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Charming Vet Drama 'All Creatures Great and Small' Returns to PBS' 'Masterpiece'

,, | January 7, 2022 | By

America's (and Britain's) favorite Yorkshire Dales veterinary practice is open again for business, treating All Creatures Great and Small.

On Sunday, Jan. 8, at 9 p.m. ET/PT  (check local listings), the series returns for a seven-episode second season -- again concluding with a Christmas special.

I reviewed All Creatures' first season last year, saying:

Not only does it respect the original source material — James Herriot’s (real name Alf Wight) novels inspired by his experiences as a veterinarian in northern England [in the 1930s] — but it holds up well against the first TV adaptation, which ran in the late ’70s and again in the late ’80s....

Set against the harsh but rugged beauty of northern England, All Creatures Great and Small has drama, warmth, lots of animals and (blessedly chaste) romance. I watched all seven episodes, radar up for any attempt to “modernize” the story and bring in values and ideas that would have been antithetical to the spirit of the original.

Happy to report that I didn't find any issues in season one.

Has Anything Changed in Season 2?

Fortunately, no. Expect more of the same in season two, as the characters' lives progress -- and, eventually, the shadow of World War II looms.

As season two opens, vet James Herriot (Nicholas Ralph) has returned to Yorkshire after a visit with his parents in Scotland, where a partnership in the vet practice and newly single possible love interest Helen (Rachel Shenton) await.

Said Ralph:

I hope [James] takes the courage and encouragement of becoming partner, of everything’s that happened in the last few episodes, and takes it in his stride, as I’m sure he will. …And romantically, I hope he gets to go on a first date with Helen. That would be amazing.

Practice founder and widower Siegfried Farnon (Samuel West) is trying to help his wayward younger brother, Tristan (Callum Woodhouse). advance in his veterinary career -- while juggling a new love interest, Diana (Dorothy Atkinson).

Said West:

What we do see in the season, I hope, is a more mature understanding of what a proper, responsible relationship with Tristan might turn into. ...

Not to get too psychological on it, but the idea that he’s now got to be a father to Tristan (when he isn’t Tristan’s dad, he’s his brother) irritates him.

What we might see in this season is Siegfried realizing that some of the things that Tristan is good at, or is going to be good at, come from letting him make his own mistakes, and giving him responsibility, ceding control.

There are hints that some characters -- especially Tristan -- might be up to some sexual mischief, but it's never explicitly talked about or shown.

But, as anyone who watches today's slew of popular veterinary shows knows, dealing with animals can be a messy business -- and it doesn't always turn out well.

So, parents of younger children who freak at seeing animals in distress might be urged to preview the episodes to avoid a traumatic incident.

But, there's no nudity; no language; as I said, no visible hanky-panky; just warm, affecting human drama about basically good people trying to do the right thing. There isn't even any irony.

The female characters are pushed more to the fore than in the source material, but not in a way that's obvious or self-conscious. The Yorkshire Dales might be slightly more diverse in this than in the real 1930s, but again, no big thing is made of it.

If you want a vacation from wokeness, despair, negativity, meanness and derision, here's your safe space.

The only downside is that the late Diana Rigg is no longer with us to play Mrs. Pumphrey, the wealthy owner of a pampered Pekingese Tricki Woo (Derek the dog). Replacing her is Patricia Hodge (A Very English Scandal).

While Tricki has some (unseen) amorous adventures this season, his first meeting with Hodge was, shall we say, uneventful.

She recalls:

I just loved (Derek) straight away. He is a sweetie. On the first day of filming Derek’s handler came over and said ‘I gather you want to meet Derek, here he is’ and he introduced us, and the first thing I ever do with a dog is hold my hand out, so the dog can start to sniff you.

And Derek literally looked at me, and looked away, and looked at me, and looked away. As if he was saying ‘Well, what on earth are you holding your hand out for!’

His handler told me he was the most laid-back dog, and he really is. He is an extraordinary dog. I’ve never come across such a placid dog before.

UPDATE: On Jan. 8, PBS announced that All Creatures Great and Small has been renewed for a third and fourth season.

From The Wrap:

Seasons 3 and 4 will each have seven episodes, with location shooting beginning in Yorkshire in Spring 2022.


Image: PBS

Kate O’Hare, a longtime entertainment journalist, is Social Media Manager at Family Theater Productions.

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