Acorn Media will release Doc Martin: The Movies this week. For those already familiar with the British television series Doc Martin, these made-for-TV films may be a bit surprising. Predating the regular show, they follow Dr. Martin Bamford (Martin Clunes), not Martin Ellingham, an obstetrician (not a surgeon) as he goes to the small village of Port Isaac (and not Portwenn). Actually, it’s the same village; it just has a different name. And if you want to get technical, the character of Doc Martin was created for the film Saving Grace, which came even before these films, so this isn’t even the start of it.
There aren’t a lot of familiar faces in Port Isaac. In fact, only one actor besides Clunes appears in both versions, and that’s Tristan Sturrock, though he plays a different character in the movies. The townspeople in these films are more fully developed people, which makes them less distinctive characters from those in the series.
The Doc Martin from these movies is grumpy and anti-social, but only a bit. He has no problem smiling, and seems to enjoy the local villagers. As long as they don’t break into his house, answer his phone, and read his mail. Which, of course, they do. Still, Bamford is not on the same level of unpleasantness that Ellingham is. Also, his reasons for fleeing the city and winding up in this setting are very different. But it’s neat to see the origin of a character before fully developed.
The first movie on the two-disc set is simply called Doc Martin. In the beginning, Martin discovers his wife, Petronella (Lynsey Baxter, Peak Practice), has been cheating on him with three of his best friends. Not sure what else to do, Martin clears his schedule and flees to the small hamlet, winding up on a fishing boat. Enjoying getting away from his busy life, and the town soon needing a general practitioner, Martin decides to stay. It’s quite a sad story, creating a different tone than Doc Martin usually exudes.
In the second installment, Doc Martin and the Legend of the Cloutie, Martin begins to become annoyed with his neighbors and seeks to buy a farm house a couple of miles outside town. Unfortunately, an unpleasant family gets to it first. Martin is willing to resort to anything, including calling upon the local residents’ superstitious “magic,” to win the estate. This is a more recognizable Doc Martin, in that his negative attitude begins to come out. But he still has friends whose company he enjoys, so it’s not a total switch. Also, the supernatural elements, while not totally explicit, give the tone a very odd feel.
There are no bonus features. Both movies are presented in 16:9 widescreen with stereo sound.
If you are a fan of the series Doc Martin, I do recommend checking out the movies. If you haven’t seen the show, watch the movies first, and you’ll get to see the evolution of a character. Buy Doc Martin The Movies, on sale Tuesday, August 30th.