Incongruities and other thoughts

While writing the post on ambiguities it occurred to me that there are several other issues I have with S6. If we’re going to wonder about various scenes and their meanings, I have a few things I’d like to ask:
1. Martin and Louisa have lived together with James for at least 6 months by the time they get married. For all of S5 Martin has very little trouble dealing with their incursion into his life. In fact, he seems to thrive on it, taking JH for a ride in the car to soothe him, taking him to Ruth’s while Louisa sleeps in, keeping him in his office when necessary, etc.. Why would their presence be so problematic now? True, as I’ve previously noted, children’s accessories grow as they grow. The nice thing, however, is babies start sleeping through the night and don’t cry as much, and they can do more.

2. Louisa would like Martin to talk to her, confide in her. But she’s known for a long time that he doesn’t like to talk about very much, especially personal issues. Why would she think that he would start talking more openly just because they’re married? Most of us keep physical or psychological difficulties to ourselves. I would guess that most spouses aren’t aware of their mate’s feelings of anguish over many things. Once she learns of the return of the “blood sensitivity,” she might have been able to coax more out of him. She hasn’t been that willing to talk herself. The difference between them is in degrees, not in substance.

Here are a few things they’ve never told each other:
Martin — his experiences with his parents, his experiences at school, his visits to Portwenn (including whether he had ever heard of Louisa or her family when he visited – or anyone else who has lived there for a long time), his relationship with Edith, and many other details about his likes and dislikes.

Louisa — her life with her parents and in Portwenn, her education in London, her decision to be a teacher and live in Portwenn, whether she ever heard of him staying with Aunt Joan, any hobbies she’s had, e.g. surfing, boating, whatever.

3. After Margaret tells Louisa about Martin crying himself to sleep many nights as a child, why wouldn’t Louisa ask Martin about that? She finds the story disturbing and Margaret’s explanation and excuse unconvincing. Definitely something most women would want to find out more about.

4. It’s a bit odd for Louisa to be aware of Martin’s inability to sleep and not try to talk about it. When she’s worried about Mrs. Tishell’s return, he makes an effort to calm her worries. He even tells her that things are always worse when it’s late. Wouldn’t that have been an opportunity for them to talk about his worries or at least given her reason to ask him some other time?

5. Louisa talks to Ruth about Mrs. Tishell. Why wouldn’t she ask Ruth about Margaret and Martin’s childhood? After all, Ruth has told her that she often “overshares.”

I am also going on record with some thoughts I have about S7. These are based on what has already been included in the show and in no particular order:
1. There will be some medical emergency that brings Louisa and Martin together. It might be something with James or maybe with Ruth.
2. Eleanor could return to disrupt their lives again. Now that Margaret’s gone, Eleanor could make a reappearance.
3. There will certainly be some shenanigans at the B&B Ruth and Al establish.
4. They obviously have to find some other childcare arrangements. There could be someone from an agency who comes and might even be a “supernanny” type, who would rub both of them wrong. We’ve had on OCD nanny; they might go the other way and have a nanny who is good with James but leaves things in disarray. This could be true whether or not they are living together.
5. As far as I’m concerned Mrs. T has become a caricature and should never have come back at all. By the end of S6 she was no longer funny; she had become a total nut case. I don’t know how they would explain it, but despite Selina Caddell’s great acting, Mrs. T’s character has run its course and should not return. Jenny could then take over the pharmacy and be a different source of irritation for Martin. (I assume Jenny and Bert will marry, but that is not entirely definite. Hopefully any marriage will be simple. We don’t need another wedding with ancillary events. They could get married sometime on their own.)
6. I can imagine many funny scenarios that involve James and his development. What about Martin finding fault with the pediatrician they take James to? There are all sorts of toys that Martin could put together for James now that he’s shown his capacity for figuring out directions to construct the crib. James will start to talk too and be more mobile.
7. They will go to a marriage counselor and that will have all sorts of repercussions, some funny, some disruptive, some affectionate.
8. I recently read a BBC news story that could be used. James Henry’s crying had kept up the neighbors in S5, perhaps their household could be disrupted by new neighbors.
9. I feel certain that there will be a lot of strife between Martin and Louisa in the early episodes of S7, hopefully with more humor included. But I feel just as certain that by the final episode there will be a convincing reconciliation that will end the show with us all thinking that this couple will stay together. And I am just enough of a romantic (and a fan of Sara Bareilles’ music) to suggest the last tune played on the show should be her “I Choose You.” Lyrics
Plus, I could choreograph a Zumba dance to this!! It’s not a tango. It’s considered pop-rock, but it’s got such a good beat I think it makes listeners want to dance and, more importantly, its words express what this couple should be saying to each other. Caroline Catz could sing it, although I think much of the sentiment would be better said by ME. (I’d love to hear CC sing even if she just sings songs to JH.)

Originally posted 2014-10-04 10:57:25.

54 thoughts on “Incongruities and other thoughts

  1. dmfanforever

    If there is a counsellor in this couple’s future, I would not want to be it. I predict that Martin will agree to go to one, propelled by his womenfolk, but once there, he will inevitably notice that the counsellor is exhibiting early symptoms of some dread disorder and will insist on examining him/her on the spot. I think Louisa will support him in this. One or both may even chase the counsellor around the room a couple of times, depending on how zany the writers are feeling. Session will conclude with M and L loading the unfortunate counsellor into an ambulance. Anyone who dislikes this scenario should be advised that I have had no better luck than others in predicting the course of this gem of a show. Cheerio!

  2. Post author

    What a great idea! We could combine the medical emergency that often brings this couple together with a visit to the marriage counsellor!

  3. Mary F.

    You have inspired us once again Karen with your attention to detail and there are indeed so many loose ends in this dramedy that story line choices for the 7th series could be as enticing and varied for writers as for the proverbial “kid in a candy store”(lets hope they are reading your blog along with the rest of us!). I have to agree somewhat about Mrs. Tishell, she has pretty much run her course…but there is always Clive, who could be brought back to keep her on the straight and narrow, I always enjoyed hearing his perspective on life.
    I was also struck by your comment that many of us choose to keep our physical and/or psychological issues from our mates; coping with them (or burying them) on our own. I think that is so true, and may be yet another reason why so many of us are attracted to this show. One of the reasons we couple up is because we have someone with whom we feel comfortable sharing and hopefully dealing with our personal demons, but if we come to marriage with much emotional baggage, we can easily fall into a pattern of keeping things bottled up inside in order to protect the relationship from too much stress or for any other number of reasons…which ultimately leads to more stress. Its always riveting to watch other couples, who are as boiling over with unfulfilled potential as these two, struggle along.

    DM FanForever, you are so funny! And you just may be correct, but I certainly hope not! I happen to believe that Martin has finally come to understand that his real problem is not physical and that he takes great stock in what his Aunt Ruth has finally explained to him. We know he certainly does not want to “leave the poor girl alone”. So my prediction is that although there will certainly be a bumpy road of counseling ahead, he has finally gotten information he can use from a source he trusts…I doubt we’ll be seeing him take his pulse again any time soon.

  4. dmfanforever

    They could then wobble on together in comparative tranquility until the awful day sweet young James Henry beams at them in his inimitable way and speaks his first-ever word. Can there be any doubt that it will be . . . “Doggie!”

  5. Post author

    I haven’t been very specific with my predictions so it will be pretty hard to figure out what might have been suggested by this blog. But, it’s fun to wonder.

    I wish for minimal tranquility and maximal amusement along with the continuation of topics related to the human condition. And I would love to have James say “doggie” as his first word. Maybe he could yell “Edna!”

  6. dmfanforever

    I think he will evince an affinity for all four-legged critters, and eventually develop into a supernaturally good vet. His father will be dismayed, but will realize that resistance is futile. Maybe at about series 12, if not sooner, he will face a dilemma: whether to reside in Cornwall, worming sheep and judging pig look-alike contests, or to go to London to take a position at the Zoo, directing programs for preserving endangered species. Not sure how that will turn out. Maybe the issue will be decided by the death of the once-reverend Porter, who will leave him his pigs. This could endanger a budding romance with an attractive young lady who doesn’t appreciate pigs . . . and here my muse deserts me. Perhaps someone else can take over.

  7. Santa Traugott

    I think what Karen is saying above is that there are too many incongruities for us to make sense of what turned out to be a dark and rather disappointing season.

    In my more cynical moments, I believe that ITV made Buffalo Productions an offer they couldn’t refuse, and since the only way they could go from the upbeat ending of S5 ,was down, at least if they wanted to keep dramatic tension going, that’s the direction they chose. I also wonder if part of their calculation was positioning Martin for more dramatic roles, after DM ended.

    But I think it may be that you have to look at the series as a whole to see what they were driving at. If there is anything that comes through, it is that these two people really don’t “belong” together, in any conventional sense. I think initially, there was no intention to bring them together — the head writer at the time, Dominic Minghella, upset many fans when he remarked that he didn’t care if they ever got together. So I think perhaps the general idea of S6 was, that once the “romance” and the pursuit and the honeymoon wears off, and there they are, married, the basic inappropriateness of their being together comes to the fore. The ending of the non-wedding episode, where they called off the wedding b/c they came to the realization that they wouldn’t be happy together, really foreshadows what happens in S6 — in fact, they are not happy together. This is what Louisa pointed out to Martin in the hospital room. There is a sense in which S6 is actually a logical outcome of how these characters have always been seen — — as chalk and cheese, a disaster waiting to happen.

