Series: Doctor in the House
Doctor in the House
is the collective name for a series of seven British sitcoms about the misadventures of a group of medical students, later qualified doctors, at the fictional St. Swithin's Hospital in London. The Doctor
franchise started as a series of books by Richard Gordon, several of which were adapted into films
in the 1950s and 1960s starring Dirk Bogarde, and several stories from which were adapted into two radio series entitled Doctor in the House
and Doctor at Large
in 1968-69 starring Richard Briers. The series finally made the leap to television in 1969, and remained a fixture of British screens for most of the following decade.Doctor in the House
was the first series in the TV franchise, airing on London Weekend Television
for two series in 1969 and 1970. It starred Barry Evans as doctor's son Michael Upton
, eager to follow in his father's footsteps at the same hospital at which his father trained. His fellow students included self-styled comic Duncan Waring (Robin Nedwell), suave upper-class charmer Dick Stuart-Clark
(Geoffrey Davies), academic struggler Paul Collier (George Layton), and hard-drinking rugby players Dave Briddock (Simon Cuff) and Huw Evans (Martin Shaw); in the second series, Evans was replaced by Irish boxer Danny Hooley (Jonathan Lynn). The students lived in fear of the autocratic yet brilliant surgeon Professor Geoffrey Loftus (Ernest Clark), who had no patience for their pranks or debauchery.
The students graduated from St. Swithin's at the end of Doctor in the House
, so Doctor at Large
, which followed in 1971, found Upton, Stuart-Clark, and Collier as newly qualified doctors (Nedwell left to join the cast of The Lovers
, so Waring was Put on a Bus
, as were Briddock, Evans, and Hooley) trying to obtain gainful employment. The series also introduced the grovelling, uptight Lawrence Bingham (Richard O'Sullivan), a highly competent yet snobbish and humourless doctor who was often on the receiving end of pranks
by the more laid-back main trio. Loftus was absent for most of the series, but returned just over halfway through, as determined as ever to squash the doctors' more irresponsible behaviour.
The increasingly unreliable Barry Evans was let go after Doctor at Large
, so Robin Nedwell was brought back as Duncan Waring to be the central character of Doctor in Charge
, which aired for two series in 1972 and 1973. Waring, Stuart-Clark, Collier, and Bingham were now established doctors on Loftus' firm at St. Swithin's: Waring and Bingham as surgeons, Stuart-Clark as an anaesthetist (and more likely to fall asleep in the operating theatre than his patients), and Collier as a radiologist. A notable story arc from the first series saw Loftus put forth for a knighthood; the first series finale centred on the hijinks involved in getting him to Buckingham Palace to become Sir Geoffrey Loftus.
George Layton then left the franchise to star in It Ain't Half Hot Mum
, while Richard O'Sullivan took the lead role in Man About The House
, so in the next series from 1974, Doctor at Sea
, the central cast was down to Waring and Stuart-Clark, with Ernest Clark appearing as Sir Geoffrey's twin brother, Captain Norman Loftus. Having fallen out with Sir Geoffrey, Waring and Stuart-Clark got jobs on the cruise ship MS Begonia
as ship's surgeons, but were far more interested in drinking and pursuing the female passengers than in actually practising medicine.
Waring and Stuart-Clark returned to dry land and St. Swithin's for Doctor on the Go
, which aired for two series in 1975 and 1977. Still under Loftus' thumb, they found new allies in Scottish physician Andy Mackenzie (John Kane), bright surgeon Kate Wright (Jacqui-Ann Carr), and Upper-Class Twit
James Gascoigne (Andrew Knox). The series more or less picked up where Doctor in Charge
had left off, with Waring and Stuart-Clark trying to enjoy themselves and avoid the worst of Sir Geoffrey's wrath.
The series made not just a Channel Hop
but a country hop in 1979, with Doctor Down Under
airing on Australia
's Seven Network
(and back in Britain on ITV in 1980). Waring was now at St. Barnabas' Hospital in Sydney, with Stuart-Clark following in the first episode, both of them under the disapproving eye of surgeon Professor Norman Beaumont (Frank Wilson), and competing with the toadying Dr. Maurice Griffin (John Derum). Waring and Stuart-Clark were still drinkers and skirt-chasers, never shy about turning on their English charm around the Australian nurses.
The franchise made one final return to the small screen (and one final Channel Hop
) in 1991 with Doctor at the Top
, which aired for seven episodes on The BBC
. Waring and Stuart-Clark were back at St. Swithin's, but were now firmly part of the establishment rather than rebelling against it, with Waring now married to Loftus' daughter Geraldine and father to five daughters, while Stuart-Clark had succeeded Sir Geoffrey as Professor of Surgery, and a returning Paul Collier divided his time between the hospital and a regular television engagement. The position of resident suck-up was now taken by Dr. Lionel Snell (Roger Sloman).
The writers for Doctor in the House
, Doctor at Large
, and Doctor in Charge
included Monty Python
's Graham Chapman
and John Cleese
, Barry Cryer, and The Goodies
' Graeme Garden and Bill Oddie; the later series' writers included former cast members Jonathan Lynn and George Layton. Though the series were comedies first and foremost, due attention was paid to getting the medical details as close to correct as the rules of comedy would allow (Chapman and Garden had both graduated in medicine from Emmanuel College, Cambridge, and Garden and Oddie later joked that they divided their scripts so that Garden would write the medical scenes and Oddie would write the gags).
