All Creatures Great And Small (Original Series)

DVD Review – All Creatures Great and Small (Original Series): Series 2 – The Life and Times of Country Veterinarians

The second season of All Creatures Great and Small, the British series set in Yorkshire Dales, England during the 1940s picks up just as it was left at the end of the first season. Young veterinarian James Herriot (portrayed by Christopher Timothy) shares a practice with brothers Siegfried and Tristan Farron (portrayed by Robert Hardy and Peter Davison). James’ newlywed wife, Helen (portrayed by Carol Drinkwater), works as their receptionist. Helen takes care of all the men in a sense, especially Tristan when he’s overindulged the night before.

The characters were set up in the first season and don’t deviate much from that. Siegfried is the responsible one but a bit eccentric at times. Tristan is irresponsible, a womanizer, and loves his drink probably a bit too much. James is grounded although sometimes a bit too serious for his own good.

Siegfried does give James and Helen more space to live to start, recognizing that the situation with the newlyweds not having all that much privacy from the two brothers would be detrimental in the long run.

There is a backdrop of the impending war. Helen asks James early on if he thinks there will be one, and James talks about Germany’s invasion of Austria. The Christmas episode in particular, on the fourth disc, contains a heartwarming story involving local gypsies and a good deal of talk about what the effects of the war are going to be. These are not light-hearted stories into which reality never intrudes. Rather, these are realistically portrayed as an area somewhat in a world of its own but affected by the world beyond it as well.

Most of the humor comes as a result of the various personalities animals they encounter have, as well as the animal’s owners. Some of them include a woman who believes all her cats are reincarnated and assigns them personalities, a cow with a hairball, and a cow that explodes. Any scenes involving James and Mrs. Pomphrey as well as her dog, Tricki Woo are quite a bit of fun. James learns this season that Mrs. Pomphrey wants to leave all her money to Tricki Woo and have “Uncle Herriot” act as executor.

At one point, James acts as a judge at a local fair, determining what class each animal must be registered in. This leads to a variety of confrontations and resentments. There are heartaches and tender moments. A man must bring in his beloved German Shepherd to be put down when the dog starts running off and attacking sheep on the local farms. At one point, James replaces an elderly lady’s dead parakeet with another one that turns out to twitter and talk in a way the first one never did. Unwanted bacon and a woman who hounds James about inducing her small dog to have her puppies when she’s not yet ready.

Early on in the season, Tristan falls for Alice from Edinburgh and seems to be serious about settling down for the first time. That is, until she overhears a conversation between Tristan and Siegfried and makes the decision for them. The characters advance a bit as the three men are becoming more comfortable together, and James and Helen grow a bit in their married life. However, they don’t change drastically from one season to the next.

The acting is terrific. Christopher Timothy can be a sourpuss at times in this role, but he brings in enough of a lovable human side that he’s an endearing character. Timothy balances it all quite well. Robert Hardy is excellent as the mischievous Siegfried. He might be “the boss” but he’s got a side to him that quite enjoys fun, even as he’s riding the younger two men about their duty. Peter Davison provides most of the comic relief and doesn’t mess up his role by becoming a clown about it. Carol Drinkwater is excellent as Helen. Between her and Mary Hignett as the housekeeper, Mrs. Hall, they manage to keep the men in line. The main set of the veterinary hospital is a warm atmosphere.

The scenery is beautiful. I love the shots of the old car traveling through the English countryside as James goes out on house calls. This is the stuff people dream of when they talk about visiting the English countryside, and kudos to the Directors involved for using the countryside to create a wonderful atmosphere. There’s also some terrific work keeping it looking like the 1940s and keeping out any of the more modern signs of the times.

The picture here seems a bit better than in the last set. The tones are still soft and muted which does a lot to create the atmosphere, so I’m not complaining. It does still have the grainy look that shows around this time had, but overall the picture is good.

If there’s one thing the second season is missing it’s any real bonus material. The first season had a nice interview with the real James Herriot, but all that’s on this one is a slide-show biography of sorts on the actors. I would have liked to have heard more from them about what working on the series was like.

This is an endearing show that is fun for the whole family to watch together. There’s nothing terribly offensive in it – the worst is the times the vets are shown examining the animals with a hand apparently going up their rears. I’ll leave you to figure out how they really did that. My daughter who loves animals loved watching this with me and it brought back memories of when I watched this for the first time many years ago.

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