    The continuing mystery to me of S6, is, why did the haemophobia return. It is the pivot point of the plot — I am sure we are meant to conclude that it played a major role in what followed, mainly b/c he didn’t know how to share his distress, not did she know how to reach him or even recognize what was happening. But why did it return, exactly? This is something about which we are given no clues at all, except perhaps his increasing sense of isolation and stress — not well defined though, by the time it reappeared. Probably it never really went away — just in remission. But it seems to me that this is a major plot point which is inadequately treated.

    How they are going to fix this in S7 so we can believe that they will be able to rock along together, I don’t know. It will be hard to make it credible. But I will respond to Karen’s predictions for S7 in a bit.

    So then the question is, did they show us enough, in S6, to make their unhappiness with each other plausible? AFter all, they have been living together, she does know by now who he is, etc. But I think there are some clues that it’s the dailiness, the mundaneness, the small irritating details of their life together after the honeymoon is over — signaled at the start of E2, by Louisa going off to work and telling Martin she’ll miss him — that accumulate and erode their ability to be together. So there’s a sense in which you really can’t know what it will be like to live with someone once daily life takes over again, until you’ve gotten to that point and beyond. Maybe also it’s the case that being married is just different than cohabitating.

    Given their bedtime demeanor and garb — like people who have been married quite a long time and sex is a distant memory — they are not able even to shortcut or compensate for their problems by physical intimacy. Louisa seems preoccupied and tired, he seems depressed.

    And as for Louisa ought to have known better about who he was — there is actually a very consistent character fault of Louisa’s — she has always imagined she knew him better than she actually does (although she does “get” him at his core in some intuitive way) and overestimates how much she will be able to change him.

    Now, I didn’t want to see S6 play out like this, and that is an understatement. I would much rather they had ended with the Castle scene, and keep my illusions of them walking off into the sunset intact. Once they chose to continue, though, I don’t really see what else they could have done, and be true to their major premise — that these two people, while deeply attracted to each other, have too many issues for them to be happy together.

    S7 — I totally agree. I hope never to see Mrs. T. again. It’s a shame they brought her back to become such a caricature.

    I really am completely indifferent as to what happens to Bert, Al or Ruth.

    I think they will NOT start off together. I have gone over and over in my mind the ending scene — “I don’t want us to just fall back to the way we were” “we can’t just pretend that everything’s all right.” And, “this doesn’t change anything.” I think Louisa will enforce that by insisting on a separation.

    We will see a lot of Martin trying to win her back, with clumsy romantic gestures (for comedic value) and by trying to change himself to make the marriage work. We will see them do some marriage counseling, and attempt to implement some of the counselor’s suggestions, mostly played for comic effect.

    I think we will see at least once incident in which they (once again) have to work together as a team to solve a critical problem. And that’s the one hopeful part of their relationship — that we have been shown several times, that when they can forget themselves and their issues and work together, they actually are a good team.

    Somewhere in S7, Louisa will get a good “talking to” — perhaps from the wise woman, Aunt Ruth. Because it’s clear that she needs to change also. Become more tolerant, perhaps, pay more attention to her husband as he really is, etc., etc.

    I think in the end, it may be Martin who precipitates a decision-point — that Louisa will waffle quite a bit and be unable to recommit to their marriage, and he will force the issue, with a renewed offer from London, or a decision that there’s no reason for him to linger any longer in a place he hates, unless Louisa returns.

  8. mary

    Lol! Yes, those piggies are due for a re-appearance!

    I’m also hoping for a therapist to suggest a dog for companionship…

  9. Post author

    Santa, as always you make a lot of great comments. I certainly agree with many of them, including that one reason S6 was so different in tone was to allow MC to showcase his dramatic acting ability possibly so they could convince iTV to back Arthur and George or whatever other dramatic projects they want to take on.

    What you and I tend to disagree on, and this has come up before, is what the overall concept of the show is. I see the show as a dramedy, always intent on keeping the comedic aspects in mind while including some serious medical and personal issues. When Dominic Minghella created it, he came up with a doctor who leaves his London surgical practice to move to a small town where he doesn’t fit in for many reasons, including his lack of social skills. He certainly planned to have some sort of relationship between the doctor and the headmistress — the first scene of the first episode is Martin and Louisa sitting across from each other on the flight to Newquay (or wherever), then meeting and clashing at the interview for the GP position. Throughout S1 they often interact, sometimes in a friendly manner, sometimes at odds. But by the final episode of S1, even Peter Cronk suspects Louisa is in love with Martin. If a child who’s supposed to be 9 years old notices, others would have too. Minghella didn’t care if they ever got together because keeping that tension going is good for the show.

    I hate to be too mercenary, but the object of every TV series is to keep being renewed. How do you keep people’s interest? One way is to keep them wondering about the love match in the story. In this case, Caroline Catz, along with the writers, turned Louisa into such a great mixture of attraction and antagonism that she was a lot of fun to watch and it was funny too. The whole idea of them being “chalk and cheese” is because it is excellent for comedy (and drama).

    I think we can see a pattern in the endings of each series. S1, Martin and Louisa come together over Peter’s medical emergency but Martin’s comments curtail the communion; S2, Martin and Louisa come together after Louisa dumps Danny, but Martin insults Louisa after telling her he loves her; S3, their marriage is aborted and Louisa leaves; S4, Louisa has returned, they have many altercations but there is still a clear sense that they care about each other. This time Martin plans to leave, but he’s stopped by the baby’s arrival; S5, after time apart and a harrowing event, they reunite and leave together. Now we come to S6, maybe added after S5 had been planned as a final series. The wedding was by now, in my opinion, a given. Did they have to get into problems? Yes. Did they have to become so serious and brooding? No. But they did have to have an ending where we don’t know what will happen in their marriage. They have S7 to think about and they want viewers to come back to find out.

    The fact that they have different temperaments and interests does not in any way convince me they couldn’t be married. There are many couples who stay married and consider themselves well matched even though they clash over many things. I won’t go through all the ways I think of them as compatible again, but I can find plenty of examples of how they are well suited to each other. One of them is the way they dress. Both are neat, conservative, professional, and attractive.

    And that brings me to what they wear at night. Not only are the pajamas buttoned up to the neck supposed to be a sign that Martin is very modest, but also it’s funny to see him go from always wearing a suit and tie to wearing an equally constricting outfit at night. Louisa’s bedclothes coordinate with that. She goes for modest, especially because she has to get up with the baby, and she is supposed to be mirroring his comfort level. They have made a deliberate effort to keep sex out of this show. There’s affection and even some passionate kissing, but all of that tends to end in some sort of humorous manner — he says something off-putting, the fireplace explodes, whatever. The one time Louisa is seen in a negligee is in his dreams in S1. He becomes much more restrained after that series and so does his desire to see Louisa dressed like that. No matter what you wear to bed, you can always take it off!

    As others have said, our guesses as to where they’ll take the couple in S7 are only a stab in the dark. I like some of your ideas and think you could easily be right about Aunt Ruth talking to Louisa. What my feeble attempts tried to do was continue what we’ve seen in past series into S7. Exactly what we’ll see is a major question mark. The key to me is that, in keeping with a dramedy, they ought to bring back more humor and they ought to end with Martin and Louisa in a good place. It doesn’t have to be ideal, simply justifiably positive.

  10. Santa Traugott

    I don’t think we’re really that far apart. I also think it’s a dramedy; the dynamic of the relationship between Martin and Louisa is really the clash between their clear incompatibilities, and that simultaneously they are deeply attracted to each other and have, at bottom, common core values and the ability to operate as a team. The “chalk and cheese” aspect drives them apart, the attraction and commonality bring them back together, almost in accordion like fashion over the series.

    The dramatic tension is, can the “together” dynamic overcome the “apart” dynamic. We’re all betting that it can, in the end, with each of them developing somewhat more insight in their own roles in the “apart” dynamic. This can be handled in a comedic way, and indeed I think they will try to return to that form in S7. Indeed, I hope so — S6 was very nearly too much for me!

    Sure, I do think that people who are very different can make a go of things — I’ve been married for 47 years to my temperamental opposite, but we have always had core values in common, including a commitment to making things work. So I know these two crazy kids can do it, with a little help from their friends.

    I think though that Martin and Louisa’s relationship has never been played strictly for laughs or even mostly. There is usually an edge to their interactions, balancing out the comedic aspects. S6, we agree, went overboard in edginess, veering off into darkness.

