‘Out of Practice’ (TV)


Please feel free to comment on my review.

out of practice all creatures

‘Out of Practice’ was adapted by Johnny Byrne from the ‘James Herriot’ books. As well as ‘The Keeper of Traken’, Johnny Byrne penned ‘Arc of Infinity’ and ‘Warriors of the Deep’ in ‘Doctor Who’.

This episode was directed by Peter Moffatt. ‘State of Decay’, ‘The Visitation’, ‘Mawdryn Undead’, ‘The Five Doctors’, ‘The Twin Dilemma’ and ‘The Two Doctors’ are the six ‘Doctor Who’s he directed.

It’s ironic there are many people working on ‘All Creatures’ that they would get to go on to work on ‘Doctor Who’. This might include one of the actors playing a vet who’d go onto to play the Doctor. 😀

The episode begins with James and Tristan talking about the date James has arranged with Helen from the end of the previous episode. Tristan is pleased about this whilst James isn’t feeling confident.

He’s unsure Helen wants to go out with him, but Tristan gives James tips and words of encouragement on his date with Helen. He also suggests a classy restaurant for a dinner dance date.

I like how Tristan seems supportive of James in his love life during the episode. Sometimes these suggestions Tristan makes to James can backfire, but at least he is trying to help as any friend would.

The place that Tristan suggests for a romantic dinner dance date is at the Reniston, the smartest and most expensive hotel in the area outside London. James is not so sure if the Reniston is a great idea.

This isn’t helped when James phones Helen about it and she too asked him if he’s sure about the Reinston. Nevertheless, the date goes ahead as James picks up Helen. What can possibly go wrong?

Well, James’ evening dinner jacket is too short for him. Then it’s raining when James picks up Helen from her home. Then the car gets a puncture. Then James gets his shoes wet in a puddle. Oh dear me.

To be fair though, the writing is good in terms of how this romantic dinner date arranged by James for Helen doesn’t go according to plan. Helen’s so sweet and understanding with things going wrong.

Does it get worse for James? Well, yes. At the Reniston, he’s wearing Helen’s dad’s shoes that are given disapproving look by David Davenport as the Head Waiter, who’s a bit of snooty jerk here.

It also turns out the dinner dance for the evening isn’t on tonight. What?! But wait! Tristan said it’d be on for that night with James and Helen. How come he got it wrong as it should be in September?

Oh and Siegfried happens to be there at the hotel with a blonde date of his. Unless of course, this is his mother. Na! Just kidding! 😀 It’s a pleasant encounter, but it must have been awkward for James.

I would’ve liked to have seen how that date went since the next day James tells Tristan it was ‘too painful’ to think about. It can’t have been that bad, James? Helen was smiles and friendliness to you.

Despite this, James convinces himself that Helen doesn’t ‘fancy’ him from that one date. Ah well. It could be worse. Tristan could arrange a double date for him and James in the tale…oh wait he does.

We’ll get back to that later. An interesting thing to note is when Tristan’s in the surgery, he’s smoking. Despite the fact there is the ‘NO SMOKING’ sign in the surgery, he smokes away with relish.

This is before Siegfried catches Tristan out and he’s smoking too with a pipe! So, Tristan smoking with a cigarette is wrong but Siegfried smoking with a pipe is okay? Gosh, Siegfried is so inconsistent.

Siegfried also has enough of the pigs in the episode. I’m of course talking about the litter of pigs he acquired in the previous episode. He blames Tristan for it (why?) as he tells him to get rid of the pigs.

Tristan is clearly delighted about this and is happy when he gives the pigs their last meal of swill (even though we don’t see them going for it). I said that Peter Davison didn’t like working with pigs.

James also finds a cute dog with bleeding paws left abandoned on a windy hillside. I liked this little dog story, as James gets help from Jessica Spencer as Sister Rose to help find a home for the doggie.

However the dog, named Pip by Sister Rose, runs away from Sister Rose’s animal shelter, before he’s found again by an elderly couple who own him. This couple happens to be Mr. and Mrs. Plenderleith.

I recognise the actors playing the elderly couple. Gabrielle Daye as Mrs. Plenderleith also played Mrs. Beardsmore in two episodes of the BBC sitcom series, ‘Ever Decreasing Circles’, with Richard Briers.

James Bree as Mr. Plenderleith also guest starred in three ‘Doctor Who’ stories including ‘The War Games’, ‘Full Circle’ and ‘The Trial of a Time Lord’. It was good to watch him appear in ‘All Creatures’.

I like how the scene is played out between James and the Plenderleiths as they talk about owning Pip the dog. James seems happy to let them own the dog as they turn out to be a really nice couple.

Also in the episode, James helps to heal a pony owned by…what I call travelling gypsies. These are Michael Holt as Mr. Myatt with his two little children, played by Julie Ibbotson and Nicholas Wright.

The pony doesn’t seem able to move as its hooves are stuck to the ground. James diagnoses it as something very serious and he asks Siegfried to help him out the next day when telling him about it.

Siegfried agrees as he and James go to see Mr. Myatt with his two children and sort out the pony. And here comes another moment of inconsistency with Siegfried when he and James save the pony.

You see, Siegfried told James to economise on the tools he used in his vet kit. But when James does this in the process of healing the pony, Siegfried rebukes him and soon does the job himself instead.

Siegfried uses a longer string and a big amount of cotton wool compared to what James was told to use. I love the moment when James says to Siegfried, “You’re impossible!” I well believe you, James.

