‘All Creatures Great and Small’, Christmas Special 1983 (TV)



Please feel free to comment on my review.

Okay! So it’s not completely over for the original era of the ‘All Creatures Great and Small’ series. There’s this Christmas Special and the 1985 one to enjoy featuring the original ‘All Creatures’ cast of Christopher Timothy, Robert Hardy, Peter Davison and Carol Drinkwater in it. That makes me so happy.

I originally purchased the DVD set containing the two ‘All Creatures’ Christmas Specials from 1983 and 1985 for my Mum and Dad when it was released in 2008. I’m glad I purchased the Christmas Specials DVD set for my parents. We got to enjoy two full-length episodes of ‘All Creatures’ for Christmas 2008.

I suppose the reason why I purchased the Christmas Specials DVD set was because my parents and I wanted some of the original ‘All Creatures’ nostalgia back after being put off from watching one episode of Series 4 of ‘All Creatures’. No disrespect to Lynda Bellingham. It was not the same anymore.

When I saw the DVD cover featuring Chris Timothy as James and Carol Drinkwater as Helen with their son Jimmy (we’ll get to that in a bit), I knew this was the best Christmas present for my parents. The specials didn’t have anything to do with Christmas though, but they were still worth watching anyway.

The 1983 special is a rather poignant one, especially as it takes place six years after the Second World War ended with the story set in 1946. According to James Herriot, he’d been fighting in the war for four years. I suppose James had a year of training when he joined up before he fought in the war itself.

The episode is based on the ‘James Herriot’ books and was by Brian Finch. I think this is the first time that we have an ‘All Creatures’ episode where it’s not adapted from one of the original ‘James Herriot’ books. The episode was also directed by Terence Dudley, who is an ‘All Creatures’ veteran throughout. 😀

As a Christmas Special, this episode lasts for about an hour and a half. It does feel extraordinary to watch this ‘All Creatures’ episode and treat it as well as the following Christmas Special as a movie. I think these two Christmas Specials are the only times where we have episodes lasting about 1½ hours.

Incidentally, the entire Christmas Special was shot on film instead of it being on film and videotape as is the usual case for BBC TV. I’m amazed the entirety of this Christmas Special as well as the next one was shot on film. It was surreal to watch and it was rather beautiful, especially for a Christmas Special.

The episode begins with James returning home in a taxi back to the Yorkshire Dales. The taxi stops on the way as James sees John Sharp as Mr. Biggins herding some cows into another field. James happily says hello to Mr. Biggins and Biggins says it was about ‘bloody time’ he got back. Such a nice welcome!

Yeah. I don’t get why Biggins seems to be so ungrateful about James returning home after fighting in a war. Didn’t Biggins know James had gone off to fight in a war? Are Yorkshire farmers so obsessed with their animals that they can’t think about the outside world. Although that wouldn’t be too unreal.

Incidentally, I do like how they used the original ‘All Creatures Great and Small’ theme music by Johnny Pearson for the Christmas Special as well as some of the original incidental music. It makes me feel like this is a proper ‘All Creatures’ episode after so long. I think this would change by the time we get to Series 4.

Anyway, James returns to the Aldersons’ farm where he reunites with John Collin as Mr. Alderson. And yes, I did check. That is the same actor who played Helen’s father in the Series 1 episodes ‘Golden Lads and Girls’ and ‘Advice and Consent’. He seems friendlier and very happy to see James come back.

Mr. Alderson directs James in the direction of where Helen is and soon James and Helen are reunited in a warm, loving embrace after so many years. I’m very pleased with how the reunion between James and Helen was handled. It turns out James managed to get back a week earlier than originally planned.

And then we meet…Harry Brayne as Jimmy Herriot? This is James and Helen’s little boy. Wait! James and Helen have a son? When did this happen? I don’t recall Helen announcing to James that she was pregnant at the end of Series 3. This came as a bit of surprise when watching it in the Christmas Special.

Okay, I suppose Helen relayed this information to James when they communicated with each other by letter, but it just feels unexpected. James comments about Jimmy having grown, indicating he knew about having a son in the time between Series 3 ended and when we reunite in the Christmas Special.

The little boy who plays Jimmy is fairly good in this special episode, but this is the only time Harry Brayne plays him and I imagine his lines were dubbed-on in post-production. Also Helen named the little boy after his father of course. This clearly indicates Helen loves her husband when he went away.

