I have just recently been introduced to this show and I’ve decided to start this blog because I am convinced that the Doc Martin TV show is the most well-written and acted show about a doctor that I’ve ever seen on TV. I feel qualified to say this because I have my Ph.D in Comparative Literature with a special interest in literature and medicine (in particular psychology) and I have written about and taught this subject. Also, my husband is a physician and a great diagnostician and practiced in a small town in North Carolina. His specialty is neurology, but during his years of practice he called himself a primary care neurologist because he so frequently ended up diagnosing medical problems that were not neurological-he had to remind referring doctors to check for diabetes or blood pressure issues or recognize tumors that went unnoticed, etc. My literature and medicine background provides me with many novels and stories from many countries that contain medical developments and disorders. My personal life gives me insight into what it’s like to live with a doctor in a small town who’s the only physician who can determine the best course of treatment for many patients. Our town was not quite as small as Portwenn, but it was certainly similar in many ways. Watching Doc Martin not only reminded me of the days when we had those experiences, but also whetted my literary analytical skills. I am excited to write down my thoughts and see what others think. I love character driven shows and see Doc Martin as a cross between House and Northern Exposure, with the exception that I am much more enticed by these characters and this story line than I ever was with those shows.

94 thoughts on “About

  1. Carol

    I am so glad to find this. I live in the upstate of SC, and write Doc Martin fanfiction. I have only known about this show since March (2013), absolutely LOVE it and am very excited to get to see the posts here. Thanks for doing this!

  2. Theresa

    i just came across this blog last night and read everything you wrote. I started watching DM about a year ago and have watched all the episodes over and over again. I can’t get enough of it. Reading this blog has been an especially nice addition. Thanks so much for doing this. Your insight into the story lines is amazing . I also enjoy the comments others have written. Have you read the two books written about the series?

  3. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    Welcome to the blog. I have been working on some additional posts that I will publish soon, so keep checking. The show provides a tremendous amount of material to work with. I have not read either of the books and don’t know if I will. I read a lot and am always open to good books. Hope to hear more from you.

  4. waxwings2

    Just came across this blog site and am delighted to find you. Thank you so much for providing this intelligent forum for exploring the brilliant Doc Martin series. I feel like I’ve gone “bodmin” with the discovery! Bravo!

  5. Waxwings2

    Honored to join this intelligent community. Gobsmacked is the word the English would use to describe how I feel finding this blog spot. Gone Bodmin for sure! –waxwings2

  6. Philippa Kent

    I have been “hooked” on Doc Martin since I first saw it – which actually was NOT back in 2004 but in 2012. Have been intrigued by the character of Doc Martin himself and how he treats everyone in the village, save for the lovely Louisa Glasson. He is such an interesting character – so brusque, rude and direct for the most part but very compelling and even gentle when talking to Louisa. There are times when he looks bewildered and “lost” as when Louisa tells him she doesn’t want to see him any more. He is literally stopped in his tracks, emotionally cannot move forward nor cope with that situation. Being a brilliant diagnostician and hands-on “country doctor”, the type I grew up with in England – BUT once he is left to founder by Louisa, his world appears to shut down and bring him (and the viewer) to the edge of tears.

  7. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    Welcome to the blog, Philippa. I hope you get a chance to read our posts and join the conversation. I’m surprised to still be finding topics to write about almost a year after I first started the blog. At this point, I think I may be able to keep the blog fresh, with everyone’s help, until the next season starts and we have even more to write about. I’ll be doing my best!

  8. Maria

    Not to pressure you or anything, but….you are required to continue the blog until the next season starts (and of course, after) – how else are we supposed to survive until then??! 

    Seriously, I do hope you and everyone will continue – this is a wonderful group with such interesting and thought-provoking ideas, insights, and perspectives that make the show and the characters much richer and more rewarding. I am in awe of the amount of background knowledge and brilliant analyses represented by the posters here and often find myself thinking about themes in the posts not just in terms of the show but seeing them in real-life contexts as well.

  9. Amy

    I have just found your blog after finishing Series 7. I am now in the midst of rewatching the entire show from the beginning and am just about done with Series 3. When I started Series 7, I was at the end of Series 2, and it was quite a jolt to see how much Clunes and Catz have aged. The time span in the show itself (maybe three years, five at most?) is obviously much shorter than the time it’s taken to film and televise it.

    Anyway, your blog is wonderful, and I look forward to reading more. I hope to comment, but I know I am late to the game. I am interested in seeing what you and your readers have said about why Louisa is attracted to and loves Martin. I could see why she’d have been intrigued to start—his intelligence, the mystery, his power as a doctor. But once she knew how flawed he was and how insensitive he could be even to her, wouldn’t she have moved on? So I thought one of the more insightful lines of this past season was Dr. T’s comment that Louisa always sets Martin up for disappoint her and then pushes him away since she believes anyone she loves will disappoint her and abandon her. Is there a post or posts where you talk about this?

    Thanks for creating this blog. I wish I’d found it years ago!

  10. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    It’s so nice to know you have joined our blog community.

    I would agree that the aging of the actors is an important factor to the continuing plans for the show. They have now been carrying on for over 12 years and no one can pull off staying young for that long.

    As for discussing Louisa’s attraction to Martin…we have definitely touched on that. I wrote a post a while back that had the title “Should Martin and Louisa Stay Together?” It was followed by another post called “Ambiguity Unbound” that took up this question to some degree too. I also have some posts on Louisa that might help with how I see her. I think you would only have to search for her name to have them come up. She has definitely been given a number of personal psychological issues that would play a role in her behavior.

    If you read more of the blog, then you’ll see that I didn’t think much of the therapy sessions they included in S7, and neither did many of the readers of the blog who have worked in the field of therapy themselves. Nevertheless, there were occasional insights from Dr. T like the one you mention. The unfortunate aspect of those remarks is that there is never much follow up and, therefore, they just hang there and we are left to determine for ourselves what their purpose is. After Dr. T says that Louisa sets Martin up, we don’t see any sign that Louisa learns much from it.

    I hope this helps. I am glad to have another reader and commenter. Please write more whenever you like.

  11. Amy

    Thanks for your reply, Karen, and I will go search for those two posts. I have read the posts you wrote about the therapy sessions, and I found your post and the comments of others very interesting, especially of the two therapists who commented. I thought the therapy sessions were frustrating, and I wish they had done more to follow up on all those unanswered questions. But it is TV, and they’d have to spend a whole episode with a therapy session to do a good job. Maybe that would have been worthwhile. But it is a dramedy so…

    But Louisa and Martin did learn from those sessions and in particular from the comment I mentioned. Remember that when she is taking charge of the picnic and he wants to bring his own food, she gets annoyed and says something like, “See? You are doing what Dr. T said. You can’t give up control.” And he says something to the effect of “And you are also doing what Dr. T said.” Louisa seemed struck by the truth of it. It didn’t go any further but it made it clear that they were both processing things that the therapist had said.

    I was annoyed that the writers decided to turn Dr T into a temporary whacko and thus undermined whatever credibility she had. I think it will take a lot more therapy for Martin and Louisa to fix their issues, and if the show just has them live happily ever after based on a kidnapping event, it will be very unbelievable.

    One more season to go!

  12. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    Amy, you’re right about the therapy sessions needing to be kept brief during a TV show, but several good shows have handled sessions like these better while keeping them brief, e.g. Sopranos, River. (The show named River is available on Netflix and was recommended by another reader of this blog. I really liked the show and it’s only 6 episodes long. During the small amount of time they spend with him in therapy, they manage to bring out a huge amount about his childhood and what continues to trouble him as an adult.) It can be done!

    Your interpretation that the scene when Louisa reaches Martin’s door to begin their picnic reflects Louisa’s recollection of Dr. T’s remark that she sets Martin up for failure is different from mine. At that point, my understanding would be they were still jockeying for who would be in control. Louisa does back down and stick with her plan to go for the picnic after Martin puts away his food basket, so they are both making concessions. Then, when they arrive at the beach, Louisa insists on choosing the location for the blanket and tells Martin to sit down and relax. She is definitely making things hard for him, but to me her mission is to force him to do what she wants to do.

    I agree that it would be highly implausible for Martin and Louisa to have now decided they have solved their marital problems. I imagine there are plenty of conflicts still ahead. If they do any more therapy, I hope they come up with a better therapist and figure out a way to make the sessions more enlightening to them and to us.

    I look forward to seeing what you think about the other posts.

  13. Amy

    I will have to check out River. I’ve never heard of it.

    I wasn’t saying Louisa handled the picnic experiment well (why make him do something she knows he will hate?), but rather that she did seem to acknowledge that she was doing what Dr T said she always did: setting him up to disappoint her and then pushing him away when he did. I think she went forward with the picnic to prove she wasn’t pushing him away that time but sticking with her (admittedly stupid) plan.

    I just rewatched S3E7 when the wedding doesn’t happen. When the bridesmaid friend asks Martin to be the godfather and he looks almost touched (for Martin), Louisa ruins the moment by saying she will get him off the hook. As I rewatch, I realize how many times Louisa is the one who hurts and disappoints him whereas the first time through I focused on how Martin kept disappointing and hurting her (talking about her breath, her menstrual smells, etc.).

    I did leave two other comments, but they are buried somewhere in the other posts from two years ago. I guess no one will ever see them, but at least I get to vent!

    I’ll keep reading! Do you post in the off-years?

  14. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    I’ve seen all your comments and others will probably have too. I managed to continue writing posts during the previous two year break, but this time I’m not so sure if I have it in me. I plan to give that some deep thought.

    There are so many ways to view their relationship and its issues. I try to be as objective as possible and also like to apply some literary and filming perspectives to how the show is presented. They have generally been pretty good at giving viewers a balanced approach so that we can argue Martin is sometimes the culprit and Louisa is at other times. In S7 they have definitely weighted the blame on Louisa after putting most of it on Martin in S6.

    I forgot to say that I find your idea intriguing that Louisa’s comment to Martin that she would talk to Isobel about the godfather suggestion was Louisa interfering. She has been depicted as making assumptions about Martin and trying to “help” him with various people in the town, and he often resents it. I am thinking of the time he notices the mole on the buxom woman and Louisa says she’ll talk to her and explain. Martin is clearly offended by this and doesn’t want her to step in for him at all. The idea that Louisa would assume that Martin wouldn’t want anything to do with being associated with a baby is picked up in S4 when Louisa again assumes he won’t want to be involved with their baby. There are other emotions involved then too, like Louisa not wanting to place many expectations on him, but I can see how the writers might have found that a way to continue the approach Louisa takes toward Martin under other circumstances as well.

  15. Santa Traugott

    I thought the scene where bridesmaid asked Martin to be godfather and Louisa refused for him was a very telling one. It clearly showed that Louisa didn’t understand him as well as she thought she did; that she was prepared and expected to be disappointed in him. I think her misguided insight that he was not interested in having anything to do with children and/or normal social events, factored into her decision not to go forward with the wedding. And maybe even it got Martin thinking about how he could be happy with someone who was so quick to leap to unflattering conclusions about him, or at least, quick to misjudge him. I think that is the fascinating thing about Louisa: she has great intuitive insight into the “real” and unique Martin, and loves what she sees. But on the other hand, she constantly misunderstands and misjudges what his behavior means, and reacts badly. And she also, despite her intuition about the Peter Kronkness of him, thinks she can shape him into a more socially competent person.

