‘Breath of Life’ (TV)



Please feel free to comment on my review.

It’s the last episode of Series 1 of ‘All Creatures’! I’m amazed I’ve reached this point in the reviewing process, as I feel my reviews of the first season containing 13 episodes has been a swift breeze for me.

This episode is by Anthony Steven, adapted from the ‘James Herriot’ books. I don’t think there’s been an overall showrunner for Series 1. I’m surprised Johnny Byrne didn’t write the last episode of the season.

The episode is also directed by Terrence Dudley. Well at least they ended the first season by having the final episode directed by the first episode’s director. When will Terrence Dudley write an episode?

The episode begins with a shot of something burning in the countryside. Given the nature of what’s to come in this episode, this seems rather appropriate considering it is about foot and mouth disease.

James visits an old farmer, John Barrett as Mr. Kitson. After attending to Kitson’s cows at his farm, James notices he has a dying ewe, which is a female sheep. Mr. Kitson however does not seem to care.

I suppose it’s because Kitson doesn’t want to pay James for doing the job. He must be pretty low on funds. James however seizes an opportunity when Mr. Kitson isn’t looking to treat the poor dying ewe.

He does it by simply sending it to sleep. James does it just in time before Kitson returns to give him half a crown for doing the other job. Wow! James was pretty lucky not to get caught red-handed then.

Just to say, I really like how selfless James is in giving a treatment to the poor dying ewe without getting paid for it by Kitson. It demonstrates how much he cares for animals in his profession as a vet.

We then cut to…oh my goodness! Tristan has his arm up a cow. I don’t want that image to be imprinted on my mind from watching the episode. Anyway, Tristan is treating a cow for John Ronane as Mr. Dowson.

Now the way Tristan does it so amusing and bizarre to watch. Tristan acts like he’s in agonising pain. I wasn’t sure whether he was going to burst into song as he struggled in getting his arm out of the cow.

Thankfully Tristan’s okay and it turns out the cow got her calf when James comes to visit nearby. Tristan seems to have suffered a great deal when Dowson attends to him. Tristan then grins at James.

Yep, it turns out it was all a performance on Tristan’s part. What?! He was playacting with all that screaming and yelling when attending the cow. I was convinced Tristan was in great pain! Well, mostly.

I have to ask Peter Davison the next time I see him at a convention how he went through the process of that scene. I’m sure he did have his arm up a cow and he found it a challenge to perform that scene.

Eventually James returns to see Mr. Kitson at his farm to find out how the ewe is doing. It turns out the ewe is alive and well. She has been sleeping for about 48 hours to recover and she suffers no pain.

Kitson wonders how the ewe has managed to survive considering James told him it would die soon enough. James keeps quiet throughout. I do like how slightly amused he is by Kitson’s wonder of it all.

Later that night, when James and Helen are in bed, James wakes up as a thought occurs to him on how Kitson’s ewe managed to live. I like this scene, especially when James wakes up with Helen half-asleep.

James theorises that Kitson’s ewe managed to survive due to nature taking its course with the treatment he gave her. He asks Helen whether it is nonsense, but she seems very convinced he is right.

Now you may wonder what the significance of that scene is considering James saved Kitson’s ewe and it never gets referenced again. Well you see, this becomes a prominent point for another subplot.

It goes like this. James attends to a pet poodle belonging to a sweet married lady, Fiona Gray (not the one from ‘Mum’s Army’ in ‘Dad’s Army’ 😀 ) as Mrs. Flaxton. This little poodle has not been well lately.

The process goes like this. James gives some medicine to Mrs. Flaxton’s dog to make it better. Mrs. Flaxton then comes round a second time and she sees Tristan who gives that dog a different medicine.

Then Mrs. Flaxton comes round a third time and she sees Siegfried who gives the log another different medicine. In the end, the little poodle isn’t getting better as these medicines don’t do the job as hoped.

I like how Mrs. Flaxton and her husband played by John Alkin are very sweet and kind about it when they visit Skeldale House with their little poodle. They do not complain about it and don’t get aggressive.

During one night, the Flaxtons visit Skedale House with James getting out of bed. They ask James to put their little dog down. But James decides to reuse the power of anesthesia to rescue the little dog.

He puts the dog to sleep for 48 hours like he did with Kitson’s ewe. And amazingly, it works again. The poodle dog is alive and well. Siegfried commends James as he tells him to write a paper on this miracle.

I must admit, I’m pretty amazed myself. Nature doing its work to save animals when they’re asleep for 48 hours is something pretty impressive. I’m not sure if that works in real life, but it seems possible.

