DVD: Doc Martin – Season 6 (2013)

February 18, 2014 | By

Film: Excellent

DVD Transfer: Very Good

DVD Extras: Very Good

Label: Acorn

Region: 1 (NTSC)

Released: December 13, 2013

Genre:  Comedy / TV / Britcom

Synopsis: Now a father and newlywed, Doc Martin finds his stress level reaching new heights, especially when his hideous mother arrives in town.

Special Features (spread out over Discs 1 & 2): 8 behind-the-scenes featurettes (48:00) – “The Cast” + “The Crew” + “Making a Scene” + “What Works for Doc Martin” + “Martin Clunes as Doc Martin” + “Martin and Louisa” + “Port Isaac as Portwenn” + “How to Speak Cornish” / Motion Photo Gallery / “Next Time” episode previews




Here’s a case where not only do the producers listen to fans and bring back a whole set of characters without any contrived scenarios for a new season, but the filmmakers have put an extremely high degree of care into wrapping up specific character arcs and delivering, intentional or not, perhaps the best if not most satisfying season of the series.

Right from the first episode Doc Martin (Martin Clunes, looking more slender & dynamic) is struggling with the alien lifestyle he’s begrudgingly decided to accept – marriage to long-suffering love schoolteacher Louisa (Caroline Catz) – right after accepting the birth of son James.

The series’ humour still comes from Doc Martin being socially inappropriate, but each incident is part of a sharpening pitch of discontent where the awkward couple begins to have serious problems. Martin continues to be blunt, rude, dismissive of seniors, adults, and children alike – he’s always been wholly democratic in dishing out contempt to every stratum of society – but little by little his marriage becomes strained, especially when the most horrendous thing in his life – his mother Margaret (Claire Bloom) – returns and drives her son into a terrible nervous state.

Clunes makes Martin sympathetic because we know he loves his wife and son, and he’s constantly struggling with inadequacies stemming from a wretched childhood; that staid sympathy makes it increasingly painful to see a genuinely good man lock himself onto a ruinous path. One sequence involving kids is almost impossible to watch because he’s so dreadful to the kids and Louisa, and the consequences ultimately force Martin to make major decisions – or at least consider them – thereby ending Season 6 on another medium-hot cliffhanger which will push the series’ legion of fans to demand 8 more episodes.

Constable Joe Penhale (John Marquez) has his own bouts of humility, Mrs. Tishell (Selina Cadell) returns after an extended period of mental recuperation, Bert Large (Ian McNeice) is reunited with a lovely former flame, Al Large (Joe Absolom) struggles to find a vocation outside of his father’s influence, and Martin’s aunt Ruth (wonderful Eileen Atkins) is upset by a stalker and the return of Martin’s wretched mother.

The best scene in the film isn’t with Martin, but Ruth and his mother: it’s probably the finest piece of writing in the series because it addresses so much of the hurt that hinders Martin from having a stable career and marriage. The acting is spot on, and it’s the lead-up to another horrific exchange between mother and son. That Clunes, the writer and director were able to mine humour from such tragedy is remarkable, because it’s a fine line that separates such bitter drama from bathos.

Martin and Louisa’s son James is played by a gaggle of infants, few of which actually look alike, but there is one baby who’s hysterical to watch. During the first episodes in which James is being fed by his unofficial nanny – new character / OCD sufferer Mike Pruddy (Felix Scott) – the kid is extremely happy to be fed, and steals viewer attention away from the adults in every shot.

As with prior seasons, Cornwall looks gorgeous – no doubt the region is beset with series fans each year – and Colin Towns maintains another fine balancing act of recapping the series theme without making it repetitive; it’s the motor that maintains each episode’s momentum, and neatly supports the brisk writing and direction. Martin’s put-downs are shockingly funny, but Ruth gets her delicious share of sharp lines.

There’s no way the saga of Martin and Louisa can end here, and now that Acorn’s given the series a timely Region 1 release, fans on this side of the pond will join in the crusade for Season 7. This is by far the tightest season, and perhaps the most rewarding.

Like Acorn’s prior Season 5 set, Acorn’s added almost an hour’s worth of featurettes produced for the American market, where PBS carries the series. Divided into 8 precisely edited featurettes, the focus is on the cast, the characters, the location, the show’s unwavering appeal, getting the Cornish accent right, and a stills montage. It’s all very amiable and shows a highly appreciative cast & crew filming a handful of scenes over a day or two. Only downsides: each segment sports the same main title sequence (and music repurposed from the Season 5 extras, plus some previously used footage). The featurettes also appear to be HD-shot material improperly downgraded to interlaced NTSC, resulting in a sometimes jaggy image.

‘Next episode’ teasers are also included, and Acorn’s 2-disc set sports nice anamorphic transfers, but the PAL to NTSC conversions aren’t great – there’s perceptible stuttering in lateral screen pans and movements – and although broadcast in HD, like Season 5, there is no Blu-ray edition in England or on this side of the pond.

There’s also the issue of size: eight 48 min. episodes sharing space with an additional 24 mins. of featurettes per disc means the transfers have to share space; a 3-disc set would’ve provided more room for the full package, and been less affected by compression.



© 2014 Mark R. Hasan


External References:

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


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