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I first saw Season One and Two of Doctor Finlay on Masterpiece Theatre in the mid-90s, and I remember how much I enjoyed them. When I recently saw Jason Flemyng as Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde in The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, I was reminded of the series, and was delighted to discover it was available on DVD. Also, David Rintoul, who I liked as Mr. Darcy in Pride and Prejudice, plays the title role of Finlay.

What I had not anticipated was how addictive I would find this series. I remembered liking it before, but I hadn't fully appreciated how engrossing it was, nor had I remembered the characters being so well-developed. Each person has their own foibles and quirks, each changes a little as the series progresses, and all get under your skin. The episodes are well-written (dramatic and often heart-wrenching) but are always infused with a steady dose of humor as well.

Set in the post-WWII era, the story revolves around a small local medical practice in Scotland. One of the recurring themes is the transition to the National Health Service (which came to be in 1948). Doctor Finlay supports the move, while other doctors resist the change.

The interactions between three generations of doctors (60-ish Cameron, 40-ish Finlay, 20-ish Neil) adds extra depth and interest to the stories. Each fellow has his own quirks and weaknesses. We like them all, even when they are cantankerous (Cameron), humorless (Finlay), or cocky (Neil).

At this time only Season One, Season Two, and more recently, Season Three of Doctor Finlay are available on DVD. I sincerely wish that they release the final season on DVD soon. I'm hooked!

 

Dr. John Finlay (David Rintoul)

As the series starts, Dr. Finlay is just returning from service as a doctor in WWII. He finds some personal disappointment upon his return, which makes him at times introspective and morose, and even humorless. Doctor Finlay is earnest and well-intentioned, but his manner sometimes is borderline "sanctimonious" (as a frustrated Doctor Cameron once tells him). He also is prone to impatience. Later in the series, Doctor Finlay loosens up a little and seems more relaxed. But underneath the surface is always that little bit of impatience and (on occasion) a slowness to see the humor in things.

While I cannot say that Doctor Finlay is my favorite character, he is the "straight man" or the "glue" that keeps the series going. The more colorful and engaging characters (Doctor Neil and Doctor Cameron) interact well with the more staid Doctor Finlay, and the combination of all three is what gives this series a lot of its charm.

Dr. Alexander Cameron (Ian Bannen)

A feisty and warm-hearted person, Cameron is perhaps my favorite character. We first see him as he is being influenced to finally retire from the practice. He is not entirely excited about this, as he's an active and vital person. Doctor Cameron is a compassionate doctor, but, like Finlay, can be impatient and sometimes downright cantankerous. Doctor Cameron's adjustment to (on again, off again) retirement sometimes leaves him a little depressed, but not for long, as he is often called upon to help deal with some drama or crisis.

Near the end of Season Two, we see that Doctor Cameron might also have ambivalent feelings about the practice's longtime housekeeper, Janet, who is planning on marrying and leaving her employment at the house.

Dr. David Neil (Jason Flemyng)

Doctor Neil starts out on the wrong foot with Doctor Finlay, and continues to ruffle his feathers now and then. Young and full of enthusiasm and energy, Doctor Neil's main dilemma is learning how to detach himself from the pain and tragedy that his patients will endure. Sometimes I have a difficult time deciding which is my favorite character—Doctor Cameron or Doctor Neil. They both are amusing and charming and make you want to get to know them better.

Doctor Neil tends towards being impulsive and cheeky at times, often infuriating Doctor Finlay, but their squabbles and fragile business partnership also adds humor and entertainment to many of the episodes.

Janet MacPherson (Annette Crosbie)

Ever pragmatic and devoted, lovely Janet serves as the three doctors' housekeeper. She's been working for them for seemingly forever and dotes and fusses over them like they are part of her family. And indeed, it's obvious to all that she adores all these men in her own sweet, sensible way. The three men (especially Finlay and Cameron, who have known her for the longest) rely on Janet, so when she contemplates a marriage with a local pharmacist (Angus), the doctors have to come to grips with losing her. Janet also shows ambivalence about leaving these men she's known for so long—she has trouble thinking of anyone else caring for them properly.

There's also an unspoken and very subtle awareness she seems to have with Doctor Cameron—he is always gracious about her impending marriage, but we are left with the vague impression that both secretly wonder what "might have been" between them.

| Doctor Finlay DVD Episode Guide | Photo Album |

| Reviews Page Home | Pride & Prejudice (1980 miniseries) | The Mallens | Sparkhouse | Doctor Finlay | Pride and Prejudice Comparisons | North & South (2004 BBC miniseries) | Home Page |

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