‘Doc Martin’s’ Martin Clunes on His Character’s Season 7 Arc: ‘We Never Want to Cure Him’

Doc Martins Martin Clunes
ITV/REX/Shutterstock

The doctor is in, once again. Season seven of fan-beloved British dramedy “Doc Martin” makes its U.S. debut on Thursday, and star Martin Clunes is excited for his American fans to see what’s in store for the dwellers of Portwenn in the episodes to come.

Clunes stars as the grouchy Dr. Martin Ellingham on the ITV series, bringing his medical services to a sleepy Cornish town after he must leave his post as a top London surgeon when he develops a fear of blood. Season six ended on a question mark as Ellingham’s beloved Louisa (played by Caroline Catz) and their baby were headed for Spain without him.

Calling in from his home in Dorset, Clunes spoke to Variety about the future of the series, the (vast) difference between the show’s British fans and its American ones, and whether Doc’s rudeness ever goes too far.

Season seven of “Doc Martin” makes its U.S. network debut Jan. 14. Southern California residents can find “Doc Martin” at 8 p.m. on KCET.

Doc has been on quite an emotional trip through the first six seasons. After that cliffhanger, what can we expect for his emotional state?
He’s in a bad place at the end of season six. When we meet him, he’s really lonely, really sad, but aware that he needs to make a change. With the help of his aunt, he’s got enough self-awareness to know that he needs some kind of therapy. But he’s sort of in denial about that because it doesn’t sit well with his beliefs. I start seeing a therapist, who quite soon asks if she can meet Louisa as well.

What did you think when you got that script?
We have to be medically accurate in this country. If you’re going to put it on the TV, it has to be correct procedurally. We hired a therapist who was a friend of one of our producers to sit in and have discussions with the writers. She turned out to be a fan of the show. She said, “Never mind him getting therapy. What about her?”

We just knew that Caroline would enjoy playing that. “What do you mean me?” Sure enough, they were a real joy to play, all the therapy scenes, both with and without Caroline.

This cast is such a great ensemble. How is it to work with them?
It’s really great. We’re kind of slightly maverick. Geographically we’re a long way away from everything in England. But also, we’ve been there so long now, we’ve been through three rounds of administration at ITV since our first audience. They let us get on with it, so we’ve got the confidence in our cast to let them fly with it. Actors like that! It’s just great because everyone gets to flourish. Everyone understands what they’re doing there. What my wife and the writers do in the lead-up to the series is they make sure that every single character has an arc that will take them through each season. Everything seemed to go right. It’s never gone particularly wrong before — we’ve had crises and panics and things, but this season all the scripts were in really good shape. Everybody had lots of stuff you knew they were going to like doing.

Having gotten quite serious and emotional in the previous season, we thought it was a good time to sort of revert to being funny again, or funnier, which always cheers a cast up. So that’s what we did and we’ve had really fantastic feedback from people in the States who watch it illegally.

Let’s talk about those U.S. fans. Do you notice a big difference between your fans in the U.K. and your fans in the U.S.?
Massive. Massive. Over here, we’re sort of mainstream primetime TV. Our American fans seem to sort of have to seek us out, because when they write, as much as they tell you how much they enjoy the show, they tell you how they came across it and the discovery. It’s like going to a delicatessen and finding something your friends haven’t tried. They seem to cherish it in that way. They’re really intelligent, interesting letters that people write about character development and progression, when English fans just kind of say, “Can I have a signed photo? Thanks.”

It’s really interesting. They’re so generous, the American fans. They send money to the various charities I support. I tried to raise a little bit of money to send to Nepal and they were straight in with thousands of dollars. They fly over here. We hold a fair every year on our farm for local charities, and for the last two or three years, we’ve had quite a strong contingent of American “Doc Martin” fans helping out. It’s really nice.

Portwenn has become a tourist destination for fans who wish to make a “Doc Martin” pilgrimage. How do you feel about that?
I think it’s fine. These things are always a mixed blessing for the communities there. We didn’t make the place famous, as such, because it was a beautiful tourist destination before we turned up. But it was only busy during the season, and now they get people all year-round, which is great for anyone with a business. There’s a lot of people who have done really well out of it.

I’ve heard rumors that this might be the final season. Can you tell me anything about that?
No. No. We keep horses. I have to keep working. We’ll keep going as long as there’s an appetite for that. I’m never going to get a better job as an actor than this. I’m 54, you know!

