‘The Last Furlong’ (TV)



Please feel free to comment on my review.

This ‘All Creatures’ episode features horse-betting. It was adapted by Anthony Steven from the ‘James Herriot’ books. As well as ‘The Twin Dilemma’ in ‘Doctor Who’, Anthony Steven wrote the episode, ‘Calf Love’.

The episode was directed by Christopher Baker. Apparently he helmed four episodes in ‘All Creatures’. As well as this episode, he did ‘It Takes All Kinds’, ‘Nothing Like Experience’ and ‘Practice Makes Perfect’.

The episode begins with…the title card over footage of the horse-racing scene from later on. I’m noticing a trend that title cards tend to be shown over later scenes in some episodes during the series.

The episode properly begins with…someone squeezing one of a milk cow’s cylinders. Ugh! Why did that have to be shown at the beginning? It’s not good to see, especially when you’re eating something.

Actually the cow being seen to has a problem with its milk. It turns out to be flaky. This is one of the cows belonging to Peter Scofield as Mr. Pickersgill, whom James and Tristan comes to visit at his farm.

Unlike previous farmers seen in ‘All Creatures’, Mr. Pickersgill is a good rounded, down-to-earth farmer. He has problems with his words as he speaks, but he is willing to listen to Mr. Herriot’s advice.

Mr. Pickersgill has a daughter, Cecily Hobbs as Olive Pickersgill. She seems to be a good daughter to her father at the farm. Olive also supports Tristan who ‘injures’ his foot as a cow seemingly stamps it.

I’m not convinced Tristan’s injury by the cow was sincere. This may have been an excuse to spend more time flirting with Olive. This is certainly the case when Tristan’s injury seems to be cured pretty swiftly.

I really like it when James pays Mr. Pickersgill a second visit and it turns out he hasn’t been feeling too well lately with milking the cows. James has a perfect solution. Let his daughter do the milking instead.

Yeah, it seems peculiar Mr. Pickersgill never thought of that before and seems very applauding of James’ suggestion. But then again, he must be a hard-working farmer and he can’t think of everything.

Siegfried also pays a visit to a not so-good farmer, William Abney as Mr. Sidlow. For some reason, Sidlow has his children watching and doing nothing whilst vets like Mr. Siegfried see his animals. Why?!

Is it because Mr. Sidlow wants to show off his animals and give a good example to vets like Siegfried whilst not be intimidated by them by having his children there? If that’s the case, it doesn’t work well.

For one thing, when Sidlow shows a horse to be seen to by Siegfried, he concludes his diagnosis by saying the animal is suffering badly and has to be put down. Sidlow is outraged but Siegfried’s insistent.

I like how serious-looking Siegfried is in that moment and takes no nonsense on the issue, even with Sidlow’s children around. I’m sure the children would prefer doing something else than watching this.

Meanwhile, Tristan and James go out to the Drovers that evening. Tristan advises James on what to do about honeymoon plans with Helen. He suggests a Mediterranean cruise which James can’t afford.

I must admit, Tristan does have his moments when he can think well of James and helping him to give the best to Helen. But he doesn’t think practically when a Mediterranean cruise can be very expensive.

This leads us of course to the ‘horse betting at the track’ stuff in the episode. After Tristan suggests to James he tries out betting, which James initially refuses, Siegfried gets invited to the Broughton races.

Siegfried decides to take James with him as his ‘plus one’ I guess. This is something James isn’t entirely comfortable with and Siegfried’s astonished. But then again, I do admire James’ reluctance to the idea.

They eventually go to the Broughton races and what does James do? Nothing! I mean, he stands around watching Siegfried hang around with his ‘so-called’ friends and doesn’t do any betting himself.

I mean, it would’ve been interesting to see James trying to do some betting himself at the Broughton races. It was intriguing seeing James’ reaction as Siegfried and his friend Stewie get drunk, but that’s it!

Speaking of which, the ‘so-called’ friends or acquaintances Siegfried and James meet at the races are rather stuck-up and posh sounding. The two gents in that group also seem to have served in the army.

There’s Geoffrey Toone as Major General Ransom; Jeanne Mockford as Mrs. Ranson, Anthony Dawes as Colonel Tremayne and Jean Fergusson as Mrs. Tremayne. I recognised the two male actors in this.

I didn’t realise it was Geoffrey Toone at first and apparently he was ‘Jeeves & Wooster’ as well as ‘Doctor Who’. Anthony Dawes also played Mr. Libson in the ‘Fawlty Towers’ episode, ‘Waldorf Salad’.

Siegfried also meets up with an old fellow vet friend, Ronald Lacey as Stewie Brannon. This is a friend Siegfried hasn’t seen for many years and it’s while they watch on the race track they meet each other.

