Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Doc Martin

We have a new addiction. We're hooked on "Doc Martin," and have been busy downloading episodes from Netflix every night. I guess you could class it with the "Britcom" genre, but it also belongs in the same general category as those many American medical series--none of which I have followed. This one has the added flavor of the English country village and the gorgeous green landscape and rocky shoreline of the south west. And delightfully eccentric characters.

The "Doc" of the title, in case you haven't come across him yet, is a brilliant surgeon from the big city, whose mid-life onset of hemophobia has driven him from his London practice to this rural setting. To say he's deficient in bedside manner would be an understatement. The man is totally lacking in the social graces needed to make life comfortable in an environment where everyone knows everyone; his gaffes make him the unfortunate laughing stock of the village, a victim of his own short fuse and intolerance of ignorance and stupidity--of which there is plenty to be had. And yet...

The man has incredible skills and dedication as a physician. And even though it remains for the most part well hidden, he has a heart. Though he's careful not to show it, he cares for his patients, and is vulnerable to their barbs. His sense of humor--the driest of the dry, an irony bordering frequently on sarcasm--is excruciating, and he is unable to take a tease. We watch in agony as he sabotages every attempt to get close to him, notably from the charming local school teacher. Their mutual attraction, though unmistakable to viewers, remains thus far (we're in the middle of the second season) unconfessed on either side. Again, a wild understatement to say that their relationship is prickly. We await further developments.

The cast of characters--villagers, all--manage to be quirky in that British way, without being stereotypes. The schoolteacher, the local PC (police constable,) the publican, the odd-job man, the pharmacist... they all weave in and out of the complex--yet coherent, intelligently worked out--plots in a manner familiar to anyone who has lived in such a village. From the outside, I suspect, it merely seems quaint. It's Agatha Christie without murders and Miss Marple. The only character who is glaringly absent from the mix is the local vicar. The village does not even seem to have a church. Perhaps times have changed since my own rural English days.

The episode we watched last night made me think of the spectacle of Charlie Sheen on the morning television news rounds. The patient in question was a radio talk show host whose slurred speech--along with her enjoyment of a glass of cool Chablis--suggested that she had a drinking problem. Turned out, in her case, to be a case of undiagnosed diabetes. The good doctor cottoned to it just in time to save her life. As for Charlie Sheen, it is sad to watch a man so clearly "in denial," as they say, so unable to curb his out-of-control grandiosity and his anger. In attempting to address what appeared to be her alcoholism, in last night's show, Doc Martin asked his patient a test question: did she find herself getting angry when asked about her drinking habit. She flew into a rage. "I suppose," he said tersely, "that qualifies as a Yes."

Asked about his anger by an interviewer, Sheen was quick to deny it--angrily. His very public, very obvious cries for help are wonderful fodder for the news media, which greedily caters to the actor's mania. It's a pathetic sight. I sat on a bicycling machine in the gym yesterday, next to a man who is now nineteen years sober. He told his story as though it were yesterday--I'm sure for the thousandth time--with the gratitude of one whose life was literally saved by AA. Addiction is clearly a dreadful disease. We can be thankful to be addicted to nothing more harmful than Doc Martin.

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

We are also hooked and watching via Netflix every night. Glad other appreciate this brilliant show.

mandt said...

Doc Martin is a wonderful series we have been enjoying on PBS this past year. Enjoy....

Oliver Ann Hinson said...

I am very curious to know if you have seen the Buddah statue in Doc Martin's office. It is in every series, but much is mad mention of it in series 5. You obviously know a bit about Buddhism and Doc Martin. Some of my friends and I have been trying to figure out what it is about Buddhism that would hold such meaning for the Doc. None of us think it is simply an attachment to the statue, but must have to do with the teachings of Buddhism. Any ideas? I have. Lots. But I am no expert. Hope you will be able to respond to this post. Thanks, Oliver Hinson, Arlington Virginia

Anonymous said...

Recently disoovered Doc Martin myself - LOVE IT - ***spoiler** In Series 4 Edith acknowledges the buddha as if there is some shared memory from their time together....makes me wonder if the buddha is also an inside joke for the DM team...I just love a good back story :-)

Anonymous said...

I am disturbed that the Doc would find solace in a hunk of metal as the Buddah statue. He is supposed to be intelligent and knows his end will come as the statue, broken and into obliviation. Buddah is not a salvation as Jesus is and cannot promise Heaven as Jesus does. Doc would have been more intelligent to think on the Holy Bible not some so-called god to many people. Buddah can give nothing compared with the one true God, YHVH, the I am who is eternal.

b.b. bashaw said...

dear anonymous.
their is no solace to be found in Buddhism, nor any heaven, hell, sin, only absolute reality. their are no godheads, saints, martyrs, and certainly no salvation simply because their is nothing to be saved from. would you rather a crucifix adorn the mantle at martins? or maybe the face of jesus on a tortilla?