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Doc Martin - a favorite British TV import

Updated on November 23, 2016
Doc Martin (Martin Clunes), Louisa Glasson (Caroline Catz)  and James Henry, their baby.  What is next for this family?
Doc Martin (Martin Clunes), Louisa Glasson (Caroline Catz) and James Henry, their baby. What is next for this family? | Source

Note: no spoiler alerts here. I will not give anything away from Series 6.

My all time favorite PBS British import television series is of course Downton Abbey. I don't think anything will surpass this beautifully written, edited and costumed period drama that takes place at the end of the Edwardian Period in England. Set in the gorgeous British countryside at Highclare Estate, there is nothing finer than this very British series.

But, I have found another British TV series that I love and brought to America through PBS which is the contemporary Doc Martin. This show is another wonderful British import and comedy/drama series that is just hilarious, heart-wrenching and poignant all at the same time. I have been watching it now for about two years and have not seen every episode or series, but I have managed to see many of them.

I love this show, set in the beautiful seaside village of Port Isaac in Cornwall, England. It is a lovely, picturesque village with breathtaking views of the harbor, village and hills around it. It is the setting for the fictional Cornwall village of Portwenn in the Doc Martin series.

Series six of Doc Martin was aired in Britain in September to October 2013 but we are just getting it now here in the U.S.on PBS.

Lovely Port Isaac, Cornwall, England.  The setting for the fictitious village of Portwenn in the British TV series "Doc Martin."
Lovely Port Isaac, Cornwall, England. The setting for the fictitious village of Portwenn in the British TV series "Doc Martin." | Source
Martin's surgery is the stone house at the top of the hill.
Martin's surgery is the stone house at the top of the hill. | Source
Aunt Joan (Stephanie Cole) adds warmth in contrast to Martin's gruff manner.
Aunt Joan (Stephanie Cole) adds warmth in contrast to Martin's gruff manner. | Source

The Doc Martin series is the brainchild of Martin Clunes, who plays Doc Martin and creator and writer, Dominic Minghella. It is brilliant.

It is based on the character of Dr. Martin Bramford in the 2000 comedy film, Saving Grace. Here, Dr. Bramford was a gynecologist. When they decided to revive the Doc Martin character, they changed him a bit and decided he would be a general practicioner (GP) in the local Portwenn surgery and have a grumpy and disagreeable demeanor, and be a much edgier character.

The background story on Dr. Martin Ellingham (Martin Clunes) is that he was a brilliant and successful vascular surgeon at Imperial College London. But. because he develops haemophobia, fear of blood, he is forced to stop practicing vascular surgery.

What to do? How can a brilliant and successful vascular surgeon move on? Well, Martin does literally move on. He comes back to Portwenn where he spent many holidays as a child with his Aunt Joan.

As luck would have it, Portwenn was in dire need of a village doctor, a general practitioner, to look after the medical needs of the Portwenn villagers. With some prodding and encouragement from his Aunt Joan, Martin interviews for the position.

Obviously, his education and experience is a double edge sword for Martin. While he is over-educated and experienced for the position of a GP, he has the experience and fine knowledge to figure out some of the strange symptoms and diseases the villagers bring to him.

Martin also has a temperament problem: he is strictly professional, a brilliant surgeon, gruff in his ill mannered way, lacks social skills, and is cold and abrasive. He is a reserved man, stiff, arrogant, blunt and anti-social with the villagers. He certainly believes he is above these villagers, but he does take his medical duties seriously.

Because of his brilliance and having come from London, he looks down a bit on the gentle villagers that just want a doctor with a compassionate bedside manner, which Martin definitely does not have.

It is good he has Aunt Joan to lean on for emotional support because she is the only one who understands Martin when he first arrives in Portwenn.

Doc Martin in action dealing with a medical emergency.
Doc Martin in action dealing with a medical emergency. | Source

Series 1 - 4 (Behind the Scenes)

Dr. Martin Ellingham, used to being deferred to because of his brilliance, is to his reserved dismay addressed simply as "Doc Martin" by the Portwenn villagers in their unpretentious, homey, small-town way. He cannot break them of the habit and hence the name of the television series.

The comedy and the drama, of course, revolves around Ellingham's interaction with the local Cornish villagers who have their own way of doing things and their own idiosyncrasies. Where the villagers want love,compassion, and understanding from their village doctor, Ellingham gives them uber-professionalism, a brisk manner, and blunt answers to their questions.

While Ellingham feels he is being a professional GP with a no non-sense manner, the villagers perceive him to be gruff, short-tempered and lacking in any bedside manner.

The villagers are surprised and taken aback by his brusque manner just as Ellingham is surprised and unnerved by the villagers kindly, down-home ways.

Upon his arrival at the surgery, Ellingham finds it is in disarray and to his consternation and frustration he inherits an incompetent, but understanding receptionist who helps to run interference for him with the villagers.

Today, the receptionist is Morwenna Newcross (Jessica Ransom).

Dr. Ellingham is super strict about cleanliness and germs while the villagers are not. He is confounded by this many times in his practice. But, he is a faithful doctor who drops everything at the moment there is an emergency of which he must take care. There is no one finer, more loyal, or more caring (under his gruff exterior) than Doc Martin.

Because of this, the villagers come to understand his gruffness and begin to see the brilliant doctor they luckily have in their village. They grow to love Doc Martin as he in turn grows to love the villagers.

The comedy comes in as we watch Doc Martin interact with all the village characters and their odd, funny but endearing ways. And the drama comes in as we watch some poignant stories of pain and heart-break some of the villagers experience.

