Follow TV Tropes


Series / Doc Martin

Go To
”Is there anyone here who has a genuine medical problem?”

Doc Martin: Sick people don’t want a laugh, they want a doctor who knows what he’s doing.
Louisa: They want a bedside manner.
Doc Martin: A bedside manner can’t cure you.

A mix of Medical Drama and Brit Com, brought to you by ITV starring Martin Clunes. The character is based on the character Doctor Martin Bamford from the 2000 Comedy film Saving Grace and the two BSkyB TV movies “Doc Martin: The Movie” and “Doc Martin and the Legend of the Cloutie”, before being significantly retconned and renamed "Ellingham" by Dominic Minghella (spot the anagram). Aside from the scenic postcode, there is no link between the two characters.

Dr. Martin Ellingham is a highly-skilled Doctor with two fairly glaring characteristics. Firstly, he's a misanthrope with the bedside manner of Hannibal Lecter. Secondly, he's managed to acquire a fear of blood. The latter resulted in him leaving his job as a renowned surgeon in London and heading for the Cornish village of Portwenn to become their GP (General Practitioner, i.e. village doctor).


There he deals with the variety of local oddballs who often ignore his medical advice, the ailment of the week, being a magnet for the local dogs, his aunt(s), and the argumentative local schoolmistress.

The show has aired a total of nine series. In 2020 Saving Grace director Nigel Cole confirmed that the tenth series would be the last - it is expected to air in 2022.

This comedy-drama contains examples of the following:

  • Actually Pretty Funny: After Martin tells Roger Fenn (in the hospital for throat cancer, about to undergo a surgery that might cost him his voice) about his fear of blood, Fenn promises not to tell anyone. Martin comments that it's not like Fenn will be able to tell anyone soon, anyway. There's a Beat, and then Fenn and Martin both crack up.
  • Aesop Amnesia: By the beginning of each episode the majority of the village has forgotten that Doc Martin is usually right with his medical advice or diagnoses and continuously disregard him because of it.
  • Afraid of Blood: Martin. Sets up the whole series, as his aversion to blood halts his high-flying medical career in its tracks and causes him to become a GP in a small rural village. Despite early efforts to keep a lid on his secret, an upstart doctor from his old hospital blabs about it all over Portwenn.
    • He sought therapy to correct it in season 4 and seemed to be over it by season 5, however in season 6 he started to have problems with blood again.
    • This comes to a climax in Series 8, where he faints after a patient herself faints and loses a lot of blood due to hitting her head. This causes her to complain and almost costs Martin his career.
  • invokedAlternative Character Interpretation: In the first series, Martin says that his haemophobia was caused by high stress as a trauma surgeon in an inner-city hospital, even relating the tale of first getting it after seeing his patient's family before he had to operate. Ruth's explanation in the sixth series was that it was caused by Martin's mother being neglectful, dismissing the earlier story as self-rationalization.
  • Always on Duty: When we are first introduced to Martin, he is seen intrusively peering into a fellow passenger's face (Louisa) on a plane, checking for an eye disorder. He continues to offer unsolicited diagnoses, no matter how inappropriate the situation is, even if he faces stiff punishment for doing so. (Commenting on Louisa's breath in the middle of a cab ride gets him dumped on the outskirts of town.)
  • Ambiguous Disorder:
    • Martin. He has no grasp of social niceties, is very literal-minded, and lacks a filter between his brain and his mouth. It only becomes apparent once he's free of the chilly confines of London and can no longer bark at people with total impunity.
      Chris: Mr. Walton complains that you called him a "mentally deficient parasite."
      Martin: (earnestly) He is a mentally deficient parasite.
      Chris: Right. That man, he's always complaining about everything.
    • Peter Cronk is like Martin. How? We have no idea.
    • Although Aunt Ruth, herself a psychologist, proposes that his coldness is as much rooted in childhood neglect as neuroses. Martin's father (also played by Clunes) was an ogre, his gold digger mother detested him utterly, and it's even hinted that she's not his biological mum in any case. What a mess.
    • PC Penhale in later seasons, after Flanderization sets in. Originally stated to have narcolepsy, agoraphobia, and mood swings as the result of a head injury he sustained before being transferred to Portwen (which were portrayed fairly realistically in his introductory episode), these were dropped (possibly because they made it difficult to have him interact with the rest of the cast). Instead, he gained a general incompetence in his job and "quirkiness" to the point that by season 6 he seems more like a boy playing cops and robbers and no longer has the slightest idea of how to actually do his job: his presence in an emergency situation is at best irrelevant and most of the time actually serves to make things worse.
  • Anguished Declaration of Love:
    • At the end of season 4, Martin finally breaks down and admits how much Louisa really means to him. Because he's such an emotionally repressed, stuffed shirt normally this becomes both a crowning moment of awesome and a crowning moment of funny as he struggles to put aside his Stiff Upper Lip tendencies and speak from his heart.
    • Parodied earlier, with Pauline, who notes that Doc Martin is so terrible at demonstrating emotions that a simple expression of affection comes across like this trope.
    Pauline: Thank God! I thought you were going to say that you were in love with me or something. After all that bumbling...
  • Arcadia: The show takes place in an idyllic rural fishing village.
  • Artistic Licence Medicine: The proper way to take blood is to feel the area you want to take blood from for a suitable vein (usually in the bend of the elbow, the forearm, or the hand.), then place a tourniquet just above the area to make the vein more prominent, and to stop any unnecessary bleeding. Then a thin needle designed for the job is inserted into the vein, a flowback should appear in the needle to let you know whether the vein will give blood, before a vacuum tube is added to the other end of the needle to draw the blood into, when the tube is full (though this isn't necessary for all blood tests, a minimum of 2 mls of blood will suffice unless it is for a Warfarin test, in which case the tube needs to be full), remove tube, needle and tourniquet, then place cotton wool over the area, with pressure to stem bleeding, before everything is then properly tagged, and the needle is disposed of in a special yellow Sharps bin. The Doc Martin way of taking blood, is to stick a needled syringe into the bend of the elbow, not bother with the tourniquet, draw the blood into the syringe and then put some cotton wool over the vague area, and then run through the surgery with the syringe, with the needle still attached.
