.

    I think that some of the yelling at patients and calling them stupid or idiots has grown a bit tiresome now though. I’ll give you that!

  94. Amy

    I can’t believe I’m saying this to you, Karen, but in response to your comments about Ruth, I’d say that we have to remember she’s a character, not a real person. My read on her comment to Louisa in S5 is that it was the writers’ way of introducing her as a somewhat quirky character, but as she developed as a character, she really was quite “normal.” She doesn’t really overshare, and she’s not socially awkward. She relates to the people in Portwenn—especially Bert, Al, and Penhale—in a more human and humane way that Martin does. She is empathetic, sympathetic, intelligent, kind, and personable. Whatever they intended to set her up as in her first episode did not pan out in subsequent episodes. I did not find it the least bit surprising that she had had lovers.

    And Morwenna is used as a plot device when she interrupts just as those interruptions have been used throughout the show. In fact, it happens far less often in S8. And if Morwenna is at the surgery, it’s surgery hours, and even if Martin is in the kitchen, isn’t he on duty? Does he really have an expectation of privacy at those times? I always remember how Elaine threw him out of the kitchen to talk to Greg on the phone and Elaine and Al had their first kiss on his kitchen table. The line between his private space and his work space has always been very fuzzy.

    As for Martin’s personality, I felt they had softened him considerably in S8. He did not yell at patients or even call them stupid like he had in earlier seasons. He doesn’t call Tara Newcross stupid or yell at her even though she was being stupid. He doesn’t yell at the kid who went off his meds or at Dr Sims or at Beth Traywick. I think he’s at least as mellow now as he was in S1.

    The issue of Sally being in the surgery was a pure attempt to put the two of them together in several amusing scenes. It didn’t seem that unbelievable to me that Martin would allow her to help him or that Louisa had reached a point where she no longer feared Mrs T would steal JH or Martin.

    (I bet this will go in the trash because I am being so argumentative!)

  95. Amy

    On a less argumentative note, I completely agree that Martin has always been portrayed as having a soft and caring side. He may not suffer fools gladly, he may be intolerant of those who don’t listen to hiis advice, he may not understand why people go back to work despite his advice to the contrary, but he cares about people. He is gentle with the girl with the crush on him, the girl whose breasts hadn’t developed, with Mike Pruddy and with the OCD teacher, with both Peter Cronk and Dr Sim’s nephew who are social misfits, and so on. In fact, whenever a patient is in real pain—whether emotional or physical, Martin is caring and attentive.

    I bet there are many doctors who come across as a bit gruff and arrogant but care deeply about their patients. In fact, I have several friends who are doctors and who can be sarcastic and condescending, but who are wonderful doctors.

  96. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    Apparently my filter wasn’t working adequately this time! Ha!

    You may not have thought I was speaking from a position of developing a character, but my comments about Ruth were exactly about the consistency of her character. Apparently we have a different perspective, and that’s fine.

    When it comes to the private/public distinction in his little building, I have known some doctors who worked out of the same structure as they lived in and there were definitely boundaries. He’s basically always on duty. Shouldn’t he be able to take breaks now and then? I think we should eliminate S1 in terms of examples because that’s an outlier. Pauline entered the kitchen on occasion, but Martin was not married then. Even so, I often thought she was overstepping her boundaries, and that she did that in the service of being purposely intrusive. That’s who she is. That Al and Pauline would kiss on the kitchen table was pretty much a major incursion that got a big reaction from the doc. And rightfully so, don’t you think?

    It’s bad enough that they are in such tight quarters, but then to also wonder if someone is going to walk into your kitchen whenever they please, would be quite uncomfortable. Admittedly the arrangement lends itself to being awkward and intentionally too confined, but there are plenty of times when it would be pretty inconvenient for someone to just walk in. I think they could be expected to consider the front door, the waiting room, and his examining room the public space and the rest his private area. In this day and age there could be plenty of ways for Morwenna to contact him without walking in on him. I agree that she does it at times because they’ve established the routine interruptions of their conversations. Nevertheless, there is supposed to be some privacy in his home.

  97. Amy

    It seems to me that they’ve never drawn a clear line between a private v public space in the surgery house. Doc and Louisa use the consulting room for private matters, the receptionists all use the kitchen to make tea, etc., and even patients have appeared in the kitchen area—Louisa brings the woman with the hyperactive daughter in through the kitchen, for example. The receptionists all came in to the kitchen area to retrieve Martin when a patient is there—in S2, Pauline comes in to get Doc while he’s trying to talk to his mother. Maybe they SHOULD be entitled to a private area, and I suppose their living room and bedrooms upstairs have always been private, but the kitchen seems to be a gray area!

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