AUGUST IS ACORN MEDIA/RLJ ENTERTAINMENT MONTH
Since 2004, it’s been a hoot to anxiously await and ravenously enjoy the antics of the populace of Portwenn, DOC MARTIN’s fictional Cornwall district (in actuality, the seaside community of Port Issac). Aside from being about the closest thing contemporary audiences can relate to the eccentrics that once resided within the gates of Ealing, DOC MARTIN is ruled by its title character, the irascible fish-out-of-water transplanted physician Martin Ellingham (brilliantly played by Martin Clunes). For the past several seasons, avid TV viewers from both sides of the pond were wondering if the newest series would be the last – a decree issued by the show’s producers. But the popularity of the show and its wonderful characters kept the ratings and praise so high, that the suits (happily) had to keep it going. Well, SERIES 8 was to be the last installment, but…Well, then, SERIES 9 – the positively final word on the matter. Well, we’ll see. Meantime, we can bask in the pleasures both these collections offer via the recent Acorn Media/RLJ Entertainment/DRG DVD and Blu-Ray renditions. In a nutshell, the high bar MARTIN is renowned for has been fastidiously maintained, exploring new avenues for the familiar cast – some quite poignant.
While each SERIES has a number of interesting sidebar scenarios: an upcoming wedding, Ruth considering selling her farm, the Larges’ continuing attempts to become solvent, various diseases and ailments, the further adventures of now-widowed Mrs. Tishell (although hubby, aka Malcolm Storry, is briefly on view in his SERIES 8 swansong appearances), child-rearing for Martin and Louisa, and even a hefty chunk devoted to Buddy, the lovable pooch that has attached himself to pet-hating GP, the key narratives can be whittled down to a pair of crucial scenarios surrounding the lead and his beloved.
Indeed, the major plotlines of the two series’ total of 16 episodes (each spread over three discs) are quite serious on the surface albeit handled in a snarky fashion: The Ellighams’ having to deal with James Henry’s (played by twins Noah and Luca Frucella-Tildesley in 8, and Elliott Blake in 9) upbringing once their nanny splits, and, Martin’s being offered a high-end position at a revered London hospital. Each collection is beset by drama: the former causing Louisa to rethink her career guideline, and ultimately choosing to leave the school she loves to pursue a career in psychology, and, Martin being investigated by the staunch Medical Review Board after a complaint is issued against him concerning his blood phobia. The latter is quite damning, as it may cost him not only the desired position, but his license to practice medicine. But even a “disabled” Martin is far more qualified to handle the Portwenn maladies than the array of inept temp replacements and investigators – one who ends up owing Martin his life!
Personally, I found the “final” SERIES most illuminating, as it completely punched me smack dab in my superiority complex. Early in the productions, local PC Mark Mylow left to go the Barney Fife route in the big city. His replacement, the fumbling, bumbling Joe Penhale instantly annoyed me from frame one. Throughout the years, I begrudgingly accepted his presence (due largely to the wonderful portrayal by John Marquez). Well, in SERIES 9, Mylow returns to the village a failure (Paint it Black) – ready to pick up where he left off. I had forgotten what a pompous ass the character was, and, more importantly (for all his foibles), how much I’ve grown to really like Penhale. Another Neuhaus mistake exposed! Good riddance, Mylow! Other recurring folks and guest stars in the SERIES include Lucy Briggs-Owen, Robyn Addison, Rosie Ede, Rory Wilson, John Hollingworth, Hermione Guilliford, Angela Curran, Conleth Hill, Lucy Russell, and extra special appearances by Sigourney Weaver (All my Trials in 8), Art Malik (Sons and Lovers, also 8), Danny Huston (Wild West Country, in 9) and Tom Conti (Licence to Practice also 9), all obviously fans of the show. And, aside from those already listed, we’re tickled pink to welcome back Jessica Ransom, Selina Cadell (Mrs. Tishell), the wonderful Eileen Atkins and, as the Larges, Ian McNeice and Joe Absolom.
I won’t share the climactic results of SERIES 9; that said, I WILL tell you that they’re not absolutely resolved to any cut-and-dried conclusion. This gives us hope that somewhere down the road there may be a SERIES 10 looming in the wings. I pray this so, as, now more than ever, we NEED Martin’s blunt, searing and oft angry advice. It would almost qualify as a mandatory PSA to have a DOC MARTIN in the time of COVID, with the short-tempered physician dealing with the a-holes refusing to wear masks. The possibilities of situations are limitless. LSS, if anyone can sway idiots, its Martin Ellingham! But, again, that’s my pipedream.
As mentioned above, the Acorn Media DVD and Blu-Rays of SERIES 8 and 9 are, not surprisingly, up to the company’s lofty standards. Acorn probably has the best looking DVDs on the market (SERIES 8 is no exception, in excellent anamorphic widescreen), and the Blu-Rays of SERIES 9 display outstanding 1080p resolution. The stereo-surround tracks are equally impressive, allowing us to savor the background oceanic effects that append the frequently hilarious dialog and charming music scores of Colin Towns. The direction (Nigel Cole, Stuart Orme, Charlie Palmer), writing (Jack Lothian, Richard Stoneman, Colin Bateman, Aschlin Ditta, Julian Unthank, Andrew Rattenbury, Alastair Galbraith, Chris Reddy), and camerawork (Simon Archer), likewise, couldn’t be better. As usual, each SERIES contains supplemental behind-the-scenes extras, including a segment hosted by the show’s unofficial masters of ceremonies, McNiece and Absolom. In case I haven’t praised them enough, the cast of regulars remains as terrific as ever. And Martin Clunes is a comic god!
DOC MARTIN, SERIES 8. Color. Widescreen [1.78:1; 16 x 9 anamorphic]; 5.1 stereo-surround. CAT# AMP-2593.
DOC MARTIN, SERIES 9. Color. Widescreen [1.78:1; 1080p High Definition]; 5.1 DTS-HD MA. CAT # AMP-2599.
Acorn Media/RLJ Entertainment/DRG/Buffalo Pictures Production. SRP: $39.99@