Jack Lothian, Writers and Actors Redux

I planned to write a post about marriage next, and I still plan to write that; however, I feel inspired to write a post about Jack Lothian’s writing again first. My previous post about writers and actors in August gave a fairly detailed review of the final episode of season 5, which was written by Lothian, and I mentioned several other episodes written by him that I admired tremendously. In season 6 he is credited with writing episodes 1 and 8, the first and last episodes. To the best of my knowledge, the practice of writing a TV show (or a film for that matter) begins with determining the arc of the story for the season. I have to say that in the case of DM it’s quite a bit easier for the writers, producers, etc. to come up with an arc because there are only 8 episodes. For many of our series in the US, there are as many as 22 episodes for each season. In that case, there would be a story arc, but it would probably allow for changes along the way. Over the course of the season they have time to make adjustments if something doesn’t seem to be working as planned. At any rate, when I look at season 6 of DM and the two episodes Jack Lothian wrote, I wonder if he wrote them at the same time because I notice so many points of comparison. (As I’ve said before, I always believe that writers know what they’re doing and write with a consciousness of what they’re writing and intention to include what we see.) Of course you won’t be surprised to learn that I think they are by far the best episodes of this season due to the writing. But they also contain many aspects that connect them to each other and form a nice sense of coherence between them. I will even go so far as to say that episode 1 is my favorite of the season and possibly even of the entire series. I say that because I find it has romance, an impressive range of emotions, and so much humor that I can’t help but laugh out loud at many things that happen. When I first saw episode 1, I thought the series was off to a great season 6 because it was continuing to captivate us with that combination of romance and humor while keeping the characters complex. E2 kept my hopes up too, but then they took the show in a more downward and serious trajectory than I would have ever expected. I have now watched the whole season again and continue to be disappointed that the character of Doc Martin becomes so troubled by his psychological issues that he loses the clumsiness and the sort of naivete that he has had previously. By E6, when Margaret shows up, he’s already headed for trouble. Her appearance only makes things worse, but we do see some light in E8. (I understand if Martin Clunes wanted to shake things up a bit and maybe even wanted to show more of his own range, but for me the show could have stayed in the mode of the first two episodes and found a way to give him those opportunities too. Caroline Catz should have none of those complaints this season since Louisa was put through the wringer and she handled everything she was asked to do with tremendous skill.)

Back to the main reason for this post: comparing E1 and E8…
-The key points of comparison are that in both Martin asks for Louisa’s help, and in both he says “I’m sorry” to Louisa.
In E1 Martin needs Louisa to help him with the makeshift surgery he performs on the caravan owner who gets cut by glass when the unstable awning falls on him. Despite the man threatening them with his rifle, they don’t want him to die and Martin tells Louisa he can save him from bleeding to death, but “I need your help.” In E8, Martin leans over Louisa before performing surgery on her to save her from potentially bleeding into her brain and tells her, “I think I need your help” because he’s never been married before and he doesn’t seem to be very good at it, and he’d like to learn so he can be much better at it.
In E1 Martin says he’s sorry to Louisa as they’re walking up the dirt road with the man they operated on in a wheelbarrow. He knows their first night of marriage wasn’t exactly the kind of night she’d been hoping for. Louisa doesn’t think Martin needs to apologize and tells him the night is certainly one they’ll never forget. In E8 Martin tells Louisa he’s sorry after he kisses her goodbye. The kiss is awkward because he kisses her on the cheek when she wants to kiss him on the lips. He has also told JH he’s sorry for everything that’s happening.
I think repeating these two interactions ties the two episodes together subtly and nicely. That Martin acknowledges that he needs Louisa’s help is always welcome because he has so much trouble ever looking to others for anything. It’s also meaningful for him to apologize because that, too, is a sign everything hasn’t gone as well as he’s wished and he’s willing to admit it.

-Both also include Martin performing surgery and operating on the carotid artery.
In E1 the caravan owner’s carotid is nicked by a shard of glass. In E8 Martin uses the carotid artery as an access point to reach the AVM and complete the embolization. The carotid artery provides the brain with oxygenated blood which is essential to life. By using it twice, its importance for human life is emphasized and Martin’s ability to operate on it safely and successfully is reaffirmed.

-Ruth plays a significant role in both episodes and Al’s relationship to Ruth is important in both.
In E1 Ruth takes care of JH so Martin and Louisa can have a night alone. While they’re having all sorts of adventures throughout the night, she’s also dealing with an unsettled baby and the loss of electrical power in the house. She calls Al to come and fix the electrical problems only to find out he doesn’t know what to do. He does, however, know who to call and Mike Pruddy fixes the power problem and settles the baby. In E8 Ruth clarifies for Martin what he must do to save his marriage to Louisa. She also listens to Al’s proposal to start a bed and breakfast on her farm and determines that his idea is viable, giving him the best boost to his confidence he’s had in along time.
Ruth is a unifying force for Martin and Louisa in both episodes as well as the person in Al’s life who makes him feel important.

