‘Horse Sense’ (TV)


Please feel free to comment on my review.

‘All Creatures Great and Small’ was a BBC drama series I first saw on DVD in 2003. It was after my parents and I got into ‘Keeping Up Appearances’ as well as me getting into ‘The Lord of the Rings’. 🙂

I hold this drama series that started in 1978 in high regard, since it had a significant impact on my life. But I’ll get into that more when I go through each episode of this TV series to share my thoughts.

The series is about animals and vets and was created and produced by Bill Sellars, based on the books by ‘James Herriot’, pseudonym for author James Alfred Wright. It ran for about seven seasons.

It focuses on the character James Herriot who goes to work in the Yorkshire Dales to become a vet with partner Siegfried Farnon. The series began taking place in the 1930s before ending in the 1950s.

Let’s see how the first episode, ‘Horse Sense’, starts. I like how each episode of the first three seasons begin with Siegfried and James in a car and with the theme music playing in the background.

Every time we come to that title sequence, Siegfried and James always seem to be laughing. Err…what is the joke then? Care to share it with us? 😀 The music by Johnny Pearson is pretty good.

Anyway, the episode begins with a bus in the Yorkshire Dales on its way to Darrowby. Inside said bus are two people: Carol Drinkwater as Helen Alderson and Christopher Timothy as Mr. James Herriot.

The two don’t meet each other properly in this episode, although they’ll be seeing more of each other later on in the series. Spoilers! Anyway, James remarks on a horse in a nearby field on the way.

“Magnificent animal!” he says to a neighbouring passenger. “It’s a horse!” says passenger. I just find it very funny that the passenger would be bemused in thinking James had never seen a horse before.

By the way, this episode was adapted from the James Herriot books by Brian Clark. Brian also wrote episodes for ‘Play For Today’ in the 70s. And this seems to be his only writing credit in ‘All Creatures’.

The episode was also directed by Terence Dudley. Wow! Terence Dudley directed the first episode of ‘All Creatures’! Dudley later wrote three ‘Doctor Who’ stories as well as directing another one in the 1980s.

In fact, I’ve noticed a lot of people who worked on ‘All Creatures’ went to do ‘Doctor Who’. There was the production assistant Peter Grimwade and the production unit manager John Nathan-Turner.

Back in the episode, James arrives in Darrowby. He asks directions from the very attractive lady, Helen Alderson, on where Skeldale House is. He’s shown the way and it’s not the last he’ll see of her.

James arrives at Skeldale House and meets Mary Hignett as Mrs. Hall at the door. He is expected since Mr. Farnon had told him to come at around teatime for the appointment of new vet assistant.

Mrs. Hall however wasn’t informed of Mr. Herriot’s arrival. (confused) So, Siegfried didn’t tell Mrs. Hall that they were expecting company that day? Goodness me, Siegfried must be pretty forgetful.

Anyway, James is allowed in and waits for Mr. Farnon to return since he’s gone to see his mother. At least, that’s what Mrs. Hall said. James is given a cup of tea and he receives two visitors to the vet’s.

The first is cheerful Paul Luty as Mr. Sharpe who wants a cow ‘boring out’ since she’s not running on all four cylinders. The second is gloomy John Sharp as Mr. Biggins who wants a diagnosis on his cow.

From watching this episode in particular, I get the impression there’s a strange sort of variety of farmers in the Yorkshire Dales. Some are friendly like Mr. Sharpe and some are grumpy like Biggins.

Anyway, Robert Hardy as Mr. Farnon returns. He shows James around the surgery before they go out to sort some cases. The first meeting between Mr. Farnon and James seems very pleasant here.

Although Siegfried Farnon is clearly observing James and making sure that he’s the good material he makes out to be. This is due to the fact James has had little experience of being out in the farmlands.

Yeah that’s another point. James clearly comes from a city-dwelling background and studied to become a vet in Glasgow. It seems uncertain at first whether his studying and background will pay off.

Thankfully it does, as the cases Siegfried and James deal with go down very well. James sorts out a lame horse with skill and gets Mr. Sharpe’s cow going on all four cylinders again with a ‘handshake’.

Yeah that was funny when Mr. Sharpe’s cow kicked at James when he was sorting out the blocked cylinders. Sharpe laughed about it as well, saying that his cow likes to give somebody a ‘handshake’.

After that, Siegfried and James retire to the local pub. Siegfried offers James the job as his new assistant. James accepts. Well of course he would, otherwise the rest of the series wouldn’t happen.

The episode does go on for a bit with some more cases for James to tackle the next day. The first starts early in the morning when James helps a little girl’s tortoise. The little girl doesn’t say much. 😀

Later, Siegfried and James go driving in the countryside to tackle some cases and a montage occurs. The montage includes…oh goodness! – Somebody’s arm up a cow. I suppose that had to happen. 😀

After that, Siegfried decides to go and see his ‘mother’ again and leaves James in charge for the afternoon. James deals with two cases whilst Siegfried’s out. One of them is good; the other is bad.

