Sunday, December 20, 2015

No Christmas in Portwenn

Every year we all watch episodes of our favourite shows during the Christmas season doing Christmas themes. This can be a good thing or it can be very mundane. If a show has been going on for a long time, a Christmas themed episode every year can be very monotonous. Granted, I understand that I am more than likely in the minority on this. Some series, such as Steptoe and Son we looked at last week had done 8 series with only 2 episodes given to Christmas episodes. Something like The Simpsons have many episodes over its 25 + year run.

Now it may sound like I don’t like Christmas themed episodes. That is not true. That being said, I like it in moderation. Honestly, I tire of the yearly Doctor Who Christmas special because Christmas gets shoe-horned into it somehow. I enjoy a series that can tangentially include Christmas. It may not overpower the plot but it still makes an impression. I think good examples of this would be the Yes Minister episode Party Games or the episode of Sherlock A Scandal in Belgravia which happens to be my favourite episode, thus far, of that series.

There is also another scenario for the something running in a Christmas slot. Make the episode of the series special but don’t feature Christmas in any of it at all. Only Fools and Horses did this the best. Once the series got big they started to do movie length episodes of the show. It expanded the characters and made the episode feel really special. In fact, so special because doing it this way spawned probably my favourite episode of that series, The Jolly Boy’s Outing. I think another great example is that All Creatures Great & Small did 2 other Christmas specials that had nothing to do with Christmas (the 1983 & 1985 films) and 1 that had it in the background Brotherly Love.

Once I found out I was going to watch an episode of Doc Martin, I had wondered if they would tackle Christmas in PortWenn but when I watched it, I appreciated that there didn’t need to be anything about Christmas in the episode. It could just be a good episode.

On The Edge TX: 25/12/06

Maybe there is something wrong with me. Doc Martin has all the right elements. Its eclectic ensemble of characters, the main character is really interesting, the locations are outstanding, and it boasts an amazing supporting cast. That being said, I have never really taken to Doc Martin as a series.

Not being the Doc Martin aficionado like others, I had wondered if the previous Series (Series 2) ended on a cliffhanger because the film starts with Martin and Louisa tied up in Martin’s office and sounds like someone is going through his house. Louisa is very sorry for all that has happened.

We go backwards to 3 days previous with Martin visiting his aunt Joan. On the way he runs into Colonel Spencer who has a rifle as if he is protecting a rare species of birds. Martin visits his Aunt Joan because she sprained her ankle. The Colonel comes in to join the conversation and leaves his gun lying up against the kitchen table. By the end of the conversation, Martin grabs his bag which makes the gun fall to the ground going off and shooting Aunt Joan. It’s kind of a frightening start to the episode because she just doesn’t really move. I wondered how bad she been shot. As it turns out it braises her leg.

This is one of the reasons why I have such a problem with this series. It’s not Martin’s fault that Joan was shot. The Colonel brought the gun into the house and Martin even questioned the Colonel if it was loaded. I am sure it all comes back to how people in these areas live and how they are used to firearms but these sorts of things really annoy me.

A main plot point to this film is that Martin has been cited as being rude to his patients and his being investigated on whether any action should be taken. One thing I do like about Doc Martin is his ability to alienate just about anyone and unlike someone like Gordon Brittas, Doc Martin is fully aware that he is doing it. This is just how he is; he doesn’t suffer fools gladly and I actually really respect that.

That is important because regardless of the situation, you can count on Martin to treat most people with some sort of contempt. When Gavin Peters stops by to tell Martin he will be investigated, it takes him about 3 times to get to him because Martin has no interest in talking with Gavin and it is very obvious. Even when Martin’s secretary Pauline tells him and a very un-straightforward way that she is leaving, he barely lifts his head from his paperwork to acknowledge it. In fact, Pauline has a separate storyline in this as she is trying to get into school to become a nurse. Her boyfriend Al, part of the plumbing team with his dad Bert, is really sad that he will be losing the love of his life. That being said, he offers to drop her application in the mail for her. What would happen with that is pretty obvious. All I would say is that if you want something done right, then do it yourself.