Provides examples of:
- Accidental Innuendo: "The Fox" from Doctor in Charge contains a Lampshaded example. Loftus is giving Waring a dressing down for his behaviour in front of Matron Fox (with whom Loftus crossed paths, to his cost, as a young doctor), and at one point shouts, "She's a very forceful woman! And it takes me all my time to stay on top of her!" Waring cannot keep from sniggering at this choice of words, which only angers Loftus further.
- Always Identical Twins: Sir Geoffrey Loftus has an identical twin brother, Captain Norman Loftus of the MS Begonia, while Lawrence Bingham is part of a set of identical triplets along with his brothers Lionel and Leonard.
- Art Shift: The climax of "There's No Fire Without Smoke" from the first series of Doctor in Charge, in which Waring and Stuart-Clark are trying to get to a fire which Bingham believes is just a drill, is played as a parody of silent films, complete with title cards to render the dialogue and dramatic piano accompaniment.
- Bad Bad Acting: In the Doctor in the House episode "Doctor on the Box", Loftus is filming scenes in which he is supposed to be holding informal conversations with Upton and Stuart-Clark in the hospital bar. However, he sounds completely forced and wooden throughout, not even being able to say their names convincingly. (As Ernest Clark, who played Loftus, was an accomplished stage and film actor, this falls squarely under Stylistic Suck.)
- Bedmate Reveal: In "Honeymoon Special" from Doctor in Charge, Waring has reluctantly driven the newly married Binghams in their hired car to a country hotel after Stuart-Clark and Collier have encased Lawrence's leg in plaster as a prank, and must stay the night as public transport has stopped running by the time they arrive. Waring takes Room 9 while the Binghams take Room 6, but when they leave their rooms when Collier phones the hotel late at night to confess the prank, Waring returns to his room and slams the door, causing the number 9 to fall upside-down and leading Mary (who has visited the bathroom on the way back to the rooms) to assume the room is hers. Then Lawrence returns to what he thinks is his room, switches on the light, and finds Waring and Mary in bed together - to the shock of all three.
- Big "Shut Up!": Stuart-Clark delivers one of these when a massive argument breaks out between the anxious fathers in the maternity ward's waiting room in "Mother and Father Doing Well" from Doctor at Large. He is genuinely surprised when it actually gets the fighting to stop.
- Bottle Episode:
- "A Stitch in Time" from Doctor in the House is set entirely in the casualty ward at St. Swithin's, with only Upton, Waring, and Loftus from the main cast appearing in the episode. Upton and Waring treat a shopkeeper injured in a robbery, and then the robber, whose ear was severely cut, shows up to receive treatment (Loftus, who is in as a patient rather than as a doctor, stitches the crook's ear to a pillow and a carelessly bandaged policeman is able to knock him unconscious).
- The Doctor in Charge episode "The Long, Long Night" follows in the footsteps of "A Stitch in Time" by being set entirely in casualty, with just Waring and Bingham from the regular cast and three other actors (two patients and a medical officer). The plot revolves around a sailor just back from Asia showing all the symptoms of smallpox (actually chicken pox) whose pet mouse bites Waring and Bingham (forcing them to be quarantined for rabies).
- British Brevity: Sometimes played straight, sometimes averted. The seven series in the franchise had a total of 157 episodes, but they were rather unevenly distributed:
- Doctor in the House and Doctor on the Go had two 13-episode series each, while Doctor at Sea had just one 13-episode series. Doctor Down Under spread 13 episodes across two series, and Doctor at the Top had a single seven-episode series.
- At the other end of the scale, Doctor at Large ran for a single 29-episode series, while Doctor in Charge had two series, one of 27 episodes and one of 16 episodes.
- Broke Episode: The second series Doctor on the Go episode "Money Spasms" finds Waring, Stuart-Clark, and Mackenzie all financially in the red, and having to resort to pretending to be actors in order to be considered eligible for a drug trial which will pay them £50 each.
- Brotherhood of Funny Hats: The Freemasons make an appearance in "Climbing the Ladder" from Doctor in Charge, in which Stuart-Clark is invited to join the society and Waring and Collier play a joke on him by inviting him to a fake initiation ceremony. In revenge, Stuart-Clark invites them to an imaginary orgy; suspecting the trick, they call the police on the "orgy", which turns out to be a Masonic meeting with attendees including Prof. Loftus and the Chief Constable.
- The Bus Came Back:
- Martin Shaw left Doctor in the House after one series; Huw Evans was mentioned as participating in an obstetrics programme in Portsmouth, with Danny Hooley taking over as the cast's resident non-English doctor. Hooley then disappeared after the second series of Doctor in the House. Both characters appeared in one episode each after their departure, Evans as a nervous expectant father in the Doctor at Large episode "Mother and Father Doing Well" and Hooley struggling after having been struck off in the Doctor in Charge finale "Should Auld Acquaintance Be Forgot?"
- Robin Nedwell left the franchise after Doctor in the House to appear in The Lovers alongside Richard Beckinsale and Paula Wilcox. However, he returned for Doctor in Charge, and appeared in every episode of every further series. His absence was explained by Duncan Waring having been a research doctor at a hospital in Baltimore for the duration of Doctor at Large.
