‘Nothing Like Experience’ (TV)


Please feel free to comment on my review.

nothing like experience all creatures

‘Nothing Like Experience’ was adapted by Johnny Byrne from the ‘James Herriot’ books. Goodness! Johnny’s become a regular writer, hasn’t he? 😀 This episode was directed by Mr. Christopher Baker.

The episode follows up what happened in the previous episode. Helen comes to visit the vets’ surgery to have her dog Dan seen to. She specifically asks for James when Tristan sees her first thing.

James however is embarrassed about seeing Helen considering what happened last time during the dance in the previous episode. But thankfully it seems to be alright and all is forgiven between them.

Helen even gets to be James’ ‘assistant’ when he tends to Dan dog’s injuries. I like the interaction between James and Helen in the scenes in the surgery, since it is beautifully written and performed.

James even plucks the courage to ask Helen out to the movies once the treatment for Dan is over. Helen readily agrees. It’s clear Helen’s into James as much as James’s into Helen during the TV series.

The movie that James has in mind is a romantic sort of film set in the Hebrides in Scotland. On the night itself, James is certain there won’t be any disasters with him and Helen compared to last time.

Err…I wouldn’t put too many high hopes on that one, James. Anyway, James and Helen go to the Darrowby Plaza to see the film. Does it become disastrous in the end? Um…yeah, I am afraid it does.

You see, James and Helen aren’t the only ones there at the cinema. There’s also Ivor Salter as Gobber Newhouse…hey, wait a second. Ivor Salter was in three ‘Doctor Who’ stories as well. Wow!!!

(clears throat) Anyway, Gobber Newhouse seems to disrupt James’ evening with Helen by whispering ‘no hanky panky’ in the courting seats’ to him. He also laughs and falls asleep a lot there.

Gobber Newhouse also seems to lash out at James when he wakes up during the film’s screening. 😀 I’m assuming James has encountered Gobber Newhouse before, although we didn’t get to see that.

There’s also Peter Martin as Mr. Handshaw who’s seated in front of James and Helen in the cinema. If you don’t recall, Mr. Handshaw was in ‘Dog Days’ when his cow wouldn’t get up by James Herriot.

In fact, that’s what Handshaw says to James when he faces him in the cinema without a “Hello.” Is Handshaw keen to ridicule James’ prognosis with stating his cow would never get up again forever?

To top up to ruining James’ evening with Helen, the film shown is not what James wanted. Instead of the Scotland film, it turns out to be ‘Arizona Guns’. James is pretty annoyed by the change of movie.

Helen says this happens when cinemas don’t tell people that the screenings of films change but nobody seems to mind it. Um…was this a common thing for cinemas in rural areas during the 1930s?

Anyway, after Gobber Newhouse’s lash-out at James in the cinema, both James and Helen decide to leave and go somewhere. I’m hoping they’ll have a quiet evening meal where nobody disturbs them.

Also in the episode, James gets to meet the Dalby family who run a hillside farm in the country. This includes Cyril Appleton as Billy Dalby; his son Stephen Bratt as William and…am I seeing things here?

No I’m not! Apparently Janet Davies guest stars as Mrs. Dalby in the episode. Janet Davies! I was surprised and delighted to see her here. Janet Davies played Mrs. Pike in the ‘Dad’s Army’ TV series.

Wait a minute! That means the two actresses who played Mrs. Pike in ‘Dad’s Army’ both on TV and radio have appeared in the same season of ‘All Creatures’. Pearl Hackney guest starred in ‘Calf Love’.

Anyway, Mrs. Dalby is motherly, kind-hearted soul. She especially dots on James when he comes to visit the house on the farm. She treats him to a little homemade pie and a cup of tea in the episode.

I really like the scenes James has with Mrs. Dalby, especially when they talk about her husband and the work on the farm. Janet Davies’ performance is very different to how she plays Mrs. Pike here. 😀

Sadly by the end of the episode, Mrs. Dalby’s husband Billy goes into hospital for pneumonia. Yikes! That was unexpected. It doesn’t get resolved what happens in the episode since it’s saved next time.

The biggest high point of the episode is the ghostly Monk of Raynes Abbey. It starts when Tristan shares to James about the recent ghostly appearance of the Monk. James does not believe it though.

But even Mrs. Hall seems to believe in the ‘superstitious’ nonsense that’s being aroused after Tristan mentions it. There of course can’t be any truth in it. Can there? Well, that’s what James discovers in the story.

You see, on the way back from a case at night-time, James passes Raynes Abbey in the car and sees the ghostly Monk before him. James is clearly terrified as he drives over to the pub to wash his fears.

