Doctor Climax

Doctor Climax Dares to Encompass a Rainbow of Pleasures

Dept. of Thai Taboos


Not all superheroes wear capes. Sometimes, they wear surgical masks and rubber gloves. At least that’s the costume worn by Doctor Climax, the alter-ego of the mild-mannered Doctor Nat in Netflix’s new Thai dramedy. Set in the late 1970s, each episode of this eight-part series is themed around, and named after, a different aspect of sexuality, starting with “Masturbation” and ending in “Abortion.”

Nat is a venereal disease specialist who finds himself bored with everything despite having the perfect wife and an ideal life. When he gets tapped to write a sex column called “The Climax Question” under the pseudonym Doctor Climax, Nat gets more excitement than he’s prepared for. Like a Thai Carrie Bradshaw, he tackles burning questions from sexually frustrated and confused readers. 

“The Climax Question” soon triggers a nationwide sexual revolution as people begin openly discussing everything hidden and taboo. I loved the dramatically explosive episode “Perversion,” when a closeted boy named Sangjaan seeks Doctor Climax’s help. Nat encourages Sangjaan to embrace his sexuality because, in an age where humans are fearlessly exploring space, the last frontier to explore is our own true nature. 

Doctor Climax

Every hero needs a villain, and a conservative politician named Pornchai rises to demonise Doctor Climax for turning Thailand into a country of sex-crazed perverts. Pornchai, who looks like Christopher Walken, sees himself as a doctor of good morals. He rabidly defends Thailand’s traditions and guards the thin line between decency and degeneracy. But as Nat rightly asks, who decides who draws that line? 

Although Pornchai’s witch hunt for Doctor Climax goes limp early on, thanks to public support for “The Climax Question,” Nat must confront the fact that Pornchai is right – his words can hurt people. In Episode 6, Nat witnesses the disastrous consequences of advising Sangjaan to follow his heart when the boy experiences a brutal backlash from bigots who blame gays for bringing AIDS to Thailand.

Doctor Climax

Doctor Climax weaves historical events like the AIDS crisis and Princess Diana’s wedding into the lives and sexual experiences of its sprawling ensemble. For instance, Nat’s alpha male friend Tien, desperately struggles to get an erection with a prostitute while watching the Columbia shuttle launch on TV. The series relies heavily on less-than-subtle phallic visual gags, locker room innuendo, and schoolboy bathroom humour like this. 

Not all the sex jokes may land that well. Some viewers may find it supremely uncomfortable watching Doctor Climax enthusiastically teaching a 15-year-old boy to practice jelqing, and the start-stop technique, while asking him for photos of his hard-on “for research.” It’s also shocking how casual Nat is with patient confidentiality. He openly shares a note a girl wrote to him about masturbation and thinks nothing of it being published without her consent.

Doctor Climax

Maybe the hardest part about watching Doctor Climax is remembering the time period and social context in which the characters live. Although Thailand is Southeast Asia’s most sexually liberal and progressive country, the freedoms Thais enjoy today weren’t a reality back then. Politicians like Pornchai wielded repression and censorship like a weapon to police anyone whose sexual behaviour, dress, and politics deviate from his. 

But there is hope. Thailand just became the first country in Southeast Asia to legalise same-sex marriage. Awat Ratanapintha, the actor who plays Sangjaan, posted on Instagram that his character’s dream of a better world has come true. The future was far closer than they imagined. If Thailand can do it, might there be hope that her neighbours will one day be as tolerant?

Doctor Climax

Female empowerment is also given prominence in Doctor Climax. Nat and his sheltered wife, Tukta, are trapped in a sterile marriage. So when Tukta meets a silver fox who takes her to new heights of pleasure and desire, she undergoes an earthshaking sexual evolution. Notably, Tukta’s affair is never depicted as immoral but as an empowering part of her journey and exploration as a sexual being.

Doctor Climax resembles Lars von Trier’s Nymphomaniac in its ambitious desire to encompass a rainbow of pleasures. But with its glorious ‘70s style, cinematography, and retro music, it’s far more light-hearted than Nymphomaniac’s hardcore sexcapades. What’s more, it follows Nat’s advice to never rush but take things slow. The series teases viewers, builds tension, and then hits an explosive climax. 

The good doctor will see you now.

Doctor Climax is now streaming on Netflix.

Dr Matthew Yap is a writer, editor, and educator. He graduated with a PhD in Literature from Monash University, where he also taught Film Studies. Matthew thinks watching good shows is one of life’s greatest pleasures. If watching TV is like eating, Matthew enjoys an international buffet of programmes across genres, from Sense8 to Alice in Borderland and Derry Girls.

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