“Sometimes people are beautiful. Not in looks. Not in what they say. Just in what they are.” ~Markus Zusak, I Am The Messenger
Oh, man. This quote. This quote so perfectly sums up Doc’s character. I have so many feels about it. See, in the last post I did that was a character study (about Dietrich), I had a quote at the very top of the post, so I thought I should have one for Doc. I was running through the list of awesome quotes I keep catalogued up in my head, despairing of ever finding a good one, and then I remembered something I’d pinned to my Book Thief Pinterest board (yes, yes, I know the quote’s from Messenger – so sue me) and from what I could remember, it was perfect. So I looked it up. And it was.
*re-reads quote* *squees at the awesomeness*
Let me give you a little background on the show, Combat!, first. Still holding the title of longest running TV show about WWII ever, Combat! ran for five seasons and delved into many issues of war and friendship. It’s my favorite thing, my current fandom, and I can’t watch enough of it to suit me. Combat! chronicles the adventures of a squad (and their Lieutenant) fighting their way through France after D-Day. There are hardly any references to historical battles or important people like Patton or Churchill, just episode after episode about the struggles and trials of the main characters. (and, boy, do they go through a lot of struggles and trials) It may not sound all that interesting, but believe me, it is. And the characters wrap themselves so tightly around your heart that it’s crazy. I really could do a character study on each and every one (and maybe I will someday), but for now, I’m focusing on Doc.
Doc TWO, to be exact. Doc ONE has zero personality, zero competence rating, and zero courage. Seriously. Thankfully, he’s only in season one, and we get Doc2 (or GOOD Doc, or just Doc, like it’s going to be through this whole post) for all the other seasons. Awesome, right? Well, it might not make any impression on you right now (I’m looking at YOU, Ashley ;)), but once I’m done this post, it will. Or once you watch the show. I recommend you watch the show first, actually, because this post is going to have spoilers and reading spoilers for Combat! would be a terrible injustice. So go watch the whole show and then come back and read this. It’ll keep. (btw, even I haven’t watched every episode yet, so I might not cover everything about Doc in this post…but don’t worry. If I don’t, I’ll just write a follow-up.)
You back? Good. Let’s get into the post.
There are so many reasons to love Doc. So. Many. I couldn’t list them all if I tried, but even so, this is going to be a very long post. I have several points I want to cover, so without further ado, let’s get to them, shall we?
First of all, there’s Conlan Carter, the guy who portrays Doc. I don’t make it a policy of idolizing actors and actresses, and I’m not going to start now, but he brought so much to the role of Doc. For one, when he found out through his agent that he’d landed the role, he went out and took some classes in bandaging wounds and taking pulses, stuff like that, so he’d look comfortable/accurate whenever his character had to patch someone up. And just to give you an idea of how good his acting abilities are, he was the only actor in the show who was nominated for an Emmy (besides Vic Morrow for the episode ‘Survival’). (and my sister and I agree that Conlan Carter and Vic Morrow are the two very best actors in this show) That was for the episode ‘The Hostages’, and he totally deserved to win as well. But getting nominated is pretty big as well. I’ll be talking about ‘The Hostages’ a little later on, because it really is the ultimate episode for Doc fans.
Oh, and I just plain love his voice. That Southern accent… ❤
(fun fact: even though Doc2 didn’t make an appearance until season two, Conlan Carter played two different, small parts in season one: an MP in ‘Hill 256’ and a German soldier in ‘Survival’.)
Now that I’ve talked a little bit about Conlan Carter, I will devote the rest of this post to Doc. It’s going to be long. And full of gushy fangirling. And quotes. And feels. And pictures. But, hey, this blog was specifically created for word vomiting about feels and fandoms, so I don’t feel the least bit guilty about this outrageously long post. And Ashley will back me up on that. (still, if you’re not a Combat! fan, most of this will probably go over your head)
“Sarge, there’s a wounded man out there and he needs this. [some morphine, I believe] And if I don’t try to get it to him, well, there’s no point in me being here, is there?”
