Please feel free to comment on my review.
At last! We’ve finally come to the end of the original ‘All Creatures Great and Small’ TV series. I never thought I would reach this point. It’s time for the very final episode of ‘All Creatures’ which happens to be the 1990 Christmas Special called ‘Brotherly Love’. It is a pretty decent end to ‘All Creatures’. 🙂
I know I have been critical about the reboot era of ‘All Creatures’ in terms of the casting choices of characters and the direction that some storylines have gone in. The majority of the episodes have been to milk the show’s continuation rather than simply just be based upon the ‘James Herriot’ books.
I prefer the original run of ‘All Creatures’ which was its first three seasons and the 1983 and 1985 Christmas Specials. But I have enjoyed the reboot era in a strange way. The last four seasons and the 1990 Christmas Special still retains to the spirit of ‘All Creatures’ under supervision by Johnny Byrne.
I’m not sure why the ‘All Creatures’ series ended when it did in 1990 and with the 1990 Christmas Special as the final episode. Maybe it was hoped by the production team that the series would continue and they made the 1990 Christmas Special to see how much they would get for the ratings.
This was the case in the 1983 and 1985 Christmas Specials which had higher ratings. But as it turned out, the ‘All Creatures’ series didn’t return for a eighth season. Whether that was the 1990 Christmas Special’s fault, I don’t know. But it’s clear that interest had waned in ‘All Creatures’ for going too long.
And here’s the thing. ‘Brotherly Love’ is not a terrible Christmas Special. On the contrary, in terms of the writing and performances of the cast, it’s very good. But it’s not as good as the first Christmas Special from Series 2 – ‘Merry Gentlemen’ – as well as those Christmas Specials from 1983 and 1985.
I prefer ‘Merry Gentlemen’ since it was focused as a Christmas Special, being the same length as other ‘All Creatures’ episode in under an hour. ‘Brotherly Love’ is the same length as the 1983 and 1985 Specials in being one and half hours and takes a while to build up in the set-up for Christmas here.
‘Brotherly Love’ is by Christopher Penfold, not Johnny Byrne. I think it would’ve been better to have Johnny Byrne write this Christmas Special. Not sure why Christopher Penfold was chosen to pen the final Christmas Special of ‘All Creatures’, despite having written two previous episodes of the series.
The Christmas Special is directed by Michael Brayshaw, who directed episodes of Series 6 and Series 7 beforehand. Now just to say, I don’t mind Michael Brayshaw as a director. He’s very good for ‘All Creatures’ itself. But I’m not a huge fan of the titles sequences he utilises for the episodes he directs.
And this is where…we talk about something astonishing regarding the 1990 Christmas Special. I’m not sure why it was like this for the 1990 Christmas Special, since it wasn’t like this for the Series 7 episodes. It could easily be a TV method not used to make the ‘All Creatures’ Christmas Special here.
What I’m talking about is the fact this episode was made entirely on film! Not video! Film! For the whole of Series 6 and 7, every episode was recorded on videotape. This is a bizarre change to have the Christmas Special be recorded on film instead of video, since it had not been used since Series 5.
I know this sounds nitpicky on my part, and it probably is, but it gets even more astonishing when director Michael Brayshaw recorded the same sort of title sequence he used for his episodes on video into film for this Christmas Special. He actually put effort into recreating the sequence on film.
He has Robert Hardy as Siegfried and Christopher Timothy as James exit a shop before getting into a car like he did for his videotape episodes into the title sequence on film for ‘Brotherly Love’. He also creates new shots of Peter Davison, Lynda Bellingham and Jean Heywood in the title sequence here.
I don’t know what the logic behind that is as the 1990 Christmas Special could easily have been made into video instead of film. Maybe the production team hoped to recreate the glory days of the 1983 and 1985 Christmas Specials by having it all made into film for the 1990 Christmas Special here.
Clearly that didn’t work to guarantee them an eighth series of ‘All Creatures’, right? And look, it’s not a big issue since what matters is the storytelling and the character drama featured throughout this Special. But it’s just weird to have the episode on film since we have been used to video at this point.
