In a recent interview with NPR, Doc Martin star Martin Clunes dropped a surprising bombshell regarding the show’s recently filmed fifth series: one beloved character won’t be returning. Martin’s Auntie Joan (Stephanie Cole) won’t be returning to the show in series 5, he confirmed, though he promised an explanation for her absence.
Departing characters are nothing new to the series. Actress Lucy Punch, who played the ferociously incompetent receptionist Elaine Denham, departed the series after the first series, and was replaced in the second series by her character’s cousin, Pauline Lamb (Katherine Parkinson). Parkinson is reportedly not returning for the show’s fifth series either, and will be replaced by Jessica Ransom as new receptionist Morwenna Newcross.
Similarly, Stewart Wright, who played PC Mark Mylow for the first two seasons of the show, departed before the show’s Christmas special and was replaced by John Marquez, who portrayed the agoraphobic, narcoleptic PC Joe Penhale.
Joan will be replaced by her sister, Martin’s other aunt, Ruth, played by Dame Eileen Atkins. Actress Stephanie Cole likely left the show due to her casting in the popular British soap opera Coronation Street.
Doc Martin series 5 will premiere on ITV in the U.K. on September 12. No U.S. premiere date has been set.