‘Alarms and Excursions’ (TV)



Please feel free to comment on my review.

Helen doesn’t appear in this episode. It’s explained that she’s at work but…does that mean she’s at work and staying overnight somewhere? I don’t really know. It is not really explained in the episode.

At the time of this review, I saw ‘Alarms and Excursions’ before seeing the second episode of ‘Great British Car Journeys’ with Christopher Timothy and Peter Davison on Channel 4. Quite exciting, isn’t it?

I did enjoy ‘Alarms and Excursions’ as an episode. It’s a shame Helen’s not in it, but there were some interesting stories going on here such as Siegfried attending to a guide dog belonging to a blind lady.

It also has the scene I was hoping to see in connection to Tristan’s bell-ringing club thing. I’m surprised this scene wasn’t presented in one of the early episodes in Series 1 and 2 of ‘All Creatures’.

This episode was adapted by Brian Finch from the ‘James Herriot’ books and was directed by Richard Bramall. This would be Richard Bramall’s final contribution as a director for the ‘All Creatures’ series.

The episode begins with a farmer, Joe Gladwin as Len Hamson, demanding to know why a soldier is taking down a signpost of directions in the country. The soldier explains it’s to confuse ‘the enemy’.

This reinforces the point of war taking place and Britain taking precautions for a possible invasion by the Germans. It’s quite sad to see that in the episode with a signpost of directions being taken down.

Len Hamson doesn’t understand as he thinks it’s better to put the signpost up as it’s been there since he was a lad. The soldier does his job whilst it’s raining and Mr. Hamson walks to a phone box.

And no, don’t worry, Len Hamson isn’t one of those troublesome farmers for the ‘All Creatures’ vets to deal with. Although he does have a loud voice, feeling it necessary to speak at the top of his lungs!

This is when he phones Skeldale House and asks Siegfried for someone to come round to check on one of his bacon pigs. Siegfried knows Hamson and asks if it’s okay for someone to come tomorrow.

Hamson agrees before he puts the phone up. Now I’m sure Len Hamson seems like an amiable person, but is there really a need for him to shout at the top of his lungs to be heard? Don’t think so.

Mind you, it’s explained Len Hamson believes everyone’s deaf, which is bizarre, in order to make himself heard. It also gets explained that he thought he would lose his voice at some point in his life.

Eventually, James comes round to Len Hamson’s farm to see the pigs. Mr. Hamson welcomes him. I did find it very amusing when James matches his shouting voice to Len Hamson’s in their first scene.

Len tells James there’s no need to shout which is funny. Even when James tells him what’s the matter with one of his pigs, Mr. Hamson feels it necessary to shout his concerns in the conversation.

Len Hamson also happens to have a brother in the episode, Peter Davidson as Elijah Hamson. Oh dear! There is bound to be confusion with the two actors Peter Davidson and Peter Davison here. 😀

Elijah Hamson is the complete opposite of his brother, as he’s quietly spoken and mild-mannered. He has some nice scenes with James in the episode while they examine one of the cows at the farm.

It was amusing when Elijah couldn’t get a word in edgeways when his brother’s around and Len keeps telling him to speak up. It’s interesting how Elijah shares his brother’s history with James here.

Also in the episode, the Darrowby Bell Ringing Society decides to suspend its operations for the duration of the war. Thus they have a final ‘meeting’ at the local pub, the Drovers, for a celebration.

Tristan invites James to attend their final ‘meeting’ at the Drovers and…it’s pretty jovial and sad at the same time. Tristan clearly gets into the swing of things as he conducts the members with music.

This makes me wonder why he’s the only youthful member of the group. Yeah. Most of the Darrowby Bell Ringing Society members are either middle-aged or elderly. So intriguing and unusual!

Why would Tristan be a part of this society? I mean, yes, there is an explanation given by Tristan to James as Siegfried had put him up to it after being enraged for failing one of his vet exams first time.

But still, it is pretty unusual. I’m not really sure if Tristan brought one of his girlfriends to one of these Darrowby Bell Ringing Society meetings. In fact, how come we never saw one meeting before?

Anyway the festivities do seem to go out of control, especially when everyone including Tristan and James gets drunk. Fortunately the head of that Bell Ringing Society get to say his speech at the end.

But it’s after leaving the Drovers that things start to go haywire. On the way back to Skeldale House, Tristan takes James to visit the bell tower. James isn’t really in the mood but Tristan is keen about it.

Once they’re in the bell tower, Tristan reminisces about the good times he used to enjoy pulling the church bells during the Bell Ringing Society meetings. James gets impatient in wanting to get home.

Clearly Tristan has had too much drink compared to James and it is then he sees a ‘pussy cat’ on one of the window sills in the bell tower. Tristan tries to get at the cat whilst James seems very reluctant.