The next time James encounters the Monk is when he’s with Colin Fay as P.C. Claude Blenkiron. They’re in the car and the two spot the Monk. They chase after it as the Monk flees from the abbey.

The pursuit leads to a riverbank away from the abbey where the Monk falls into the river. Well, that’s the last James has seen of that apparition, isn’t it? No! For the Monk turns up back at Skeldale.

Oh dear! James is going to have the fright of his life when the Monk turns up at the door and looks through the window, showing his face and…oh wait, it’s Tristan. I knew that was him all the time! 😀

It was really funny when the Monk turned out to be Tristan and James was fuming with rage when he opened the door to let him in. I couldn’t help but laugh here and neither could my Mum and Dad.

James doesn’t see the funny side to Tristan’s prank of dressing up as a Monk, which is understandable. James must have been frightened out of his wits in first seeing Tristain as the Monk.

There were some funny moments with Siegfried’s character as well in the episode. His inconsistency as a character returns when he ridicules James for failing to remember his veterinary medical toolkit.

Siegfried tries to give James a technique to remember things as he claims to always form a ‘mental image’ of where he left things. This gets contradicted when Siegfried seems to forget things himself.

I found it amusing when Siegfried and James visit Dickie Arnold as Mr. Kendall’s farm to see to his cow. It turns out Siegfried left things behind on his previous visits to Kendall’s farm which is amusing.

It certainly amuses James when he teases Siegfried, telling him that he’s used the ‘mental image’ technique given to him and that it works for him. Siegfried is clearly not amused as James teases him.

There’s one more sub-plot to talk about with the episode. It concerns James’ visit to Jack Watson as Mr. Cranford who claims his cow was ‘struck by lightning’. As James checks the cow, it’s not the case.

This episode also features the first appearance of Frank Birch as Mr. Mallock. Mallock comes to take the cow away so that James can conduct a post-mortem on the animal. The result’s straight-forward.

Apparently the cow died of natural causes. But Mr. Cranford seems insistent that his cow was ‘struck by lightning’. I didn’t understand why Cranford would be obsessed with his cow ‘struck by lightning’.

But my parents explained to me that Cranford wanted to get the money off his insurance for the cow. Having that cow die of natural causes would mean Cranford would have to pay money himself.

Cranford is not happy with James’ efforts and refuses to let him set foot on his land again. You’d think that would be the last we see of Cranford, right? Nope. Apparently Siegfried later visits Mr. Cranford.

Siegfried’s visit to Cranford involves a boar that has some ‘rash’ on it. After attending to the boar, Siegfried advises Cranford to rub ointment into the boar four times a day which he will send via post.

Now here’s where another moment of comedic muck-ups occurs in the tale. Siegfried assigns Tristan to send the ointment to Cranford and send some ‘infected cow dung’ to the Ministry of Agriculture.

The episode ends with Siegfried seeing Tristan in the surgery and telling him that Cranford got the ‘infected cow dung’ instead of the ointment. Thus, Cranford ends his business with the Farnon vets.

Surprisingly, Siegfried doesn’t erupt in anger before Tristan as you’d expect. He’s absolutely delighted since he calls Tristan ‘a genius’ and that he ‘got rid of the old vulture at last!’ What a relief!

This episode is again another excellent entry in the ‘All Creatures’ series. I look forward to seeing the next episode, since I know a special friendship between James and Helen become something better.

‘Nothing Like Experience’ rating – 9/10

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6 thoughts on “‘Nothing Like Experience’ (TV)

  1. darrowby85

    Hi Tim,

    This was a good one, wasn’t it? When did you realise that the ‘Monk’ was Tristan, or was it obvious all along?

    I heard that the James Herriot books contained some fictionalised elements and thought that the ‘Raynes Abbey Ghost’ might well be one of them, but I recently read “The Real James Herriot” by Jim Wight (the son of Alf Wight, whose pen name was James Herriot) and it turned out that the man on whom Tristan was based, Brian Sinclair, really did dress up as a ghostly monk and go around ‘haunting’ some spooky-looking place – not ruins, but some ridge out in the countryside, I think. I really did think that bit had been made up because I can’t imagine many people who would go to the effort of finding a costume and standing out in the dark and cold for hours on end just to play a joke on people, when they could be in a nice warm pub or by the fire with an interesting book. The Sinclair brothers seemed very unique! The book by Jim Wight is worth a read – it’s an affectionate portrait and gives some background into what life was like for vets back in those days, including their studies.

