Please feel free to comment on my review.
The previous episode was underwhelming for me due to a lack of focus. Here however, this episode does have a focus and features two special guest stars with their credits in the episode’s opening titles.
At the time of this review, I saw Series 2, Episode 2 of ‘Great British Car Journeys’ on Channel 4 with Christopher Timothy and Peter Davison. My parents and I are looking forward to when Tristan returns.
There was even a mention of Tristan in the episode when James and Siegfried are in a pub and they toast to him. I’m so pleased Tristan is not forgotten, despite him appearing in one episode of Series 6.
‘Mending Fences’, based on the ‘James Herriot’ books, is by Christopher Penfold. Apparently, Chris Penfold was the script editor for Series 4 of the ‘All Creatures’ series. I didn’t realise this fact until now.
This is Chris Penfold’s first contribution as a writer to the series. He would write two more episodes after this, including the last one which is the 1990 Christmas Special. He seems a good writer so far. 🙂
Apparently, Chris Penfold wrote episodes of ‘Space: 1999’. That’s interesting to know. I’m surprised he didn’t write a ‘Doctor Who’ TV story. Maybe he contributed story ideas that didn’t come to fruition.
‘Mending Fence’ is also the last episode to be directed by Michael Brayshaw for Series 6’s second production block. He would direct five more episodes in Series 7, including the 1990 Christmas Special.
I hope those future episodes won’t have the opening titles and end credits used for Series 6’s second production block. I’ve looked ahead and the opening credits and the end credits change for the better.
Anyway, let’s talk about the episode. It features special guest stars Dorothy Tutin as Jenny Garston and Frank Windsor as David Rayner. They have been constantly bickering with each other over horses.
Dorothy Tutin’s a well-known English actress of stage, film and television. She won two Olivier Awards and has won two Evening Standard Awards for Best Actress. I haven’t seen Dorothy Tutin before this.
Frank Windsor is a well-known British actor mainly for television, including ‘Z-Cars’ and ‘Softly, Softly’. I’ve seen Frank Windsor in two ‘Doctor Who’ TV tales, including ‘The King’s Demons’ and ‘Ghost Light’.
In the episode, Siegfried gets annoyed with Jenny Garston and David Rayner arguing with each other whilst riding on horseback. This is especially at the episode’s start when he meets the two on horseback.
Jenny and David want Siegfried to choose a side on whose mare is better. Siegfried however refuses to take part in the confrontation as he wisely rides away. Jenny and David then compete riding in a race.
Siegfried shares his frustration about Jenny and David’s rivalry to James. James equally has problems trying to be neutral on the matter when he goes out to see Jenny and her mare who’s expecting a foul.
After the race he has with Jenny, David accidentally injured his horse which needs to be stitched up. Siegfried comes over to attend to the stitch-up job as David profusely apologises for bringing him out.
Siegfried refuses to accept David’s apology until he makes up with Jenny. He suggests to David offer Jenny some flowers. David does the gesture, but Jenny is still bitter once he has visited her at her farm.
This seems to be a long and bitter feud between Jenny Garston and David Rayner. And all over horses. I’m reminded me of a situation in a sitcom where two fathers refused to let two lovers see each other.
In fact, a similar situation occurs here where David’s nephew Howard Ward as Geoffrey Rayner is married to Jenny’s daughter, Amanda Waring as Elizabeth. Elizabeth is heavily pregnant in the episode.
There’s also an interesting parallel where David and Jenny both have mares in foal. They compete with each other, saying they know more about horses than the other. There must be something more here.
I mean it’s not clearly established that they were once lovers as they seem to be neighbours. But it must be difficult for married couple Geoffrey and Amanda to have David and Jenny not like each other.
Diverting a bit from the main plot, there’s a subplot where Siegfried and James have a quiet pint of ale during off hours. They get on so well with Charles Pemberton as Reg, the owner of the Black Horse.
Wait! Is the Black Horse the new place for our ‘All Creatures’ characters to meet up for a drink? What happened to the Drovers? Surely it’d be sensible for James and Siegfried to have a drink in the Drovers.
This was the place where Siegfried and James as well as made a toast to Tristan. They also receive a visit from Steve Halliwell as P.C. Gould, who comes to see what’s occurring inside the Black Horse pub.
P.C. Gould has been in ‘All Creatures’ before. He was in the 1983 Christmas Special where he came into the Drovers and got drunk afterwards. He clearly wants to have a pint in the Black Horse off-duty.
James and Siegfried aren’t supposed to be in the Black Lion after closing time. Which makes me wonder why they didn’t go into the Black Lion during opening hours. Perhaps they worked pretty late.
