‘Matters of Life and Death’ (TV)



Please feel free to comment on my review.

I re-watched this episode before seeing the third and final episode of ‘Great British Car Journeys’ with Christopher Timothy and Peter Davison. I’m glad I had three weeks doing that in February 2019.

Helen does return to the series in this episode, thank goodness. This ‘All Creatures’ episode is a pretty good one featuring a triumph for James as well as a well-handled, bittersweet and sad ending.

This episode was adapted by Anthony Steven from the ‘James Herriot’ books. This is the only time Anthony Steven contributed to Series 3 of ‘All Creatures’. Previously, he penned ‘Merry Gentlemen’.

The episode was also directed by Michael Hayes in Series 3 of ‘All Creatures’. This is his fourth and final contribution of ‘All Creatures’. A shame he only did four episodes as he’s a really good director.

The episode begins in the Drovers pub where James meets up with a friend who turns out to be…Nicholas Courtney as Paul Cotterell. Wow! Nicholas Courtney was in this ‘All Creatures’ episode!

Nicholas Courtney is well-known for playing the Brigadier in ‘Doctor Who’. It was lovely to see him in this episode and he hasn’t shaken off that Brigadier gentlemanly manner that he’s so accredited for.

I’m sad he wasn’t in the episode very much as he only did a few scenes with his character. Paul Cotterell has a dog named Theo who he loves adoringly. Paul and James share a drink at the Drovers.

When James checks on Theo, it turns out the dog has been losing weight. James recommends giving Paul some tablets for Theo. This doesn’t go according to plan. We’ll talk about later on in the review.

Anyway, James also gets to meet Frederick Treves as Lord Hulton. I had a hard time trying to work out who the actor was when I watched the episode. I knew I had seen him in something else before.

After looking on his IMDb page, I was amazed to discover that Frederick Treves was in an episode of ‘Jeeves & Wooster’, ‘Monarch of the Glen’ and ‘Mr. Bean’. Wow! I was so amazed I discovered this!

I wouldn’t have recognised Frederick Treves had I looked up on his IMDb page beforehand when watching this episode. He seems so young and very different compared to his later TV appearances.

Lord Hulton is a very hard-working farmer owner, despite his aristocratic background. He comes across as very amiable, friendly and having a love for animals. He gets on well with James in this episode.

It was funny when seeing cows charging through a makeshift barrier for James to examine them and there is cowboy music in the background when they do break through. It was eerily funny to watch.

Hulton also takes a liking to a horse that wanders onto his property from a nearby military depot. James examines the horse. But the dear horse is not okay. James asks Lord Hulton to look after him.

As James drives out of Lord Hulton’s estate, an soldier on horseback, Steve Hodson as Trooper Raven, comes back to enquire about the missing horse. I liked the scene between James and Raven.

Trooper Raven explains what happened to James as apparently the horse, No. 90 as it’s called; was ridden by a temperamental army officer named Mr. Digby. An incident occurred as the horse ran off.

Digby ended up in hospital as a result of the incident. James is delighted to hear when Raven tells him. I know James was angry about the horse being badly injured, but there’s no need to go that far.

Trooper Raven is clearly concerned about the horse No. 90 and there’s a scene of understanding between him and James. I like how the scene plays out between the vet and a soldier on horseback.

As the episode progresses; Siegfried attends to the horse off-screen and it gets better. We also don’t have an appearance of the officer Digby in the episode, which would have been interesting if he did.

Later on, Lord Hulton seeks to purchase the horse from the military to which he eventually does. It’s interesting how that gets handled happily off-screen since Trooper Raven rides on No. 90 at the end.

Another subplot with Hulton is when he calls for James to help sort out one of his best sows at the farm. James agrees to come out, just as he and Helen were having a nice evening together at home.

As James attends to the sow with Hulton by his side, it seems like there’s no chance for the sow to recover. Thankfully, James keeps going as he keeps trying to take something out of the sow’s behind.

Eventually, James saves the sow and Lord Hulton is delighted and pleased. Lord Hulton gives James morning breakfast out in the open, as a reward for his triumph which is a pretty good thing indeed. 🙂

Going back to when James and Helen were having an evening together at home, it seems Siegfried and Tristan were invited out for a special do somewhere. It was something military-related I believe.

Just when Siegfried and Tristan were about to go out; Siegfried becomes dismayed when he learns what Mrs. Hall is going to James and Helen for their evening meal. Steak and kidney pudding! Gasp!

This is also with a special wine to go with the steak and kidney pudding. Siegfried is dismayed as apparently Mrs. Hall’s steak and kidney puddings are a rarest delicacy to have as an evening meal. 😀

And now Siegfried and Tristan have to go out and forego it whilst James and Helen have it. You clearly see how disappointed Siegfried is. He would rather have steak and kidney pudding instead.

