‘A Dying Breed’ (TV)



Please feel free to comment on my review.

This ‘All Creatures’ episode has a rather sad ending to it regarding a milkman who delivers his milk by horse and cart. It also has a funny subplot where James and Tristan must deal with a very difficult cat.

This episode was adapted by William Humble from the ‘James Herriot’ books. It was his third writing contribution to the series as he previously penned ‘Hair of the Dog’ and ‘Be Prepared’ in ‘All Creatures’.

This episode is also directed by Richard Bramall, his third directing contribution to the series. Interesting this episode is the third time William Humble and Richard Bramall worked for the TV series.

Yet neither these two have any ‘Doctor Who’ connections about them. Most of the writers and the directors I have come across in ‘All Creatures’ have contributed to ‘Doctor Who’ in some form or other.

In the episode, Siegfried and James visit a modern dairy farm as they tend to one of the cows that’s about to give birth. Unfortunately the reception they get from the farm’s staff is really cold mannered.

When Siegfried and James ask for cooperation from the head farmer at the dairy farm, it isn’t received. Thus Siegfried makes a point of refusing to do the job they’re asked to unless they get the cooperation.

Thankfully, the head farmer gives it rather grudgingly as Siegfried and James are provided hot water and towels to do the job for the pregnant cow. This does raise interesting points about the dairy farm.

It seems that the efforts of the dairy farmers at the dairy farm are coldly efficient. They get on with their jobs and with no nonsense. There isn’t a sense of family community compared to Skeldale House.

Even before they get to do the job, Siegfried gets pushed aside by one of the dairy farmers when he wants to get somewhere. Siegfried takes this calmly, making the wry remark as that farmer passes by.

We also get to meet Frederick Bennett as Herbie Hinchcliffe, the milkman who delivers milk by horse and cart in the episode. Herbie gets on well with Siegfried and James when they meet him in the story.

The title of the episode refers to Herbie as a milkman who is of ‘a dying breed’. By this point, not many milkmen deliver their milk by horse and cart. It is mostly done via milk carts as I presume it to be here.

After doing their job at the dairy farm, Siegfried and James drive on the way back and pass Herbie with his horse and cart on the road. Siegfried gets out and check the horse to find out what its condition is.

And yes, I haven’t forgotten that James does deliver the cow’s calf at the dairy farm in the episode. But honestly, did we have to see the birthing take place? It’s very graphic to watch for Sunday evening!

I had to look away when James was pulling the unborn calf out of the mother’s…you know…behind. I am thankful the cow got her calf, but I didn’t need to see an animal version of Call the Midwife’ here. 😀

Meanwhile, back at Skeldale, Tristan has trouble when Joan Young as Miss Westerman comes to have her dog Hamish seen to. Tristan tries to avoid her. He doesn’t want to attend to Hamish in the surgery.

If you recall, Tristan actually ‘misplaced’ Hamish during the last time Miss Westerman came to put her dog in the vets’ care. That was in ‘Be Prepared’ and it’s very understandable Tristan tries to avoid her.

It was amusing when Tristan tries to get Helen into surgery to make his excuses to Miss Westerman. Of course, Helen refuses to do it as she is not in a habit of telling lies, especially for Tristan’s sake here.

But of course, Miss Westerman comes out into the corridor where Tristan and Helen are and insists he comes in to attend to Hamish. She clearly saw Tristan and heard him with Helen in the corridor. 😀

Tristan of course reluctantly goes in and attends to Hamish. Thankfully it goes rather well, even better than Tristan expected. Even by the end of the appointment, Miss Westerman sees Trist in a new light.

It turns out Miss Westerman has become concerned about the latest rumours regarding dogs needing to be destroyed if war is declared. This is something she read in the papers. Tristan has done this also.

But Tristan sets Miss Westerman’s mind at rest as this rumour seems to apply to city-bound dogs and not country-bound dogs. This is something Miss Westerman becomes happy about as Tristan tells her.

Tristan however gets little full of himself when he shares a dream he has about running his veterinarian practice when his brother doesn’t need him. This dream he shares to Miss Westerman backfires here.

For you see, the vets receive a visit from Peggy Ann Wood as Mrs. Beck, who turns out to be a rather difficult woman to contend with. Mrs. Beck requests the vets to sterilize her cat for at a minimum fee.

This is something James refuses to do and Mrs. Beck calls him ‘heartless’. She asks for Tristan Farnon’s opinion on the matter, since she heard rumours about him starting a new practice by Miss Westerman.

When Tristan’s opinion is asked for on how much it would cost to spay Mrs. Beck’s cat, he suggests 10 shillings. This is something Mrs. Beck approves of, but it’s clear James isn’t happy on this arrangement.

