Doc Martin: The Tameness of a Wolf – Series 6 Episode 3
After a couple of atypical episodes, Doc Martin returns to form with a full-blown romp, this time with the spotlight on Dr Ruth. Not only must she conjure up advice on the local radio for unseen callers with relationship difficulties, she is also being courted by someone who “dares not show his face”. As expected, Eileen Atkins gives an excellent performance, both touching and comedic.
The irony of Ruth offering advice on normal human behaviour is clearly underlined when she makes a pitiful attempt to celebrate her own birthday. Louisa (Catherine Catz) rescues her, gamely giving her a one-sided hug, and prodding Martin (Martin Clunes) into action. Whereupon he invites his aunt to the most dispiriting birthday lunch ever. Viewers must hope that Ruth fares better with psychiatric cases, as one appears to be just around the corner…
On a lighter note, newly installed childminder Mike (Felix Scott) must go one-on-one with Baby Ellingham – who is clearly taken by him – and wants the blue brick on the top row as well… Hopefully his parents stop trying to find fault with Mike, but should the arrangement go bust gazillions of viewers would doubtless try to sign Mike up for their own kids.
Despite such great support, Louisa is stressed out and snaps at everyone. The good doc remains remarkably unperturbed, accepting that she misses spending all day with James Henry, whereas I think she is jealous of Mike’s winning ways. He only loses his smile when facing the ditzy Morwenna (Jessica Ransom). Do these two have a past – or a future?
Even at work Louisa is uncharacteristically stressed by 10-year-old Becky (an impressive Lily Laight), the ambitious editor of the school newspaper. After eating chicken at the Large Restaurant, Becky suffers stomach pain and vomiting, and Martin suspects food poisoning. But a “pooh-pooh” test demonstrates this was not food poisoning after all, and that Becky has an ulcer. Sorry to nitpick but this is unlikely. When do GPs test stool for one day’s worth of stomach upset? Would a negative test mean Becky has an ulcer, etc? The manner in which Louisa handles Becky’s now libellous restaurant review does not convince me either.
But that is a small lapse in an otherwise wonderfully executed episode, that gradually builds up a picture of how weird Ruth’s stalker is, before plunging him into Ruth’s cottage. Indeed, the moment when he appears behind her in the bathroom mirror would give any viewer the creeps. Bob (Paul Moriarty) may look like butter wouldn’t melt, as Ruth tries to coax him into behaving nicely. But when Martin calls him a psychopath to his face – in neat juxtaposition to Ruth’s technique – he soon shows how quickly he can flip.
Meanwhile PC Penhale (John Marquez) – you have to love him – does a Mr Bean with his misguided attempts to provide support. It is a gripping scene (pun intended) as Martin grapples with Bob for the knife and has his hand sliced open, and Ruth distracts the not-so-tame “wolf” with treacherous words of love. Then promptly dispatches him with a shot of tranquilliser. Alas, she loves him not – it is almost a Shakespearean tragedy.
The writer, Richard Stoneman, has also penned episodes of Peak Practice back in the day, and both drama series are blessed with fantastic scenic possibilities. In this episode of Doc Martin I particularly enjoyed the “walk and talk” scenes out on the steep village streets. And the fog still lingering over Ruth’s farm when the sun shines elsewhere.
But though location may account for a large chunk of the charm, the two medical dramas are so very different. Peak Practice is a relatively straight “day in the life” of a GP group practice, with soapy relationship drama and a dash of medical politics. Doc Martin has but one GP to work with. But how it works! While Doc Martin continues to feed off such a bunch of great characters, all having a lot of fun sending themselves up, I can’t help feeling uplifted by it too. How can critics still wonder why it attracts such large audiences?Tagged in: Doc martin, Eileen Atkins, Martin Clunes
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