- George Layton left after Doctor in Charge to star in It Ain't Half Hot Mum, with Paul Collier leaving St. Swithin's after going out for coffee and simply not returning (though he apparently did return briefly while Waring and Stuart-Clark were at sea). He came back for Doctor at the Top.
- Butt Monkey: As a sexually abstinent, teetotal square who was nevertheless not above scheming and deception to get ahead, Lawrence Bingham was the most frequent victim of the other characters' pranks.
- In "A Joke's a Joke" from Doctor at Large, he hides the signup sheet for anatomy demonstration candidates until the last minute, and, in revenge, is stripped naked in the hospital library with only a knight's helmet and a large medical reference book to hide his shame.
- In "Face the Music" from Doctor in Charge, Bingham worms his way into becoming the replacement organist for the funeral service of a wealthy hospital donor's father; Waring, Stuart-Clark, and Collier spike his glasses of tomato juice and get him so drunk that he performs a raucous rendition of "Good Golly, Miss Molly" at the funeral.
- Can't Hold His Liquor:
- Bingham only ever drank tomato juice; the few times the other characters ordered him a Bloody Mary in secret (such as "It's the Rich Wot Gets the Pleasure" in Doctor at Large or "Face the Music" in Doctor in Charge), it took very little to get him fall-down drunk.
- Gascoigne only ever drank the odd half pint; any more than that and he would be flat on the floor. In "For Your Own Good" from the second series of Doctor on the Go, he drinks half a pint of whiskey after an argument with his father and signs the latter up for every painful medical test he can think of.
- The Casanova: Though most of the main characters were inveterate skirt-chasers, the king of womanising was Dick Stuart-Clark, who never missed an opportunity to turn the charm on around an attractive fellow student or nurse. Several episodes revolve around characters warning him that eventually that charm will come across as creepy, pushing him over the line to Dirty Old Man.
- Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: The first few episodes of Doctor in Charge featured recurring appearances by Victor Platt and Mollie Sugden as Duncan Waring's parents, and Sammie Winmill as his girlfriend Sandra Crumpton. The characters were dropped a few episodes in so that the series could focus on events at St. Swithin's rather than dividing attention between the hospital and Waring's home life.
- Continuity Nod: The later series in the franchise frequently reference episodes from the earlier series. For example, in "What's Op, Doc?" from Doctor on the Go, Waring regales a group of students with the story of when Bingham's leg was put in scientifically-designed plaster the night before his honeymoon, as seen in "Honeymoon Special" from Doctor in Charge.
- Cool Car: When Waring returns from America at the beginning of Doctor in Charge, he has his vintage Oldsmobile shipped back to England, impressing his colleagues at St. Swithin's. Collier likes it so much that he borrows it to impress a girl in "Which Doctor?" - but as he didn't ask Waring first, he assumes the car was stolen and files a police report.
- *Cough* Snark *Cough*: "Mother and Father Doing Well" from Doctor at Large features an example as Upton, Stuart-Clark, Collier, and Huw Evans are trying to help Evans' wife Pippa bluff her way through impersonating a nurse as Loftus stitches a cut on Evans' forehead. After first interpreting Loftus' instruction to put some antiseptic in a gallipot (a glass dish) to mean "put the bottle itself in the dish", she opens the bottle and pours in a tiny dribble of antiseptic. Collier fakes a sneeze while shouting "MORE!"
- Deadpan Snarker: Prof. Loftus had two modes of communication: barking with white-hot fury and the most deadpan of deadpan snarkery, generally opting for the former in the operating room and the latter everywhere else.
- In "All for Love..." from the first series of Doctor in the House, Loftus discovers that Upton has lied about having to attend his grandmother's funeral to get out of having to write an essay and thus go on a date with a girl who turns out to be Loftus' daughter. His reaction is a deadpan "And did my daughter enjoy your grandmother's funeral?"
- In "Hot off the Presses" from the second series of Doctor in the House, Loftus puts what he thinks is a patient's X-ray on a projector, only to find a negative of a cheesecake photo of Briddock's girlfriend. He turns to the nurse and says simply, "Will you break the news to Mr. Williamson or shall I?"
- When Huw Evans' heavily pregnant wife is disguised as a nurse and smuggled into the operating theatre where Evans is having stitches put in a cut in his forehead in the Doctor at Large episode "Mother and Father Doing Well", Loftus offers to perform the surgery himself and assumes Mrs. Evans really is a nurse. When Upton tries to stall by claiming surgery can't begin because the nurse hasn't arrived, Loftus looks over his shoulder at Mrs. Evans and drily remarks, "Is there a history of insanity in your family, Upton?"
- Disaster Dominoes: A number of episodes across the series feature snowballing chaos, but one of the most noteworthy examples happens in the climax of "Honeymoon Special" from Doctor in Charge. It starts with Collier missing a turn as he drives to the hotel where the Binghams are honeymooning with some plaster cutters to cut off the cast he and Stuart-Clark put on Bingham as a prank and getting stuck in a ditch as he tries to correct his mistake, moves on to Bingham's foot getting stuck on the accelerator of his hire car, dragging Waring in Collier's car on a wild ride down country roads, and ends with a frantic scramble to get the two cars and the still disabled Bingham off a level crossing before the arrival of an oncoming train.
