All Creatures Great And Small (Original Series)

DVD Review – All Creatures Great and Small: Series One (1978) – Charming Show in a Beautiful Setting

I can remember in my youth watching All Creatures Great and Small on PBS. Based on the books by the English country veterinarian known by the pen-name “James Herriot,” this series follows the story of three country veterinarians in Yorkshire, England during the 1940s. It was filmed in the very countryside Herriot wrote about.

This first series (season to us on this side of the pond) introduced the characters I would learn to love throughout the run of the show. James (portrayed by Christopher Timothy) is newly graduated from veterinary college and joins the veterinary clinic of brothers Siegfried and Tristan Farnon (portrayed by Robert Hardy and Peter Davison respectively). He gets thrown into the routine of a country veterinarian quickly.

When James arrives to treat a colicky horse who is one of the local Lordship’s best hunters, he faces a man who has doubts about his abilities and would prefer the elder Farnon, especially when James pronounces the horse’s condition fatal. A post-mortem confirms James’ diagnosis. Those cases are the hardest ones, as is proven when he must put down a dog dying from cancer which is also the only companion an old man has left.

The veterinarians have an office but seem to make house calls most of the time. When Siegfreid’s brother Tristan arrives, fun ensues. Tristan is younger than his brother and a bit of a rascal who loves playing practical jokes. He also is a bit of a screw-up and hasn’t managed to pass the examinations he needed to.

This season went a long way in establishing the characters and setting the tone for the series. Each episode is mostly self-contained, although the characters develop

There are some cute stories here about the eccentricities of people with their animals. One particularly funny one is a sweet dowager who over-indulges her little dog, Tricki Woo, and how “Uncle Herriot” gains her trust and takes care of him. Most of the cases, however, have to do with issues indicative of rural life involving farm animals and the like.

While out on a call for an injured calf, James meets Helen (portrayed by Carol Drinkwater). Their romance drives much of this first season as James has doubts about his worth to her as nothing more than a country veterinarian.

In Siegfreid’s home, Mrs. Edna Hall (portrayed by Mary Hignett) takes care of all the men, acting as both a maid and cook, as well as a mother figure at times, keeping them all in line.

Christopher Timothy as James is excellent. He strikes the right balance of confidence in his abilities, yet still being a bit wet behind the ears. Robert Hardy and Peter Davison are wonderful as the two brothers who could not be more different. Siegfried is assured and eccentric at the same time; given to crazy whims such as when he gets the idea in one episode that they should raise pigs. Tristan would rather chase the ladies or drink than study or cover a shift at the practice. However, the differences between the three men are what make the characters seem rounded rather than repetitive. Carol Drinkwater and Mary Hignett compliment the cast nicely. Helen is a steadying influence over the men, especially serving to ground James, while Mrs. Hall hovers over them like a mother figure.

The picture has not been digitally restored. However, I felt that this added to the series, rather than taking away from it. The picture is somewhat grainy, although without any interference. The sound is fine without being muddy or unexpectedly changing in volume level. The scenery is simply beautiful. The English countryside is so inviting it’ll make you want to take a drive through it. The shots are set up very nicely and add quite a bit to the setting.

The documentary on the real “James Herriot” included on the final disc of this collection is wonderful. I didn’t have high hopes for any special features on such a small collection, but this alone was definitely worth it if you like the series and/or the books.

All Creatures Great and Small is a terrific series the whole family can enjoy. It’s a lot of fun to watch without having a lot of action, violence, or low-brow comedy. It’s simply a charming series that is a lot of fun to view.


• Author Profile – good special with the real “James Herriot”
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