Do you ever get a script for an upcoming episode and read some of Doc’s lines and think, “He’s just gone too far. He’s said something too rude this time”?
No. Unfortunately if it’s really rude, I’ve generally added it myself! I think it’s funnier, the ruder he is. People tell me they enjoy it when he’s rude. Sigourney Weaver showed up this season and I haven’t been that rude to a patient in years.

How do you reconcile your own personal kindness with your character’s attitude? Does it end up being a type of catharsis?
Possibly. It’s quite liberating having that license. But also, when people say, “How come you pretend to hate dogs so much when you really love dogs?” I say it’s because I think it’s quite funny when someone says they hate dogs. I think, “How could you not love dogs? They’re great.” That’s part of the freakishness of the character, I suppose. We never want to cure him. I guess we just have to investigate and celebrate him.

I’m so glad you brought up the dogs. Will the dog be in season seven?
Oh, so much. He’s really good in it and he’s such a clever little dog, too.

If you had to describe the upcoming season with one adjective, which would you use?
Improvement. Is that an adjective? It’s about the Doc trying to improve himself and then actually finding he’s fantastic anyway. It’s about the two of them trying to improve, trying to change, trying to fix things. I won’t spoil it!

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  1. Shirley says:

    I love your series so much. I have it on Net Flix and would like to know when season 7 will be on net flix.I have started te series over to refresh myself on everything that has happened. Please hurry to America Net flix. Thank you so much.

    • DMFan says:

      Shirley, Season 7 and Netflix is a mystery. People have made predictions, but none have been correct. My own prediction is it will appear after Season 8 is released, i.e., late 2017/early 2018. You can see all seasons of Doc Martin any time, along with tons of other great programming from the UK right now with a subscription to Acorn TV. $4.99/month is well worth it, and you are not at the mercy of Netflix or PBS to get your Doc Martin fix as often as you like.

  2. Tom says:

    I found this program on PBS, then discovered the series on Netflix. It is hard to put into words, how lovely this series is. I savor every show, as it captures the essence of both human nature and its spirit, and what is important in life. Doc’s character could not be better crafted, and the others are just simply endearing, human, and entertaining. I just want to say thank you for this series, it actors and creators. Bravo!

    • DMFan says:

      Let us know how you feel when you get to Season 7. A lot of us diehard fans feel it jumped the shark by 7, and some feel that happened by Season 5. We’re all hoping for a return to the early seasons in terms of Doc Martin’s demeanor and original story development.

  3. Beth Heilig says:

    I know not all will be medically correct but at least it is a good show and we need more of them. Hoping to see a Season 8. I can only re-watch the DVD’s so many times.

    • DMFan says:

      I think they’re pretty close with the medical accuracy. I have seen some medical pros on the Internet pick apart a couple of diagnoses, but on the whole it’s been pretty realistic.

      Season 8 is a definite go, but of course won’t be airing until later 2017. Early 2018 if you live in the US and only have access to PBS (although I wonder if PBS will rush the release this time, as it’s been a very popular show for them).

      If you think you have it bad with the re-watching, I limit my re-watching to seasons 1-4 for the most part. I’ll occasionally venture into 5 & 6 for a change, but I completely avoid Season 7. For me, It’s just not pleasant to watch at all.

  4. Shirley Reischman says:

    I read that Martin Clunes says the show tries to be medically accurate. In tonight’s episode, it depicts a young boy who the doctor says is in a diabetic come with a blood glucose level of 29. He then proceeds to give the child 10 units of insulin, which would have killed him. The child is in insulin shock. That’s when the blood glucose level drops to dangerously low levels and it comes on suddenly. The cure for that is to give glucose to bring the blood glucose level up. Diabetic coma is when the blood glucose level remains elevated for a period of time. It comes on slowly over a period of several days and needs additional insulin for the patient to recover.

    I love the show, and I look forward to many more seasons!

    • DMFan says:

      I am not a medical professional, but your post intrigued me. In poking around the Internet, I discovered that in the UK, blood glucose levels are measured in mmol/L, with a high end normal of 5.5 mmol/L. In the US, the high end is 100mg/dl. Normal ranges for the two systems are 70–99 mg/dl and 3.9–5.5 mmol/L.

      I also love the show, but the latest information from the producers is two more seasons, maximum. Season 8 is in the works, but as I have said in other posts, I would be surprised if ITV agreed to a 9th given the apparent difficulty (In my and others’ opinion) they are having in presenting episodes containing the original “magic”, if you will, of the first four seasons.