The recreated shot of Peter Davison as Tristan is more a recreation of the shot of him driving a car as it was when he was featured in the title sequence for the first episode of Series 7, directed by Michael Brayshaw. The shot of Lynda Bellingham as Helen is a brand-new shot for this TV episode. 🙂
And it’s taken from a scene featuring Helen later on in the episode when she’s preparing for Christmas in the Skeldale living room. The shot of Jean Heywood as Mrs. Alton…well…she’s miserable-looking. Has there ever been an occasion in ‘All Creatures’ where Mrs. Alton was cheerful?
In fact, I want to raise something regarding Mrs. Alton’s character. I know this sounds a little strange, but please bear with me on this one. I think the production team were trying to create something of Mrs. Hall in Mrs. Alton’s character throughout Series 7. I just realised that after watching the TV series.
Now the problem with that is Mrs. Hall knew Siegfried and Tristan very well before the show began. With Mrs. Alton, she didn’t know who Siegfried and Tristan were and it took time for her to settle and get used to their eccentricities. Which, I don’t think she really did as she came across as too strict.
That’s another thing about Mrs. Alton. I think it would’ve been better if she was more cheerful in life, or at least have her daughter around to provide a love interest for Tristan. We haven’t seen much of her daughter, have we? I do prefer Mrs. Greenlaw as housekeeper compared to Mrs. Alton.
At least she was cheerful and had a sense of humour compared to Mrs. Alton. In fact, the only similarity I have for Mrs. Greenlaw and Mrs. Alton in the reboot era is that we’re not given a chance to get to know them as characters. I felt Mrs. Hall was more interesting a housekeeper than them. 🙂
So who else is in the 1990 Christmas Special? Well, certainly not Mrs. Pumphrey and Tricki-Woo. Neither is Hodgekin. I would’ve thought they’d make an appearance in the final ‘All Creatures’ Special. Neither are James and Helen’s two children Jimmy and Rose in this Special. Where are they?
Siegfried’s wife Caroline and his children don’t make an appearance in the reboot era as well. I’m very disappointed about this. Whilst we’ve been getting to know James and Helen’s family in a flawed manner in the reboot era, we’ve been denied the chance to get know Siegfried’s family here.
At least we get a mention of Calum and Deirdre in the Christmas Special. Oh good! I did wonder if people had forgotten about them since they were last seen in the third episode of Series 6. They must still be in Nova Scotia. Helen’s about to send them off a Christmas card by airmail apparently. 🙂
Okay, so who is in the Christmas Special that we know of? Well, there’s John Sharp as Mr. Biggins. Of course he’s in this Christmas Special! Because…if there’s anyone I would like to see in the final Christmas Special is Mr. Biggins. He’s an annoyance to both James and Tristan in this Special episode.
There’s also Rio Fanning as Joe Mulligan with his dog Clancy. Wait! I thought Clancy would be dead by this point. No wait! Apparently it’s Clancy Mk II. And he’s much bigger than the Clancy he had before when he came to visit Skeldale’s surgery. Clancy II is still ‘womitin’ a lot and he makes a lot of noise. 🙂
Actually, on a side note, it’s amazing how the production team can explain that Mr. Mulligan has another dog that was similar to the Clancy he had until he died and had given his new dog the same name. A pity that the same treatment doesn’t seem to be given to Mrs. Pumphrey and Tricki-Woo!
Anyway, let’s talk about this episode. It’s coming up to Christmas 1955 which is fast approaching. Wait! Christmas 1955? Last I checked; Series 7 was taking place in 1953. Where the Queen’s coronation was taking place! Have two years passed since we last saw the ‘All Creatures’ characters?
Maybe that explains why Jimmy and Rosie aren’t there in the Christmas Special. Maybe they’ve gone off to boarding school or college or something like that. It would’ve been nice if they got mentioned. But then, why didn’t they come back to celebrate Christmas with their parents? This is all so bizarre!
But yeah! As you would expect in the ‘All Creatures’ series, the vets are dealing with a varied assortment of veterinary cases including diseased animals and such. They also entertain the locals with various antics in their ordinary lives outside vet practice. What mischief are our friends up to? 🙂
James helps out at the farm of Sam Dale as Frank Gillard. He’s particularly proud of Frank’s work at the farm, along with his wife Elaine Donnelly as Angela and Gemma Peers as Mary. Frank keeps racing pigeons at the farm too as well as cows. I don’t think we get to see pigeons racing much here.
