Sunday, August 30, 2020

All Creatures Great and Small (TV)

All Creatures Great and Small

Based on the novels of
James Herriot
Starring Christopher Timothy, Robert Hardy, Peter Davison, Carol Drinkwater/Lynda Bellingham
IMDB Entry

James Herriot* was a veterinarian in Yorkshire, UK for many years. After her retired, he started writing and, after numerous failures, he moved on from fiction to write about his experiences. The first book, If Only They Could Talk, was a a minor success, and when it was packaged with a second It Shouldn’t Happen to a Vet, under the new title All Creatures Great and Small, it was a best seller and was turned into a TV series by the BBC.

James Herriot was a young veterinarian who went to Yorkshire to practice with Siegfried Farnum (Robert Hardy) a quirky but smart vet. Farnum’s somewhat irresponsible brother, Tristan (Peter Davison) was also part of the practice.  James romances Helen Alderson (Carol Drinkwater/Lynda Bellingham**) and eventually marries her.

The show relied heavily on Herriot’s stories, usually dramatizing a couple of them. The strength  of the show was in the characters, not just the main one, but the many people who needed help for their animals. Heriot was not just dealing with dogs and cats, but with farm animals like cows*** and sheep and pigs, often in situations where the health of the animal was vital for the farmer to earn a living. There were also comic sidelights such as Mrs. Pumphrey and her spoiled Pekinese Tricki-Woo.

Christopher Timothy was just fine as Herriot – smart but sometimes a bit awkward, especially compared to the blustery Siegfried, where Robert Hardy was wonderful.

The show continued on and off until 1990, until Heriot’s stores were exhausted.. Hardy continued to work for years, most notably in various shows as Winston Churchill. And of course, Peter Davison became a legend by taking on the role of Doctor Who after Tom Baker retired.****

*A pen name for James Alfred Wright. Veterinarians were discouraged from writing books about their cases, so Wright chose a pen name. He also gave new names to the people in worked with, so the character names are all pseudonymous.

**The role was recast after the third series.

***One of the most memorable things was the fact that Heriot or the Farnams would have to put their arms into the rear of a cow, something that was done without any trickery.

****I remember a clever piece of fan fiction where the Daleks landed in Yorkshire and spotted the Doctor. And then realize they could exterminate Winston Churchill.

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