The Great Doc Martin (Re)Watch Continues – Series 3, Episodes 5 and 6!

The great Doc Martin viewing marathon rolls on this week here at Telly Visions with two more episodes from Series 3, “The Holly Bears a Prickle” and “Nowt So Queer.” And my general continued opinion: Series 3 is by far the best thing this show has ever done. It’s quirky and busy and occasionally really, uncomfortably strange, but oh, it’s so much fun and such an improvement over the initial episodes. I am already sad that there is only one more episode left in this season after these two. Sniff!

Anyway, onward! Click through and come chat with me about the next two episodes in our rewatch, and feel free to leave your thoughts, favorite moments, funny lines, etc. in the comments.

Series 3, Episode 5: “The Holly Bears a Prickle”

This is the One Where: Louisa and Martin go on an actual, honest to goodness, we’re actually dressed up and everything, date. Martin ruins it with an exceptionally awkward comment and Louisa decides she can’t take it anymore and ends their relationship. Martin is depressed. Pauline has a gambling problem. Louisa’s annoyingly posh friend Holly visits and manages to injure her back walking around Portwenn.  And somehow Martin and Louisa get engaged.

Martin and Louisa Go on a Real, Actual Date! And it’s really rather adorable, actually. Martin and Louisa get all dolled up to go to an entirely picturesque outdoor symphony concert with sunshine and birds chirping and the whole nine yards. They make cow eyes at each other whenever they think their date is not looking; Martin is socially awkward during the intermission; they hold hands and even manage to share an actual romantic kiss under some sort of gorgeous postcard-worthy beautiful tree.  

Martin, of course, has to ruin this idyll completely, by talking about hormones, pheromones, mood swings and, God help us all, menstrual cycles, and it all predictably goes to complete crap immediately. Louisa – as I assume most people might do at this point – decides that things aren’t working out with Martin and tells him that she doesn’t want to see him anymore because she doesn’t think they’re going anywhere.

I Think This Is Martin’s Equivalent of a Sad 80s Music Montage. Martin spends the next good while sitting around moping and going through the motions. He doesn’t listen to his patients, he ignores Pauline and just generally sits about in a funk. And it’s so sad and sweet! He even knocks on Louisa’s door and runs away like a teenager. And the look on his face when Joan tells him that he and Louisa don’t work as a couple! So sad! It’s nice to see that Martin does legitimately feel emotions like everyone else and that he obviously cares so much for Louisa, despite the fact that half the time you wouldn’t be able to tell it from his actions. And I loved his conversation with Aunt Joan about whether people can really change and what parts of their personality are just the way they are, because of who they are. It provided an exceptionally interesting look at the way Martin views himself and his interactions with other people.  

Wherein We Pause for a Brief Psychoanalytic Interlude. The most interesting part of this, for me, was Martin’s brief, yet hysterical, foray into trying to “act normal.” Desperate to prove Joan wrong about being able to change, he starts being nice to people – initiating small talk with neighbors, not snapping so aggressively at everyone and generally just behaving as people tend to do in polite society.  I find this exceptionally intriguing, because it means that a lot of Martin’s horrible attitude to patients and even people I assume could be considered friendly – or at least regular – acquaintances is, in fact, a choice. He does recognize general social rules, but just chooses not to follow them.

I’ve said for ages and ages that his life would be so much easier if he could just recognize that the things he says – while he defends them as being no nonsense or blunt or to the point – are in actuality rude and awful and genuinely hurt the people around him for no reason.  I’m not saying that he turn into one of those horrifying “fake nice” types or try to be something he isn’t, but I do sincerely hope that on some level this has given him a real idea that his behavior has consequences and that standing on his principle of always speaking his mind can cost him people he cares about. It’s also nice to see the show acknowledge (again, they’re actually pretty good about this) that Martin’s general standard of behavior is not something to be emulated or admired, and that it’s the main reason that he does have such a hard time building relationships with people and is often unhappy. I’m sure it’s a lot to hope for that his “fake” interactions can force him to realize that simple politeness and tact can go a long way towards mending fences with his fellow Portwennians, but hey, a girl can dream.

