‘One of Nature’s Little Miracles’ (TV)

 

‘ONE OF NATURE’S LITTLE MIRACLES’

Please feel free to comment on my review.

Just to go off on a tangent before we get into the review itself, there’s something I need to address regarding Carol Drinkwater not coming back to ‘All Creatures’. This is something I’d found out recently.

Apparently, Carol Drinkwater decided not to return to the series since she believed she couldn’t think of anywhere else to go with Helen. That makes sense. It wasn’t anything spiteful as everyone presumed.

With that said, the BBC were so angry with Carol Drinkwater not coming back that they put a ban on using her ever again. A bit childish in my opinion. So, they recast Helen’s character with a new actress.

While this is a shame that happened and Carol Drinkwater regrets the decision she made, I don’t think it was necessary for the series to continue for four more seasons. This is despite the high ratings it got.

I still love Carol Drinkwater as Helen Herriot in ‘All Creatures’ and believe she was the best actress to play the character. I would love it if she continued playing Helen in the next four seasons of the series.

With that out of the way, let’s talk about Series 4. Now this is the first season of ‘All Creatures’ that I know the absolute least about. Therefore my reviews on the rest of the series won’t be so enthusiastic.

My parents and I did watch the first episode from Series 4 of ‘All Creatures’ straight after we watched Series 3. That was a mistake. We should’ve watched the two Christmas Specials after we saw Series 3.

That was Playback‘s fault mind as they released Series 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7 in complete DVD box sets before releasing the Christmas Specials on DVD. Thus the confusion my parents and I had to get into Series 4.

We were also put off by the change of actress in Helen Herriot since it was Lynda Bellingham who was playing her, not Carol Drinkwater. But I’ll get into talking more on Lynda Bellingham later in the review.

My parents and I eventually saw the two Christmas Specials but didn’t watch the rest of the series after that. At the time of these reviews though, we’re now back on track watching the rest of ‘All Creatures’.

The first episode of Series 4, ‘One of Nature’s Little Miracles’, is based on the books by ‘James Herriot’. The episode is penned by Johnny Byrne. Johnny Byrne is essential to the revival of the ‘All Creatures’ show.

He is essentially the show’s script editor; story consultant and possibly showrunner despite it still being produced by Bill Sellars. Johnny penned many of the episodes in the show’s revival from Series 4 to 7.

The first episode of Series 4 is also directed by Peter Moffatt. Peter Moffatt comes fresh from directing the previous episode – the 1985 Christmas Special – in the series. He also starts busy directing Series 4.

For the first half of Series 4 which comprises of 10 episodes, Peter Moffat directs the first five episodes of the season. The rest of the season is directed by Roderick Graham. I had to check up on those facts.

The title sequence has also changed radically for Series 4. As well as the change of tone in theme music by Johnny Pearson, we also have shots of our three main leads taken from clips in the actual episodes.

This is provided for Christopher Timothy, Robert Hardy and Peter Davison. Not sure why Lynda Bellingham or John McGlynn didn’t get face shots in the opening titles. I’ll get onto John McGlynn later.

By the way, we’ve now gone back to the transition of film and videotape in the making of these ‘All Creatures’ episodes. This is different from the Christmas Specials when they were all produced on film.

Anyway, the episode has Siegfried confiding in James about some important matter they need to attend to. It seems the time has come to hire a full-time assistant since Tristan’s not around very much.

Yeah, one of the decisions made from the 1985 Christmas Special is to have Tristan as a full-time employee at the Ministry of Agriculture. Not that’s a bad thing. It’s good Tristan’s gone on to high things.

But it means Tristan is going to be absent for some of the series. There’ll be less of the mischievous stuff that Tristan gets up to. In fact, Tristan becomes absent in most of Series 6. We’ll get to that soon.

Tristan seems to have matured and grown-up compared to the immature person he was back in the first three seasons. There’s still the mischievous streak Tristan has though, but we will get to that later.

Therefore, when Siegfried decides to hire a new full-time assistant, he comes up with the perfect candidate – John McGlynn as Calum Buchanan. This is going to be our new series regular from hereon.

I’ve not come across John McGlynn before as an actor so this is the first time I’ve seen him in ‘All Creatures’. His character as Calum Buchanan does makes a pretty decent introduction in the TV series.

When Siegfried meets up with Calum in the second half of the episode after coming off from the bus, he has a pet animal with him. This happens to be a female badger named Madeline. A bit unusual. 😀

But can Calum be good in his new job as a full-time assistant. Well, it turns out he can when he goes with Siegfried to attend to Tom Harrison as Mr. Buckle’s sow at his farm. Things do get disastrous here.

Paul McLain as Billy Buckle, Mr. Buckle’s son, drops a bottle of drugs once Siegfried told him just to hold it. Seriously, who plays with a bottle of drugs when told just ‘hold it’ until he accidently drops it?