The first case is when James helps to sort out Johnny Allan as Farmer Calvert’s sick cow. The cow happens to have sunstroke. I loved it when James figures out the answer and gets the hose of water.

The second case however is when James is called out to help treat one of the best horses of Lord Hulton’s farm. He meets the farm manager, George Selway as Mr. Soames, who is not a happy man.

Despite James’ attempts to save the sick horse, Soames is impatient. Eventually James’ diagnosis leads him to decide to shoot the animal and put him out of his misery. Soames is not happy about it.

The episode ends on a cliff-hanger where James sees to it that a post-mortem will be carried out by Mr. Farnon. Soames threatens to sue Mr. Herriot if it turned out the decision he made was incorrect.

All in all, ‘Horse Sense’ is a great beginning to ‘All Creatures Great and Small’. I must have enjoyed watching this series, as I continued to watch more episodes with my parents back around early 2003.

‘Horse Sense’ rating – 9/10

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4 thoughts on “‘Horse Sense’ (TV)

  1. darrowby85

    Great review, Tim! I liked how you brought out the detail about some of the secondary characters (which is something I’m afraid I haven’t gone into much) and into other things that the writers, directors and other production staff have worked on – you’ve done much more research than I have into this area (the only thing I know about ‘Play for Today’ is the Cure song of the same name 😀 ). The parallels with Doctor Who are interesting – there’s certainly quite a lot of overlap wtih the Davison-era Doctor Who, isn’t there? (And perhaps the latter part of the Tom Baker era, but I’m not as familiar with that yet) It’s quite surprising, because I wouldn’t think a vet series would have much to do with science fiction, but I suppose the people at the BBC had to wear multiple hats, so to speak!
    Best wishes,

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Tim Bradley Post author

      Hi Vicky.

      Very pleased you enjoyed my review on ‘Horse Sense’.

      I knew nothing about ‘Doctor Who’ when I first watched ‘All Creatures’ back in 2003 as I wasn’t into it as I am now. It’s only after seeing ‘Doctor Who’ and noticing the connections between cast members, writers and production staff in ‘All Creatures’ that I’ve been able to pick these points up. I know how obsessive I can be about ‘Doctor Who’ facts that it’s easy for me to recognise certain names like Peter Grimwade, John Nathan-Turner and Terrence Dudley who’ve worked in ‘Doctor Who’ later on after ‘All Creatures’. It’s ironic how cast and crew of ‘All Creatures’ got into ‘Doctor Who’ afterwards, especially JNT and Peter Davison.

      Interesting you find I’ve done my research for this ‘All Creatures’ episode more than you. I’m inclined to disagree since I find you’re a better ‘All Creatures’ expert than I am. I’ve not read the James Herriot books nor do I know anything about vets and their practices. I’m judging these ‘All Creatures’ episodes on their own merits and I do my best in whatever research I can to find background information including behind-the-scenes stuff. I sometimes refer to your reviews to help me with writing mine.

      Thanks for your comments, Vicky. Glad you enjoyed the review.

      Tim. 🙂


      1. darrowby85

        I have read the James Herriot books but it was a very long time ago. I had a Herriot omnibus that I had at some point, but I lent it to my grandpa then I think that after he died, we gave it away along with most of the rest of the contents of his house, although I can’t really remember. There was a long period when I wasn’t really interested in revisiting the Herriot books because I had moved on to other things. I also don’t know anything about veterinary practices except what I have found out on the Internet. I did have a friend at university who read Vet Science but she didn’t really talk about it all that much, and when she did, it seemed to involve spending a lot of time in the Botanical Gardens observing robins rather than sticking her arm up cows! 😀 I think the robin thing might have been her third-year dissertation, though. Unfortunately we lost touch after we graduated so I’m not sure what she’s up to now and don’t have any kind of insider perspective on the life of modern vets. (The Yorkshire Vet and the veterinary bits of Countryfile make quite an interesting comparison with All Creatures, though. The farms are much cleaner and more hygienic-looking these days!)

        So I’m also basically taking the episodes on their own merits, and what I find most compelling about them is the human drama, the excellent acting and directing and the historical setting, I think.

        It is quite interesting how the BBC expected the same people to work on series that are as different as All Creatures and Doctor Who, particularly since All Creatures involved adapting existing material and Doctor Who required original material – I would have thought that different skills would be involved, although some people (e.g. Andrew Davies) are obviously very good at both. I seem to remember Peter Davison saying in an interview or something that some of the people writing scripts for Doctor Who didn’t seem to have much of a feel for sci-fi at all. Perhaps ‘Black Orchid’ – which was one of Dudley’s, wasn’t it? – is the ultimate example of ‘non-sci-fi’ Doctor Who from the Fifth Doctor era, and the plot is certainly not typical sci-fi, but I do enjoy it – it’s very pretty with all the costumes and 1920s period detail and I just found it so much fun that they had the Doctor playing cricket 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Tim Bradley Post author

        I love ‘Black Orchid’. That’s my favourite ‘Doctor Who’ story! I’ve reviewed it on my blog already. Glad you like this one too. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on it. Tim. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

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