‘The Playing Field’ (TV)



Please feel free to comment on my review.

Here’s the fourth episode of ‘All Creatures’, Series 5! This is where we have to say goodbye to Tristan for a while until Series 6, I believe. And I found his exit from the series at this point really disappointing!

Simply for the fact that Tristan doesn’t get a farewell scene at all to indicate his departure. It’s mentioned that he’s leaving for Ireland in the episode, but he doesn’t say goodbye to James and Siegfried.

Heck, Siegfried and Calum are barely in the episode. They have a few scenes each and that’s it! James and Tristan have most of the screen-time. I did wonder if Siegfried and Calum were going to show up.

Siegfried is away for a conference in London and has a phone conversation with James halfway in the episode. Calum also does a job in Tristan’s absence and there wasn’t a mention of him missing Deirdre.

After this episode, Tristan doesn’t appear for the rest of Series 5. How come the production team didn’t give Tristan a proper farewell. As Tristan was not coming back for a while, it would’ve been nice.

Mind you, perhaps the production team didn’t know when Peter Davison was going to come back after he did his stint in ‘Campion’ or something like that. But still, a farewell scene wouldn’t have hurt.

In this episode, Helen is still bedridden but thankfully there are signs of improvement. James says she has two weeks left to get better and she was sitting up in bed towards the episode’s end which is nice.

Looking ahead, Helen does get back on her feet in the next two episodes. But that’s something I’ll have to discover for myself when we get to the next instalment. Helen’s bedridden days are soon over.

But yeah, ‘The Playing Field’ is the title of Series 5’s fourth episode of the TV series. Though the title is rather misleading. You see, it’s a ‘plane field’, not a ‘playing field’ or a ‘plain field’ as the episode states.

What were they thinking?! Honestly, if you didn’t want to give the game away, call the episode something else. Or at least call it ‘The Plane Field’ in order for audiences to guess what the title means.

The episode, based on the ‘James Herriot’ books, is by Terry Hodgkinson. Terry contributed ‘The Pig Man Cometh’, ‘Ace, King, Queen, Jack’ and ‘City Slicker’ in Series 4. This episode is his last contribution.

Wow! I’m surprised Terry Hodgkinson only wrote four episodes for ‘All Creatures’ during its revival phase. I would’ve thought he’d written more. One wonders who wrote the rest of ‘All Creatures’ here. 😀

This episode is also directed by Robert Tronson. Like Terry Hodgkinson, this is Robert Tronson’s last contribution as a director to Series 5 as well as the ‘All Creatures’ series. This is sad as he’s pretty good.

Regarding snow, I still think it was bitterly cold when they filmed Series 5 at this point. This is because spots of snow came falling down where Tristan had exited out of his car visiting a client in the episode.

Anyway, in the episode, James attends to a horse with a mysterious aliment. This horse belongs to Philip Martin as Brown as Jack Scott with his two kids – Ryan O’Neil as Tony and Natalie Clegg as Sheila.

Jack Scott has been in ‘All Creatures’ before in the Series 4 episode ‘Ace, King, Queen, Jack’. In that episode, James and Jack were friendly towards each other. It was so nice to see Jack and his kids again.

I like how James solves the mystery of Jack’s ailing horse like Sherlock Holmes as it gets said in the episode. It seems the battery remains from the plane caused the horse to go sick, which was intriguing.

This episode also features the return of David Quilter as Andrew Bruce. Yeah, do you remember him? He was in ‘City Slicker’ and James’ friend from London. He wanted a life in country England as a farmer.

It was nice to see Andrew Bruce again, although I didn’t recognise him without the moustache. 😀 Andrew gets to accompany James on his rounds again. Andrew’s enjoyment of being with James is touched upon.

Incidentally, both ‘Ace, King, Queen, Jack’ and ‘City Slicker’ were both by Terry Hodgkinson. Terry created the characters of Jack Scott and Andrew Bruce in each of them and makes the most of them here.

I say that because considering this was Terry Hodgkinson’s last episode, was it preordained he made the most of his final contribution by including Jack and Andrew in this? Just a thought, but interesting.

Anyway, life gets hectic at Skeldale House, especially with Siegfried away in London and Helen still confined in bed. James has to do all of the hard work as Tristan is still lying in bed early in the morning.

It was funny when James tried to get Tristan out of bed to take the children Jimmy and Rosie to school. But Tristan, still hungover from a previous night of bingeing, refuses to get up. He’s a lazy so and so! 😀

It was also funny seeing the labrador dog watching James getting all stressed out with going to and fro in the house. The dog must have been thinking, “This is what usually happens at home nowadays.” 😀

Incidentally, it seems Tristan has been undertaking a round of farewell parties before heading off to Ireland. Not that we get to see that in the episode, which was disappointing as I expected to see them.