  16. Amy

    I did find it jolting both in the first viewing and this time when Louisa says back to Martin that she thought she wouldn’t make him happy either. And he says somewhat sheepishly, I suppose not. Both times it struck me as odd that she would think that. It seems he hadn’t thought about it. Your comment makes me realize that maybe she was more aware of how she was hurting him than she seemed to be. Ot than I initially thought either. In those earlier seasons I always saw her as the victim; on second viewing, it seems quite different. Just like a good book, each viewing brings new facets to light.

  17. Santa Traugott

    Now I’m confused. Are you talking about the ending of the non-wedding scene? In my memory, he guesses at her reason for calling off the wedding — “I wouldn’t make you happy.” She agrees, and he says, “you wouldn’t make me happy either.” Which some have thought was just a spiteful comment to hurt her, but I believe he meant — But do I misremember, or are you thinking of a different scene?

  18. Amy

    LOL! Your memory is a LOT better than mine. I just saw that episode two days ago, and I butchered it. I think in my twisted version, I heard Martin saying what he expected her to say. That is, Martin expected Louisa to say that she wouldn’t make him happy and he knew that. The part that still shocks me is the second part—when he says, as you correctly remembered, “And you wouldn’t make me happy either.” I just found it hard to believe that he meant that.

    Thanks for correcting me, and I’m sorry for the confusion. I need a transcript. 🙂

  19. Amy

    Uch, said that backwards. Not my day. Martin expected Louisa to say he wouldn’t make her happy. I think I’d better crawl back in my hole now and just read what other people said.

  20. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    For what it’s worth, I thought his retort was hard to believe too. We have gone through this before, but for me once he had finally told Louisa he couldn’t live without her, traipsed all over the place trying to get the wedding to happen, and gotten prepared, he might have backed out, but not because he had come to the conclusion she wouldn’t make him happy. I could believe he became wary of marriage due to all the badmouthing about it throughout the period approaching the wedding, but he said he couldn’t bear to live without her just three weeks earlier. He also appears miserable whenever he thinks he’s ruined things with her. Now, just as they’re about to be married, he decides she wouldn’t make him happy? That final scene should have just left that response out. She decided he wouldn’t make her happy and he could agree with her or say he just isn’t ready. But that she wouldn’t make him happy either clunks to me.

  21. Amy

    Thanks, Karen. As I said, even watching a second time with the benefit of knowing what was to come both in that episode and afterwards, I found it very unbelievable. Maybe he’s supposed to be perceived as saying it just to make her feel better? That she isn’t the only one with concerns? But that would be so out of character for him.

    I didn’t realize until I read a post or comment here that fans generally were angry with the way that season ended. (Since I didn’t watch until after the series was past that season, I hadn’t been following fan reactions from the years before.) I remember being sad and frustrated as a viewer and for the characters, but not shocked or angry. It’s fiction—conflict has to continue. In real life they would have gotten married and then been miserable, as they are now!

  22. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    Apparently many fans hated the decision that they did not get married. I agree with you there too. The entire episode seemed to lead up to that decision and they wanted to end with some suspense. As I said in some previous post, I always thought Louisa would be back. Without Louisa there is no show.

    Another thing about thinking that Martin’s comment that Louisa wouldn’t make him happy either was an expression of some sort of true inner feeling is that thinking that means he has some insight into himself. He has never had any insight, and it’s very hard to imagine that he achieves insight just at that moment. It vanishes again almost immediately after that.

  23. Amy

    I moved out of that thread since it was getting narrower and narrower. Just wanted to say I am glad you see it similarly.

    Now I am on to Season 4. So much fun to watch these again—yay for Netflix!

  24. Santa Traugott

    (I’m replying up here because of narrowing text, hopefully not perspective.)

    I belabor this point, because I think it matters whether we interpret Martin as someone who wants Louisa at whatever price, no matter how she treats him, or whether he can anticipate that there is some discomfort in their relationship that he is not prepared to tolerate. Or, put another way, he anticipates some pain from their relationship that he needs to defend against by breaking things off. (One is relatively healthy, the latter less so. ) I think we have to give him some credit for being able to realistically assess the situation, and make the decision that he thinks is best for him, rather than just tolerate passively whatever she dishes out.

    And this theme plays as well into how we interpret the ending of S7 — my view is that he was by the end of E7, prepared to accept the inevitability of divorce, however painful that was, because the alternative was more painful — to continue in limbo and ultimately have the marriage end anyway. In other words, he is an agent in his own fate, rather than a passive victim.

    Anyway — that non-wedding episode is replete not only with dialogue and situations that make Louisa think twice, but also for Martin. In the little conversation with Mrs. Tishell at the organ, before his disastrous confrontation with the vicar, they talked about how you could know someone for years and not really know them. There’s the drycleaner conversation, where the topic was how critical his wife was, even though she knew “what I was when she married me.” And there’s the conversation with Mr. Porter, where he was forced to think about whether he would in fact make Louisa unhappy. If he made her unhappy, even unwittingly, how could her reactions to that, fail to make him unhappy in turn?

    So I’m saying that he could assess realistically, and also from fearfulness, how difficult this marriage could be for him (which, of course, it inevitably turned out to be).

  25. Amy

    I love that we can turn this over so many times and ways and see different things. Not only different from each other, but at least for me, different from what I saw before.

    I see your point, Santa. And it makes sense. But I guess I don’t see Martin as reflective enough to get there. He never listens to what the townspeople say—thinks they are all idiots. Why would he now? Yet there must have been a reason the writers put all those “warnings” into the text. Even so, I still think he was more worried about making Louisa unhappy than vice versa.

    I am looking forward to rewatching the Edith story line. I’ve forgotten much of it and am curious as to how the failure of that relationship parallels or differs from the M-L relationship’s problems.

  26. Jay

    I only discovered Doc Martin a month ago. i realize that most of these posts are several years old, but I read them to catch up on the thinking about these characters and that show. It is unique and so well done. The writing, directing, acting and editing is superb. Actually, I didn’t want to watch it at all. But I had run out of British-TV Police procedurals. I had seen the advert on Netflix for Doc Martin, but I assumed it was a quirky British comedy I probably wouldn’t like. I had no idea it came embedded with the story of Martin and Louisa.

  27. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    Welcome to the blog. Glad you enjoy the show and appreciate its composition.

  28. Jay

    What was Louisa’s reason for not marrying Martin? Several blogs I consulted take the dialog at face value and assume that Louisa’s letter says that she believes Martin wouldn’t make her happy. But Louisa never says this. Martin assumes that’s what her reasoning is. It’s Martin who finishes the sentence with “I wouldn’t make you happy.” Louisa responds with “no,” which could be taken to mean “no, you wouldn’t,” but that’s not how the line is delivered. The line, as spoken with a lilt, means “you’re wrong” (about the contents of the letter).

    Anybody know what the letter actually said? Why Louisa decided not to marry Martin?

  29. Amy

    Hi Jay, I also was a latecomer to the blog, so I know how it feels to want to exchange thoughts with someone. As for the non-wedding episode, we have no idea what the letter said except that Louisa does tell him that it says she loves him. And when he says, “But I wouldn’t make you happy,” she agrees—I think with some wistfulness, but not disagreeing. I read her “no” as agreeing that he wouldn’t make her happy, which she regrets because she loves him. Then he says, “And you wouldn’t make me happy either.” She at first seems a bit taken aback, but then agrees that she wouldn’t. That part I find less clear—both in terms of the characters and their story and in terms of her reaction. It seems it never occurred to her that he would have doubts. After all, he’d been pursuing her, in his own awkward, clumsy way, for a long time. Why would he suddenly back out? My theory has been that he felt that because she wouldn’t be happy with him, he would end up not being happy either as she would try to change him into someone who could make her happy.

    I hope that makes sense! We’ve discussed this in lots of places on the blog so you will see that others may have a different point of view.

  30. Amy

    Oh, and as for why he wouldn’t make her happy? For all the reasons everyone had been expressing during that day—that he wasn’t social, that he was no fun, that he would be a terrible father, that he didn’t like children. The first two she knew already, but the second two may have been what tipped the balance against marrying him. Of course, she was wrong—he obviously loves James Henry and is, so far, a devoted and attentive and loving father. Can she be happy with him as an antisocial person with no sense of humor but one who loves her and their son? Only time will tell….

  31. Jay

    Thanks for the insightful comments. I imagine everyone else has been down this road by now, but I just discovered the show.

    When she says “I love you. I really do. But..” and Martin finishes her sentence for her with “I wouldn’t make you happy,” Catz delivers the version of “no” that usually means disagreement with the statement (to my ear). There’s a lilt there. Louisa also shakes her head in disagreement while he makes the statement. Taken together, I think she is saying “It’s not because of that.” Another reason I feel this is a possible interpretation is that the dialog is structured to have Martin state Louisa’s reason and not having Louisa ever say it. That construction has to be intentional. So I don’t think her reason(s) include him not making her happy. There must have been some other reason (not yet revealed)–and as far as I know the letter has disappeared (unlikely to have been thrown away).
    Then we come to Martin’s response. He says “You wouldn’t make me happy either” which Louisa is surprised to hear. I don’t think she would be that surprised if she had meant a similar thing. As a result, she is “confused” by the conversation.

    I don’t believe Martin thinks that Louisa couldn’t make him happy, unless he has resigned himself to the fact that he will never be happy (which absolves her). And as to Louisa’s eventual agreement, I think that’s just facing saving. The way Catz delivers those lines suggests acquiescence and not necessarily belief. Aunt Joan said something similar, earlier in the episode, but she was just trying to put a good face on a bad situation. I don’t think she meant it either, particularly after she earlier pushed Martin in Louisa’s direction. (Sort of like Bert Large’s “it’s all for the best” regarding Mark Mylow’s girlfriend turning out to be a fraud..) Martin may think that marrying Louisa will be bad for her. Since he loves her, he makes the ultimate sacrifice.

    As I mentioned, I only stumbled on Doc Martin a few weeks ago and have binged watched it ever since. It’s the finest thing on TV in a generation IMO–at least the romance between Martin and Louisa. I also liked Endeavour which had a similar sub plot (Morse and Joan).

    For the record, my favorite line/scene is in S1E6 when Louisa says “And that’s why we love the Peter’s of this world, and that’s why we..I..I…” And she doesn’t say “love you” which she clearly wants to say. That line and the scene where they try to hold hands is perfection. The tenderness and innocence is powerful.

  32. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    For all of our efforts to consider all the ways to interpret the dialogue, we will always be subject to our own sense of what could be behind some of it. What I try to do when looking at the show is to always err on the side of what we actually see and hear. So, for me Amy’s explanation works well (until she suggests her theory, ahem). Thank you Amy!

    The only thing I could add is that no matter what exactly Louisa wrote in the letter, we know she was not planning on marrying Martin and had hoped to leave without even seeing him again. However, they both got cold feet at the same time and there he was still at home when she arrived to drop off the letter. We also overhear many of the folks helping Louisa prepare for the wedding say all sorts of negative things about Martin. Those comments irritate Louisa but also put some doubts in her mind. She leaves her cottage to have some time to think, which might be when she really wondered if she had made the best decision. Also we know that they were rushed into an early wedding date because the church was available then. In fact, as I have said previously, the entire episode is deliberately filled with omens that marriage is not likely to take place. Frankly, I was not surprised at all when it was called off even though I found Martin’s statement that she wouldn’t make him happy either incongruous.

    I hope they knew by the end of the last episode of S3 that they were going to have another series because leaving the show with that sort of disappointing ending would have been inconsistent with a dramedy. They certainly got a lot of viewers upset that the marriage was aborted despite all the indications they strewed throughout the episode.