  11. Linda

    I have pondered all Karen and others have said and realize that she is right about several glaring incongruities. Martin and Louisa really don’t know much about each other which stems from them really only beginning to get close in Series 3 and then when the wedding was called off, that closeness ended. Before that time, they had really never talked about the past, families, likes and dislikes. In fact, they knew very little of substance about one another. Had they had a longer engagement, things might have been different. After all, they were intimate during the engagement and surely engaged in some “pillow talk” when they were together. I can’t imagine them doing the deed without talk before, during, and after! They were as civil as we had ever seen them. He was soft and gentle with her in speech and manner but we must also note that he was quite shy about inquiring if she planned to spend the night on the evening he gave her the ring. Their lack of deep discussion about their pasts and about their relationship is quite puzzling. Things are said and then left dangling. As Karen has said, Louisa had several opportunities to find out more about Martin, his upbringing, his relationship with Edith, and his blood phobia. She is frequently interrupted of course and that is part of the reason why we never see more conversation. When she catches him talking to Ruth about the blood thing, she questions him directly. He waffles in giving an explanation saying first, that he didn’t know why he didn’t talk to her and then saying he didn’t want her to worry. Did she let it drop when Morwhenna came in to get the doc to help Penhale? What would have transpired if this conversation had been allowed to continue? When he refused her breakfast and told her he couldn’t go away, she up and left instead of questioning him why. I realize her feelings were hurt but she certainly should have asked him to explain why he felt he could not go instead of getting up and leaving. If he felt bad for hurting her, we were never privy to any further discussion or apology. It bothered me that he just let her go and never tried to fix things.

    The return of the blood phobia was not well presented. It is hard to say exactly when it re-occured. He is obviously distressed about it but Louisa is left inthe dark and sees only that he is changing rapidly for the worse and shutting her out. Naturally, he tries to find a physical reason for it as that would be the easiest way to explain it away. He may be embarassed to tell her or he may want to fix it so she is none the wiser. Of course, she sees something happening as he closes down and suffers loss of appetite and sleep. They seem to have no intimacy or warmth between them. I think neither of them sees the situation from the point of view of the other which explains why they can’t talk it over. His mother is staying in the house but Martin and Louisa don’t talk about it and neither talks to Margaret either. I sense that there is great tension around this and that his blood phobia indeed has something to do with “family”. His first lapse was after realizing that his patient was someone’s wife and mother and that she was very important to the family. It was the first time, I suspect that he realized he was fixing more thna just a “body”. So, I surmise, anything to do with family, and especially with his parents, brings great angst to him and the phobia rears it’s head again – especially when things are not going smoothly!

    As for Mrs. Tishell, I agree that they have backed her character into a corner and will have great trouble rebuilding her into the story. I think you are exaclty right in thinking that the story ending for Season 5 was to be the end of the series. This might well explain why series 6 was a bit of a dud. I doubt they will get rid of her character though as she has provided much humour and really has been loyal to her village in her work. I’d hate to see her go. If season 7 is to be the end, there will be a lot of loose ends to tie up and I doubt that they’ll able to do all of them being that Martin and Louisa will be starting off in such turmoil.

    I like many f the predictions for Series 7 that have been proposed. I hope they do a lot with a growing little James as I think that is an avenue that will provide great humour to the audience and be a very new thing!

  12. Mary F.

    Well said, Linda, all of this show’s ambiguity is tantalizing and yet frustrating too. I think Mrs Tishell is going to disappear from Series 7, they have made her just a bit too screwy by the end of 6. She is a great actress but short of her turning into a madwoman and holding Martin at gunpoint (which I definitely would not want to see) , what else could be done with her character ?

    I just finished watching “A Mother’s Son” (2006?) with Martin Clunes playing a step-dad to a teen who was involved with a young woman’s murder. He is always great to watch, so expressive and I think the character is closer to who he is in real life, but I still prefer him in Doc Martin. Even if I do occasionally throw a shoe at him.

  13. Post author

    Linda, like Santa said, we really aren’t given much to go on when it comes to the recurrence of the blood phobia. I would agree with her that it probably never really went away, it just subsided for a while. Who knows why they decided to let that happen? Most phobias need quite a bit of therapy to overcome, but this is a show and not a medical clinic. The fact that it returns wouldn’t be surprising either in real life or on the show – it never was adequately treated and it makes for drama. It returns before Margaret does, though, although family pressures could still be to blame on some level. I mainly took exception to the change in how M handled it this time. It was no longer an idiosyncrasy; it became a major emotional problem.

    As for some of my remarks about their lack of communication, I assume we don’t get much talk between them not only because M is not a talker, but also because the show is not meant to show this couple investing much time in conversation. That could be dull. Nevertheless, they have had some heart-to-heart dialogues at times. It wouldn’t be too out of the ordinary for that to happen in S6. Louisa tries to get Martin to talk to her about his father, but she approaches it all wrong. If she really wants him to tell her more, she can’t ask him questions that can be answered with one word or a stare. The show leaves it like that because they made a decision that L and M would be unable to reach each other. They aren’t interrupted anymore; they are constantly stifled.

    We are all pretty much in agreement that this change was unfortunate for the show. I say, if he’s got the phobia again and if they’re going to have trouble communicating, at least don’t take all the humor out of it!

  14. Linda

    Oh to be in the heads of the writers of this show! I find this just fascinating to think about it and have never before really considered what a minefield writing can be. Loop holes and incongruities abound and I suspect many of them just crop up during filming. Time constraints obviously mean that things are left dangling. I imagine it is quite hard when writing, to think of all the ways that viewers will take certain events and conversations. I wonder if the writers really got that S6 was so lacking in humour that it was actually quite upsetting? It was such a departure from previous series wasn’t it?

    You are right in saying that lengthly conversations between Martin and Louisa might be quite dull but I enjoyed the one they had about her finding it “disconcerting” when he left their bed each night and went down to read because he couldn’t sleep. He told her he tried not to wake her and he asked her if she wouldn’t find it disconcerting if he made noise and woke her up. She said yes and he had the most befuddled look on his face! It was a typical “I can’t win this argument no matter what I say” look. I love those kind of exchanges between them!

    You are right Karen in saying that the phobia returned before Margaret arrives and I too think they punted him to the ground way too fast. I just feel that family issues, including his new family growth and adventure has a bearing and that his VILE parents probably were the greatest source of angst once he realized what “families” really mean when seeing his patient’s family before the operation.

    Mary – You are so right in your comments about Martin Clunes in other roles! It is odd to watch him behaving so differently from his Doc Martin character. I am watching William and Mary right now and that is a great departure for Martin Clunes from Doc Martin. I really enjoy seeing him in this role. Reggin Perrin in a hoot too. One thing they seen to do is to use the same actors in more than one series. I find that a bit odd. The same actress, Julie Graham (I think) , is in William and Mary, another series, and she was on Doc Martin as Penhale’s ex wife. I find that odd.

    I am enjoying the predictions for Series 7 too! Keep them coming fans!

  15. Mary F

    It does seem rather odd that you see the same actors over and over in different shows but then again I guess its a small world where they all get to know one another and help each other find work. I remember an interview with Julie Graham who said she hated how grumpy Martin Clune’s DM was and much preferred him as the undertaker in William and Mary. One good thing about seeing them in other roles is that you get a better idea of their acting range. I still have not seen anything that I think is on par with this show.
    That was funny when he made the comment about not making any noise that would wake her and she of course found the silence to be disconcerting. I found it disconcerting that he would rather leave a beautiful woman in bed just to spend time with a clock ( no pun intended) That is one messed up man.

  16. Post author

    There are several actors who have worked with MC on other shows and then on DM. Besides Julie Graham, we have Tristan Sturrock (Danny), Stephanie Cole (Aunt Joan), Jeff Rawle (Roger Fenn), Martin Marquez (Sam Penhale), and probably others. I’m guessing that since it’s BP and MC can ask actors to do parts, he asks several he knows.

    I totally disagree with Julie Graham about MC playing this role as opposed to William. The William part was so treacly. Being ME is much more demanding and fulfilling. I couldn’t watch that much of W + M because I couldn’t take the superficiality of it. The nebbish handyman who loves Mary no matter what she does or says; the mother who always gets in the way, but not in an amusing manner; the mixed race children who get along great with their new step sisters. The whole thing drove me nuts. And could William have yelled, written, said “I love you” any more frequently?! I can see why MC would have wanted a complete reversal of that role!

  17. Mary F

    I see we are up early today! In reply to you finding William and Mary overly “treacly” I heartily agree. Many times I found myself gritting my teeth to get through each increasingly unbelievable episode. How a marriage could possibly work between an upper middle class man like William and a hearty working class gal like Mary for more than a few rolls in the hay was beyond me. Try as I did, the relationship never jelled for me. A good example of great acting being unable to save poor writing.
    We don’t have those issues in DM, in spite of differences between the characters. There is this undercurrent of belief, if I dare speak for the fans out there, that Martin and Louisa really could make a go of it, if they are willing to work on their problems.

    Which is probably what 95% of us believe about our own marriages. Very few of us have a match made in heaven. This show has a very optimistic fan base and since there are millions of us, I’d say that bodes well for the future of the human relationships ( at least I hope so!).

  18. Post author

    Oh, I’ve been up since 5 something. Watched the lunar eclipse from my bedroom window. Fabulous! I’m always up early. I like mornings.

    Glad you agree about W + M. And we both agree about M + L too. Good way to start the day!

  19. Linda

    I can’t find a way to reply AFTER your comments about William and Mary so here it is! Aw gee ….. I guess I am possibly the only one who likes William and Mary !!!!! But, that’s OK! Your opinions are valid Santa and Karen! I have never heard the word “TREACLY” before and had to look it up! I still don’t know what it means and I actually looked it up! I haven’t seen the whole series yet and now I am thinking I need to re-watch with new eyes! Now, don’t get me wrong, I LOVE DOC MARTIN and see it as a superior show for MANY reasons. Yes William and Mary might be a bit far fetched but I LOVE Martin Clunes so that may be why I don’t take fault with it. The premise might be weak but the acting is great. I love the kids and Mrs. Ball and all the other characters. We get such a load of CRAP of TV these days, here in Canada, that I am loathe to watch it. I enjoy these series instead and no matter what, they HAVE to be better that the load of DRIVEL being broadcast on TV these days.