- Doorstop Baby: Waring finds a baby in a basket on his doorstep in "When Did You Last See Your Mother?", the second series opener of Doctor on the Go. The baby is accompanied by a card reading "Baby Duncan", leading him to assume he must be the father and try to track down the mother from among his ex-girlfriends, but eventually the baby's real mother - whom Waring has never met - shows up to reclaim her child.
- Escalating War: The main plot of the Doctor at Large episode "A Joke's a Joke" features an escalating prank war between the unlikely alliances of Stuart-Clark and Bingham against Upton and Collier. When Bingham hides the sign-up list for anatomy demonstrators until almost the last minute, he is cornered in the library and stripped of everything except a knight's helmet and a large medical volume. However, in submitting the list, Collier removes both Bingham and Stuart-Clark's names, leaving himself and Upton as the only candidates for two positions. Bingham and Stuart-Clark proceed to coach the students to whom Upton and Collier will be lecturing to ask incredibly obscure questions (which even Loftus cannot answer immediately), then spray the chalkboard with wax to make it impossible to write on, replace Upton's complex chalk diagram of the liver with a stick figure house and tree, and replace their anatomical slides with beefcake and cheesecake photos. When the students admit the truth to the irritated Upton, he and Collier "invite" Stuart-Clark and Bingham to be the subjects in a surface anatomy demonstration.
- The Everyman: Though Upton did occasionally get drunk and pursue women, he was far more moderate than most of his fellow students, and tended to play the role of The Straight Man in most of the hijinks that went on at St. Swithin's. The tone of the series became somewhat wackier after Waring returned to become the central character starting with Doctor in Charge.
- Freudian Excuse: In "Brotherly Hate" from Doctor in Charge, we learn that Lawrence Bingham's "all work and (almost) no play" attitude is at least partly due to feeling inferior to his brothers Lionel and Leonard. Lionel in particular was captain of the school rugby team, while Lawrence was active instead in the trainspotter's club, and at one point Lawrence shouts, "Nanny loved you best!"
- Gender-Blender Name: "A Little Help from My Friends" from Doctor at Large finds Upton reviewing potential replacements for Collier as a staff member at his current employer, and the best application comes from a Dr. Nicky Barrington. When he meets Dr. Barrington, he discovers that "Nicky" is short for "Nicola" (female doctors still being seen as highly unusual in 1971).
- Gentleman Snarker: Dick Stuart-Clark comes from old money, with his aunt's will providing the funds for his medical education; in Doctor in the House, he has been abusing a loophole in the will which funds him a certain amount per year until he graduates by deliberately failing his exams so that the money keeps coming and he never has to do any real work. Even after he qualifies as a doctor, he seems to coast by doing as little work as possible, dividing his time between drinking and chasing women. He is intelligent and savvy, though more likely to apply that intelligence to scheming than medicine.
- Grand Finale: Sometimes played straight, sometimes averted.
- Doctor in the House was the only series to end with a real sense of finality, with the main cast passing their final exams and qualifying as doctors, although Doctor at Sea did end with an abortive return to St. Swithin's by Waring and Stuart-Clark (only to find Sir Geoffrey has booked passage on the Begonia after they go back to sea), while Doctor on the Go finished with Duncan Waring and Kate Wright calling off their engagement.
- The other series completely averted this with "just another episode" finales; Doctor at Large ended with Upton struggling to get Stuart-Clark a vacant position on Loftus' firm, Doctor in Charge finished with an abortive reunion between the main characters and a down on his luck Danny Hooley, Doctor Down Under concluded with an episode in which hospital orderlies mix up patient nametags, causing confusion among the doctors, and Doctor at the Top wound up with Waring trying his luck at Collier's private practice on Harley Street but deciding to return to St. Swithin's.
- Hangover Sensitivity: With the amount of drinking the main characters do first as students and then as doctors, it's inevitable that they should suffer hangovers that make them oversensitive to light and sound - while the characters who drank in moderation (or abstained altogether) the previous night show no sympathy. For example, "The Epidemic" from Doctor in Charge opens with a cheerful Waring finding the badly hungover Stuart-Clark and Collier in a hospital office, and deciding to make as much noise as possible to aggravate their conditions. As he leaves the room to take a group of students on patient rounds, he throws a metal kidney dish from the door onto the floor, which to Stuart-Clark and Collier is like hearing a thunderclap inside their own heads.
- Henpecked Husband: Mr. Clifford, the proprietor of the hotel at which Upton is staying in the Doctor at Large episode "No Ill Feeling!", lives very much under the thumb of his wife. The episode was written by John Cleese, and the dynamic between the Cliffords was an inspiration for the dynamic of Basil and Sybil Fawlty's marriage in Fawlty Towers (for which "No Ill Feeling!" is often named as a heavily-disguised pilot, Cleese's script being written soon after his sojourn at the Gleneagles Hotel in Torquay which first gave him the idea for Fawlty Towers).