But it gets worse when Mrs. Beck asks the vets to collect the cat for her rather than bringing it herself to Skeldale’s surgery. This James and Tristan agree to do as they drive over to her house and collect it.

They have trouble with trying to get the cat that’s out in the back garden. James even climbs up the roof of a shed to get the cat. Thankfully James doesn’t injure himself and Tristan manages to catch it.

It gets chaotic when James and Tristan take the cat back home and the cat breaks free out of the hat-box it was put in. It was funny when hearing James and Tristan’s troubles whilst they drove back home.

Tristan even sticks his bottom out in shot when trying to get at the cat in the car with James driving. Somehow hearing their lines of dialogue whilst watching the car driving from a distance was amusing.

Eventually, James gives the cat its spay operation and delivers it back to Mrs. Beck at her home. James hopes it’s asleep on the way back in its box. Tristan refuses to accompany James for this trip however.

In taking it back to Skeldale whilst also trying to catch it, Tristan received a foul smell from the cat too. Not sure where the foul smell originated, but I can assume it came from the cat’s behind. Dirty cat! 😀

I don’t know why Helen didn’t accompany James when Tristan refused to go with him. In any case, James goes back alone to Mrs. Beck’s house and he has trouble when the cat tries to break out of its box.

I’m surprised James didn’t stop the car when going back once the cat smashes its way out of the box with its paw like the Hulk. What is with this cat anyway? Does it really have serious anger issues here?! 😀

At Mrs. Beck’s house, as well as calling James a ‘nasty man’ to her cat, she also refuses to pay him for the spay until after the stitches have come out. Wow! Why are you selfish and ungrateful, Mrs. Beck?!

And by the way, we never see James return to Mrs. Beck to get paid by her. I was hoping we might have that as the episode progressed. But sadly that doesn’t happen. We never see the payment made.

Meanwhile, Siegfried has a customer who also heard rumours from Miss Westerman about Tristan wishing to open a practice. He gets put out when he hears Tristan will do it once Siegfried doesn’t want him.

I liked it when James returns home and Siegfried asks him where Tristan is, as he’s determined to have it out with him. James searches the place and he asks Helen, not even giving her a kiss once he’s asked. 😀

Eventually Siegfried and James find Tristan in the living room and start out by ganging up on him in a prank manner about him starting off a veterinarian practice of his own. It soon becomes heated mind.

Siegfried forgets himself as he lets out his anger on Tristan to which James even tells him to calm down. Eventually though, Siegfried apologies to Tristan about his outburst and there’s understanding.

I like how the brotherly relationship between Siegfried and Tristan is portrayed in the series. The two don’t always argue with each other since they can be forgiving towards each other in certain episodes.

I don’t know how serious Tristan was in considering running a veterinarian practice of his own. Maybe that’s something that will be addressed later on in the TV show once we get to the Series 4 to 7 period.

I also liked that scene between Tristan and Helen when the two become concerned about the prospect of war coming up. Tristan tries to reassure Helen over it and not to worry should the occasion happen.

Going back to Herbie Hinchcliffe and his horse who’s called Dolly, Siegfried attends to the horse when she becomes ill. She also happens to be an elderly horse and suffers a terrible illness in the TV episode.

For a change in the series, Siegfried becomes emotional involved when it comes to dealing with Herbie’s horse. He does everything he can, seeing to it that Dolly recovers with the treatment he gives.

Unfortunately however, it doesn’t work out as Siegfried hoped as he has to put Dolly down which does upset Herbie. I find it very saddening when Siegfried and the vets can’t cure every animal in the Dales.

Which leads me to an interesting behind-the-scenes point I must mention to ruin the emotional moment. It turns out, according to Peter Davison, that the actors ‘corpse’ during the emotional scenes.

I know it’s not to mean any disrespect, but why is it that actors find it difficult to keep a straight face during sad scenes. It’s happened in Peter Davison’s run of ‘All Creatures’ and ‘Doctor Who’ apparently.

Also, because of Herbie’s inability to deliver milk to people without his horse Dolly, Mrs. Hall must collect the milk herself on bike. This is something that she’s not entirely happy about doing in the tale.

It was heart-wrenching when Herbie had an outburst over the vets’ inability to save Dolly when he comes to visit them at Skeldale House’s surgery. I’m sure James found it hard-going when talking to Herbie.

I did get a feeling even as the episode closed with Siegfried, James, Helen and Tristan in the living room that it was over too quickly. With Herbie very upset and distressed about losing Dolly, it was downbeat.

‘A Dying Bread’ isn’t what I would call a very light-hearted episode as it was sad about Herbie losing his horse. But it was funny with the cat plot in driving it back to Skeldale House and back to Mrs. Beck.

‘A Dying Bread’ rating – 7/10

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