Mr. Biggins becomes difficult about Frank Gillard’s farm activities, especially when he accuses the birds for importing foot and mouth disease. Biggins even tries to shoot two pigeons off at his farm roof before James intervenes and hoots his car’s horn at the pigeons in order to make them fly away.
I admire James for doing that. Biggins can be so premature, impulsive and inconsiderate when it comes to misjudging animals that maybe the cause for certain diseases like foot and mouth. It might be connected to Biggins not wanting to pay too much with the bills when it comes to pigeons about.
Eventually however, the cattle on Frank Gillard’s farm develop the dreaded disease. This is saddening, especially for Frank’s daughter Mary who may lose her precious calf, given to her as an early Christmas present I believe. James checks to make sure the foot and mouth disease is definite.
Unfortunately it is and Frank Gillard has no choice but to destroy the herd. Frank puts on a brave face when it comes to destroying the herd after all the hard work he’s put into setting up his farm. James admires Frank’s take on the matter, considering him a good man and not deserving hardship.
Fortunately, not all is lost. Once the farm is cleared of foot and mouth, Frank has a chance to start again with his farm and bring in a new herd of cows. This is just in time for Christmas. We even have a scene where James and Frank deliver a baby cow out of its mother. Typical ‘All Creatures’ stuff!!! 🙂
It was nice to see Mary having a new baby calf as a present on Christmas Day when James is finishing things off with the delivery that early morning. Frank, his wife Angela and his daughter Mary wish James a ‘Merry Christmas’ on that occasion, which felt pretty fitting and reassuring for this Special. 🙂
By the way, beforehand, Frank Gillard had received a poison letter concerning his pigeons in connecting to the foot and mouth disease. It was assumed Mr. Biggins sent the poison letter, to which he denies of course. But James works it all out until he realises who the poison letter writer is.
It happens to be Jack Watson as Issac Cranford. Now I might be wrong on this, but I believe Cranford has been in ‘All Creatures’ before. He was in the Series 1 episode ‘Nothing Like Experience’. I only realised this doing research on the episode and recognised Jack Watson being in the TV show before.
In fact, Jack Watson’s done three episodes of ‘All Creatures’. First he did ‘Nothing Like Experience’ in Series 1 as Cranford; then he did ‘One of Nature’s Little Miracles’ in Series 4 as Hilary Mottram and then he did this Christmas Special as Issac Cranford. He wasn’t Cranford in all these three episodes.
How come he didn’t play Cranford in all three episodes? Also, I wonder if people were going to remember the Cranford character that appeared in the Series 1 episode. Is this a different Cranford though? Didn’t Cranford sever connections with them Skeldale vets since they last did business here?
James outright puts Cranford on the spot when he visits him for doing a wicked deed and write a poison letter to Frank Gillard over his pigeons. Not sure why Cranford did it though. Cranford’s not a very nice man in the series. I will have to recheck the TV Special to understand what the reason was.
Meanwhile, with Tristan, he’s bought himself a fancy Daimler coupe – that’s like a big green expensive and snazzy car. It looks really good. However, Tristan can’t quite pay back the money he borrowed from Siegfried. He also has a lot of debts to pay to other people who want money off him.
Siegfried gives Tristan until Christmas Day in order to settle up or else he’ll take possession of the car. Siegfried and James are quite mean to Tristan in this Christmas Special, especially when they force him to attend to Mr. Mulligan and his new dog Clancy. Something Tristan’s not too happy with.
By the way, the person that sells the Daimler to Tristan in the episode. It happens to be Hugh Walters as Mr. Leslie Pendlebury. I’ve seen him as Vogel in the ‘Doctor Who’ story ‘Revelation of the Daleks’ as well as Runcible in ‘The Deadly Assassin’. He was in an episode of ‘The Brittas Empire’ too.
