Alex Casey gets to the bottom of a pop culture obsession: what’s the deal with Doc Martin?
It’s getting to the time of year where many of us return home to roost like big drunk chooks incapable of doing anything more than chugging prosecco, eating fistfuls of ham and blobbing out on the couch. In years gone by, I have eagerly grasped the remote at my Mam’s, feverishly sifting through her hard drive to find a years worth of something like Masterchef to sous vide my brain in. It’s been a hard year, you know? I need something nice, something harmless, something where people don’t get murdered and raped and nobody gets yelled at.
What I have found, every time, without fail, is Doc Martin.
A British comedy set in a sleepy Cornish town, Doc Martin follows the hijinks of the titular character – an ex-surgeon who has developed a phobia of blood. Mum bloody loves it. When she talks about Doc Martin, she always puts a weird emphasis on his last name. “Ooh, Doc Martin” she utters breathlessly, in the same way you’d welcome an old friend across the pub. She’s not alone either, a survey in pop culture think tank The Real Pod Corner revealed that at least tens of parents nationwide have got it bad for the man they call Martin.
Long puzzled by this unbridled passion, I decided to ask a panel of anonymous parents why they were nursing a decades-long fever for the Doctor. As the entire box set strides onto Lightbox this month, I proudly present my findings.
REASON ONE: His manner
This was the unequivocal, highest ranking reason for why your parents probably love Dr Martin from Doc Martin. “He says what we’re all thinking,” said a parental panellist. “Martin makes the more unusual men in your life seem normal,” offered another. They’re not wrong, every episodes is lashed with his curt, curmudgeonly demeanour. “For the record, I did not dispatch patients,” Dr Martin explains in episode two, season one. “I dispatched people who seem to think ‘surgery’ is another word for ‘cafe’.”
REASON TWO: Martin Clunes OBE
“Martin Clunes is a genius,” one enamoured boomer parent told me. My Google search yielded no results regarding his status at MENSA, but I did find out that an anagram of his name is “man isn’t cruel.” Do with that information what you will!
REASON THREE: His relationships
“All the relationships Martin has are hilarious,” one esteemed DM fan DM’d me. “The half-witted policeman treats Martin like his nest friend.” I was taken aback at the term “nest friend”, with Google providing nothing more than this charming owl, until I realised he clearly meant BEST friend.
Nests aside, there’s one defining relationship in Doc Martin that cannot go unmentioned: his on-again off-again with local empath Louisa. “I am genuinely beguiled by Martin and Louisa’s relationship,” says a fan. “Louisa accepts him, warts and all, and never tries to change him.
REASON FOUR: His location
Doc Martin is to Cornwall what Lord of the Rings is to New Zealand, Sex and the City is to New York and Games of Thrones is to Croatia. A big shot London surgeon washing up in a small town is a great opportunity to showcase the eccentricities of regional life, a quirk that has not gone unnoticed by Doc Martin fanatics. “I love the quaintness of the village,” said one interviewee. “The Cornish scenery is stunning. Makes me want to go there,” said another.
REASON FIVE: The medicine
If you like your shows with a splash of medical accuracy, Doc Martin might be right up your alley. “The medicine is very good actually,” said a fellow medical practitioner, “they must have a good medical adviser on the show.” But modern medicine can only get you so far, and sometimes Martin is left with no clue at all. “Martin has absolutely no idea how to handle his son – except from what he knows from medical textbooks,” said a superfan. “Hilarious.”
REASON SIX: His dog
“I love his absolute detestation of the little dog that follows him around all the time,” explained an anonymous Martin-head. Indeed, Doc’s doggy pal Buddy is a furry highlight of the series, but their tumultuous friendship becomes even cuter when you realise what went on behind the scenes. “Martin Clunes said he wasn’t going to shout at Dodger, because he’s a big guy with a booming voice,” dog trainer Sonja Turner told WhatsOnTV. “So bless him, he mimes the shouting and dubs it in afterwards!”
Okay, you win Mum. I’m sold.