Acorn Media recently released Doc Martin Collection: Series 1-4 on DVD. While parts of this set have previously been available separately, this is the first time the whole series (thus far) has been released in one collection. In the set are nine discs with thirty episodes, including the feature-length Christmas special that aired after Series 2. This show is on ITV in the UK and airs on PBS in the states.
Doc Martin stars Martin Clunes (Demob, British Men Behaving Badly) as the titular character, a surgeon who finally sees his patients as people, not just bodies, and can no longer stomach the sight of blood. As such, he packs up and moves to the small seaside town where his Auntie Joan (Stephanie Cole, Coronation Street, Tenko) resides, Portwenn, and becomes their local general practitioner. Doctor Martin Ellingham has a few chips on his shoulder, and thus clashes with the colorful locals, finding their personable ways annoying. He especially doesn’t not like the nickname Doc Martin, which they bestow on him immediately upon arrival.
Clunes handles the comedy beautifully, both physical and subtle. The character is a little like House, M.D., though not quite as abusive, and a little more accepting of his flaws. No drug addictions here. A particularly funny recurring gag is the dog that seems to come with the house and practice that Martin does not want.
In the first series, Martin repeatedly makes mistakes that alienates all of the locals, who in a group mentality, cut him off and refuse to deal with him. Once he solves the medical conundrum and saves some lives, they realize he’s not so bad, and open back up to him. This becomes less drastic as the series goes on, and it appears the townspeople are accepting him and ribbing him as one of their own.
The town itself is a bit like Stars Hallow from Gilmore Girls, with each recurring character having their own eccentricities and position within the larger group. They treat their town as their own, self-sustaining world, with many having little use to travel beyond its borders, as there is plenty to get out of life staying right here. That being said, it’s also realistic, and the younger people do like popular music and actors, so it’s not completely isolated. And the scenery is beautiful.
Among the denizens of Portwenn are Louisa (Caroline Catz, The Vice), a school teacher who is a love interest for Martin, Bert (Ian McNeice, Doctor Who, Rome), a handyman for all occasions, Al (Joe Absolom, EastEnders), Bert’s computer savvy son, Mark (Stewart Wright), the eager and sweet local cop, and Elaine (Lucy Punch, The Class, Dinner for Schmucks), his inept assistant who he cannot fire without risking being running out of town on a rail, should a rail be found. Some of these people leave, and new ones arrive, but I won’t elaborate further, as I wouldn’t want to spoil anything.
It’s honestly a very charming series. There is comedy, and also some heart. “Delightfully quirky” is how the Los Angeles Times describes it, and it would be hard to find a better adjective. Confident in what it does, Doc Martin is a refined formula that provides much enjoyment. The humor isn’t very edgy, nor the drama too melodramatic, but it is definitely an enjoyable way to spend a few hours.
As for bonus features, there are none to speak of. Just a few photo galleries, cast trivia, and filmographies, things easily found online, that don’t really add anything to the experience. But, like many releases from overseas, it’s nice enough to have the episodes to watch, that anything else isn’t really necessary anyway.