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This is probably my favourite Christmas Special featured in the ‘All Creatures’ series. It’s not classed as a Christmas Special in Series 2, but I’m calling it that especially since it was shown at Christmas time.
I don’t make it a tradition to watch this ‘All Creatures’ episode every Christmas. But I think it should be watched every Christmas time, since it’s full of festive heart; emotion and drama for our characters.
The episode is adapted by Anthony Steven from the ‘James Herriot’ books. The episode is also directed by Christopher Barry. ‘Merry Gentlemen’ is definitely an episode that brings out the best of our regulars.
The episode begins with James standing with Donald Nithsdale as Mr. Gilling as they watch a gypsy family arriving to reside in a field close by to Gilling’s home. It is a gypsy family that James has met before.
This is the gypsy family led by Michael Holt as Mr. Myatt, who previously appeared with his family in the Series 1 episode, ‘Out of Practice’. A certain ailing donkey becomes a concern for the gypsy family.
But I’ll get into that later on. I did like that first scene in Skeldale House where Siegfried, James, Helen and Tristan are in their living room listening to carol singers outside, as they sing two Christmas carols.
One of the songs is ‘God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen’ (I think I got that right 😀 ). I did find it amusing when Siegfried tried to correct the carollers that they’re singing the song incorrectly whilst inside the house.
Tristan seems to be worn in and doesn’t feel bothered about giving the carollers a tip when Siegfried encourages him too. James has the tip but Tristan is made go and give to them instead. Poor Trist! 😀
Siegfried seems determined to make this year’s Christmas (1938 I think it is) as special as possible, especially with the threat of war approaching. To Siegfried’s credit, it does become a special Christmas.
One of the special Christmas traditions that Siegfried encourages James to be a part of in this is to witness him tasting one of Mrs. Hewison’s Christmas cake. This is when they go to the Hewisons’ farm.
Apparently, Cynthia Etherington as Mrs. Hewison is the best cake maker in the Dales district. James even gets to see how many cakes Mrs. Hewison has made over the years. It is really impressive to see.
However, instead of giving Siegfried one of her cakes, she decides to give him a slice of one of her sister’s cakes. James Is concerned as this might be unfair on Siegfried, but Mrs. Hewison’s determined.
In the past, Siegfried has been very complimentary about Mrs. Hewison’s cakes, saying that they’re the best. This is obviously a test for Siegfried to try and find out whether he is actually sincere in his claims.
So, Siegfried and James are at the table with Mrs. Hewison; Robert Brown as Mr. Hewison and their daughter when the cake tasting begins. It takes a while for a slice of cake to be passed to Siegfried. 😀
Anyway, Siegfried gets the slice of cake from Mrs. Hewison and is soon about to taste it. Siegfried tells Mr. Hewison that this sort of thing is not to be hurried. Clearly Siegfried is this excellent judge of cakes.
It was tense and rather amusing when Siegfried tries out the cake and it takes a while for him to make a final verdict. Even James is anxious about it and he is seen sucking his thumb when camera’s on him. 😀
Siegfried eventually tells Mrs. Hewison that it’s ‘a good cake’ and is a ‘very good cake indeed’. But he then tells her that ‘it’s not up to’ her ‘usual standard’. Once that’s said, Mrs. Hewison is very overjoyed.
I found it funny when Siegfried is clearly bemused and startled by the Hewison family’s joyous reaction. I’m sure Siegfried realised what has been going on later on, especially when he’s with James.
Meanwhile, Tristan has been wondering whether ‘uncle Herriot’ has been making plans to visit Mrs. Pumphrey and her dog Tricki Woo. Clearly Tristan is wanting a special Christmas hamper for this year.
But James has no intention of seeing Mrs. Pumphrey and Tricki Woo, since he’s not one for seeking Christmas hampers like Tristan is. Clearly James has got principles in place when it comes to Christmas.
But it seems that a Christmas hamper from Mrs. Pumphrey maybe on the cards for the ‘All Creatures’ family. This happens when Tricki Woo falls ill and Siegfried, James and Tristan are there to see to him.
Margaretta Scott returns as Mrs. Pumphrey in this episode with Tricki-Woo. It was great to see these two back again, especially for this Christmas episode. It wouldn’t be Christmas without Tricki-Woo. 😀
Mrs. Pumphrey is clearly distressed about Tricki-Woo becoming ill before Christmas time. James and Siegfried recommend to Mrs. Pumphrey that Tricki Woo needs to spend a few days at Skeldale House.
Of course, Mrs. Pumphrey is reluctant to part from her dog at this time. But thankfully she agrees, calling Siegfried, James and Tristan ‘the three wise men’. Intriguing Christmas eulogy to be made here.
Helen of course looks after Tricki Woo whilst he’s on the mend and Siegfried looks out for her when she attends to him. Mrs. Pumphrey also makes the regular phone calls when Tricki Woo is at Skeldale.
Anyway, back to the ailing donkey with the gypsy family. James and Tristan get called out to attend to the donkey when Mr. Gilling summons them. The donkey happens to belong to the Myatts’ daughter.
