About the car

(Sorry this took a while. I had a chance to go on a trip and enjoy some warm weather. Back to cold and wet again!)

For some reason I have neglected to mention the silver Lexus M drives throughout the series. For one thing, I think it should be included among the elements of the show that are indicative of class differences between M and the rest of the village. There aren’t many remarks made about the car by the people in the village, but the shiny, silver LS 430 certainly is noticeable against the pick-ups and mostly compact or worn-out vehicles commonly driven around town. (The one time that I remember somebody noting the car is in the final episode of S6 when M drives into the fruit stand to avoid running into a red van. The driver of the van angrily tells M he should use his “fancy car” rather than borrow the van.) Only the McLynns and Aunt Ruth drive cars of similar status, Mercedes.

I’m not sure why a Lexus was chosen as the emblematic car in the series. It could be something as simple as Lexus offering it for use in the show. From what I can gather, Lexus is not a popular car in the UK. Nevertheless, it is considered a luxury car and is definitely out of place in Portwenn with its narrow streets. Like the doc’s suits, it distinguishes M from the townspeople and is particularly unusual when he drives it down the dirt roads around the area and into the fields surrounding the town, sometimes literally. I’m sure that’s the point – even his car doesn’t fit in!

Its size does correspond to the doc’s height and when the airbags deploy on a fairly regular basis, they match up with the many times M otherwise bumps into things. The car also becomes a place where M sleeps on occasion. The first time is in the opening episode when M is looking for Ross and ends up in a muddy ditch. Thereafter, M dozes in the car when trying to get JH to sleep one morning in S5, and he falls asleep with JH in the seat next to him when L is in the hospital in S6. Under these circumstances the car becomes a refuge, a safe place away from home.

But much of the time it’s a location for some tension. Of course, the ride back to Louisa’s after they attend the concert and M spoils the passionate kiss L gives him is among the most tense. Her irritation with him is so palpable that he actually wants to turn on the radio. And then she delivers the blow of not wanting to see him any more. Ouch!

Some other tense moments in the car include Martin picking up his parents at the train station. It’s a mystery to him why they chose to visit and, as they haven’t spoken in 7 years, his mother is mostly silent, and he’s not much of a conversationalist, the ride to the village is uncomfortable at best. Then Danny flags them down because his car has died, and he piles his gear into the trunk. Now Martin has his estranged parents in the car along with the one man in the village he despises. Danny tries to be cheerful, an additional irritant, and he makes things even more awkward by not only thanking Martin, but also blessing him. I find all of this amusing while at the same time being testy.

Then there is the time when Martin speeds to find Louisa after Tommy’s Taxi has driven off the road. He’s worried about Louisa because she’s pregnant, and he has to deal with Tommy’s methanol poisoning. Louisa is worried about Tommy, and the ride is filled with urgency to get Tommy to a pub so alcohol can counteract the effects of the methanol. Hanging over the episode is the expectation that Martin is leaving for London and this sojourn is just a little side trip. The baby is born in the pub and the next episode begins at the hospital where Louisa has been checked for any postnatal complications. She’s free to go and Martin offers to drive her back to Portwenn with the baby. This car ride begins with Martin helping Louisa buckle into the back seat while she holds the baby, and they bicker over whether she will accompany him to London. Once on the road, they spar about the baby’s name and about Louisa going back to work, a constant battle in their relationship. Louisa reminds Martin that he’ll be returning to work, then Martin shocks her (and us) by telling her “they’d manage if you died.” Somehow all is well again once they get to Louisa’s house.

Finally we have the race to find JH when Mrs. T has absconded with him. Martin drives rapidly to the school to tell Louisa that Mrs. T has taken JH. He runs in to find Louisa while Ruth and Penhale wait in the car. Penhale brilliantly notes that Louisa is upset and probably mad at Martin when they come running out of the school towards the car. Once they take off to “the castle,” Martin reveals that Mrs. T has clippings of him in her wardrobe, something pretty disturbing for Louisa to hear. Penhale tries to calm down L only to make things worse, as usual. Ruth adds to the level of concern by explaining that no one can know what kind of psychological state Mrs. T is in and whether the child is safe. Obviously they are all on edge throughout the ride and remain so while looking for Mrs. T.

I found the incident when Martin talks to Edith while driving fast to see a sick patient pretty tense. Edith is waiting for him at lunch with Robert Dashwood from London who expects to talk to M about the London surgical position, but M brushes her off, a clear indication of his priorities. Going to lunch would be the best thing for his career move, but he cuts off Edith decisively and she is left to cover up for him. I would imagine she’s not too happy about it. Maybe it’s also a sign that Martin will not be pushed around by Edith.

Less significant but still tense moments in the car include the many times when the dogs find a way to get into the car. Martin either kicks them out or delivers them to others with a sneer. One of the few times when Martin voluntarily puts a dog in the car is when he backs over Mrs. Wilson’s Yorkie and wraps it in a newspaper to bring to her. And there is the time when Martin agrees to drive Mrs. Wilson home because he nearly ran into her on the street. He’s not pleased in the first place, and her dog is with her too. He also ends up taking Caroline home when she nearly crashes into Mark Mylow. M hasn’t figured out what’s going on with her, but she’s unsteady and can’t drive herself. She is angry at M and doesn’t hide it, but she accepts the ride as a last resort. The minute they get to her house, she exits the car without a word of thanks. The time in the car must have been pretty icy.

