Want an idea of just how popular Doc Martin
is? When the
British drama about a curmudgeonly doctor in a Cornish fishing village
advertised for extras in the local Port Isaac press, more than 800
people showed up.
In the giant queue, which snaked around the
local church hall, there were no fewer than 150 babies in prams and
pushchairs eager to be chosen for the role of the doctor's 11-month-old
son, James Henry. That is one well-loved show!
Over six series, Doc Martin
s has averaged nine million viewers a week in the UK and star Clunes
Clunes, who plays the lovable yet grumpy medic, has won himself an army
of die-hard fans. Calling themselves "Clunatics", they lavish gifts on
the cast and crew to underline just how much they love the drama. "They
are a group of Doc Martin
fans who keep thanking us for helping
them to make great friendships with other fans around the world. They
Skype each other," explains Clunes, 53, who has played the role for 11
years. "When episodes go out, they have discussions on it, and when
there are no episodes going out, they have more discussions. There is
one woman logging all the ties I wear in the show. She says, 'I don't
think I have seen this tie since season two. Mind you, I haven't logged
all the season six ties yet'," says the actor, who is married to the
show's producer, Philippa Braithwaite. The couple live in rural bliss in
Dorset, with their teenage daughter, Emily.
We've had so many presents; paintings of myself and cast members, a
fridge magnet of Jimmy, my Jack Russell, paintings of my horses. A lady
from Iceland hand-knitted a sweater for me, one for Emily and one for
Philippa – and one for Brian the props man because he was nice to her in
the pub one night," continues Clunes.
"We were given a big jar of
M&Ms with 'DM' printed on each one of them for us all. Some of the
Clunatics even found us when we were filming on the moors."
who has just spent a very contented four months shooting the latest
series in Port Isaac, is touched, and a little taken aback, by the
show's global popularity. "When we started making Doc Martin, we could
never have imagined it would have this reaction," he says. "We never
anticipated this. You can't predict how successful something will be."
As the seventh series kicks off this week, Doc Martin
looks set to remain as popular as ever. Dr Martin Ellingham, the GP
with the disastrous bedside manner and a morbid fear of blood, has his
work cut out in the new series, set in the fictional bucolic seaside
hamlet of Portwenn. Louisa (played by Caroline Catz from DCI Banks), the
woman he recently married, has had enough of his grouchiness and has
walked out. She has taken young James Henry and gone off to stay with
her mother in Spain.