‘FAIR MEANS AND FOWL’
Please feel free to comment on my review.
I recall this ‘All Creatures’ episode vividly, especially when James goes to spend some time with another vet in the country. This is when Siegfried, Tristan and Helen have their troubles back at home.
This episode is adapted by Anthony Steven from the ‘James Herriot’ books. I get the impression that Anthony Steven can handle his scripts better in period drama TV productions rather than in sci-fi ones.
The episode’s director is Robert Tronson. This is the first time I’ve come across this director in any drama production. Robert Tronson would go on to direct more episodes in the ‘All Creatures’ TV series.
‘Fair Means and Fowls’ begins with a bang! No really, it does. It starts off with Tristan treating the bloated cow of William Moore as Albert Skerry. It seems the cow has an excess of stomach gas in her.
Tristan hopes to treat the cow by releasing some of the stomach gas from her. This doesn’t work out as hoped. This is such a shame as I was very impressed by Tristan’s expertise on how to treat the cow.
But it goes wrong when Mr. Skerry strikes a match to light a cigarette, causing an explosion in the barn. Fortunately no-one gets hurt. The cow remains intact and Tristan exits all blackened and singed.
I couldn’t help laugh when James was outside the barn as the explosion occurred and Tristan comes out in that state. It was of course Mr. Skerry’s fault as he should not have struck a match when he did.
The humour of the situation is lost on Siegfried when Tristan and James return from the incident. It isn’t long when Helen returns home and the word’s spread about Tristan and the bloated cow incident.
Siegfried is shocked that the news has spread quickly and is annoyed with his brother for it. But of course, everyone hopes that the aftermath of the incident will blow over and it’ll soon all be forgotten.
Meanwhile, James gets sent by Siegfried to help a nearby vet named Ewan Ross who lives in Scarburn, close to Darrowby. This means that James will have to live in Scarburn away from Helen for a few days.
James gets told about Ewan Ross before he makes the trip to Scarburn from Siegfried and Tristan. Apparently, Ross is one of the best horse vets around, but he is also reputed to be overly fond of drink.
I liked it when James arrives in Scarburn and everybody seems to be looking at him strangely as if they’ve never seen a stranger before. Even three women that watch James turn up by car stare at him.
James naturally is about to ask the three women where Ewan Ross is and they immediately walk away. In the words of Jar Jar Binks from ‘Star Wars’, “How rude!” Eventually James goes off to the local pub.
Inside the pub, James seeks for local information on the whereabouts of Ewan Ross. It’s there that he meets the Skelton brothers, led by Edward Peel as Marmaduke Skelton, who is nicknamed ‘the Duke’.
James has trouble with the Skelton brothers. He asks for the whereabouts of Ewan Ross but they tell him the Duke is the only veterinary in Scarburn. James doesn’t understand until the landlord interupts.
The landlord points James in the right direction and soon James ends up meeting Ewan Ross and his wife at their house. Ewan Ross turns out to be this pretty friendly chap when James meets him at last.
Alex McCrindle guest stars as Ewan Ross with Gwen Cherrell as his wife, Virginia. I really like Alex McCrindle’s performance in the episode. It turns out Ewan Ross happens to be this veterinary genius.
James gets to learn a lot from Ewan Ross whilst helping out on his cases. Ewan uses unusual approaches to treating animals that have successful results. These involve whiskey bottles, plates, etc.
Ewan Ross also has this relaxed attitude to life. As well as being fond of his drink, Ewan also doesn’t rush out to do cases whilst James seems eager. Ewan prefers to have his lunch first before doing a job.
I liked that scene in the pub between Ewan and James where they have a drink after a good day’s work. By the way, James doesn’t get overly drunk as he has been in previous episodes thank goodness.
James asks Ewan why he decided to live in Scarburn, being one of the best horse vets around. Ewan replies that he is content with the life he’s living with his wife and does not seek a lot of success in life.
It also gets revealed why there’s tension between Ewan and the Duke in Scarburn. Apparently the Duke has some veterinary experience but isn’t qualified to be a vet, making him jealous of Ewan Ross.
Ewan seems willing to allow the Duke to treat animals in veterinary circles to lift the load of work from him. But it doesn’t come so easily when the Duke uses more unorthodox approaches than Ewan does.
This is especially the case when Ewan and James go to visit someone to attend to one of their cows. When Ewan and James arrive, the Duke is already there sorting the cow out. But the farmer’s unhappy.
The farmer wants Ewan to take over from the Duke, since the Duke’s been at his cow for an hour and a half. Ewan reluctantly obliges and we see the Duke in his bloodied state (don’t show this to the kids! 😀 ).