  • Bait-and-Switch: It wouldn't be a medical mystery series if it didn't string you along for most of the episode with hints that the cause is one thing (with sometimes one or two alternatives), and then reveal it to be something else entirely.
  • Barefoot Captives: Doc is kidnapped and held hostage in order to perform surgery on one of the Portwenn's inhabitants (who doesn't even need it). His shoes and socks are stolen (among the other predicaments).
  • Bitter Almonds: Not actually cyanide, but Martin manages to identify the smell of copper arsenite, which is giving a patient of the week arsenic poisoning via a (unintentional) Napoleon's Wallpaper plot.
  • Bittersweet Ending: The Series 9 finale. On the positive side, Morwenna and Al's wedding goes well and Louisa is pregnant, but on the negative, Martin is forced to resign from general practice.
  • Blood-Splattered Wedding Dress: Louisa, after a man's carotid artery is cut in the course of her honeymoon from hell.
  • Bookends: In the first season, Bert runs Large and Son, but Al leaves fairly early to strike his own path. In the finale, Bert joins Al's bed-and-breakfast business and starts calling them "Large and Son" again.
  • Bothering by the Book: You might say that he's a Martin-et. (Rim shot)
  • Brain Bleach: Martin invokes this when he walks in on Joan having sex with a man, 50 years her junior, on the kitchen table.
  • Break Her Heart To Save Her: An old flame of Joan's tries to do this by claiming he's married since Martin has predicted he has between six and twelve months to live, and he doesn't want to make her suffer when he dies.
  • Britain Is Only London: Averted. Britain is London AND Cornwall.
  • British Brevity: Currently at 78 episodes, which while not bad for a British series, is still pretty modest for Long Runner of over 18 years.
  • British Stuffiness: Martin, is almost a caricature of the emotionally repressed Brit. From his stiff as a board posture, to his constant inability to handle emotions (well, positive emotions anyway; he has a better handle on the negative ones).
  • Broken Aesop:
    • In the final episode of Series 1, Peter Cronk, a nine-year old boy who's kind of a loner is told by Louisa that, if you allow people to make fun of you and don't react, then they'll accept you because "they'll see you're okay." Even worse, this Aesop is repeated by the boy to Martin ...who in the same episode had been the victim of a practical joke that wasn't strictly a Deadly Prank, but was still pretty cruel and quickly made him a laughing stock by pretty much everybody in the village, to the point where he was being discussed on local radio. The hard truth is that bullies rarely care about your reactions one way or another; the dynamics of human pack mentality are clear.
    • Notably this was Lampshaded, Deconstructed and ultimately Ignored all in the same episode, as Louisa's advice ends up getting said boy a ruptured spleen for his trouble and rushed into emergency surgery. In the end, she amends her advice to "Some people won't ever fit in, but we should appreciate their uniqueness" (referring to both Peter and Martin) after she says this Louisa and Martin kiss, but after he comments on her breath which he believes might be a sign of a medical problem she throws him out the taxi, forcing him to walk back to the village, dismissing even the amended moral.
    • There's another one played for laughs in an episode where the school's caretaker is kicked out and is sleeping in the school shed. He's delirious from carbon monoxide from a gas heater in a closed area, and has been putting fertilizer on the floors and floor cleaner on the vegetables. One of the teachers is trying to teach the kids the importance of eating fruits and vegetables, when Martin bursts into the room and shouts "Don't eat those! Destroy them immediately!"
  • Buffy Speak: Martin tells PC Penhale that his brother is displaying some of the symptoms of Huntington's disease. Penhale has a panic attack and Martin shuts him up by agreeing to give him a blood test. Penhale says of his blood that "Oh no! It looks Huntington-y!"
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer:
    • Doctor Martin Ellingham is abrasive and arrogant, and generally unsociable. He has also developed a blood phobia, which caused him to have to give up his prestigious surgical practice and become the best damned GP (general practitioner) the village of Portwenn ever had.
    • Also Stewart (the Shell-Shocked Veteran turned forest ranger).
    • Dr. Timoney, a therapist, is often discredited because she is 'young looking'. She is a rather good therapist, though, according to Ruth.
  • The Bus Came Back:
    • Caroline Bosman returns in Series 6 after being absent, only to be written out yet again in Series 7.
    • Peter returns as a teenager in Series 7. He's studying to become a doctor and shadows Martin in the surgery — as it turns out, with disastrous consequences.
    • Also returning in Series 7 is Louisa's ex, Danny Steel, who is now leading a religious group for kids.
    • PC Mark Mylow returned for a guest spot in Series 9, as did Penhale's ex-fiancee Janice.
  • Call-Back: When Martin and Edith were sharing a hotel room, one of the first things he was shown to do was to check the bed for bedbugs. Apparently it's a habit he's had for sometime because she knew to expect it and even automatically helped him with it. On his honeymoon with Louisa, Martin again checks for bedbugs (though quickly covered it up).
  • Can't Hold His Liquor: Martin.
  • Catchphrase:
    • "Oh for God's sake!" Shouted by Martin in exasperation whenever someone does something particularly stupid, often the exact opposite of his instructions as their doctor.
    • Martin often tells patients "Stop talking" while examining or treating them. Justified, since he needs them to keep still and quiet.
  • Characterisation Marches On: Martin is notably more ’normal' in early seasons. His rudeness is born more of a prickly personality and a Londoner’s standoffish attitude. He is actually a brilliant Deadpan Snarker, and makes stilted attempts to make friends with the villagers. In later seasons his difficulties morph into an Ambiguous Disorder where he seems incapable of understanding basic human emotions or humour.
  • Chekhov's Gun: If someone coughs, scratches an itch, or sneezes in the beginning, they're probably the victim of this week's medical mystery. It happens at least Once an Episode.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: The Wintons appear a few episodes into Series 7, when Mr. Winton has a tumor on his neck and Mrs. Winton displays both an absolute refusal to go to the hospital and pure desperation for Martin to cure him. Guess who causes the crisis in the series finale.
  • The Con: Though normally preferring an honest get rich quick scheme, Bert attempts this in “In Loco” ...against his own son, by pretending to have lost Mrs Cronk’s Fish ‘N’ Chip shop a lot of money by buying the food at more than he was selling it for and needing Al to bail him out. Luckily, Al figures out in time that the ingredients that Bert supposedly lost all the money on were actually being given to him at cost.