Tristan also attends to some cases including the cow of John Junkin as Luke Benson, I think. There’s this scandal going on with some man leaving someone’s wife in the episode, which I didn’t fully get here.

There’s also the business of Tristan attending to the cow of a straight-arrow farmer, David Cook as Mr. Hopps. By ‘straight-arrow’ of course, I mean he’s strictly religious and corrects Tristan on his bad language.

There is a funny moment when Mr. Hopps holds the cow for Tristan to attend to and he gets…ahem…kicked in the balls. That must’ve been pretty painful! Tristan admits he’s had that sometimes.

The second time we see Mr. Hopps, it’s Calum who attends to the cow not Tristan. Despite Calum appearing in a few scenes of this episode, I got to admit I found him very entertaining to watch here.

This is because Calum takes delight in gently tormenting Mr. Hopps when he goes into the details of putting his arm up a cow (for the first time!) I could not help but laugh when I was watching that scene.

It was pretty disgusting when Calum took his arm out of the cow mind (Gosh I hoped he washed that 😀 ). I’m surprised Mr. Hopps didn’t faint at that point when Calum detailed his putting his arm up a cow. 😀

Meanwhile with Tristan, everyone grows tired of his limited culinary skills. Although that is unfair, as he does try to do something different like making baked beans for the kids and cooking steak for the adults.

I was expecting Tristan to make bangers and mash like he did in the Series 3 episode ‘Home and Away’. IMDb’s summary suggested it but this didn’t happen. How come IMDb lied about it in their summary?

It was funny when Tristan kept pouring too much alcohol onto a steak and it caught fire. Tristan panics, calling James’ name like a little girl and telling him to call the fire brigade. James does not panic though.

He just puts a towel over the saucepan with steak inside. With the steak ruined, James and Andrew go off to have a meal at the Drovers. Poor Tristan. Despite not getting a farewell, he’s still entertaining. 🙂

This episode also features Jack May as Reverend Henty, the local vicar. I’ve seen Jack May before in an episode of ‘Jeeves and Wooster’ and he played King Théoden in ‘The Lord of the Rings’ radio series.

He was also in the ‘Doctor Who’ story ‘The Space Pirates’ with Patrick Troughton. It was sad when his character Reverend Hentry asked James and Andrew to attend to the funeral of his dog that was dying.

Jack May has two scenes in this episode which was nice. His character comes across as very friendly to James and Andrew when they meet him. He also likes to have his whiskey with water at the Drovers.

There’s also Ray Mort as Mr. Wiggins in the episode. Mr. Wiggins has been in ‘All Creatures’ before as he was in the Series 2 episode ‘Puppy Love’. I guessed he was in ‘All Creatures’ before. Glad I was right! 🙂

Mr. Wiggins helps out when James and Andrew oversee a heard of cows and he gathers them all together in the style of being a cowboy. That’s because he believes himself to be a cowboy in real life.

Yeah it was funny when Mr. Wiggins acted all cowboy with his fake American accent and throwing his lasso about. He ends up falling into a trough of water when failing miserably to attend to the cows. 😀

It was equally funny later on when James, Andrew and the two kids Jimmy and Rosie go to watch a cowboy movie at the cinema. Mr. Wiggins is there too and is very loud and excitable enjoying the film.

Everyone tells him to shut up in the cinema but he retorts back, making even more noise. James and Andrew seem to find it funny when they notice he’s in the cinema. I am glad they enjoyed themselves.

This episode also sees James and Helen celebrating their wedding anniversary. But James panics when he realises he didn’t get Helen an anniversary present towards the episode’s conclusion. It’s shocking.

Actually, I did find the anniversary stuff with James and Helen to be glossed briefly in the episode. This wasn’t helped when Helen is bedridden for most of the episode as well as the first quarter of Series 5.

James struggles to find a place to purchase something for Helen as all the shops are closed in the evening. Goodness that is annoying. Fortunately, Andrew helps as they go to…the local railway station.

Yeah, I’m not sure how that worked. As well as getting food and drink, Helen receives an item of clothing from Andrew. Mind you, he could have got that before he came down to Darrowby to London.

Helen is very grateful to everyone who pitched in to celebrate her and James’ wedding anniversary, including James, Tristan, Andrew, Jimmy and Rosie. They gather in that bedroom where Helen sits up.

The episode ends with James, Tristan, Andrew, Jimmy and Rosie about to listen to something on the radio and Helen is just left there with his glass of…white wine, I believe. Peculiar way to end the episode.

I was expecting there to be more after that when they did the anniversary celebrations in Helen’s room. But no! The episode just stops and like I said, we don’t get to have the farewell scene with Trist.

I know I’ve made criticisms about this episode especially regarding Tristan’s last appearance in the series for a while until Series 6. But I found it enjoyable to watch and found I had a lot to say about it.

‘The Playing Field’ rating – 7/10

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