WarningMight contain spoilers.

A sweet, charming, wholesome story filled with likable characters and hardly a villain in sight. The worst it imagines is the likes of General Ransom in ‘Andante’, who wants Siegfried to prioritize the race over the health of the horse. There is nothing dark, grim, or bleak here. There is only love, warmth, humour, and sincerity. At a time when anti-heroes and anti-villains rule the roost, this is a balm for the soul.

Tristan is an immensely likable rogue. Siegfried may be a strict authoritarian but he has a heart of gold—his enthusiasm for the surgical implements in ‘All’s Fair’, complete with sounds, is most endearing and amusing; the way it begins with Tristan miming going under anaesthesia and shows Siegfried gradually getting into the spirit of it is excellent. James doesn’t stand out as a character, but Nicholas Ralph ably anchors the show in the role. Mrs. Hall is just wonderful.

Not being familiar with her earlier work, I can only be grateful that we’re able to see as much of Dame Diana Rigg as we do. Watching James, Tristan, and Siegfried deal with Mrs. Pomfrey and her precious Tricki Woo is delightful. I must say, though, the careless manner in which all three vets treat the latter in ‘A Tricki Case’ is shocking, no matter how different veterinary care may have been at the time. I can’t imagine being Mrs. Pomfrey and entrusting my baby to the care of these experienced vets only for something to happen (and, furthermore, for them to deceive me!).

The animals are, of course, the linchpin of the story. All Creatures Great and Small would not be half as compelling without them. One can’t help but feel for the poor dog whose bone is broken by a pumpkin thanks to the negligence of its owner, or for the unfortunate cow who develops an abscess that James must treat in (unnecessarily gory and unpleasant) detail. Or help holding one’s breath in ‘The Night Before Christmas’ as James tends to Susie’s[1] complicated pregnancy. Andante having to be put down is heart-wrenching. (The villagers’ jabs at Herriot are mean and callous.)

Tristan ought to be working harder, but he’s a capable vet, considering his lack of experience, with a true love for animals. His opinion is instrumental in the recovery of the aforementioned cow. He gives up his Christmas evening to make sure a donkey is alright and even treats the young boy responsible with a touching sensitivity.

My favourite moment is at the end of ‘A Cure for All Ills’. James steps outside the bar, reeling from the shock of Helen’s newly-revealed engagement. Tristan and Mrs. Hall join him with barely a moment’s delay. Siegfried follows. No one speaks. They hardly even look at each other. They’re just there for him. It’s such a powerful and well executed scene.

The Christmas special is lovely, mixing a full dose of drama and suspense into the usual proceedings. Siegfried fumbling with his words when he and Dorothy are standing under the mistletoe is hilarious. Unfortunately, I must admit I find Helen rather insipid, bland, and characterless. I suppose she’s adequate as a love interest for James. I’m not sure I understand where things stand between them at the end.

I jumped straight into the second episode, as my family had already seen the first, and while it did leave me in the dark about the finer points of certain relationships, the show is hardly one with complex, intricate stories.

I finally rectified the omission about a month after finishing the second season. The show as I know it is there, but rough. It’s charming and nice enough without being quite as good as the following episodes, particularly since it lacks Tristan. It’s funny seeing James be a stranger to everyone and hearing everyone comment on his accent.

I can’t help feeling bad for James’s parents when I see them here and remember some of the shocks from the second season.

I wonder sometimes whether I’m hearing an anachronism or I’m just unaware of how old certain turns of phrase are, as when James and Tristan use ask her out.

  1. Or perhaps Suzy. I don’t know what the official spelling is.

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