Title: Peak Practice, Episodes 12x05 thru 12x13
Air Dates: November 2001 - January 2002
Availability: Not available on DVD, but the episodes - truncated down to just Jamie's scenes - are available HERE thanks to ddt73 (Note: 12x08 is missing because it hasn't turned up yet, and 12x11 is missing becaue Matt doesn't appear.)
Synopsis: The Beeches is a general practice surgery unit in Cardale, a fictional town in the Peak District of England, which has been the focus of this long-running soap for over a decade. By the time a gorgeous, ever so slightly cavalier but mostly just adorable motorcycle-riding, leather-clad doctor arrives, plenty of shenanigans have gone down over the years, but that's not important - what's important is that they continue to, although the people who write this stuff don't seem to know how to utilize such exceptional new talent and poor Dr. Matt is left out of a lot of the drama. Phooey.
Worth Watching? Yes, but mostly because of it's rarity and the fact that Jamie is smokin' hot in it. XD The scripts, being fairly pedestiran soap fare, aren't great (even when they are extra scandalous and soapy), and he really does get shafted in terms of decent soaper plots. If you're hoping for Noah Drake-level material, don't get your knickers in a twist, ladies. (I hope I"m not the only one old enough to get that reference... ;) ) Also, how many times can I say "soap" in this paragraph? SOAP SOAP SOAP.
Does he live or die? He makes it out of the season (and as it would transpire, series) finale alive. Hurrah! Which is more than you can say for the two female leads, maybe. *facepalm*
Dr. Matt Kendal turns up in the middle of Peak Practice's twelfth and final season as a trainee from - well, we're not sure. We really don't get to find out much about him as a character at all over the course of several episodes, which is I suppose unsurprising given that he's not one of the leads and this is a rather mediocre soap we're talking about. But still, a little background would have been such a terrible thing? Really?
Also, he should have known that coming to the "idyllic" (pshaw) Peak District hamlet of Cardale was a bad idea to begin with: The first day he gets there, his cottage has been rented out twice - both to him and to physical therapist Kerri - so he's got nowhere to live from day one. Also, resident blondie-male type Dr. Will Preston failed to tell resident good-girl admin Dr. Alex Redman that he was even coming. It's not exactly a bustling town, how hard is it to keep this stuff sorted?
Within one episode, it sort of becomes clear how the show plans to utilize Matt Kendal most of the time: 1) There's Matt, isn't he lovely, or 2) Matt is conveniently around once in a while when something terrible occcurs (i.e. lady crashes into the building while delirious from an infection, or poor receptionist Leanne is brutally assaulted outside the pub where he and everyone else happens to be...) Even in the case of the latter, he rarely gets anything major to do other than to do that "stand back, I'm a doctor" thing, occasionally crouching, and looking good while doing so:
By declaring a local spinster dead on his first rounds when in fact she was not the lady in question but a house-sitter, he sets himself up for embarrassment straight off the bat. (Mind you, he JUST got to town, how was he supposed to know that wasn't the right lady?!)
As the season progresses, he gets chucked a couple of ailment-of-the-week sub-plots, such as a "touching" storyline where he attempts to help get surly barkeep Shaun's weight under control. It should be noted, they end up roommates and their "friendship" involves Shaun hurling the chip on his shoulder at Matt's head at every opportunity - including, at one point, trying to keep him off the local footy team, though there's a really excellent bit where Matt joins the other team and justifiably gloats + takes advantage of Shaun's injury to put the ball right into the back of the net. I admit it, I laughed. Also, Shaun behaves jealously any time Matt's around Kerri (who Shaun secretly fancies); meanwhile, Matt is a perfect gentleman around Kerri AND, most of the time, just lets Shaun's snits roll off his back. Because he ain't gonna play that. He even attempts to play matchmker which IMO is so above and beyond the call of duty it's marginally rage-inducing. I mean FWIW, partially because they are actually cute (see above) and partially to spite Shaun being generally unlikeable, I would have shipped Matt and Kerri SO HARD if I actually watched this show when it went out. Not that I can imagine I'd likely watch this show unless I had a damn good reason. :) (Seriously, that opening titles tune alone would make me apoplectic every week...)