It was nice to see James and Helen having a laugh about it afterwards once they’ve had their evening meal together. It was nice to see James and Helen together in the living room before an interruption.

Also Siegfried gets rather nit-picky about Tristan’s choice of bow-tie when he’s in evening dress. Siegfried throws Tristan’s already made-up bow tie away onto the fire, considering it to be very lazy.

Tristan’s dismayed and annoyed when Siegfried throws his made-up bow tie away onto the fire before he’s given a proper one to put on himself. I’m with Trist. Made-up bow ties are much better.

Siegfried’s not too pleased with Tristan’s efforts when he sees him with the new bow-tie on. Even the instructions didn’t help as Tristan’s got it all wrong in Siegfried’s eyes. I’m sure I’d find it difficult.

It was amusing when Siegfried actually has to put on Tristan’s bow-tie before they went out for their evening function. I hope Tristan can get another made-up bow-tie without Siegfried even looking. 😀

However, when Siegfried and Tristan return home from their evening do, Siegfried is annoyed and Tristan is covered in greasy feathers and white wash. Wow! Tristan had a pretty disastrous evening!

It does get explained what happened in the morning next day when Siegfried; Helen and Tristan are having breakfast. Helen expresses sympathy towards Tristan whilst Siegfried is very indignant over it.

James also gets asked by Siegfried to see a Mr. Pilling about some calves wasting away. Well, actually, it was Mr. Billings that Siegfried wanted James to see. Not Pilling. Siegfried inconsistency again!

When James sees Mr. Pilling and the confusion is there, Pilling is rather belligerent towards James. It does not help when James enquires about his sick dog and Mr. Pilling’s accusing him for profiteering.

Malcolm Terris guest stars as Mr. Seth Pilling in the episode. Ah, so that’s where I’ve seen him. Malcolm Terris was in two ‘Doctor Who’ tales including ‘The Dominators’ and ‘The Horns of Nimon’.

There’s another scene with Seth Pilling at the Drovers where he complains about James enquiring about his dog. Tristan overhears Pilling criticising James’ efforts as a vet and tells James about it later.

Later on, when James is expecting to see Paul Cotterell and his dog Theo (we’ll get back to that in a bit), he receives a visit from Anna Raitt as Mrs. Pilling, Seth Pilling’s wife. She’s brought the dog along.

Mrs. Pilling asks James to examine the dog. It turns out to be more serious than Seth Pilling claims. Mrs. Pilling is pretty angry her husband didn’t realise that the dog was seriously ill once examined.

She considers her husband to the point of being an idiot. I wonder if Seth Pilling is related to Sardor the Co-Pilot from ‘The Horns of Nimon’. 😀 Mrs. Pilling of course ‘thinks the world’ of her dog in this.

Anyway, back to when James visits Mr. Billings farm to see the young calves, it seems they may have ingested an irritant of some kind. But both he and Siegfried who helps struggle to find out what it is.

Incidentally, Barry Jackson plays Mr. Ken Billings in the episode. Barry Jackson was also in three ‘Doctor Who’ tales including ‘The Romans’, ‘Mission to the Unknown’ and ‘The Armageddon Factor’.

Once again, I didn’t realise it was Barry Jackson until the very end. He seemed so different playing Mr. Billings compared to how I’ve seen him in ‘Doctor Who’. He didn’t have a cockney accent in this.

James and Siegfried solve Billings’ problem. They discover that it was a disinfectant that became a poison to the young calves, making bits of their skin fall into their milk to infect it. Billings isn’t to blame here.

Like I said, the episode ends on a bittersweet sad ending. When James sees to Paul Cotterell’s dog again the episode’s second half, it turns out Theo’s been diagnosed with Hodgkin’s disease – some cancer.

This is something that shocks Paul as James recommends that Theo be put down to prevent any more misery. Paul agrees. The way Nick Courtney says “Goodbye, old chap” was so moving to watch.

But as we come to the end of the episode, James learns from Helen that Paul died after being heartbroken from losing his dog Theo. Apparently, Paul died having an overdose of sleeping tablets.

James is shocked to learn from Helen that Paul had black depressive moods and that Theo was all he had. James didn’t know this and Helen tells him not to blame himself for the death of Paul Cotterell.

It was so sad to see the episode end on such a sad note. I hoped Nick Courtney would make another appearance in ‘All Creatures’. Sadly he doesn’t. The last shot of a car driving in the country was moving.

‘Matters of Life and Death’ is a very good episode in ‘All Creatures’! It was nice to see Nicholas Courtney make an appearance in the episode, though it was sad how it all ended with his character.

‘Matters of Life and Death’ rating – 8/10

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