DVD: Doc Martin – Season 2 (2005) + Christmas Special (2006)

February 12, 2014 | By

Film: Excellent

DVD Transfer: Very Good

DVD Extras: Standard

Label: Momentum Pictures (U.K.)

Region: 2 (PAL)

Released: April 3, 2006

Genre: Comedy / TV / Britcom

Synopsis: In spite of his unwavering rudeness, Dr. Martin Ellingham struggles with his growing affection for the village’s leading schoolteacher.

Special Features: Disc 2 – 2005 Behind-the-scenes ITV Special (46:44)

 

 

Review:

If Season 1 served to introduce the core characters of Portwenn, then Season 2 had two major goals: give everyone their own unique story arc, and add a foil to Doc Martin’s efforts to woo (well, as best as his rigid manner can) schoolteacher Louisa Glassen.

In a quirk that’s befitting of British film and TV, actors who played together sometimes reconnect in another production, even if their roles are significantly different. Case in point is actor Tristan Sturrock, who played Dr. Martin Bamford’s friend Harvey in the film Saving Grace(2000), then appeared in the 2003 TV movies as Harvey the fisherman, and re-emerged as Louisa’s past love Danny Steel, a facile, born-again Christian but professional London-based architect who returns to Portwenn to whisk his aging mother to a seniors’ home when her senility worsens, drum up some local business since things have dried up in the big city, and rekindle old feelings with Louisa.

Paralleling these exploits are several other relationships integral to the stability of Portwenn: P.C. Mylow falls for a pretty blonde named Julie Mitchell (Angeline Ball), a mysterious woman determined to have a love child; Al Large has doubts to his father’s biological links; and the town may be incorrect in believing talk radio host Caroline Bosman is becoming a reckless drunk, now that her marriage is toast and her behaviour is becoming erratic on air and off.

Of major importance is the introduction of Pauline Lamb (Katherine Parkinson), Elaine Denham’s cousin who takes over the surgery’s reception duties, and is beautifully adept at punctuating Martin’s rants with a few simple words or an sardonic vocal tone. She slowly develops a relationship with Al Large, and her character is set up as a smart woman wanting to constantly upgrade her skill sets and become a professional career women, and transcend
her lower-class background. The sole area wherein she never feels compelled to improve his her Corrie fashion sense, which is blazingly garish under any lighting scheme.

Directly affecting Martin’s efforts to ‘be kinder’ to Louisa and finally connect are the hospitalization of Peter Cronk’s asthmatic mother Joy (Mary Woodvine), which has poor Peter being bounced between the homes of each adult; and P.C. Mylow’s disastrous forest bachelor party, which has Martin trekking through the woods in search of the snake-bitten constable, a lost Al Large, and forest ranger Stewart, who’s a little too trigger happy as he hunts poachers.

Of greater significance to the series is the arrival of Martin’s horrid parents. Titled “Family Way,” father Christopher (John Woodvine) has come to extract unpaid moneies from his sister Joan, whereas mother Margaret (Claire Bloom) delivers a singularly cruel speech to Martin that explains to viewers why he has such undernourished social skills. It’s a bitterly funny and painfully tragic episode, and Clunes is at his strongest is conveying an adult’s valiant effort to remain dignified and strong when the monster that dented his psyche resides in his own mother. Bloom’s performance is very quiet, and her dry dialogue delivery is appropriately nasty, whereas Woodvine plays a loathsome, selfish philanderer with a giddy, drunken verve.

Martin’s aunt Joan also experiences another shock when neighbour Phil Pratt (Roger Lloyd-Pack) accuses Martin of neglecting his medical responsibilities and letting his wife Helen die of a heart attack. Bent on revenge, a vindictive Phil is determined to ruin Joan’s crops and threaten her organic grower’s license. As revealed in the episode “Family Way,” Joan is the only person who knew Martin as a child, and defends him (most of the time) when some of the locals would like to see any public humiliation of Doc Martin prolonged for an eternity.

