DVD: Doc Martin – Season 5 (2011)

February 18, 2014 | By

Film: Very Good

DVD Transfer: Very Good

DVD Extras: Very Good

Label: Acorn

Region: 1 (NTSC)

Released: June 5, 2012

Genre: Comedy / TV / Britcom

Synopsis: Things get a little darker for Doc Martin as he becomes a father, and Mrs. Tishell’s respect for his brilliance swerves into mounting obsession.

Special Features (spread out over Discs 1 & 2): 8 behind-the-scenes featurettes (56:00) – “On the Director, Ben Bolt” + “Port Isaac and Tourists” + “Working with Martin Clunes” + “On the Doc character” + “The Characters” + “On the Location” + “In Other Countries” +  “About Season 5” / Interview with editor Nicholas McPhee (2:30) / Motion Photo Gallery / 4 Cast Filmographies.

 

 

Review:

The big challenge for the team of Doc Martin’s writers, directors, and producers is whether the long absence between Seasons 4 and 5 hasn’t affected their ability to get back into the groove of Britain’s most straightforward doctor, and whether Doc Martin may have overstayed his natural creative arc to the point of caricature.

The initial delay between seasons stemmed from a complex series of issues involving cast members being engaged with other work; and whether it was best to simply call it a day, and let what’s been already done stand proudly on its own. To mount another season so late after the end of the last was a challenge, but perhaps the decision to go ahead with a new set of 8 episodes was due to the show having such a strong fan base, and foreign stations maybe reminding the producers how much everyone would gain – financially, in popularity, and peace of mind knowing they’ve hushed fans with a new season of episodes.

8 is not a big number in North American terms, and the seasonal episodes have hovered between the 7-9 limits because there’s just no need to go any farther. Season 3 had in fact 2 dud episodes, whereas Season 4 was fine at 8, ending with an typical series imbalance: although Louisa and Martin didn’t tie the marital knot, she gave birth to their son James, making the grumpiest man in the commonwealth a Da.

No sooner does Doc Martin enjoy a momentum of glee in seeing his own spawn does he spot a flaw in the newborn, thereby upsetting Louisa, and ending the season are their relationship in another stalemate.

Season 5 does bring the two back to a happier place, but the tone of the new series is much more serious, owning in part to the death of Martin’s aunt Joan, the only woman who knew how to handle his moods and motivate him to do the right thing. Actress Stephanie Cole hadn’t died, but either due to scheduling or a lack of interest, she was written out, and her sister Ruth (Eileen Atkins) arrives to handle the estate, and deciding to stay in Port Wenn because she wants a change of location from loud London, where she’s been a busy criminal psychiatrist, analyzing the noggins of disturbed nitwits.

In place of Doc Martin’s able secretary Pauline (Katherin Parkinson) comes newcomer Morwenna Newcross (Jessica Ransom), who handles herself well in spite of gumming up her first, second, and third days on the job.

The pleasant surprise is the effective balance the writers managed to create by getting serious with Doc Martin’s difficulty with people again – he’s more sincere in his awkwardness and less funny than before – and creating the beginnings of a supportive relationship with aunt Ruth when he pushes Louisa to the limit with his meticulously chauvinistic and selfish demands, and sends her packing back to her own cottage again.

Weighing options outside of Port Wenn, the good doctor must stay put for a few months in part because his successor ended up having her own set of medically complex issues, and proved inept in managing the healthcare of the town. His ultimate plans are still to take a position on London, but whether Louisa and son James Henry will join is left to the end.

Bert Large (Ian McNeice) and son Al (Joe Absolom) have their own problems, chiefly tied to money and honor, which becomes more complex when a loan shark enters the picture, and Al spends too much time as Ruth’s invaluable farm manager and all-around handyman. PC Penhale (John Marquez) has his own story arc when his amnesiac wife pops into town, and fans of Martin Clunes’ prior series William & Mary (2003-2005) will applaud with delight as Mrs. Penhale is played by co-star Julie Graham.

Louisa’s mum Eleanor (Louise Jameson) also drops into town to help her daughter when not trying to chase down a business lead, and Mrs. Tishell’s (Selina Cadell) juvenile crush on Doc Martin goes into high gear for the season finale, forcing the good doctor to confront his true feelings about himself (being an occasional idiot) and Louisa (whom he should marry once and for all).

If there’s any flaw in the season, it’s its brevity, or the decision to leave several loose ends. In the case of Mrs. Tishell, her obsession was due to bad self-medicating, so undoubtedly she’ll return with her emotions in control in Season 6.

The real unknown is whether aunt Ruth and Martin will have a few sincere talks about his past, and how he’ll cope with marriage since the writers can’t possibly have the two breaking up every two episodes.

Acorn’s 2-disc set spreads out a series of featurettes addressing pretty much all aspects of the series, and although a lot of material is repeated in differently themed segments (not to mention footage of 3 scenes being filmed), the most interesting bits touch upon Port Isaac as a kind of full-time tourist and production town (only 10% of its residents are permanent), and the international spin-off series in Germany, France, Spain, and possibly Russia. Every one seems to agree the German variant is the most “spooky” – same scripts translated into German, same music, and same angles and sets – and there’s also some illuminating comments on Doc Martin’s first appearance in the film Saving Grace and two teleplays, and the decision to transform the genial fish-out-of-water Dr. Bamford into the people-loathing Doc Martin.

 

 

© 2014 Mark R. Hasan

 

External References:

IMDB Soundtrack Album —Album Review — Composer Filmography — Composer Interview

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Category: Articles, Blu-ray / DVD Film Review

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