In any event, the pony gets better and the gypsy family is eternally grateful. And James and Siegfried were paid in advance by Mr. Myatt before the job was done. Would Mr. Myatt employ me at all?! 😀

The episode builds to its conclusion with the double date Tristan’s arranged with James. This is with two girls. They include Eileen Waugh as Brenda for Tristan and Jean Harrington as Connie for James.

Beforehand, James meets up with Helen in the churchyard. They talk about the date they had, saying how much they enjoyed it despite those disasters. James hopes that he and Helen can go out again.

But of course, James has to go through this double date arranged by Tristan. They stop first at the local pub, the Drovers. This is a prelude to the young farmers’ dance that is happening in Darrowby.

The two girls Brenda and Connie are pretty enough but seem over-excitable especially in the company of Tristan and James. Connie even kisses James at one point. That’s very ‘fast work’ indeed.

In the Drovers, Tristan gets to drink down a whole pint of real beer. This is provided by Nicholas McArdle (who was also in ‘The Stones of Blood’ with Tom Baker) as Mr. Worley, the Drovers’ owner.

That shot of Tristan drinking down a whole pint of real beer was all done in one shot. Amazing! No camera trickery. I discovered Peter Davison ‘loathed’ drinking real beer back then. I felt for Peter. 😀

As the evening goes on, James becomes more tidily than ever and starts to make a fool of himself. He even tells Connie that she’s beautiful with a silly look on his face. Oh dear, James’ drunk already.

There are some musical moments during the Rover scenes when Tristan and James sing ‘Beer, beer, glorious beer.’ Honestly, I would have preferred ‘Food, glorious food’ from ‘Oliver!’ at this point. 😀

And then Tristan plays the part of ‘Signor Mussolini’ when he, James, Brenda and Connie perform ‘The Mad Conductor’ in front of everyone. The madness kicks in here and it’s incredibly funny to see.

But disaster strikes as Tristan with Brenda and James with Connie go to the young farmers’ dance in their drunken states. I noticed the Plenderleiths were attending the ball dance that night too. What?!

Also there is Helen with Norman Mann as Richard Edmundson. The embarrassment sinks in, as James really makes a fool of himself in his drunken state. He ends up falling on the floor with Connie.

I did like it when Tristan tries to warn James about Helen being there at the dance, since he’s clearly looking out for him. This is despite the fact that Tristan got James drunk in the first place, didn’t he?

The episode ends on a…well, I suppose you can say a cliff-hanger. In fact, we immediately cut to the end credits with no build up of Johnny Pearson’s ‘All Creatures’ end credits music we know and love.

James, in his drunken state, says “Helen, I must explain…” before she’s taken away by Richard Edmundson. Helen says “Good night, James.” (or “Goodbye, James”) as she leaves. This was painful to watch.

Wow, I’ve said a lot about this episode, haven’t I? This goes to show how great ‘All Creatures Great and Small’ is as a TV series. I wondered whether Helen will forgive James in the following instalment.

‘Out of Practice’ rating – 9/10

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2 thoughts on “‘Out of Practice’ (TV)

  1. darrowby85

    Hi Tim,

    I was quite surprised watching All Creatures how fierce pigs could be, and how loud! I think I had a mental image of them being quite cute and docile because I’ve only ever seen pretty well-behaved ones on working farms at stately homes etc. Of course wild boar can be pretty fierce but I imagined that domestic pigs had had this bred out of them. Apparently not!

    I hope the actors were paid well to compensate them for the mud, dirt, pigs, beer etc. that they had to deal with!

    The drunken scene with James at the end was a bit cringe-inducing, wasn’t it? Poor James. But Tristan does make a good point in a later episode – James did actually drink the stuff, and Tristan didn’t have to force him. The problem is that James gets drunk much more easily than either Siegfried or Tristan – that’s why he always has such problems when he goes anywhere near Granville Bennett! I suppose, particularly in those days, drinking was a bit of a ‘macho’ thing.

    Anyway, I think Helen is a lot more accepting and less judgmental than James fears…


    Liked by 1 person

    1. Tim Bradley Post author

      Hi Vicky

      I’m not sure what to make of pigs these days, but I can well believe that they can be difficult animals to work with on ‘All Creatures’. I can’t believe how easily seduced I was into believing pigs are cute, nice and ‘docile’ animals from watching ‘Babe’, ‘Gordy’ and ‘Charlotte’s Web’. I’ll never forget that ‘Swap Shop’ interview Peter Davison did where he may have upset a ‘pig fan’ in talking about how difficult pigs can be to work with. 😀

      As for the compensation, I’d like to think so too with all the actors had to cope with in working with difficult animals. I haven’t seen a documentary on the making of ‘All Creatures’ yet to confirm this. I hope ‘Vintage Cars Great and Small’ with Christopher TImothy and Peter Davison comes out soon.

      Oh I can’t wait to see those episodes with Granville Bennett in Series 2 of ‘All Creatures’, played wonderfully by James Grout. I’m sure I’ll have jokes to make whilst writing those reviews including James’ reluctant drunkness. Yeah I’ve noticed how easily drunk James gets whenever he has too much in certain episodes including ‘Calf Love’ and ‘Out of Practice’. It is pretty cringing when he makes a fool of himself. I’ve always had to look away when watching the end of this episode. I’m amazed I managed to sit through the episode to the end for this review. 😀

      Yeah I really like it that Helen is a forgiving person after this episode when she and James meet again in the next one. I can sympathise with James since he doesn’t know what kind of person Helen is at this point and whether she’d be as forgiving as he hopes.

      Thanks for your comments, Vicky. Glad you enjoyed my review on this episode.

      Tim. 🙂



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