‘Brink of Disaster’ (TV)



Please feel free to comment on my review.

At the time of this review, I shared with Peter Davison at the ‘Science of the Time Lords 2019’ event that I was currently on Series 3 of ‘All Creatures’. I enjoyed chatting to Peter about ‘All Creatures’ then.

This is the episode where World War II gets declared as Germany doesn’t respond to the ultimatum given to them by Britain once they’ve invaded Poland. I’ll discuss more on this later during my review.

It was interesting to see the reactions to our main leads including James, Helen, Siegfried, Tristan and Mrs. Hall on when they hear the news of war being declared. They wonder how it will affect their lives.

This episode was adapted by William Humble from the ‘James Herriot’ books. This is William Humble’s fourth and final contribution as a writer for the ‘All Creatures’ series. Why did he not write more after?

The episode was also directed by Michael Hayes, a ‘Doctor Who’ director and his third contribution as a director to the ‘All Creatures’ series. Michael Hayes would direct one more episode after this one.

In this episode, Siegfried sends James to deal with a sick horse owned by Ralph Beamish. James is reluctant to do one of Siegfried’s horse jobs, but Siegfried is so insistent that James conducts the case.

It seems according to Tristan that Siegfried has become horse shy regarding his recent experience of handling Dolly, the horse that belonged to Herbie Hinchliffe in ‘A Dying Breed’. That’s understandable.

I like how James tries to persuade Siegfried not to be horse shy before he’s about to go and deal with Ralph Beamish’s horse. But Siegfried is adamant that James does the job for him whilst inside the car.

In any case, James goes to deal with Ralph Beamish’s horse. And it turns out that Ralph Beamish actually prefers Siegfried to deal with his horse rather than James when he comes to meet him in this.

Tony Steedman guest stars as Ralph Beamish in the episode. He happens to be a very unpleasant, arrogant horse owner since he criticises James’ efforts to heal one of his horses and he ignores his advice.

Clearly Ralph Beamish is an idiot and selfish about the well-being of his master’s horses. James does his best to be polite and professional in his vet duties, but Ralph Beamish isn’t so lenient towards him.

Even when Siegfried returns to pick James up and asks for a telephone to call the Ministry of Agriculture over a ‘foot and mouth’ disease situation, Beamish continues to be difficult. And annoying!

My parents told me people can be like that and I suppose that’s true. But surely Beamish can’t expect Siegfried attend to his every horse’s medical needs. Surely he must expect somebody else’s help here.

Later in the episode, Beamish demands Siegfried to come and attend to his horse who’s ill. Siegfried refuses to be bullied by Beamish and insists that he goes to another vet to attend to his needs instead.

Beamish eventually tries to be nice to Siegfried, calling him by his first name even, in order to persuade him to see to his horse. Siegfried eventually agrees as he attends to the horse before James joins him.

Whilst Siegfried attends to the horse, Beamish gets impatient and insists that it’s all hopeless. I’m quite surprised Siegfried and Beamish have this connection between them as implied by James and Tristan.

Thankfully Siegfried and James manage to find out what’s wrong with this horse as it connects to something that happened to Herbie Hinchcliffe’s horse, Dolly. Beamish becomes grateful to Siegfried.

So, what was it that Siegfried did when he asked James to see Beamish’s horse in the first place? Well, he went to visit a local pig farmer, Alan Hockey as Duggleby, who loves to chat about cricket with him.

I found it amusing when James told Beamish that Siegfried did have something important to prevent him seeing his horse instead. Then we cut to Siegfried and Duggleby chatting peacefully about cricket.

Eventually, Siegfried investigates Duggleby’s farm animals, specifically his pigs, and discovers something shocking about them. He’s convinced Duggleby’s animals are infected with ‘foot and mouth’.

Duggleby becomes distressed when Siegfried tells him the news as he has to clear out his farm as well as kill his livestock. Siegfried isn’t happy about it either as he reports this to the Ministry of Agriculture.

Throughout the episode, it’s unclear how the foot and mouth disease situation was caused. Siegfried becomes worried about it himself since he insists upon sterilizing himself and quarantining farm areas.

After Duggleby’s farm animals have been slaughtered and he has to start his farm work again, Siegfried becomes apologetic to him about it. But Duggleby doesn’t seem to be so worried and is quite cheerful.

In fact, Duggleby is more concerned about the state of cricket in the world which amuses and amazes Siegfried. This is also after the declaration of war between England and Germany is made in the story.

Before we talk about that though, we return to a continuing subplot that began in the previous episode. Peggy Ann Word returns as Mrs. Beck. Oh no! Not her again! Has she paid the vets yet here?!

