‘A Dog’s Life’ (TV)



Please feel free to comment on my review.

‘A Dog’s Life’ is essentially the penultimate episode in Series 2 of ‘All Creatures’, although it could also be the season finale since the next episode is a Christmas episode. We will get to that next time.

‘A Dog’s Life’ is adapted by Johnny Byrne from the ‘James Herriot’ books. The episode is directed by Kenneth Ives. This means more Quarks from ‘The Dominators’ in ‘Doctor Who’ to kill off the cast!  😀

This episode has Carol Drinkwater as Helen return to Skeldale House, following the funeral of her dear aunt. Helen is feeling down following the funeral as she hopes to spend more time with James.

James isn’t there to welcome Helen once she returns home. Instead Mrs. Hall welcomes her home as well as Tristan. Thankfully, after coming home from doing a call, James is reunited with Helen again.

I liked that scene between James and Helen in the living room where they’re sharing about Helen’s loss of her aunt. Apparently Helen’s aunt had starred in a few episodes of Series 1 in ‘All Creatures’.

Helen’s aunt was like a mother to her when her own passed away. There are some references to Helen’s family background from Series 1, allowing James to connect with Helen when she feels low.

James of course wants to spend some time with Helen to help her recover from her loss. Even Siegfried admonishes James for working too hard as a vet and not spending enough time with Helen.

James and Helen are encouraged to spend time alone together by Siegfried. But Siegfried prefers it they didn’t do it immediately on their first night. I sense some levels of inconsistency from Siegfried.

Anyway, James and Helen’s attempts to find quiet time aren’t successful as hoped. The first time is when James and Helen wait for Tristan to return home and take over surgery duties for the evening.

This doesn’t work however. Tristan seems taken with the latest barmaid, Jane Beaumont as Mavis. Clearly Tristan has his priorities straight when it comes to being a vet and wooing with the ladies. 😀

Anyway, just when James and Helen are about to go upstairs together, the phone rings. I would’ve let the phone alone, James. But nope! He had to go back to answer that phone call from…whoever!

James has to go out at night to attend to a difficult calf birth that not only exhausts him and but keeps him out all night. Not only that, but James also has Wilfrid Brambell as Mr. Dinsdale’s brother.

Alan Starkey plays Mr. Dinsdale by the way. But yeah! Wilfrid Brambell guest stars in this. He’s well-known for playing Albert Steptoe in the BBC sitcom series ‘Steptoe and Son’ from the 1960s and 70s.

James struggles with getting the calf birth successful at Dinsdale’s farm, but it isn’t helped when Dinsdale’s brother keeps talking. He criticises James’ methods in delivering a calf with one other vet.

But despite the criticisms, James focuses on the job at hand and manages to get the calf delivered from its mother. I found that birthing of the calf rather hard-going to watch especially for 70s drama.

It’s almost bad than ‘Call The Midwife’. 😀 Anyway, James returns home tired and flustered. Siegfried admonishes James for working too hard again, and insists that he and Helen have an afternoon out.

James and Helen take on Siegfried’s suggestion as they plan a special afternoon together. Again, this gets interrupted when Patsy Byrne as Mrs. Hammond brings in a really badly injured Irish setter dog.

Patsy Byrne has appeared in some drama productions like the BBC TV adaptation of ‘The Chronicles of Narnia: The Silver Chair’ and the 1999 production of ‘David Copperfield’. I knew I recognised her!

Apparently the Irish settler dog injured her leg when she caught it in a trap. James attends to the dog, but there doesn’t seem to be much chance the dog will survive with the injury inflicted on her.

There’s the consideration James may have to amputate the injured leg of the dog, but Mrs. Hammond wishes for the dog to be put to sleep to avoid more suffering. But James will not give up

I did like that scene where James tries to tell Helen he’s delayed, attending to the Irish setter. But Helen knows and understands. James soon allows his frustration about the poor dog getting injured.

But it’s not frustration in being annoyed at having to attend the dog. It’s frustration in wondering how traps can be laid for dogs to become injured. I’m not sure I understand the traps myself though.

As the episode progresses, there does seem to be a chance of the dog managing to survive after all. Despite Mrs. Hammond’s doubts over this matter, James reassures her that everything will be okay.

This episode also features Timothy Bateson as Mr. Beckwith, who is now the latest landlord at the Drovers. My goodness, Timothy Bateson gets around appearing in various TV and radio productions!

I’ve seen Timothy Bateson in TV sitcoms like ‘The Good Life’ and ‘Ever Decreasing Circles’. He’s been in the ‘Doctor Who’ story, ‘The Ribos Operation’, with Tom Baker and the ‘Dad’s Army’ radio series.

