|Martin Clunes as Martin Ellingham.|
For the uninitiated, the title character in Doc Martin is Dr. Martin Ellingham (Martin Clunes), a highly-skilled surgeon who has developed an aversion to blood. His operating days over, he accepts a position as a general practitioner in Portwenn, a small coastal town in Cornwall. The socially-challenged Martin delivers bad diagnoses bluntly, kicks patients out of his office if he doesn't think they're sick, and typically treats his receptionists with disdain (he has three of them during the run of the show). That said, he is a brilliant physician and a genuinely decent human being, showing that side most often when interfacing with his Aunt Joan and a local schoolteacher named Louisa (Caroline Catz).
|Caroline Catz as Louisa.|
While Martin Clunes' pitch-perfect performance as Martin takes center stage, Doc Martin benefits greatly from its quirky supporting characters. There's Bert Large, whose changing careers range from plumber (a bad one) to restaurateur (a horrible idea) to whiskey distiller. Despite his many failures, Bert is a dreamer who always thinks his next enterprise will be a success. His more realistic son Al has to cope with Dad's wild ideas in addition to his own struggles at romance and employment. The town's police constable is a near-incompetent who desperately wants to be Martin's best friend. The local pharmacist Mrs. Tishell, who wears a perpetual neck brace, harbors a secret obsession with Martin. Portwenn's most normal residents are Martin's Aunt Joan and later his Aunt Ruth.
The origin of the Doc Martin TV series can be traced back to the 2000 British comedy Saving Grace, which starred Brenda Blethyn and Craig Ferguson. The supporting cast included Martin Clunes as Dr. Martin Bamford, the local physician in Port Isaac, a coastal Cornish town. Clunes reprised the character, with a more in-depth background, in two made-for-TV movies: Doc Martin (2001) and Doc Martin and the Legend of the Clutie (2003). In these films, Doc Martin is an outgoing obstetrician who moves to Port Isaac after discovering his wife has been cheating on him. When screenwriter Dominic Minghella (Hamish Macbeth) developed the TV series in 2004, he transformed the character into the socially-challenged Martin Ellingham and changed the town's name to Portwenn (it's still filmed in Port Isaac).
|Ian McNeice and Joe Absolom as Bert & Al Large.|
In short, it's a fine start to what appears to be another stellar season for Doc Martin fans. The guarantee of a ninth season, though, comes with a little sad news. It will also be the final season. Still, it's always better for a TV show to end before it wears out its welcome.