Caution: This review contains spoilers.
Last night, Martin Clunes returned for season six of “Doc Martin” on PBS. The season opener is entitled “Sickness and Health”, centering on the long-awaited wedding and surprise honeymoon of Martin Ellingham and Louisa Glasson (Caroline Catz). Fans of the show may have been astonished to find a leaner Clunes. He attributed the loss of 14 pounds to a virus, which resulted in alterations to his wardrobe at ITV.
In spite of the weight loss, Doc is still the same curmudgeonly GP of Portwenn, hardly at ease in the crowded church and reception. Louisa is late to the ceremony, P.C. Joe Penhale (John Marquez) is determined to serve as best man, and baby James Henry objects to the wedding. Villagers turn out en masse for the free food and the chance to consult Martin about medical ailments. Martin and Louisa manage to slip away but they are caught off guard by Bert Large’s (Ian McNeice) “gift”: to be whisked off for an evening at a romantic lodge in the middle of nowhere.
As one might expect, nothing is ever picture perfect for Martin and Louisa. A small fire goes awry at the lodge, rendering it an unsuitable dwelling place for the night. Still clad in their wedding attire, the newlyweds set off in search of a phone. Instead, they encounter their new gun-toting neighbor, Bellamy (David Sterne). The strange and rude fellow suffers a serious injury when the roof comes down on his dilapidated front porch. Martin sutures up the wound with Louisa as his assistant before they can move Bellamy to the road to find assistance.
The other important patient of the evening is little James Henry, under the care of Aunt Ruth (Eileen Atkins). It takes the expertise of Mike Pruddy (Felix Scott), a charming electrician, to reveal that vanilla extract will take care of the baby’s teething.
While fans may be pleased to see that Martin and Louisa are finally married, the first episode is a departure from the creative and fresh quirkiness that has defined the show. More emphasis is on action and a repeat of previous gags, which do elicit some laughs. In addition, James Henry’s problem is predictable and lacks the air of mystery or oddity that has characterized medical puzzles in earlier episodes. Let’s hope that “Doc Martin” will be back to top form next Saturday.
New episodes of “Doc Martin” will air for eight weeks on PBS. Please check your local station for specific dates and times.