‘Against the Odds’ (TV)



Please feel free to comment on my review.

It’s the beginning of a new season in ‘All Creatures’ – Series 5. As this is the first time I’ve seen these latter ‘All Creatures’ seasons, I am unaware at this point as to where each season is going to end up.

I don’t know what the thinking is behind each season. As there are no behind-the-scenes documentaries, I do not know how a producer and a script editor conceives a season in ‘All Creatures’.

After feeling slightly underwhelmed by Series 4, I hoped Series 5 would provide some clearer character development on the main characters. There are however some issues regarding that front.

This is especially in the first episode of Series 5, but we’ll get to that eventually in my review for the first episode. There are also good things to discover in the first episode of Series 5 as well as the bad.

‘Against the Odds’ is of course the title of the first episode in Series 5 of ‘All Creatures’. The episode based on the ‘James Herriot’ books is by Johnny Byrne, who is currently the show’s script editor here.

The episode is directed by Robert Tronson, who directs the first four episodes of Series 5. Jumping ahead, Series 5 has 12 episodes as four episodes each from Series 5 are allocated to three directors.

Robert Tronson directs the first four episodes of Series 5; Jeremy Summers directs the second four and Tony Virgo directs the last four. Interesting how the latter seasons are divided among directors.

Of course, Robert Tronson is no stranger to ‘All Creatures’. He has directed four episodes in Series 2 which are ‘Fair Means and Fowl’, ‘Faint Hearts’, ‘The Name of the Game’ and ‘Pups, Pigs and Pickle’.

The first four episodes of Series 5 in ‘All Creatures’ are the last contribution to be given to the series by Robert Tronson as a director. I like a veteran director of ‘All Creatures’ comes back for the reboot.

The episode is set during the winter time as there is heavy snow featured throughout. I wonder why this wasn’t a Christmas Special. It certainly contrasts to how Series 4 seemed set during the summer.

In the episode, Christopher Timothy as James visits Peter Ivatts as farmer Tom Maxwell with his daughter Alex Wilson as Tess. Peter Ivatts first starred in the ‘All Creatures’ episode ‘A Dying Breed’.

He later played Tom Maxwell in ‘The Bull with the Bowler Hat’ for Series 4. James helped out with a cow belonging to Tom Maxwell in that story. I checked the review to find out what happened in that.

I believe this is the first time we meet Tom Maxwell’s daughter Tess in the series. The two own a sow that Alex wanted for her birthday. A very strange present! Mind you, this is farmer territory. 😀

During the episode, James becomes attached and well-acquainted with Tom Maxwell and her daughter, especially when it comes to looking after the sow. I’ll get to that more later in the review.

Anyway, much is happening at the Skeldale practice. Lynda Bellingham as Helen for one thing isn’t well. She’s bedridden due to a bad back – slipping a disc apparently. Ow, that’s got to hurt hasn’t it?

Mind you, this does limit her character in this. Helen doesn’t have much to do with being bedridden, having to lie on her back constantly in bed and looking very uncomfortable in that position I believe.

She does have scenes with James when he comes in to check on her, but it’s not like there’s much character development for her in that position. I wondered if it was just this tale she was bedridden.

But jumping ahead and checking out the next two episodes, I saw that Lynda Bellingham’s Helen is still bedridden. Wow! It seems to take a time for Helen to get better depending on how many weeks.

I wonder if there was a behind-the-scenes reason for why Lynda Bellingham’s Helen had to be bedridden in the early part of Series 5. Whether Lynda Bellingham injured herself, I don’t know here.

If Lynda Bellingham had injured herself, I wonder why they didn’t recast the character of Helen. They did it when Carol Drinkwater refused to come back, why not with Lynda Bellingham? Curious, isn’t it.

John McGlynn as Calum Buchanan also seems to get a reduced role in the first episode. Gradually in the episode, Calum discovers that he has been dispatched to Ireland for some several weeks. What?

This is the work of Robert Hardy as Siegfried Farnon. He assigned Calum to undertake tuberculin testing in Ireland without consent. Calum pleads with Siegfried to not make him go to Ireland in this.

This is because Calum fears he’ll lose contact with Deirdre currently in Edinburgh. He also agreed to meet up with Peter Davison as Tristan for a one-off double date. But Siegfried refuses Calum’s plea.

Wow! What a jerk Siegfried’s become! I would’ve checked with Calum if it was okay for him to do the tuberculin testing in Ireland. But nope! Siegfried sent Calum off to Ireland without consultation.

This once again limits Calum’s character in Series 5, especially since he’s absent in the second episode. Trust me, I checked that. I was hoping for Calum to be properly enhanced for Series 5 here.

Sending Calum off to Ireland for several weeks for tuberculin testing and to never be seen again for a while, especially in the second episode, isn’t a good start. Should I be very surprised by that though?