  20. Maria

    Linda, I don’t want you to think you are the only one – I loved William and Mary too! For sure, DM is a superior show in all aspects, and yes, W&M can be treacly; no, I didn’t always like Julie Graham’s character, but I loved the kids, and later on the mom (not in the first couple of episodes; she was awful in those), I love shows set in London, and I liked William’s interactions with his employees and clients. I guess what it comes down to is that I’ll basically watch Martin Clunes in pretty much anything. I also watched the two seasons of Reggie Perrin, where the writing was very uneven, but it was just fun to see what he did with it.

    But as you said, everyone’s opinions are valid! I can understand why it wasn’t everyone’s cup of tea. (And our US TV has at least as much drivel as yours… :)).

  21. Post author

    As the saying goes “That’s why they make chocolate and vanilla.” We can’t all like everything exactly the same. I can’t defend American TV in general, but I do like a few shows and watch those. Usually I record them and watch when I want to. Even the best actors sometimes appear in shows that are pretty awful.

    (What I mean by “treacly” is overflow of sweetness; dripping with sentimentality; sticky, gooey, kissy face all the time.)

  22. Joan

    I agree with Linda and Maria on William and Mary. I loved that movie too. But I also agree that MC was better in Doc Martin and it is all around a better show. I can watch Doc Martin over and over again but not William and Mary. I thought MC was best in Doc Martin until I saw a rating of his acting in all his performances and he scored highest on his performance in Strike Back. I watched an excerpt of this on Portwenn on Line (Connie J’s Videos). It was removed .I agreed that he was outstanding in at least the part I saw. That’s why I never minded the seriousness of Season 6 because I think MC should do more drama. He’s really very good with this. Now when I see him doing things that are meant to be funny I’m a little disappointed. I like his Wild Life series on ACORN. The filming is beautiful and the information is at the right level for me but Martin gets a bit silly at times.

  23. Carol

    I love William and Mary too. I think Martin and Julie are great together and, from interviews, I think they are good friends as well. And I agree that we have some major crap on US tv so I am keeping my Acorn subscription and recommending it to any malcontent I know!

  24. Joan

    I did not like Julie Graham in Dirty Tricks. I was neutral about her in Doc Martin. I really liked her in William and Mary. Watching actors playing different roles is confusing because it seems like they’re always playing roles and you don’t really know if you like the actor or the character.

  25. Mary F

    I haven’t seen Dirty Tricks or Strike Back yet, you guys are much better followers than I am of MC’s career. Well we can’t agree on everything, which is what makes this blog so fun….. hat’s off to everyone!

  26. Post author

    I think it’s time for me to publish a new post so we can move on. I’m working on one right now that I hope to publish very soon. I think it’s lots of fun and think you will all enjoy it and want to contribute. At least that’s my belief. Fingers crossed!!

  27. Linda

    So true Carol! I wasn’t crazy about Dirty Tricks either. It IS confusing seeing the actors in defferent roles! I like your comment about not knowing ” if you like the character or the actor”. That was a good point.

  28. Joan

    Before we go back to Doc Martin I’d like to encourage “those who know and those who care” to watch The Town. It is a pretty good mystery and can be found on Portwenn On Line. Go to Links then to Connie J Videos. The Town is the last show under TV shows. You can watch the entire show or if you don’t want to do that just watch Part 4 of 4. It won’t make sense but you can see Martin playing two scenes that aren’t funny at all. I think he does both very well. I especially like his last scene which is all facial expression and no dialogue.

  29. Maria

    I second this recommendation. For those of use who are more used to seeing MC in comedy roles, It’s interesting to see him in this kind of drama. I’d recommend watching the whole thing, as it’s a decent mystery. A Mother’s Son (available in two parts on You Tube) is also good.

  30. DM

    Well, I’d like to offer to take a crack at the question posed by item 1 in your list and hopefully stimulate some discussion- still perhaps? Something you wrote Karen in a much earlier post has always stuck with me:

    “My approach has always been to work off what’s written and try to analyze what’s on the page (or screen). The author wrote it like that for a reason and, if the work of literature or the show is a success, it’s because of how the author established the story.”

    Which I believed must hold true for S6 as much as for the less vexing series that came before it. Thus I kept tugging on the seeming incongruities running through S6 like so many loose threads until finally coming to understand not only the series’ darker overall tone but how S6 makes complete sense and is integral to, and revelatory of, all of the series together.

    The question first then is: why, in S6, has the incursion of a new spouse and a six-month old baby become so problematic for Martin now? It’s pretty clear from your delineation of the question, that you’re as doubtful as I, that the answer can be rooted in some new or unforeseeable logistical challenge given the already elapsed time and progress involving either a six-month old infant or Louisa (although having abruptly went from having a busy professional life to raising twin babies myself, I could probably comment on that aspect as well). I would suggest that the answer can be found by focusing on what in the question is meant by “now”.

    There are two prominent themes woven throughout S6 which help frame the question (which I have no idea whether or not they’ve been discussed elsewhere). The first theme is that of “being alone”: Al is a young man who is very much alone since Pauline vanished; Bert is a much older man and has been much longer alone (frequently to the detriment of his son); Joe is alone and pining for as much as a friend; Morwenna too is alone, newly so after her grandfather’s recent death; Michael finds himself alone, which he attributes to his OCD; Jennifer is clearly alone as well; Mrs. Tishell returns to her lonely existence from psychiatric care where she’s had the benefit of attention and the company of others, only to soon increasingly suffer the detrimental consequences of being alone; and then finally there is Aunt Ruth, whose seemingly stout life of solitude at the farm is conceded as aloneness too and prompts her move to the village once she confronts the psychotic who’d been lurking amongst the shadows.

    Playing on the same theme simultaneously in the series was a propensity of older persons facing the prospect of being alone in the final stage of their life: the caravan-living hermit in E1 (nothing personal against Edna); stalker Robert Campbell; the lost in loneliness Mr. Moysey; the construction pensioner who keeps hypochondriasis and birds for company; the two old birds resigned to their own end but who at least seemly have one other; Morwenna’s elderly grandfather who fortunately hadn’t been alone- but who must have been pained at leaving Morwenna as such; the seemingly lonely aged musician barely able to cough up the words to a song; and then finally there is Margaret Ellingham at what can only be described as, her well-deserved wretched end.

    A second prominent theme throughout S6 involves Martin’s already polysemous hobby “fixing” timepieces (horology) and the passage of time ostensively for the comings and goings of a busy household/practice. Since clocks and their symbolism have been used in earlier series and have become familiar objects their additional symbolism here is somewhat hidden in plain sight. A good example is that despite our knowing little about Morwenna’s background and relationship with her grandfather, the impact of her loss from his passing is conveyed to us by her reminiscence over his pocket watch. More importantly is Martin’s “valuable” timepiece with which he repairs himself to his solitude throughout the series. By E7 he’s managed to restore the pendulum clock to working order, but just in time for it to serve for watching time tick away in E8 when Louisa and James are due to depart and to leave him all alone once again. Time, it seems, is only working against him when he compares its elusiveness against his own wristwatch. It is only once Martin finally confronts his mother about his father’s death and his childhood when barely enough time remains before Louisa’s flight in Truro, that a transcendent effect takes place and there’s something different about him. The last we see of that timepiece is its being stolen away by Martin’s mother, much as she has stolen away so much of Martin’s life and time up to that point.

    Martin’s metaphorical “now” of S6 is the “high noon” of his life, from whose zenith its end has for the first time come into view; and presents a vantage to inexorably look back over the passage of life’s first half and to attempt to acquit himself for how it’s been spent:Martin’s “now” is mid-life. This stage of mid-life transition has been described as a disorienting and frequently difficult psychodynamical process when an individual comes face to face with their identity. It is also a much caricatured stage in both fiction and, often enough, in real-life with its ever popularized “crisis” usually depicted with slapstick comedy for the foolishness and humiliating antics its sufferers often fall victim to. But for ordinary individuals in ordinary circumstances it can constitute a challenging transformational process for their identity regardless of its prior strength or fragility.

    The mid-life transition in men varies widely by age occurring anywhere from 35 to 60 years of age and is generally not prefaced by any biological changes. The psychosocial effects for men in modern Western culture are typically most acute. Its impact varies according to the individual and their circumstances but is contingent upon their prior identity development and adaptability and what introspective skills were gained in the transitions from childhood to adolescence to adulthood. What precipitates it varies from individual to individual, but often follows some significant life transition, a realisation of unresolved childhood issues, some poignant reminder of one’s mortality, or merely having finally established a certain sense of stability following the first half of life’s drive for career and coupling. The literature provides very little insight into how the process might be experienced by a formerly long-term solitary bachelor like Martin Ellingham. Cruelly however, it’s clear that many of the precipitating factors began to be visited upon the character barely into S6.