  • Continuity Nod: In the final episode of Series 7, Janice suggests that the legendary Beast of Bodmin got Martin, which Louisa dismisses as a ginned-up "legend" for tourists that happened years ago. The first of the two BSkyB movies the series originated from involved the legend in its plot.
  • Cool Old Lady: Martin's aunts Joan Norton and Ruth Ellingham. They're two of the only people in the world that he listens to, and the latter is the only person who can out-snark him.
  • CPR: Clean, Pretty, Reliable: Morwena manages to revive her grandfather with a good minute and a half worth of this.
  • The Cobbler's Children Have No Shoes:
    • Ruth diagnoses herself as having Lupus. Martin has to practically wrestle her into surgery, and once he does, he can tell at a glance that she's suffering from a simple autoimmune disease.
    • To say nothing of Mrs. Tishell's cocktail of self-prescribed drugs...
    • Dr. Dibbs is stunningly incompetent in treating herself, on a massive amount of self-prescribed medication and misses an almost fatal diagnosis. She's barely any better with her patients.
      • Given that she spent over 20 years working as a nurse without any problem, it's heavily implied the only reason Dr Dibbs is such a nervous wreck is because her husband pushed her to become a Doctor and she cracked under the pressure.
  • Cloud Cuckooland: Portwenn, The community of the village seems to be mostly made up of or attract Cloudcuckoolanders. Most of the comedy comes from Doc Martin having to deal with ignorant (wilful or otherwise) quirky, and sometimes horrible characters.
  • Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass:
    • Penhale, heavier on the moron than the badass admittedly, but he came across as a very professional and scary copper when he dealt with the evil loan sharks threatening Bert. And when his estranged wife shows up apparently unaware that they've been divorced for four years, he's clearly still desperately in love with her, but the first thing he does is ask her the date, confirming that she's not well.
    • Also Morwenna to an extent, particularly in the Series 6 finale when Bert's MacGyvering causes a woman to suffer a heart-stopping electric shock. On phone advice from Martin (who's dealing with his own serious problem at the timenote ) she performs CPR on the patient while Al fetches a defibrillator. In Series 7 she helps a man having a stroke while they're stranded in a remote place and she only has garbled radio instructions.
  • Cute Kitten: Even the All Devouring Black Hole Loan Sharks love cute kittens, they keep one in their van.
  • The Danza: The titular Doc - he's called Martin, and so is the actor who plays him.
  • Deadly Prank: Averted (see Broken Aesop above), but as Martin pointed out, it did keep him from attending to patients that actually needed his help
  • Deadpan Snarker: Martin on occasion but bluntness and Lack of Empathy are a more common way of him dealing with people.
  • "Dear John" Letter: Bert gets one from Jennifer, the woman he'd romanced and proposed to in the previous series. He gives up his restaurant, sells his van, and is later found by Al being morose in a camper.
  • Derailing Love Interests: Louisa reunites with her ex-boyfriend, who accepts a job in London after asking her to marry him. So she dumps him because he's disingenuous about living a life together in their beloved village, and not so much because he's an insufferable Jesus freak.
  • Determinator: Bert Large. Regardless of how many failures and setbacks he goes through (mainly self-inflicted), he never stops trying to strike success. Both Al and Ruth say "you never give up, do you?" in the finale, although in markedly different tones of voice.
  • Didn't Think This Through: Annie Winton takes Martin prisoner to cure her cancer-stricken husband. But as he repeatedly tries to point out, he's not an oncologist and he can't do surgery in a farmhouse, especially not when her son made him ditch his medical bag somewhere on the moor. And in the end it turns out if the Wintons had actually gone to the follow-up appointment and done the procedures instead of just losing hope at the initial diagnosis they would have found out it's not cancer, and Mr. Winton could have been treated immediately without anyone waving guns around or getting arrested.
  • Doctor's Orders: Doc Martin is routinely frustrated by patients ignoring his advice and doing what they want. One woman nearly kills herself trying to function with a herniated vertebra.
  • Drama Bomb: When Joan is Killed Off for Real at the start of Series 5.
  • Dropped a Bridge on Her: Aunt Joan. Killed off offscreen by a heart attack in her jeep, which is found crashed into a gorse thicket.
  • Dr. Jerk:
    • Dr. Martin Ellingham, a top Harley Street surgeon who, after developing a fear of blood, retrains as a local G.P and moves to Cornwall. He's a brilliant doctor, but he's also a sour, pompous and miserable git almost entirely lacking in charm and bedside manner.
    "It was easy to find you, I just followed the trail of outraged people."
    • In Series 3, he very briefly tries on a newer, jocular attitude to impress Louisa. Of course this only manages to creep people out even further, and the patients continue to disregard his advice anyway. He can't win.
    • There's a minor Running Gag that Martin will accurately treat/diagnose people on the fly, but repeatedly fails to remember what their name was, even when he actually bothered to ask for it!
    • The Dr. Jerk is played straight in the 4th series with the character of Dr. Edith Montgomery, who not only shares Martin's lack of bedside manner but has even less care or empathy for her patients.
    • Dr. Timoney shows right from the get-go that she can match Martin's lack of empathy. Thankfully, she doesn't keep that tone past her first episode.
  • Eagle Land: Sigourney Weaver plays an American tourist with an entitled "customer is always right" type of attitude who judged her American doctor's skill by how much she had to pay him and is shocked when Martin informs her that the visit to his office carries no charge.
  • Early Installment Weirdness: In the first few episodes, Martin is still rude, but he's much more talkative and tries to repair some of the damage he does with his tactlessness. In the pilot, for instance, he secretly gets a husband, his unfaithful wife, and the lover all in the same room to try and make up.
  • Embarrassing Nickname: The villagers quickly take to calling Martin "Doc Martin", no matter how many times he insists that it's Doctor Ellingham.
  • Emotionally Tongue-Tied: Martin.
  • Epic Fail: Al does a radio interview to try and promote his fishing tours and B&B, but gets hung up on clarifying that Morwenna is not his girlfriend, nor is Ruth, and gives curt one-word answers when the host tries getting him to elaborate on his business.
  • Express Lane Limit: Martin's secretary, Elaine, is late to work on her first day because she stopped by the supermarket to get supplies, and got into an argument about whether she was entitled to use the "six items or less" lane (she had 20 items, but claimed the important thing was she had fewer than six types of item).