Martin and Louisa take time out to bond over a glass of wine.
Martin and Louisa take time out to bond over a glass of wine. | Source

Martin and Louisa's budding romance

Of course, our story would not be complete without Doc Martin having a love interest. While many of the village women hilariously throw themselves at him hoping 'to snare' the good doctor as a husband, Martin has nothing to do with these women.

Martin is smitten with Louisa Glasson (Caroline Catz) the primary school headmistress and former teacher. Because of his anti-social manner, Martin has a difficult time expressing his romantic feelings to Louisa. He adores her and she him, but he often spoils a rare tender moment between them with his gruffness or an uber-professional comment.

Louisa, who really cares for him, and is the first person in Portwenn to realize he just has a gruff exterior, but there is depth within him, tries again and again to help and to show him how to be a caring, loving doctor and person.

Aunt Joan, in the meantime, ever fond of Louisa, is always encouraging this match-up with her nephew. She tries to guide him into a relationship with Louisa.

Finally, these two very different stars collide and fall in love. It is hilarious and heart-wrenching to see these two wonderful people come together and then stumble and fall as they try to piece together a loving relationship.

At one point Martin proposes and they almost marry, but both feel the same on their wedding day. They feel they are not right for one another and will only bring sadness and unhappiness to their partner. So, the marriage does not take place and Louisa leaves Portwenn for London to take a teaching position there.

Martin and Dr. Edith Montgomery (Lia Williams) an old flame from Martin's London days.
Martin and Dr. Edith Montgomery (Lia Williams) an old flame from Martin's London days. | Source

Martin reads to the baby

Although Louisa has left Portwenn, Martin is not without his admirers. Surprisingly, an old flame of his from his London days shows up in Portwenn. It is Dr. Edith Montgomery, gynecologist. (Lia Williams) She travels back and forth from London to Portwenn several times a month and becomes a fixture in Martin's life.

She also inspires him and encourages him to recover from his haemophobia, fear of blood, and return to vascular surgery. Inspired and encouraged, Martin begins the therapy sessions he needs to take to overcome his phobia.

As he is progressing at overcoming his fear and really getting excited about returning to vascular surgery, there is a soft knock at the door. When he opens it, there stands Louisa, five months pregnant. The baby is his.

Of course, Edith is there also, and Louisa and Edith learn of each other and their places in Martin's life. Now, Martin is really confounded as he ping pongs back and forth between the women, not knowing what to do, not knowing his heart, and completely astounded at Louisa's medical condition.

With his uber-professionalism he tries to take charge of Louisa's medical pregnancy, but Louisa resists and strangely enough, Edith becomes her gynecologist.

Again, Aunt Joan takes charge and tries to guide Martin back to Louisa but this time he is more resistant. But, Aunt Joan is completely on Louisa's side at this time and helps her through her pregnancy.

In all the confusion of their off again/on again relationship, Edith, the villagers and their opinions of the situation, Martin is determined to return to London. He overcomes his fear of blood and interviews and obtains a vascular surgery doctor's position in London.

Of course, just as he is about to leave, Louisa gives birth to their son and names him James Henry Glasson. Martin is torn about the situation as he holds his son for the first time as his son melts his heart.

He feels he can't leave Louisa and his son and must stay in Portwenn to help Louisa. The villagers are thrilled not to lose their brilliant doctor and are happy for Martin, Louisa and their new son.

So here we are at series six. What will happen? Will Martin and Louisa ever marry? Will they continue to live together as a family?

Sadness hits Martin when his Aunt Joan suddenly dies of a heart attack and he is crushed that his emotional security and the one he is able to lean on is gone.

Here to attend Aunt Joan's funeral, is her sister, Martin's Aunt Ruth. Dr. Ruth Ellingham, psychiatrist.( Eileen Atkins) What is amazing to Louisa is she is the complete opposite of her warm sister, and exactly has Martin's gruff temperament. Now Louisa has two of them to contend with and a baby. What will happen next?

Filming the British TV series, Doc Martin, in Port Isaac, Cornwall, England.
Filming the British TV series, Doc Martin, in Port Isaac, Cornwall, England. | Source
"Doc Martin" with tourists in Port Isaac.
"Doc Martin" with tourists in Port Isaac. | Source

Naturally, Port Isaac has become a huge tourist attraction in England because of the Doc Martin series. Tourists flock here in the summer to see the beautiful fictional village of Portwenn and watch the filming of the show.

Tourists love to have their photos taken with the cast members and to talk with them also. The show is filmed here on location from May through September. By October, it is getting quite chilly in Port Isaac on the sea and so filming ends.

The interior shots of the homes, shops, and Doc Martin's surgery, are all done in a local converted barn nearby.

Five series of the beloved TV show where shot and aired between 2004-2011. There was a feature-length special that aired on Christmas Day in Britain in 2006.

Series six was aired on TV in Britain from September 2, 2013 through October 2, 2013. This series is just being aired now through PBS here in the U.S.

Martin Clunes says a seventh series will definitely be filmed in 2015 but that it will possibly be the final one of the series as creative ideas for story lines are running out.

This is such a popular series that it is viewed throughout most of Europe and North and South America.

The Doc Martin show won the British Comedy Award for Best TV Comedy Drama in 2004 and Martin Clunes won the Best TV Comedy Actor Award for his portrayal of Doc Martin in the same year.

If you have never watched this show, consult your PBS station guides and give it a good look/see. It will delight you and make you laugh and at the same time bring tears to your eyes in the poignant love story between Martin and Louisa and their little boy.


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