Actually, that is bound to be the case with working for David and Jenny respectively. And perhaps Reg permitted James and Siegfried to have a drink in the Black Horse after closing hours due to liking them.
This is in spite of the fact that this is the first time we’ve seen Reg in the series and we don’t know much about him. In fact, we don’t have a stable owner for a pub in the ‘All Creatures’ TV series so far.
It was funny when James and Siegfried tried to convince P.C. Gould that they came over to Reg’s pub so that they can sort out some rats. Whether P.C. Gould believed this or not is a matter of opinion. 😀
In any case, Gould allows for a celebratory drink to happen after James and Siegfried sorted out the ‘rats’ so long as he can have a pint too. Hmm. Gould is very unusual as this policeman to drink alcohol.
On another night where Reg is about to close up the Black Horse after sending everyone out, he’s stopped from closing the door as Gould comes in. He seems suspicious despite Reg closing up the pub.
Clearly Gould wanted everyone out so that he can have a pint. Reg makes out he’s not sure that’s a good idea before relenting to Gould’s request. It’s so amusing how this scenario turned out to be here.
Back to the main plot, things become serious when Elizabeth Rayner is about to have her baby. She gets help from Marlene Sidaway as Nurse Brown who seems to know Geoffrey and Elizabeth very well.
Helen even pays a visit to Nurse Brown with her husband David Hargreaves as Cliff Brown at their house. I wasn’t sure who these two were seeing them for this first time. In this review, I know now. 🙂
Elizabeth gets help from her husband Geoffrey as well as from David who looks after her in getting into the car. I like how Elizabeth treats David well unlike Jenny who does treat him like dirt in this tale.
Geoffrey does get Elizabeth to the hospital to be treated by Nurse Brown. But Geoffrey goes back to help his uncle with a mare of his who’s about to give birth. This is all despite people telling him to rest.
Three labour events happen at the same time. There’s Siegfried helping Jenny with the birth of a foal from her mare; James assisting David with the birth of a foal from his mare; and Elizabeth giving birth.
With Jenny’s mare giving birth, there’s a tragedy involved. Sadly, the mare dies giving birth to the foal. Jenny is pretty upset by this as it was very clear she became emotionally attached to her mare in her barn.
With David’s mare giving birth (and a white one at that), a similar tragedy ensues but in reverse. The foal dies once the mare gives birth. This was pretty sad indeed and an intriguing parallel in the episode.
Thankfully, Elizabeth gives birth to a baby boy which is good news all around. Geoffrey receives the news via phone call before he tells his uncle David that ‘it’s a boy’. David is just as happy as Geoffrey is.
Eventually, the next day, the family see Elizabeth with the baby. Jenny gets to hold the baby as well as David when he comes to see Elizabeth. Jenny is very begrudging to give the baby to David at one point.
But Elizabeth insists to her mum and David that they share the baby with each other. Of course, they both agree if rather reluctantly. Will these two ever reconcile their differences after this happy event?
Well, Siegfried and James see an opportunity as David has a living mare but a dead foal and Jenny has a death mare but a living foal. They suggest David’s mare adopts Jenny’s foal. It does seem pretty ideal.
Jenny was banking on looking after the foal herself and be its mother. But Siegfried points out that she’ll be physically and mentally exhausted should she take the burden of looking after the foal herself.
Siegfried gets Jenny and David together to negotiate for the young living foal to be adopted by the living mare. It did feel tense when Siegfried was putting the offer to them and they seem reluctant to agree.
Thankfully it works out fine in the end as they take Jenny’s foal to be with David’s mare. But there’s something in the process of connecting living mare and living foal together that did disturb me greatly.
What happens is that Siegfried cuts off the dead foal’s ears as well as its skin in order to convince the living mare that the living foal is her offspring before taking it off eventually. That just…feels so wrong.
Okay, I get that it’s meant to have David’s living mare accept Jenny’s living foal gradually since it wouldn’t be a normal adoption in horse terms compared to human. But it was not altogether pleasant.
I would’ve liked the living foal to be accepted by the living mare without the dead foal’s ears and skin. But it all seems to work out well. The living foals feeds off from the living mare’s milk by its…whatever. 😮
Incidentally, James gets pretty tired in the episode when having to work at David’s farm to attend to his mare giving birth to a foal. He has to have breakfast early morning before sleep till Siegfried enters.
There’s a celebration at the end of the episode in the Black Horse to celebrate the birth of Elizabeth’s baby and the pairing of the living mare and the living foal. Thankfully, P. C. Gould doesn’t enter to spoil things.
There’s an additional scene during the episode’s end credits with music playing over it regarding Elizabeth’s baby. Overall, ‘Mending Fences’ has been an enjoyable episode with a focused plot throughout it.
‘Mending Fences’ rating – 8/10
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