Unfortunately, I don’t know the episode where that quote comes from (got the quote from a clip in a fan-video, actually – one I’ll share at the end of this post), since I haven’t watched them all, but that’s a loose summation of Doc’s character. He’s fiercely dedicated to saving lives (which makes the ending of ‘The Hostages’ – which I’ll get to soon – all the more heartbreaking), even at the risk of his own, and he’ll do whatever it takes to get aid to the wounded. One moment that sticks out more than others in my mind is in the episode ‘The First Day’. The entire squad is pinned down by machine gun fire, Caje is wounded and several yards away from the rest of the squad, and Doc insists on going out to help him, even though Saunders warns him not to. Bullets are flying everywhere, and Doc still goes out to help Caje. I had to pause the video for a moment and just…breathe. Because that moment was amazing and powerful and exactly what Doc is like.
“Caje is hit. Maybe Tobin and Lomas too. I’m going.”
He runs out under heavy fire, under shelling, even, to get soldiers the help they desperately need. Doc is brave. There’s a moment in ‘Hills Are For Heroes’, right at the beginning, when one of the soldiers going up the hill gets wounded in the face and Doc runs over and shields him from the killing fire coming from the German pillboxes. Bullets are peppering the ground all around both of them, but he doesn’t run away until he’s bandaged up the guy’s face and dragged him to safety. Or in ‘The Long Way Home’, when he’s being interrogated. A friend of mine, who loves Combat!, sums it up well in her episode review of TLWH (read the full thing here).
Doc looks so scared as Steiner questions him. And yet so calm. Watch him jump when Steiner whaps him on the arm with that evil riding crop. But he’s gutsy enough to tell his little Halloween story — and it’s a great story. I think it kinda shakes Steiner up — he can’t come up with a snappy retort. He just says, “I’ll think about it… while you think about it.” Lame!
Of course, with all the times he goes out under fire to save lives, it would be unrealistic if he never got wounded. Believe me, he does. Not as much as the others, because he doesn’t take all the risks they do – sneaking around German OPs and running up hills five times under heavy fire, etc, etc. – but he does get shot a few times. And whenever that happens, all I can think is “It’s so unfair.” None of them deserve to be wounded, but especially not Doc. (and not Billy, but that’s a discussion for another day) So it’s always awful when he gets hurt.
Returning to the topic of Doc’s bravery, there’s one episode that sticks out the most when it comes to portraying it. ‘The Hostages’. I watched this episode for the first time just a couple of weeks ago and was absolutely blown away by it all. The acting, the plot, the ending. And through the whole thing, Doc showed amazing courage. To put it in a nutshell, a sadistic German officer is holding Caje and Saunders hostage while Doc goes out and gets a truck that the German guy and his aide can escape in. Only they take Doc and the others with them once they have the truck…to clear a path through a minefield. Most of the episodes focuses on Doc’s attempt to get a truck. Through the entire thing, you can almost feel the different emotions and questions running through Doc’s mind. Kill the German officer? Let his friends die to keep blood off his own hands? On and on the moral dilemma goes until he finally acts. And that’s one spoiler you won’t get out of me. Just let me say…it was intense. And I cried.
Well, I will give you another, potentially spoilery quote from my friend, because it really is great. (read the whole thing here)
This whole episode is really a fascinating character study about a man who’s sworn not to kill or do violence who is forced with the choice of either breaking that vow or seeing people he cares about get killed. The tension inside Doc mounts ever higher throughout the episode until finally he is forced to do something he probably thought he would never do. I really wish this ep had either a sequel or a longer denouement, so we could see more about Doc coming to grips with what he’s done. Saunders does the best he can, with his plea for help with his wound, but I don’t think Doc’s going to be brought back to normal quite that easily.
Ugggggggh. Here come the feels.
Another thing I love about Doc is how he isn’t afraid to speak his mind. (side note: Doc1 was afraid of his own shadow. It wasn’t attractive.) In ‘The Hostages’, he demands to know where Aptmeyer (the German officer) is taking him and Saunders and Caje. He really stood up to the guy and was pretty firm about having to know. (Aptmeyer lies to him though, as I’m sure he realized. Still, it took guts to stand up to that creep.) It was one of my favorite parts in the episode, actually, because he just…*covers face with hands* Awesome. So. Awesome.