There's also the diagnosing (or mis-diagnosing?) of a little boy who might have asthma? Might have croup? (At any rate, he's got kind of a jerk for a father...) Matt continually tries various methods of treatment w/out taking the kid to the hospital (which he's afraid of) OR touching base with Will, who previously told him to admit the kid. Though he does finally cure the poor ickle, all of this eventually leads up to a push/shove where Matt feels as though he's being treated more harshly because he failed his first year... oh, that's right! We do have ONE little bit of background, he's a "remedial" case. Not that he did anything like prescribe the wrong meds or cheat on his exams or something like that. Turns out he slept with his first trainer's wife. And not even knowingly (He didn't know she was married, let alone to whom), but that still didn't sit well with his trainer, who failed him as a result. All of this Will finds hilarious, so suddenly it's a case of "I like you, kid, just don't be so cocky all of the time." (Which is kind of bullshit, too, because he's not that cocky... he's quite confident, and though he might not necessarily play by the rules, he seems competent enough. A damn sight better than this show deserves, given the way they write him, at any rate... XD)
So Dr. Kendal hangs around, getting his arse grabbed by overtly forward lady patients and non-flirting with Kerri (though he should totally be flirting-flirting.) Eventually, when Will starts planning to open up a new practice, he considers bringing Matt on board since the young'un doesn't seem to have any plans to skip town when he's done with his training year. (And why not? For god's sake, lad, get out of there as soon as you can!) His med school friend, Dr. Trent (who we never actually see on camera - can't poor Matt even have friends with faces?!) shows up to interview for work at the new practice, all of which continues to piss off Alex, who feels betrayed by the whole thing. (I'd feel worse for her except that hardly anyone's demonstrated a great amount of appreciation for Matt yet...) Nevertheless, though he really doesn't have all that much loyalty to betray, Matt feels badly as Alex is his trainer... and despite the financial allure of the job offer, he decides to turn Will down after all. (Which bodes well for his future, moving onward somewhere that offers him more exciting storylin... I mean, job prospects. ;) )
Trudging forward toward the season finale, Matt continues to get precious little to do, especially as the hysteria over the Claire-is-a-nutcase main plot begins to escalate and...oh, right. Nurse Claire, we haven't mentioned her yet. The one who on Matt's first night in town, managed to pull off THIS...
And then the next day, when he sweetly asked her for a second date (even though the first one wasn't much of a "date"), she told him she was just "curious" and not to expect a repeat performance. Before you go wailing "The fu... is she CRAZY?!" you should probably know... why, yes, actually. She IS CRAZY. To put a finer point on it, intensely psychologically damaged as a result of her time in Kosovo as an army medic, where apparently she knew Alex and they might have been *intimate* with one another, after which Claire having reunited with her former "friend" is now totally obssessed with her and intent on ruining her upcoming nuptials with tall, dark and handsome Scottish doc Tom. (There's about 15 other different levels of "OH FFS" to her back story, too, but I"ll spare you. They all circle back to SHE CRAZY.) Oh, and there's also a convenient helicopter crash up on the mountain that gives Claire a brief spell of PTSD during which she kills a dude rather than try and save him. Oh, show... see, this the kind of ridiculousballs plotting you come to expect from a proper soap, not the sidelines-slumming you've subjected poor Matt to. XD Anyway, really really for the best that Claire rapid-fire dumped the poor boy, because no one deserves this kind of batshit, least of all him.
By the time the batshittery reaches a fever pitch in the finale, everyone in town is getting ready for Alex and Tom's wedding (which is aborted by a gun-toting Claire, because OF COURSE IT IS)... everyone in town EXCEPT Matt, who has been charged with babysitting none other than John Rhys-Davies (?!!) as he attempts to run a mountain marathon with a dodgy ticker. The less said about this plotline the better, except that it makes me long for Jamie to get another opportunity to work with the delightful JRD, being all grand and Falstaff-y, that doesn't involve a patently ridiculous gondola-rescue and schmaltzy ending. Oy.)
I won't waste time on the unbelievably OH NO THEY DIH-ENT! cliffhanger (if you're curious, it's totally Google-able, it's less of a cliffhanger than a cliff-diver... ). Except to say that in my own private continuity (which I've babbled about a little before), Matt took this insane turn of events as a sign to get the hell out of Dodge while he still could. And he had a fulfilling future the likes of which the PP writers clearly chose not to give him at the Beeches. You don't bring THIS onto your show:
...and then make him a third-stringer. Otherwise you lose him to much bigger and better television sheewwwws. Not that that's a bad thing. ;)
See yet more of the lovely Dr. Kendal HERE, because as usual, I make way too many screencaps for these bloody things...