No! Apparently she hasn’t! In fact, Mrs. Beck continues to complain about the vets’ bill with James when seeing him in surgery. She even insists on a refund even though she hasn’t paid the vets’ bill yet.

James points out that fact quite clearly to Mrs. Beck when he sees her in surgery and she takes offence to it. She walks out of the surgery to meet Tristan in the corridor and he takes her into the living room.

James makes the mistake of believing Mrs. Beck left without her cat when she brought him to surgery. He leaves Skeldale House to find her. How James walked all the way to the countryside, I have no idea.

But in the process, the cat becomes difficult and escapes James’ grasp. Even scratching James, I believe. Siegfried comes along in his car to help James and gets the cat himself before it scratches him.

Siegfried then gives the cat back to James to look after before taking it back to Skeldale House where Mrs. Beck is. I do not know what it is about that cat. He seems to have some real temperament issues.

When James brings the cat back to Mrs. Beck in the Skeldale House living room, she once again decides to pay the vets’ bill another time. Seriously, what is with this woman? How can she be so ungracious?!

Oh and if that wasn’t enough, Mrs. Beck insists that she pays seven shillings instead of eight to the vets on the bill. Okay, then why didn’t she pay it then? And why isn’t it the vets choosing the payment?

Mrs. Beck also seems to be worried about how her cat might survive a gas attack should war be declared. Initially, Siegfried and Tristan believed that Mrs. Beck was talking about herself. Not her cat.

When Tristan discovers the mistake made whilst talking to Mrs. Beck in the living room, he goes out to warn Siegfried who’s on the phone to call for a gas mask for Mrs. Beck. I like how the scene’s played.

Tristan interrupts the phone conversation Siegfried has with the person on the other end about the gas mask. Siegfried insists Tristan explains himself. Tristan tells him he stopped him making a mistake.

The scene goes to show how the two brothers can respect each other and not bicker and argue like they usually do. Tristan also takes some matters seriously which earns him the respect Siegfried gives.

Speaking of gas masks, Siegfried and Tristan try on gas masks when wearing them in the house, shocking Mrs. Hall once seeing them. They aren’t not exactly “Are You My Mummy?” but they’re close.

It was interesting to hear the comments made by the ‘All Creatures’ cast who complain about the gas masks being rubbery and making them sick. Siegfried points out how important it is to have gas masks.

Towards the end of the episode, we have the announcement made by Neville Chamberlain that war is declared on Germany by the UK. We do not hear the full announcement, but it is there all the same.

I found it compelling how it gets built upon with Mrs. Hall and Helen going to church first thing in the morning before hearing the announcement on the wireless. It’s quite poignant to watch and listen to.

Peter Davison even told me himself at ‘Science of the Time Lords 2019’ that this is a poignant episode. It was saddening when Mrs. Hall and Helen heard that announcement. Helen cries tearfully in Mrs. Hall’s arms.

James is attending to a case on a cow (I believe) belonging Wilfred Grover as a farmer during the announcement. James asks the farmer if he has a wireless and whether he’s interested they’re at war.

The farmer doesn’t seem bothered about it and shrugs it off. It’s intriguing how rural farmers don’t seem to be at all worried that their farmlands could be invaded by German planes bombing onto them.

I liked the scene between Siegfried and Tristan when they’re out in the countryside via car whilst the announcement of war’s being made. It’s a scene of brotherly affection between Siegfried and Tristan.

The two of them promise to take care of themselves whatever happens with war now being declared. There’s no bitterness or arguing between the two brothers which I found very poignant to watch here.

It was nice to see the five ‘All Creatures’ characters together in the Skeldale House living room, talking about what’s going to happen with war being declared. Even then, they still do not like the gas masks.

During the night, when Helen helps James in surgery, she asks him what will happen between them now that war’s been declared. James is uncertain but is determined to keep on doing what he’s doing.

I like how the episode ends when James goes to see Mrs. Bailey at her and her husband’s farm about some cows that have ‘blisters’. Helen accompanies James, reassuring Siegfried they’ve got gas masks.

They meet Sarah Grazebrook as Mrs. Bailey at the farm who shows James and Helen the cows. James examines the cows and it looks serious as it’s unclear what caused these blisters in the very first place.

Thankfully it isn’t serious as it turns out the cows have cowpox. James discovers this when Mrs. Bailey reveals her baby has chicken pox. James connects the dots together, reassuring Mrs. Bailey in the end.

‘Brink of Disaster’ is a very poignant episode in the ‘All Creatures’ series about World War II being declared. But it ends on a reassuring note with James reminding Helen what they’re really fighting for.

‘Brink of Disaster’ rating – 8/10

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