Doc Martin: ‘Everyone feel sorry for Al.’ – Series 6, Episode 5

Lina Talbot

DOC MARTIN SERIES6 EP5 03 300x200 Doc Martin: Everyone feel sorry for Al.   Series 6, Episode 5Spoiler Alert: this review is for those who have already watched Episode 5 of the current series.

I do thank you, Julian Unthank, writer of this episode, for giving viewers a closer look at Doc Martin’s main characters this week. Longer scenes on a one-to-one basis allow them that bit more time to develop their conversations and the viewer a chance to engage and really feel for them – even if it is only about the woes of being on one’s ownsome.

What is bothering Martin Clunes’ good doc? He doesn’t care to discuss it, though he finds it easy enough to dish out advice to others. When Louisa cannot sleep for worry over Mrs Tishell’s return, Martin tells her she should trust the psychiatrists’ judgement. This may be well-intentioned, but is no more convincing than that of a UK politician.

The unlovable pharmacist Mrs Tishell (Selina Cadell) contrasts beautifully with Miss Cardew, her more comely and conventional temp (Annabelle Apsion), in their preposterous tussle over who decides what in the pharmacy. I note that therapy by elastic band is trending – both here on Mrs Tishell’s wrist, and on that of Rupert Penry-Jones as the OCD-plagued detective in ITV drama Whitechapel. So far this trend has bypassed Mike (Felix Scott), though his OCD is at last queried by Martin.

For light relief, John Marquez’s PC Penhale is off to Bodmin Moor on wilderness training, in a wannabe’s poor imitation of the SAS trek across the Brecon Beacons. He is lovely in his stupidity, literally shooting himself in the foot, then applying moss soil side down to the wound. I found his scenes cut a tad short, not lingering long enough to truly savour his plight. Apparently PC Penhale has a big following in the States.

Meanwhile, beachcomber Mrs Gillott (Julia Swift) attempts to interest Martin in shell baubles. “It’s detritus!” Martin retorts – the best line of the episode. But she also presents a mystery illness which, surprise surprise, is linked to her tan. This is a neat trick, since one expects a beachcomber to be sun-tanned. She also has aching wrists and elbows, and swollen ankles. Given the suspicion of heart failure, naughty Dr Martin should listen to the back of her chest. But then, a GP consultation on TV has even less time allocated than a real one, which averages 11 minutes. How often does a real GP listen to the lung bases?

Caroline Catz’s Louisa shows her more thoughtful, caring side in conversation with Martin, which is a welcome change from her always nagging him. I feel for actresses having to maintain an unforgiving mien when playing “serious” roles (e.g. Scott and Bailey’s Suranne Jones). As Dr Ruth, Eileen Atkins is usually serious too, but she manages to sneak in some wry and sympathetic looks.

In this episode she puts her psychiatric expertise to use on two occasions. Firstly when she assesses Mrs Tishell’s degree of recovery as satisfactory. This appears to be confirmed later when Mrs Tishell, with mixed emotions, rips down her Dr Martin wardrobe door of fame. Ruth also tries to convince Martin to “see a man I know” about his secret difficulty – the return of his blood phobia. Oh no, is he a suitable candidate for Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, Guided Discovery or Validity Testing?! Would he care to try an elastic band…?

Jessica Ransom gives a charming, understated comedic performance as the self-centred but warm-hearted Morwenna. It may just be me, but it seems that so many young actress foreheads do not move these days. What joy when, on careful scrutiny, Morwenna’s did crease momentarily into fine lines…! But the spotlight this week is on Joe Absolom’s Al, who shows the suffering and awkwardness that many a male tries to bury. I’m pleased he is moving out. He and Morwenna cannot possibly get together whilst being landlady and lodger.

The reader has doubtless spotted that I avoided using the given title for this episode, which is: “The Practice Around the Corner”. What does this refer to – Mrs Tishell’s Pharmacy? Did I miss a hint about another GP opening a practice in Portwenn? Now that would put the cat amongst the seagulls.

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