Eventually, James, Helen and Jimmy make their way to reunite with Siegfried, who’s also returned from the war, and Tristan Farnon at Skeldale House. James decides to let them know at Skeldale that he, Helen and Jimmy are coming. And James decides to do this by playing a little prank on dear Tristan.

Oh yeah, by the way. This Christmas Special was made at a time when Peter Davison was still doing ‘Doctor Who’. Peter was still playing the Fifth Doctor in between Season 20 and Season 21 of that series. So, I assume he just came off from doing ‘The Five Doctors’ before doing this Christmas Special.

Anyway, Tristan receives a phone call from James…the telephone has changed since the last time we saw it in Skeldale…and James plays the part of Mr. Mulligan, a former customer who used to terrify Tristan in the old days. Yeah, do you remember Mr. Mulligan? He had a pretty large dog called Clancy.

You know, the dog that ‘womitted’ a lot? I just found it so funny when James mimicked Mulligan’s voice and played the prank on Tristan, scaring the living daylights out of him. It echoes what Tristan did to him in the second episode of the series, ‘Dog Days’. The scene made me so happy and had me laugh.

Tristan tries to get out of seeing Mr. Mulligan by getting Siegfried to attend to the job. But Siegfried manages to back out of it and Tristan is soon off to answer the call when there is a ring on the doorbell. Wait! Does the surgery waiting room have a doorbell? I don’t recall it in the first three seasons of this.

Anyway, Tristan sees James, Helen and little Jimmy in the waiting room and he’s pleased to see them, welcoming them back. James then lets on that he played a prank on Tristan by mimicking Mr. Mulligan and Tristan finally gets it. I just found it very amusing when Tristan realised that he was being pranked.

There isn’t a hello and welcome scene between Siegfried, James and Helen after that, but it’s okay as they’re all gathered together in the Skeldale living room. It was nice to see all of the original ‘All Creatures’ cast back together in this TV episode. That is to say, most of the original ‘All Creatures’ cast.

Yeah, sadly Mrs. Hall doesn’t return to the ‘All Creatures’ series after Series 3 had ended since she sadly passed on. Wow. That was sad to hear. In fact, it gets sadder, as the actress who played Mrs. Hall – Mary Hignett – actually did die shortly after doing Series 3 of ‘All Creatures’ on the 6th of July in 1980.

It is sad to think both actress and character died in the series when Siegfried, James, Tristan and Helen made an honorary toast to her. I’m glad this episode acknowledges Mrs. Hall in the series, since she was an essential character to the ‘All Creatures’ set up and it is very sad to think she’s not in it anymore.

It does make me wonder whether Mrs. Hall had a happily married life after the end of Series 3 of ‘All Creatures’. I mean, not much is given about what happened to Mrs. Hall after Series 3 in whether she did marry and what the cause of death was. It’s not really a major issue here, but it does make me wonder.

Anyway, James has difficulty trying to readjust back to civilian life after being in the war for so long. This starts when James gets called up in the middle of the night by Mr. Biggins and is asked to attend to one of his animals. I don’t know how much time has passed, but James gets back into it very quickly.

I would’ve thought James needed to spend at least a week in Skeldale to readjust back to normal life and not do any veterinarian work. But nope! James goes straight back in and his first job as a vet is to attend to an animal that belongs to one of Skeldale’s grumpiest of customers, Mr. Biggins, in the series.

Mr. Biggins is the same old grumpy sort who does nothing but complain about the vets’ service. I don’t blame James for getting so frustrated and annoyed by how Mr. Biggins hasn’t changed since he last saw him before fighting in the war. James lets his anger out when with Siegfried and Tristan in surgery.

Siegfried and Tristan are clearly concerned by James’ short temper since he came back from fighting in the war. Tristan has a pint with James at the Drovers and chats with him to make sure that he’s okay. James tries to reassure Tristan that things are okay, but his own short temper doesn’t stop there.

Helen also notices James’ short temper when things are strained between her and him. There are also times when James gets short-tempered with little Jimmy. This is especially the case when little Jimmy plays with a little football in the house and when he climbs up onto the roof and he falls to the ground.