  • Everybody Lives: More or less - the Doc has never lost a patient. At least not when anything could possibly be done about it. He once walks into a bedroom to find a woman in the midst of a stroke and she dies before he's even finished phoning an ambulance.
  • Fat and Skinny: Bert and Al. Bert being the short Fat Idiot and his son Al is the sensible Straight Man.
  • Fish out of Water: Not so much these days, since he's been living there a while by now.
  • Flanderization: PC Penhale wasn't terribly competent to begin with, but as the series has gone on he seems to keep getting worse and worse at his job, to the point that, by Series 6, he no longer seems to have the slightest idea what proper police procedure is.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • Pauline's habit of online gambling during surgery downtime is established a number of episodes before it blooms into a full-blown addiction.
    • Aunt Ruth is shown attending Joan's funeral in the episode before she becomes a permanent part of Port Wenn.
    • Mrs. Winton is shown with her husband in the surgery a few episodes before she kidnaps Martin in the finale for that series.
  • The Freelance Shame Squad: British TV has seen some terrifying portrayals of youth culture in its time, but none as vile as the pack of Nelson Muntzes endlessly prowling the village. They are the Furies of Portwenn: heartless, unfazed by everything (even gory nail-gun accidents), communicating only in shouts of "Tosser!", and are always nearby to point and laugh at Martin's misfortune.
  • The Fundamentalist: Louisa's ex-boyfriend. He's an insufferable Jesus-freak who tries to come between Louisa and Martin. She dumps him because he lied about wanting to live in Portwen in his first appearance, but he tries to separate them again when he returns in Season 7 while still spouting sanctimonious religious lines.
  • The "Fun" in "Funeral": Series Five, Ep 2, plays this to the hilt with Joan's funeral. The hearse is late, the guests are weird (even weirder than normal), the pall-bearers drop the coffin, Martin turns Joan's eulogy into a medical case history presentation-cum-public health lecture, the local police constable bemoans dealing with simple heart attacks and not something exciting, someone's mobile phone goes off playing "things can only get better" as a ring-tone. The usual for Portwenn really. Meanwhile, the cause of the aforementioned coffin drop is late for the surgery to fix his bad back because the burning of an unspecified dead body had been pushed forward one day at almost the last minute.
    Pall-bearer with bad back: It wasn't like spontaneous combustion, we had it booked in—!
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: The news articles about Martin in Mrs. Tishall's Stalker Shrine. Most of them are about Martin saving someone's life... but she also pinned up one headline reading "Local Doctor Ruins Village Festival Again".
  • Funny Schizophrenia: Averted with the park ranger Stewart. Certainly, on the surface it sounds amusing: He has delusions of having a six-foot red squirrel as a friend, and that grey and red squirrels are locked in a brutal conflict. However, the character is at first played brilliantly in a way which keeps both Martin and the viewer uncertain about how unstable and dangerous he might be if you don't go along with him. Second, it soon comes clear that Stewart is suffering from PTSD and the delusions are a coping mechanism. He fought in Bosnia and took a bullet from friendly fire. Later he is shown having a breakdown, screaming about how dangerous and uncertain the world can be for squirrels, but it is clear he is externalizing his own feelings and his war experiences left him a broken, fragile man.
  • Game-Breaking Injury: It's implied that PC Penhale used to be a city cop (and/or a better cop) before being kicked in the head by a horse on a call. It messed him up quite badly, resulting in narcolepsy, agoraphobia, and mood swings that ruined his marriage.
  • Get-Rich-Quick Scheme: Bert Large tends towards these, though on a mild scale. Examples include bottled water (that sickens the village) and trying to organize a birdwatching tour for one pair of rare birds on an inaccessible bit of cliff. After he opens his restaurant, he sticks to constantly reworking the menu and theme, and trying to expand the business. When he gives up on the restaurant, he goes back to this and starts building a still.
  • Getting the Baby to Sleep:
    • Series 5 Ep 3, Louisa is so desperate to get her baby to sleep she does all sorts of bizarre dances, and even gets arch-stick-in-the-mud Martin to do one too.
    • The next episode reveals Martin is willing to place the baby in a car and drive right out to the middle of the moor as a way to lull the baby to sleep.
  • Hate Sink:
    • Elaine, Doc Martin’s first receptionist. She was unprofessional, incompetent, entitled and completely obnoxious.
    • Doc Martin's parents. Especially his mother, who is one of the worst mothers in British television. Picture Delores Umbridge with the Personality of The Wicked Stepmother from Snow White and the Dress Sense of Cruella de Vil. Every scene she is in she is doing something horrible, she resents Martin for existing, Aunt Ruth calls her a Monster and Martin pretty much disowns her after she steals his clock for money, she is also an awful mother in law. His father is only slightly more likable but he dies after his first appearance so we don't see as much of him.
    • Edith Montgomery is a selfish, cold, elitist, borderline racist, former love interest of Martin who unsuccessfully tries to have sex with him.
    • Mark Mylow’s sister Sandra, a herbalist who think her treatments are superior to traditional medicine and is condescending and obnoxious to both her own brother and Doc Martin.
    • Julie Mitchell, who is revealed to actually be a false identity when a man from the Salvation Army arrives in the village searching for a woman named Emma Lewis who fits her description, when Martin sees that her results show she is pregnant too early she threatens to sue him if he tells PC Mark Mylow, who she was only marrying as a cover.
    • Mickey Mabley from Season 3 is a thug, he takes advantage of Bert Large's naiveté and is possibly a paedophile
  • Heartbeat Soundtrack: Featured whenever Martin's haemophobia comes up.
  • Heist Episode: This gets subverted in the season 2 finale “On The Edge” , Louisa’s father and his friend arrive in Cornwall to pickup a bag of dynamite from a boat offshore in order to break into a warehouse. Their plans get ruined because of an accident and multiple misunderstandings.
  • Hidden Depths: Martin used to write Edith poetry.
  • Hillbilly Moonshiner: After losing his restaurant in the final series, Bert builds a still in an old camper to make whiskey. However, his product actually turns out to be of salable quality, and Ruth helps him obtain a distillers' license.
  • Hypocrite: The other characters usually expect Doc Martin to be more empathetic and active in the community, however when he offers medical advice they often ignore him.
