‘Barks and Bites’ (TV)

 

‘BARKS AND BITES’

Please feel free to comment on my review.

This is the first ‘All Creatures’ episodes that my parents and I watched that we’d never seen before. The last ‘All Creatures’ episode we ever saw back in 2008 before this one was the first episode in Series 4.

So don’t expect my thoughts and opinions on the rest of the series to be as enthusiastic compared to the first three seasons. This is simply because I have no knowledge as to what these TV episodes entail.

I’m basing my opinions on first viewing these episodes on DVD. I also find that I’m struggling to get into Series 4 and the rest of ‘All Creatures’ due to the many changes made in the casting and approach.

Anyway, the second episode of Series 4, ‘Barks and Bites’, is based on the books by ‘James Herriot’. The episode is by a new writer to the TV show – Alfred Shaughnessy. I haven’t come across him before.

Alfred Shaughnessy wrote episodes of ‘Upstairs, Downstairs’ before doing ‘All Creatures’. He would write three more episodes in the TV series after this and he must be a colleague of Johnny Byrne here.

Peter Moffatt once again directs this episode after doing the first episode of Series 4. The episode begins on a dramatic note. This after James arrives at someone’s farm to attend to one of the animals.

Helen and her son Jimmy are walking out on the moors before they discover somebody beating up his dog. They try to interfere, but the dog barks at them and the owner threatens them to get off his land.

He also has a shotgun. Yikes! This is pretty dramatic. I thought the countryside was meant to be pleasant and all that. There is no need to threaten any person off your land with shotgun is there?! 😀

Incidentally, that’s Edward Peel as Dobbs. Edward Peel was in another ‘All Creatures’ episode called ‘Fair Means and Fowls’. And he was in the ‘Doctor Who’ tale called ‘Dragonfire’ with Sylvester McCoy.

It’s interesting how Dobbs’ character gets developed in the episode. He starts off as seeming to be an angry man who threatens people with a shotgun to get off his land. But there’s more to him than that.

When Siegfried visits Dobbs at his place to find his dog sick in a barn, it seems that Dobbs is very attached to his animal despite beating him at times. Yeah, that is pretty peculiar watching the episode.

Dobbs isn’t really a sociable person and often sleeps with his dog in the barn. I’m not sure why Dobbs feels that need to his beat his dog on occasion whilst adoring him at the same time. But there you are.

There also aren’t enough scenes to get to know Dobbs’ character. Dobbs barely features in this apart from being in the beginning and the end. So it is difficult to find a connection with his character in this.

Edward Peel isn’t the only actor from ‘Doctor Who’ to appear in this ‘All Creatures’ episode. There’s also Edwin Richfield as Mr. Whithorn appearing with Jenny Laird as his wife, Mrs. Whithorn, in the tale.

Edwin Richfield has been in two ‘Doctor Who’ stories including ‘The Sea Devils’ with Jon Pertwee and ‘The Twin Dilemma’ with Colin Baker. Edwin Richfield worked with director Peter Moffatt in the latter.

In ‘The Twin Dilemma’, Edwin Richfield was encased in a rubber suit as Mestor. I suppose Peter Moffatt wanted to give Edwin Richfield a proper human character in this after playing a rubber suited monster.

Apparently, Jenny Laird was also in ‘Doctor Who’ in the story ‘Planet of the Spiders’ with Jon Pertwee. I wouldn’t have registered her as an actress who’s been in ‘Doctor Who’ since she played a minor role.

In the ‘All Creatures’ episode, Edwin Richfield and Jenny Laird play a married couple who love their two dogs. They are West Highland White Terriers, commonly known as Westies, according to my Dad.

I found those two dogs to be really cute in the episode. Hence why I’ve used the screenshot above for my review on this episode. Perhaps these little dogs can be pleasant to have around the house as pets.

But when Siegfried visits the Whithorns to give an injection to one of the dogs, it turns out they can pretty feral. Siegfried has a challenge to try to give one of the dogs an injection without getting bitten.

The Whithorns don’t seem to have a problem with the two little dogs as they always seem to give them love and kisses about the house. They seem to be clearly devoted to their animals in their house.

But after Siegfried gives the dog an injection on his second visit to the Whithorn, Mr. Whithorn gets a bite from the animal and becomes very angry. I don’t think Mr. Whithorn had expected that to happen.

Siegfried gives Mr. Whithorn some words of wisdom on how not to treat their animals with all love and kisses. It’s something to bear in mind should my family and I ever keep a dog within the household.

Meanwhile with Tristan, he gets visited by Richard Syms as Mr. Crawford in his office at the Ministry of Agriculture. This is when Tristan is supposed to be doing work. Instead, he’s reading the newspaper.

You see there’s still a trace of the reckless, mischievous, lazy old self in Tristan despite him gone on to higher things. Thankfully his reading of the newspaper doesn’t get him the sack when he’s caught out.