    It’s important to note that the most salient part of this mid-life process at the psychodynamical level is the inexorable, even morbid, focus on the past; the time and opportunities lost, the unrealized expectations, and all that could have been- if only just sooner. That perspective can become problematic regardless of the opportunities at hand or which still lie ahead. It’s a liminal process at the extreme boundaries of the Self which is exactly why it can be so devastating; it’s likened to a caterpillar in it’s death thoes with no foreknowledge of the chrysalis and butterfly to follow; or a tadpole gasping its dying breaths out of water without conscious knowledge of the life as a frog on land that is to come; or even like a depressive being told to “cheer up” and to somehow sanguinely focus on the future- they only feel more depraved for the sense of loss that consumes them. Rather to endure this transition, what has been lost must be recognized as such and it must be mourned fully and deeply. What we are meant to understand in S6 is that Martin’s identity, the only one he’s ever known, is dying and that he experiences it as grief and he expresses it as- well, pretty much the descent into darkness that we witness nearly up to the end of series 6.

    Of course Martin Ellingham is not an ordinary individual with an ordinary identity beset by the ordinary ravages of a mid-life transition. Rather this identity of his is the only one he’s ever known and was assumed as a necessary refuge- and he has been trapped in it ever since. This context is critical to understand S6 because it absolutely conforms to the narrative structure established for all the series. S6 is entirely congruent and consistent and faithful to the original, or nearly original, story and instantiates that narrative structure which is itself based upon a consistent, accessible, and established theory that can be expounded for all the series together (and decidedly without resorting to any specious diagnoses).

    It’s difficult to read about all the bleakness being expressed about S6. I think the reason why all the presumed causes and effects for the plot of S6 haven’t seemed to match up and feel so inconsistent and incongruent and distressing, is because all the presumed causes and effects aren’t meant to match up! And lest this explanation thus far seem like another “deus ex machina” device, as contrived as what some presume the programme’s writers contrived for S6 and tossed out to us to believe and accept; it’s not. S6 was a necessary and authentic continuation of the original story. And its a happy story that imposes no obligation on the ending as anything but a happy story! And no, the grief prescribed to Martin and his identity can’t be resolved by reviving his life as a surgeon or by reinstating what he’s sacrificed in its place; that, in fact, has been the problem all along. And no, finally getting Martin and Louisa together as one in marriage wasn’t a sadistic plot by the creators to rend them apart or to prove that they never really belonged together in the first place; that is not dictated by the underlying narrative either- rather it’s clear that all outcomes have always depended upon whether Martin and Martin would come together. I too missed the usual humour in S6, but I’m not sure that unless every temptation to play it for laughs had been resisted it could have ever remained true to the character and the story. I would hope that by exploring the narrative structure of the programme that S6 yet prove to others as a continuing testament to the writers and creators brilliant work and garner our admiration for having stayed faithful to the original story we all came to enjoy.

  31. Post author

    Wow! You have done a very in depth and thorough job of analyzing the series. I am very impressed with how you have identified a unifying theme of loneliness or being alone as well as the possibility of ME being at a time in his life when many reassess their status and direction. I had not noticed the general strand of solitariness in S6 and find your exposition quite revealing. In fact, it is so exhaustive that I have to wonder if you are seeing more than anyone associated with the show ever devised. There are many characters in the show who spend most of the series alone or separated from others, and I’ve often thought that was an interesting facet. In addition to all the characters you’ve mentioned, we could go back through the show and find many others. All of the receptionists, Aunt Joan, Mark Mylow, Stewart, Danny’s mother, many patients, all seem to live on their own or as singletons. It’s really an odd fact of the show, but is it more pronounced in S6 for the reasons you mention?

    The mid-life examination of one’s life and how time plays a role in that should really be included in our evaluation of S6. I like your identification of the clocks and how time is ticking away as he watches the clock he reconditioned as well as his own wristwatch. I admire how you have thought this through and compared it to “high noon” in his life. I don’t know if you meant your reference to conjure up the film “High Noon,” but I couldn’t help thinking of it. As you probably know, that film shows the clock ticking in close to real time with the length of the film and centers on the actual showdown between the marshal and a killer who is scheduled to arrive on the noon train. If we use your metaphor, time is the killer and we all reach a point in the middle of our lives when we recognize that there’s no getting off the track.

    Your opinion that ME senses a loss of his identity is poignant as he has had so much upheaval since his blood phobia forced him to leave London and performing surgery regularly. I’m fascinated by your point that those making decisions about the direction of S6 intended to deliberately make the plot inconsistent because that does indeed stay faithful to the original story. I see what you’re saying about Martin needing to accept his new persona, and I’d like to think this was the object of S6, but haven’t we still lost the direction of the show as created? I want to give the writers and others as much credit as possible because I, too, consider their work outstanding. I just balk at considering all of this planned and keep coming back to the show being a dramedy with the emphasis on comedy. Is taking the show down this path to serious drama, despite the overriding light tone throughout the other five series, the best way to arrive at some sort of successful outcome? I have to think they knew what they were doing on some level. I hope your assessment is accurate.

    Thank you so much for taking the time to think this through and express it so eloquently. I am very fortunate to have such wonderful readers/commenters. It’s a joy to have found such deep thinkers to interact with.

  32. Santa Traugott

    To add to your examples of loneliness, is the scene with the fishmonger at beginning of the last episode of S5, where the fishmonger remarks on the unshaven state of lonely men, sitting around in their Y-fronts. I do think that it was the contemplation of the return to his lonely state that finally galvanized Martin to try to reconnect with Louisa.

    I’m not so sure that S6 was part of the story as originally contemplated. I think it fact it got much deeper as the ramifications of the relationship between Martin and Louisa became clearer over time. But that’s neither here nor there really, because it is in fact a logical extension of the story, at least in my mind. Because if it is going to go on at all after the Castle scene, then I think it has to show how Martin’s unresolved issues (and to a degree, Louisa’s) are going to impact their marriage. To do otherwise makes this a fairy story, and repeatedly we have been told that this is NOT a fairy story.

    I like the notion of a butterfly emerging from a chrysalis (reaching, now, but of course there was a butterfly scene in S5). That is the equivalent of what Martin Ellingham is going through now. And I agree; transformative is the right word to describe what the emotional upheavals of S6 have wrought in him.

    I think this has all along played out as a story of redemption, or if you like, healing. It has been there for the taking, but Martin had not yet reached a point, until the very end of S6, where he can grasp the possibility and hold on.

    He came down to Portwenn, broken in major ways, and knowing it. He had a chance to “begin the world anew” but what he chose to do was to change his environment without changing his way of being in the world. The effort to make a sustained and sustaining relationship with Louisa is a way for him to making a lasting change in his way of being in the world. But he can only do this intermittently — he sees and wants the possibility — oh, so much — but he cannot find it within himself to take the risk of really being open to Louisa and the connection to life that she offers him. (She is surely meant, for all her flaws, to be warmth and life-affirming). Or he can make a connection, but only briefly, and then he retreats to usual shut-down, shut-out state. Only the possibility of an irreparable breach with James and Louisa makes him finally make the conscious decision to change his life. And surely, as I think you imply, he must recognize that at this point in his rapidly passing life, with the loss of Louisa and James goes what is probably his last chance of a meaningful connection with others. Very important that it’s a fully conscious decision to change in whatever way he must, whatever it takes.

    I think it’s easy to overlook the role of James Henry in his mid-life crisis. No matter what age you are, becoming a parent can be psychically a huge event, with a lot of emotional reverberations. I feel that the bond with James is both powerful and uncomplicated — a revelation to him. His loss, I think, would be felt almost as acutely as losing Louisa. More important, though, must be his identification with his son, recognizing his vulnerability and his strong desire to protect and care for him, and the contrast this is, implicitly, with the parental attention he himself received. I think that had to bring this close enough to the surface that he could no longer be in denial, and start to deal with the damage done to him, and to understand finally, that there is another way of being in the world, one which is open to emotion and connection with others.

    Is this the story I wanted to see? No. But it does fit in, I think, to the long arc of the whole series, which is whether this flawed man can become a more functional human being, and to leave the audience with the impression that all would be well after they walked off into the sunset is probably unfair to the characters, who have taken on a depth and complexity that asks us to take them more seriously than that.

  33. Post author

    I particularly like your paragraph that begins “He came down to Portwenn…” I think the show was exactly premised on having this doctor come to a small village from London to have a new start and he fumbles and bumbles his way to doing that. A new start includes finding a love interest, as Joan has encouraged him to do. It didn’t take long for him to find the woman he couldn’t live without and from there we have the continuing adventures of Martin Ellingham in Portwenn. How much the show’s original intention was to actually make him a more functional human being is something I’m still not convinced of. If that means they planned to keep him from stasis, I agree. If it means the plan was to enlighten him and turn him into a person who now fits into the village, I have my doubts. My gut feeling is they just wanted to produce a show that was funny due to all the quirkiness in the doctor and the village while also adding some deeper insights into human behavior and interpersonal relationships. It’s possible that they looked at each series and thought about how they could enhance what they had created and have now gotten much more involved with the psychodynamics of ME’s life. Since Martin Clunes is still a comedian at heart, I have been surprised by how serious it has become. I’m enjoying the way it’s inspired us to discuss all sorts of profound topics despite being hesitant to attribute this as an intention of the show.

  34. Santa Traugott

    I think that’s what I was trying to say, Karen — that the show’s story changed and deepened as they went along — maybe that was the necessary organic development of the characters but it took them a few seasons to grasp that. Martin Clunes in earlier interviews had been adamant that “the doc” was NOT going to change, b/c then the whole premise of the show, as he saw it, would be violated.