  5. Regina Brown says:

    I am an older black lady from Alabama (USA). I bought Acorn TV and was introduced to The Doc Martin Show there. I am so very happy to have had the opportunity to view such a wonderful body of work. I love the show and really wish there was going to be an 8th season (series). I am not sure if the show is now completed, but I keep looking hoping there will news of another. I have searched the internet, youtube and other places to see everything Martin Clunes has acted in. I am so very proud of him and love everything I have found and will be looking forward to all of his new work. William & Mary is wonderful, but Doc Martin is my favorite. I also loved the all the animal shows and of course his trips to faraway places. Thank you Mr. Clumes you areoutstanding actor, and you have given so very much.

    • DMFan says:

      Well Regina, direct from “the horse’s mouth”, that is from Martin and his wife, producer Philippa, there will indeed be an 8th season. They will begin filming in the summer of 2017, making it available for viewing later that year in the UK and on Acorn. They typically take 2 years between series. Series 1 was filmed way back in 2004! That’s why now, in 2016, we have only had 7 series so far.

      During the same interview, Martin and Phillipa also alluded to a 9th season, and there are many in the Doc Martin fan world that absolutely believe it will happen. While I also hope it will make it to Season 9, I’m a bit more skeptical and give the show a 50/50 chance of ITV renewing it for a 9th season. I say that because unfortunately, the story, especially Doc and Louisa’s on again/off again relationship is growing rather long in the tooth for many fans. Bottom line is, Martin and Phillipa appear to be willing to shoot a 9th series, if ITV will give the OK.

      If, on the other hand, the writer(s) (Jack Lothian, et al) can somehow freshen up the story, then let it continue forever I say! The first 4 seasons were golden, and were what got everyone hooked on the show. Season 7 to me and many other longtime viewers was a disappointment, missing the “magic” of earlier seasons, and filled with despair.

      Still, it’s a wonderful show when compared to others of its kind. Let’s hope for a joyous and fun Series 8 next year!

  6. Barbara says:

    If Doc Martin improved his character, smiled more, showed more love to Louisa, showed a softer side etc., he would NOT be Doc Martin. His Character the way it is now is what’s so appealing about him. Nobody can really figure him out! Please, NEVER CHANGE Doc Martin. We love him just the way he is! That’s what made us all fall in love with the show and his character in the first place. If it ain’t broken, don’t fix it!

    • DMFan says:

      Well except the “way he is” and “what made us all fall in love with the show and his character in the first place” was no longer evident by Season 7 (and some would argue even before that). In the early version that “made us all fall in love with the show”, he DID smile more, he DID show more love, he DID show a softer side. Not a lot, but enough to create a more sympathetic, lovable character. By Season 7 by taking the “grumpy” too far, they’ve turned the character and the show into a dysfunctional parody of the glory of Seasons 1-4. Serious viewers and critics of the show would agree on this point. There is a chance that early magic may be recaptured in Season 8 (and 9, if it really happens), but it may be too late, as cast and crew tire of the project and struggle to produce new story lines.

      • Carl James says:

        I agree with you. One of the things that really annoys me is how PC Penhale has evolved. He was originally a rather dorky and quirky character. Now he’s become a totally obnoxious buffoon. Overall, though, I still love the show.

  7. Phyllis says:

    So glad my favorite show will be returning. Look forward to each episode and even love to watch a rerun. This American truly loves the show and all of its characters. Keep up the good work. You are appreciated.

  8. Susana says:

    So happy Doc Martin will be coming back for season 7. It is such a nice break from the crime shows. Congrats to a great cast and producers on such great show.

  9. Arlene G says:

    I love this show; started searching “british shows” on netflix and now I’m hooked! Much less in the way of car chases and shootouts than our US shows, much more character development. Love seeing photos of Martin Clunes smiling–so used to seeing his sour Doc Martin expression.

  10. Katerina G says:

    OMG. I love his seasons. Amazing, and. I couldn’t stop watching! Bloody good! :) All on point! All great! I love it! Got me hooked. Don’t stop showing.

  11. carinjkragler says:

    I have been turbo watching this show since I only recently discovered it, and Last Tango in Halifax has yet to be released. It is wonderful story telling; I hope it continues along with Mr. Clune’s job-he is top notch. Thank you for this delightful interview.

    • DMFan says:

      It IS a great show! Or is until the writing and acting begins to trail off by Season 6 or so. Still, it’s better than many things on TV today.