But the example above isn’t the only time Doc has stood out and spoken up. There are a couple of times in ‘Hills Are For Heroes’ that I remember well and one in particular – when Saunders has been wounded and Hanley comes in to see how he’s doing.
Hanley: “How is it?”
Saunders: “It’s not too bad, Lieutenant.”
Doc: “Don’t pay any attention to him, Lieutenant. He’s got a whole area you could lose a grenade in.”
*Doc brings over some morphine*
Saunders: “No, Doc, forget it. My leg doesn’t hurt that much.”
Doc: “Yeah, I’ll bet it doesn’t.”
Saunders: “I don’t want it. Not till we get what we came for. I’m not going to be any good asleep.”
Hanley: “May be quite a while before we get what we came for.”
Doc: “Well then you oughta take the shot.”
Saunders: “No, Doc, I don’t want it.”
Saunders can be stubborn too. 🙂 Just saying. But Doc’s usually just as stubborn when it comes to getting men the medical care they need. He doesn’t end up giving Saunders the morphine, but you can just SEE that he wants to. Same as all the times there’s a wounded man on the field and he can’t get to them or there’s a wounded man and he doesn’t have his aid bag. There’s an urge inside of him to help people, and when he can’t act on it, it’s one of the worst things. That’s partly why when he said something in ‘The First Day’ about “I just try to keep people alive until we can get them to a real doctor” I was all like “You ARE a real doctor!” I mean, he doesn’t have a medical degree or anything that fancy, he wasn’t even a doctor before the war, but he has the heart for it. And he’s actually pretty competent.
Rabbit trail there. Back to Doc speaking up and making himself heard when there’s something to be said.
My absolute favorite example of this is in the episode ‘Bridgehead’. It’s one of my favorite episodes to begin with – one with all the squad, lots of epic fighting, touching moments….just an overall great episode. In it, Littlejohn accidentally kills one of his friends with a bunch of grenades (yeah, ‘accidentally’ and ‘a bunch of grenades’ don’t seem to belong in the same sentence, but in this case, they do) and is really eaten up with guilt. He gets wounded and Doc takes him back to headquarters, or whatever they call it, and Hanley’s there. (oh, and the entire squad’s being chewed to pieces by enemy fire all this time) After listening to Littlejohn’s guilt and anger and anguish, Doc snaps. (not in a crazy, insane way – in an angry way) And it’s awesome, albeit heartbreaking and totally feelsy in every way.
*Doc rips off his medic’s armband and tries to leave the room*
Hanley: “Now where do you think you’re going?”
Doc: “I want a rifle.”
Hanley: “You what?”
Doc: “I want to get in this shooting war. I want a rifle. Now I have had it up to here with bandages and aspirin. I want a rifle!”
Hanley: “Now you know that’s impossible.”
Doc: “Why? Because of the rules? I don’t shoot anybody, nobody shoots me? We’re so civilized, we’ve even got rules to kill each other by. Boy, that’s what I call organization!”
Hanley: “Well don’t knock it. Organization got us this far, all the way from Normandy. Now he does his job, I do mine, and you do yours.”
Doc: “That’s fine, lieutenant. But I’m beginning to think I’m going to be all by myself when this thing’s over. Now the killing is getting way ahead of the fixing!”
Hanley: “Alright. Now maybe we’ll all be dead before this thing is over. But it won’t be because we quit halfway through to hold a coffee clutch. Now we forget our jobs – you, me, him, the boys outside – and we’ll be dead that much sooner. You read me?”
Doc: “Yes, sir. I read you.”
Another quality of Doc’s that I admire is his peacemaker tendencies. He always tries to smooth things over with the squad and keep the peace. I think Saunders appreciates that about him, because if the squad is torn apart by fighting and bickering, how can any of them ever depend on each other? This is actually shown really well in ‘Conflict’, an episode where Caje and Littlejohn are at each other’s throats for most of it. Doc tries a gentler approach first, mostly observing the arguing and offering advice, but when that doesn’t work, he really lays into both of them (and this could go with the ‘says what needs to be said’ thing as well), calling them little kids and making them think, really think about what they’re doing.