    I don’t know why they decided to go forward with S6, after the rosy ending of S5. I still think that the show was so remunerative that they couldn’t bring themselves to kill it off. But it’s possible that they also realized that they really hadn’t fully told the story of Doc Martin, and were intrigued with playing it out in depth. And really, they couldn’t have produced a S6 that was just a series of semi-comic sketches, week by week, of the trials and tribulations of early married life. That would have been trivial after the previous seasons, , b/c it would have been without a powerful story arc. And at that point, I think they saw that the only “right” story arc would be the breakdown of Martin, and his relationship with Louisa, so that they could put him and it back together in a way that we (and probably they — the creators who I think have become invested in these characters) could believe it would last.

  35. DM

    I can’t take credit for the “High Noon” metaphor in this context, although I believe it was originally stolen from the movie’s title for the reference employed here. It was just one of many metaphors, explicitly and otherwise, sprinkled about my comment to infer the underlying theory constituting the programme’s narrative structure. I suppose that I did a poor job of stressing that part; it’s not my theory. It’s not even my theory what S6 is meant to be. It’s the theory that the show’s creators are following, which is not ,*their* theory either, but the one they have brilliantly crafted their story around.

    I’m probably doing a lousy job alluding to this theory without laying it all out, and not wishing to sound coy (or God-forbid, pretentious), but I couldn’t think of a way of asking for its consideration without doing so a step at a time (and to read further material and citations as well). If I understand your comment correctly regarding the plot S6 being deliberately made inconsistent to stay faithful to the original story, that was not what I was trying to assert. If there were other inconsistencies or even patterns of inconsistencies in earlier seasons they are another matter. Rather within S6, its seeming inconsistencies and discrepancies become coherent when a simultaneous mid-life identity transition is considered. That then, constitutes one phase or component of that theory- a critical component for sure, I’d emphasise- but only one by which to apply and understand the whole thing.

    I do think, however that the writers and creators may have deliberately put events out of sequence in S6 to what we would otherwise call “logical” or “consistent” thereby subtly hinting that there was something else for us to consider (or alternatively enticing viewers to suggest they no longer knew what they were doing here and were just faffing about- for which they may have overshot their goal!). I expect everyone agrees on what these individual irreducible inconsistencies are within the context of S6? (e.g. “Why does the return of the blood phobia precede the return of his mother?”)

    Of course the theme of “being alone” was stated as an oversimplification- you’re right that aloneness and loneliness has always been an undercurrent of the programme- perhaps to highlight Martin’s self-imposed aloneness. But that theme does seem to have come to a head in S6 though, doesn’t it? All the primary characters are investing part of themselves to change or finally change that status in S6, in contrast to the peripheral characters who are now facing the end of their lives without having done so, or done so earnestly enough. I think there’s an adage that says, “Loneliness is always a choice.”

    I grant you that making a case for considering all of this as planned (and why) is still incomplete. I’ll have to try to work out those additional arguments and do a better job before calling this “theory”, I keep alluding to, to the stand like some kind of surprise witness (that’s meant to be a friendly analogy 😉 ). Hopefully more of my seemingly melodramatic metaphors in my first comment will make better sense too. I wholeheartedly agree with you about the “dramedy” basis. Although, as early as S1E6 “Haemophobia” and definitely S2E6 “The Family Way” we saw that there were very dark recesses within the texture of the programme- which we might reconcile our respective points by conceding were balanced out by much lighter other parts and episodes within the same series. That didn’t happen in S6, but only because of my contention for S6 as a consummation of all the prior series to fulfill the original narrative structure. It’s clear to me from the extremely subtle transcendent effect at the end of S6 (tby virtue of that same bloody theory again) that thankfully there need be no continuation of this tone for S7 (Yay!).

  36. DM

    Indeed loneliness has been a recurring theme throughout all the series. I think however that S6 in particular is meant to make the distinction between “aloneness” and “loneliness” as much more than just semantic. That may serve as counterpose to the deeper meaning for Martin and Louisa’s relationship of being “together” now as husband and wife. Consider the more profound, if only more traditional, origins for the elided wedding vows of S6E1:

    “…to join together this Man and this Woman [‘Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh’- Matt 19:6] in holy Matrimony.”

    Now that presents some serious ramifications for Martin’s identity! (and not in the sense of Martin’s identity in relation to Louisa’s identity). This is how and why it relates to the rest of S6 and, begging your forgiveness for my obscurity, the theory underlying the story’s narrative structure. I wasn’t asserting that S6 represented an “either-or” choice between Martin coming together with his self and Martin and Louisa coming together. But since the Castle scene in S5, Martin’s unresolved issues can only become resolvable by the alchemal process of S6. That, I would propose, means breaching the identity he maintains there behind the redoubt and deep within the castle keep.

  37. Santa Traugott

    Somehow what keeps coming to my mind here is the E.M. Forster line (from where — maybe Howard’s End? ) “Only connect.”

    I think we are on the same page here, IF I am interpreting your last paragraph correctly. I want Martin to find a way to breach the walls of his solitary fortress, and make meaningful and lasting connections. He’ll never be a warm and fuzzy guy, but he can allow himself/take the risk of some human connections — in some lasting way, not just fitfully as he gets desperate. . Primarily with Louisa now for a start, and maybe that’s all we’ll see.

    She does seem to have been somewhat obtuse, til now, as to how difficult the transition from “aloneness” to husband and father has been for him.

  38. Post author

    This is a reply to both DM and Santa, and it will be long.

    For me, the distinction we should be making is between loneliness and solitude because loneliness implies being alone. There are many more characters in this show who live alone than those who live in a group setting. And some of the characters who are alone may live with someone else or interact with others yet feel like their lives are lonely. For example, Mrs. Cronk has Peter, but he’s a child and she has no one to help her at home or at work; Beth Sawle lives with Janet Sawle, but she fears her sister; and Shirley Dunwich lives with son Michael, but there’s a lot of pathology there, and we could go on. Nearly all of the visitors to Portwenn are also loners — John Slater, Danny, Julie, Joe’s brother, Maggie, etc., etc. I haven’t come up with a significant reason why being alone is such a pervasive quality in this show. By the way, Louisa should definitely be included in this group. Maybe the condition of being alone in the world is universal and we all must find ways to cope with it. Each character finds idiosyncratic methods of coping and as a group they provide a sampling of coping mechanisms.

    In this context, Martin is simply another loner who comes to Portwenn. However, since he is at the center of the story, we examine him more. What develops is that even though he has spent the bulk of his life on his own enjoying the solitude of his profession and his hobbies, he now has to interact with his patients on a personal level and he falls in love. Throughout each series we witness all the efforts of Martin and Louisa to become a couple while constantly being separated by misunderstandings, miscommunications, and all sorts of interruptions. Meanwhile, Martin is confronted with all sorts of people who want to interfere with his solitude and lure him into social situations. He will have none of it and barely comprehends why he should want to.

    The one person he desperately wants in his life is Louisa. In S3 he tells her he can’t bear to be without her, which must mean that he no longer wants to be alone as much as he wants to be with her. Although he may still like having time to himself, as she would too, by the end of S5 he pledges to always love her and soon we see them getting married. Along with all the other ambiguities of S6, we can add the elision of the wedding vows. DM considers this a means by which Martin’s identity as a loner is reconfirmed, if I understand her argument. It could also be another example of how Martin generally behaves, however. He does not conform to the customs of society or the rules of expected behavior. He is usually awkward, especially in social situations, and it would be hard to imagine his wedding ceremony not incorporating some missteps. In his mind, he is there to get married and completing the process is all that is important to him. It’s tempting to attribute some deeper meaning to the ceremony being shortened or the rings not being traditionally exchanged. I have to shrug and say, “I don’t know.”

    What we do know is that he wants a family, he likes being a father, and he has finally gotten Louisa to make a lasting commitment to him. Does that mean there will be no more difficulties. Of course not! We wouldn’t even want that! As a strong woman, Louisa has been waiting for the right man and now she has decided she has found that man. She has given up some of her independence so that she can have the child and husband she’s been holding out for. Unfortunately, what happens is that try as she might following their marriage, he falls into a funk of major proportions. She tells him she’ll miss him, and he looks embarrassed and unreceptive; she says her day was hard being without him and James, and he says they did fine without her; she asks him to go with her and James somewhere for a weekend, and he tells her he can’t. At this point we are aware that he has, to coin a phrase, lost that loving feeling and we can find all sorts of possible sources for that to have happened. His phobia has returned, his mother has returned, he’s lost control of the household and his solitude, he’s depressed and can’t sleep, he feels he doesn’t deserve Louisa, Mrs. Tishell has returned. As I’ve said before, they pile on the desolations and morbidities until we can’t bear it anymore.