-I would go so far as to say that Martin is somewhat overcome at the wedding that he is now married to Louisa and that same sense of dismay plays a part in his inability to say and do the right things to keep her from leaving in E8.
At the reception following the wedding Martin stands apart from Louisa admiring her from across the room. His face reflects a man who is incredulous that he is married to the woman he’s been adoring for many years. In E8 he puts Louisa and JH in the taxi and watches as they drive away with something of the same look of incredulity on his face, but now it’s due to being utterly unsure what to do.
In a way the fact that Martin still appears so disbelieving is further evidence that he has lots of work to do on himself.

-Morwenna and Penhale fill the position of liaisons between Martin and Louisa in both.
In E1 Morwenna holds the baby during the wedding ceremony and then stands between Martin and Louisa as they discuss whether to leave or not. Rather than being an intrusion between the newlyweds, she forms a link and helps Louisa convince Martin to stay a little longer. Penhale wants to be Martin’s best man and makes sure he has a flower for his lapel. He looks for Louisa to arrive and later gives a wedding speech that celebrates both Martin and Louisa as important to the community. Both Morwenna and Penhale see the married couple off. In E8 Morwenna walks in on Martin as he’s doing an EKG on himself. She is one of the few people aware that he’s been running tests on himself. Then she watches in disbelief as Louisa leaves with JH. There’s a definite moment when her expression is telling the doc to do something to stop Louisa, but as usual he doesn’t get it. Penhale is the one who drives Martin to the airport so that he can stop Louisa from flying. He also convinces the security guard to let Martin pass and takes JH from Martin once they get to the hospital.
Martin may not acknowledge it, but these two dependable people enter his life at very important moments and matter a lot to his bond with Louisa.

A minor, and lighter point of comparison is that there are scruffy older men in both. There’s no need to make too much of this, but having these two men — the caravan owner in E1 and the folk singer in E8 — is another way to tie the two episodes together. In both cases, the men start out annoyed by Martin but end up grateful to him. In both cases, Martin extends himself to help them and his behavior demonstrates a fundamental quality of caring in him.

For me both episodes had some very funny moments, although E1 was by far the funnier of the two. In my opinion it may be the funniest of all the episodes so far and I will try to convince you by giving a rundown of all the funny moments in another post.

Originally posted 2013-11-01 21:23:57.

16 thoughts on “Jack Lothian, Writers and Actors Redux

  1. Carol

    Glad you are back and hope that all went as well as possible. I am in my hometown today to go through my mother’s house with my sisters. She died back in the summer and it is time for this awful task. For those of you out there who pray, I will covet those today.

    I may have more to say later but one thing hits me hard. I am SOOO glad that someone else noticed the look on Martin’s face as he watched Louisa from across the room at the wedding reception. That was, I believe, a very telling look. He couldn’t believe it. Oh how I wish he could have believed it. So much would have been different.

    KJ, love this blog. Keep going. And have a great day.

  2. KR

    Another great post, Karen. I too admire Jack Lothian’s writing very much — he, Ben Bolt and Richard Stoneman are writers who have been with the series the longest (outside of Dominic Minghella). He has a lot to draw on — having been involved for so long — and I’m so glad he got to write the last episode. Interestingly, I looked at the range of writers over time. S1 was written by Dominic Minghella — it was in S2 that they started to diversity the writers more.

    You and Carol made the point of Martin’s incredulous expression in E1 at the wedding and in E8 when Louisa was driving away in the cab. To me he looked both incredulous and helpless — he also had that same look at the end of S3 when Louisa was walking away. Ruth brings the point home when talking w/ Martin at the farm, telling him (she suspects that) he doesn’t feel he deserves to be loved . Ruth tells Martin he must change, and that he can change….and this is the catalyst needed to get him to start to think things through more closely. What makes me hopeful about Martin’s change is not only his plea for help to Louisa, but his tears at the end of the operation. We can finally see a crack in the walls he’s built around himself for so long. Hopefully, with some help from, perhaps, Louisa (who has issues of her own that need to be worked out) and definitely, a mental health professional, he will begin to feel less incredulous and less helpless. He’ll let some more emotion out in order to begin to heal that sensitive child w/in that has been so unloved by his parents, and felt so un-lovable in himself.

  3. jeanne azzarone

    Regarding Series 6 the new episodes:
    I can’t imagine what is going on with the Doc.
    I’m finding him so miserable and unlikeable that my favorite
    television show has become unwatchable.

    Writers please make it stop.

  4. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    I was pretty put off during much of S6, but have found more to like after giving it some thought. At this point we have to wait for S7 for things to improve.

  5. Barb

    I’ve been going back through the earlier posts. I wanted to be more sure what had been covered. I suppose it’s hard for some to believe there’s anything that hasn’t been covered. hahaha. But we always seem to think of something else.

    I found Season 6 to be so painful and stressful that I didn’t want to see it again!! That seems to be about all I really remember…. stress and pain!! But, after reading what all you’ve said about it, I’m going to watch it again. I had trouble remembering anything really funny in it although I did enjoy lots of the Episode One.

    I didn’t remember any signs of affection, and you made me remember there were some.

    OK… on to reading some more. Thank you.

