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All at sea maybe, critics at the time lambasted this as being lame by
comparison of the original doctor's series. I disagree, although many
of the original cast members had gone by the way side the basic
chemistry between Duncan warring and Stewart-Clark which by that time
was easily the backbone of the series remained intact. Even their arch
nemesis professor Loftus who technically was written out of the series
staged a metamorphosis to haunt the two wise cracking and juvenile
By this time they had been sacked from St.Swithans and despite this set back they thought that they had managed to wrangle a cushy little number on a cruise liner. However, to their horror it so happened that the captain of the ship was none other than Norman Loftus sir Geoffrey's twin brother who not only was identical to his brother but shared the same personality: what rotten luck
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
On a recent I.T.V.-1 documentary about L.W.T.'s 'Doctor' series,
producer Humphrey Barclay said: "'Doctor At Sea' sank without trace.
Nobody wanted it, nobody talks about it now.". I think he was being
unduly harsh. I like the show, and am happy to talk about it anytime to
anyone. It took the doctors away from St. Swithins, something that had
not happened since 'At Large'. Dick Stuart-Clark has messed up once too
often, and Loftus finally gives him the sack. Duncan resigns in
protest. They sign up as doctors for a two-month voyage on the cruise
ship M.S. Begonia. But there is a small detail they failed to check on.
The captain is one Norman Loftus, twin brother of Professor Sir
Geoffrey. This piece of invention enabled the writers to lose Loftus
and yet keep him.
The first episode - 'Sir John & Baby Doc' - provides effective transition between the old and new series. Rather than just let Paul Collier and Lawrence Bingham be quietly forgotten, an issue was made of their departures. A wonderful sequence has Duncan and Dick looking back at their student days. In reality, Richard O'Sullivan had left to take up residence with Paula Wilcox and Sally Thomsett in 'Man About The House', while George Layton became 'Bombardier Solomons' in 'It Ain't Half Hot Mum'.
As the weeks rolled by, the doctors had to contend with batty passengers, sick crewmen, a camp Purser ( superbly played by the late John Grieve ), a bipolar Entertainments Officer ( Bob Todd ), and a stowaway ( David Jason ). Duncan even got to lead a mutiny! As Captain Norman, Ernest Clark was indistinguishable from his twin, except for a beard. Elisabeth Counsell provided glamour as 'Nurse Joyce Wynton'. Foreign locales featured in the show for the first time.
With all these plus points, why isn't 'At Sea' as well remembered as the others? The absence of Bingham and Collier disappointed fans, no doubt about it, on top of which you can only do so many plots aboard a ship. 'In A Little Spanish Town' in which Duncan was falsely accused of rape provoked controversy.
When the show ended, it was decided to send Duncan and Dick back to St. Swithins.
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