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This ‘All Creatures’ episode has most of our main characters helping out with farmer’s flock of sheep in the snow. Yeah it was snowing heavily when this episode was being filmed and it’s not at Christmas.
The episode is adapted by Johnny Byrne from the ‘James Herriot’ books. It’s also the first episode to be directed by Christopher Barry, who’s directed a number of ‘Doctor Who’ stories in the 60s and 70s.
The episode begins with a shot of a flock of sheep running about the snow. It then cuts to Siegfried in surgery who is in a bit of a rage as he calls Tristan down to help him out to visit Mr. Benson at his farm.
When Siegfried and Tristan visit Mr. Benson in the freezing cold, they find most of his flock of sheep suffering a severe calcium deficiency. This is something that Siegfried and Tristan work out themselves.
I liked how Siegfried prompts Tristan to work it out what’s wrong with the sheep in the early part of the episode. It goes to show how these two can be working intellectuals and not as bickering brothers.
However, it also transpires that several of the sheep have been killed by a dog. No-one knows whose dog this is, but as the episode progresses it becomes a pretty intriguing mystery and is very saddening.
And what has James been up to all this time? Well apparently, he’s been confined to working in the surgery due to his sore ankle. This happened in an unseen episode where James got kicked by a horse.
Therefore Siegfried and Tristan are having to do most of the house calls. This is something Tristan’s unhappy about, although James isn’t happy with the idea too since he feels restricted to staying inside.
But James isn’t inactive throughout in the episode. On the contrary, he deals with two cases involving dogs. The first is with William Squire as Roderick Perowne who brings in his dog who has been injured.
Mr. Perowne seems a volatile person who’s quite forceful when treating his dog. Despite that, Perowne does seem to care about his dog, since there’s a point when the dog goes missing in the tale.
Perowne’s dog also seems to be pretty frisky and rather aggressive, despite being cute-looking. It gets suspected that Perowne’s dog could be responsible for the sheep attacks on Mr. Benson’s farm. Is he?
James also attends to Will Leighton as Peter Marston and his dog Jack. Peter Marston and his wife Sheila Raynor as Mrs. Marston have moved very recently into Darrowby having previously lived in Leeds.
But James seems to know Peter Marston well as the two get on well with each other. James sees to Peter Marston’s dog Jack who’s been having trouble with his foot. Could Jack have been into mischief?
In the episode, I like that little scene between James and Siegfried where they talk about the new flat James and Helen are living in. Siegfried is concerned James and Helen aren’t happy in where they live.
But James reassures him that he and Helen are happy in the flat they’re living in. Siegfried’s unconvinced. James also mentions about some design choices Helen’s making regarding the new flat.
I was expecting this to lead into an interesting subplot throughout the episode. But unfortunately it doesn’t get progressed upon. Maybe this is something to be delved into more for the next episode.
In a little diversion from the main plot of the episode, there’s a certain comedic subplot with Siegfried. A phone call is made late at night to which Helen answers it and a certain Harold Ingledew on the line.
I just found it funny when Helen answers the phone and has trouble speaking to Mr. Ingledew. It transpires that one of Ingledew’s female sheep’s gone into labour and he needs some help nursing it.
When Helen relays this information to Siegfried, he’s gradually shocked since he seems to know what Harold Ingledew is like. I found it very funny when Tristan goes upstairs to bed to avoid doing the job.
James is of course confined to sitting it out that evening with Helen beside him. Thus it falls to Siegfried to go out on this late-night to see Ingledew at his farm. And we soon find out why Siegfried’s unhappy.
Frank Mills guest stars as Farmer Ingledew. And he turns out to be a drunkard. I felt sorry for Siegfried who had to go out and cope with Ingledew, who provides less efficient help with the expectant sheep.
It also provides Robert Hardy some comedic acting scenes to work with, especially as Farmer Ingledew is so outrageously drunk with singing songs all the time. It does get on Siegfried’s nerves doing the job.
Siegfried sometimes tells Ingledew to ‘shut up’ when he demands he gets some water. It was funny and cringe worthy when Ingledew has the bucket of hot water before he trips over and spills it all over.
Ingledew then takes the empty bucket and fills it with cold water after breaking through the ice in the barrel. Siegfried must be at the end of his tether when he is coping with the drunk farmer at this point.
In fact, it makes wonder why Siegfried didn’t ask Tristan to accompany him to help him out rather than just doing the job alone with Ingledew around. It would have made the late-night call less painful.
But anyway, the job gets done and the baby sheep is delivered. Sometimes the delivery of baby sheep in this TV episode is a little off-putting but it is new life breathed into the world so I shouldn’t complain.
And it doesn’t stop there. For there are more birthing scenes with sheep where Siegfried, Helen and Tristan visit Mr. Benson’s farm to attend to his pregnant sheep. And this is still all out in the cold snow.
In the outdoor scenes, we see Siegfried and Helen helping out with Benson’s pregnant sheep. But we don’t see Tristan. He says he’s been attending to some sheep, but it’d be nice for us viewers to see it.
It also transpires that there have been more sheep attacks since the first time Siegfried and Tristan visited Mr. Benson’s farm. It’s still unclear as to whose dog might be causing the horrific sheep attacks.
But things become clearer as James discovers. When James reveals to Siegfried that Roderick Perowne’s dog has gone missing, it’s suspected that it might Perowne’s dog who did the sheep attacks.
Fortunately it turns out not to be the case. It seems that Mr. Perowne’s dog has been visiting a female dog who turns out to be his lover. It also turns out that Perowne’s dog has safely returned to his owner.
Well, that’s a relief. I was thinking that it might have been Perowne’s dog who caused the sheep attacks due to his aggressive nature. But wait, if it’s not Perowne’s dog, who could’ve done the attacks?
In the episode, James makes an effort to get out of Skeldale House with Helen accompanying him. They visit Peter Marsten at his house and meet his wife before coming to see how his dog Jack’s doing.
It seems Peter Marsten’s dog is still not better with his foot. James is at a loss as to why Jack is still not better. He instructs Peter Marsten to keep his dog inside the house at all times and not let it go outside.
But during the night, when Siegfried and Helen attend to Mr. Benson’s flock of sheep, Russell Denton as Benson’s Farmhand fires a shot at the dog that’s attacked the sheep. He’s had a good look at it too.
When James visits Peter Marsten’s home a second time, he inspects his dog Jack and his foot seems better. But it turns out he has got a bullet wound in his leg, meaning that Jack’s the actual sheep killer.
It was sad when it turned out Jack caused the sheep attacks as he seems docile and sweet to look at. Peter Marsten is heartbroken too since he and his wife have had their dog Jack for about twelve years.
When Peter Marsten visits Skeldale’s House surgery with Jack, he sees James and asks him to put his dog to sleep. It was a really emotional moment and is well-played out between the actors in the scene.
I did like that little subplot in the episode where there was a baby sheep who got rejected by its mother at Farmer Benson’s place. Then there’s this mother sheep seemingly dying who needs a reason to live.
Siegfried soon dresses the rejected lamb in the dying mother’s sheep’s skin, making him Shaun the Sheep from ‘Wallace & Gromit’. 😀 Then they give the baby lamb to the poor mother and she soon accepts it.
The episode ends with Siegfried, Helen and Mr. Benson watching the happy moment as the mother sheep takes in the rejected lamb as her own. Rather fitting to end rather than on a dark, grim moment.
‘Attendant Problems’ is okay as an ‘All Creatures’ episode, but it didn’t have as much comedy-drama as in other episodes. It was a sad story where one of the two dogs turned out to be the sheep attacker.
‘Attendant Problems’ rating – 7/10
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