Now to be fair, little Jimmy should’ve been playing with his little football outside in the back garden rather than inside the house. Also, James was behaving in the right manner a father should be when concerned for his son. Although, I suppose James was a little too hard on little Jimmy when telling him off.

Helen is anxious about James’ short temper when she asks him what’s the matter. But James struggles to open up his feelings to her and the tension ensues between them. Siegfried and Tristan notice the strain between James and Helen in this instance and Siegfried soon talks to Helen about her concerns.

Siegfried eventually invites James for a spot of fishing as well as little Jimmy to play around by the river. Siegfried chats with James about his bottled feelings. James reveals how he’s struggling with readjusting back to normal life. Siegfried helps James on his concerns since he has a lot to think about.

James had a lot to fight for with returning home to his wife and family whereas Siegfried didn’t have much to return home to. James is grateful to Siegfried for helping him out of his dark moods. He soon tells Helen he’ll be alright and asks to let him handle his readjustment his own way. Helen understands.

Eventually, when James and Helen spend some quiet time by a riverside with Jimmy playing in the background, Helen shares some special news with James. It turns out she’s pregnant again. James is overjoyed that Helen is going to have another baby and wonders why she didn’t tell him of this before.

I found it funny when little Jimmy asked what ‘pregnant’ means and his mother tells him he’s going to have a little brother or sister. Little Jimmy says he’d rather have a dog. I agree as I could easily have Cuddles my cuddly toy dog if I was pregnant. I wonder if more should be pregnant by having a dog. 😀

With Mrs. Hall now passed on, Siegfried decides to hire a new housekeeper into the family. This turns out to be Marjorie Sudell as Mrs. Hubbard. Okay, so she’s the new housekeeper then. Well, let’s see how she turns out. Maybe she’ll be as great as Mrs. Hall. Maybe her culinary skills will be just as great.

So on the first evening with Mrs. Hubbard serving a meal, the Skeldale family are served roast beef. Siegfried is about to take off the lid from the plate, but he finds it boiling hard and nearly knocks over Tristan with it. That was so funny to watch! Then they see the result of Mrs. Hubbard’s cooking in this.

The plate of roast beef has been burned to a crisp. It was shocking and amusing to see how awful the food looked and seeing our main characters’ reactions to it. It’s not the only thing they have. Mrs. Hubbard also serves sticky toffee pudding and that looks just as awful as the roast beef appears to be. 😀

Siegfried struggles to find a way to get rid of Mrs. Hubbard when she serves the Skeldale family meals three times during the day. The breakfast isn’t that good either. Siegfried and Tristan scrape the burns off the toast for their breakfast that morning. Tristan insists to Siegfried that this has got to be stopped.

It’s interesting how Mrs. Hubbard seems to be a nice enough lady but can’t do well in the cookery department. Siegfried manages to find a way to get rid of Mrs. Hubbard for a little bit when she seems to have a cold. Yeah. I don’t think getting rid of Mrs. Hubbard temporarily will last very long, Siegfried.

And it seems it doesn’t last long as Tristan walks in angrily to tell Siegfried that Mrs. Hubbard is back and in the kitchen. Siegfried manages to get away temporarily by attending to Mr. Biggins who wants ‘iodine’ for one of his animals but he tells him that treatment is out-dated and he gives him a new one.

But Tristan won’t let Siegfried get away that easily as he tells him to sort out Mrs. Hubbard once and for all in the kitchen. Siegfried does so, but when he goes to see Mrs. Hubbard in the kitchen, she tells him she can’t work for Skeldale House anymore as she’s allergic to feathers and animal fur in the place.

This allows Siegfried the chance to get rid of Mrs. Hubbard gently and without upsetting her. Although Tristan and James look through a window and assume Mrs. Hubbard is crying when she’s actually got a cold. Siegfried plays on that by letting Tristan believe what he sees, which was amusing to watch. 😀

Margaretta Scott is back as Mrs. Pumphrey with her dog Tricki-Woo. It was great to see Mrs. Pumphrey and Tricki-Woo back as it brought back all that nice ‘All Creatures’ nostalgia for me. Although, I’m not sure if it’s the same Tricki-Woo since he looks browner than usual when he used to be clean and white.