Pauline Has a Gambling Problem. Well, despite the fact that I’m not entirely enamored with the whole Pauline-suddenly-needs-Gamblers Anonymous plot, I really do appreciate the attempt to give Pauline a storyline of her own, that’s nothing to do with Martin or Al, or anyone except herself. We meet Pauline’s mother, finally, and she’s actually even worse than you’d expect – loud, abrasive and overtly critical about her daughter’s life – so in a lot of ways Pauline’s behavior is understandable. I also like that they tried to make this a plot that didn’t come out of nowhere – we’ve seen Pauline playing games on her computer and at the pub in the past, so it’s not completely out of left field that her behavior got a bit out of control. I even really liked that it was Martin who figured out what was going on and who defended Pauline to her mother and Al and actually tried to comfort her. But – and possibly they will address this later – the sudden realization and acceptance of her problem seemed to happen a little too fast, particularly given the good job that they did building up to it in the first place.

Louisa’s Taste in Friends is a Bit Suspect. Louisa’s friend Holly is part of the group performing at the concert that she and Martin attend. Holly is really annoying. She’s one of those tries entirely too hard types who’s judging about the town and acts as though she and Louisa are besties when it’s obviously not true. Holly slips and falls while walking around with Louisa and hurts her back and ends up staying in Louisa’s house for a few days to recuperate. Martin ends up treating her and ultimately saving her life (featuring a gross scene involving removing what appeared to be half a glass jar from her back), and it’s this action that gets him back together with Louisa. So I suppose on some level, Holly turned out to be useful, even if I’m not thrilled by what happened next.

Bad Idea Jeans: Martin and Louisa Get Engaged. Why they couldn’t just get back together? The last few minutes of this episode were quite adorable, obviously, but it’s equally clear that this plot twist is going nowhere good. Martin can’t even manage to make it through one night being an awful date, how in the world is he ready for an entire lifetime as a husband? Obviously, he needs to learn a bit more about how to be in a relationship with someone – small things like considering others’ feelings, things that are and are not appropriate to say to someone you are seeing romantically, the general day-to-day little compromises that come with dating – well before he decides to go and marry them. I feel certain that he could have convinced Louisa that he deserved another chance with her without having to drop the proposal bomb. And quite honestly, I’m baffled why Louisa would even say yes at this point, given that nothing’s really changed between them, other than she watched Martin save someone’s life again, which seems to be a near daily occurrence for her anyway. (As a general rule, I would really love to get more of Louisa’s POV on their relationship. It must be so interesting.) Anyway, now I’m all kinds of anxious, waiting for whatever horror is in store for them to happen, because this obviously isn’t going to end well.

Sidebar: Do we know anything about Martin’s previous romantic history? I can’t remember anything like that ever having come up as part of his back story, but I assume he must have dated someone in the past, even if only socially. And whether he’s paralyzed because he cares so much more about Louisa than anyone else, or whether it’s because he has next to zero experience in this area, it does seem like he genuinely doesn’t know what to do in this situation. (It’s a big leap to make from “we had a fight” to “let’s get married” after all, and not one that the average, experienced dater would make.)

Series 3, Episode 6 “Nowt So Queer”

This is the One Where: Everyone in town is talking about Martin and Louisa’s engagement. Martin and Louisa try to behave like a normal couple. Bert Large’s restaurant keeps losing money. Martin treats a patient with a seriously domineering and creepy sister.

Oddly, this episode felt…I don’t know, “piecemeal” isn’t quite the right word but it felt strangely disjointed. Half of it seemed like a completely normal Doc Martin episode (the town obsessing about Martin and Louisa’s engagement, the drama at Large’s Restaurant, Martin and Louisa on awkward dates) and half felt, well, wrong. A lot like the Christmas episode, in some ways, where the story tries to make the show into something it’s not. And Doc Martin is many things, but a creepy drama where a patient’s sister is conducting unauthorized medical experiments on her sibling in the basement is not one of those things. So bizarre! Did this odd dichotomy rub anyone else the wrong way?