    • Louisa is often quick to antagonise and start an argument with Martin for things he does that she doesn’t like, however she usually refuses to admit her mistakes or when she is in the wrong if Martin or someone else calls her out because of her Never My Fault attitude.
  • Hostage Situation:
    • Martin, Louisa, and Pauline are taken hostage by criminal Jonathan who is suffering from untreated bipolar disorder. It ends after about half a dozen others get roped into it, a medical emergency occurs, and Martin completely loses patience with the situation.
    • Again in the final episode of Series 5. Mrs Tishell has a psychotic break and essentially holds James Henry — Martin and Louisa's son — hostage. Martin talks her down.
    • Another episode has a delusional woman take her son, Martin, Penhale, and Ruth hostage, believing the latter was poisoning her with weedkiller. Turns out she was being poisoned, but by the old wallpaper in her bedroom coated in arsenic, which her son had begun to strip but never bothered to finish.
    • Once again in Series 7's finale when a woman takes Martin hostage to find an alternative course of action against her husband's thyroid tumor. She is let go when Penhale and Louisa (And later Ruth and Al) arrive at the house and Martin discovers that it wasn't actually a tumor at all.
  • I Want You to Meet an Old Friend of Mine: Martin Clunes' Men Behaving Badly co-star Caroline Quentin appeared in three episodes.
  • Idiot Ball: In the final episode of series 2 "On the Edge", Martin, Louisa and Pauline get taken hostage. When the inspector knocks on the door Martin is sent out to the reception hall to get rid of him. He doesn’t take the opportunity to tell the inspector that he, Louisa and Pauline are being held hostage by a man with a gun and to call the police before sending him away, instead he just sends him away without telling him.
  • Imaginary Friend:
    • Anthony, an invisible 6-foot squirrel to Stewart.
    • In the Spanish version, Migue, an alien from Saturn.
  • Informed Self-Diagnosis: The "gets it wrong" variant of this trope is done twice.
    • Dr Dibbs' self-diagnosis almost kills her before Martin manages to correct it.
    • Martin's Aunt Ruth diagnoses herself with a terminal illness, listing all the symptoms, but thankfully Martin is on hand to point a couple of symptoms she's missed which means he has to break the bad news that she is going to live as she has something totally different.
    • Martin does this when he starts seeing a therapist in Series 7, but she doesn't correct him since it's plausible enough and it's the first session.
  • Injection Plot: The episode "Remember Me" is about Martin trying to give his new receptionist Morwenna a tetanus shot, even though she is Afraid of Needles. Eventually he gets her to take it by describing what would happen if she doesn't get a shot.
  • In Medias Res: The Christmas special and series 7 finale both open with Martin tied up and then flash back to 3 days and 24 hours earlier respectively.
  • Instant Drama, Just Add Tracheotomy:
    • Martin has to perform one on Louisa's painter boyfriend using improvised materials.
    • Happens again in Series 7 when a girl gets epiglottitis from a case of strep throat. This time he's got a proper kit, but the procedure is also broadcast over live radio because it happens in the station.
    • A similar instance in the Series 7 finale happens when Martin has to puncture a bloody cyst that's blocking a man's windpipe.
  • Instant Birth: Just Add Labor!: Louisa, less than half an hour passes between her waters breaking and delivery.
  • Insufferable Genius: The Doc.
  • In Vino Veritas: Double-subverted. Louisa tries this on Martin, but he says that alcohol just makes him sleepy. But then he admits that he loves Louisa. And then he falls asleep.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: While the Doc has a habit of being extraordinarily rude to people, it's clear that he does care about their well-being, but is frustrated by the fact that they never follow directions. He also clearly loves his Aunts, Louisa, and even Pauline. This is most obviously expressed in the episode where he and Louisa become engaged, as he tells off Pauline's mum for accusing Pauline of being a criminal when really she just has a gambling addiction, and where he tells Louisa that he can't bear to live without her.
  • Juggling Loaded Guns: PC Penhale gets sent a pistol-style taser in one episode and spends the entire episode pointing it at people and things before panicking during a mild altercation and tasing a complete bystander.
  • Killed Off for Real:
    • Auntie Joan dies of a heart attack offscreen during the hiatus between seasons 4 and 5.
    • Season 6 saw the offscreen death of Martin's estranged father.
    • Season 6 also revealed that Morwenna's grandfather passed away between seasons.
    • Clive Tishall, Mrs. Tishall's husband, dies of a fatal heart attack in the eighth season.
    • Ken, the pub's manager in season 9.
  • Kissing Under the Influence:
    • Martin and Louisa after they drink a couple bottles of wine.
    • Chris Parsons almost kisses Louisa before having an alcohol-induced seizure.
  • Lack of Empathy: Doc Martin has no bedside manner and is probably a candidate for autistic personality disorder. He routinely tells people about their illness in the most abrasive way possible.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Martin Clunes intentionally puts the slapstick in (i.e. walking into a corner or bonking his head on the doorframe) after his character has been particularly pompous.
  • Licked by the Dog: Martin in basically every episode much to his displeasure. Some episodes almost use the dog as a link.
  • Likes Older Women: In one episode, a painter has the hots for Auntie Joan. Martin suspects an Oedipus Complex, and it's later revealed that he's grieving for his dead mother...
  • Limited Wardrobe:
    • Martin and his suits would make Barney Stinson proud. He changes into a new suit for his wedding (with the classic "wardrobe full of copies of the same outfit" gag), but nobody can tell the difference.
    • Lampshaded in Series 6 when Martin asks if Louisa has seen his blue tie, to which she replies that all his ties are blue. He counters with the fact that he has a few red ones.
  • Little Old Lady Investigates: Unlike Martin, who barely even understands his fellow man, Ruth was a criminal psychologist and can do some more interesting things in this regard.
    • Notable examples include her attempting (yet failing due to Louisa) in informing Martin how to act toward Mrs. Tishell when she kidnaps his and Louisa's baby, when she assists Martin with a delusional lady who believes her son's been poisoning her, and when Martin goes missing and she tracks him down with Al.
  • The Load: Nearly every time PC Penhale gets involved in a situation, he's either useless or actively exacerbates it.
  • Loan Shark: It turns out that Bert has had to go to some loan sharks to keep his restaurant afloat.
  • The Local: The Crab and Lobster.
  • Long List:
    • In the first episode Bert mentions that there's a few people Martin needs to see, and then proceeds to list practically everyone in the village.
