‘The Salt of the Earth’ (TV)



Please feel free to comment on my review.

My parents and I did enjoy this episode, especially in terms of how it’s built up towards its conclusion. With that said, there are things about this one that I have issues with including introducing a new character.

In fact, after this episode, the new character does not ever return. Some ‘All Creatures’ episodes in the reboot are like that in terms of setting up pieces that are introduced in certain episodes and never get used again.

There’s also the Calum-Deirdre relationship. In the previous episode, they get back together again. In this episode, we don’t see Deirdre at all. Calum just talks to her on the phone. Wow! That’s something!

I was able to feel something about Calum and Deirdre getting back together at the end of the previous episode. Shame there wasn’t a direct follow-up to that. Hopefully we will see Deirdre again fairly soon.

‘The Salt of the Earth’ is of course the title of the eighth episode in Series 5 of ‘All Creatures’. The episode, based on the ‘James Herriot’ books, is by Brain Finch! Wait! Brain Finch returns for the series?

Amazing! Brian Finch contributed a lot to the ‘All Creatures’ series in episodes for the first three seasons. His previous contribution was the 1983 Christmas Special. So maybe this episode is very good.

In many ways, it is very good. In fact, there’s a connection to a previous episode Brain did in Series 2 and the set-ups in the episode including a new character seem pretty justified with potential for more.

Jeremy Summers once again returns to direct for the ‘All Creatures’ series in his fourth and final contribution. A shame Jeremy Summers didn’t return to do more ‘All Creatures’ as he did a grand job.

For this episode, it turns out the Skeldale House is short-handed with Tristan away in Ireland. Siegfried even receives a letter from Tristan saying that he won’t be able to return for a couple of months or so.

Well, at least the series remembers Tristan and that he got a mention in this episode. James is annoyed about Tristan not coming back. I know how you feel, James. The series falls rather flat without Tristan.

But Siegfried has come well-prepared for such eventualities. He proudly announces to James and Calum that he has arranged for a vet, Willie Bannister, to assist them for a fortnight. That sounds good!

Okay, I know I implied it’s disappointing that the new character of Willie Bannister doesn’t return after this episode. He was only there for a fortnight and I appreciate his time in the series wasn’t long-lived.

But you could’ve had Willie Bannister for two episodes and not just one in Series 5. The Christopher Brown character from Series 1 was given more time in the TV show as he featured in two episodes. He was lucky!

Okay, but what’s this Willie Bannister character like? Derek Hicks guest stars as Willie and he seems to be a pleasant chap at first. It was quite amusing that Willie arrived via his own transport which is a bike.

But as the episode progresses, it turns out Willie is a teetotaller. Meaning he doesn’t drink of course. He also happens to be fond of opera; reads a lot of books and is a vegetarian when he’s cooking meals.

This is something that gets Calum dismayed. And quite honestly, I don’t see why he should. There’s nothing wrong with being a teetotaller, a vegetarian and an opera fan. So why is there all the dismay?

Maybe it’s having to cope with Willie’s company for a fortnight that puts Calum off. Even when Calum’s at the Drovers with James, he mentions it. But surely, a fortnight can’t be too painful for Calum. Right?

Well, that doesn’t seem to be the case with Calum, especially when he has a lasagne meal given to him by Willie. Now that shouldn’t be bad. But it turns out the lasagne has spinach in it. Not meat. Oh deary!

Calum’s not happy about this, especially when Willie reveals to him his reasons for becoming a vegetarian. In fact, the reason he became a vet was so he didn’t want to eat animals. That sounds fair.

But Calum clearly needs meat and doesn’t like it when he has this vegetarian option forced on him. But at least he has a go to eat the lasagne. And he still doesn’t like it as the spinach hasn’t got any salt.

You know, you could have used the cheese sauce to eat the spinach up, Calum. I mean, that would’ve made it tastier. Why would you need salt on the spinach? That would’ve made it less healthier anyway.

I found it funny when Calum lashed out on Willie on the lack of salt on the spinach before he eventually went to get salt himself. There’s no salt in the salt cellar however and there isn’t any salt in the kitchen.

Apparently, somebody got rid of the salt before Calum went to look in the kitchen for it. I wonder who got rid of it. It can’t be Willie surely. 😀 Calum seems pretty distressed when he hears of the lack of salt.

There’s also another plot point regarding Willie’s character that I’m surprised wasn’t carried forward in a future episode. It involves Willie getting a date with Jenny Jay as Miss Plumb. What’s her first name?

Miss Plumb comes into Skeldale surgery to ask the vets Calum and Willie to help out with his little budgie. Willie does a cursory examination whilst Calum is taking down details. Willie impresses this girl.

Although saying that, we don’t get to see enough of Willie doing vet work at Skeldale. He doesn’t even go out on rounds with Calum to various places. That would’ve been interesting to see if he’d done that.

Calum, when he’s making a meal for James and Siegfried later on, becomes dismayed that Willie’s going out on a date with Miss Plumb. I do not see why Calum should be. Deidre is his girlfriend already.

