CHRISTOPHER STEVENS reviews last night’s TV: Everyone’s getting ill in Portwenn before grumpy Doc Martin leaves

Doc Martin

RATING: ****

Nine Perfect Strangers

RATING: ** 

Next patient, please! As Martin Clunes prepares to hang up his stethoscope on Doc Martin (ITV), his surgery is busier than ever.

Caitlyn the publican has eczema. Joe the village bobby is suffering with his feet… nothing to do with his clodhopper boots but because a fish pedicure has left infection between his toes. And the local herbalist’s baby has caught mumps (the mother refused to let her children have the MMR jab).

Next patient, please! As Martin Clunes prepares to hang up his stethoscope on Doc Martin (ITV), his surgery is busier than ever

That’s all before this week’s guest star, Lesley Nicol (cook Mrs Patmore from Downton), collapses because her wild-swimming wetsuit is too tight around the neck.

In earlier series, any one of these ailments might have sustained us through an entire episode. Now the curmudgeonly GP barely has time to make his diagnosis before the next crisis hits.

His former receptionist Janice is violently ill over a date night supper of scallops. And Chicken the dog has detected that Ruth (Dame Eileen Atkins) has a potentially fatal deep-vein thrombosis — which serves her right for going on long-haul flights at her elderly age, grumbles Dr Ellingham.

The actor may have run out of steam but the drama clearly hasn’t yet. Not only are there countless undiscovered rare diseases blowing around Cornwall, but big names are queuing up to appear

It’s as though we’re cramming for an end-of-show examination, recapping every illness that might have been overlooked in the past 18 years. ‘I think we’ve done everything,’ Clunes told the Mail’s Weekend magazine earlier this month. ‘It’d be great to carry on but I don’t think we could keep it as good.’

The actor may have run out of steam but the drama clearly hasn’t yet. Not only are there countless undiscovered rare diseases blowing around Cornwall, but big names are queuing up to appear.

We’ve already seen Fay Ripley, and now her Cold Feet co-star Hermione Norris has breezed in, as the Doc’s ex-girlfriend. Next week promises an appearance from Kenneth Cranham, while earlier this month we enjoyed a madly eccentric visit from Ben Miller.

Earlier this month we enjoyed a madly eccentric visit from Ben Miller. Ben may hold the remedy Doc Martin needs

Ben may hold the remedy Doc Martin needs. When he announced he was quitting Death In Paradise, the Caribbean detective show simply brought in an identikit replacement — same personality, same clothes, different actor.

And then it happened again… and again. What seemed a highly improbable plot device has become a much-loved TV stalwart.

Perhaps all we need to restore Doc Martin to full health is another taciturn bloke with a world-weary frown. And since he’s just left Shetland, I believe Douglas Henshall might be available.

Nicole Kidman won’t be, because she’s busy appearing in every TV adaptation of Liane Moriarty’s novels.

After her superb performance as a frustrated school-gates mother in Big Little Lies, she’s now hamming it up with a ludicrous Russian accent, in a lavish version of Moriarty’s bestseller Nine Perfect Strangers (C4).

Nicole Kidman plays Masha, a guru who claims she died in a shooting but was somehow resurrected

A bizarre mix of kooky Californian satire and chilling creepiness, this eight-part series was first streamed online last year —and is now airing for free.

Kidman plays Masha, a guru who claims she died in a shooting but was somehow resurrected. As proof, she has a birthmark on her breastbone, like a trickle of blood.

The ‘nine strangers’ are the pampered clientele at her ‘wellness retreat’, where she feeds them fruit smoothies blended to match their biometric profiles (that’s the satire) and taunts them about past traumas (that’s where it gets creepy).

After her superb performance as a frustrated school-gates mother in Big Little Lies, Kidman is now hamming it up with a ludicrous Russian accent, in a lavish version of Moriarty’s bestseller Nine Perfect Strangers

‘You have all come here to die,’ she tells them, ‘and I will bring you back.’ As a straightforward set-up for a horror movie, that could work. But the script keeps dragging in laboured jokes about influencers, embarrassing dads and the menopause.

Ignore the title: this concept is far from perfect.

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