I feel the best way to describe Doc Martin is formulaic, insofar as I can generally predict what’s going to happen certainly in terms of Martin’s case of the week. The format usually involves a patient who believes they are suffering from a certain condition which is causing them to feel ill. Martin sends away for tests in order to get to the root of the problem and receives them just as the patient collapses from their mystery illness. This has happened at least twice this series with the third occurrence of this format being found in tonight’s episode.
The patient of the week is Malcolm Rayner, a known hypochondriac, whose latest complaint is a rash that he believes his life-threatening. Although he is quickly brushed off by Martin, he later returns claiming that he has had trouble with his breathing. When Martin delves into his past, he discovers that Malcolm was a builder who was regularly called upon to insulate lofts. As Malcolm tells Martin that some of the lofts were insulated with asbestos, the doctor thinks that Malcolm called well be suffering from asbestosis. Martin then worries Malcolm when he tells him that asbestosis causes cancer, mainly because Malcolm’s former boss passed away from cancer several years ago. Believing himself to be at death’s door, Malcolm journeys to the pub where he begins an early drinking session. Penhale eventually arrives to move Malcolm from the pub and takes him back to his house to sober him up. Whilst there, Malcolm reveals to Penhale and Al that he insulated the loft in their house and dozens other in the village. Fearing the worst, Penhale feels it’s his civic duty to report the outbreak of asbestosis in the village, which in turn leads to dozens of worried villagers arriving at the surgery. Martin later chastises Penhale for causing panic in the area and also scolds Malcolm for not waiting to hear back from the hospital before he jumps to conclusions. As is always the case, Malcolm’s sleepless nights aren’t caused by asbestosis, but in fact are the result of something a lot closer to home.
Meanwhile Martin continues to be distracted by his blood phobia and finds it hard to sleep. Louisa attempts to find alternative ways to get her husband to sleep and decides to douse their bed linen in lavender oil. But, this being Martin, he instead is upset with her and lists the negative effects that the lavender could have on them. His blood phobia continues to get worse after he is forced to come to Penhale’s rescue after he accidentally hammers a nail into his hand. Upon removing the nail, Penhale’s blood makes Martin vomit and unfortunately it lands on the hapless copper. This incident is enough for Martin to consider going to see the therapist that Ruth recommended to him. However, the blood phobia isn’t the only thing that Martin has to worry about as he is soon taken aback when his mother comes to visit. Martin’s mother Margaret arrives to give him the sad news that his father has died, but Martin doesn’t seem to be that bothered. As Louisa invites Margaret to stay, she seemingly enjoys getting to know her grandson however Martin remains very distant. The final scene suggests that Martin’s parents were incredibly cold towards him, which could explain his current attitude.
Elsewhere in the village, Jennifer and Mrs Tishell are continuing their inharmonious working relationship. Mrs Tishell continues to resent the fact that she needs supervision, while Jennifer continues to feel undermined. Eventually, Mrs Tishell receives word that she can practise on her own and revels in showing Jennifer the door. Jennifer later gets a new job in Woking, but Bert is heartbroken as he feels that the love of his life is leaving once again. After his plea to Mrs Tishell falls on deaf ears, Bert realises what he must do in order to keep Jennifer in his life. Meanwhile Al’s still struggling to find his place in the world and he soon discovers that Penahle’s spare room is definitely not that place. Al discusses his feelings with Ruth, who tells him that he needs to seize the day and branch out on his own. Al’s great business idea of a tourist bus, is later shot down by Ruth and it seems as if Al will continue to struggle for the meantime. Finally, and a little out of the blue, Mike asks Morwenna out on a date, for no reason other than to give them both something to do. Though it’s clear that they’re both attracted to each other, Mike’s OCD personality continues to thwart his attempts to have a normal relationship. It appears as if Morwenna isn’t exactly charmed by him on their date and I’ve got a feeling that Mike may well go off the deep end before the series is through.
Tonight’s episode of Doc Martin felt incredibly incidental as it included a lot of events which were merely used to build up to major events in the final two episodes. Even the arrival of Martin’s mother only seemed to be the start of a story in which she’ll attempt to make up to him for everything that she did wrong during his childhood. With Martin already suffering with his blood phobia, it seems that the arrival of his mother may just push him over the top and I’m going to predict that the series won’t end on a high for our favourite anti-hero. The formulaic story involving Malcolm’s suspected asbestosis was uninteresting and just got plain silly when the one-dimensional Penhale got involved. While Mike and Al were both given things to do this episode, both of their stories felt like they were part of a bigger picture that has yet to be painted. Only Bert and Jennifer’s story put a smile on my face and I’m glad there was at least something in this episode that was a little unexpected.
For me, the best performance of the episode came from Claire Bloom as Martin’s mother Margaret. Her portrayal of the character felt totally apt and she was totally believable as Martin’s mother. Bloom has an incredible presence in the cast and I’m hoping that she stays in the show, at least for the rest of the series. Margaret’s arrival has given Martin Clunes something more to do and his inability to deal with his true feelings are brilliantly played in the episode’s final scenes. The only issue for me was that, after several episodes taking centre stage, Eileen Atkins only appeared in a handful of scenes in this episode as Ruth attempted to advise Al about what to with his future.
Overall tonight’s Doc Martin was all about establishing the stories that will take us into the final part of the series. The arrival of Martin’s mother and the public emergence of his blood phobia give us the impression of what the Doc will have to deal with before the end of the series. While the asbestosis plot was incredibly silly, the long-term stories that have been established are intriguing enough to keep me watching for the rest of the series.
What did you think to tonight’s Doc Martin? Are you still enjoying the series?
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