    I think you will find many good lines in each series, and some that make us want to scratch our heads too!

  33. Amy

    LOL, Karen—I always slip into attempts to “read the minds” of these fictional characters. But in this case we do have evidence to support my “theory” that Martin believed she would make him unhappy by attempting to change him. First, we have the words of the dry cleaning man. Second, we have the scene with the grouchy minister who complained about all the mismatched couples he’d married—how they made each other miserable. And then we have Louisa hurting Martin’s feelings by assuming he wouldn’t want to be a godfather to Isabel’s child. I think he had the realization that she did not know him very well (as Mrs T’s comment suggested), that she would try and change him, and that she would make him miserable.

    Jay, I understand your reaction to how Louisa said, “No,” in response to Martin’s comment that he wouldn’t make her happy. But what other reason might she have had for calling off the wedding? She wasn’t in love with someone else, she wasn’t dying and sparing him misery, she didn’t have a job or opportunity somewhere else. I can’t think of any reason she would have called off the wedding except that she didn’t think it would work.

    Karen, you said that Louisa meant to leave the note and not see Martin again so you think we are supposed to think she left Portwenn immediately? I’ve always been troubled by the fact that she left Portwenn at all; it just seemed contrary to what we knew and know about her feelings about living there. Plus she had a responsibility to the school. But I guess the writers had the pregnancy storyline ready, and they had to get her out of town so she could come back and surprise Martin. Character consistency sacrificed to plot?

  34. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    Amy, you are absolutely right about having evidence that Martin could come to the conclusion that Louisa wouldn’t make him happy, and my own reasoning should have shown me that!!

    As for the likelihood that Louisa planned to leave immediately…All I can imagine is that the whole wedding setup with everyone waiting for them to show, and all the trouble the town had gone to for the wedding, would have made her feel embarrassed enough to want to get out of town. Plus, her typical way of dealing with difficulty is to leave. You’re right, of course, about her responsibility to the school and her attachment to Portwenn, but these are the flaws in the show’s continuity at times. Practicalities fly out the window in service of plot. This was the final episode of S3 and they could leave it unresolved and allow the viewers, if they were so inclined, to arrive at their own deductions. All we know is that we watch her back as she recedes down the hill. Can we take that as a sign that she’s turning her back on Martin and the town? I guess we have to because we know she moved to London. Exactly how and when is purposely left out, and they don’t have to tell us. They can leave it as a gap.

    I’m not sure they had already decided to bring her back pregnant, but she was definitely going to come back. I am fully convinced that without Louisa, there is no story. I am also pretty sure that Caroline Catz’s performance as Louisa ensured that. (Their claims that they never planned to make a love affair a centerpiece don’t wash with me.) Then there’s the fact that the core ensemble of characters either never leaves or always returns unless they depart for good, either through death or an actor’s decision not to be in the show anymore.

  35. Jay

    First, let me state at the outset that this is the first blog I have ever posted anything on. If my comments ever seem preachy or strident, they are not meant to be at all. And I relish the fact that the two of you have a similar interest in what I believe is a very unusual, beautifully done televised drama.

    I would mention that the “unreliable narrator” device is used frequently in Doc Martin, so I don’t take everything at face value. That doesn’t mean every line must be treated with suspicion either. Sometimes people say what they mean or at least their remarks should be interpreted that way. However, I am a non-theatrical video editor and that “no” bugs me.

    Karen, I saw an interview with Clues where he claims the romance was just something that happened and they went with it. I don’t believe it either. But Clunes was simply talking off the cuff on a morning show.

    Dominic Minghella states that “Just to be clear I always wanted the relationship between Martin and Louisa to be the heart of the show.” And of course, it’s right there, in black and white in the writing. The whole first series builds up to the “big kiss.” That’s not happenstance. In a later interview, Clunes says they didn’t realize how powerfully the love story would resonate with people. That’s probably what he meant in the first place. So, no, the idea that the love story was not going to be the centerpiece from the beginning does not wash.

    And it’s the love story that I think makes this program unique. The rest is pretty typical British TV farce (although quite good in itself). But those two, somewhat childlike, emotionally starved people looking for true love, despite all the obstacles is what gets to me. Unlike others, I want it to end so I can see how it ends. Of course, if they want to carry on for a few extra seasons, no worries…


  36. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    Jay, please don’t think there is anything problematic about your comments. I, too, am a neophyte at writing a blog and have never been moved to follow a TV show like this before. Since your comments have been associated with what I wrote about myself, you know a little about what inspired me to start this blog. As it turned out, I became much more involved with the show than I ever expected. For me the realization that the show was tightly written, using many techniques that I applaud, and explored themes and topics that I have a great deal of interest in was the true instigation. I also prefer a combination of drama and comedy.

    IMO not only was the relationship between Martin and Louisa planned to be at the heart of the show, but also there are rarely any successful TV shows that don’t involve some sort of love/marital relationship.

    Once you read more of this blog, you will discover that my position is that S7 would have been a good place to end the show. So we agree there! We shall see what they have in store for this couple now that the issue of whether they will stay together has finally been set to rest.

    Please feel free to comment anytime!

  37. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    It just occurred to me that one other problem with him saying she wouldn’t make him happy is his whole concept of happiness. We have spent so much time musing over this topic and when it comes up again, in particular when Louisa decides in S6 that she needs a break from him, he seems pretty unconvinced that happiness is a goal worth pursuing. She tells him she’s not happy and she isn’t making him happy, and he can’t understand why everyone always needs to be happy. These exchanges have always made me think they are trying to get us to engage in a philosophical contemplation about the role of happiness in our lives.

    Despite all of this, I have thought that there have been several times when Martin has appeared happy. So it is hard to know what to make of it all.

  38. Jay

    I think, from the wrap party at the end of S7, that all concerned thought that was the last episode (Ian McNeice interview), and it ends beautifully there.

    But drawing 8-10 million viewers in the UK, several spin offs, Acorn, Netflix, etc., economically, the show must go on…

    And I’m good with that.

    And yes, I think Doc Martin is a very unusual program, the likes of which I can’t ever remember seeing. I am very glad to have found this blog…


  39. Amy

    I also believe that it’s hogwash to assert that they didn’t expect the love story to become so central. When the whole draw of the first fifteen minutes of the first episode is the tension (sexual and otherwise) between Martin and Louisa, it was quite evident that this was going to be the central story and they were going to be the central characters in the show.

    Karen, you make a good point about Martin’s attitude towards happiness. Even in S7 he tells Dr T that he wants Louisa to be happy, and she responds by asking him about his own need to be happy, and he dismisses that, saying happiness is overrated. So I do think that, assuming there was any attempt by the writers to keep that characters consistent, in S3 E8, he is not really concerned about his happiness but rather Louisa’s unhappiness and what that would mean for both of them.

    Of course, I agree with you both that this is an exceptional show. I have never re-watched episodes of shows as many times as I have already watched and rewatched all the episodes of DM. I am on a break now as we are away, and I am missing it! So I am glad, Jay, that you came along to spark a new conversation about my favorite show of all time.

    And, fwiw, I was one who did not want it to end at S7—not only because I wanted more, but because I found the ending unsatisfying. None of the underlying problems they had as a couple had been resolved. Just because they said they love each other was not going to ensure a successful relationship. I want more closure—more growth in their relationship—before they sign off forever.

  40. Amy

    Karen, it looks like my most recent comment (two minutes ago) didn’t go through. Sigh….. Hope you can retrieve it!

  41. Jay

    Amy, I too think he’s thinking of her happiness when he’s sitting there, missing the wedding. He says she wouldn’t make him happy. But he loves her deeply and is making the supreme relationship sacrifice. He is so sad.

    I also would like a little more closure that you typically get with British TV (because they never know if this season is the last or not). In the case of DM, we all know. So the writers can provide it if they choose.

    I don’t think Louisa simply accepting Martin’s bad behaviors works. He has said that people can change–even he can change. It will be interesting how this all plays out. I am guessing that as good as it’s been so far, they are not likely to disappoint us.

  42. Amy

    So here’s a question: what was Martin going to say when they stepped outside the house and he starts to say, “I…,” but Louisa cuts him off and says, “I know,” kisses his cheek, and walks away? Was he going to say I’m sorry? I love you? I’ll see you around? I have to go deal with this idiot dry cleaning guy? I hope you have a good life?

    I know the writers love to leave us hanging with interrupted sentences, and I know we can’t know for sure how that sentence would have ended, but what are we supposed to think? I assume it was I love you. Just as I assume that he was going to say, “I will always love you,” when Penhale interrupted him in S3 E8.

  43. Jay

    I believe he was going to say I love you. But like Princes Leia, she knows, so he didn’t have to…
    But these are the kind of issues you get when the writers have several months to work out a single episode vs. just a week or so.

    These are the saddest two people. She wants someone to say “I love you,” to give the occasional comment “you look nice,” yet, she’s in love with a mute. He was unloved as a child and desperately seeks affection, but is terribly afraid it will go away. So fearful, he’s afraid to “go for it.” (Well, he eventually has the gumption, but how many episodes in before we get to that?) The sadness on her face and his when she tells him she loves him but doesn’t want to see him anymore is heartbreaking.

    I didn’t want to watch this program at first because I thought it was just another quirky British comedy. I think it was pitched as such, eventually re-branded as a “dramedy.” I think it is a drama with some farce elements. But the recurring theme is sadness. And giving their ability to love, their compassion, and kindness, I don’t want them to always end up in a sad place. But that’s what makes the show so wonderful.

    While I accept Dominic Minghella’s statement that the romance was always going to be the core, I also think some of the major elements that make the show so great come from the directors. editors and actors. I expect that some of this is serindipity.

  44. Amy

    Although Karen and others disagree, I agree with you, Jay, that this is more a drama with comedy elements than vice versa. What has drawn and kept people watching is the relationship between Martin and Louisa and the pain and growth each character endures as they struggle to find a way to be with each other. We ache for them both more than we laugh at or with them.

    The patient stories and slapstick of Penhale and Mrs T add levity to what would otherwise be a very hard story to watch over seven seasons (and 14 years). Over time the comedy has become less effective and at times pretty stupid (especially Penhale). Even the secondary characters have been given story lines that are more dramatic than funny (e.g. Penhale—the story line with his ex-wife was very touching and not funny at all, and I find myself rooting for him to be happy with Janice). I still find parts where I laugh, but I think that if this was a Monty Python type British comedy about a rude doctor and his stupid patients, it would never have caught on like it has.

    Somewhere on the blog is a post I wrote and that Karen graciously shared here where I describe how I fast forwarded through the entire series, watching only the scenes between Martin and Louisa and some other scenes that were pertinent to their story. The story holds together just fine without the comedic elements, but they certainly do give us a chance to breathe in between those poignant and at times painful scenes.

  45. Jay

    “a Monty Python type British comedy about a rude doctor and his stupid patients”–that’s what I thought it was going to be. That’s what the advert seems to suggest.

    I read your post and I have watched just the Martin and Louisa scenes (sometimes it’s just one of them, but it’s a scene that moves the romantic story along (Martin and Joan, Louisa and another teacher or Roger Fenn) and you are so right. The comedy makes the tragedy bearable.