- Hypocritical Humour: In the Doctor in Charge episode "The Merger", Bingham is talking the hospital chaplain's ears off about his latest surgery, while the chaplain tries to get a word in edgewise about his discovery that the hospital chapel is over eight hundred years old, making St. Swithin's Britain's oldest hospital. Eventually Bingham joins Waring, Stuart-Clark, and Collier... and immediately complains about how the chaplain doesn't know when to shut up.
- Impairment Shot: In the Doctor in Charge episode "Honeymoon Special", we see POV shots through Stuart-Clark and Collier's eyes of each other after they have drunk half a bottle of extremely powerful spirits; their faces are the only parts of the picture fully in focus.
- Incredibly Conspicuous Drag: In true British comedy tradition, several episodes across the franchise featured the male students/doctors dressing as women, never making much effort to look believable.
- In "Doctor on the Box" from Doctor in the House, Waring, Collier, and Briddock dress Hooley up as elderly patient Mrs. Crabtree to sabotage an interview as part of the documentary on St. Swithin's; the fact that he is supposed to be an old woman does not stop him from squeezing the female interviewer's bottom. Chaos ensues when Upton and Stuart-Clark discover the deception and decide to administer an enema, and then the real Mrs. Crabtree returns.
- The Doctor in Charge episode "Mum's the Word" involves Loftus and the other hospital board members having to choose between Waring and Bingham as a junior doctor representative on the board; Stuart-Clark claims that Waring's mother is a Countess (she is, in fact, a policeman's wife). As she is at St. Swithin's as a patient, the Chairman decides to meet her, and Stuart-Clark dons a blonde wig, blue eyeshadow, and women's clothing and pretends to be "Lady" Waring while the real Mrs. Waring is kept out of sight. He manages to completely charm the Chairman, especially when he reveals inside knowledge of the latter's "friendship" with Lady Cornford, and Waring is made a member of the board.
- "A Turn for the Nurse" from Doctor on the Go sees Stuart-Clark trying to enter a ringer for a "best nurse" competition so that he can get the prize money (the mere existence of which he has lied about); Waring and Mackenzie persuade her to drop out of the competition, and when Stuart-Clark finds out and reveals the non-existence of the prize money and the importance of "winning it back", Waring has to dress up in drag as their entrant. Sir Geoffrey recognises Waring immediately, but bites his tongue; meanwhile, Highcross board member Sir Edmund Steele takes quite a liking to Waring...
- Ladykiller in Love: Duncan Waring spent most of the series enthusiastically pursuing nurses, but in Doctor on the Go he entered a serious relationship with fellow surgeon Kate Wright, getting engaged at the end of the first series. However, on their wedding day, they had second thoughts and called it off, deciding to remain Just Friends. Waring was back to his old ways by the beginning of Doctor Down Under, but ends up married to Loftus' daughter in Doctor at the Top.
- Lady Looks Like a Dude: At the beginning of "Now Dr. Upton", the first episode of Doctor at Large, Upton scuppers a potentially promising interview when he repeatedly addresses a masculine-looking, deep-voiced interviewer as "Sir" (to the visible discomfort of the other interviewers), and only realises the truth when he drops his pen, leans down to pick it up, and sees that the interviewer is wearing a skirt.
- Leaning on the Fourth Wall:
- In "Doctor on the Box" from Doctor in the House, Upton and Stuart-Clark are reflecting on their experience participating in the documentary about medical students that will be airing soon, and make various observations about the drawbacks of being a teleivision actor, such as the long days and heavy volume of work involved, or the large number of pretentious fakes both in front of and behind the cameras.
- The Doctor on the Go episode "Money Spasms" has Waring, Stuart-Clark, and Mackenzie pretending to be actors to participate in an experimental drug test run by a friend of Gascoigne's. When Waring identifies the researcher's description of the drug's effects as pertaining to muscle tension and relaxation, he covers by saying that the three of them were recently cast as doctors and had to learn some medical terms for the roles, adding that Stuart-Clark's character was a lazy ne'er-do-well.
- Lethal Chef: Several episodes of Doctor in the House involve Waring being portrayed as a truly awful cook. His approach involves taking tins of baked beans and then throwing tins of whatever else comes to hand in with them to create all manner of noxious concoctions (he even prepares porridge with leftover beans from the previous night). His flatmates - Upton, Stuart-Clark, Briddock, and Evans - have no alternative but to eat whatever he cooks up, though they complain non-stop as they do so.
- Manipulative Editing: "Doctor on the Box" from the second series of Doctor in the House sees Upton and Stuart-Clark being interviewed for a documentary on medical students. When the documentary finally airs, the footage has been chopped up and dubbed so that they look like alcoholic, skirt-chasing clowns who are wasting the taxpayer money used to fund their education (the fact that Waring, Collier, Briddock, and Hooley engage in some creative sabotage of the interviews just makes the editors' jobs easier). For example, Stuart-Clark tells a female interviewer that the popular perception of medical students is that they spend all their time "boozing, playing rugger, chasing nurses, that sort of thing". In the broadcast, he appears to be telling the (now male) interviewer that this is how they really do spend all their time.
- Medium Blending: In "Change Your Partners" from Doctor at Large, Upton has a confrontation with Stuart-Clark over his romantic interest in his employer's daughter; Collier imagines this as a scene from a soap opera-like comic (drawn by Pat Gavin).
- The Missus and the Ex: Several gender-inverted versions were used over the years.