Creepy Basement Science Experiments Are Creepy. I honestly don’t know what to make of this episode’s patient/medical case-of-the-week plot. Beth is sick with some sort of respiratory infection but her sister Janet is…. very strange, possibly mad, incredibly creepy and doesn’t like Beth seeing a doctor or taking medication or anything. She’s also doing strange experiments in the basement attempting to make her own antibiotics and other medicines and treating Beth with them. As I said above, I seriously don’t understand this plot, it is really disturbing, and I can’t find the line back to how this case ties into the character stuff happening among all the other storylines and characters. So, much as I did with the Christmas episode kidnapping incident, I’m just pretending this part never happened.

Portwenn is Kind of Obsessed with Martin and Louisa. Louisa makes Martin ask her to marry him again in the morning, just to prove it really happened, and then things really escalate. Somehow – though I suppose it’s really due to Louisa telling the postman – everyone in town almost instantly knows that Martin and Louisa are getting married and many have strong opinions about it. Pauline wants to be a bridesmaid. Joe wants to warn Martin about getting some time in for himself before he signs up for the “ball and chain.” Bert would like to cater their event. Joan is upset (sniff!) that she had to hear about Martin’s engagement thirdhand. There’s a  giant “Congratulations, Miss Glasson!” banner at Louisa’s school. It’s basically exactly how you’d generally expect a town of nosy busybodies to react upon hearing about the engagement of two of their own and it’s charming.

Obviously, Klaus From the Vampire Diaries Was Not to Be Trusted.  In another marvelous bit of continuity from the previous episode, Bert Large’s restaurant continues to have trouble making their books balance and is running out of money. (I love continuity so much! You don’t even know!) . Bert and Al can’t figure out where all the money’s going and fear for the restaurant’s future.  Al, in an amazing bit of accidental detective work courtesy of Aunt Joan, learns that the record books have expenses for more orders listed in them than the restaurant ever received.  Long story short - Mick’s been stealing money from Bert’s restaurant! He is promptly forced to leave – and presumably leave Portwenn – which leaves Bert’s place without a cook.  Shame to see Mick go, really – I think that Joseph Morgan is  a great actor and I have to say I think it would have been good for Al to have another young man around the restaurant and his father.  I think he takes Bert for granted sometimes and having Mick around did go a good way to making him reevaluate, at least a little bit, how he treats his father. Maybe Al will have to come work at the restaurant now? I guess we’ll see.

The Downside of Relationship Rushing. We spend most of this episode watching Martin and Louisa navigate a lot of the little minefields that populate the beginning of a relationship with someone – dates and dinners and who stays at whose house and what kind of things do you like and it’s all very sweet and charming. Except, yes,  this is basically what they should be doing, but it’s all happening for a not-great reason. They haven’t had time or stability enough as a couple to learn all these little things, so they’re trying to do that and figure out/plan how they want to get married.  Because their relationship is so rushed, Louisa ends up with awful moments like Martin dumping the engagement ring on the table and leaving her to put it on herself – yes, he’s socially tone deaf, we’ve established, but he’s also not had time to learn that that’s something that would be important to her either.

The two of them have a couple of dinners together – regular dates, hurray – but during their second one, instead of something sweet or romantic, Martin presents Louisa with a box of nasal breathing strips to help her snoring. While this is probably something that wouldn’t really phase a couple that’s been together longer – and thus had time to get used to each other in a romantic sense – but on what is essentially maybe their fourth date, this seems to be such a red flag. I’m very curious to see where we go from here – whether the two of them go through with it or decide to wait and give themselves a chance to really settle into the idea of being a couple together. But, as I said, it certainly does make me anxious. And honestly, if Martin can “try” while making small talk with Pauline’s mother in the previous episode, why can’t he do the same with Louisa? Or does he genuinely not understand why such behavior might be a red flag for his partner? Stay tuned, I suppose…