  46. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    I wasn’t sure where to respond so I just picked here. I am not the authority on what to label this show; however, the entire premise is comical: a prominent surgeon in London develops a blood phobia which leads to his decision to move to the small village where his Aunt lives and where he spent some summers as a child. On top of the blood phobia, they give him many attributes associated with autism (to which Dominic Minghella also attested). All of this makes him unlikely to fit in socially and just as quirky as the various residents in the town. Apart from the core ensemble, which consists of highly quirky people except for the school headmistress, the rest of the town is filled with all sorts of odd ducks. In addition, the preponderance of acting roles Martin Clunes has had are comedic and he is considered a comedian. If that’s not a recipe for a comedy, I don’t know what is!

    Yes, they have added a number of dramatic elements and we find many serious topics that are inspired by the show. Hence, we call it a dramedy. When they get too serious, they use various means to lighten the tension. I felt many of those were missing in S6 and their effort to recover more of the comedy in S7 fell flat. But that doesn’t mean we should no longer call the show a comedy.

    I think Amy and I have very different senses of humor, and I really think my humor more closely resembles British humor. Just looking at the first few lines of Wikipedia’s definition of British humor gives you an idea of what I mean: “British humour is shaped by the relative stability of British society and carries a strong element of satire aimed at the absurdity of everyday life. Themes include the class system and sexual taboos; common techniques include puns, innuendo and intellectual jokes. A strong theme of sarcasm and self-deprecation, often with deadpan delivery, runs throughout British humour. Humour may be used to bury emotions in a way that seems insensitive to other cultures.”

    I laughed at all sorts of elements of the Penhale marriage story — he met Maggie when she was a hair stylist; she found him too moody and took up with another man (which is a different Penhale than we’ve seen); she has had some memory lapse that gives him hope that he can take advantage of her newfound attraction to him, but he is too nice to actually go through with it. His awkward efforts to keep her in town are more along the line of cautiously optimistic. Everything he does is compromised by his excessive talkativeness. His relationship with Janice is the blind leading the blind, with a little bit of marked inappropriateness due to their age difference. If they were to get into a full blown relationship, I can only imagine absurdity reigning supreme.

    Were you equally concerned about Mr. Strain, the headmaster’s, porphyria or Mr. Coley, the groundskeeper’s, mental breakdown? How about Dr. Dibbs? Or the many other characters who fall ill? It may not be Monty Python, but it comes close at times.

    Although I consider Martin’s childhood background to have been filled with disconcerting descriptions, they have done very little to interrogate that. His parents are really the only characters who inject some sense of pity and pathos into this story. I see very little that I would identify as tragedy though. That is a step too far IMO. I find much more to laugh at while watching the show than I find anything that elicits any sort of sadness from me. I was surprised and saddened when Joan died, but then the funeral was handled with such inanity, the sadness quickly fell aside. I get frustrated at times, but that’s part of the humor too.

    I feel quite certain that the show was conceived as a comedy with the added dimension of looking at the human condition with some intellectual interest and curiosity.

  47. Amy

    Yes, I guess we have a different senses of humor, though I love sarcasm and satire and puns, and those elements are often what will make me laugh in DM as well as in other contexts. I don’t see much satire in DM, but lots of sarcasm, and that often is what makes me laugh. Like when Morwenna tells the patient who is annoyed that Martin is late for her appointment because he’s at an emergency—“That’s why they call it an emergency—otherwise, it would be an appointment.” That makes me laugh every time. Or some of the sarcasm Martin dishes out to patients.

    But no, I did not find Strain or Coley or Dibbs funny, but neither did I work up any sympathy for any of them. I found them plot elements that brought, in each case, Martin and Louisa together to solve a problem or handle a crisis. They were not full fledged characters, but cartoons. I found it neither funny nor sad when any of those characters engaged in bizarre behavior. I just wanted Martin to fix them and have them go on their merry ways! I don’t like slapstick humor (a woman running on the beach because she thinks there are birds after her or a man making children clean a beach? Not funny to me) nor do I like humor that mocks people with mental or physical issues. I never laugh when Martin falls down the stairs or bangs his head.

    I do laugh at things like Martin muttering, “That’ll do,” when Morwenna passes out when she sees the needle or when Martin tells Joan “it’s not my fault” when she learns Louisa is pregnant before he can tell her and the word “fault” is misinterpreted by Joan. I laugh when Pauline teases Martin when he is about to leave for London talking about whose desk is where. So those things I find humorous. I like situational humor that casts a light on the human condition and how we treat each other and see ourselves.

    The other stuff? Not so much. Nothing in the Joe and Maggie story made me laugh; I squirmed and felt sorry for him the whole time.

    Another example—I love the satirical stuff done by SNL during the campaign and since, but much of the humor on the rest of the show I find boring and sophomoric.

    And that is just another example of what makes us all different. Karen, I have no doubt that if we met in person, we’d find we both would laugh and cry about many of the same things!

  48. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    Well at least you and I agree on SNL! I miss the many actors who developed their own characters who would reappear from time to time to do very funny bits. You know, Eddie Murphy, Billy Crystal, etc.

    I bet we would have some good laughs, and even maybe feel some of the same sadness on occasion.

  49. Jay

    Unlike American TV (which I don’t watch much of any more), Clunes and the other main characters don’t milk the jokes. They are (for American ears I suppose) quite subtle. The scene with Louisa and Martin eating dinner at his place is classic. As I’m sure you will recall, this is after the proposal. Martin stuck his foot in it for her using a pinch of salt. Louisa is unsure if she should stay. Martin says “Of course, there’s apple and cheese afterward.” Then he figures out what “stay the night” means and offers Louisa the salt shaker.

    I actually like him hitting his head all the time, particularly when he’s distracted by Louisa. The night they drank wine, he really banged it (and had a massive hangover to boot).

    I am curious about how this all ends. I believe they will handle it correctly. I don’t expect Martin will undergo a Road to Damascus event, but he might. And I don’t think Louisa can really accept him be “unusual.” That would be dull. So it will be interesting to see where this goes.

    I am so impressed with the writing and direction (and editing). In the early episodes, Louisa’s biological clock is ticking. She never says that directly, but a few phrases here and there suggest it. She works with and really likes children. And his hobby is clock repair. Very subtle. And not a spoken word about it.

    The emotional range of these two actors continues to amaze. Louis is ecstatic at school telling everyone about her engagement, and so sad and heartbroken at other times. Clunes goes from mean to heartbroken with similar ease. Both are authentic and totally honest in their portrayals of these characters (at least for the serious bits). When, in the car (S1E6) she tries to tell Martin she loves him, and you can hear her voice tighten. It doesn’t get any more real than that. I rank her saying “Martin” up there with Laura Petrie’s “Oh Rob.” (RIP MTM).

    And Karen, in the admin tools, you can see why I liked the baby’s name (but would have preferred Martin’s choice).

  50. Amy

    The dinner scene you describe, Jay, is another example of a scene that I find humorous. I also love the scene with Martin, Louisa, and the midwife. When the midwife says, “He’s a man,” with disdain, and Louisa responds, “No, he’s not,” and Martin says, “Yes, I am”—makes me laugh each time. So it’s not that I don’t find humor in the show. Plenty. But it’s mostly the wordplay and situational/relationship stuff, not the more slapstick or absurdist stuff.

    I agree with your views on their acting and on S1E6; it is probably the pivotal episode in the whole series because that’s when Louisa gets her first real glimpse into the real Martin hidden beneath the gruff, monosyllabic, rude exterior and loves what she sees. The ambulance ride is one of my favorite scenes. And, of course, the scene in the taxi. Every time I’ve watched it I dread when Martin starts discussing her breath. I want to just yell at him to stop before it’s too late! But, of course, without that, we’d have had closure and probably the end of the whole series.

    Jay, what are the admin tools? Is there a part of this blog I’ve yet to discover??

  51. Jay

    After watching Series 7 a couple of times, I think I’m going to end it there. That episode had enough closure for me, and although I think they will handle the final two seasons properly, I’m OK with S7E8 as the ending.

    In looking back on why I liked this series so much, I would have to say the writing. Of course the actors, directors, editors, producers came together and created something really special, but “in the beginning was the word,” as they say.

  52. Jay

    I finally got a chance to watch Martin Clunes in the original Doc Martin movie. I couldn’t make myself watch the whole thing. More of a Lifetime M-F-TV movie to me. None of the fine dramatic acting skills of the real Doc Martin. Ditto for Caroline Catz. Saw her in Murder in Suburbia and again none of the things she brings to Doc Martin are there. Pretty drab, actually. Catz in the first couple of episodes plays Louisa all over the map. Clunes also seems to have trouble finding the right tone for his character. But by the last episode, they have it nailed.

    In S1E6, Clunes easy manner as Martin explains his “blood issue” in the ambulance shows he’s got it. Catz’s Louisa glaring and plotting revenge in a 2 second bit when she realizes Dr. Pitts trashed her guy is subtle and priceless. Their court and spark scene in the taxi, as unsure of their feelings as school kids is brilliant and magical.

    Supposedly, the original Doc Martin movie was to be turned into a series at Sky TV, but the project folded. Clunes and Braithwaite took it to ITV who made them rejigger the characters into the Doc Martin we now have.

    But the script for the first season had to be written before the first scene was shot, before the actors found their voices, so I give Dominic Minghella the extra spoonful of credit for creating and guiding the program.

  53. Santa Traugott

    Chiming in here because I’m interested in the question of whether Martin Ellingham has any desire, himself, to be happy, or whether he “just” wants Louisa to be happy, as he told Dr. Timoney.

    I think actually that he does want happiness, however he defines it, for himself, and that at points, he has been quite conflicted about whether that is possible for him with Louisa, much as he adores her.

    I believe him when he told Louisa “you wouldn’t make me happy either” for all the reasons Amy laid out above. He may also have had a moment of insight into his own difficulties in tolerating closeness, even with Louisa.

    And it seems to me that both were correct — he didn’t make her happy, and she didn’t make him happy either. Neither of them, at the end of S6, wanted to go back to “the way things were.”

    Then there is the very ambiguous comment at the last scene in S7. where he first tells her that “I’m never going to change the way I feel about you” and then “I’ve tried, I’ve really tried.” He’s tried to do what? Conceivably, he’s tried to resolve the situation by denying his feelings for her, to get back to a state where if he’s not precisely happy, he at least is not miserable and tormented by yearning for her. So it would be another sign of trying to take care of himself.

    But the point I really want to make here is that by the end of S7, what had really changed, was Martin’s ability to accept himself as he is, even if that meant losing Louisa. I think he came to the conclusion that if she couldn’t love him as he was, and would only be happy if he changed, a lot, that his best alternative, for his own well-being, was to accept that the marriage was over, and begin to talk with Louisa about arrangements for James, “and everything.” He was not going to keep trying to revive a failed relationship.

    To me, that was a healthy decision, and while it may not have been opting for “happiness” per se, it was a pretty clear-eyed choice of a path that would be best for his own well-being.

  54. Jay


    Interesting take.

    My feeling is that, as a result of his childhood, I don’t think Martin ever believed that happiness would ever be in the cards for him. I don’t think he even has happiness as a goal. He loves Louisa, but does not have the emotional IQ to translate his feelings for her into normal behaviors. In many ways, Martin is emotionally a child. I think that’s one reason Louisa, who works with and loves children, is attracted to him. She does criticize him for being “childish” and does occasionally talk to him like he’s a child.

    It is Joan, not Martin, who first raises the “she wouldn’t make you happy” trope. Martin argues with her about that, claiming even he can change.

    And I think it’s significant that it’s Martin who finishes Louisa’s sentence, assuming that she doesn’t want to marry him because he wouldn’t make her happy. Louisa never says this. Martin assumes. Louisa says no in a funny way while shaking her head. That’s at least ambiguous.