The episode also features Dee Sadler as Linda Marston, the new schoolteacher in Darrowby. I’ve met Dee Sadler in real-life. She was also in the ‘Doctor Who’ story called ‘The Greatest Show In The Galaxy’ with Sylvester McCoy. In that, she played Flowerchild. Linda Marston is a different role here.
Once again, Tristan finds himself falling in love again when he meets Miss Marston. He joins the bell ringers group again, although he’s only joining because she’s in the group. 😀 Mrs. Biggins, who’s also a bell ringers member apparently, ridicules Tristan’s joining the group because of Miss Marston.
It was fun to see Tristan trying to impress Linda Marston in the Special. There were times when I thought Dee Sadler as Miss Marston reminded me of Barbara Flynn. I think that might have something to do with the hairstyle Dee Sadler had and the manner she adopted in the TV Special. 😀
The ways Tristan tries to impress Linda Marston include him trying to take her out to lunch in his Daimler car. Unfortunately, Linda Marston is more anxious about getting to a bell ringers group meeting as well as fixing a church bell. Tristan running out of petrol with his Daimler car did not help.
There was an intimate scene where Tristan and Linda were together in the church bell together and after they fall over each other I believe. Sadly that got interrupted when Aubrey Phillips as the Vicar entered. Aubrey Phillips’ vicar does tend to pop up in Tristan’s life in the two scenes he’s for this. 🙂
It was very funny in the episode when Tristan, who come back into the bell ringers group after an absence and a lack of experience ringing bells, finds himself propelled up when one of the bell cords breaks. It was just unexpected and so funny! How embarrassing for that to happen to Tristan in this.
Sadly, Tristan’s relationship with Linda doesn’t go all too well according to plan. Before Christmas I believe, Tristan receives a visit from Linda who tells him she’s got engaged to be married to someone else. Tristan’s quite disheartened, but like a man, he wishes Linda all the best in the world.
It’s a shame Tristan didn’t hook up with Linda at the end of the episode. I hoped that would be the case, especially as we’ve come to the end of ‘All Creatures’. Tristan hasn’t had a chance to be happy with someone in a long-term relationship compared to James who got married Helen in the series. 😦
Mind you, Tristan does give Linda a whopping kiss after she told him she got engaged to someone when he shares his triumph to the bell ringers on Christmas Day. I think this had something to do with Tristan fixing something with the bells I believe and having put on a bet with Mr. Biggins I think.
In another subplot for the episode, James and Siegfried have to deal with the feuding Bradley brothers. Wait a minute! Bradley brothers! I don’t think they’re related to me! 😀 The brothers include David Ellison as Jonathan Bradley and Sidney Livingstone as David Bradley! David Bradley?!!!
Not the David Bradley who later played William Hartnell in ‘An Adventure In Space and Time’ and the First Doctor in ‘Doctor Who’?! 😀 Nah, I’m kidding of course. But yeah, the Bradley brothers don’t get on well with each other in the Christmas Special. Thus the title ‘Brotherly Love’! Obviously!
The title can also refer to the ‘brotherly love’ between Siegfried and Tristan, can’t it? 😀 I don’t believe the Bradley brothers have been in the ‘All Creatures’ series before. Yet James and Siegfried know them pretty well. Perhaps these two were set up as future characters to features in a Series 8.
The Bradley brothers have their mother who happens to be Meg Jenkins as Mrs. Bradley. They’ve been fighting each other on their own farm territory since the death of their father some years before. They cause trouble when fighting not just on their farmland but also in public in pubs as well.
James and Tristan try to stop the fighting between the Bradley brothers, although Trist wants to raise bets whilst they’re fighting to pay money back to someone who’s his debtor. 😀 The episode also features Steve Halliwell as P.C. Goole, who has been in the ‘All Creatures’ TV series beforehand.
Who could forget P.C. Goole? He had to come back for the final ‘All Creatures’ episode; didn’t he? 😀 P.C. Goole puts the Bradley brothers in the nick as he accuses them for breaking the peace. James also takes them back to their home and tells them to get out as they’re about to start fighting again.