Maybe Calum was hoping to prove a point and maybe even poison Willie with his less-vegetarian meal. That’d be dark. Calum even gets drunk and is slow on making the evening meal. We’ll get to that later.

Sadly though, the Willie storyline for this episode doesn’t get followed on in the next episode. What a shame. It seemed there was potential for a second episode with Willie as a teetotaller and a vegetarian dating a girl in Series 5.

It’s like the introduction of Willie seemed a good idea at the time but was later abandoned because the writers/producers got bored. That does seem to be the case with some of these ‘All Creatures’ stories.

I’m not sure if Willie will get a mention in the next episode. He’ll probably be forgotten by the time we get to the next episode. If he did get a mention next time, it’ll be like Tristan’s when he left the show.

Mind you, Siegfried will probably be happy about it. In the episode, Willie cut something out of a magazine that Siegfried wanted. It puts Siegfried off after dealing with Calum on Skeldale’s untidiness.

Oh yeah, that’s still going on in the series. There’s still the problem of a lack of housekeeper in Skeldale. Maybe they should get Molly back from the previous TV episode. She did a good job. Where’s Deirdre?

By the way, what’s James up to? Well, he has a nice subplot where he deals with the Wains, a brother-sister team of farmers that have somewhat different approaches to life and work. This includes cows!

The episode features Ruth Holden as Mary Jane Wain and Peter Benson as Bernard Wain! Wait! Peter Benson is in this episode! Wow! It was nice to see him! I recognised him from doing ‘Doctor Who’. 😀

He guest starred in the story ‘Terminus’ with Peter Davison. He also did an episode of ‘Jeeves & Wooster’; has starred in ‘Heartbeat’ and my Mum and Dad recognised him from a Lord Peter Wimsey serial.

Bernard Wain seems to be a gentle soul who gets rather put down by his foreboding sister Mary Jane. She calls him useless whereas he’s actually very useful to James when assisting him in sorting their cow.

James tries to prove his point to Mary Jane that Bernard can be very useful on a second visit. This is especially when James told Mary Jane to go away. The job James and Bernard do together seemed tricky.

But thankfully, it does work out in the end. Bernard feels good about himself. Not sure if it lessens the temperament that Mary Jane has for his brother. I rather doubt it. Perhaps it’s saved for another story.

This episode also has James reunite with an old client he once had back in the days of Series 2. You see, James comes across a commotion where a dog lies in the middle of the road after being run over.

James thankfully checks the dog and it turns out to be okay. The dog’s owner is very grateful and knows who James is. Now, I had guessed that James was pretty well-known as the local vet in the area.

But it turns out there’s more to it than that. Apparently this is Jane Clifford (as she’s credited in the episode) as Eleanor Dimmock, whom James knew once as little Nellie as a little girl? Who is that then?

If you don’t remember, she was the nice little girl with her little dog from the Series 2 episode ‘The Name of the Game’, also by Brian Finch. She was one of a family of 8 or so children during that episode.

This is confirmed when James meets Harry Goodier as Mr. Dimmock, the girl’s father, who asks him to send the bill once he brought the dog back home. That was a running gag from that Series 2 episode.

I liked the connection made to that Series 2 episode in this Series 2. Yeah the casting’s different with Nellie now a woman and now called Eleanor. And the casting seems different for the father, I believe.

In fact it is, as the father was played by John Comer in that episode. Not Harry Goodier as in this. But at least they got Margaret Heery as Mrs. Dimmock from the Series 2 episode for the Series 5 one. Superb!

Regardless of cast changes, it was nice to see James reunite with the Dimmock family and attend to their dog. James even gets to meet Robert Garrett as Albert Penn who is Eleanor’s fiancée in the story.

There’s also Kristine Howarth as Mrs. Pounder from the Series 2 episode in this Series 5 episode. It’s amazing that they’d got some actors back from the Series 2 episode and not the one for the father.

The episode concludes with an amusing subplot where Calum makes a meal for James and Siegfried. Helen was invited, but she decides not to come. In fact, Helen’s barely in this episode. Such an impact!

Even Siegfried’s wife Caroline was invited. Wait! Siegfried’s still married to Caroline. The one from the 1983 special. We haven’t seen much of her, have we? How come we haven’t seen her much! What were they thinking?!

I found it very funny when the episode ended up with James and Tristan getting terribly drunk as well as Calum when he was slowly making the meal for them. I’m surprised Granville Bennett wasn’t there. 😀

And no joke! That’s how the episode ends! It abruptly ends when James and Tristan walk into the kitchen with Calum spilling their meals on the floor and they laugh away drunk. I’m surprised they ended on this note.

I enjoyed ‘The Salt of the Earth’. It’s a shame the Willie character didn’t appear in the next episode. But I did enjoy it when James reunited with the Dimmocks and when he and Siegfried got drunk at the end.

‘The Salt of the Earth’ rating – 8/10

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