    As I mentioned in an earlier post, I don’t necessarily believe Martin when he says she wouldn’t make him happy either. I see him as doing the gentlemanly thing and taking the blame. Louisa can hardly believe him, and adopts a face saving “No, I suppose I wouldn’t” response which does not sound convincing in the least. I do think he loves her enough to let her go, knowing that she would be miserable with him. It’s a very unselfish act.

    I didn’t quite follow your thinking about the end of S7. I took his “really tried” comment to mean he’s tried to put her out of his mind and tried to deny his feelings but that didn’t work. Which is the scenic way of saying “I really love you.” It’s really Louisa who figures out that she’s made a “terrible mistake,” obsessing about everyone having to be “normal” when they are not normal. I take that to mean she’s accepted that he is “unusual” and will never be the stereotypical husband she’s always wanted. She accepts that at the end of S7. So I don’t think it’s about Martin changing but Louisa accepting the fact that he’s not going to change.

  55. Jay

    What about Louisa?
    She is a single professional woman in her mid 30s. She went off to London for a university education and has friends from uni. She had a fling with Danny, who’s also a professional (architect). She loves and wants to live in the village she grew up in. But her prospects in Portwenn are not great. Martin is the only university-education male in the town, as far as I can tell. He’s an accomplished professional, moral, stable (stick of rock). As a school girl, she always wanted to marry a doctor. So when a single doctor about her age moves to the village, it’s not unexpected that she would at least seek him out. She reveals she is worried about what she’s doing with her life.

    Despite his personality quirks, Louisa is tremendously impressed with his abilities as a doctor. She sees first hand how he saves the lives of children and others. I think she fell in love with him in the ambulance when he saved Peter.

    And she wants him to be a normal boyfriend and, eventually, a normal husband, but he’s not normal. He almost never says “I love you” unless drunk or prompted. She’s expecting “I love you” after the passionate kissing in the taxi. Instead, he tells her she has bad breath. He brings her flowers someone left at the surgery and gives her snoring strips. He thinks she’s emotional at the concert because she’s getting her period. That’s the last straw. But later, when he saves Holly’s life, she tells him he’s an “extraordinary man.” She’s sad they can’t be together. And she literally jumps at his proposal. When he fails to put the ring on her finger, she does it herself. That should have been a clue.

    She is so happy to finally be engaged (and to get to use the “fiance” word at last). But the wedding doesn’t happen (yet) and there are the various separations. But Louisa eventually realizes in S7 that he will never be the normal husband she’s been waiting for.

    What about Martin?
    Martin is emotionally crippled from his upbringing. He’s resigned to loneliness–living alone, eating alone, totally absorbed in his work. Then he meets Louisa, a single, very attractive, moral, professional woman and falls madly in love. He may have actually loved Edith previously–that’s unclear. But he’s head over heels for Louisa. Louisa is everything he isn’t–vivacious, pretty, outgoing. But he does not have the emotional equipment to deal with her. He knows he always says the wrong thing. And fails to say the right things. He can change, but he knows he will never change enough to be normal. He’s not made that way.

    They are, to use Joan’s words, “chalk and cheese.” And they both have to accept that kind of a relationship or not have one at all. James Henry means, given their moral compasses, they at least have to try, and try very hard. At the end of S7, they decide to accept the “chalk and cheese” their relationship is going to be.


  56. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    Jay, it is very nice to have you commenting on the blog, but you really need to look back at previous posts. We have discussed so many of the thoughts you have: Louisa and her circumstances; whether Louisa and Martin should stay together; the many times when their relationship has been at stake, etc., etc. In fact, I would say we have had so many conversations about these and other topics that my blog has reached saturation point about them.

    The show is built on the conflict between Martin and Louisa and how often their feelings for each other pull them apart and then reunite them. In a previous post I noted that without conflict, there is no plot. That is simply a tenet of good writing. In another post I discussed at length how important ambiguity is in writing, especially in writing for the screen.

    The only thing I would say about your dialogue with Santa about happiness and how it is addressed in the show is that the writers, et. al. have left that purposely ambiguous. I like to think that is a sign of good writing even though there is a part of me that also thinks they never gave it as much thought as you and Santa have. I have several posts on happiness, however, and that concept certainly has been emphasized in this show. Santa has been a long time contributor and reader of this blog, and I know she is aware of all of those posts. My sense is that their grappling with the importance of happiness matters to many people, including Santa, or she wouldn’t feel like discussing it again. As I’ve written before, happiness is a very complex topic with much philosophical and psychological significance. What it means in this show has not been easy to pin down, and that’s probably deliberate. They are exploring many serious topics without coming down strongly on a particular side. It gives us much to think about, which is why this is the one time I felt like starting a blog!

  57. Santa Traugott

    Jay — I think we are in agreement about what the ambiguous statement “I’ve tried” might mean — he’s tried to deny his feelings for her, but that doesn’t work. (Although, it could mean — I’ve tried to work hard at being what you want but that just makes things worse.)

    My point about Martin is basically that I think it is probably a mistake to think of him as someone who is so overwhelmed by his feelings for Louisa that he is unwilling or unable to think for himself of what would make him “happy” or at least, which state does he prefer: possibly being unhappily married to her, or being unhappy without her. I think he’s NOT willing to have her at any price, at least by the end of S7. So I am granting him some agency here, with respect to Louisa. And actually, that may be different at the end of S7 that it was at the end of S5.

    Do I think he always makes the right or healthy choice? No, it doesn’t. But I do think he had got to a place at the end of S7 where he felt he could go on alone if necessary. I have always felt (prejudiced rant) that no one is ready to be married who is not also ready to be alone. And that’s the place he got to (as I see it, anyway).

  58. Amy

    I have written my views on the last scene of S7 E8 elsewhere so won’t rehash what I’ve said about what Martin means when he says he’s tried (though I agree with Jay and Santa that he meant tried to change his feelings,, not tried to change himself).

    But I do want to say that I agree with Santa that Martin was not willing to be with Louisa at any price. I think that’s why he had decided not to show up at the wedding in S3. If he had had the same conversation with Louisa in a scene where it appeared that he was going to show up at the church but she wasn’t, I think it would be easier to say he was not concerned about his own happiness when he said, “You wouldn’t make me happy either,” but was just saving face. But he had made that decision not to get married, and even if it was only because he knew he couldn’t make Louisa happy without becoming something other than himself, it was still true that he didn’t think he’d be happy if only because he’d fail to make her happy. So he was making a choice there, not just reacting to her decision.

    Similarly in S7: I agree with Santa that he was ready to end the marriage because, again, he thought he couldn’t make her happy without becoming something he didn’t want to be or something he couldn’t be. She was the one who wanted to give it one more try, although I believe Martin was happy that she wanted to. But I think at the end of S7 E7, beginning of S7 E8, Martin believes that the marriage was over unless Louisa could accept his eccentricities and flaws. Did he still love her? Yes, but he did not want to go back to the pain both he and she endured in S6. When she indicates in the last scene that she is willing to accept him as he is (or at least she thinks she can), he is more than willing to try again.

    We will have to see what the writers cook up for them in S8…

  59. elle

    Thank you Jay. I enjoy reading your input and perspective. As far as Martin’s happiness, the show does address this over and over again. It is their ultimate pursuit in this respect, can Martin have a relationship with Louisa. Can he love and connect to his child. Can Martin pursue marriage with Louisa and will it succeed? I don’t think there is any ambiguity in the storytelling in that regard.
    As far as what Martin wanted at the end of S7 and ignoring the clumsy writing. he told Ruth he wanted the whole bloody mess over with in an earlier episode. He was still in that place that he wasn’t “very good at it.”
    More than tiresome, it was becoming messier and he was losing all will. This is where the writing falls apart a little and the reasons for it are up for debate.

  60. elle

    I agree, Jay, in the scene where Louisa gives him the letter and is interrupted. I read it exactly as you.
    I am still unconvinced on the subject of Martin’s words to her in their last scene of 7. What did he mean and
    how does it fit. I have another theory but that is for another time.

  61. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    You are being very mysterious! I’d love to learn what your theory is. Please feel free to share it with us!

  62. Dre Flitcraft

    Hello. I only recently found out about Doc Martin and have watched all the series through over the past few months. Echoing others here, this is one of the best things I have ever seen on television. I found this blog last week and am impressed by the intelligence of the posts and comments. I hope no one minds if I share some opinions. I am looking forward to season eight, though with a new season of Doc Martin, Bojack Horseman, and Poldark all happening this Fall, I don’t know how I will be able to stand having my gut kicked in and my heart ripped out so many times before the Solstice.

    To join in on the discussion of what do they mean when they say what they say at the ends of season 3 and season 7, one thing that is hard for writers and actors to get right is realistic speech patterns. Too often the script is written too obviously and is delivered with too much precision. That is partly a requirement of the medium, the need to tell the audience what is going on in the characters minds. Natural speech is not like that, there are slips of the tongue, elisions, changes of subject, interruptions, non sequiturs, mumbles, and often what is communicated, if anything, has more to do with context and non-verbal cues that the actual words. When a performance can make a good representation of natural speech and still convey the rational and emotional state of the characters, that is brilliant. I think we have that throughout this show but especially in these two pivotal scenes.

    I found these two concluding scenes to be emotionally powerful and fine story telling because the characters engage in real conversation, not speach making. The ambiguity and incompleteness of the words, as evidenced by the the considerable amount of discussion here, feels natural, but the perfect (as always with these two) acting tells us everything we need to know even if not everything we want to know.

    In S3E7, the final scene is bracketed by two conversational interruptions, at the start he interrupts her with “I know” when she is about to tell him the contents of the letter. That leads to his “I wouldn’t make you happy; you wouldn’t make me happy either” comment. There has been plenty of dicussion here about what he means by the second part. I get the sense that he does not really mean the second part, that that is not what he has been thinking. I also don’t think he says it to be kind to her by taking some of the blame, though I do have some sympathy with that point of view. I feel that that is something I might do in my better moments. But I am not him and no one ever gets to live in their better moments. My take is that he does not really have words to say what he feels at this moment so he says, without intention, that second part because is just what symmetrically follows the first part. This discombobulates them both, and they descend into a squabble about who would have been the aggrieved party had they hadn’t both not shown up, which is shut down by the arrival of the dry cleaner. She leaves; he runs after her, “Louisa…” Again, he does not really have words to say. Perhaps all he really wants is for her to turn around. She does and interrupts him with her own “I know…”, a kiss on the cheek, “see you around” then walks away. The bracketing with each “I know” is poetic irony because they don’t know. We, the audience, understand what has happened on an emotional level just as they do, but we can’t know on a rational level any more than they can. Great story-telling, even if it is not the story we want to hear.

    In S7E8, the final scene is set up by the encounter at the Wilton farm. The hostage situation device is tedious and I did not like the “On the Edge” episode at all. But this time it is really effective. In a role-reversal, she comes to rescue him. After Penhale bumbles, she come right to the door and insists to see her husband. I think we could mine some rich meaning from Annie’s “you better come in then” response. The things Annie says to Lousia seems to do more to open her eyes than the sessions with Dr. Timony. Her refusal to leave as part of Martin’s deal with Annie–despite the hilarious fact that Penhale already has the drop on the Wiltons–shows again a commitment to him on her part, and that happens again when she insists on not being left behind at the farm. His easy acceptance in both these instances signals his change, too. But, on to the final scene…

    After Martin’s very natural, “yes, I don’t know, OK, yes, I don’t know” response to Ruth, he joins Louisa on the hillside in what might be the most secure together alone time we have ever seen them have. She starts the conversation with a congratulations, then about what just happened but quickly changes the subject to what is normal or rather her misplaced expectaions and now finally they are talking about themselves. Neither is really sure where this is headed, but it is starting to feel better. We, the audience, are now starting to sense that this will turn out well. What follows is her declaration that he is the only one who has never let her down, which is rubbish isn’t it, he has let her down so many times. But it feels truer in the moment for her to say that than for her to more accurately say that the ways in which he has always been there for her, though few, mean much more than all those other disappointments. Her delivery and his brief but thoughtful responses sound like the way people really talk to each other. It is not as though she had been sitting there preparing a speach to him, but rather that she has been searching her soul and when she starts talking the dam breaks and it all spills out.

