Doc Savaged

With the world seemingly spinning more out of control each and every day, it’s reassuring to know that folks who populate the beauteous seaside hamlet of Cornwall’s Port Wenn are well ahead of the curve.  This has never been more apparent than in the recently released, much-anticipated Acorn/RLJ Entertainment Blu-Ray of DOC MARTIN, SERIES 7.

The all-new 8-episode two-disc set admirably picks up where the last cliffhanger left off.  Louisa (Caroline Catz) has gone off to Spain to reside with her mum, whilst Martin, that cold, compassionate human contradiction of terms (aka Martin Clunes, hilariously glum as ever) faces the genuine agonies of loneliness, wondering if his beloved spouse will ever return.

Auntie Ruth, however, saves the day; in fact, Dr. Ruth Ellingham (Eileen Atkins) is the unsung savior of this delightful season of mishaps, insults and infamous examples of bad decision making.  Ruth convinces Martin to seek out a therapist, the local and fetching Dr. Rachel Timoney (Emily Bevan).  Amazingly, he agrees, as does the returning Louisa – not too thrilled about her visit to Spain, particularly the food (“…full of salt and fat and God knows what!”).

As the couple charge head-on into marriage counselling (“Happiness is overrated,” Dr. Ellingham tells Dr. Timoney early on), we viewers are gob-smacked by Martin’s taking to the advice of their specialist while Louisa has doubts (due partially to jealousy), as the two docs eventually seem to hit it off).

While the pair’s agreeing to spend more time together doesn’t exactly shake the classic poetic definition of romance, it does make it quiver in fear.  When Dr. Timoney suffers a head-trauma accident, she is shot off into Bonkersville, giving out bizarre guidance that could only placate the Addams family.  Coming down, the shrink apologizes, pleading with the logical Martin to excuse her freakish behavior as understandable.  “No.”  End of therapy (and, ironically enough, a new and hopeful beginning for the troubled marrieds).

With regard to physical illnesses and maladies, the prime concern focuses upon Ruth’s own battle with polymyalgia, which she plays down, but has her nephew on the lookout as the disease worsens.

The already-diagnosed lunatic/pharmacist Mrs. Tishell (Selena Cadell) appears to be almost normal in comparison with the crazies and craziness that propel the Port Wenn citizenry to…well, crazy.  Continuing the thread of over-medication, her spouse (Malcolm Storry), too, has returned home after a long absence (who can blame him?), and, wanting to sexually make up for lost time, raids his wife’s store supplies.  The result ain’t pretty.

And speaking of pretty, Constable Penhale (John Marquez) has fallen in love with a ravishing babysitter (Robyn Addison), who, sadly, is as good at her job as he is at his; she promptly locks Baby Ellingham (ably impersonated by four thespian tots:  Archer Ray Gilliard Langridge, Harry Rossi Collins, Maverick William Bentley and Olly John Malcolm Gard) up in an empty abode.

Ruth, meanwhile, saves the day for the Large family (Ian McNiece, Joe Absolom, as father Bert and son Al, respectively).  Having invested in Al’s B&B, she is distressed that it’s taking longer than anticipated to get off the ground.  That turns out to be the best thing, as, once the holiday respite officially opens, it’s a disaster – giving the first vacationing couple (Bruce Alexander, Melanie Walters) a weekend in hell (ending with a potential food poisoning episode at his father’s restaurant).

As for Bert’s eatery, it’s on wobbly legs (as are most of the diners).  The elder Large can’t make a go at it, the final nail in his business coffin being driven by the questionable choice of hiring the town mean girls as staff.  What could possibly go wrong there?

Out of work and wandering through the countryside in his ramshackle trailer/caravan, Bert lights on Ruth’s property, where he regresses to the Large family’s age-old expertise:  bootlegging whiskey.  This illegality threatens to toss both him and Ruth in the clink, and might well do so except for the doctor’s sneaking a taste of his brew and realizing that it’s brilliant.  She agrees to help him get a proper liquor license and, like son/like father, go into business with him.  The Larges might finally be living up to their name.

Martin’s troubles, however, aren’t merely domestic.  There’s coping with the ubiquitous pesky mutt, who adores him, and those always-annoying tourists (including yank Sigourney Weaver).  There’s also the case of a psychotic backwoods woman (The Duchess of Duke Street‘s great Gemma Jones) and her demented son (Richard Riddell), unhappy with the fatal diagnosis for her husband (Nicholas Lumley).  She kidnaps Martin at gunpoint and holds him prisoner until he examines and (supposedly and magically) deems her ailing partner well.

All of this certifiable, manic magnificence is beautifully directed by Nigel Cole, Charles Palmer and Ben Gregor, written by Jack Lothian, Richard Stoneman, Charlie Martin and Julian Unthank, and sumptuously photographed on-location in Port Issac by Simon Archer.  The 1080p crystal-clarity high definition is showroom-worthy; ditto the 5.1 surround audio, featuring the jaunty score by Colin Towns, and the realistic sound effects that envelope one’s media room with seagulls, harbor sounds and trees blowing in the wind.

The Acorn blu-ray is terrific, making one wish and feel they were in Cornwall, despite the populace (the episode titles themselves: Rescue Me, Shock of the New, It’s Good to Talk, Education, Education, Education, Control-Alt-Delete, Other People’s Children, Fasta Non Verba and The Doctor is Out, provide an excellent indication of the direction these exercises in comedic frenzy is headed). There is also over 70-minutes of behind-the-scenes extras that, unlike the food at Bert’s, are definitely worth sampling.

This quirky, absolutely addictive comedy just gets better and better, the best wrap-up of SERIES 7 being the announcement of a Series 8.  Can hardly wait!

DOC MARTIN, SERIES 7.  Color.  Widescreen [1.77:1; 1080p High Definition]; 5.1 DTS-HD MA.  Acorn Media/RLJ Entertainment/Buffalo Pictures Productions.  CAT # AMP-2416.  SRP:  $39.99.




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