    Does a dramedy have to take this tack to address serious issues? Does S6 necessarily proceed in this manner because this is the best way to have Martin deal with his many psychological dilemmas? I would submit that it doesn’t and I would use as my evidence what they did with the TV show M*A*S*H. M*A*S*H was a dramedy with a very serious backdrop — the Korean War and its casualties. It went on for 11 seasons, longer than the War itself, and each season had at least 16 episodes. Many seasons were 24 episodes. It never lost its humor despite many serious incidents, including deaths. To quote one account, “M*A*S*H was noted for doing Something Completely Different very well — keeping the tone of the show consistent while experimenting with unusual storylines or storytelling techniques. “Hawkeye” is a 25-minute monologue by Alan Alda. In “Point of View,” the entire episode is literally seen through the eyes of a wounded soldier via P.O.V. Cam. “Life Time” is told in Real Time, with a clock in the corner ticking off the minutes as the doctors race to replace a soldier’s crushed aorta. It also has a Fever Dream Episode, the obligatory Clip Show, and a (largely improvised) Documentary Episode told as a series of television interviews with the characters.”

    The writers, et. al. of Doc Martin have all sorts of resources at their disposal. If M*A*S*H never changed the tone regardless of storyline, I have confidence that there are a myriad of ways that could have happened on this show too. They chose to go down the path of devastation and dejection and we have been trying to explain it rationally ever since. I know I’m only one voice in the ether, and I want to believe there’s some really good justification for taking this route. I still find S6 unnecessarily distressing and morose.

  39. DM

    I think we’re on the same page too- my having inferred the term “oneness” to refer to the same state awaiting Martin and Louisa which you discuss. That is what I meant with my comment on the wedding vows and Martin and Louisa being together as “one”, not that he was consciously holding back or trying to renegotiate the vows (or to paraphrase Karen 😉 : he just buggers up the ceremony with his usual impatience). I think Martin solemnly and reverently wants that oneness with the love of his life in the fullest possible sense. But the problem with incorporating that oneness as part of his identity is that there has been no room in his identity to do so- he has yet to make room in that identity for even himself!

    I’m trying to use the term “identity” here as it relates to Martin’s own psyche. Consider his identity as “a couple” (i.e. Martin and Louisa), a non-exclusive role not fulfilled just by virtue of a wedding (by anybody, to be sure). Yet he’s made almost no progress expanding his identity to incorporate that role. Compare S6E2 following the wedding with S3E5- before the wedding- before either wedding and everything else- on what we interpret as their one true date; “being a couple” remains just as problematic and for deeper reasons than he’s just so socially awkward.

    He may in between have learnt not to sound “smarmy”, but he’s clearly just accessing his memory banks to relate to Dennis, the Head of the school governors, along with the spurious (but funny) turn to Louisa, “What do you think, Darling?”(it’s almost a shame this very non-stupid man doesn’t watch the bloody telly, or read a popular book, or even a trashy periodical because he’d adeptly learn how to mimic how at least pseudo-real people interact). Of course he can and must do so authentically without faking it- or switching on the smarm. The parallels between these two episodes highlights how problematic his static identity is. And Louisa steps right in it in the latter episode when she tries to be non-subtle in terms Martin can understand though inadvertently broadcasting it to their guests. She apparently is way-too subtle in the earlier episode with how he might interact with Holly at the concert, and Aunt Joan’s friend, and the bushes constituting the romantic enclave where Louisa draws him to, and the trees, and the fragrances in the air… (poor Louisa can’t win). He can only extend himself once he’s able to extend his identity. I hope someone else will chime in with their thoughts or whether I’m expressing this idea any clearer (or not).

  40. waxwings

    I want to address this reply to all recent commenters over the last several days, especially DM, Santa and Karen.

    I have said for quite a while now on this blog site that Martin’s descent into depression and the darkness of S6 was not only consistent with the character and story line of the show, it was long overdue, and its absence until S6 was what was inconsistent. (See for ex. my Jan 6, 2014 blog post under “Aspergers”). DM, with much greater sophistication and more nuanced insights than I could ever muster, essentially reinforces this and has written:

    “….What we are meant to understand in S6 is that Martin’s identity, the only one he’s ever known, is dying and that he experiences it as grief and he expresses it as—well, pretty much the descent into darkness that we witness nearly up to the end of series 6.”

    In my Jan. 6, 2014 post, I called it going to the bottom. Or, rather the writers taking Martin to the bottom because they knew that is where they had to take him for the show to be consistent. And if there was to be any positive resolution to the marriage and the finale of the show (which I think the fans do want and the writers and Buffalo Pictures probably want to give them) there is no other way to get there, than through the bottom. (I likened it in my Jan. 6 post to an alcoholic needing to hit bottom before they are able to do what is required for sobriety).

    Karen, you and others have repeatedly wished that the Doc Martin show not have lost its preponderant comic qualities (as it did in S6). You say here that it didn’t have to. You offer a comparison with the M*A*S*H TV show, which also dealt with serious issues, pointing out that since it retained its comedy throughout, it surely can be done.

    Karen, I would like to respectfully disagree with you. I doubt that the writers of DM could have preserved the comedy in DM as the writers of M*A*S*H did in their dramedy and still be consistent with the character(s) or the story line. IMHO, the comparison does not hold up because you are comparing apples to oranges. Yes, while M*A*S*H dealt with very serious issues (war and peace), these were on a cosmic scale requiring legions of national and international bodies struggling with each other for resolution, while the interior universe we are confronting within Martin Ellingham is a solitary personal battlefield, requiring one individual’s struggle against himself.

    As the writer DM says here so well, the story line of the show always depended upon Martin battling Martin to come to a place where the old and the new could reside so that a healthy future might be possible. In M*A*S*H the characters could carry on their zany, comical war zone antics, and never have to have a single interior battle or do anything themselves to end the Korean War (but a backdrop to their antics). They played absolutely no role in ending war or instituting peace. They did their medical jobs as part of a war. The serious issues of M*A*S*H were not in their hands to resolve. The serious issues at the heart of the DM show are almost entirely within Martin Ellingham’s purvue.

    In that vein, I wish to second DM’s insight that happy outcomes did not require Martin’s return to a professional life as a surgeon or even a unified contented marital front. A “good outcome” depended upon Martin’s ability to wrestle with his own demons that are serious, debilitating, life-altering and demand colossal personal work. Once that is done, then other outcomes are possible. As DM writes:

    “S6 was a necessary and authentic continuation of the original story. And its a happy story that imposes no obligation on the ending as anything but a happy story! And no, the grief prescribed to Martin and his identity can’t be resolved by reviving his life as a surgeon or by reinstating what he’s sacrificed in its place; that, in fact, has been the problem all along. And no, finally getting Martin and Louisa together as one in marriage wasn’t a sadistic plot by the creators to rend them apart or to prove that they never really belonged together in the first place; that is not dictated by the underlying narrative either- rather it’s clear that all outcomes have always depended upon whether Martin and Martin would come together.”

    I do know many viewers of the show have been disappointed in S6, and they have said so here. But many others like Santa, DM, Carol, myself, have written less often about the ways in which this turn to darkness in S6 has felt right. It is not easy to champion depression, dysfunctional behavior, marital discord, frustration, etc. But these are the true results of the logical extension of the ME character, and a lot of what gives depth and meaning to this amazing show.

    I keep stepping forward here because such a turn in the show is exactly why it keeps me watching, thinking, questioning—and replying. I am drawn to the character of the Doc to see how he is experiencing this “midlife” crisis of his (as DM describes it) and how he will work to resolve it—how the butterfly will emerge….

  41. Santa Traugott

    I have sometimes wondered if the problem that some have with S6 is not so much with the downward trajectory of Martin and his relationship with Louisa, as with the flatness of a lot of the other plots. I think Penhale’s antics are wearing thin; Mrs. T. went at least one episode too long, Al and Morwenna’s budding relationship is pretty predictable by now, and even the patients don’t seem as interesting as in previous seasons. The parts that didn’t deal with Martin and Louisa have always had to carry a lot of the comedic quirkiness, and I think it just didn’t come off this time. S4 was pretty unpleasant in terms of their relationship, but better balanced, I think. So perhaps it seems especially bleak b/c there is so little other relief.

    I really wind up somewhere in the middle on S6. I still think that there’s disjuncture between S1-5 and S6. That the relationship between Martin and Louisa in the first 5 seasons was as much if not more “romantic” than realistic, and starting with S6E2, the emphasis was on the realism. Which was not exactly where I wanted it to be.

    That said, if you were going the realism route, I think they did it well, and plausibly, given the clues that had been sprinkled through S1-S5, and I think I understand — or at least am comfortable with my own interpretation — what happened to Martin.

  42. Post author

    I think we are actually not so far apart and that Santa’s comment that follows yours helps me make that point. Let me see if I can reconcile what we are all saying.

    When I say that it is my opinion that S6 used a significantly different tone from the previous 5 series, and that it became too morose, I do not mean that the character of Martin Ellingham should not have gone through some serious crisis moments or have to confront his own demons. Rather, I am arguing that, as Santa says, the entire series had a very different overall aura (I would say karma, but I don’t want to get back into the Buddhist thing). Santa associates this with the secondary plots, and I would agree with that too. I see it also as a marked change with the characters of Martin and Louisa. The first two to four episodes remain within the scope of what we’ve come to recognize as their usual manner of interacting. Episode 3 takes us a little out of the ordinary when the day starts with Robert Campbell being brought to their door very early in the morning and Louisa’s somewhat abnormal crankiness, followed by the return of the blood phobia, and ending with their conversation about Becky and Martin hiding his nausea. But in E4 we’re back to a relatively characteristic episode. Then we take a dive into the abyss where the world is dark and Martin stares into the void of despair. Louisa also gets beaten up — a graphic collision with a car followed by a life threatening AVM. They really went all out!