    He responds–perfectly for once–that he will never change how he feels about her. That is what she has always needed to hear and she says so, though not in those exact words. (We also needed to hear it.) Then comes “I’ve tried, I’ve really tried, but it just makes things worse”, its meaning has been debated here extensively. It does makes sense semantically, psychologically, and plot-wise that he means he has tried to stop loving her but that does not help. It also makes sense that he means that he has tried to change the way he is but can’t seem to do that right. Neither interpretation quite works for me. With all due respect to the literal meaning of the script, the performance is what matters. I heard this as three non-sequiturs: he will never stop loving her; he has tried changing; he keeps making things worse. It is possible that he formed a coherent three part statement on the spot to explain where he is in his heart in response to her free confession of where she is in her heart, but I think it more likely and more natural that on the walk up the hill he has not been preparing a speach to her either but has been searching his soul, too. Her confession moves him, his dam breaks, and these are the words that come out. His thoughts did not need to be expressed precisely; just expressing those thoughts in any form was enough. Our understanding of their emotional situation is better, our feeling of it deeper, despite or perhaps because of imprecision of the words.

    The kiss and “I love you” exchange is beautiful. Even so, the most powerful and meaningful moment precedes that when she says “can we go home now.” Simple words. It means more than can we leave this place and go back to Port Wenn, to the surgery. It even means more than let’s go there together. It is not even about a place. Though they have lived together, it was not like a home, as in “where the heart is.” He has never had a home. Living with his parents would have been nothing like a home. When he lived with Aunt Joan it would have been too brief and uncertain to be a true home. His flat in London, just a flat in London. Port Wenn is her hometown and she belongs in the community, but that is not enough. Her childhood home with her parents, though more affectionate than his, did not give her the security she needed. She is not asking him to return to something. She is telling him that they can make that something together.

  63. Santa Traugott

    Bravo – or Brava — as the case may be.

    I love your explanations. And especially the last paragraph.

  64. Amy

    Beautifully stated, Dre. I also love what you’ve said, and it all rings true on that emotional level, even if the literal text doesn’t necessarily align with those emotions, as you said.

    I hope you will stick around as Series 8 begins. Karen, what is the protocol around here with respect to spoilers? I understand that ITV will start showing Series 8 on September 20 and Acorn will start the following day, but PBS won’t be broadcasting in the US until early 2018. Do you wait for PBS broadcasts before having discussions about the new episodes?

  65. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    First, I want to thank you for joining our conversation and for taking the time to comment with such deep insight. I agree that adding the actors’ choices on how to play a scene is something we have overlooked and deserves to be included. After all, they interpret the scene too, and I have heard directors say that they needed to adjust their own ideas of a scene once they saw how the actors chose to play it. Last year I heard Viola Davis tell a story about Denzel Washington directing the film Fences and being unhappy with how she chose to play a scene. He stopped the action and said, “What are you doing?” After that they shot the scene again with her changing her approach. So, yes, the actors contribute in significant ways and have a great influence on how the words come out. The directors add their interpretations too, and we don’t know how many times they shot the scene until they were all happy with it. In the end, the words on the page are not as important as their gist.

    Thank you for adding that dimension to our discussion. I like how you viewed these scenes too, although I must say that if we have to do so much parsing, something was amiss with the writing OR they included a little too much ambiguity.

    I am very much in agreement with your emphasis on Louisa asking Martin if they can go home now. For me, she is saying I am ready to make a home with you now after keeping you out of the house for too long. Throughout series 7 they made a point of him wanting to come back to live with Louisa and James, and Louisa saying not yet. This scene is when she finally invites him back in. Between her determination to find him, to not leave without him, and then to invite him back home with her, we have the conclusion of the main thrust of the series (and, to me, the show). Of course, their expression of love for each other adds the affection we’ve all wanted to see.

    I hope you will continue to read this blog and add your thoughts.

  66. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    Amy, your question about protocol is hard to answer because I haven’t been faced with this dilemma before. Acorn has never shown the new episodes immediately after the ones appearing on iTV in the past and we all had to wait until Acorn showed them several months later or depend on pirated copies of the episodes. I am a subscriber to Acorn and have access to the episodes a day late this year. As you know, the Facebook site is called a “spoilers” site and they will be discussing the episodes before I do, albeit in a much simpler way. Since what we do here is more analysis than recap, I tend to wait until I have processed what I see. There are times when I think it’s better to wait until we are a few episodes in to write my reaction.

    You may already know that you can sign up for a free trial of Acorn that I think lasts a month. If you do that right before Doc Martin starts, you would get the first 4 episodes free.

    I am not sure what I’ll be doing at the moment. There are more important things in my life right now than watching and analyzing this show. I have kept the blog open and hope to find things to say at some point. Please be patient with me and we’ll work together on how to proceed.

  67. Santa Traugott

    I think it is pretty easy to find ways to watch each episode within a day or two, some of more dubious propriety than others. In any case, though I could be wrong, I don’t anticipate there really being much to chew over, or really spoil. Are the relationships between Al and Morwenna, or Janice and Penhale, of such interest that we would all feel very disappointed to learn anything about them in advance? Maybe for others, I guess, but not for me. I think Karen is right: “Can we go home now” is in some real sense, the conclusion of the series. It will be hard to get worked up about another story line, at least immediately.

    On thinking more about Dre’s post, I want to react to one thing, and that is, the interpretation of the last conversation of S3E7. My own interpretation is that Martin had some sense that being married to Louisa was going to very challenging for both of them — that they had some incompatibilities and perhaps he had some inkling of his relationship difficulties. Living with anyone else after a long time as a bachelor, partiicularly a messy and disorganized someone, who clearly was dissatisfied with some aspects of his character and probably expected him to change — well, I think he saw trouble ahead, too. That I think is the meaning of the scene with the drycleaner, who sketched it all out for him: “she knew what I was when she married me.” So I think he was acknowledging that he knew they were incompatible, and he was as likely to suffer from it as she.

    You could even say that what S6 was about was the actual playing out of that forecast. They didn’t make each other happy, not even close, and they had no idea how to fix things.

    The promo pieces for S8 are all saying something like, “now that THEY (emphasis added) have finally decided to try to make a go of their marriage….” The implication to me is that we’re intended to think that NEITHER of them was very seriously committed to their marriage. I can agree that Louisa has always had one foot out the door, but Martin? I think he was serious about wanting to make a go of his marriage, but completely flummoxed about how to go about it. Or maybe he actually was contemplating that it would be better for him to leave the marriage — certainly by the end of S7, we see him thinking about this. But I can’t think that’s right about S5 or S6.

  68. Amy

    Thanks, Karen. I, for one, do not like to have stories spoiled before I watch or read. (I am not in the Spoilers group, just a separate group that is specifically a NO spoilers group). I already have heard a few things, but overall even for the minor characters, I prefer to watch without advance information. Whenever a movie trailer reveals a joke or important scene in a movie, I find that the impact on seeing the movie is far diminished.

    We’ve discussed before (probably many times) whether the show should have ended after S7. I am happy it didn’t because I found the ending of S7 to be more of a beginning than an ending. For me, watching how they develop the relationship now will, I hope, be interesting and probably amusing and touching.

    As for S3E7, what Santa and Dre said make sense to me. I’ve also always thought that one of the main reasons Louisa got cold feet was her fears, based on what Pauline and Roger said in her house, about Martin as a father. Would he even want children? Would he be a good father? Her assumption that he would not want to be a godfather to Isobel’s baby was, I think, supposed to foreshadow her decision to call off the wedding. And Martin’s face when she tells him she will get him off the hook reveals his own disappointment that she assumed he wouldn’t want to be a godparent, let alone a parent. His reaction when Isobel asked him to serve as godfather was positive; he looked flattered and touched. Then Louisa burst the bubble, just as she assumed he wouldn’t want to be involved when she was pregnant.

    Of course, there was more to it than that, but I do think that the writers intended that to be the most important reason she was backing out of the wedding. And I agree—Martin backed up because he worried he wouldn’t make her happy, not because he thought she wouldn’t make him happy. After all, he’s the one who said, “Why does everyone always have to be happy all the time?”

  69. Santa Traugott

    I’m perfectly happy not to discuss anything that might be a spoiler for S8. I think here we mainly talk about themes, which aren’t likely to emerge immediately for particular plot lines or episodes. But I do second Karen’s suggestion of AcornTV, which is going to show each episode one day later than it is broadcast in the UK. and actually has a lot to offer in the way of British TV (including Australia and I think maybe Canada).

  70. Dre Flitcraft

    Thank you all for the kind welcome. Conversation with open minded people is one of life’s true pleasures.

    Regarding S3E7, I don’t disagree at all with Santa’s and Amy’s responses. The are many things going on in each of their heads that cause them each to back out. The won’t make each other happy bit was just a way to get out of a difficult situation without causing more hurt. That almost did not work as they began to descend into the squabble–talking past each other typically–about the humiliation of being stood up in the church. The main thing is they were just not ready for it. They didn’t know each other or themselves well enough. As it turns out it takes four more seasons…at least.

    The paradox that makes this show so interesting for me is that they might be the only ones who could make each other happy. Not the romantic soulmates cliche, but that on some level the are well suited, compatible in a unique way that would not be possible with anyone else. The only time we have ever seen Martin happy is in her dream at the start of season two and I don’t think this is meant to be a wish fulfillment fantasy but a subconscious recognition of something fundamental in their connection. And right, happiness is not important to him, or so he says, but she makes him feel something that no one else does and it is not simply physical attraction. What they are finding out, what we are being shown, is that they bring something more important, something better than happiness to each other. There is more to this and I am thinking about a post to put onto Should They Stay Together, some aspects might apply to Being Moral, too. Be patient, I will get around to it.

    I think that the end of season seven is a beginning not an end for their story. If there were no more seasons, it would have been a satisfying conclusion especially how well it was performed. A conventional love story would stop there. This is not a conventional love story, is it? More significant than the promise of a home (I struggled the last sentence of my other post whether she is saying they “can make a home” or if “should”, “must”, or “will” was the right point) is her admission that she is not normal either. That is some hard won self awareness. I think from the start her attraction to him was based on a not-yet-conscious sense that she would not be fulfilled in a happy relationship with some ordinary dude and with her own damage maybe not capable of that anyway. It must be painful to strip away those illusions and it probably leaves scars. Even though they now know that this is what they really want, it will take work, just like real relationships. Anyway, I am hoping that is where season eight goes.

    I have an Acorn subscription, but given my schedule, I likely won’t watch season eight until November. I’ll likely read here anyway despite risk of spoilers. Besides the performance means more to me than the plot. I do like Morwenna and Al. They seem to be mirroring the uniquely suited for each other motif.

