Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Doc Martin Episode Eight – Departure: Martin Clunes and Caroline Catz shine in the final instalment of Series Six SPOILERS!!

In my review of last week’s Doc Martin, I claimed that it was my favourite episode yet due to the fact that it focused on the core group of characters. That feeling is definitely carried over to this week’s instalment, which essentially continues last week’s story involving the deterioration of Martin and Louisa’s marriage. Indeed, tonight goes further to look at why Martin is such an obstinate character and how the return of his mother has brought back a lot of his childhood anxieties.

It is indeed these anxieties that are plaguing Martin when we rejoin him as he is checking his heart-rate to see what is truly wrong with him. As Martin is a man of science rather than one of feelings, he doesn’t understand that his troubles are to do with Louisa leaving for Spain. Martin is being even more short with his patients than normal and his problems means that he gives a woman a rabies injection when she’s come in complaining of a headache. It’s up to Ruth to give her nephew some advice, telling him he has to change if he’s to ever win back Louisa. In addition, Ruth blames Martin’s childhood as she feels he was raised by a remote father and a cold mother neither of whom nurtured his abilities. Ruth feels that if he’s never going to open up to his wife then he should simply let her go. Instead, Martin tries to turn over a new leaf, but first he has to deal with his mother. Martin finally confronts Margaret over her reasons for coming to visit and she initially claims that she doesn’t want to leave Martin on bad terms, just like his father did. However, when she talks about Martin’s father deathbed repentance, he realises she’s lying as his father’s speech would’ve been slurred following his stroke. Eventually Margaret comes clean, asking to borrow money from Martin as she has been left with little capital following his father’s death. In that moment, Martin realises where all of his problems stem from and he kicks his mother out of the house without giving her a penny.

After getting rid of Margaret, Martin’s next move was to book a trip to Spain but predictably he began to get frustrated with the automated booking line. While on hold, Martin received the results of Louisa’s latest scan and spotted an unseen malformation. Realising that Louisa could suffer a serious brain haemorrhage if she were to get on the plane, Martin attempts to stop her leaving. But, when Louisa receives the phone call, she believes Martin is simply trying to win her back and puts the phone down. Martin then crashes his car and has to enlist the services of Penhale who escorts him to the airport in his police van. Meanwhile, Louisa’s condition appears to be getting worse as she forgets she’s holding her boarding pass and continues to suffer with a throbbing headache. This isn’t helped when Louisa runs into Margaret at the airport and chastises her for not being there for her son. Though Martin eventually arrives at the airport, it may be too late to save Louisa.

Elsewhere, Portwenn is preparing for a party and Bert tries to rope Al into helping him set up the electrics. But Al has other things on his mind, namely his latest business idea which involves offering holidays to fishermen. Al’s idea is to use Ruth’s farm as B&B, as it has an adjoining lake that the fishermen could use in the day. The only problem is that Al bungles his pitch and mislays the figures that Ruth wants to see, though Ruth doesn’t give Al an answer straight away he feels like he’s blown it. Al finds consolation with Morwenna and there is a slight hint that their bond could go beyond friendship at some point. Meanwhile, and rather predictably, the electrics blow at the party, causing one town member to be electrocuted. And, because Martin is on his way to the airport at this point, Al and Morwenna have to save a life and in doing so become the heroes of the hour.

Having now watched one full series of Doc Martin, I can definitely say that the series is at its best when it focuses purely on the primary set of characters. I was personally getting sick of tired of the patient of the week scenario and am glad that these final two episodes have focused on why Martin acts like he does. I really felt tonight that I got to know the character and understood that his reserved nature is due to his unhappy childhood. Jack Lothian’s script was well-balanced between Martin and Louisa’s troubles and the rest of the villagers enjoying their party. For once the subplot, this week involving Al, was itself fairly engaging and I was willing Al to finally strike out on his own. In fact I only had a couple of issues with the plot; one being the well-worn set piece of the faulty electrics leading to an electrocution and other being the convenient meeting between Louisa and Margaret at the airport. Apart from those minor niggles, I would say that this was probably the best-written episode of the series to the extent that even Penhale didn’t annoy met that much.

As well as great script, all of the cast were on the top of their game. Martin Clunes was absolutely amazing as he portrayed Martin’s attempt to change his personality. I’m glad that Clunes only gave us a hint of what we can expect from Martin and he and Louisa’s tearful final conversation was a joy to watch. Similarly, Caroline Catz’s performance in this episode was stunning and she really made you worry about Louisa’s health. Both actors share great chemistry and throughout the instalment I was just hoping that Martin and Louisa could sort their issues out. Elsewhere Eileen Atkins was on form as usual while Claire Bloom’s cold performance of Margaret was absolutely perfectly judged and I’m sure she’ll return to cause problems in the near future.

Overall, this was a well-written and well-played final instalment of series six of Doc Martin. The script wrapped up some long-running plots while at the same time gave us some stories to look forward to if the show does indeed return. At this stage, it looks series seven will feature Martin’s attempt to change his personality in order to save his marriage, but what’s the betting that he has trouble adjusting to being kind to those around him?