This fourth series was a big disappointment. So much so that I have no intention of adding it to the three series I already own and have watched several times through. And for me, the biggest reason for that disappointment is the introduction of the visiting ex student colleague of Martin Ellingham, Edith Montgomery, played by Edith Williams.
Now a high flyer in private practice (of course, what else?) she's an interfering pain of a woman whose constant patronising and belittling of the eponymous doctor throughout the series is a plot element which serves merely to irritate and detracts to an unacceptable degree from that quirky humour which is the life blood (forgive the pun) of this otherwise excellent series.
The stumbling relationship of the Doc and village schoolteacher, Louisa Glasson, and their ongoing will they/won't they get together awkwardness, has always been central to the proceedings in this drama. And the fact that this aspect of the series takes a somewhat back seat after the pregnant Louisa tells the Doc she wants to be independent of him and the focus turns to whether the Doc will take up the offer of a surgery post in London, takes away much of that central fascination between the Doc and Miss Glasson and the series suffers greatly as a result.
The overall sense is that, even though this is only the fourth series, there's already a running out of ideas which, once the viewing public pick up on this, is the kiss off death for any drama. The accent this time around is too much on Doc Martin's phobia and concern over his possible departure from the village and far too little on that irresistibly quirky humour that has made this series such a delight.
A further example of this is the precious little emphasis on the delightful relationship between Bert and his son, Al - another essential element given far too little prominence this time around.
In short, this series ignores the essential individual comedic elements which have made for such a fascinating and delightful whole in the past and focuses instead on the much drier (and not at all funny) aspects of the Doctor's blood phobia and his dithering over whether he'll be moving back into private surgery.
Advice for Series 5 - get all the lovable characters like Auntie Joan, Bert, Al and Pauline the receptionist back centre stage, bring back Stewart Right as the original village bobby, PC Mark Mylow, because he fitted the part so very well and get back to the crazy, quirky little storylines that made the first three series such a delight.
But most of all, heaven forbid that the dreadful Edith Montgomery should become a regular character. For goodness' sake send her back to London, or wherever she came from, never to return to Portwenn again.