In 2000, the British comedy Saving Grace was filmed in the charming Cornish fishing village of Port Isaac. The village was chosen because of it’s picturesque location in an area of outstanding natural beauty, set along Cornwall’s north Atlantic coast. Port Isaac’s historic harbour, whitewashed homes and winding lanes made it the perfect location for the production.
Saving Grace tells the story of recently widowed local Grace Trevethyn, who’s late husbands’ dealings have left her with some tricky financial problems to resolve. In order to make some money, she resorts to using some ‘creative’ methods and is supported by a group of friends, including Doctor Martin Bamford. The character of Doctor Martin is friendly and easy-going in nature and portrayed by actor Martin Clunes.
Following this, two spin-offs were created specifically for Martin Clunes’ character, the first of which, in 2001, was Doc Martin: The Movie. Doctor Martin Bamford discovers that his wife has been unfaithful, and to make matters worse, she’s had affairs with his best friends. He decides to escape to Port Isaac in Cornwall, a place he visited as a child, where he finds comfort in the tranquillity of village life, and immerses himself with the locals, even helping to solve a mystery.
The second spin-off two years later was Doc Martin and the Legend of the Cloutie. The Doc has now grown tired of village life and its claustrophobia, so decides to leave in search of peace. He’s shown an isolated Cornish farm which he hopes to buy, but is outbid by a family from London. In an attempt to force them out, he pretends to be the legendary Beast of Bodmin to try and scare them away.
These specials had sparked the idea of creating a new TV show based on the character of Doctor Martin. However, producers Sky TV were not keen, so the idea was pitched to another television company; ITV. This terrestrial channel also had their reservations about the character of Doctor Martin. It was decided that the character needed to be changed and exaggerated to give him a greater edge, with adaptations suggested by Martin Clunes himself. and ‘Doc Martin’ was transformed from happy and easy-going to abrupt and lacking empathy. The character of Doctor Martin Ellingham was born!
In 2004, brilliant surgeon Doctor Martin Ellingham moved to the quiet village of Portwenn, set on the isolated North Cornwall coast. After developing a phobia of blood, he’s forced to abandon his career as a vascular surgeon at Imperical College London and re-train as a local Doctor (GP). He decides to start afresh and takes up the vacant post in Portwenn; a place of familiarity from his childhood holidays in Cornwall.
Upon his arrival to the village, he’s welcomed by his Aunt Joan, who still owns a farm nearby. But when he starts his new job he finds that the local practise is in total chaos; with out-of-date equipment, barely organised patient records and an incompetent receptionist left in charge. The situation is not helped by Doctor Ellingham himself; as this is a man severely lacking in empathy, patience and people skills.
His arrival leads to a clash of cultures between this stubborn, emotionless Londoner and the quirky Cornish locals who quickly annoy their new GP with their foolish comments and by referring to him as ‘Doc’. Initially, Doc Martin’s blunt and abrasive nature causes shock and offence, but slowly his professionalism and comprehensive medical knowledge starts to win them over, and he gradually gains their affection and even some admirers.
Over time, Doc Martin becomes a fixture of village life in Portwenn. He catches the eye of local Primary School teacher Louisa Glasson, but any chance of romance between them is hampered by the Doc’s own lack of people skills. He also earns the affection of mad village pharmacist Mrs Tishell, the admiration of bumbling local policemen PC Mylow & PC Penhale and the respect of Portwenn’s resident wheeler-dealer, Bert Large.
Sadly, Doc Martin’s Aunt Joan passes away, but another of his relatives, Aunt Ruth, arrives to deal with her personal business. She decides to make Portwenn her base and support her emotionally-challenged nephew. Eventually Doc Martin and Louisa grow closer, and he finally plucks up the courage to propose. Unfortunately the couple call things off at the last minute, and Louisa decides to leave for London.
Six months later Louisa returns to Portwenn, but now she’s heavily pregnant. After baby James Henry is born, she and Doc Martin decide to get back together and get married. They go through a rocky period in their relationship, while Mrs Tishell continues to be as barmy as ever, Bert Large is up to his usual tricks and PC Penhale is...PC Penhale. However, just as everything is settling, Doc Martin’s career is suddenly in jeopardy. After a patient complaint, he faces a professional hearing regarding his conduct. Could life in Portwenn be about to change forever...