Doc: “You guys oughta feel real proud of yourselves.
Caje: “Doc, I told you to skip the sermons.”
Doc: “Listen, you tell me to shut up and I’ll bust you one myself! And that goes for you too, you big ape.”
Littlejohn: “Now wait a minute, Doc.”
Doc: “What’s the matter? Don’t you like that kind of talk? Sounds pretty stupid, doesn’t it? Well that’s exactly what you two have been sounding like all night, like a couple of kids! Don’t even know what you’re arguing about anymore. So you’re tired and you got a little wet. And you need sleep. Well, big deal. So does everybody else! What about the Sarge? Boy, you’re really helping him, aren’t you? Why do you suppose he left you two here?”
Littlejohn: “What are you talking about? He-he left us here to cover him.”
Doc: “Did he? Or was it because he was afraid he couldn’t trust you anymore?”
You really can’t appreciate the scene fully unless you watch it, so go do it! (all the episodes are available on Youtube, after all) Now, moving on (this post is getting embarrassingly long), I just wanted to mention one other time – out of many – where Doc works above and beyond the call of duty when it comes to keeping things running smoothly. There’s an episode in season five called ‘The Letter’, and a big part of it is Saunders trying to keep a new soldier in the squad out of harm’s way because he reminds Saunders of his kid brother. The ENG (Expendable New Guy) is understandably frustrated with how Saunders constantly keeps him away from the fighting. And that’s when Doc steps in, time and time again to offer explanations for Saunders’ behavior even if he doesn’t understand it himself. Plus, he has a couple of talks with Saunders, once again playing the squad mediator.
A job which suits him perfectly, I might add. Doc has one of the kindest, gentlest personalities I’ve ever seen onscreen or read of in a book. That doesn’t mean he’s a pushover; he has opinions and he’s not afraid to share them. He’s just a true, genuine, considerate, admirable person. And I love him for that. For all of that. *siiiiiiigh* Now, there are just a few more things I want to include in this post, and I’ll list them quickly in bulleted list. And then I’m done. I promise.
- He looks out for Billy. All the squad does, really, but I think Doc especially. Of course, Doc looks out for the whole squad, but Billy…Billy is special. He’s still basically a kid. I’m torn between wishing Doc had been in ‘Glow Against The Sky’ because it would have been amazing and heartbreaking all at once to see him and Billy, and not wanting him because the squad did well on their own and I liked how they found a solution to everything. Anyway, Doc-watching-out-for-Billy is one of my favorite things.
- And what about Saunders and Doc’s friendship? There are all those moments in ‘The Letter’ along with the bit right at the end of ‘Hills Are For Heroes’ where Doc’s supporting Saunders as they’re moving out. (it always makes me smile) I think Saunders relies on Doc as a friend, a pillar of strength to depend on in time of trouble, and basically just someone to turn to in a crisis. (and there are plenty of those) There’s a beautiful fanvideo commemorating their friendship that I highly recommend you check out. It’s verrrry feelsy.
- Last, but certainly, certainly not least, is The Bible Scene. Oh. My. Word. I totally freaked out. TOTALLY. So, you know, I’m just watching an episode (‘Gideon’s Army’) and then out of the blue, Doc takes a little Bible out of his bag and proceeds to read Kirby the passage about “The sword of the Lord and of Gideon!” and I’m sitting over here just….AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH. THAT IS SO AMAZING. OAISJEORAWKEASDFNMWOEROI. Etc, etc, etc. He’s reading. HIS. BIBLE. CAN YOU NOT. THAT’S JUST. AWESOME. (and really fits with how I’d always headcanoned him as a Christian because his character and the way he’s got such a good attitude and gentle spirit and just….yep. It’s my headcanon and I’m sticking to it.)
Sooooo. Finally reached the end of this post (you and me both), and I just want to give you a couple of links to send you on your way 🙂 If you want more technical information, statistics, etc, about Doc there’s a great page for that along with a fantastic essay that I can’t seem to stop reading. And, lastly, this lovely, tearjerker fanvideo – “Salute To Doc”.
Take the point.