- One of the story arcs of the first series of Doctor in Charge involved Bingham falling in love with and marrying Waring's ex-girlfriend, Dr. Mary Parsons, who remained a recurring character through both series and still seemed fond of Waring even after her marriage (though not enough to seriously consider adultery - which, as Waring saw her as something of an Abhorrent Admirer, was fine by him), which occasionally aroused Bingham's suspicions.
- In "For Your Own Good" from Doctor on the Go, Gascoigne's father is admitted to St. Swithin's with a head injury, and his wife turns out to be an old girlfriend of Loftus' whom the elder Gascoigne seduced away from him while he was on holiday several decades earlier.
- Ms. Fanservice: Dave Briddock dated two Scandinavian girls over the course of Doctor in the House - Helga (Yutte Stensgaard) in the first series, Ingrid (Kirsten Lindholm) in the second. Their roles mostly seemed to revolve around being provocatively dressed, and, in "Hot off the Presses", posing for racy photographs to spark sales of the St. Swithin's student newspaper.
- Naughty Nurse Outfit: "Take Off Your Clothes... and Hide" from Doctor in the House finds the main characters at a strip club when one of the dancers falls ill on stage. They take her to St Swithin's where, out of boredom, she starts helping around the ward. The boys do ther best to convince her to give up stripping and become a nurse, and it seems that they succeed. At the end of the episode, she is seen in a nurse's uniform - but it's just a new costume for her latest routine at the club.
- Obstructive Bureaucrat: Hospital administrator Adrian Quint, as played by Angus Deayton in the Doctor at the Top episode "The V.I.P.", refuses to spend much-needed money on improving the hospital's outdated wards and equipment until Waring tricks him into thinking the Prince of Wales is arriving at the hospital for surgery (it is, in fact, a young child who happens to be named Charles Windsor).
- Oh Crap: The students/doctors often had this look when Loftus found evidence of their scheming or shirking. A notable example comes from the Doctor at Large episode "Operation Loftus", when he returns from an extended trip to America. In his absence, Stuart-Clark has been running all sorts of money-making schemes, and dumping all the real work on the more than willing Bingham. He gets a series of increasingly alarmed looks when Loftus returns (finding Stuart-Clark in the bar, which he now opens for lunch) and announces that he is not only resuming his position as Professor of Surgery, but has been appointed to the Board of Governors and will be conducting a thorough review of everything that goes on at St. Swithin's.
- On One Condition: Dick Stuart-Clark's wealthy aunt had a clause in her will stating that he would receive a fixed amount of money each year while he was studying to be a doctor. By the time Doctor in the House starts, he has deliberately failed his first-year exams five times so that he can keep receiving the income without actually having to work for it.
- Panicky Expectant Father: When Huw Evans returns in the Doctor at Large episode "Mother and Father Doing Well", his wife is due to deliver their first baby any day; as a doctor, Evans has a whole laundry list of reasons why the birth might not go smoothly, and his dishevelled appearance indicates that these worries have taken a heavy toll. Things only get worse when he is in the maternity ward waiting room and a discussion with the other expectant fathers about their wives' possibly mundane, possibly serious symptoms degenerates into a chaotic shouting match. Finally, when Evans is wheeled into the delivery room on a gurney, he faints immediately and has to be wheeled back out again.
- Professional Butt-Kisser: Bingham sucks up shamelessly to Prof. Loftus throughout Doctor at Large and Doctor in Charge in a bid to get the more plum appointments on his firm, but he is not shy about switching his allegiance if the situation seems to call for it, as in "The Merger" when he hopes to get a similarly prestigious post at Highcross after the rumoured merger with St. Swithin's.
- Put on a Bus: Happened quite frequently between series.
- Simon Cuff as Dave Briddock left the franchise after Doctor in the House, although Briddock's name still turned up a few times in Doctor at Large.
- Barry Evans was obliged to leave the franchise due to personal problems affecting his reliability; Upton was written out as having proposed to Nurse Willett (nicknamed "Nurse Willing") in a drunken haze, and then running away in embarrassment to join the Merchant Navy. The other characters still referred to him periodically right through to Doctor at the Top.
- With Richard O'Sullivan leaving to star in Man About the House after Doctor in Charge, Bingham was written out as becoming father to triplets and then leaving St. Swithin's for rival hospital Highcross (to Waring and Stuart-Clark's disgust). The character's shadow remained, though; when Sir Geoffrey finds Gascoigne seeing patients in half a dozen cubicles in casualty in the Doctor on the Go episode "Money Spasms", his reaction is to mutter, "Bingham?"
- Rail Enthusiast: Bingham is a keen trainspotter, and in "Brotherly Hate" from Doctor in Charge he plans to spend his day off at the railway station, writing down train numbers, a plan Waring and Collier view with disdain.
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech:
- In "The Taming of the Wolf" from Doctor in Charge, Loftus delivers a third-person version to Stuart-Clark, Collier, and Waring in front of a new group of female physiotherapists as a way of stopping the doctors' attempts to seduce them before they start. He describes Stuart-Clark as a "lanky, straw-haired tailor's dummy" who masks his voracious sexual appetite with oily charm, Collier as having an ambition to grow up and become a doctor and having only succeeded in the latter, and Waring as a beer-swilling lecher who presents himself as harmless but is really a danger to anything in a skirt. (Bingham gets dismissed completely as part of the same tirade.)