In this episode, Mr. Beckwick has a dog that he wants James to look at when bringing him to the Skeldale surgery. The little dog appears to be cute-looking. I can’t imagine it causing a lot of harm. 😀

However, when James attends to the dog by giving an injection, which involves muzzling his mouth with a cloth for some reason, the dog gets upset and angry. He isn’t so friendly with James anymore.

In fact, when James goes to the Drovers for a pint with Tristan, Beckwith’s little dog barks away angrily in the back. Like an elephant, it seems that this little dog won’t forget what James did to him.

It was funny when James tries to keep his voice low when visiting the Drovers a second time. But he forgets himself, causing the dog to bark again. I found Beckwick’s reaction to that very funny indeed.

It was also especially funny when Tristan makes fun of James during one breakfast, behaving like a dog. I think Tristan overdid it in that breakfast scene, but it was pretty amusing to watch in the story.

Mary Wimbush guest stars as Mrs. Allenby in the episode. She comes to the surgery with a dog she wants seeing to. Mary Wimbush would later star as Aunt Agatha in the ‘Jeeves & Wooster’ TV series.

It was nice to see Mary Wimbush make an appearance in this episode, though she gets upset when Tristan makes a few sexist comments on men being ‘superior’ to women. Shame on you, Tristan! 😀

It’s quite ironic that Peter Davison would play the Fifth Doctor in ‘Doctor Who’ and later that character would change gender from man into woman in 2017. Mind you, it’s the 1930s we’re talking about.

It also seems Mrs. Allenby is partaking in this quiz night between men and woman within the Darrowby area. Again, this is another traditional pastime that gets introduced only for Series 2 here.

Siegfried soon gets a visit from Norman Shelley as Major Bullen who asks him to partake in some sort of challenge. It happens to be that same quiz night that Mrs. Allenby is partaking in the episode.

Siegfried is unaware at first, but when he asks what the challenge is, he can’t back out of it under Major Bullen’s word. He also can’t get a word in edgeways when Bullen is talking over him in the episode.

As a result, Siegfried gets ridiculed and branded a traitor, especially by Mrs. Allenby, when word gets around. Siegfried is of course fuming with anger, especially when James sees him in the living room.

James takes an opportunity to ask Siegfried if he and Helen can have a night out at the Reniston on a Friday evening, the same night the quiz night is. Siegfried agrees to the request, but he’s still fuming.

Siegfried eventually takes it upon himself to study for the quiz before the night takes place. He persuades James and Tristan to ask him questions on any subject. He often gives the wrong answers.

It’s confirmed he gives wrong answers when Mrs. Hall corrects him on his answers. It later turns out that Mrs. Hall is partaking in the quiz night too, although she’s supporting the women’s side for this.

As Siegfried prepares for the quiz night, Siegfried asks James to help him on his rounds. This might mean James getting back late for a dinner date with Helen and Siegfried getting back late for a quiz.

They eventually meet Dickie Arnold as Mr. Kendall at his farm. Siegfried manages to get some fluff out of a cow’s eye for Mr. Kendall without him seeing, which does astonish dear Mr. Kendall himself.

But when Siegfried tries to start the car for him and James to get home, the car won’t work. Siegfried and James have problems getting the car started to which Mr. Kendall has laugh over dear Siegfried.

Kendall believes Siegfried can’t do everything. James manages to acquire a bike from Kendall to call for help at a telephone. Siegfried has another go starting the car himself before he ends falling into…

…A pile of dung. Ugh! Siegfried should’ve known where he’d slip. 😀 At least Kendall checks Siegfried’s alright before scoffing him again. Siegfried manages to keep up his steady upper lip here.

Whilst Siegfried walks all the way home and even trying to hitch a lift but getting no success, James returns home in time for his dinner date with Helen. James and Helen dress themselves all smart up.

James also has an enjoyable way of getting back at Tristan for letting him down in the past. Without Tristan knowing, James sends him in Siegfried’s place to answer the quiz questions for the male side.

That is rather cruel of James to do that, but he clearly relishes getting his own back at Tristan. I only hope James and Helen enjoyed their romantic evening together, since we don’t get to see that here.

Siegfried (yes he managed to get there eventually) and Tristan return home that evening from the quiz night utterly defeated. It seems Tristan failed miserably in the quiz and Siegfried’s disappointed.

Tristan eventually phones the Reniston and makes up a fake call case for James to attend to immediately to get his own back. I think James knew that it was Tristan who faked up the call here.

This is because the phone rings when Tristan is on his way upstairs and the episode ends with Tristan saying “Goodnight James!” before going to bed. I hope James didn’t go out on that fake call anyway.

‘A Dog’s Life’ has been an enjoyable episode in Series 2 of ‘All Creatures’. I like that James and Helen manage to spend an evening together, although I wish we could’ve seen more of that in the episode.

‘A Dog’s Life’ rating – 8/10

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