But of course the main plot of the episode is when a local farmer has a case of foot and mouth on his hands. This concerns the vets as well since a major part of the farm dales get quarantined for the disease.

The local farmer…oh my goodness…is Michael Graham Cox as Bob Rigby! Wow! Michael Graham Cox is in this episode! He played Boromir in ‘The Lord of the Rings’ radio series as well as in the 1978 film.

I re-watched some scenes with his character in this ‘All Creatures’ episode to check if it was Michael Graham Cox after hearing his voice in ‘The Lord of the Rings’ radio series. And yes, it is him apparently.

It was surreal to see what Michael Graham Cox looked like in the flesh. He wasn’t what I expected and he contrasts differently to Sean Bean who played Boromir in the ‘LOTR’ film series. Very extraordinary!

Bob Rigby is concerned and upset when he hears from Siegfried that his new cow has got foot and mouth disease. He had that cow from his wife’s father. He has to destroy that cow and other livestock.

This quarantine in this part of the countryside is in place for thirty days. Everybody living in that part of the countryside gets anxious about his animals including Mr. Dowson who gets irritable with James.

James asks Dowson to help out with Bob Rigby regarding his animals. There’s a possibility Bob Rigby’s new cow is not the cause for the foot and mouth disease. Dowson is reluctant first but he soon agrees.

After the crisis seems to be over, Dowson soon complains about one of his cows still having foot and mouth disease. James goes and inspects it. Dowson rants at James and threatens to take him to court.

Eventually James threatens Dowson to punch him on the nose before telling him that his cow hasn’t got foot and mouth disease. The cow apparently has this nail inside her tongue from eating some hay.

I like how Dowson apologises to James for the misunderstanding. It’s well-played out, especially as the panic for foot and mouth gets reached. I recall one panic of foot and mouth during the early 2000s.

During the foot and mouth crisis, Siegfried considers to confine himself inside Skeldale House doing only the surgery duties. This means that James and Tristan must do all of the outside calls for Siegfried.

Tristan is not happy about this, since he wants to have his evenings off as he usually does. But Siegfried and James reason with Tristan about this situation and he eventually agrees to this hard arrangement.

But not for long. You see, Tristan gets sick and tired of having to do outside calls that he tries to get Siegfried out of the house so that can stay in. Tristan does this by calling up old girlfriends of Siegfried.

Tristan persuades them to persuade Siegfried to come out so that he can have the night in the house. Siegfried falls for this ruse from Tristan, but he’s able to outwit his brother by making him still do work.

Siegfried, after accepting invitations from his old flames, gets James and Helen to go out on an evening dinner together. This in turn means Tristan is the only one left to stay behind and attend to the surgery.

Tristan is not happy about this. Poor Tristan. I admit it is funny on many levels. You laugh at it at first but then feel sorry for him afterwards. After all Tristan does to get one night off, Siegfried outwits him.

There’s a little thing to talk about and that’s when James sees Edwin Finn as Mr. Skipton at his farm. Mr. Skipton keeps these two horses and it takes him four miles to walk there and back from his house.

When James is with Helen, he shares with her how amazed he is that Skipton works hard to look after his two houses. Helen endearingly calls James a ‘silly’ as she tells him it’s because Skipton loves them.

Helen is in her glamorous blue dress from ‘Golden Lads and Girls’, as she, James, Siegfried, Tristan and Mrs. Hall are in the living room of Skeldale House about to have a party. There’s food and champagne.

I like how the episode ends with Mrs. Hall coming in to say someone’s called for help and that means their party has to end before it even starts. Helen finds it unfair and Siegfried agrees since life is unfair.

Siegfried, James and Tristan take the short straw with some matches on who’s to go out and do the job, before deciding to have a celebratory drink first. This happens when the end credits roll instantly.

I liked that the ‘All Creatures’ cast of Siegfried, James, Helen, Tristan and Mrs. Hall are all assembled at the end. It establishes the family feel of this drama series especially on how they’ve all come together.

Incidentally, Helen is now helping out with the financial accounts at Skeldale House for Siegfried. Siegfried seems overjoyed about Helen helping out as he finds her better compared to Miss Harbottle.

‘Breath of Life’ has been a great episode to end Series 1 of ‘All Creatures’. Overall Series 1 of ‘All Creatures’ has been pretty good, especially with the establishment of James and Helen getting married.

I’m pleased I saw Series 1 of ‘All Creatures’ and was looking forward to finding out how this cast of character will develop and progress in the next season. What challenges lie ahead for our animal lovers?

‘Breath of Life’ rating – 9/10

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