Very soon, James and Siegfried are summoned to provide character witnesses for the two Bradley brothers in court. The judge happens to be Roger Brierley as Major Wakeman. My parents recognised Roger Brierley since he was Sir Roderick Glossop in the first two seasosn of ‘Jeeves & Wooster’.
He was also Drathro in ‘The Mysterious Planet’ segment of ‘The Trial of a Time Lord’ with Colin Baker. 😀 He also did a ‘Mr. Bean’ episode with Rowan Atkinson. It was great to see him in this ‘All Creatures’ Christmas Special and to be a judge who asks for character witnesses from James and Siegfried.
Major Wakeman eventually meets James and Siegfried in the pub over a hearty drink after business in court. The Bradley brothers are still arguing with each other once they enter into the pub. Wakeman, Siegfried and James are very angry and disappointed about the Bradley brothers arguing.
Thankfully, this all turns out alright in the end. The Bradley brothers soon agree to resolve their differences once Siegfried and James each in turn come to visit their farm to inspect their animals. It seems the Bradley brothers have taken the words of Siegfried, James and Wakeman to heart in this.
There’s also the Bradley brothers who agree to give one of their cows to Frank Gillard and help him with his problems of his farm recently affected by foot and mouth disease. It’s nice the Bradley brothers reconcile their differences by the end of the Christmas Special and the mother’s happy too.
There is a bizarre scene in the episode where James and Siegfried return home drunk after being in court with Major Wakeman, I believe. Helen and Mrs. Alton aren’t too happy about this and neither is Tristan who had a rotten day impressing Linda Marston. This is after his Daimler car ran out of petrol.
The Special also features Frank Windsor as the voice of wireless announcer. I’ve seen Frank Windsor in two ‘Doctor Who’ stories including ‘The King’s Demons’ and ‘Ghost Light’. Whether this is an archive recording of Frank Windsor or him as the wireless announcer for this episode, I do not know.
The episode concludes with many people attending a church service on Christmas Day. Tristan pays back money to Siegfried rather happily, but is disgruntled when he pays off all his debts back to James. James, Siegfried and Helen seem happy whilst Tristan isn’t. Poor Tristan. It had to end like this.
Just like with the recreated opening from Michael Brayshaw’s episodes, we have a similar end credits sequence for the Christmas Special. This is with James, Siegfried and Tristan driving in cars and when Siegfried drives Tristan’s Daimler into the river with a splash. Seems a pointless recreation.
‘Brotherly Love’ isn’t the greatest ‘All Creatures’ Christmas Special I’ve seen. I would rate the Series 2 Christmas Special more highly as well as for the 1983 and 1985 Christmas Specials. But ‘Brotherly Love’ is a decent Christmas Special and it was a good way to end the ‘All Creatures’ TV series altogether.
I can’t help repeat how flawed I found the reboot era of ‘All Creatures’ with the casting of Lynda Bellingham as Helen when it should’ve been Carol Drinkwater. I also think the storytelling and character drama could’ve been handled better, especially with the Herriots’ kids and Siegfried’s family.
It’s also a shame Tristan didn’t hook up with anyone permanent and perhaps get married like James and Helen did. But like I said, despite the issues, the reboot era does retain to what the spirit of ‘All Creatures’ has been about, especially in delivering decent character drama with comedy thrown in. 🙂
I prefer and enjoyed the original run of ‘All Creatures’ most of all from Series 1 to 3 and its following 1983 and 1985 Christmas Specials. But on the whole, ‘All Creatures Great and Small’ has been a fantastic drama TV series and one I cherish watching, even as I watched it from Series 4 to 7 here. 😀
The thing that makes ‘All Creatures’ work well as a series is of course Christopher Timothy as James, Robert Hardy as Siegfried and Peter Davison as Tristan. They have been a constant throughout and made the series worthwhile. If I ever watch ‘All Creatures’ again, it’s something to look forward to. 🙂
I’ve enjoyed watching and reviewing ‘All Creatures Great and Small’ on my blog. It’s been a long ride, but it’s been worth it in the end. I hope you’ve enjoyed my reviews on the original ‘All Creatures’ series. Who knows? Maybe it will be good again when it comes to checking out the 2020 remake soon.
‘Brotherly Love’ rating – 8/10
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