The Duke is at first stubborn, refusing to let Ewan get in the way and take over. But when the farmer insists that the Duke stops, the Duke grudgingly obliges but remains to watch, still in his bloodied state.
Thankfully, Ewan manages to sort out the cow that has a calving problem using his unusual approach involving sugar. The method works and the Duke walks off in a huff, still bloodied and needing a wash.
Back at Skeldale House in Darrowby, Siegfried receives a solicitor’s letter requesting compensation from Albert Skerry over the burning of his barn during the bloated cow incident. Siegfried is outraged.
Siegfried blames Tristan for causing this skirmish to happen, even though it was Skerry’s fault for striking the match in the barn in the first place. But hey, maybe Tristan will resolve the huge mess out.
There’s also an attempt by Siegfried to be friendlier and brotherly loving to his brother Tristan in the episode. Tristan doesn’t seem convinced that this approach will work despite Siegfried ‘discussing’ it.
In fact, Siegfried’s inconsistency comes to play especially during the episode. And it’s not just his attempt to be friendly with his brother, but also in raising some guinea fowl at the back of their house.
Yeah! Not learning from the mistake of having pigs during Series 1, Siegfried purchases some guinea fowl (they’re some form of birds) where the Skeldale ‘family’ get to have their eggs to eat and enjoy.
Um, wouldn’t chickens have been better than guinea fowl? It would have caused the same pandemonium in this episode as we’ll see, but still. Mary Hignett as Mrs. Hall isn’t happy about the guinea fowl either.
But like I said, pandemonium ensues when Siegfried gets the guinea fowl. Apparently when Tristan and Helen are feeding the guinea fowl around the back in the afternoon, they forget to close the gate.
Now I’d like to point out it was Helen who forgot to close the gate. Not Tristan. I re-watched the scene to check and Helen was the last to go out after Tristan. So therefore, it’s Helen’s fault. Sorry Helen. 😀
Anyway, the guinea fowl manage to escape and run riot from their cage. Meanwhile, Siegfried sees Eric Dodson (who apparently appeared in the ‘Doctor Who’ story, ‘The Visitation’) as Colonel D’Arcy.
Colonel D’Arcy’s horse has a problem with its leg and Siegfried tells D’Arcy that he’ll come round to attend to it properly tomorrow. When Siegfried returns home, he sees the guinea fowl running riot. 😀
Siegfried chases the guinea fowl to put them back in their cage. By the way, very interesting camera angles from the director Robert Tronson on how the guinea fowls were shot being chased by Siegfried.
Eventually, Siegfried injures himself in the process by climbing up the roof of the guinea fowl’s ‘cage house’ and falling to the ground, spraining his wrist. Helen and Tristan turn up to see what’s occurred.
Helen asks Siegfried if he’s alright. Siegfried tells Helen he’s not alright and starts hurling insults at Tristan. I found it funny Tristan reminds Siegfried of ‘brotherly love’, but Siegfried keeps insulting him.
It’s ironic that Tristan’s not to blame but Helen is for the guinea fowl being run loose. How is it that Tristan gets the blame but not Helen? I suppose Tristan should’ve double-checked the gate was closed.
Anyway, it means that Siegfried can’t do the operation on Colonel D’Arcy’s horse tomorrow due to his sprained wrist. Thankfully Tristan suggests Ewan Ross does the operation as Siegfried phones for him.
Meanwhile, James is about to leave Scarburn to head back to Darrowby. Ewan Ross is out at the local pub and Virginia receives the phone call from Siegfried about coming out to see Colonel D’Arcy’s horse.
Ewan has been out at the pub for a long time and Virginia is clearly worried. James reassures Virginia that he’ll get her husband. Very soon, he goes off to the pub where he finds that Ewan’s heavily drunk.
This is partly the Duke’s fault who’s at the pub getting his own back on Ewan over that cow case from earlier. James firmly tells Ewan that Siegfried requires his help and pretty soon Ewan agrees to depart.
Ewan soon attends to Colonel D’Arcy’s horse and manages to treat it with his own ingenious solutions. D’Arcy is pleased by Ewan Ross’ efforts as he and Siegfried talk on how he’s one of the best horse vets.
Tristan also manages to save the day by managing to outwit Albert Skerry in stopping him suing and asking compensation from the vets of Skeldale House. Tristan also has help from Helen on the matter.
I like how Tristan seems to show his intelligence in outwitting Mr. Skerry. I can even detect elements of the Fifth Doctor through Peter Davison’s performance. He even calls Skerry ‘old chap’ at one point.
‘Fair Means and Fowls’ is an episode I’ve greatly enjoyed from Series 2 of ‘All Creatures’. I like James meeting Ewan Ross in the episode and it’s so worth watching for Tristan getting caught in an explosion.
‘Fair Means and Fowls’ rating – 9/10
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