- Waring and Collier deliver a well-intentioned one to Stuart-Clark in the Doctor in Charge episode "A Deep Depression Centred over St. Swithin's" after he accidentally brings the wrong patient in for a leg amputation (which Sir Geoffrey only just notices before he makes the first cut). In the hope of pressing him to better himself, they point out that he's frankly incompetent as an anaesthetist (in several other episodes, Loftus remarks that Stuart-Clark is more likely to be asleep during operations than his patients are), and is getting too old to still be enthusiastically pursuing young nurses.
- Remember the New Guy: When the character of Lawrence Bingham is introduced in the first episode of Doctor at Large, "Now Dr. Upton", he is implied to have been a classmate of Upton, Stuart-Clark, and Collier, who clearly grew to loathe him during that time, and when Huw Evans shows up in "Mother and Father Doing Well" and is told Bingham is on duty in the maternity ward, he evidently knows him well enough to be disgusted by the idea. However, Bingham was never so much as mentioned in Doctor in the House, despite pipping Upton and Waring (in that order) to the surgery prize in his final year at St. Swithin's.
- Sequential Symptom Syndrome: Bumbling medical student Reggie Grace experiences this in the Doctor in Charge episode "The Epidemic", first when a fellow student answers Waring's question about the symptoms of gastroenteritis (including stomachache, fever, and vomiting, the last manifesting as dry heaves in Grace's case), and then again when Waring recites the symptoms of Ménière's disease (including deafness, tinnitus, and sudden attacks of vertigo). Waring later tells Stuart-Clark and Collier that Grace went on to show symptoms of pneumonia, leukaemia, whooping cough, gout, syphilis, trench fever, and hepatitis as they examined patients with those diseases.
- Shout-Out: The character of Dick Stuart-Clark is believed to be named for Chris Stuart-Clark, a Cambridge Footlights contemporary of early series writers Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Graeme Garden, and Bill Oddie, and series producer Humphrey Barclay. Chris Stuart-Clark appeared in early performances of the 1963 revue A Clump of Plinths alongside Chapman, Cleese, Oddie, and I'm Sorry, I'll Read That Again cast members Tim Brooke-Taylor, David Hatch, and Jo Kendall,note but he left to become a teacher and was replaced by fellow Footlights member and future Doctor in the House cast member and writer Jonathan Lynn.
- Shown Their Work: Not only did the series have a medical adviser to look over the scripts, but several of the main writers, most notably Graham Chapman and Graeme Garden, had trained as doctors.note As such, all of the series in the franchise not only feature a great deal of medical terminology (mostly accurate unless the Rule of Funny takes priority over reality), but also include a few "tricks of the trade" for medical students. For example, in "Pass or Fail" from Doctor in the House, Stuart-Clark gives Upton the mnemonic "Luscious French Tarts Sit Naked In Anticipation" as a way to remember the seven nerves which pass through the superior orbital fissure in the skull to control eye movement: Lacrimal, Frontal, Trochlear, Superior oculomotor, Nasociliary, Inferior oculomotor, Abducens.note
- The Slacker: Dick Stuart-Clark has turned laziness and lack of ambition into an art form. As his aunt's will covers his living expenses while he remains a medical student, by the time Doctor in the House begins he has already failed his first-year exams five times (despite having effectively mastered the material) and plans to keep doing so indefinitely, devoting his time instead to drinking, skirt-chasing, and playing rugby. When he ends up passing his exams and becoming qualified as a doctor, he remains similarly unambitious, becoming an anaesthetist so that he merely has to ensure the patient is asleep for the operation (which Loftus often points out is less likely than Stuart-Clark himself being asleep) and still being a junior houseman on Loftus' firm in his 30s.note
- Spit Take: In "Pass or Fail", the first series finale from Doctor in the House, the main cast are drinking a toast "to absent friends" after hearing that Loftus will be in New Zealand for exam season... just as Loftus walks in behind them. Briddock sees him first and spits out the mouthful of beer he has just drunk.
- Stern Teacher: Loftus plays this role in Doctor in the House; he has a very no-nonsense approach to his position as Professor of Surgery, as he takes medicine extremely seriously and demands that anyone wishing to become a doctor do likewise. In "It's All Go..." he almost paralyses Upton with terror by shouting that if he can't answer an anatomy question correctly, his (imaginary) patient will bleed to death in 30 seconds. However, he does know talent when he sees it, and admits to being so tough on the students to prod them into tapping into their natural abilities if only to show him up.
- Title Theme Drop: The series' theme tune (which mostly remained unchanged, apart from being mixed with "Sailor's Hornpipe" for Doctor at Sea) appeared in a variety of guises as incidental music. For example, in the Doctor in the House episode "All for Love..." a slow, bittersweet violin version plays as Upton reflects on the end of his relationship with Loftus' daughter (unaware that, right behind him, she is now seeing Huw Evans), while in "Take Off Your Clothes... and Hide", a burlesque version plays as stripper Rita peels off her nurse's costume.