  12. Lynne says:

    I miss my Thursday evenings without Dr. martin

  13. HORÁCIO RAPOSO CARNEIRO says:

    I’m looking forward to watching season seven but here in Rio, Brazil I suppose we only be able to watch it when Netflix shows it.

    Great,wonderful characters.

    Best regards,

    Horácio Carneiro

    • DMFan says:

      Horácio, you can see season seven immediately, and all the seasons via acorn.tv. A subscription is $4.99US per month, with a 30-day trial. You can cancel after 30 days.

  14. I watch Doc Martin over and over again, and never get tired of it. I most love the interaction between Doc and Luisa, and especially the love scenes. We women love love stories, and you can’t put too much of that into the episodes for me. When Doc gets that look of love on his face, along with his nice tall stature and capabilities, he is really quite appealing and sexy.
    I didn’t find out that Series 7 was playing in the US until it was too late, so now I’ll have to wait until Netflix picks it up.. I wish there was some way you could alert us here in the US, as to when new series will be shown. I’m so glad to hear that there will be a Series 8.
    Incidently, I sent what I thought would make a good episode to Martin @ Independent Talent Group.

    • DMFan says:

      Betty, a lot of PBS stations are running Doc Martin continuously these days. Have you checked your local station? Also, all episodes are available on DVD or with a $4.99/mo subscription to Acorn TV.

  15. Wairimu says:

    I like doc Martin but I am disappointed Pauline is not back. Can you bring Pauline back? I miss her character.

    • DMFan says:

      Betty, a lot of PBS stations are running Doc Martin continuously these days. Have you checked your local station? Also, all episodes are available on DVD or with a $4.99/mo subscription to Acorn TV.

    • DMFan says:

      Well you know Wairimu, Katherine Parkinson as well as some other early members of the regular cast have gone on to other projects. They felt it was best for their careers at the time to move on. Maybe there’s a cameo appearance by Pauline in the future, though. That could be fun!

  16. Stephen says:

    Hello there, We have been watching Doc Martin here in Perth Western Australia since its inception but i think that in the last few episodes they have run out of ideas, I would like to see Martin improve inhis behavior, as the final episode shown here a week ago was to silly for words. In my opinion the original episodes were the best regards Stephen Mciver

  17. Linda Stepp says:

    I find Doc more human than any of them. There is no artificial attitude in his body but if anything is holding him back it is his absolute reserve. He simply does not know what he can do to get out of his own way; he just needs to relax with his wife and child. Louisa does not understand him but loves him anyway. She does not perceive the true affection he has for her and their child so perhaps it is also her lack of perception that makes him unable to truly relax with her. So far nothing he says or does meets with acceptance on her part. If she does not get the response she expects she does not see the effort he is able to give. I don’t think either of them really know each other very well but there is love between them nevertheless. I really enjoy the series and the fine acting of all the cast members add tremendously to the show just as much as the central characters. I am really looking forward to seeing little James Henry grow and see how he manages his odd couple parents! I am sure he will add to their happiness in many ways; they just need to get on with their marriage.

  18. Sheryl says:

    Fantastic! I just finished season 6 and I cannot wait to see what season 7 will bring. While I love it when the doc is intolerant and put out, I do wish he could just show some more love to Louisa. I wish he could just open up to her a little and perhaps smile a genuine smile at his beautiful little family. That would improve everything for me, he wouldn’t have to change a thing about what he feels for the public, but I just find it a little unbelievable that a woman as beautiful as Louisa would stay in such a wretched marriage. This man is nearly made of wood! No emotions but utter disdain. But I love him. I love the show! I love the whole thing. I’m hooked!

  19. Gail says:

    We love it. Wonderfully written, no profanity, violence, or sex for cheap laughs. It takes more talent to leave all that out than it does to put it in. One would think that American networks would take note.

  20. Annie says:

    This is my favorite show, the quirky characters are perfection. I want to live there!

  21. Marge McClelland says:

    Dog episode was fine .We all knew he wouldn’t do it ! Kept us gasping though!!! I love Doc and the cast. . Great show. Hope they are working on a new season can’t get enough of Doc Martin. Hope to visit Port Isaac soon!

  22. rmlbca says:

    I think the episode in which he was on the verge of euthanizing the dog went too far.

    • DMFan says:

      Yes the writers are reaching farther than they need to I think. I feel viewers would be happy with the more heartwarming story lines of the early series, not the darker, more serious stuff interspersed with farcical comedy and pratfalls.

