Doc Martin: ‘Nobody Likes Me’ – Series 6 – Episode 4
A fast-moving episode this week presents at least six unusual medical cases to be diagnosed by Dr Martin (Martin Clunes) while he laments the stupidity of his flock. He may leave his patients unsure whether to be grateful or offended, but many a viewer must yearn for such an adept GP in their own local surgery.
Which is what this series does so well – it entices viewers to imagine themselves living in this magical place: Britain may be proud of its heritage of tight-knit provincial communities with their unconventional characters but, nowadays, where do most people live? In suburban estates or city blocks or towns hit by the recession with bleak high streets. Yes, I’ve been watching Robert Peston. Small wonder so many tune in to escape for an hour to idyllic Portwenn.
And indeed the main storyline starts with Dr Ruth (Eileen Atkins) moving into the village. From next door emerges John Moysey, disagreeable recluse, played by the redoubtable Ronald Pickup. Ah! – I anticipate plenty of interaction to savour between these two. Moysey quickly makes his stance against neighbourliness clear, but Ruth cannot help feeling concerned about him and keeping an eye out.
Meanwhile Bert Large (the splendid Ian McNeice) is clucking around his new lodger and ex-flame, the pharmacist Jennifer Cardew (Annabelle Apsion). What has she done with a needle in the bathroom, which she needs to conceal later behind an eye patch? Bert’s son Al (Joe Absolom) also feels in the mood as he watches tourist couples in the streets. But when his new landlady Morwenna (Jessica Ransom) tries to assist, her cute but cool mate Janice (Katie Moore) produces a put-down to give many a viewer pause for thought. What a bi-atch!
I wish Caroline Catz would be given more to do as Louisa than find fault and nag… This week she has a showdown with Martin over James Henry’s need to be taken to the babies’ play circle. Since she cannot go, he must. Oh no – torture by mothers and babes! Martin Clunes pulls off a tour de force as the unamused doc manages to restrain himself from a sociopathic outburst whilst being goaded by childish toys and singsong. For me, the highlight of the episode – the good doc does not bow to social convention. How I wish I could be more like him.
Notice the neat little play with the Worm Song. Nobody Likes Me, which seems to be directed at Martin, though he’s not the sort to care. Is screenwriter Charlie Martin asking the question: do we try too hard to be liked? No, Doc Martin shouldn’t be read that deeply – should it?
The medical cases are too many to mention this week, except for Moysey’s sorry state of self-neglect. A tantalising medical mystery trail ends under cascading packing boxes, which give rise to horrible bruising on the hapless Moysey… He has scurvy! The number of cases of vitamin C deficiency from lack of fresh fruit and vegetables is surging upwards in deprived populations in the UK, especially amongst children and the elderly. The “five-a-day” mantra cannot be maintained by most Brits, and many criticise it. All I wish to say is there are easier and cheaper ways of maintaining a good intake of important nutrients, of which vitamin C is only one. A beautifully cooked, delicious meal may have little vitamin C left in it.
A writerly friend tells me that Doc Martin reminds her of Ballykissangel, another quaintly comic drama series set in a picturesque village. Based around its own bunch of interesting characters, Ballykissangel created a devoted following over six series. It was also blessed with some great acting talent, though Doc Martin can boast the more impressive line-up. After the loss of main actors, Ballykissangel was abruptly axed by the Beeb.
So to answer those critics who deem this comedy drama to have run its course, I would point out not just audience figures, but the consistent calibre of the cast, the fast pace and slick interchange of scenes, and the host of excellent characters who all find something comedic to contribute to each episode. On top of which comes a handful of medical mysteries for the puzzlers amongst us. I don’t expect ITV to “do a Ballykissangel” and bring this series to a halt any day soon.Tagged in: Annabelle Apsion, Ballykissangel, Doc martin, Eileen Atkins, Ian McNeice, Joe Absolom, Martin Clunes
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