Friday, 5 April 2013

All Creatures Great And Small

We finally got to the end of the All Creatures Great And Small box set that Mr Click bought me for Christmas back in (I think) 2010. We've not been watching it for that long; we did start it shortly after getting it, but stopped watching somewhere around series five.

Last year, after watching Tales of the Unexpected, we restarted it from the beginning and it's been our evening's viewing for several months now (aside from a brief break at the end of November and through December when we watched Christmas films instead). It was quite strange getting towards the end of the series after all this time, so the other week, while I had a three-day weekend, we decided to have a final push to get it finished (and succeeded in watching all bar the last Christmas episode).

We've been watching for such a long time that I kind of regret not jotting down my thoughts as we went along, it's definitely something I'll have to remember in the future for longest TV series that take a while to get through. Obviously, my memory is better when it comes to the episodes we've seen since Christmas.

The earlier episodes borrow quite heavily from the books, right down the names of characters, which I liked. It meant that I often knew the outcome, but it's a while since I read all the books (Mr Click got the box set of those for Christmas for me at the same time) so I wasn't always clear on the details.

Later episodes repeat some of the earlier stories, sometimes with different characters; Calum has to deal with Mr Mulligan and Clancy, whereas the first time around it was James; sometimes the whole story is given a new scenario, as with Tricki-Woo experiencing interesting side effects to some medication that produced the same result when given to an artist's dog. There were a couple of times that I felt frustrated by the obvious repetition, but it got that it didn't bother me; very little changed in Darrowby's Vet Surgery, including what they had to deal with. It was probably less noticeable when it originally aired because people weren't watching it in as quick a succession as we did.

When we took our break from the series it fell at the time when war was announced and James and Siegfried left for the war. This was a really good place to stop as it was here that they made the switch of Helens. Carol Drinkwater is replaced by Lynda Bellingham; I read somewhere that this was because Drinkwater and Christopher Timothy had been seeing each other and split up.

It took me a while to adjust to the next series because the tone felt slightly different for a while. James and Helen have a family and they seem to spend a lot of time worrying about things and being on the verge of falling out. Luckily this doesn't last forever and it's countered by the antics of Calum who is constantly collecting wild animals to tend to, whilst trying to woo Deirdre.

The series itself, as a whole, is lovely. The episodes usually follow two, if not three, storylines and show a mix of the small animal care in the surgery and the large animal practice on the farms. It's interesting to see how techniques change through the years, something that the characters themselves comment on more than once.

What's really fascinating is that you actually watch some of the procedures for real. I especially enjoyed the lambing episodes because it's something I can relate to, having done it myself. I picked up a copy of Vet Behind The Ears, Christopher Timothy's book about his time on the show, and I'm looking forward to reading it to find out how much they actually got to do. And how it worked, did they just hang around a farm waiting for a cow to go into labour so they could start shooting?

This box set contains all the episodes of the TV series, including the three Christmas episodes. Slightly annoyingly these are placed right at the end of the box set, rather than in their respective places through the series. This meant that we watched the 1991 Christmas special right after the last episode, then jumped back in time to the 1983 episode which saw James returning from the war, before going on to the 1985 Christmas episode. It's a very minor niggle but one I might resolve by rearranging the positions of the discs myself before the next viewing.

It's a shame there are no special features on the discs. I'd love to have listened to some episode commentaries, or perhaps watched a couple of documentaries about how they filmed it all and the history of Veterinary Science. The whole series is like one long advert for Visit North Yorkshire so they could've put something on about the real James Herriot, Alf Wright, and maybe mentioned The James Herriot Experience in Thirsk (if you get the chance to go there, do, it's fantastic and I appreciate all the more now I've read the books and seen the series).

I've really enjoyed watching this series and I think I'm going to miss it now, particularly as we've completely changed direction with our next choice of viewing; we're onto the first series of Game of Thrones! Winter is coming.


  1. One of my favourites growing up. I loved All Creatures. I much prefer Carol Drinkwater's Helen - I've never liked Linda Bellingham - but those eps were a smidgin before my time and I've had to watch them via rpts on UK Gold in the 90s and the like. Of the era I grew up watching, I used to love Callum, great character

    1. I really enjoyed watching it, particularly now that I've been to that part of the country and read the books.

      I preferred Carol Drinkwater as Helen too. Linda Bellingham's version seemed to be a little more grumpy, hehe, though perhaps that was just because they were older and life had changed by then.

      It's definitely a series I'm going to go and revisit in the future.


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