    My position is not that they shouldn’t have put Martin on a downward slope, but that they handle it in such a way as to make it unrelenting. There are no more miscommunications, few dealings with patients, the dog is gone, and any hint of humor has dropped out. As a result the comedic part of the dramedy suffers a blow that I think could have been avoided while still delivering a serious message.

    I find DM’s assessment that Martin has to reach some coherence with his identity quite appropriate. I think that is supposed to be our take-away when he admits to Louisa that he needs her help being married. He knows how to be a doctor and perform surgery. What he doesn’t know is how to be a husband and share his life with a wife.

    As Geoffrey Chaucer said, and we continue to use as an adage, “many a truth is spoken in jest,” or something along those lines. I’d like to have seen the writers, et. al. use their skills to keep the tone and still produce some very poignant moments.

    Anyway, at least we can say that we all seem to agree that the end of S6 is not all doom and gloom for them as a couple, and hooray for that.

    [I can’t let your comments about M*A*S*H go by without saying a few words about them. Sorry, I can’t help myself. I have to assume you actually watched that show. On the other hand, if you did, you know the show was not about war and peace as it was fought, but about the psychological and physical damage suffered by all the personnel involved while trying to cope with the circumstances. It was very funny, cynical, and philosophical at the same time. Surely Maxwell Q. Klinger trying to get a section 8 dismissal from the army was both hysterical and serious. There were plenty of examples of the doctors being confronted with all sorts of ethical and moral dilemmas with a chaplain who counseled them throughout. I don’t think we are comparing apples and oranges at all by using that show as an example of what I mean by maintaining the tone. But this blog is about Doc Martin and I don’t want to pursue this any more than I have.]

    Thank you for contributing again. I’d like to hear from more blog readers. Jump in here and tell us what you think!

  43. DM

    I would like to add just a couple quick points to some of the latest comments. Thank you very much waxwings for summarizing so much and directing us back to your earlier comments. I’d read them this past couple months when I was first becoming acquainted with Karen’s blog, and I’ve just read them again. I hope soon to direct you to a couple of principles and terms that encompass exactly what you describe so well. In fact many of the dots can be connected between what I think you are saying and what I think Karen is saying and reconcile them, but that is another matter. As it is, and this may be at least a part of what Karen is having difficulty with, that the problem with the every ascent is preceded by a descent type approach is that it otherwise seems either too vague or too arbitrary. It’s naturally appealing to attribute that to human nature and development, but that may be too vague to attribute it to Martin’s process. If it just seems arbitrary to pummel the main characters like that then (even assuming much character growth in between), why wouldn’t the storytellers just queue up more of the same next time? I wouldn’t watch that programme!

    Regarding Mrs. Tishell, I agree that she became painful to watch whereas once her eccentricities had been quite amusing. I had in my latest comments given my point of view explaining her devolution, but there is one more thing I’d like to add. We were given a gift- the gift of exposition by two characters we know as two “reliable narrators”, Aunt Ruth and Martin (in his medical capacity anyway), that Mrs. Tishell would not have been released had her mental condition not made a full recovery. I think we should analyse that very carefully; after all, we don’t get such expositions very often in this programme! Now it’s quite possible that she didn’t perform her follow-up consultations in the same manner she didn’t follow-up with her prescribed medications, but doesn’t her return to such lonely surroundings explain her clear return to mental issues? Well, doesn’t it? In fact, its exacerbated now that she wears this label in the village putting her further from what would benefit her most. This mirrors Martin’s handicap (in the sense of a hindrance) with grumpiness: he pushes people away with what would palliate it best. I believe that this character’s extreme devolution fulfills a bigger purpose too, as it relates to Martin (which I’ll save for later). Let’s not forget that the terms ‘fear’ and ‘phobia’ are often used interchangeably, quite erroneously. They are not the same, even in terms of degrees: a phobia is not a fear, it is the fear of a fear.

    Karen, I so remember M*A*S*H- I almost have to go back that far for a TV show I watched with any regularity (I particularly liked the middle series when they were really finding their stride). I’m not sure what all this distinction means, but- isn’t most (almost all?) of the humour of that series emanated by the characters deliberately using humour to preserve their sanity whilst insanity was all about them? The balance in the programme could thus follow the striving for balance from the characters themselves. That’s the fairly natural way we all would use it in difficult and stressful situations, which is what Freud found studying humour (Huh? Yes, Freud wrote books and articles on humour and no, I’m not confusing him with that other cigar toting bloke he’s often confused with, that’d be Groucho Marx |:[‘ ). Martin Ellingham of course lacks not only this measure of natural defence, he is mostly oblivious to any humour going on around him. This is definitely apart from just the differences between introverts and extroverts and how they deal with difficult situations (not that I’m equating Martin’s internal struggle with confronting (in)sanity either, but he did effortfully preclude all the somatic possibilities). Whatever that means- it surely suggests a different sort of challenge for Doc Martin’s writer’s to have brought some relief to S6- maybe Buddy could have been used more as the fairly reliable trickster, I don’t know (perhaps they couldn’t have him following Martin around too whilst that dark cloud was already doing so?).

  44. kjacobson@mindspring.comm Post author

    My immediate response is to say that it’s very true that both Ruth and Martin tell us that Mrs. T is no longer likely to be a concern because she’s been through treatment. That is rather impressive because both of them are doctors and Ruth is a psychiatrist with a lot of experience with patients going through therapy. The fact that Mrs. T continues to struggle with her obsession emphasizes the deficiencies of therapy, especially once patients return to the same setting in which their troubles occurred. I don’t think she necessarily is reacting to the fact that she’s alone as much as that she has so many of the same triggers for her behavior. All the same cues are there, including not having Clive around. Although some of the village has welcomed her back, there has been no effort on her part to demonstrate a change in her approach. Now that she has gone over the edge and abducted JH, her obsession is no longer funny, which is why the scene at the party when she interferes with resuscitating Caroline is so disturbing. Morwenna calls her a nutter, and that’s what she’s become.

    I think your recognition of a phobia as a fear of a fear is important. All anxiety disorders are related to a loss of control. It becomes a vicious cycle of a desire to institute control over whatever makes you fearful, and when that fails, to fear that loss of control.

    [I was in no way comparing Klinger in M*A*S*H to Martin Ellingham. The only comparison I was making was between the shows as dramedies and how serious situations can be conveyed through humor. I haven’t taken the time to come up with a good example of how that could have been done, but a few ideas come to mind. No dogs would be required, although they have previously come in handy to yell at.]

  45. Post author

    DM, I am hoping you will still give us the principles and terms that might connect the dots between many of our discussion points. I am anxious to see them. At the moment, I have to say that if the writers and others of Doc Martin wanted to stimulate conversation by the way they handled S6, they can pat themselves on the back for succeeding.

    I plan to post something soon that will be on a much lighter subject. I’m having fun looking at some materials that relate. I’m still open for suggestions. Thank you all for reading and commenting!

  46. Amy

    So much great stuff here. I tend to agree with DM and Waxwings about S6, especially having just rewatched it and finding it much less dark than I recalled—at least until the last three episodes when Margaret arrives and Martin really falls apart. I think they did have to get Martin as low as this, and I love the idea that it was a midlife sense of losing who he thought he was to become the authentic person inside, the one Louisa really loves—that it was this that brought on the return of his hemophobia, his insomnia, and his depression.

    I also greatly enjoyed the predictions for S7. I think Santa made the most accurate predictions. They did have to work together on a medical crisis with Mr Winton, Louisa did get a talking to from Aunt Ruth (about joining Martin for therapy), they did go for counseling, and Martin was the one who precipitated a final decision about whether to stay together. The only misfire she had was the prediction of Martin trying to be romantic and leading to comedic scenes. I suppose the hug that resulted in his watch being caught could be such a scene (or was intended to be), and he did bring her flowers and arrange a date at the place where they first met, but neither led to comedy.

    Karen’s predictions made me laugh—a sloppy nanny, a medical crisis for Ruth or James, scenes with James as a toddler (has that kid not yet learned to crawl if not walk by age one??), the return of Eleanor—nope. I suppose Janice was a sloppy nanny, but the others never came to be.

    I think if I have to make any bets on the future, I will put my money on Santa’s predictions! 🙂

  47. Amy

    I did forget that was in S7, but it also didn’t seem to move the story along except to keep Ruth in Portwenn. It certainly didn’t stand out in my mind as a major plot point, obviously!

  48. Post author

    The one thing it added was ME running after a loved one to convince her to stay rather than sitting immobilized in a funk.

  49. Amy

    Wow, I hadn’t thought of it that way. You think that was supposed to show some change in his personality, some evolution?

    It could be, although throughout the entire series, he has always chased after patients he thought were in danger, whether he loved them or not. He pursued Roger Fenn in S1, E2 when Roger hadn’t followed up on his recommendation to get a biopsy and he traveled out to Roger’s home to give him the results. He went running to Bobby Richard’s house when he thought he might have appendicitis. And so on all the way through each series. He was always the dutiful doctor even with patients he didn’t like.

    I guess I hadn’t thought of his pursuit of Ruth as anything different—just Martin being a zealous doctor protecting his patient. After all, his first explanation to Louisa as to why he went after her was that she was his patient, suggesting that that’s what he would do for any patient.

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