Marjorie, Mr. Myatt’s daughter, clearly loves her donkey. James and Tristan do all they can to seeing that the donkey gets better as they take the Myatts’ animals to a nearby barn belonging to Mr. Gilling.
They place enough haystacks underneath the animals, including Marjorie’s donkey, to make him feel more comfortable. Siegfried makes regular calls to the Myatt animals in the barn to check on their progress.
In another scene, Siegfried, James and Tristan cut down holly branches and a tree for Christmas time at Skeldale House. This was quite nice to watch. But the three spot something wrong on the way home.
Apparently Mr. Myatt has called for Frank Birch as Mr. Mallock, who has been in the series before. Mr. Mallock’s come to attend to the ailing donkey. He’s to ‘put him down’ at Mr. Myatt’s request here.
Siegfried, James and Tristan manage to stop this in time, as Siegfried asks to see the donkey again in the barn. Myatt is like ‘suit yourself’ but ‘won’t change his mind’. Siegfried sees the donkey for himself.
It seems the donkey is on the road to recovery and Siegfried asks why Myatt is wanting the animal to be put down. Myatt eventually reveals that he’s not able to afford it when it comes to paying the vets.
Siegfried understands and offers to cure the donkey as a Christmas present to Marjorie. Mr. Myatt is not a man to accept charity, but after some persuasion from Siegfried, he agrees to the very kind offer.
There are some other memorable moments featured in this episode worth noting. One is when Tristan reveals he hasn’t had an injection of something he should’ve had and it’s when they are having dinner.
Siegfried, instead of going into a temper like you’d expect, insists that Tristan comes with him and get his coat on to see a nearby doctor. Tristan reflects on how Siegfried’s treated him well for this situation.
It’s also amusing when Siegfried plays a prank on Tristan in this Christmas episode. Apparently, Siegfried has been keeping the front room locked in the house. Surprised that’s been discovered lately.
Anyway, Tristan becomes nosey and tries to look for a key to open that front room. Siegfried overhears Tristan’s plans when he’s talking about it to James during one evening before everyone’s gone to bed.
When everyone’s in bed, Tristan goes downstairs in the night to fetch the key he wants to open the door into the front room he wants to see in. But once he goes in, he gets this rather terrifying surprise.
In the front room, there’s a disembodied skeleton with its head on the table. Apparently this skeleton is female as James discovers from Siegfried when he tells him of it in the surgery earlier in this episode.
Upon seeing the skeleton, Tristan is terrified and runs out of the room to fetch himself a drink in the main living room. It was so funny to see Tristan’s reaction when he saw the skeleton in the front room.
Siegfried comes downstairs to catch him having a drink in the living room. He’s initially furious with Trist before he becomes concerned, seeing the terrified look on his face. He’s obviously playing it up to here.
It was funny when Siegfried said Tristan could’ve almost ‘woken the dead’ with being terrified and seeing the Trist’s reaction to that. Tristan gets left in the living room once Siegfried switches the light off.
I don’t know why Siegfried switched the light off in the living room with Tristan still inside, but it seemed pretty cruel and sneaky on his part. Tristan could have realised Siegfried had set him up then.
The next day, Siegfried asks Helen and Mrs. Hall to do a favour for him, which involves sorting out the front room. He also asks them to record Tristan’s reaction when he sees them sort out that front room.
It was so funny when Tristan does come across Helen and Mrs. Hall sorting out the front room and he tries to stop them from going in. But they do as Siegfried says and play to his reactions when going in.
Thankfully there’s no skeleton inside. It was funny to see Tristan’s reactions here in this scene. Eventually, Helen and Mrs. Hall clean up the front room which has stacks of wine bottles in place for it.
The room soon becomes a new living room I think or essentially a room suited for the ‘All Creatures’ family to celebrate their Christmas in. This is when the Christmas tree and the decorations get set up.
I liked that scene where James and Helen decorate the Christmas tree. James soon tells Helen to close her eyes before lighting up the tree for her to see in the dark. They share a very tender scene together.
Siegfried and Tristan then enter to find James and Helen together. Tristan tells James and Helen to ‘break it up’ when they’re together. This happens not once but twice in the episode, Tristan, you jerk!
All’s well in the end, as Mrs. Pumphrey gets her dog Tricki Woo back who is alive and well. The gyspy family’s donkey also gets healed and Tristan learns of the prank Siegfried played on with that skeleton.
The episode ends with Siegfried, James, Helen, Tristan and Mrs. Hall going out at night on Christmas Eve (I believe) to midnight mass (I think). It soon snows as the five sing ‘God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen’.
‘Merry Gentlemen’ is the perfect Christmas Special to enjoy in the ‘All Creatures’ series. It’s a good way to finish Series 2 of the series and does feature lovely moments for the lead characters all around.
Series 2 of ‘All Creatures’ has been pretty enjoyable overall. It doesn’t contain an overall story arc as all the episodes have been pretty standalone. It’s a season that I look back on with fond happy memories.
‘Merry Gentlemen’ rating – 10/10
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