There’s no doubt that the car plays a symbolic role as a conspicuous feature of Dr. Martin Ellingham’s persona. It is anything but helpful to his overall image and adds to the many ways in which ME has trouble integrating with the village. Like so many of his personal characteristics, the car he brings with him magnifies his differences. Driving it and/or riding in it is no party either.

Originally posted 2014-03-07 22:07:09.

15 thoughts on “About the car

  1. Mary

    Yes, the car always seems to be a place for tense times, except for a few sweet ones with James Henry. I especially like the one where he is leaving Auntie Joan’s house after walking in on her dalliance with the house painter….it is so funny the way he jumps in and switches on the windshield wipers in his desperation to get the heck out of there! Then he closes his eyes and re-imagines the whole scene, snapping out of it just in time to avoid hitting Mrs. Wilson! He says nothing during this scene and yet you know exactly how much it is stressing him out….like Phillippa has said before, it is a tribute to the power of his acting, he doesn’t always have to speak to let the audience know what he’s thinking.

  2. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    The time in the car after dropping in on Joan is a great example. It fills in the gaps of what he walked into and exaggerates what she looked like. The picture tells the story, as this medium is supposed to do. MC certainly carries it off well, and the horror of seeing AJ in the act is a reaffirmation of his sense of morality and need for modesty.

  3. KR

    Great post on the function of Martin’s car. It got me to thinking about other cars that Martin has been in on the show. One that pops to mind — Martin uses a beat up old truck/car to go visit Stuart. Interesting that Martin is driving something that “fits” into the village’s car-type when going to visit the one other person who has also socially out-casted themselves from village life…. like Martin does. Symbolic?

  4. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    Good point. Hmmm…I don’t know if there’s any significance to his driving the pick-up out there. I just thought it was an additional inconvenience for him and another time when the villagers give him a hard time. Of course it is funny that he at first finds some compatibility with Stewart and thinks he’s really doing fine until S practically shoots him.

  5. Carol

    SPOILER – I thought it was interesting that, in the last episode, the airbag deployment left the car so that it could not be driven, but in all of the other episodes Martin would just travel on – like the day he had to leave Bert behind on the orange couch. I loved those early airbag deployments – hilarious! (In fact, when I first started watching, I thought there was going to be an RTA with airbag deployment in every episode.) It is a wonder he would still stay in the car because when an airbag really deploys, the car would be “awash with bronchial irritants”!! 🙂

  6. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    Carol, thanks for the comments. I was curious about that last airbag situation too. I mean, here he is in a tremendous hurry to get to Louisa and this is the one time he can’t drive the car! Air bag deployment does not prevent the car from working, although I suppose it’s not so easy to drive with the thing in the way. Naturally, it’s better for the show if M runs down to get Penhale. They could have had the accident damage the front end of the car more or something else to keep it from being driveable. As you say, they’ve used the airbag explosion so many times before and it’s never kept him from driving the car. Maybe this time they should have come up with something else. You’re so funny with the bronchial irritants quote.

  7. Charlene

    Interesting how Lexus is not that popular in UK. Here in Texas they are a dime a dozen, well not that particular model as it is a $65 – $85 thousand dollar car. Certainly good advertising for Lexus. All those dirt roads, off-road driving and ponds, and the car still operates. Let’s face it; these scenes with the Lexus would not be nearly as funny if M were to drive a sensible vehicle like a Range Rover. He would have luxury and a mountain goat in that vehicle. I see a correlation with the stressful life M is living in Port Wenn and the same trials and tribulations the car is having maneuvering the countryside. Yes the scene of M in the car after observing Aunt Joan’s dalliance with the painter is hysterical. No words were needed there! Wonder if M is reconsidering that HRT cream he gave AJ for her osteoporosis?

  8. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    Hello Charlene and welcome! Good point about the maneuvering of the car and M’s difficulties navigating Portwenn. And how do you weigh osteoporosis against sexual re-awakening? Here in NC Lexus is also very popular. I was thinking they could have used a Jaguar or some other British luxury car, but Lexus won the placement. Maybe Jag is sorry!

  9. Amore

    I love that Martin has such a large car, so rare for us Americans to see. Usually the cars are incredibly dinky. Plus, my Mom has a “shiny, silver LS 430” Lexus, apparently the same vintage — 2004 approximately.
    She loves it, and it really hasn’t changed appreciably over the years, so it doesn’t look dated.

  10. Linda

    At one point, he his the couch in the middle of the road and his airbag deployed. That would disable the car but he got in and drove off!

  11. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    It’s so nice to have a new person commenting!

    I agree about the Lexus. We should consider it another character because it plays a major role in the show. I wonder if we’ll see the same Lexus again this year and where they store it in the off years. It might become a collector’s item at some point!

  12. Wade

    The car is a Lexus LS in all episodes, LS is the model. The 430, 460, or 600 denotes engine size and in some cases can indicate the year of the vehicle. The first car he drives in seasons 1 and 2 is an LS 430, he updates to a 2007 LS 460 for season 3, upgrades to a 2008 LS 600hL (h for hybrid and L for long wheel base) for seasons 4 and 5, updates to a 2011 LS 600hL for season 6, and finally a 2014 LS 600hL for season 7.

  13. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    Thanks for the info. Do you see this as pertinent in some way? Maybe Lexus is willing to keep changing models to subconsciously entice viewers to buy their cars?

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