But in the process of trying to get the cat, Tristan accidentally pulls one of the church bells cords, sounding the church bells to go off. James gets anxious. People may think that it is an invasion alert.

As James and Tristan leave the bell tower, Tristan leaves one of his shoes behind after falling to get the cat. Surprised that he did not realise he lost his son and went back to get it. He had time to do it.

Next day, Siegfried hears of the bell tower incident and doesn’t know who it was in the bell tower at the time. Tristan tries not to say anything but James ruefully gives hints about what happened then.

Tristan gets annoyed with James as he asks ‘whose side are you on?’ James of course is pretty miffed about what happened that night that he refuses to defend Tristan in this matter whatsoever in this.

In the episode, Siegfried visits Suzanne Neve as Joan Clifford, who happens to be blind and has a guide dog called Saxon. I liked this tale of Siegfried seeing a blind woman and her guide dog at home.

Incidentally, Suzanne Neve happens to be the wife of director Richard Martin who directed episode of ‘Doctor Who’ during the William Hartnell era. I’d no idea about this whilst I watched this episode.

I’m not sure what was going through Siegfried’s mind when he was dealing with Mrs. Clifford as a blind woman as well as her guide dog Saxon. But he manages to be polite and so considerate to her.

There’s also a nice understanding between Siegfried and Mrs. Clifford in the episode. Apparently, Mrs. Clifford is a friend of Margery Egerton. You know, Siegfried’s girlfriend from ‘Pig In The Middle’.

Yeah, I wondered if Margery Egerton was ever going to be mentioned again. Considering that she seemed to have a big impact on Siegfried in that TV episode before World War II had been declared.

Eventually, Siegfried learns from Mrs. Clifford that Margery has got herself engaged. Hmm. Clearly all that went on between Siegfried and Margery did not mean much to her. I feel sorry for Siegfried.

Throughout the episode, a series of dog poisonings occur. The Skeldale vets discover this when Ray Gatenby as Bert Bartle brings in his little dog once it gets sick. It’s unexplained how she became sick.

Siegfried soon identifies it as strychnine poisoning. I did some research and apparently strychnine is a white, odourless, bitter crystalline power that can be inhaled via the mouth and can be very lethal.

This poisoning can apply to humans and other animals. Siegfried; James and Tristan struggle to understand what’s causing the poisoning and who is responsible, guessing it’s somebody pretty bad.

Unfortunately, Siegfried is unable to save Bert Bartle’s little dog which is a shame. I hoped that the dog would be recovered via Siegfried’s treatment. Somehow that treatment was not strong enough.

More dog poisonings occur and get reported in the episode. This baffles the vets. Very soon, Joan Clifford’s dog, Saxon, suffers from strychnine poisoning and James goes over and attends to the dog.

James gives the same treatment Siegfried gave to Bert Bartle’s dog, but does it differently. He applies a double dosage of the stuff. Siegfried comes and takes James’ place to see how the treatment works.

I like how Siegfried explains to Mrs. Clifford what James has done in order to ensure her dog’s survival and the two share some nice scenes as they wait. Thankfully, Saxon does survive in the end.

I’m pleased it’s a victory for James when he; Siegfried and Tristan celebrate the local Drovers. But the question still remains on who was responsible for the poisonings! The vets may have the answer.

It’s when Siegfried finds a little girl who had her dog shot by the farmer, Norman Bird as Rob Benson. Wait a minute! Rob Benson was in ‘Attendant Problems’ in Series 2; was he not? He’s changed here.

Norman Bird was also in the ‘Fawlty Towers’ episode, ‘Waldorf Salad’. Quite a shock Benson shot a little girl’s dog. Mind you, due to what occurred to his sheep in ‘Attendant Problems’, it’s understandable!

Benson lost some sheep because of a killer dog in that episode. Mind you, as Siegfried points out to him, Benson doesn’t have any animals on his land. Benson still feels justified shooting the girl’s dog.

Anyway, Siegfried connects the dots that Benson’s farm is close to Mrs. Clifford’s home, implying that he was responsible for the strychnine poisoning. Benson doesn’t admit it, but it seems evident.

I’m surprised that they had a returning character who seemed pleasant and amiable in a Series 2 episode to seemingly become a dog murderer in a Series 3 episode. It was something I didn’t expect.

The episode ends with Tristan given back his shoes by Mrs. Hall, which he left behind in the church bell tower, as he tries to make out they don’t fit. Siegfried seems to be laughing over this little scenario.

‘Alarms and Excursions’ isn’t what I would call a great ‘All Creatures’ episode. But it has some nice drama and character-driven moments in it, such as Tristan’s bell-ringing as well as Mrs. Clifford and her dog.

‘Alarms and Excursions’ rating – 8/10

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