  6. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    I, too, am surprised we’re still finding things to talk about! I really am planning to post something on the date episode, but this week has been especially busy for me with lots of guests. Don’t give up on me! Thanks for going back to read more!

  7. Maria

    Please excuse the technical question, but does anyone know if it’s possible to “follow” the blog to get email notifications when new posts or comments have been added? The RSS feed lists the most recent ones, but it’s easy to miss one, especially when a lot of posts appear in close succession and because replies are not entirely chronological, since they can be added to any posts. I have sometimes discovered posts by accident that I missed earlier. It’s possible to sign up for a WordPress account, of course, but I assume that’s for actually starting a blog of one’s own and would not solve this problem. Thanks for any enlightenment!

  8. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    Maria, I should be the one to answer this question but can’t. I hope someone knows. I’ll try to find out if someone else doesn’t give us the answer. Sorry!

  9. Maria

    Thank you, Karen – I certainly don’t want to make extra work for you. I just don’t want to miss anything! Maybe someone has an idea, or of course it may be that it’s just not possible.

  10. Linda

    According to the two movies which preceded the series, Doc Martin was married. Why did he tell Louisa he hadn’t been married?

  11. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    Linda, to the best of my knowledge, the two movies led to the idea of making a TV series, but were never supposed to be directly connected to it. The movies were the germ of the TV series, but the doc is entirely different and has a different history. I think his name was Martin Bamford in the movies.

  12. Linda

    Thank you for replying. I like Doc Martin in the series, but it sounds like he’s going to be changing some in series 7 due to counseling! Is anyone aware of any tours of Port Isaac, etc? Would love to go there.

  13. Santa Traugott

    There are too many similarities for it to be coincidence — between E1 and E8. It’s like the closing of a circle in which Martin, clearly unsure and somber, goes in a taxi to the church in E1 — he looks almost like he’s going to a funeral. I’ve never been able to understand the choice to portray him this way. Some have said that maybe he’s just worried that Louisa won’t show up. Looking at what happened at the end — that Louisa did indeed leave him, and he’s alone again — it’s hard not to interpret that look as reflecting a sense of foreboding, or worry that it wouldn’t end well. Perhaps a self-fulfilling prophecy.

  14. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    His oddly somber demeanor on his way to the church should mean something. It might be hard to imagine Martin Ellingham excited about getting married even though by this time he and Louisa have had some time to really think it through. However, after being lost in thought in the taxi to the point of being unaware that they have arrived at the church, he gets out and from then on seems committed to completing the act. What might he have been thinking? I would be more inclined to think that he’s still wondering if he’s ready for marriage rather than whether Louisa will show. I could see him having some worries when she’s late, but not when he first gets into the taxi. I think the taxi driver says he’s been waiting too, which is out of character. Martin is usually on time. So it seems like they want us to think he’s possibly going to bail again, and he is immediately concerned about Louisa and whether she’s arrived yet.

    For me it’s both peculiar and expected because they pull that sort of thing on us quite a lot. We have to also wonder why he’s taking a taxi in the first place, but somehow we forget all about that as the episode unfolds. (When another blog reader pointed out that Martin Clunes was unable to drive at that time due to his license being revoked for several months, we realized there was a practical reason for the taxi.)

    I do really think there was a concerted effort to connect these two episodes and that there is a sort of closure that that indicates. They take wrong turns in both episodes; in one case, we can see the humor and the way they are capable of operating as a married couple; in the other case, we see how the wrong turn leads to a rift in the marriage. It’s pretty ingenious to present us with two ways taking the wrong path can end up. (It seems related to the Pythagorean Y in which humans must choose between two paths, one of virtue and one of vice.)

  15. mmarshall

    I love this analysis of the two episodes — insights like these are why I love reading this blog! I also loved S6E1. About Martin’s foreboding look as he gets out of the taxi before his wedding, I think that he knows the work of a marriage is going to tax him considerably. Even though it is something he wants, or more accurately, not having Louisa causes him so much distress that the alternative is something he’d rather have. I think he enjoyed admiring Louisa from afar but once it required his constant interaction with her and trying to ensure her happiness, this kind of work is so stressful for him (and hence brings the phobia back). I think the foreboding look is, “I know I love her, but all the rest of this is going to be truly out of my comfort zone!”

    Also, as is genius of this show and the acting and directing, I felt that the look on Martin’s face while watching Louisa after the wedding can be both interpreted as adoring and scared to death. The same look! I see both emotions coming from him. Perhaps viewers see what they want to see, or it’s purposely left ambiguous. Either way, an enticing aspect of the acting on this show.

  16. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    I am always so glad to read that the blog is contributing in some helpful manner. Thank you for reading and enjoying it.

    Your view of how we viewers can read the actors’ expressions in many ways is so true. I think that is a sign of good acting and directing. It is often hard to interpret someone else’s facial expressions. I think I know what my husband is thinking after all these years, but he corrects me all the time. Since there is no way to know in this case because the topic never gets raised, we are left to come to our own conclusions. That’s good too since it is ambiguous and leaves us with all sorts of speculation. I agree that those moments add to the quality of the show.

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