“I thought he was dead!”

While Martin is ignoring the problem of this inquisition, Louisa is shocked to see her Dad show up after years of not being around. Clearly there is some bad blood between Terry, her Dad, and all of Portwenn. We don’t know exactly what that is at the start but something more interesting happens. As Terry and Louisa go for a drink later at the pub, they run into Terry’s friend Jonathan played by Chris O’Dowd. There isn’t something right about Jonathan from the start. He really conveys an energy of creepiness. At least creepiness for something like Doc Martin. It could be worse but it’s the right amount for a series like this.

Just as we don’t really know what Terry is doing in Portwenn, we are not sure what Jonathan’s friendship with Terry really means. We are given small hints that they are both in Portwenn for the same reason. What is clear is that Jonathan needs medication to help a bipolar disorder that Martin catches on to immediately. One other thing that is clear is that Jonathan doesn’t want to take the medication even when he has it. The problem is that Jonathan thinks that the government is listening to him everywhere. In his room at the B&B, at Martin’s office, and even beaming a signal into his head. Have you ever known someone like that? I have!

Things come to a head as Louisa has been defending her father because, as it turns out, he was thought to have stolen some cash from the town. Louisa had been defending against this accusation for years and erupts at Martin because he matter of fact points out that her father was a thief. He thought that was a fact opposed to Louisa thinking the town had something against her father.  Later that night, Louisa asks her father point blank whether he stole the money. Apparently Joan had told Martin that she saw Terry take the money. Terry finally admits to in which a tearful Louisa asks Terry to leave in the morning.

Maybe I am not giving the town of Portwenn much credit but if they suspected Terry of taking any money, I am actually really surprise they took Louisa on her own merit and allowed her to be a teacher and eventually a head master in the school of the town. I would think the town would hold a grudge and make anything difficult for anyone related to Terry if they suspected something, even if they are just guilty by being related him.

The next day Terry leaves and Louisa decides to go over to Martin’s place to talk with him. Little does she realize that Jonathan has followed her to Martin’s practice. As she is talking with Martin Jonathan gets into the practice and along with Pauline, Martin and Louisa are tied up and held at knife point. Although this sequence gets long, it is pretty amusing. Basically we get the entire story from Jonathan. There is a ship that is coming up near the village. Jonathan and Terry were supposed to meet this ship to get explosives. They were going to use it on a bank. So, Jonathan doesn’t want to go meet the ship on his own because of all his phobias so he needs Terry there and threatens Louisa’s life if Terry doesn’t return to go to the boat.

When Terry shows up, Martin is freed so he can bring him in to the practice but suddenly Martin has a moment of heroism as he takes a lamp on his desk and throws it at Jonathan who has a knife. The light is still plugged into the wall and only goes as far as the cord and hits the ground long before it could reach Jonathan. Eventually in a struggle, Terry is stabbed in the arm.  Jonathan is immediately hit with remorse. As everyone is helping Terry, who still had the knife in his arm, Jonathan remembers the rifle in Martin’s closet from his first visit to the practice to get a prescription for his meds. This was the rifle Martin took from Joan’s cottage after he accidentally shot her and it belonged to the Colonel. He was going to give it to the police who is out of town while all of this is going down.

Because of the injury to Terry, he can no longer go to the ship to get the explosives. Martin can’t go because he doesn’t know how to drive a boat. Suddenly it is determined that it has to be Al Large to do it. Al went to the practice to try and make it up to Pauline for purposely never sending in her application to University. She found out and dumped him.

Al gets on a boat and gets out to the ship where he gets the explosive except he doesn’t know they are explosives. On his way back to shore, Al sees someone fall from a cliff and seriously hurt himself.  AL calls Martin who is still being held hostage by Jonathan. Martin knows he needs to get out there and help this person plus Jonathan knows that is only way for him to get the explosives.

The person who fell from the cliff is the baker. He has been stealing the eggs from the rare set of birds that have started to inhabit that area of Portwenn. Martin actually does a very daring maneuver to get himself on the cliff to help the baker. Then, to release the pressure in his head, he literally drills a hole into the baker’s head to release some blood which of course is very sickening to Martin.