    • The list of medications Dr Dibbs prescribed for herself is insanely long.
    • Ruth lists quite a few symptoms in her self-diagnoses. Martin adds even more — which she doesn't have.
  • MacGyvering:
    • If the situation calls for it, Martin will use anything suitable around him to treat a patient, such as during his honeymoon when he scrubs up with a bottle of whiskey and temporarily repairs a farmer's carotid artery with a razorblade and fishing line before putting him in a wheelbarrow and pushing him part of the way to the hospital until there's an opportunity to hitchhike.
    • When other characters try this, it almost never goes right. Examples include Penhale treating a self-inflicted gunshot wound on his foot with moss (as per his survival guide) but without drying it or cleaning it first, Bert trying to temporarily fix a fused switch with a random piece of metal; leading to a woman suffering a shock serious enough to stop her heart.
  • Malicious Misnaming: Martin's mother insists on calling Louisa "Louise" despite being corrected multiple times.
  • Mirror Scare: Aunt Ruth gets stalked by one of her former patients, until when at home she adjusts the mirror and he's right behind her.
  • Misery Builds Character: Martin was brought up by emotionally distant and borderline abusive parents who resented having a child at all.
    Martin: I was locked in the cupboard under the stairs as a child, and it never did me any harm.
  • Moment Killer: Martin manages to muck up the moment with Louisa repeatedly.
  • Mood Whiplash: Done deliberately as part of the format, every episode will contain one dark, serious and weighty storyline, and one light Quirky Town style story. They will then interleave throughout the episode, often with both story lines crossing through the same scene, and leaving the viewer pretty wrung out emotionally by the end.
  • Motor Mouth: Morwenna after taking some "energy pills", see Mushroom Samba below.
  • Mushroom Samba: In Series 5, after noticing bouts of hyperactive behaviour, Martin fires his new receptionist for taking drugs. It later finds out that the "energy pills" her grandfather had given her were actually 70-year-old metamphetamines from his WWII ration kit. Both assumed they were safe because it had the Government stamp on, after all... the Government wouldn't give out something that was bad for you.
  • My Beloved Smother: After being left virtually penniless, Martin's mother, in series six, moves to Portwenn intent on invoking this trope.
  • Mystery of the Week: Either a single patient with a strange illness or a town epidemic.
    • Lampshaded in Martin's Anguished Declaration of Love at the end of Series 5 when he mentions that one of the things he hates about Portwenn is how the locals have an "unerring knack of catching any virus that comes within a five-mile radius" and their tendency to "spread contagion like a bush fire".
  • Never Bareheaded: Bert's never without his ratty watch cap.
  • No Social Skills: Martin. This exchange is a pretty clear demonstration of the problem:
    Louisa: It's no good pretending to be nice, Martin, you've got to want to!
    Martin: WHY?!
  • No Sympathy: There have been numerous occasions when Martin has had some appointment or official meeting that he didn't make because he was dealing with a medical emergency. This does not stop people from complaining that he wasted their time.
    • Of course, more often than not, something happens to the patient which brings Martin to assist them anyway.
  • Not Now, Kiddo:
    • A semi-frequent occurrence is for one of the schoolchildren to display symptoms or strange behavior, while their parents and/or teachers to dismiss it as a minor cold or "being difficult" until it becomes a medical emergency.
    • When Ruth tells Martin that she thinks someone is stalking her, he brushes it off.
  • Not So Stoic: Martin after hearing the news about Joan's death. Despite outwardly remaining his typical aloof self, as he walks around her empty house, his eyes betray how utterly heartbroken he is.
  • Only Sane Man:
    • Martin likes to paint himself as one of these, however Joan and her replacement Ruth have far better claims on this (albeit in different ways).
    • Local ranger Stewart James appears to be this at first, having a perfectly pleasant conversation with Martin and appearing to be far more on the ball than most of the villagers, prompting Martin to question why he wants prescription tranquilisers. It's when he starts talking to a six foot tall invisible red squirrel called Anthony that things become clear. (Though in his more lucid moments when his PTSD isn't affecting him too much, he reverts to this.)
    • Al Large is often shown as this, especially when in the presence of his father.
  • Open Heart Dentistry: Martin is a qualified surgeon and never does anything outside of his field but has occasionally had to perform surgery on the fly such as removing Eleanor's hernia in the consulting room with Morwenna as his assistant because the ambulance wouldn't arrive in time, hijacking the operation to fix a malformation in Louisa's brain by locking a nervous surgeon he didn't trust in a cupboard, and repairing damage to a farmer's carotid artery (that he and Louisa caused), using items on hand in the farmer's shack in the middle of woods including fishing line and whiskey.
  • Opposites Attract: Martin and Louisa basically cover every trope in this section at some point.
  • Papa Wolf: Subverted in the fourth episode, when Martin expects a confrontation with a father angry that Martin's seduced the man's daughter (he fixed her dislocated shoulder and she developed a crush, who baked him a cake and showed up naked in his bed). A huge Tae Kwan Do instructor walks into Martin's surgery and ...the father turns out to be a Reasonable Authority Figure and apologizes for the inconvenience because his daughter has a habit of doing this.
  • Parental Abandonment:
    • The Ellinghams took every opportunity to not have to raise Martin, sending him to boarding school at age six and having him spend summers with Aunt Joan (until his father decided that Joan was too immoral).
    • Louisa's mother walked out on the family when she was ten and she became estranged from her gambling-addict father when she was an adult. Her father eventually becomes a criminal, causing a second estrangement. Her mother returned to become a cast member in season 5 and then they split again.
  • Pastimes Prove Personality: Martin is frequently seen repairing clocks, showing that even his hobby is similar to his job, requiring slow care and attention to detail.
  • Pet the Dog: Martin writes a prescriptionnote  to the town's ranger, a traumatized war veteran who suffers a mental breakdown (and even has a six-foot-tall squirrel as an imaginary friend) without his placebo medication, although Martin only does this after the ranger starts tearing apart the backyard of one of Portwenn's residents. Later, he does the samenote  for a teenage girl who is suffering largely from being a teenager, after she explains her misery with being teased by her friends because she's underdeveloped.
