Did you know that the popular British TV show Doc Martin is based on two TV movies, which were in turned based on characters in the film Saving Grace? You didn’t? Well, now is your chance to watch the first two Doc Martin stories through their recent release by Acorn Media of Doc Martin: The Movies.
Be prepared for a shock. This Doc Martin is not the irascible, blood-phobic, skilled surgeon of the TV show. Rather, in Doc Martin, the first made-for-TV movie starring Martin Clunes, we are introduced to Dr. Martin Bamford, an obstetrician who, upon learning that his three best friends have been having simultaneous affairs with his beautiful wife Petronella, runs away to the Cornish town of Port Isaac (later called Portwenn in the TV series) and tries his luck as a lobster fisherman. Doctor Bamford tries to hide his identity, but the villagers get awful curious when certain details surrounding Mr. Brown seem to coincide with the jelly (Jello) bandit that has been terrorizing the town. It seems the jelly bandit reveals secrets by delivering jelly molds to the doorstep of individuals in order to stir up trouble. Suspicious of strangers anyway, the townspeople immediately suspect Dr. Bamford. The rest of the show is Dr. Bamford dealing with his accusers, finding the real culprit, and making himself a welcome member of this close-knit community.
This first movie is a pleasant little slice-of-life story about a man who seeks time away in order to assess his life. The downtrodden Bamford finds happiness in working with his hands (he smiles, unlike the other Martin) makes friends with several of the villagers, and gets googly eyed over the local (married with child) beauty. There is lonely a ittle of the medical mystery and odd village personalities that is characteristic of the TV show, but there are hint of it in this movie. Those viewers at a tipping point in their lives will readily identify with Bamford, and the show is ultimately one of those lazy Saturday afternoon Lifetime movies (though with a male protagonist) that make for cozy couch viewing.
The second movie in the collection Doc Martin and the Legend of the Cloutie is a poor showing. It lacks any real end goal, and makes the character of Dr. Bamford into a comic rather than the tragic figure of the first movie. In it, Dr. Bamford, the new town doctor, has decided to purchase a manor home outside of the of Port Isaac. But then a loud-mouthed family led by a harridan (Anna Chancellor, Four Weddings and a Funeral) from London zips into town to purchase the property right out from under him. Irritated and disappointed, Dr. Bamford seeks the advice of the locals, who all recommend he use a cloutie. A cloutie is a piece of cloth you tie on a branch and make a wish on. As the cloth rots, the wish is supposed to come true, though Dr. Bamford is warned that it can come back threefold on him. Though a heretic of this magical tradition, Dr. Bamford does it anyway and finds his wish coming true, though in ways he never expected.
Doc Martin and the Legend of the Cloutie is a blatant attempt to reap the benefits of the first Doc Martin movie, but with none of its charm. The writing is haphazard and aimless, the storyline has no point, and Dr. Bamford’s issues are all external and small. There is no personal growth or change for the character. What is left is a farce that makes mockery of the interesting character that began to be developed in the first movie. Watching it was time wasted.
Though these two movies were not really Doc Martin (as I have come to understand the character from the TV show), I enjoyed the first but found the second to be under par. This is a worthwhile purchase for anyone interested in having a complete Doc Martin collection, or who enjoys fluff piece movies for watching some rainy afternoon.