Review: ‘Doctor Climax’ Treats Taboos With Humour But Overstays Its Welcome

By Jonathon Wilson
Published: June 14, 2024 (Last updated: 4 weeks ago)
0
View all
Doctor Climax Review - Taboo-Busting Period Drama Outstays Its Welcome
Doctor Climax | Image via Netflix
3

Summary

Too long for most and probably too wacky for many, Doctor Climax is nonetheless a refreshingly light look at taboo subjects and societal shifts.

A show titled Doctor Climax knows what it’s doing. Sex sells, after all, especially on streaming platforms, and Netflix knows how to market an obscure Thai period comedy. But fear not. This eight-part dramedy about a 70s sexual revolution isn’t Supersex, which was tediously serious and explicit in its efforts to entice an audience.

No, the lighter tone and abundant silliness of this series – which, for what it’s worth, is much too long – gives it a different, more approachable vibe. It’s refreshing, if a little odd, but it won’t hold the kind of audience drawn in by a title that implies much more knowing naughtiness.

Anyway, we’re in Thailand. It’s the 1970s. Sex is taboo. Everyone thinks about it, but nobody – least of all well-established professionals – speaks much about it. A revolution is coming, inevitably but also quite by accident.

This revolution was a global one, as it happens, new attitudes spreading through new media, and it isn’t a fresh subject for film and TV. Western shows like The Deuce have explored the subject already, and not always through an overly serious lens. But Doctor Climax provides a uniquely Thai spin on a global attitudinal shift.

Our protagonist, Nat, is a humble dermatologist with lofty ambitions of being a successful novelist. His dermato-venereologist career doesn’t provide the required amount of excitement and adventure, so he starts moonlighting as the titular Doctor Climax, a newspaper columnist with a provocative column called The Climax Question which inadvertently kicks off a sexual revolution among its readers.

Not that all the attention is positive. Nat’s dual identity earns the attention of the newspaper’s owners and various public officials, as scandal looms and reinvention – both personal and societal – begin to occur at a pace he finds difficult to keep up with.

It’s a good premise. It’s lighthearted and funny enough to excuse jokes and silliness but also sets up a neat personal arc as Nat tries to manage his career and a burgeoning relationship with a coworker in the midst of newfound celebrity and a sudden outpouring of creativity. All the internal struggles are there; the social impact of his writing, the personal strain of his secret identity, and the difficulties of navigating a lubed-up new world of openness and discovery.

Nat’s gradual transformation from a shy nobody to a bold truth-teller of a new age gives Doctor Climax its structure and a lot of its emotional investment since his arc is the thing audiences latch onto immediately. He’s played with likable naivete by Chantavit Dhanasevi, whose chemistry with Arachaporn Pokinpakorn’s determinedly unconventional Linda gives their relationship some depth and texture.

The fact none of this is played salaciously feels welcome in a streaming climate that needs shows to get clicks in whatever way they can. Doctor Climax feels as earnest as the characters do, as though it’s tentatively navigating a changing landscape in the same way. But that soft touch can make it less memorable than it would be in an edgier, more daring form. It might not be enough to pull in the same kind of audience and attract the same style of headline.

This isn’t helped by the fact it’s too long. I can’t see much justification for a show like this running eight hour-long episodes. The early pace, as we’re dropped into the rapid-fire world of print media publishing cycles, isn’t sustained throughout, and the story sags in the middle. While the characters remain engaging and their personal journeys are intriguing enough, it’s easy to switch off.

Doctor Climax is, I suspect, one of those Netflix originals that’ll pass by mostly unnoticed. A few viewers will be turned on – not like that – by its attention-grabbing title but struggle to settle into its offbeat style and wacky approach. The few who stay for the long haul will like it a lot, but might not be willing to talk too much about it.

But if a low-key Thai series doesn’t quite manage to usher in a streaming revolution, that’s hardly a surprise. If nothing else it’s a worthwhile curio for those who’re interested in television that’s a bit off-kilter, since we don’t get a lot of it these days. Mileage may vary, but it’s worth a look.


RELATED:

Netflix, Streaming Service, TV, TV Reviews
View all