James takes little Jimmy with him to see Tricki-Woo, especially after Jimmy asked what a ‘Tricki-Woo’ was and wanted to see him. James said ‘yes’ so long as he was on his best behaviour. Anyway, James sees Mr. Pumphrey with Tricki-Woo again along with Jimmy. Teddy Turner as Hodgekin is also back. 🙂

It seems Tricki-Woo has a problem in this episode. Apparently he’s about to be mated with another dog of his own breed. The happy event soon occurs, but it turns out Tricki-Woo has mated with Hodgekin’s black dog instead. Thus an inter-species breeding of puppies takes place which is unusual.

This is something Mrs. Pumphrey’s not happy about. Mind you, it would’ve helped if James was attending to Tricki-Woo instead of Tristan at the time. This is because Tristan was distracted by meeting a farm girl, Sharon Cheyne as Vera, at the time. Tristan’s older but not necessarily wiser in this.

James gets told about Tricki-Woo’s condition by Mrs. Pumphrey when they meet at a market place when he’s with Helen and little Jimmy. James too is surprised that Tristan didn’t tell him about the condition of Tricki-Woo after seeing him. If only James was there for the entire time attending to Tricki.

There are a number of occasions where Tristan is older but not wiser in the episode. This is the case when he’s back with the bell-ringers. Oh yeah! The bell-ringers have their bell back once the war is over. We see Tristan ringing the bells with the bell-ringers in this. Something we’ve rarely seen before.

But we also see Tristan as well as James binge-drinking with the bell ringers at the local pub. This doesn’t end well when Tristan and the bell ringers are singing till after closing time and the policeman, Steve Halliwell as P.C. Goole comes to interrupt the happy festivities. Now I know how this works out.

The policeman is going to tell Tristan and the others to go back to their homes or else he’ll have them arrested if they continue singing and drinking in the pub…or he could have a huge pint of bitter and drink it before joining in the singing with Tristan, James and the bell ringers. I’m not even kidding here!

That’s exactly what happens! P.C. Goole drinks a pint of bitter and within seconds, he joins in the singing with Tristan, James and the bell-ringers just after he tells them they should stop. Wow! One pint of bitter can make you drunk in an instant, can it? P.C. Goole shouldn’t even be drinking on duty!

Things get worse when John Arthur as Inspector Green and Graham Hamilton as Sergeant Bannister come out on patrol in that street where the Drovers is. When the bell-ringers group realise the inspector and the sergeant are coming, they try to hide, preventing them getting inside by being quiet.

It doesn’t help with P.C. Goole is all drunk and tries to protest against Inspector Green and Sergeant Bannister whilst he’s down with Tristan, James and the bell-ringers. Tristan manages to shut P.C. Goole up by gagging him and pinning him to the floor. This was an extraordinary and hilarious scene to watch.

Tristan also tries to hit it off with a potential customer in Madeline Smith as Miss Anne Grantley. Madeline Smith has been in ‘All Creatures’ before, as she played another love interest for Tristan in the Series 2 episode, ‘Pride of Possession’. I’m surprised she didn’t play the same character from that.

Anyway, Anne Grantley has a goat that she wants James to see to when Helen introduces her to him at the market. But Tristan tags along for the ride and boasts off about his expertise in goats to Anne whilst James works on tending to the goat. Anne is clearly impressed while James seems a bit annoyed.

James is also curious as he asks Siegfried if Tristan is really an expert on goats. Siegfried doesn’t know. Mind you, in the time that’s passed between the end of Series 3 and this Christmas Special, surely Tristan would’ve gained some knowledge of goats. He’s a qualified vet after all. Why shouldn’t he know of it?

The potential romance between Tristan and Anne however doesn’t go anywhere as hoped. For you see, Tristan receives a package containing some goat’s muck from Anne. This is rather shocking. Why would Anne send a package of goat’s muck to Tristan? This doesn’t sound romantic enough or lady enough.

Siegfried also meets an old flame in the episode. Now I’ve saved her for last because there’s something about this Siegfried and old flame plot that’s quite interesting. Siegfried reunites with Annie Lambert as Caroline Fisher. Wait! I’ve seen her somewhere before! Wait! Of course! Annie was in ‘Doctor Who’! 😀

Annie Lambert played Enlightenment in the ‘Doctor Who’ story ‘Four To Doomsday’ with Peter Davison. It was interesting to see her in this episode and how she turns out to be an old flame of Siegfried’s. Caroline has come back to Darrowby after living in America for quite some time apparently.

