Doc Martin (the greatest show ever) Episode Recaps

Doc Martin s1e5 “Of All the Harbours in All the Towns” (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. Louisa is joining a surfing club to prove to the kids that she isn’t so old. Martin sees an older fellow in a minor boat crash (he faints out on the water!), and to his surprise, the man identifies Martin as “Little Marty.” This guy has a history with Portwenn! John Slater used to live there, and he took Marty and Joan out on his boat. He’s also not disappointed to hear that Phil, a former partner of Joan, has died.

Martin also gets a patient named Melanie, whose arm was dislocated by her pillock of a brother. When Martin fixes her arm, she goes from hostile to a little too friendly. She hunts him down with a gift of cake. His awkwardness is hilarious, as you would expect. Martin truly does not know what to make of one of the giggling girls who roam the village like feral dogs being flirtatious. He doesn’t even seem to recognize it at first, since she’s so young compared to him. Not that it’s a problem for Melanie.

She leaves him a love card too. And she tells him he’s not Bodmin, but “lovely,” and Martin starts to realize he needs to draw some lines between them. Even he knows that her card (“lots of lurve”) is a bad sign. His “Oh God” made me scream-laugh. He tries to tell her clearly that he’s not interested in her, but she doesn’t want to hear it. And she’s not even sixteen yet!!!

Martin is so concerned about this “besotted” girl that he even seeks out help from PC Mylow, the least helpful person in a town filled with unhelpful people. It’s pretty funny seeing Mylow taking the piss out of Martin, though. Mylow isn’t worried about Melanie, but he thinks Martin should be, because Melanie’s dad is into tae-kwon do.

Anyway, Martin is trying to keep Melanie away in the kindest, most direct way. She takes it very rationally and…shows up naked in his bed!!! She broke in to his bedroom with a ladder!!! She thought it would be like Romeo and Juliet!!!!

The next day, Melanie’s dad shows up!!!! The tae-kwon do guy!

Luckily, Melanie’s (extremely tall) father isn’t coming to beat him up. He totally understanding his daughter is doing a bit of transference and having a phase. It’s not what we expect at all, and it’s nice to see someone who isn’t raking Martin over the coals for the slightest mistake. It’s nice that this is such a fun (horrifying!!!) plot, because everything else going on is sad.

The medical mystery: John Slater is reluctant to be examined by Martin. He also claims he doesn’t have a GP. He lives in Hong Kong! But his flushed face and shortness of breath draw Martin to look into him more closely. John admits that he’s had all sorts of heart problems, like atrial fibrillation and orthostatic hypertension, yet he refused to be sent to the hospital in Truro. He also insists Martin doesn’t tell Joan that he’s sick… Always a bad sign.

Without the patient being compliant, it takes a while to know what’s going on. The lab results he eventually gets are grim. John has rheumatic heart disease. He also has infective endocarditis. It’s terminal, and John knows it. He’s only got six months to a year left. No wonder he’s boating around the world and visiting old loves.

The Auntie: This is a Joan-heavy episode! We love Aunt Joan. She’s extremely flustered to hear that John is back in town and tries to avoid him to no avail. She goes totally heart-eyes at the sight of him. Joan, you dog! He invites her to hang out and visit the old haunts, by which he totally means he wants to bang it out. Who doesn’t want to bang such a gorgeous silver cougar??

Martin is worried about Joan since John showed up. Even though Martin can’t talk about the medical issues, he’s still keen to make sure Joan’s heart is safe. It’s super cute seeing him float around her and trying to get her to talk about it. He’s totally unprepared to hear Joan admit she was cheating on her husband Phil with John back in the day. Joan!!!! You dog!!!!!!

If I’m not mistaken, this is how we learned the method of Phil’s death. She says “motor neurone.” I’m not entirely sure what that is. Maybe he just couldn’t keep up with this foxy babe. Anyway, John is determined to keep up. No matter how she tries to turn him aside, he remains persistent, and even talks her into a picnic date. I’m struck by how cute these sexagenarians are. They’re genuinely gorgeous people. No wonder they fall in love again.

Through Martin’s efforts to support Joan, we learn that Martin’s shitty dad kept Martin and Joan apart at some point because Dad thought Joan was a woman of “gross moral turpitude.” Is this the first indication Martin’s parents suck so bad? Martin is crushed to realize that Joan lost time she could have shared with John on his account — though really it’s his dad’s fault. These moments between Martin and Joan are so sweet. It’s really wonderful to see how intensely Martin loves his auntie.

John totally breaks Joan’s heart. He tells her that he’s still married, and she can’t come sailing around the world with him. But it’s a lie. He’s never loved anyone but Joan, as he confesses to Martin; he just doesn’t want her to take care of him in his last months as he dies. Martin tells her the truth as John is sailing away. Her tears are heartbreaking!

The Assistant: Elaine is even grumpier and more useless than usual. Hey, remember how she and Al were making out? Elaine broke up with the Greg we never see, liberating her white girl dreadlocks to date elsewhere. Al immediately moves in on her. Al definitely has a thing for receptionists, but also, it’s not like there’s an overwhelming number of girls his age there. He’s a little old for the giggling girl brigade.

They connect over music, but really, they should be connecting over her excellent cable knit sweater. Anyway, they end up snogging in an alley, which the Giggling Girls immediately spot. THEY SEE ALL. THEY KNOW ALL. Elaine says Al has a “lush bum” and I never noticed that, personally, but now I’m going to be looking. He reminds me a lot of my spouse in 2004, tbh. He’s wearing a shirt my spouse wore all the time back in the day. Al is such a catch here, too.

He loads up an iPod with music for Elaine…only to hear her on the phone with her ex Greg. Sad trombones. I guess that relationship isn’t developing. Elaine is the worst of the assistants, by far.

Louisa & Martin: Louisa tells Martin it would be great to see him out of his suit :3 Of course she is inviting him to go surfing (hence needing a wet suit), but that’s really her only scene in the episode. Still, we do hear from Melanie that Martin & Louisa’s romance is known throughout the town, which is very validating this early in their will-they-won’t-they.

The Larges: Most of Al’s plot is wrapped up in Elaine here, but we do get an appearance from Bert, failing to understanding technology. He’s convinced Al is going to irradiate himself with the cell phone. And he needs to be assured that Al isn’t calling into some internet “sex-change room.” Remember when the internet was only for porn?

Favorite Quote: “I was probably too busy wetting myself to notice. Forgive me.”


Louisa’s Hair Rating: 10/10. We get a really functional Louisa ponytail in this episode! It’s beautiful to see her less-styled. I hope the actress had a nice week off filming.

Infuriating Level: 0/10. Martin is treated very well this episode, and his plot with the community is hysterical.

Episode Greatness Level: 10/10. It’s soooo sad and soooo funny in turns. Legendary.

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