  23. jred13g says:

    I’m a huge fan of the show! My daughter has been watching for years and told me about it. At first, it didn’t grab me. But after being determined to keep on watching, I started loving it and have been hooked ever since! Doc is just a product of his environment. His childhood was dysfunctional and stoic. The actors have such great chemistry together, and his scenes with P.C. Penhale are completely comedic! This cast is a match made in heaven! Waited two years for this season, and will wait until for the next season(s). Would love to see James grow up and see what type of father Martin will be!

  24. Doris zieman says:

    I love Doc Martin, have watched every show since it started.i like all the actors and the placed it’s filmed . None thing I don’t likens you yelling at the dog and wanting him tied up. He lives you and wants to be with you. I dont want to see him get hurt or locked up In the kennel. My son and daughter- law and husband and I have 4 shelter dogs and we love them. Please be nice to the dog. Keep he show on the air , we love it.

  25. Marisa Zavala says:

    Just found it last week here in Lima, Peru. I couldnt stop watching all 6 seasons in a row.
    Great actors, great characters. Thanks you all

  26. Ale says:

    Unfortunately, season 7 is the final season.

    • Ale says:

      Nope, sorry, my bad. It’s been renewed.

      • DMFan says:

        Yes, not only has it been renewed for Season 8, there is serious talk of a Season 9. However, many in Doc Martin fandom wonder if they can produce 16 more quality shows without wearing out the premise. A lot of people feel Season 7 has already worn it out. Personally, I think Mr. Clunes would be well-advised to tone down the nastiness a bit and become the more sympathetic character found in the earlier series. The problem is one of anachronism, though. Would it seem right to have the Doc return to that kinder, gentler disposition given all the water under the bridge? It might seem a backward step. Some of us feel the writing has become farcical and the original quirkiness and heart we all loved early-on has disappeared.

  27. The show is great and season seven is great.

  28. Gloria says:

    My husband and I just finished watching Season 7 and we loved it! Thank you so much and PLEASE KEEP THEM COMING!

  29. Julia Burns says:

    Try the new season; you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

    • DMFan says:

      Tried it. Didn’t like it. I like it better than most American TV, but not compared to earlier seasons. Someone’s got to write more joy and less hopelessness into the stories. Remember when the Doc said “Yeah” or cracked a smile? That was several seasons ago.

  30. Sydney says:

    Used to enjoy the show when it was funny, now it’s very negative and depressing.

    • DMFan says:

      Have to agree with Sydney. The first 2 or 3 seasons were magical and fun. The Doc was only slightly dysfunctional and endearing. Now it’s all a bit arduous. The first 2 seasons with Minghella’s influence were pure joy. What happened?

  31. SS says:

    I really enjoy the comedy/drama mix in this show. The writing is top notch. I love all the actors and characters. The scenery makes it all the more enjoyable. I understand they get a big audience to watch filming. How many shows actually let fans do that?

  32. PJ says:

    The show is enchanting, and I particularly enjoy the beautiful seaside setting. The Doctor has a special eccentric charm that makes me try to stay as healthy as possible for fear of ever encountering the likes of him. I suppose if one is ill though……..

  33. Julia Burns says:

    I’m a great fan of the show. I was able to purchase the 7th season and agree with the Doc that it is a great improvement over Series 6 which became maudlin and hard to watch. As he described, I just lucked into catching the show on one of our PBS stations and have been a regular ever since. I love their dry humor and very low-key humanness.
    My question is – Why hasn’t Mr. Clune been over here plugging the new Series on our Late Night Shows?
    We even have a Brit hosting one of them now who must be familiar with the talented Mr. Clune.

    • Bill says:

      Martin Clunes does not like being in the US. He said it makes his skin crawl. I wrote him a First Class letter, which was never answered.

      • Gail says:

        I wonder if he comes to Canada. We usually find the British shows we enjoy there. Canadian television also has a lot of wonderful shows that never make it to the US. The states are all about where you go. We have to live outside NYC in NJ, and I hate it. The Midwest is much nicer. Most areas of the country are nicer. I think people come, and go to the tourist areas, and think that is the US.

      • Susan says:

        I just found this series last season and adore it. U.S. Networks have gone so far downhill, there’s nothing watchable. If love to see it broadcasted from the beginning. So Fla has a local station WLRN that has plenty of slots empty.

  34. Lilacs says:

    In Chicago Doc Martin can been seen each Saturday on PBS station WTTW.

    • Michelle says:

      Did you know Craig Ferguson created his character? The character of the Doc was into diced in the movie called “Saving Grace”.

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