Martin Clunes first appeared as Dr. Martin Bamford in the film Saving Grace. Creators Craig Ferguson & Mark Crowdy wanted to continue with the character, so they wrote two prequel movies which explained how Doc Martin came to Port Isaac, Cornwall. These two movies are part of the soon-to-be-released two-DVD set, Doc Martin: The Movies. Both movies run for approximately 162 minutes, with subtitles as the only disc extras. The character of Doc Martin later appeared in his own television series, which is still in production, but the character underwent a name and personality change.
In the first film in the DVD set, Doc Martin, obstetrician Dr. Martin Bamford has discovered an unpleasant truth about his relationship with his wife, Petronella (Lynsey Baxter) — he doesn’t have much of one, and she has had multiple relationships with at least three of his friends. He has to get away — from her, his job, and his life in London, so he sets out for Cornwall, which he used to visit as a kid. He lands in the village of Port Isaac, and quickly befriends some residents, like the lovely Rita (not a meter maid, and played by Neve McIntosh), and fisherman Harvey (Tristan Sturrock), and annoys others, like professional busybody Justine (Barbara Lott).
He even briefly considers taking up the life of a fisherman, but soon medicine calls. As the only outsider in a small village, Doc is immediately suspected of being the “jelly bandit.” Someone has been spying on their neighbors and documenting them in compromising situations. Snapped photos are then delivered to each victim, embedded in jello molds. Almost everyone in the village has been humiliated, much like Doc. Can Doc Martin both clear his name and find out who is delivering the poison pen-like jellies? Will he get back together with Petronella?
In Doc Martin and the Legend of the Cloutie Doc has decided to stay in Cornwall, but he doesn’t have a lot of privacy in town, as everyone knows each other’s every move. He has found the perfect and private house for himself outside of the village — except for one small problem — someone else has decided that it is perfect too, for them. The Bowden family, two kids, a rifle-wielding husband, and a very pushy wife (Anna Chancellor), have managed to get their bid accepted over his (by bribing the estate agent.)
Doc is so in love with the house that he is willing to resort to any means necessary to get it, and his village cronies have some supernatural suggestions that just might help. Friends down at the pub tell him about the Beast of Bodmin, a terrifying creature that may or may not have been responsible for various livestock attacks in Port Isaac in the past. New age-y Lolita (Pam Ferris) supplies him with a cloutie, a piece of cloth that he must tie to a tree and make a wish — when the cloth rots, his wish will come true.
To add even more drama, one of the villagers may be involved in some smuggling, and some at first imposing, but soon ridiculous custom agents, Jimmy (Jake Wood) and Lester (scene stealing Steven O’Donnell), are prowling around the village, hot on his tail. Will Doc invoke the Beast of Bodmin to secure the house of his dreams? Will the customs agents get their man? Doc must be careful what he wishes for, as anyone who knows their folk magic has heard that whatever you wish for will come back to you — threefold.
Martin Clunes is wonderful as Doc Martin. He is different here from his curmudgeonly television series character, but still very enjoyable. His interactions with all of his idiosyncratic neighbors are fun to watch and it’s clear that if show creators had continued with this character they would have had a successful show as well, albeit with a different feel, a mix of gentle mystery and magic, reminiscent of the film The Secret of Roan Inish. Fans of the series who love the doctor who’s sorely lacking in bedside manner will still enjoy these quirky films. The scenery is fabulous and it’s easy to see why Doc may have eschewed the big city and his faithless wife for a new life on the Cornish coast.