Doc Martin (the greatest show ever) Episode Recaps

Doc Martin s1e4: “The Portwenn Effect” (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.

It’s another glorious day in Portwenn. There’s a community dance coming up, the town is a bit misty (lovely!), and we meet a boy named Peter who has a bad attitude. He’s extremely clever and extremely sour about having to learn about birds. As his teacher, Louisa has to put her foot down on his recalcitrance. She leaves him just outside the house with the birds. Naturally, this doesn’t work, and the boy gets up to trouble promptly. Peter Cronk destroys the “bird tables,” which appear to be a mix of bird houses and bird feeders (if we’re gonna be all American about it).

Peter has to rebuild the bird tables with PC Mark Mylow as a punishment, but Peter says he’d rather just get arrested. What a little punk! No wonder his mum is so anxious. Mrs Cronk has absolutely zero chill. Mylow is very kind about the whole thing, which makes Louisa see him in a new light.

In the meantime, it’s off to the moors for Doc Martin. He doesn’t have much success with visits to the moors. I get a strong sense of class concerns in regards to the moors, and the show is usually pretty sympathetic about it. But it doesn’t change the fact that his appointment goes poorly, and he doesn’t make a community dance in time. He’s trapped with the patient while Mylow and Louisa attend the dance together.

While everyone is distracted by the dance (or an appointment), Peter Cronk decides to make a run for it. He doesn’t really have a plan for being out on his own and spends the night eating snacks out of his backpack. When Mrs Cronk realizes he’s not in his bedroom the next morning, she completely loses her cool.

Mylow and Martin spot Peter Cronk trying to hitch a ride on their way back from the moors and bring him safely home. Martin and Peter connect with each other over being weird autistic rude people, too. (This is important later on the show.)

The medical mystery: Martin only has one appointment this afternoon. He has to go see the park ranger, Stewart James, who has been asking for a visit out on Bodmin Moor for weeks. Martin doesn’t want to go. This is a service Dr. Sim used to provide. The whole town expects Martin to act like Dr. Sim, demanding prescriptions that Sim would have given. Since Elaine books the appointment, Martin ultimately has to go see Stewart James.

Stewart James has a creepy little house in the middle of the vast green beauty of the moors. Tall metal fences keep the world locked out…and Doc Martin locked in. Initially, it seems like Stewart and Martin will get on. Stewart’s grumpiness about the village actually makes Martin smile! But then it turns out Stewart wants nitrazepam, a benzodiazepine he claims that Dr. Sim used to give him, and Martin doesn’t want to give it.

So Stewart confesses that the benzo isn’t for him. It’s for “a friend.” Anthony. An invisible red squirrel. He’s out to get the gray squirrels, who are the “squirrel equivalent of the Nazis.” Hey, turns out Stewart James is schizotypal! And Martin is trapped with him inside a locked fence! We get a really fun performance from the actor for Stewart James, Ben Miller, interacting with his friend the invisible 6-foot-tall red squirrel.

Martin does manage to leave, and promptly tries to get Stewart James sectioned (put into a mental institution, presumably). It doesn’t work out. Stewart James is so offended and unmedicated that he comes into town…and wrecks the bird tables! Those poor bird tables don’t deserve better. But it turns out that Stewart’s relationship with Anthony is well-understood in town, and everyone ends up blaming this on Martin for failing to medicate Stewart properly.

This also means Peter Cronk hasn’t been destroying the bird tables. It’s Stewart. No wonder the kid ran away, facing threat of arrest for something he didn’t do.

Looking through Dr. Sim’s notes, Martin realizes that Stewart James has been getting pills: vitamins. The old doctor only told him that they were benzos. So Martin is able to give Stewart James what he actually needs. This is another case where you just can’t handle Portwenn the way a big city would.

Louisa & Martin: Louisa extends an invitation to the dance to Martin, and he immediately gets weird about it, even though she’s so beautiful. Her hair is so shiny! Her dress is off-the-shoulders! I love the doc, but she’s obviously out of his league by about ten thousand kilometers. Anyway, Louisa invites PC Mark Mylow instead, and Mark takes it like an invitation to a date. He has no idea she’s out of everyone’s league.

Mylow comes to Doc Martin to ask for big-penis-pills in anticipation of the dance. He’s worried he’s not normal-sized. Mylow reveals has been buying penis pills off the internet! Which is an even bigger deal now that he has a date with the “woman of his dreams,” Louisa! Martin is so jealous the instant he realizes what Mylow is on about. He pushes him straight out of the office. And Mylow decides to take the penis pills into his own hands.

Louisa doesn’t realize how romantically inclined Mylow has become until they’re pretty much already dancing. What a disappointment for Martin to see Mylow dancing with the woman of his their dreams. He walks away before realizing Louisa is trying to let Mylow down easily, which is a disappointment for both Louisa and Martin. They’re so smitten. <333

The Larges: Bert is the one putting together the dance, which makes me immediately suspicious. Some people really shouldn’t ever have anything to do with business, no matter how innocuous. But this is one of those times where Bert’s event actually goes well. Is this the only time one of his events goes well? Remember, he was just selling bottled water contaminated by calving sheep the other day. He gets a band and decorations and everything. Nothing burns down. It’s incredible.

Favorite Quote: “You’ll get over it, big boy.”


Louisa’s Hair Rating: 10/10. How is it soooo shiny? I love the long tapered bangs on her. It hides her eyes a bit, but also balances out her big lovely lips. <33

Infuriating Level: 3/10. This one isn’t very infuriating. It’s tense! The first time I watched it I was actually quite scared for Martin. I really thought he was going to get shot by Stewart James.

Episode Greatness Level: 9/10. The scariness of the encounters on the moors and the whole squirrel thing means this is one of the more iconic episodes. I think back on it all the time!

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