Anyway, going back to Tristan, he’s having a relationship with Claire Williamson as Verity Barraclough. Wow his relationship with Rachael Bosworth didn’t last long. They even reference that.

But it seems Verity’s father, Terry Taplin as Geoffrey Barraclough, won’t allow her daughter to go out on a date with Tristan alone. Verity must have her sister Sarah Morris as Prudence joining them.

How does Tristan meet these girls anyway? They come across as nice but have mean fathers to their boyfriends. I don’t think the dads give Tristan a chance to prove himself like Mr. Barraclough doesn’t.

Prudence is pretty scary too, especially when she doesn’t say anything at all in the episode. It’s a wonder she gets credited in the episode at the end. She also keeps watching Tristan and Verity here.

Tristan tried to arrange a date between himself and Verity as well as with Calum and Prudence. Once Siegfried has ruined things by sending Calum off to Ireland, Tristan gets so annoyed with his brother.

Siegfried doesn’t care though. Thankfully it turns out Tristan has a chance with having his date with Verity alone and without Prudence since she’s ill. This makes Tristan very ecstatic on finding this out.

Unfortunately, Tristan’s plans for a night out with Verity don’t go according to plan. This is especially when he has to pay a house call to a pretty obnoxious farmer and this is when heavy snowfall occurs.

The obnoxious farmer is of course Peter Wallis as Clayton. Tristan tries to get Clayton to let him come in as it is freezing cold outside. But Clayton is not bothered and rather finishes his dinner first.

Poor Tristan! He should’ve waited in the car rather than sit outside Clayton’s front door. The car’s warmer. Clayton isn’t helpful when Tristan attends to one of his animals. He falls asleep at one point.

When Tristan is about to leave, he finds the entrance to Clayton’s barn covered by snow. Clayton doesn’t seem bothered about it. Seriously, what is it with these farmers? They’re very inconsiderate.

Thankfully, Tristan does get to see Verity at her house with her father even though he’s in a bit of state. But it transpires the event Tristan and Verity were meant to be attending has been cancelled.

This is due to the heavy snowfall of course. I would’ve thought that was obvious considering the bad snowfall. Why did Tristan think it was still happening? He should have cancelled his date with Verity.

Tristan leaves unhappy, saying goodbye to Verity who’s sympathetic. Her father and sister on the other hand are smug about it. Those two are cruel to Tristan for not giving him a chance with Verity.

James has troubles with snow too. This was what I was talking about earlier. During a fierce winter storm, James desperately tries to reach Tom Maxwell’s farm when he’s in need as his sow is very ill.

How does James attempt to get to Tom Maxwell’s farm though? By skis of course! It’s rare to see skis in ‘All Creatures’. I will give James credit for trying his utmost to reach Tom Maxwell’s farm with skis.

I found this aspect of the episode very tense as James struggles to reach Tom Maxwell’s farm and even loses the map at one point. He even finds himself going around in circles and returns to his car.

He returns home to get on the phone to Tom Maxwell before his children Jimmy and Rosie come down to see him. They don’t get credited in the episode which is very odd since they are in this one.

Thankfully James gets in touch with Tom and instructs him on how to make the sow better before he’s able to get out again once the snow’s cleared up. The next day, James goes to visit Tom’s farm.

And it turns out Tess has been looking after the sow with her dad’s help and all is well. I’m glad how the episode ends with James happy to see that and his connection to the Maxwells gets emphasised.

Margaretta Scott guest stars as Mr. Pumphrey in the episode and she gets a top billing in the cast during the opening titles sequence. Does that mean she’s become a regular cast member now here?

And of course there’s Tricki-Woo with Mrs. Pumphrey who’s still alive by this point. I’m sure this is a different dog with the same name of Tricki-Woo since the one from the 1930s can’t live long as that.

There is an amusing story where Tricki-Woo is placing bets with Mrs. Pumphrey encouraging him. James tries to put a bet on something and listens to Tristan’s advice before realising he lost that bet.

Seriously, James! You should know Tristan’s not the reliable source of information on which horse wins. He did not give you good bubble bath in Series 1, why trust Tristan’s sense of judgement here?

Teddy Turner also guest stars as Hodgekin in the episode and doesn’t kill Tricki-Woo in this. I still haven’t forgiven for when he tried to poison Tricki with venison. He gets cold from the snowfall too.

I found it funny when Tristan announced he resigned from the Ministry of Agriculture to rejoin the Skeldale family and Siegfried and James teased him. Surely Tristan should know they’d tease him. 😀

‘Against the Odds’ is a decent beginning to Series 5. There are issues I have with Helen being bedridden and Calum being absent in the early part of Series 5. But I’m hoping I’ll get to enjoy more.

‘Against the Odds’ rating – 7/10

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