Calum however manages to rectify the problem as he demonstrates how to sort out the sow manually to Mr. Buckle. This involves him by putting his arm up the sow. It makes a change from it up a cow. 😀

It also turns out that Tristan and Calum know each other from the days when Tristan used to study to become a vet in Edinburgh. This makes a nice connection in how the two characters know each other.

Okay, let’s talk about Lynda Bellingham as Helen Herriot in the series. I’ve seen Lynda Bellingham before in the ‘Doctor Who’ story, ‘The Trial of a Time Lord’ with Colin Baker. She played the Inquisitor.

Now based on the first episode, I did struggle to get into Lynda Bellingham’s interpretation of Helen in the series. Don’t get me wrong, Lynda Bellingham’s a great actress and I liked her performance here.

But…she’s not Helen. She didn’t click for me since Helen was always Carol Drinkwater in the series. Maybe time will tell as my parents and I get more into the series. But so far, I’m not getting it with Lynda.

I’m sure she’s doing her best and I don’t mean to sound harsh when it comes to judging her performance. But it’s a whole new interpretation of Helen that’s miles apart from Carol Drinkwater’s.

It has been argued Lynda Bellingham brings a more motherly quality to the role especially when James and Helen have children. But Carol Drinkwater could easily have brought that in her performance too.

In this episode, there is a subplot where Helen loses her engagement ring after doing the washing up in the kitchen. It causes James to overspend his bank allowance when he purchases a new ring for her.

But it turns out that a jackdaw took Helen’s ring when she wasn’t looking and it ended up in the chimney when Madeline the badger went up the range in the kitchen. How coincidental is all of that?!

Anyway, back to Tristan. When he’s working as a full-time employee at the Ministry of Agriculture, he sets his sights on Andrea Gibb as the attractive Deirdre McEwan. She comes across as a really nice girl.

I have checked and apparently she does come back in more episodes of the series. Who knows? Maybe Deirdre will turn out to be a potential long-lasting love interest for Tristan. Or not…as the case maybe.

Going back onto Tristan’s mischievous streak, he visits Graham Rigby as Mr. Ripley at his farm to sort out some pigs of his. Yeah Graham Rigby returns in this episode. He was in the 1985 Christmas Special.

It was funny when Tristan tried to open Mr. Ripley’s farm gate – yeah that gate still has problems – and hurts himself in the process. Tristan kicks the gate angrily before the gate knocks him back. Funny!

It was also funny when Tristan gets Mr. Ripley to do the last bit of the job with the pigs. This is when he does the hard work and Mr. Ripley is lazily observant. Tristan’s mischievous steak come in here. 😀

Margaretta Scott returns as Mrs. Pumphrey in the episode as well as Teddy Turner as Hodgekin and the dog Tricki-Woo. Yeah! Tricki-Woo’s back in the series. And…he’s returned to his normal white self?

I query this since didn’t Tricki look different in the 1983 Christmas Special? Wasn’t he browner in that? How come he’s back to white all of a sudden? Was the dog in the 1983 Special even Tricki-Woo at all?

Anyway, Mrs. Pumphrey asks for uncle Herriot’s help when Tricki-Woo goes ‘flop bot’ again. This James attends to, especially when he gets Hodgekin to walk the dog instead of carry it beforehand. 😀

Grateful, Mrs. Pumphrey gives James an old suit that her husband once wore. James takes it graciously, but the suit is ill-fitting for him especially as he puts it on for a local milk subcommittee he’s invited to.

James also finds it hot to wear, especially when he sees Tristan at the Ministry of Agriculture and when he’s at the local milk subcommittee. It was funny when James was suffering as he had glasses of water.

By the way, in that subcommittee, there’s a face I recognised. Kevin Stoney guest stars in this episode as Sir William Massingham. Kevin Stoney was Tobias Vaughn in the ‘Doctor Who’ story, ‘The Invasion’.

A subplot that Siegfried has in the episode is when he has difficulties with a fellow vet colleague, Jack Watson as Hilary Mottram. Jack Watson has been in ‘All Creatures’ before but as a different character.

In Series 1, Jack Watson played the character Cranford in the episode ‘Nothing Like Experience’. I’ve also heard Jack Watson play a variety of characters in some episodes of the ‘Dad’s Army’ radio series.

Jack Watson’s character of Hilary Mottram in this episode seems convinced that Siegfried is poaching his clients when asking for a second opinion. Siegfried must find a way to reconcile with Hilary Mottram.

The episode also features Judy Wilson as Mrs. Greenlaw the housekeeper; Oliver Wilson as Jimmy Herriot and Rebecca Smith as Rosie Herriot. They’d previously appeared in the 1985 Christmas Special.

The first episode of Series 4 is reasonably good, despite the changes made with the re-casting of Helen. It’s not bad as I first thought from first viewing. Hopefully things will be better in the rest of the series.

By the way, what happened to Siegfried’s wife Caroline from the 1983 Christmas Special? She was mentioned in the 1985 Special. Why doesn’t she get mentioned here? Has she been forgotten hereon?

‘One of Nature’s Little Miracles’ rating – 7/10


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