The Doctor films of the fifties and sixties (based on Richard Gordon’s books which were inspired by his experiences in the medical profession) were a great success, gentle comedies about the exploits of a group of young medical students and their first jobs as fully qualified doctors in the relatively new world of the NHS. Dirk Bogarde made an early cinematic impact in these movies as the lead Dr Sparrow and he was ably assisted by such familiar faces as James Robertson Justice, Donald Sinden and Kenneth More. In latter sequels Leslie Phillips entered the medical profession and he takes the main role in this seventh and final entry in the series as Dr Tony Burke.
Dr Burke is infuriated by the popularity of Dr Dare, the heartthrob in a TV medical series and worst of all an old school chum of his. When Dare, alias actor Basil Beauchamp, is taken ill it seems like a dream come true for Burke but Sir Lancelot Spratt intervenes and orders Dare to take a convalescence on his brothers ocean liner, a liner on which Burkes fashion model girlfriend is also a passenger! With Burke desperate to propose to her he, through a series of comic mishaps, ends up a shoeless stowaway on the cruise! The hilarity begins as he tries to avoid the crew on his trail and find the future Mrs Burke.
The plot is basically a rehash of elements from Doctor At Sea and Carry On Cruising and doesn't compare favourably to those movies. The humour is a lot bawdier than earlier entries in the series, full of innuendo and slapstick. All the elements of British farce are here from camp characters such as the fashion photographer (played by Graham Chapman) to that old favourite, men in drag. However it’s just lacking a certain spark, it feels like veteran director Ralph Thomas is just going through the motions. The film seems to have dated more so than many other comedies from the same era. It was possibly already dated at the time of release.
However, the cast valiantly plough forward through the choppy waters of the script. Leslie Phillips is first rate, he is a natural at this stuff and his comic flare and timing raise the level of the third rate innuendo. The film is peppered with well-known faces such as Irene Handl, John Le Mesurier and Harry Secombe who can all do this sort of thing in their sleep. Simon Dee is a bit out of his depth as Dr Dare, but most sorry sight is that of the legendary James Robertson Justice briefly reprising his iconic role as Sir Lancelot Spratt. He looks in very poor health and appears to be reading his lines from off-camera cue cards. Thankfully his role is replaced by Robert Morley as his brother, Captain Spratt, who is basically a carbon copy of Sir Lancelot.
Although not truly terrible this movie is not really a fond farewell to the much-loved Doctor series. There is definitely the sound of barrels being scraped on occasions and despite some funny moments and the best efforts of an admittedly pretty good cast it comes across as a rather shoddily put together affair. Having said that Leslie Phillips is always worth watching, even when, as with Doctor In Trouble, the film itself is not exactly worthy of his talents.