  • Phrase Catcher: Martin has "Tosser!"note 
  • Pluto Is Expendable: In "Education, Education, Education", the student selected to be Pluto in an outdoors roleplaying of the Solar System ends up losing consciousness to Kawasaki Disease, sustained from an infection, and has to be rushed to hospital to save her life.
  • Police Are Useless: Averted with PC Mylow, who is socially awkward but still fairly competent. His replacement, PC Penhale, is hopelessly bad at his job. In the series finale, someone has to correct him about the missing persons law being updated to remove the "24 hours" requirement. Lampshaded by Ruth;
    Ruth: Is he really a policeman... or just pretending to be one?
  • Poor Communication Kills:
    • Martin is horrible at communication. Most of the time, he just barks orders without bothering to explain himself. For example, in series 6, when he discovers that Louisa has an abnormality in her brain that could kill her if it ruptures, when he calls her to warn her about it, he just tells her not to get on the plane without telling her why. Naturally, she assumes its because he doesn't want her to leave and hangs up, forcing him to race to the airport (he also doesn't bother to call the airport and try to warn them).
    • Lots of patients can't, for whatever reason, explain their symptoms properly to Martin, resulting in lots of near death scares.
  • Pre-Insanity Reveal: A downplayed version with PC Penhale, who was by all accounts a competent and professional police officer before he was kicked in the head by a horse and became the goofy, quirky, lovable dullard we all know.
  • Put on a Bus: Numerous major and minor characters stop appearing and are never mentioned again, including PC Mylow, Elaine, and Pauline.
  • Putting the "Medic" in Comedic: Although there aren't many medical staff members, Doc being surrounded by dim-witted patients and their "backward" cultural differences qualifies the show as this.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Joan and Ruth are this to Martin in a sense, having both known him since childhood and therefore being fully understanding of his personality and the reasons for it. They're also the people he's most likely to listen to.
  • Reckless Gun Usage:
    • In the Christmas special, the colonel accidentally shoots himself in the leg while walking around with his rifle unbroken and leaving it unattended. Martin is somehow blamed for this.
    • During their honeymoon, Martin and Louisa are held at gunpoint by a farmer who wants them to fix the chicken coop they damaged. Louisa seizes the gun at the first opportunity and threatens the farmer with it, to Martin's dismay.
    • In the finale, Mrs. Winton fires a rifle in her own house to threaten Martin. Later, Penhale grabs it and points it with his finger on the trigger, which you shouldn't do until you're damn well ready to use it. A short time after that, Ruth and Al get their hands on it during their own search and Ruth accidentally blasts the light fixture.
  • Romantic False Lead: Edith Montgomery, Martin's old girlfriend from medical school. She seems like a good match for him, sharing his disdain for most people and not bothered by his unemotive, blunt personality. However, her dismissive attitude towards her patients extends to their care as well as their emotions, so Martin leaves.
  • Runaway Bride: When they first attempt to marry, both Martin and Louisa separately decide not to go through with it, leaving no one at the altar.
  • Running Gag:
    • The dog that follows Martin around. After the first one, who is unnamed in the show passes away he is replaced by Joan's dog, Buddy.
    • Martin bonking his head on Portwenn's low doorways.
  • Safe, Sane, and Consensual: A side plot in one episode had Martin see an elderly man with minor scratches and bruises. Martin comes to suspect physical abuse from his wife, and eventually makes a surprise house call where he discovers they actually got into BDSM when looking to spice things up after all their children had moved out.
  • Sanity Slippage: Mrs Tishell. Her crush on Martin went from "she's an odd one", to "what're those pills she's taking?", to Stalker Shrine, and finally a full blown psychotic break, which was a bad interaction between two drugs she was taking.
  • Sarcasm-Blind: Martin occasionally. It's unclear whether he does it deliberately to dismiss people he finds troublesome or that he simply doesn't bother to listen and think about what they've said enough to realize the sarcasm.
    Mother: I can't keep him home, I've got to work!
    Martin: Well, get your husband to help.
    Mother: Sure, if I mention impetigo (the skin infection her son has) he'll ditch his girlfriend straight away, drive overnight from Glasgow and give our marriage one more try.
    Martin: Good.
  • Sassy Secretary: Elaine. Mostly averted with Pauline, though she really "wants" to be one. Entirely averted with Pauline's stand-in, Poppy, and Morwenna who is just trying to keep her job in Series 5, though after receiving help from a tourist, grows more of a backbone.
  • Scenery Porn: From the opening titles, the DOP takes the opinion that any shot with less than three people in it can be improved with moorland or some good Cornish cliffs.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Sickeningly Sweethearts: A couple honeymooning in Portwenn in the Series 5 finale.
  • Silent Snarker: Louisa manages an eyeroll at Martin's antics while having brain surgery.
  • Skewed Priorities: Louisa's Bible-thumping ex Danny uses a search for a missing child to argue with Martin and then Louisa about if Martin is good for her (translation: Danny wants to get back with her himself). Louisa angrily reminds them why they're out in the woods before storming off to continue the actual search.
  • Slut-Shaming: After their surprise pregnancy, both Martin and Louisa get some guff. He for not doing the right thing and marrying her, her for having had sex and being Defiled Forever. Her pregnancy cost her a job in London, and the town pharmacist is snippy about it due to her own crush on Ellingham.
  • Soft Glass:
    • Averted. It's never treated as anything but a hazard, particularly when a girl crashes through a glass doorway and ends up unconscious and nearly bleeding to death.
    • Merely downplayed once in Series 6, when Al smashes through an old single-pane window with his elbow in order to reach an emergency defibrillator kit after someone is electrocuted on the beach. Al only has cuts caused by it.
  • Spock Speak: Ellingham, frequently.
  • Stalker Shrine: After developing an obsession on Martin due to a medication issue, Mrs. Tishell constructs one of these in season 5 finale. She tears it down upon her return to Portwenn.
  • Stalker with a Crush: A very disturbing one in the sixth series. A former prisoner whom Ruth had recommended be kept in tracks her to Portwenn, leaves presents in her car and house, and finally shows up while she's there and threatens to kill Martin when he arrives.
  • Straw Feminist:
    • The midwife who comes into town for one episode during Louisa's pregnancy. It's hard to believe she even got certified as a midwife when her entire motivation for the job seems to be ranting about how terrible men are.
    • Morwenna gets shades of the trope after she starts reading a self-help book that an American tourist (played by Sigourney Weaver) gave her.