    I don’t think that they’ve completely got rid of Cranford, unfortunately – if I remember rightly, he reappears in one of the later episodes and has not become any more pleasant in the meantime. (My mum, who’s from Manchester, said at one point while watching All Creatures that she didn’t think Lancashire women would let their husbands get away with being so bad-tempered, rude and miserable as some of these Yorkshiremen are! This may just be cross-Pennine rivalry, of course!)


    Liked by 1 person

    1. Tim Bradley Post author

      Hi Vicky.

      I’m sure I knew it was Tristan all along as the Monk when I first watched this episode. But then again, my memory can be hazy so I can’t be 100 per cent certain. I also seem to think my parents told me about it when we first watched the series back in 2003. I was making a joke of it whilst I reviewed this episode. Come to think of it, Peter Davison would be really good as the Meddling Monk in ‘Doctor Who’. 😀

      Well I’ve not read the books myself, but since these TV episodes are adaptations of those books, you’d think the events happening in the episodes were based on real life. Yeah the business of the real-life Tristan, Brian Sinclar, dressed up as a Monk at night does sound pretty absurd and hard to believe. But I suppose it must have happened otherwise we wouldn’t get to see it depicted in these TV episodes. I’m sure I’ll be reading the James Herriot books some day and other Jim Wright-related books once I get to revisit ‘All Creatures’ at some point later on in my life.

      I’ve looked up Jack Watson’s profile on IMDb and apparently he does make two more appearances in ‘All Creatures’. He plays Hilary Mottram in ‘One of Nature’s Little Miracles’ in 1988 and Isaac Cranford in ‘Brotherly Love’ in 1990. I’m not sure if Issac Cranford is the same one as in this episode or whether IMDb is up-to-date on Jack Watson’s profile, but I’m sure I’ll find out soon enough as I progress through the series.

      Thanks for your comments, Vicky. Glad you’ve enjoyed my ‘All Creatures’ reviews lately. I’m looking forward to seeing the next episode this coming weekend.

      Tim. 🙂


      1. darrowby85

        Re. the monk, the Herriot books were partly fictionalised rather than being pure autobiography, so I think there were some invented elements. Part of the reason for this was that the stories were based on people who were still living at the time, so Alf Wight did modify some identifying characteristics and/or create composite characters to avoid causing offence to people he knew, as well as to protect his own privacy. (I can’t remember exactly when ‘James Herriot’ was revealed as being Alf Wight, but he did manage to conceal his identity for a number of years, if I remember correctly.)

        Re. Cranford, there were a number of characters who were played by more than one actor during the course of the series, and some actors who played more than one character. I suppose in the days before DVD box sets and mass ownership of video cassette recorders, hardly anyone would have remembered who played a certain character in 1979 when they watched the series in 1988! Also, with such a long hiatus between the two series, it would have been very hard to get all the same actors back, and some of them may well have died in the intervening years. There’s a list of actors playing multiple characters and characters played by multiple actors here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/All_Creatures_Great_and_Small_(TV_series)

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Tim Bradley Post author

        Hi Vicky.

        I see, according to the Wikipedia link, that Jack Watson reprised the role of Cranford in ‘Brotherly Love’ in 1990 and that it seems to be the same character. I’ll have to look out for Cranford’s appearance when I watch that episode in the series.

        Yeah I wouldn’t expect everything in the James Herriot books to be true to life as Alf Wright (sorry, did I call him Jim Wright earlier) wrote the books. It’ll be interesting to see what the differences are in the books compared to the TV series when I get around to reading them.

        Thanks for your comments Vicky and thanks for the link.

        Tim. 🙂


      3. darrowby85

        Hi Tim,

        Just for clarification, Alf Wight (not Wright) was the real name of ‘James Herriot’ – he wanted to keep his veterinary and writing lives separate so he used a pen name, and the books are autobiography with some fictionalised elements, changed names and identifying characteristics etc. Jim Wight is Alf’s son, who has written a biography of his father, called ‘The Real James Herriot’ which, amongst other things, explains the background to some of the incidents in the Herriot books. Before reading Jim Wight’s books, I had read (I can’t remember where, now) that the Herriot books weren’t straight autobiography and that some incidents had been modified or perhaps invented to tell a more compelling story. I had assumed that the Raynes Ghost was one of them because it sounded so unlikely, so I was very surprised to find that a version of it had actually happened. The ‘real Siegfried’ was apparently even more eccentric than Herriot portrayed him, and Herriot toned him down for the books because he got upset about how he was represented. (His friends thought Herriot, and Robert Hardy, got him down to a ‘T’ – perhaps it’s part of being eccentric that you don’t realise just how eccentric you are!)

        Vicky 🙂


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