Doc Martin (the greatest show ever) Episode Recaps

Doc Martin s1e3: “Shit Happens” (2004)

This is an ongoing feature recapping episodes of the Greatest Show Ever, ITV’s “Doc Martin.” Please watch the episodes before reading if you don’t want spoilers.

Portwenn has unrealistic expectations for our dearly beloved Doctor Martin Ellingham. It’s not enough for him to be a great doctor: he also has to be ready to issue prizes at events, as in episode one, and he’s expected to be a personality on the local radio talk show. He only gives one-word answers on the radio, much to the deep disappointment of Portwenn’s Personality Playlist host, Caroline.

Trying to platform the doctor turns out to be a dreadful idea. Asking for wordier answers means he says “Yes, I do” instead of just “Yes.” And once he gets everyone’s ear on the radio, he accuses the municipal water of being a source of disease, which causes an utter panic. Caroline cuts him off when he tries to issue a boiled water advisory.

In the past, an issue with aluminum suspected in the water nearly shut down the whole town. Portwenn isn’t a rich place. They’d rather be sick than lose their tourist dollars. I admire how the show never turns away from the deep poverty faced in such a setting.

She’s right to cut him off, though: testing the water proves that it’s not the source of contamination.

Roger Fenn, meanwhile, has been undergoing chemotherapy for his throat issues. Fenn hopes that Martin can give him a sick note in order to get the school to pay him for his pension. It would be a big deal for Fenn, who doesn’t have money, but Martin would have to falsify records. Martin’s a stickler for rigid rules. Even being asked for it is offensive to him, and that’s one of those things we love about him, even if Portwenn doesn’t. Martin wants to help if he can, though. He’s willing to look at Fenn’s forms. He’s just not willing to lie.

Louisa has another idea to help Fenn. She tries to arrange for him to teach music part-time at the school. Fenn initially resists in the hopes of getting his pension, but in the end, he takes the position.

The medical mystery: Diarrhea has been getting around in the community. The doc isn’t initially concerned when the first patient arrives — a lifeguard at the public pool. The second patient we see also is a frequent swimmer, and this quickly turns into a water-related paranoia.

Martin suspects a chlorine-resistant parasite, and the pool owner is not willing to shut down the pool, shock it, and change the filters. What else is a responsible doctor to do except scream at the children that they need to leave or get sick? Martin has shown repeatedly that he’s not capable of more social sensitivity.

His office is absolutely swarmed by diarrhea cases. More than thirty in two days! Where could it be coming from?

The Assistant: Elaine’s back at work, and she’s still not good at it. She’s talking to her boyfriend Greg on the phone no matter how she gets yelled at and won’t look up anything she doesn’t have to. She’s not interested in improving, either. Martin tries to show her how to fix her computer. He thinks she’ll like the computer more if she understands how it works. I mean, it works for Martin, right? He fixes clocks, and computers are hardly more complicated than clocks. But Elaine would literally rather kill herself (in her own words).

Elaine makes the outbreak of diarrhea worse by refusing patients who have “belly ache.” She’s basically the opposite of a medical professional and absolutely should not be giving medical advice over the phone, even if she regards it as common sense. It means Martin takes more than a day to learn that there are more than a dozen cases of diarrhea in the community.

Mrs. Tishell: This is the first real visit from Doc Martin to Mrs. Tishell, who expects herself to be equal to the doctor in many ways. She wants to do tea and cake. She beats herself up for not notifying him that everyone is having diarrhea, though Martin has not been berating her specifically. Also, we may notice at this point that she’s always wearing a neck brace.

She’s just another member of the community who really expects the doctor to be more social than just a doctor. You’d think it would be a letdown, but then again, you wouldn’t think Mrs. Tishell would turn out the way she does.

The Auntie: Joan is an effective translator between Martin and the town, as usual. She points out that he didn’t test the water before making an accusation. Even when Martin is being reasonable, he’s still gotta do better. Portwenn isn’t like London. Or any sane town, really.

Louisa & Martin: Martin is rendered useless by Louisa’s presence. She shows up to apologize for times she’s been abrasive with him, and Martin promptly spills water all over himself. They cannot have a conversation that actually communicates anything without butting heads, either. It offends her when he seeks to clarify her intentions. He can’t meet her halfway when she’s trying to extend a lunch invitation to him, either. But he *wants* to, terribly so. The man is useless around her! He’s so smitten with Louisa! Who can blame him when she’s so flipping pretty?

It’s cute how Louisa also can’t get Martin out of her head. She notices a coworker, Joan, is looking a bit pale, and immediately gets distracted by the very idea of Joan seeing the doctor. Ahhh, the doctor <333

The two of them actually get to go on their first date in this episode! Which PC Mylow ruins. Very Portwenn.

The Larges: Our favorite plumbers, who are terrible at their jobs, are working on the plumbing at the radio station when Martin is first interviewed. We learn that Al’s mother is dead and Bert has been hanging her ghost over Al’s head to get him to do all the work in the plumbing business. Al doesn’t love it, and he shouldn’t. Al moves out after the tiff.

Bert isn’t sure how to parent. Martin tries to help him with emotional support, but it just makes it worse. The way that Martin is always doing his best and offending everyone feels so relatable.

Honestly, it’s not Martin’s fault in this case. Bert is dreadful. He just sees the water issues as an excuse to sell “French spring water.” Which turns out to be bottled water from Bert’s spring, actually, and the actual source of the parasites making everyone sick. It’s Bert’s fault! Aww, sorta sweet seeing the first time Bert ruined everything for everyone. This man shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near businesses, or money, or…anything.

Bert supporting Al’s interest in computers also introduces Al and Elaine, meaning he gets his first assistant-girlfriend.

I think it’s so cute how Al and Bert are clearly both Alberts. Al looks like his name is spelled: Tall and skinny. The older, wider Bert definitely looks like a Bert.

Favorite Quote: “Take two aspirin and insult me in the morning.”


Louisa’s Hair Rating: 10/10. Her bangs are wispy, her hair is long, and she’s got a bit pulled back to create multiple levels. It’s so shiny. She could totally be a hair model.

Infuriating Level: 5/10. I hate how the town is so mean to Martin about his efforts to keep them healthy, but when they need tourism for their jobs, I understand their hostility here. Plus, he’s wrong on this occasion. He shouldn’t have made accusations before testing. Caroline should eat sheep shit, though.

Episode Greatness Level: 7/10. It’s great to see Doc Martin striving to do better and watching Bert screw things up the first time. <3

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