Stewie Brannon also seems to be slightly tiddly with his hip-flask when he and Siegfried reunite. So, what happens in this situation? Siegfried and Stewie go to the tea tent and become more drunk there.

I think Siegfried is sometimes inconsiderate in this situation, especially when he abandons his ‘so-called’ friends/acquaintances. James is with Siegfried and Stewie in the tea tent and gets left out here.

Thankfully James doesn’t get drunk himself as he has done in previous episodes like ‘Calf Love’ and ‘Out of Practice’. It’s amusing when Siegfried and Stewie are drunk and Siegfried couldn’t find his keys.

James gets offered a chance to bet on one of the horses after he tends to one of the horses that ran in the Broughton races. Surprisingly, James is willing to place £5 (a lot of money back then) on a horse.

However James’ plans for his horse bet get ruined when he has to go out and see to Mr. Sidlow’s cow. It becomes disastrous when the cow somehow ‘swallows’ James’ thermometer as he’s examining her.

Not sure how the cow can ‘swallow’ the thermometer when James was examining her rear behind. Surely ‘sucked’ would have been a better word for it. Mind you, James might not be thinking properly.

James even uses bad language which Mrs. Sidlow tells him off for in front of his children who are there. And finally the children get to be of some good use here as James demands for soap, water and towel.

Eventually, James sees to the cow and tries to get back in a hurry in his car. Unfortunately the car gets stuck in the mud (on a rainy day perhaps) and James asks for help. Sidlow’s lads oblige and help James.

James’ drive off out of the mud causes muds to end up on the boys’ faces. I couldn’t help but laugh at that especially with the boys’ expressions. Pike had it worse in ‘Everybody’s Trucking’ in ‘Dad’s Army’.

The drive back to Skeldale is pretty fast. I’m surprised James would go to extreme speeds to get back home all for the sake of a horse bet. But he gets back safe and sounds as he finds Tristan in the surgery.

Unfortunately James is too late as the horse race happened as soon as he got back. Tristan used the wonders of ‘modern technology’ and phoned a bet for a horse. I’m surprised James didn’t do that himself.

I really like Helen’s scenes in this episode. She doesn’t have a large appearance as she had in the previous two episodes. I especially like the scene Helen has with Mrs. Hall when they get on well here.

Mrs. Hall offers Helen to be in charge of the Farnon house kitchen when she goes off to see her sister. Helen is delighted. I like how Mrs. Hall can seem to be a no-nonsense lady yet can be really kind-hearted.

I also liked the scene where James shares his misfortune of losing money on a horse bet to Helen when they go through wedding presents in Skeldale House. Helen seems so understanding and appreciative.

She seems to understand why James made the bet as he wanted to get money for a romantic honeymoon cruise. But Helen doesn’t seem to mind on where they go since she wants to be with him.

This romantic moment between James and Helen gets interrupted when Tristan comes in overhearing their conversation. I like how boyish Tristan can be in those moments especially with James and Helen.

The next day, Siegfried has a dilemma when the Agriculture Ministry requires a series of tuberculin testing to take place from the practice. This is all for the same week as James and Helen’s honeymoon.

Siegfried seems to be mildly ‘accusing’ James for taking time off for that week for his wedding and honeymoon with Helen. This gets James rather annoyed as he proposes he does the tuberculin testing.

Yes! James is willing to do the tuberculin testing at the same time he and Helen are on their honeymoon. It doesn’t sound romantic in the least, but as long as Helen doesn’t mind it, it seems okay.

Siegfried says ‘he won’t hear of it’, but James seems insistent on the matter. I think Siegfried was twisting James’ arm and manipulating him to do the testing at the same time of the honeymoon plans.

The episode ends with James and Helen’s wedding actually happening. Yeah. That was a quick turnaround. James and Helen’s wedding happens at the end of the episode and with no build up to it.

This is rather unusual to do in a TV series as you’d have an episode dedicated to a wedding rather than rush to it. But I suppose we should be thankful no disasters occurred with James and Helen’s wedding.

Just as James and Helen drive off for their honeymoon, they come to a stop outside Skedale House. Apparently a wedding gift for James is waiting for him. He has been promoted to ‘veterinary surgeon’.

I like how that build-up to the reveal of James’ plaque outside Skeldale House is made before the end credits roll. Helen seems to know about this wedding gift from Siegfried too. Maybe Siegfried told her.

‘The Last Furlong’ has been an enjoyable episode in ‘All Creatures’. I wouldn’t consider it as great as previous episodes, but it was superb to see James and Helen’s wedding happen and with no disasters.

‘The Last Furlong’ rating – 8/10

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