After all is said and done, Martin gets the gun back and is allowed to restrain Jonathan. Martin is sick of having to deal with the drama around the explosives so he takes the bag they are in and throws them over the cliff with this intention for it to land in the ocean. It just lands on the bed below where all the rare birds are located and accidentally blows them all up. The end.

I suppose the title On the Edge could mean a number of things. If taken literally, it could mean all of the action taken on cliff. It could mean Jonathan too. Without taking his medication, he was on the edge. Who knows? What I do know is that the DVD I watched this from is the Australian DVD. Although that is not the most exciting thing I ever wrote, I do know there is a reason why this is relatively interesting.

Ok, it’s not that interesting at all. When the UK released the set, up to and including Series 3, it didn’t release this movie. This movie fits in between Series 2 and 3. Even when they were re-package the series with 1-3 in a box set the movie wasn’t there. When I went to a friend’s house many years ago, he introduced me to this series and I decided that I needed to get the DVDs. My friend was very adamant that I make sure that I order this film on DVD too but I would need to get it from Australia because that is the only place to get it. People like of us have an illness of sorts.

There is a compulsion among collectors to collect everything and often not to discard anything. I had seen maybe two episodes of Doc Martin and decided to buy it myself. Most people would probably just get the first series to make sure they liked it. I needed to get everything that was available at that time including this film which I ordered separately from Australia and bought the other volumes in the UK. Even though I knew that I never seen much of the series, I still needed to get it all. There is an emptiness that I have of unfinished business until I have all episodes of a series once I start to collect it.

So far in my Doc Martin viewing, I have watched all of Series 1 (for an article I was supposed to write for another publication which I never did) and this film. I am not a massive fan of this series but knowing I was watching this prompted me to fill in the remaining series I did not have which is Series 4-6. Once I see if Series 7 will be available on Blu-ray in the UK I will pick it up there or get the US Blu-ray which was released this month. I believe the series is over and that will complete my collection of a series I may not to get to for some time…..if ever. It’s kind of the same for me with Downton Abbey too.

Speaking of Australia, it can be a hassle to order down from there at times because occasionally things take a little longer to show up. If you are a fan of such films, new releases have come out on DVD of some of the great British television series that have been made into films. These include the films to Are You Being Served? Up Pompeii, Man About the House and the 2 Steptoe and Son films amongst others. The kicker is that they are all new transfers and in their proper aspect ratios. The transfer were done in HD but released in SD which is frustrating. I have only watched the Are You Being Served? film so far and the picture is quite amazing.

As for On the Edge, I think it is a good film. I didn’t get bored with it and Martin Clunes is always on top form. I wish I really understood why it is hard for me to muster enthusiasm for this series. Anything is always possible and maybe it’s just a matter of time where I can sit down and really immerse myself into this series. Until then I have countless other titles I will be watching.

Next week: We get to a truly Christmas outing as we look at one of the UK’s all-time favourite holiday classics broken up over three articles. We start with the first two episodes of The Box of Delights next week from 1984. It’s been a while since I’ve seen it but it really is quite lovely which much of it has to do with a wonderful performance from Patrick Troughton.

Have a great week!

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Dave G said...

I find it interesting that you aren't overly fond of Doc Martin. I enjoy it, and as you did, ordered On The Edge from Australia. Of course, it is now available in the UK, but you do what you have to do when you have to do it. Also, there are rumblings that series 7 might not be the last. Only time will tell.

Greg said...

I am always interested in hearing some rumblings. If the past is to go by, a new series would probably hit in 2017 or so.

You were the one who urged me to pick up On the Edge from Australia, which I am glad I did.

Dave G said...

Did I? I thought it might have been me but I just could not remember. Speaking of Australia, that is also the only place to get a standalone release of Around the World in 20 Years, the special where Michael Palin goes back to India to find out what happened to the captain and crew of the dhow that took him across the Arabian Sea.

Greg said...

Interesting. I decided to get the entire DVD package released in the UK with the green packaging. It has Around the World in 20 Years on that.