  71. Amy

    Dre, what you said about them being right for each other rings so true to me. They both have trust issues, and I think that Louisa senses that vulnerability in Martin almost from the beginning—certainly after the Peter Cronk episode—that no one else except Aunt Joan gets to see. She is drawn to him because she knows he has a good soul that’s been damaged, although she doesn’t understand how he got that way and so often can’t understand why he acts the way he does. I think he’s drawn to her because, as Lou Grant said, she has spunk. Like him (although not as extreme), she has a tough outside that he sees on the plane and at the interview. I think he sees someone who also is vulnerable but acting tough. And I agree—Louisa would be bored with a “normal” guy. She had no interest in Mark Mylow or even in Danny—both of whom have far more social grace than Martin.

    So they are both intrigued by the mystery of each other from the get-go. But they also each have serious issue with trust and communication, Louisa less so that Martin, but enough to make it very hard for her to open up to him completely or to accept his rude remarks as nothing more than his awkwardness. If she could have laughed when he told her that her breath was bad and responded with, “Well, you don’t smell too good either,” perhaps that whole interaction would have ended differently.

    But then they wouldn’t be Martin and Louisa, we wouldn’t be intrigued by their story, and the show would have lasted one season!

  72. Santa Traugott

    There used to be a theory (maybe still is) in couples therapy that both people in a relationship are usually at approximately the same level of emotional dysfunction. Since Doc Martin writers and producers allegedly had the services of a couples therapist, perhaps they fed that piece into the mix. I don’t think that Louisa’s character was initially portrayed as dysfunctional as she turned out to be.

    Another piece of the theory is that people are pretty well tuned into (not necessarily consciously) finding a mate that complements and compensates for their particular dysfunction. So someone with say, abandonment issues, might intuitively recognize someone who above all, will never abandon her. And someone who is emotionally extremely repressed and shy might be greatly attracted to someone who has access to her own feelings, and provides some warmth and even drama in his life. . So they mesh well, and their attraction to each other is pretty sticky. This basic meshing is more important than most incompatibilities, but it took our couple 4 more series after their non-wedding, to realize it.

    This is not to say that people don’t sometimes get fooled, or that some kinds of incompatibilities don’t turn out to be deal-breakers in the end. I think that latter possibility was always teased to us, in the series.

  73. Santa Traugott

    I should add that all of this “meshing” is not necessarily all to the good — someone with abandonment issues might find him or herself in a relationship with someone who will abandon them, and someone who is repressed may find himself with someone who will help him keep the lid on. My point is, that people (again allegedly) have a radar for what emotional makeup will best suit their needs, whether their needs are more or less healthy, or in the nature of “repetition compulsions.”

  74. Amy

    That’s all very interesting, Santa. When I was a teen, I was always drawn to boys who were not very nice—cool, tough, sarcastic types. Fortunately I married someone who was nothing like that. I’ve always wondered why I was drawn to such jerks, but in the end was smart enough to find someone with whom I am definitely more suited. So maybe my more adult radar was better attuned to my needs than my adolescent radar!

  75. Santa Traugott

    I’ve been thinking a bit more about Dre’s post., especially this part: “The ambiguity and incompleteness of the words, as evidenced by the the considerable amount of discussion here, feels natural, but the perfect (as always with these two) acting tells us everything we need to know even if not everything we want to know.”

    This is a slippery thought, but let me try: Martin Clunes perfectly acts Martin Ellingham as someone who is deeply in love with Louisa, but baffled and frustrated by his inability to relate to her in satisfying ways. He portrays “lovelorn” perfectly. We know that he is deeply tempted by London, and even perhaps to a certain extent by Edith, but Clunes’ portray of Doc Martin leads us to trust that his love for Louisa will prevail.

    But the acting is almost too good. I think it leads us to underestimate the degree to which Martin is internally conflicted about his feelings/relationship with Louisa. We know that Louisa is conflicted, and exhibits a lot of “push-pull” behavior (or as a recent article put it, she’s his “short-suffering wife.”) But perhaps Martin has some agency with respect to this relationship too — he’s not solely the helpless victim of his passion. He portrays this so well that many of us struggle to parse these ambiguous comments. Could he possibly mean that he has reservations about whether Louisa could make him happy? Could he possibly mean that he has internally struggled to stop loving Louisa? Could he possibly be really having doubts about his marriage (in S6) even before his mother shows up?

    So I’m thinking that Martin is more complex and more interesting than merely lovelorn and clumsy and unskilled in expressing and dealing with it. He’s very drawn to Louisa, for excellent reasons (because I think she’s actually very good for him and at some level he senses this) but he also has deep reservations and conflicts about being in a relationship with her, (also justifiably, because she hasn’t been, to this point, very reliable) and it is this conflict that comes out in these ambiguous conversations which are so difficult to parse. And I think perhaps it comes out in his otherwise inexplicable behavior in S6, where essentially he breaks down because he can’t deal any longer with the demands of this relationship — demands which he has perhaps always suspected were going to be too much for him.

    So all of this is brought on by thinking about what could possibly be meant by all the publicity formulations of their past relationship, i.e., that THIS time, in S8, they’re REALLY going to try to make a go of their marriage. The question that comes to my mind is, you mean they weren’t really trying in S6 ? or S5? I can see this for Louisa — that she has decided to stick around and work out the difficulties in their marriage, instead of mentally always having one foot out the door — but wasn’t Martin merely the helpless victim of his own inadequacy, but always in there trying? Well, maybe not. Maybe, instead of dealing with the conflicts internally in his feelings about Louisa and their marriage, he just withdrew. And this time, he’s going to make a real effort to be present in their marriage, and deal with the inevitable discomforts, instead of withdrawing.

    In sum: Martin Clunes’ acting may portray helpless love so well, that we have trouble crediting the idea that he too has deep reservations about being with Louisa, and that this internal conflict is what comes out in these ambiguous conversations.

    Of course, as always, we are putting our own spin on character analysis, probably far beyond what the writers intended.

  76. Amy

    This is such an interesting observation, and I’ve been mulling it over for a while. It makes me wonder whether Caroline Catz hasn’t done a better job of acting than MC. She does convey so well how much she loves and wants him while also conveying all her doubts and insecurities. We believe that she actually doubts his love, not just whether they can be happy together. She is always so relieved and surprised when he expresses affection in any way whether by words or actions.

    MC, on the other hand, does not convey his doubts very well even when the words lead in that direction. Perhaps the two best instances of that are the non-wedding ending (most of us are shocked when he says she wouldn’t make him happy) and the scene in S6 where Louisa asks him first whether it’s the house that’s making him unhappy (Is it too small, she asks) and when he says, “I don’t know,” she follows up very timidly with, “Is it me?” and we believe she is really worried that it is. He responds with what appears to be an emphatic and unequivocal “no,” but her reaction is, “You don’t seem very sure.”

    I’ve always found that response troubling because, to my ears and eyes, Martin was very sure when he said, “No.” But CC’s face and line convey her doubts. Did MC not deliver the line the way it should have been delivered, given her response? Or is Louisa really supposed to be that insecure that even when Martin clearly said No, it’s not you, that she doesn’t hear it that way?

    Santa, your comment does make me wonder whether MC is just not doing as good a job conveying the doubts Martin is having as CC does in conveying the doubts that Louisa has been having. On the other hand, he does convey Martin’s love for Louisa very effectively from S1 on, more so than CC conveys Louisa’s love for Martin. But maybe that’s because Louisa is always doubting whether Martin is right for her.

  77. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    It probably won’t surprise you at all to have me say that my view is that you are spinning the character analysis way more than the writers or actors have. One telling interview with MC that I saw on Facebook was the one with the man from a Cornwall program. At the end he wants to quiz MC on the various actors who have appeared on shows with him. One of the first names he mentions is Tristan Sturrock and Martin mentions that he was in Saving Grace and then in Doc Martin, but he can’t remember the character he plays in DM. I was taken aback by that because there’s a whole history with Tristan and his character has last appeared in S7 as an intruder in their marriage. If he doesn’t remember Danny very well, then doesn’t that say that we are way more invested in these characters than he is?

    I would maintain that when he prepares for his role in each series, he reenters the psyche of Martin Ellingham insofar as he has internalized it after this many series, but that he isn’t really looking at the show in a global manner. That is to say, he isn’t reminding himself of how he approached the character in series 2 or 4 or 6 when he performs in 7, but we are.

    I think Caroline Catz does try to make her character more congruent with previous series, although perhaps the director may sometimes advise her to perform a certain way even if she might have done it differently. Since Louisa is the more passionate and emotional of the two, we see her react in much more demonstrative ways. It’s almost like Martin is the straightman for Caroline, and that makes him subtly comedic or dramatic and her more overtly so.

    We have enjoyed the act of analyzing everything, but we still need to recognize that we do all of this knowing it’s beyond what they do in practice.

  78. Amy

    Oh but Karen, we are having so much fun! Please don’t take away our toys even if they are just toys! 🙂

    I also think this is a new twist—thinking about how the actors play the lines as opposed to assuming they are playing the lines as the writers intended. I find that to be for me a new and different perspective on some of the more perplexing scenes we’ve tried to analyze from solely the perspective of the writers’ intentions in choosing certain words. At least for me, to think of it as also a product of an actor’s intentions or skills (and the director’s intentions and skills) adds a different layer.

    Now I will ponder not only why the writers chose, e.g, to have Louisa say, “You don’t sound very sure,” after Martin had sounded quite sure, but whether MC just played the line too emphatically instead of hesitantly or whether the director just wasn’t being alert to the coming line of dialogue.

  79. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    So many facets that contribute to the final product. Last night during the Emmys and when I watch other interviews I notice that the actors often give a lot of credit to the writing and also the directors. We really shouldn’t forget them!

    I am having fun on the blog too, don’t worry.

  80. Santa Traugott

    That Martin forgot who Tristan Sturrock played surprises me some, but not greatly. I think MC approaches his acting basically as a craft. When he”s not actually acting, he reverts back very quickly to being Martin Clunes. While he’s intensely invested in whatever he’s acting in the moment, when it’s over, it’s over, and probably a lot healthier that way. He’s like a good cabinetmaker, who’s proud of his craft and his skill and puts his all into it, but once the piece is made, he can drop tools and walk away. He’s the exact opposite of Daniel Day Lewis, e.g., who allegedly, while he was filming Lincoln, insisted through the entire filming, that no one approach him or engage him EXCEPT in his character of Lincoln.

    But to your larger point, that we are probably reading far more into the character and dialogue than the creators intended, and that’s not really legitimate criticism — (maybe I am misunderstanding you here) —
    I think tbat’s probably one pole of a long-standing debate about what makes for good “interpretation.”

    I think what we are talking about here is how we, the audience, make meaning out of what is shown to us. To me, the process of actively working to make sense out of something is part of what makes something pleasing and worth investing time in. So in that sense, it really doesn’t matter what the writers or directors or actors intended; it’s whether I (or you, or other viewers) can finish the interpretation in a way that makes sense to them, and to me, that’s what makes something esthetically appealing. But maybe I’m a little OCD myself — I don’t like loose ends or ambiguity very much. I have to keep working at something until I “get it”. Don’t you think that perhaps that’s REALLY what the writers, etc., intended — that the audience needs to work for the meaning, because that’s part of the hook? I suspect there’s a post to be written (someday) on “the limits of interpretation.”

    I think, BTW, that directors play a huge role in what we see on screen. They have to have an idea of what the scene is supposed to convey, and set up the shots and even sometimes coach the actors to make sure that’s what’s happening. Ben Bolt was lead director in S1-S5, and Nigel Cole has been lead director since then. I think we can feel a difference.

