Has the 'Doc Martin' series come to an end?

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Some shows grow so popular that the producers cannot dream of bringing them to a conclusion. I am afraid that "Doc Martin" is a case in point. Now in its 7th season, on the screen and in a boxed set of 2 DVDs from Acorn, the plots are showing the strain of the necessary changes any long-going series needs.

Doc Martin (Martin Clunes) and his wife Louisa (Caroline Catz) are living apart. Martin is taking therapy with Dr. Rachel Timoney (Emily Bevan), who convinces him and Louisa to meet with her together.

Bert Large (Ian McNeice) has run his business into bankruptcy. His son Al (Joe Absolom) is unsuccessfully trying to run a tourist inn with Martin's aunt Ruth (Eileen Atkins). The Doc's secretary Morweena (Jessica Ransom) wants more pay since she has to handle any case that involves visible blood. And while still enamored of the Doc, pharmacist Tishell (Selina Cadell) allows her long-gone husband Clive (Malcolm Storry) to resume his marital status and obligations.

In a neat bit of tying together different plot lines, Ruth believes she can save the inn if Bert's expertise at something illegal is put to practical use. Perhaps future series, if there are any, could do more with this concept.

Much remains the same. Martin cannot get rid the mutt Buddy. PC Joe Penhale (John Marquez) is as much an idiot as ever, especially now that he is infatuated with the Martins' babysitter Janice (Robyn Addison). And character after character insists on self-medicating and winding up in dire straits at moments most inconvenient to Martin.

In the penultimate episode, Gemma Jones and Sigourney Weaver show up as guest stars, Jones in a small role that any actress could handle, Weaver as a strong character who pops up for one scene and vanishes. However, Jones' role becomes major in the last episode and she manages to make it human.

The big problem is that the show simply has lost most of its humor. Where Doc Martin's quirks were funny in the first season or two, they are simply taken for granted now, all the more because we know he cannot change or the series would lose its major premise. I would be sorry if this series closed; but I feel the producers had better come up with something new or return to the lighthearted atmosphere of the first few seasons.

Frank Behrens reports on classical and Broadway music as well as recordings of books and plays for the Arts and Entertainment section. Visit franklinbehrens.com for past reviews.


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