Even though Season 2 runs 2 episodes longer, the emphasis is on conflict and resolution, as well as pushing Martin and Louisa a bit closer to some kind of nascent relationship. The season finale gives both characters a moment of personal confessions, but the end scene doesn’t go as well as expected.

 

The 2006 Christmas Special

The divide between the two would-be lovers grows deeper in what’s sometimes referred to as Episode 9, aka “Doc Martin: On the Edge,” which was a feature-length TV movie put together as a Christmas special to keep fans happy while the innards of Season 3 were being contractually and creatively worked out.

Some of the supporting cast make token appearances, and while it doesn’t resolve anything between Martin and Louisa, it does introduce her father Terry Glasson (Kenneth Cranham), a ne’er to well who returns to Portwenn still loathed by the locals for a crime they believe he committed long ago.

Terry is joined by a friend named Jonathan (Chris O’Dowd), whose decision to stay off Lithium brings his ADD and delusions of mind control into full blossom. The bulk of the episode has Martin, Louisa, and Pauline held by force at the surgery, until a special package arrives, and the lot must trek to the cliffs and pick up a potentially dangerous sailor’s bag. Woven into the story is Louisa’s constant effort to defend her father (as well as the family honor), and Col. Spencer’s measures to protect a rare bird that Al and Bert Large wish to use as a lure for tourists, and their new money-making scheme.

Unlike prior episodes, there’s a rough technical quality in the cinematography that makes it appear the special was a fast shoot during fairly gloomy lighting conditions. Most of the episodes were filmed during frequently pristine summer weather, and the beautiful blue skies and multitude of flowering plants are quite scarce in “On the Edge.” The drama inside the surgery isn’t dull, but it does feel padded to fill out the feature-length running time.

Jonathan is also such a knob that one wishes Col. Spencer would use his shotgun to scare off the lad. (Much like Tristan Sturrock appearing with Clunes in  Doc Martin, Season 1, both O’Dowd and  Parkinson later co-starred in the goofball comedy series The IT Crowd, which ran for two seasons from 2006-2008.)

“On the Edge” doesn’t really add much to the series – it’s only of note when Louisa mentions her dad being in jail in Season 3 – but O’Dowd has some hysterical moments when his delusions have him believing microchips in peoples’ heads are endangering his safety.

For the Region 1 release, Acorn Media picked up the DVD rights, and included the “On the Edge” episode – a nice bonus, given it’s only available on a separate and rather pricey DVD in Britain (an Amazon exclusive, released Sept. 29, 2008) and Australia.

The Region 2 release, however, has a 2005 ITV behind-the-scenes TV special, which features interviews with cast, crew, writers, and series producer (and Mrs. Martin Clunes) Philippa Braithwaite during the summer filming of Season 2. It’s a fairly standard promo piece that has the actors musing about their characters, series writers Dominic Minghella and sister Edana Minghella discussing some of the cast changes (Katherine Parkinson, Tristan Strurrock) and a few story specifics, but for the most part the special functions as a recap of past, current and possible future events without spoilers for Series 2.

There are plenty of moments with the production filming in gorgeous Port Isaac, the barn where key sets have been built, the production’s edit suites, and brief interviews with locals. Locations such as the village pub, the doctor’s surgery, and some exterior locations are also featured, and the only missed opportunity is composer Colin Towns, who should’ve been included since the show’s success is also tied to Towns’ wonderful theme and episode scores.

The Doc Martin universe includes the feature film Saving Grace (2000), the TV movies Doc Martin (2003) and Doc Martin and the Legend of the Cloutie (2003), and the Doc Martin TV series, Seasons One (2004), Two (2005), Three (2007), and Four (2009). There is also a German production, Doktor Martin, starring Axel Milberg as Doktor Martin Helling, spanning Seasons One (2007) and Two (2009).

Martin Clunes has also hosted two TV series thematically related to Doc Martin – Martin Clunes: A Man and His Dogs(2008), and Martin Clunes: Islands of Britain (2009).

 

 

© 2010 Mark R. Hasan

 

External References:

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

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Category: Blu-ray / DVD Film Review

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