  • Stealing the Credit: Morwenna's roommate, Janice, takes credit for saving a lifeboat captain who'd had a stroke when she'd actually spent the entire time panicking and Morwenna did all the first-aid before Martin showed up.
    • Perhaps even funnier is PC Penhale trying to steal the credit from Janice.
  • Supreme Chef: Martin himself. He might be uptight, a stick-in-the-mud, and unexpressive in every other aspect of his life, but his gastronomic creations show a singular passion and creativity. Notable that even during his relationship with Louisa he still insisted on doing the cooking for both of them.
  • Surrounded by Idiots: One look at the locals, you can understand why Ellingham is so sarcastic and misanthropic.
  • Suspiciously Similar Substitute:
    • PC Penhale for PC Mylow.
    • Originally Pauline for Elaine, though since Pauline runs for three seasons she has a rather well developed, unique character.
    • Morwenna is very much one for Pauline, though.
    • Averted with the replacement for Aunt Joan, Martin's Aunt Ruth is a very different person.
    • When the anonymous black sheepdog disappears, Joan gets a dog that takes just as much of an unwelcome liking to Martin.
    • After the radio host, Caroline, is sectioned (off screen) she is replaced by another, similar radio host.
  • Tablecloth Yank: Martin does this while treating a patient in the season 8 finale.
  • Teeny Weenie: Played for drama with absolutely no humor in one episode. Martin discovers that PC Mylow has an abnormally small penis and testicles, then has him tested, which reveals he's got a condition that means he's infertile. Then Mylow's girlfriend tells him she's pregnant. Mylow is understandably quite upset.
  • 10-Minute Retirement: Martin's replacement at the end of season 4 is so stunningly incompetent he feels he has to take over again.
  • Timmy in a Well: Parodied in the Series 7 finale. Buddy finds where Martin is being held prisoner and runs for help. Penhale goes through the dialogue mockingly and then goes on his way, although he ends up in the right spot anyway by starting in the last known location.
  • Unusual Euphemism: The locals use "Bodmin" (as in Bodmin Moor) as a catch all term for "crazy".
  • The West Country: The show is set in a small fishing village somewhere Cornwall-ish.
  • They Call Me MISTER Tibbs!:
    • Invoked in the show and referenced in the show's title. The villagers endearingly call him "Doc Martin" though he prefers "Doctor Ellingham". Also, his London name was "Mister Ellingham" (British surgeons are doctors, but they traditionally prefer "Mr").
    • Mrs Tishell is rarely called otherwise.
  • Too Dumb to Live: One of Martin's great sources of frustration is just how many of his patients fail to follow his instructions in ways that are life-threatening, like insisting on working when they're recovering from a dangerous infection or injury. As well as the number of people who try self-medication, like when Mr Tishell gives himself a heart attack in Season 7 due to combining potassium supplements and testosterone boosters (both of which he was taking against Martin's orders). Usually it's Martin's skill as a doctor that's the only reason that keeps such actions from actually being fatal.
  • Took a Level in Jerkass: Louisa in season 7. After returning to Portwen and finding out that Martin has started seeing a psychiatrist to try and salvage their relationship, she starts going with him but continually pins all the blame on him and refuses to admit any wrongdoing.
  • Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: Blood for Martin.
  • Unsympathetic Comedy Protagonist: Martin, in spades.
  • Unusually Uninteresting Sight: What is the reaction to a man giving a testicular exam to a policeman holding a baby, in a public lavatory?
    PC Penhale: Give us a minute Nigel.
    Nigel: All right.
  • Ugly Guy, Hot Wife: Almost. Ellingham and Louisa have a difficult on-again-off-again relationship, conceive a baby, almost marry, and reconcile in the final episode of season 4.
  • Vomit Indiscretion Shot: Martin. Nobody in Britian spews more than this man.
  • Wedding Smashers: Unusually, the wedding itself goes off almost seamlessly (partly due to Martin and Louisa escaping early while they're ahead); the honeymoon, on the other hand, sees their cottage rendered unusable by a blocked chimney and their luggage lost; they get lost attempting to walk home and held at gunpoint by an irascible farmer insisting they fix a chicken coop they broke, and then have to stitch him up after an unlikely accident severs an artery and carry him back to town in a wheelbarrow.
  • We Want Our Jerk Back!: After Martin resigns to go to London at the end of season 4 he is replaced by the lovely, sweet, and patient Dr Dibbs. She's so bad at the job that it's a relief to get grumpy old Martin back.
What an Idiot!:
  • The Married couple Mr and Mrs Rix from the first episode of season 2 “Old Dogs” who choose to behave suspiciously and hide from Martin that they have introduced BDSM into their love life and are continuing to engage in it when Eddie has became so injured that he can’t work.
  • Will They or Won't They?:
    • Martin and Louisa. Even after they decide to get married... they then jilt each other. And when they successfully tie the knot, the tension is enough that Louisa takes a solo vacation.
    • To some extent, Pauline and Al.
    • Even later, Morwenna and Al as well as PC Penhale and Janice.
  • Worst Aid:
    • After her friend gets a nasty cut on the arm, Louisa's mother has him keep it below the heart. This is the opposite of what should be done; keeping it above the heart reduces the bloodflow somewhat.
    • Peter (now in high school), is studying to be a doctor and tries treating a woman's cyst by bashing it with a heavy book (in fairness, Martin did the exact same thing in "The Wrong Goodbye" with better consequences, albeit with the medical training to back it up). Then it's revealed that Peter's falsely obtained beta blockers to treat his mother's panic attacks while also letting her take St. John's Wort, thinking that the latter is a harmless placebo. They turn out to combine nastily and have potentially life-threatening consequences.
  • You Have GOT to Be Kidding Me!:
    • Martin's stock response (along with calling the patient an idiot) to the people of Portwenn's often ridiculous attempts at self-medication or other antics.
    • A specific example comes when Martin successfully removes Eleanor's hernia in the consulting room and Morwenna (acting as his assistant) suggests she could close up the incision if he shows her how.
  • Your Head Asplode:
    • Ellingham diagnoses one patient with Exploding Head Syndrome, the patient assumes it's a literal description, fearing this trope.
    • Martin calls a kid's bluff about turning deaf (to get out of school) by proclaiming out loud that his head is going to explode.