Caroline seems to be a nice match for Siegfried in this episode and the two get on with each other very well. She shares Siegfried’s love for animals as well as for his way of life. It’s interesting that we’ve never met her before in the series and I wonder why someone like Margery Egerton didn’t come back.

There is a funny moment between Siegfried and Caroline when he asks her if they want to get a drink somewhere. She responds, “I’d love one!” but the way she says it makes her sound like an animal hungry for a bite. I’m sorry, but it’s just so funny when she says it after my parents and I saw this episode.

Caroline does have a compassionate side to her as well. This is especially when Siegfried and Caroline come across an old man who has collapsed with his dog beside him. This old man happens to be…Geoffrey Bayldon as Mr. Mason. Wow! Geoffrey Bayldon’s in this Christmas Special. It was nice to see him here.

This isn’t the first time Geoffrey Bayldon’s appeared in ‘All Creatures’ though. He previously played Roland Partridge in the Series 2 episode, ‘Pride of Possession’. That’s the same episode that Madeline Smith appeared in too. What is it with returning actors from that episode playing different characters in this?

Anyway, Geoffrey Bayldon’s Mr. Mason is rather attached to his dog. But the dog is rather young and feisty for Mr. Mason to handle. Mr. Mason’s son, Joseph Peters as George Mason is obviously concerned about his father’s well-being. Siegfried and Caroline express their concerns about it as well.

They suggest to George Mason about his father giving his dog up to someone else. They suggest giving the dog up to a manor house owner. Mr. Mason Snr. is reluctant of course, but he soon agrees. Seeing the tearful look in Geoffrey Bayldon’s face as Mr. Mason when watching his dog leave him was so sad.

Siegfried and Caroline later notice Mr. Mason seeing his dog again at the manor estate as it’s clear he’s so attached to the animal. Siegfried and Caroline try to find a way to prevent the dog from being difficult for Mr. Mason to handle when he takes it out for country walks. But it soon becomes too late.

When Siegfried and Caroline see George Mason with the dog to see his father, they’re informed that his father died not long ago. Siegfried and Caroline are shocked and saddened since they had no idea this happened and the funeral was only days ago. They give their condolences to George as they leave.

As they sit in the car and contemplate what to do about Mr. Mason’s dog without an owner, Caroline asks Siegfried if she can keep it. Siegfried agrees and the two share a kiss together. Not sure how uncomfortable Robert Hardy felt about doing that kiss with Annie Lambert, but I’ll explain what I mean.

You see, at the end of the episode, Siegfried announces to James, Helen and Tristan that he and Caroline are going to get married when she accepted his proposal off-screen. James and Helen also share their good news about another baby and Tristan has good news about a new scholarship he has applied for.

But back with Siegfried and Caroline. It seems that Caroline was going to continue and be a new ‘All Creatures’ regular once she was married to Siegfried. But as it turns out…Annie Lambert never came back to ‘All Creatures’ again. This is something to do with a funny laugh she had according to Peter Davison.

Apparently when Annie Lambert laughs behind-the-scenes, she has the tendency to snort like a pig. As funny as that sounds, it didn’t help when she was working with Robert Hardy in the Christmas Special. He couldn’t put up with her funny laugh and he demanded that she never return to ‘All Creatures’.

Wow! That sounds harsh! I mean, I know it can be tricky to work with someone with a funny laugh, but I’m sure you can put up with it. I’m sure Annie Lambert’s a nice enough lady despite the funny laugh. I wonder what became of Caroline and how she didn’t end up being married to Siegfried in this.

The episode ends with Tristan receiving a phone call from the real Mr. Mulligan which was so funny; Siegfried and Caroline driving in the countryside via car and James and Helen sharing a kiss as they toast to each other. The end credits and music play in between these three scenes as the episode ends.

The 1983 Christmas Special of ‘All Creatures’ has been very good to watch. I like how it reintroduces the ‘All Creatures’ regulars back into the series after the war is over. If only this could last beyond the two Christmas Specials. But there’s one more Christmas Special to enjoy with the original cast, so let’s enjoy it!

‘Christmas Special 1983’ rating – 9/10

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