All Creatures Great and Small Review 2021 Tv Show Series Season Cast Crew Online
Stars: Nicholas Ralph, Anna Madeley, Samuel West
The Gist: James, just out of veterinary school, has been applying for jobs in farm communities around the UK, but has been getting nothing but rejections. He’s been able to work on pets at his dad’s practice, but he wants to expand his horizons to livestock. He gets a letter from the practice of Siegfried Farnon (Samuel West), all the way down in the Yorkshire Dales, inviting him for an interview.
It’s a long trip, and James gets off in the middle of nowhere, making him late. Mrs. Hall (Anna Madeley), the housemistress, is still happy to see him, as Siegfried has gone through a ton of assistants and works himself to death. When Siegfried hurriedly strides in, he tells James to go home, as he doesn’t need another assistant, but Mrs. Hall insists. So Siegfried decides to make it a practical interview, and takes James out on his daily calls.
After driving through the spectacular hills of the Dales, they come to a farm where a horse is having problems with one of her hooves. He’s a bit tentative, getting knocked into the mud a couple of times, at the farmer’s great amusement, but provides a steady hand. After their day together, the officious but generous Siegfried gives him the job on a trial basis; after a nightcap, he leaves James at the local pub to field questions from the local farmers, and they get him very drunk. He goes into the kennel where the animals being treated are housed and feeds the cats. Mrs. Hall saves his hide by getting him to bed.
The next day, they go out to the Alderson farm, where James gets accosted by a massive bull, but he also formally meets the farmer’s oldest daughter, Helen (Rachel Shenton), whom he briefly met on the bus the day before. She essentially runs the farm and is a mom to her little sister Jenny (Imogen Clawson). Nancy tells James that Siegfried has a heart of gold under his gruff exterior. One word of advice: He likes people who stand up to him.
Later that day, back at the office, Siegfried almost neuters the wrong cat after James drunkenly put the cats in the wrong cages the night before. He fires James, but Mrs. Hall tries to convince him to give James a second chance. Late that night, another farmer comes by, saying one of his cows is having problems birthing her calf. James jumps into action, and takes all night getting the calf out, saving both calf and mother in the process. But Siegfried only stops being gruff with James when James yells, “Anyone told you how insufferable you are?”
I have a soft spot in my heart for All Creatures Great And Small, because my father read all of James Herriot’s books and was in front of his TV when new seasons of the original series arrived on our local PBS station. Being the late ’70s, if I wanted to watch TV, I had to watch, too.
There was something about the show’s first three seasons (airing between 1977 and 1980) that connected with elementary-school-aged me, despite it seeming to be a boring, fuddy-duddyish show about a rural veterinary clinic in the ’30s and ’40s. But the characters were so well written, and had such great chemistry together, that the episodes were entertaining, even to a squirmy little kid. I remembered those early seasons so much, that I know Peter Davison more for playing Siegfried’s younger brother Tristan than for playing The Doctor on Doctor Who.
So it was admittedly with that lens that I watched this remake, which aired on the UK’s Channel 5 in 2020, in conjunction with the 50th anniversary of Herriot’s first book, If Only They Could Talk. It absolutely lives up to the original and to Herriot’s books, with a compelling cast, and the added advantage of a larger budget than the 1970s series, allowing for more location shooting in the spectacular countryside of the Dales.
The only one of the main characters we don’t meet in the first episode is Tristan Farnon (played in this version by Callum Woodhouse), but the first episode was a good introduction to the uncle-nephew relationship that will grow between James and Siegfried, with James able to puncture Siegfried’s hard candy shell and get to the animal lover and top-notch veterinarian underneath. It also shows what the series will be all about, with some light drama, a dash of light comedy, and lots of scenes of livestock in muddy pens.
Samuel West plays Siegfried his own way, but with just as much gruffness as the late Robert Hardy, who infused the character with some classic ’30s British crustiness. He plays Siegfried as he should be, a direct and blunt man who loves animals and is very confident in his abilities as a vet. Nicholas Ralph is also good as James, played by Christopher Timothy in the original series. He and West spark off each other right away, and in the few scenes Ralph has with Shenton, who plays future love interest Nancy, you can feel that the two of them will be come something, even all she’s doing is soothing a curious bull.
All Creatures certainly has a gentle, Hallmark-ish vibe, but that vibe can be a balm for what ails, well, pretty much everyone right now. Gentle stories that heavily involve farm animals and interpersonal relationships might just be the thing we need, especially stories that are as well done as this series is.