  81. Amy

    I agree with Santa. Part of why I can keep watching the episodes over and over is that each time I notice a slightly different facet to the way the stories are being told. Sometimes it’s a word I missed, but more often it’s an inflection, a facial expression, or an overlap in the stories and themes that I missed on earlier viewings. After reading Dre and Santa’s posts about how the actors may color the way the words were written (or the directors for that matter), I am now looking for the inconsistencies between the text and how the actors perform it.

    As with any work of art, we the viewers/readers/listeners bring to it our own perspectives and experiences. If it didn’t move us in some way, it would not be effective as art. So as Santa said, we the audience have a legitimate role in interpretation, even if it’s beyond what was intended by the artists. I’ve heard/read many authors say that it doesn’t really matter, for example, whether a novel is in truth autobiographical because the “truth” is something deeper, and it comes in part from what the reader brings to the text and gets out of the text.

  82. Dre Flitcraft

    Don’t forget the film editors and the director’s role in editing. The actors and crews might do many takes on each shot and never know what will end up on the screen. The editors and directors put together what the audience ultimately sees.

    It is absolutely correct that the audience interpretation is an essential element in expression of art. Art, by definition, is not possible without it. In figurative art this is known as the beholder’s share. Great art has both shares in abundance and balance. We all see and feel the Mona Lisa’s smile differently; David’s hands, Guernica, the Night Watch. Some people are moved by Pollock and Rothko and some people think their four-year-old could do that. Performance and cinematic art have a viewer’s share. We are sharing our own viewer’s share of this show with each other. And, yes, I do mean to say that Doc Martin is art. Maybe not on the level of Casablanca or King Lear, but we would not be doing this if it was merely entertainment for us.

    Coming back to the ambiguity allowed by the natural speech patterns in the script and of Martin Clunes’s constrained portrayal, Santa’s observations about Martin in her post of Sept. 18 make sense to me and I can see how that would affect one’s response especially to events in season six and expectations for season eight. My interpretation if different, though, I do sense the lovelorn helplessness, but I feel it shaded by trepidation. I am certain that is because the performance resonates with my relationship experiences. In particular, one time I fell hard for a girl though at the time I knew it would not work out. Looking back, I know I sabotaged it with the ways I protecting myself from the hurt that I feared. Self fulfilling prophecy, right? So, I don’t find his actions in season six inexplicable, certainly wrong, but I get how despite his love for her he might shut down like that. My sabotaging actions were nothing like his–I am not much like he is at all–but I still relate to it because his performance gives enough clues to his state of mind and heart with enough room for us to fill in the blanks with interpretations from our own experience and mode of perception.

    A specific instance is the scene in season six that Amy mentions. I heard his quick response to her question if she is the cause of the problem not as an emphatic and unequivocal “no”, but rather as a perfunctory “no” meant to avoid the question he could not and did not want to answer. So her response felt right to me and made real sense as her dawning recognition that their marriage was failing. Amy, I think, might have heard it as her insecurities clashing with his attempt to be reassuring and causing yet more miscommunication or, as she said above, a scene that did not quite work right. Is one of us right and the other wrong, no, we saw the scene through different eyes. I do suspect that that difference would affect how we feel about the rest of season six and about her actions in season seven.

    Caroline Catz, on the other hand, portrays so many emotions, subtly and clearly, very fluidly even within single shots, that we do not have to fill in the blanks about how she feels. What is left more open to interpretation is the why of her feelings. I think this is what makes the character so appealing and yet so frustrating. Her attraction to Martin is more complex than his to her. I have great sympathy for Louisa because that knowing why aspect resonates with the significant successful relationship in my life. I don’t think she has one foot out the door so much as she does not have an easy, conventional narrative of why she wants to be with him to fall back on when things get tough. Her growth in season seven, or maybe it was her seeing his growth, got her to the point of letting go of the need for that conventional narrative.

    So to me, season six is his wake up call and season seven plays out his realization that that he must try to let go of his counterproductive defensive behaviors. Season seven is Louisa’s wake up call. She had to accept that her feelings for him are because of his unusual nature not despite it. She cannot have the exceptional man without his difficult personality. Their connection is real, they just have to recognize it on its own terms. Trying is not enough if you don’t know what you are trying to do.

    Regarding season eight, I trust these actors.

  83. Amy

    Ah, I have so many reactions to your comments, Dre, that I don’t know where to begin!

    So is CC a better actor than MC because we know her emotions better, or is MC doing exactly what he needs to do because his character doesn’t know his own emotions or hides them better than Louisa is supposed to?

    You have made me wonder what it is about my own relationship history that makes me so fascinated by these two and their relationship. Why do I react, for example, differently from you to the way Martin said, “No.” Is it because I tend to be so straightforward myself and trust that others are as well? I need to ponder this more—but it gives me much food for thought. I’ve read lots of books and seen lots of plays, movies, and television shows about love and marriage and relationships. What makes this one resonate so much for me? How does my personality and my life affect my response to the show?

    I love your last paragraph and how you capsulized Series 6 and 7 in terms of the different revelations and turning points for Martin and for Louisa. That also merits more thought. I need more time to contemplate all this than I have today, but I will think about it more, and I hope that others will respond as well.

    Thanks, Dre, for your insightful comments!

  84. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    I’m replying here because my comment will relate to some of the things Santa writes. In my post titled “Ambiguity” that was originally published in 2014, one of the things I wrote is that professors read novels as if they are a box, self-contained and limited to what is written by the author, and other readers often receive the novel as if it’s a keyhole through which all we see is a limited amount of the story. They then consider it the reader’s prerogative to fill in what’s not shown. Furthermore, what often happens is that readers only care about the story and the characters while professors of literature think more about what the intent of the story is and what its context is.

    I have also noted that although Doc Martin, and some other well written TV shows, are meant to entertain, I was motivated to write a blog about this show because of how it lent itself to literary analysis in my mind. Therefore, even though this is a TV show, and that encompasses qualities that one does not find in literature, I wanted to apply my training to the writing and composing of this show.

    Now we find ourselves digging deep in order to suggest all sorts of ideas that could explain the movement of the show and its development.

    I think it’s time I suggest anyone interested check out a book called How To Read Literature Like A Professor by Thomas C. Foster, a professor of English at the University of Michigan-Flint (a matter that might be exciting to Santa). It was first published in 2003 and then revised in 2014. Santa has sometimes asked if there is a formula writers follow. Foster reveals some of that with the caveat that no sooner do we come up with certain expectations than writers deliberately undercut them. At any rate, there is much that can be outlined by professional readers/teachers of literature and Foster does a good job of revealing the steps.

    In his “Introduction” he has this to say: “The professor…has acquired over the years the use of a certain ‘language of reading’…What I’m talking about is a grammar of literature, a set of conventions and patterns, codes, and rules, that we learn to employ in dealing with a piece of writing…Stories and novels have a very large set of conventions: types of characters, plot rhythms, chapter structures, point-of-view limitations…Plays, too…” He goes on to say: “Lay readers…respond first of all, and sometimes only, to their reading on an emotional level…When an English professor reads, on the other hand, he will accept the affective response level of the story, but a lot of his attention will be engaged by other elements of the novel…Memory. Symbol. Pattern. These are the three items that, more than any other, separate the professorial reader from the rest of the crowd.” He notes that this can be a curse, and I would agree.

    Every effort to advance a new idea is worth some thought as long as the proposals stay within the parameters of the words and intentions of the book, or play (or TV show). What we have been doing here is sizing up each idea and trying to decide whether it helps us see something we hadn’t seen before, despite knowing that we will never know for sure whether we’re right. Every Ph.D dissertation is written with an argument in mind that can be substantiated by all sorts of sources, although we can never know for sure that the writer had this idea in mind. As long as the contention flies, and one’s committee is convinced, you’re golden!

  85. elle

    I think, Amy, Dre wasn’t suggesting one actor better than the other. Rather, the actor’s performance reflects the character’s state of mind. Their approach or method is probably very different, as well. MC describes how each of them approach a scene a little differently. He, in the moment, and she “looking for the truth” and I have wondered if that causes them difficulty. Does it stifle a performer that is “in the moment” to the other that is “looking for the truth” in the scene. I think it can but these two performers have made it work and rather successfully!

    I apologize for going a little off topic. Very insightful comments.

  86. Dre Flitcraft

    Karen, thank you for the recommendation. I will ad that to my reading list. Would you prefer that we take the discussion of the scripts, acting, directing, and our interpretation of such to the Ambiguity thread? That seems appropriate given the content there. The original topic here seems to be why you started this blog and your interest in applying literary criticism to television. On that subject, I would be interested to hear your thoughts on serial television in the Internet age as compared to the serial novels of the 19th and 20th centuries. A new installment of a Dicken’s novel would have been as big an event in that time as a new season of Game of Thrones or Downton Abbey or a new Harry Potter movie–maybe even bigger given the more limited options of the day. Obviously there were not blogs then, but there must have been reading circles and other correspondences.

    Amy and Elle, yeah, I was not saying that either actor is better than the other, just trying to say that their portrayals create (brilliantly) different essences for the two characters.

  87. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    Dre, there are actually several posts where I tried to apply some conventions of story writing to the show. In addition to the “Ambiguity” post, there’s one on Dramedy, and another on Doc Martin and Folktales, one on Jack Lothian and writing called Writers and Actors, another on The Formula and where it fails, then there’s Essential Elements of Story and The Importance of Story. It’s really hard to say where to place this discussion amongst those others.

    Perhaps what I should do now is begin a new post that attempts to address some of the questions you raise about serial novels. It’s the beginning of a new series; why not begin a new discussion?

    It’s fun to think about these ideas!

  88. Dale Marie

    I just discovered this blog recently even thought I have watched DM for years and have rewatched all the episodes several times. I am such a DM fan that I am subscribing to Acorn TV so that I can see Series 8 now.

    I am interested in discussing some of the issues which have come up in S8. I am particularly interested in the recurring themes about happiness and Martin wanting Louisa to be happy. In S7 E2 Martin told Dr. Timoney “I want my wife to be happy”. This seemed most important to him especially as he also told Dr. T that he thought he was to blame for L’s unhappiness.

    There are other themes I am interested in seeing discussed but I don’t want want to say anymore and be a spoiler if you are not yet ready to blog on S8.

  89. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    Hello Dale! As it turns out I am about to write some new posts and one of them will be about the theme of happiness recurring in this series. There are other ideas for posts too that I plan to write about soon. I was waiting for the series to start and to have a chance to think about what they have come up with for S8.

    I don’t know if you have checked out all the posts I’ve written over the years about happiness, but I have addressed that numerous times. My thoughts so far for this series will be somewhat different, but still draw from my previous posts to some degree.

    Please subscribe to the blog and comment any time you like. I think that now that Acorn is issuing the new episodes only a day after they appear in UK, we can start discussing them. Anyone who is unhappy with that is welcome to check back at a later date. I don’t want to spoil anyone’s enjoyment of the show; however, many of us will have started watching it already and will be prepared to offer some thoughts. Thanks for joining the conversation!!

  90. Dale Marie

    Hi Karen,
    Thank you for your reply. I have read all the blog entries and I know that you have diuscussed happiness but I mentioned it because it seems to be a recurring theme again in this series. I am looking forward to the discussion especially your and Santa’s analysis of Martin behavior regarding Louisa exploring a new career path. He says he us support if it makes her happy but he seems a bit threatened and he also seems to be undermining her.

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