Anyway, Tristan gets named as the Ministry of Agriculture’s sterility advisor for the north riding of the county. He gets chosen to be responsible for promoting the use of artificial insemination – yeah, wait.

Artificial insemination happens to be the deliberate introduction of sperm into a female’s cervix or uterine cavity for the purposes to achieve pregnancy without sexual intercourse. I find that unnatural.

Yeah, I didn’t pick this up whilst watching the episode since I had no idea what Tristan and James were doing when visiting a dock where a ship of Russians was parked. A big flock of sheep is at the dock too.

Anyway, Tristan has to convince some very doubtful farmers for artificial insemination to take place. Not sure why he has to as I don’t think the idea of pregnant animals without intercourse is really ideal.

But yeah, Tristan gets assigned to examine this flock of sheep that’s being exported to the Soviet Union. He asks James to accompany him as he’d rather have somebody with him for this examination.

He decided not to have Siegfried accompany him as he believes his brother will have a less favourable opinion on the Soviet Union compared to James. Not we see that explored via Siegfried’s perspective.

In fact, Siegfried’s reaction to Tristan and James going off to attend to a Soviet Union ship is very brief and mellow. Siegfried doesn’t object to Tristan and James going as you’d expect. I expected it at least.

Also, Tristan’s scenes in the episode feel pretty limited. The subplot of Tristan and James is only present at the episode’s end and we don’t see Tristan for much of the middle part of the episode here.

When Tristan and James visit the Soviet Union ship at the dock, they meet Michael Poole as Captain Polenov. Michael Poole would later appear in Series 1, Episode 2 of the ‘Jeeves & Wooster’ TV series.

There’s also Kay Woodman as Ludmilla Paylechenko. She attends to the flock of sheep whilst James and Tristan observe. I was expecting the two to pitch in at some point in the story, but they never do.

Eventually James explores the Soviet Union ship whilst Tristan remains with the flock of sheep at the dock. James comes across a room where a dog barks at him. Fortunately, the dog is chained to a door.

I thought James and Tristan were going to get told off by the Russians for trespassing on their ship. But they eventually have drinks of vodka and some dance to the music. Where did all this come from?

I mean, there’s no build up to why James and Tristan are invited for drinks with the Russians aboard their ship. This is especially when they were supposed to be attending to a large flock of sheep outside.

James gets easily drunk in the episode whilst Tristan seems reasonably sober. Interesting how James ends up the one being drunk instead of Tristan. Usually it’s the other way round as in previous seasons.

Helen can tell James is drunk once he comes home and before he’s about to kiss her. He also laughs very silly when Helen tells him that Calum’s gone to see Mr. Dibble. I found that to be a bit embarrassing.

I’m sorry to say it, but I’m not getting into Lynda Bellingham’s Helen at this point in the series. Lynda Bellingham is doing fine no doubt, but she doesn’t have that same quality Carol Drinkwater had in this.

I’m struggling to get into Lynda Bellingham’s interpretation of the character. I’m not sure why she was chosen to play Helen anyway since she doesn’t match to Carol Drinkwater’s youthful, lovelier quality.

Also in the episode, James acquires a new record player in the episode. However he is reluctant to let anyone else use it. He doesn’t even allow the kids to play their records on it, which is quite peculiar. 😀

I actually found this subplot to be less interesting as some of the other subplots in the episode. There wasn’t really much point to it as I don’t see how this helps to enhance the story with James’ character.

I did like the development of James’ interaction with the kids in the episode. This is especially when Jimmy plays the piano whilst Helen thinks he needs more practice. I think Jimmy’s piano playing is fine.

Rosie also accompanies James on his rounds. I did like the interaction between James and little Rosie in the episode, especially when he promises to take her on his rounds provided that she is a good girl.

I did like it when Rosie becomes James’ little helper, especially when he’s attending to a farm bull or a cow in a field. Rosie also stands by a gate as her dad instructs her so that he can keep an eye on her.

Eventually a serious accident occurs when the bull charges out of the field, smashing through a fence and nearly about to hit Rosie. Thankfully Rosie remains still where she is and that bull does not attack.

I liked it when James is relieved Rosie’s okay and approves that she remained still since it was sensible thing to do. Wow! There are some interesting life lessons to be learnt here when it comes to animals.

Calum Buchanan also takes up residence in Skeldale House when he arrives on his motorcycle with pets in tow. I would have thought having just Madeline the badger was enough for Calum in the series.

I like how the episode ends with Calum chatting away to Ced Beaumont as Mr. Dibble, getting him bored. In the episode, it was the other way around with Mr. Dibble getting Siegfried and James bored.

‘Barks and Bites’ is a pretty mediocre episode in ‘All Creatures’ as my Dad described it. I’m inclined to agree with him. I’m struggling with Series 4 as it doesn’t have the same magic the first three seasons had.

‘Barks and Bites’ rating – 7/10


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