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Doc Martin: Series 5

Release Year:      2011

Studio:      Acorn Media

Format:      Colour; NTSC; Widescreen

Rated:      Not Rated

# of Discs/Episodes:      2/8

Running Time:      368 minutes

DVD Release Date:      June 5, 2012

Creators:       Dominic Minghella

Directors:      Ben Bolt, Paul Seed

Actors:      Martin Clunes, Caroline Catz, Ian McNeice, Eileen Atkins

DVD Features:      SDH subtitles; Behind-the-scenes segments (62 minutes), cast filmographies, photo gallery

E:Top Picks Rating:      8.5/10

Acorn Media Write-up:      The huge hit dramedy currently airing on public television stations across the US, DOC MARTIN: SERIES 5 debuts on DVD. Akin to “House” and “Northern Exposure”, BAFTA Winner Martin Clunes (“Men Behaving Badly”, “Shakespeare In Love”, “Reggie Perrin”) stars in the series as a misanthropic, socially maladjusted doctor forced to relocate to a rustic seaside village, where he immediately clashes with the town’s eccentric citizens. Emmy winner Eileen Atkins (“Cranford”) joins the cast in Series 5. The DVD 2-disc set includes eight episodes, plus 62 minutes of behind-the-scenes segments. DOC MARTIN is a huge hit in the UK with 10 million viewers, and it’s gaining momentum on public television; it’s the highest-rated program on KCET/Los Angeles. A sixth season will begin production in 2013.

In Series 5, fatherhood hasn’t softened the dour Dr. Martin Ellingham (Martin Clunes). He’s about to take a new position in London when events conspire to keep him in Portwenn. His infant son with Louisa (Caroline Catz, “Murder in Suburbia”) needs a name, his replacement doesn’t seem up to the job, and he receives devastating news. Like it or not, he’s stuck in the scenic Cornish village with its quirky inhabitants – most of whom have grudgingly grown rather fond of the grumpy doctor.

Although Martin has largely mastered his fear of blood, he still has no clue how to manage his life. How can he cope with sleepless nights, an aunt with issues, a flaky new receptionist, Louisa’s hippie mother, and the usual village dramas?

Filmed in the idyllic Cornwall village of Port Isaac, DOC MARTIN won the Best TV Comedy Drama at the British Comedy Awards. The series premiered on ITV in the UK in 2004 and has aired for five series. Series 5 premiered on public television in April 2012.

Jon Ted Wynne Review:      I love DOC MARTIN. I think Martin Clunes is brilliant. The Cornwall scenery is stunning and the world-wide following of the series is well-deserved.

I also think the show peaked at the end of Series 4. But when something is this entertaining, why be picky?

The reality is, the centre of DOC MARTIN is Martin and his relationship with Louisa (the wonderful Caroline Catz). The tension between the two is wonderful to watch, but how much longer can it go on? Now that there is a child in the mix, can they really stay at odds for another series? Of course we wait, with pleasure, for the ultimate payoff, some indication that Martin is finally able to acknowledge his social ineptness and profess his enduring love to Louisa. This is no secret and the show yearns for this semi-resolution with each series, never failing to deliver some quirky version of a conclusion.

I suppose it’s a question of how many variations there are on this theme before the show becomes cloying. The supporting characters are all terrific, and even with the absence of Stephanie Cole as Martin’s aunt Joan (Cole left the show because she felt that four series of anything is enough…) there is sufficient colour and variety from the supporting players to give occasional respite to Martin and Louisa’s interpersonal angst.

Then on the other hand, suppose you buy a large, family-sized chocolate bar. If you eat the whole thing at once, you’ll be sick of it. If, on the other hand, you ration it out, you’ll enjoy it afresh each time out. The latter seems to be the creative approach taken by the DOC MARTIN team. Their plan is to do a series every other year. I say more power to them, so long as they can find a way to keep things fresh and avoid recycled plots. For any long-term creative endeavour, this is the litmus test: can it continue to move forward? When significant financial gain connected to a show’s enormous popularity is a factor, this becomes even more tricky to achieve; the temptation to settle for second best in order to keep the cash cow on its feet can be difficult to resist. Far be it from me to question the artistic integrity of anyone associated with this outstanding series, but it is a potential factor.

There are some welcome new characters in Series 5, most notably Martin’s aunt Ruth, played by the eminent Dame Eileen Atkins. Dame Atkins has been visible to TV audiences for over 50 years and her acting pedigree is exceptional. It takes a cast comprised of such luminaries to match Martin Clunes, who is one of the most versatile stars in England today. Every role he plays is different and after seeing him play virtually anything else, it is astonishing to see how believable he is as Doc Martin. Having said that, the younger talent on the show, including Jessica Ransom as the Doc’s new receptionist, Morwenna, hold their own with the best of them. In Ms. Ransom’s case, this includes appearing opposite acting legend Peter Vaughan.

Fans of the show will love Series 5. There is much to enjoy, such as Bert Large’s continued restaurant travails; Aunt Ruth’s adjustment to the wilds of Cornwall; the well-intentioned interference of Louisa’s hippie mother; and the ongoing unrequited passion for Doc Martin by local chemist Mrs. Tichell. Add some lovely, inspired minor comic roles, such as a couple of newlyweds who have to deal with a nasty skin infection in the midst of their cleaving unto one another and you have inspired, witty, intelligent comedy-drama.

While I do believe the show has peaked, I do not wish to imply that Series 5 is second-rate. Rather it is simply not the most creative adventures we’ve seen out of Doc Martin and friends. Still, the show is fun, entertaining and, in the words of another reviewer “completely addictive”. Just try to NOT watch all eight episodes within a matter of a few days. Betcha can’t!

Take your year off, Doc. We’ll see you next time. And thanks to Acorn Media for not making us wait too long between the British broadcast of the episodes and the North American DVD release. Much appreciated.