- Twin Switch: When Lawrence Bingham's identical brother Lionel shows up at St. Swithin's on his day off in "Brotherly Hate" from Doctor in Charge, he and Waring decide to play a prank on Collier, who lied to Sir Geoffrey that Lawrence was in favour of his application for a house surgeon position on his firm, by passing off Lionel as Lawrence. However, as they are Polar Opposite Twins (Lawrence is a teetotal non-smoker; Lionel smokes in the doctor's office and carries a flask of scotch everywhere), the disguise has a few cracks, especially when he tells Collier he will talk to Sir Geoffrey and keeps addressing him as "Mr. Loftus" rather than "Prof. Loftus" or "Sir Geoffrey". When Lawrence returns, he becomes flustered as people keep talking about encounters with him that he doesn't remember having.
- Unexpected Inheritance: In "It's the Rich Wot Gets the Pleasure" from Doctor at Large, Stuart-Clark's wealthy uncle James has died and left him £50,000; he, Upton, and Bingham get stinking drunk to celebrate. It is not until they are hauled up before the St. Swithin's Board of Directors that Loftus points out that the money is not his directly, but is his to donate to the hospital of his choice. He threatens to donate it to rival hospital Highcross unless he, Upton, and Bingham are re-instated at St. Swithin's.
- Upper-Class Twit: James Gascoigne from Doctor on the Go comes from a wealthy family, and though he is a skilled doctor and more likely to join in the other doctors' fun than Bingham ever was, he is still portrayed as a pompous buffoon who is often on the receiving end of pranks by the other doctors. Unlike Bingham, however, Gascoigne occasionally had the last laugh in prank wars.
- Video Inside, Film Outside: As with most British series from the 1960s and 1970s, the interior scenes were almost all shot on videotape (except for the odd interior scene shot on location), while the exterior scenes were shot on film.
- Waving Signs Around: In "The Students Are Revolting" from Doctor in the House, Upton is misidentified as having participated in a student demonstration, until Loftus points out that the demonstration was in New York. However, the resulting attention attracts a British group of itinerant student protesters who proceed to occupy the hospital, complete with signs, choruses of "We Shall Overcome", and (somewhat jumbled) rallying speeches. When Loftus engages in a bit of Shaming the Mob by telling them how silly it is to occupy a building dedicated to saving and prolonging life, they agree to leave, but then the police arrive and arrest Loftus when they see him holding a sign. At the end of the episode, the students at St. Swithin's stage a sign-waving rally in his support until he points out that he has already been pardoned by the Dean.
- Wedding Day:
- The Doctor in Charge episode "This is Your Wife" sees Lawrence Bingham marrying Waring's former Abhorrent Admirer Dr. Mary Parsons, although as Bingham is worried Parsons might not get a promised promotion if it is known she is married, he and Waring try to keep the ceremony a secret until the last minute (inevitably arousing suspicion in Stuart-Clark and Collier).
- The last episode of Doctor on the Go, "Happy Ever After", seems to be building toward the marriage of Duncan Waring and Kate Wright, but they eventually have second thoughts and decide to call it off, remaining Just Friends.
- You Look Familiar: With over a hundred and fifty episodes and hundreds of speaking roles, the franchise inevitably cast some of the same actors in multiple roles. Just to name a few examples:
- David Jason played a non-English-speaking patient in the Doctor in the House episode "What Seems to Be the Trouble?", a gardener and psychiatry patient in the Doctor at Large episode "Let's Start at the Beginning", and a Spaniard stowing away on the Begonia to get back home to Tenerife in the Doctor at Sea episode "Go Away, Stowaway!".
- Several cast members of Are You Being Served? showed up in multiple roles:
- Nicholas Smith (Mr. Rumbold) played a morgue attendant in "Nice Bodywork - Lovely Finish" from Doctor in the House, and a patient trapped in the hospital during a suspected typhoid outbreak in the Doctor in Charge episode "The Epidemic".
- Mollie Sugden (Mrs. Slocombe) played a white witch's patient in the Doctor at Large episode "It's All in the Mind", and later had a recurring role as Duncan Waring's mother in the first few episodes of Doctor in Charge.
- Harold Bennett (Young Mr. Grace) played a similar sort of senile old man to his role on Are You Being Served?, first in a recurring role as elderly hospital board member Mr. Reeves starting with Doctor at Large, then as a visiting dignitary in the Doctor in Charge episode "The Merger".
- Arthur Brough (Mr. Grainger) played a hotelier in "The Viva" from Doctor at Large, then showed up as a Health Ministry official in the Doctor in Charge episode "The Long, Long Night".
- Christopher Biggins (alias Nero in I, Claudius) may hold the record with appearances in four series: an expectant father Doctor at Large, a patient in Doctor in Charge, a ship's steward in Doctor at Sea, and a male nurse in Doctor on the Go.
- Your Tomcat Is Pregnant: In "A Man's Best Friend is His Cat" from Doctor in Charge, Waring is tasked with looking after Sir Geoffrey's cat, Thomas, while he and his wife are visiting her mother, and a mix-up results in Thomas seemingly being taken away as a lab animal for experimentation. Waring tries to buy a replacement, but Sir Geoffrey recognises the difference immediately; fortunately, the real Thomas appears unharmed - and having given birth to kittens. Lady Loftus explains that this isn't the real Thomas either; the real Thomas died long ago, and Lady Loftus bought this cat as a replacement.