Based on the highly popular books by James Herriot All Creatures Great and Small told gentle and homely tales of veterinary life between the 1930’s and 1950’s were set in Darrowby, Yorkshire.
The series began in the 1930’s when newly qualified vet James Herriott takes up a position working for Seigfried Farnon, a somewhat arrogant middle aged vet and his younger impetuous brother Tristan (who at the start of the show was yet to be qualified as a vet). Midway through season one James had fallen for and then married Helen, (Carol Drinkwater who played Helen and Christopher Timothy who played James became real life partners).
The series was immediately very popular and continued for three seasons, then, with the action having moved to the beginning of World War II and all three vets gearing up to get involved in the conflict the series was brought to what seemed like a natural conclusion.
Then three years later there was a 90 minute Christmas Special (more or less by public demand and broadcast Christmas Day 1983) catching up with Herriot and the rest, then another special followed two years later (again broadcast Christmas Day – 1985). Again it looked like that was it until in 1988 the BBC decided to bring the series back.
The original run had followed faithfully the stories written by James Herriott whilst this later run, taking up the story to the 1950’s and bringing in a new vet in the shape of Scottish Calum Buchanan, relied more on original material.
The major difference in this version of the series is that Carol Drinkwater didn’t appear (she and Timothy were no longer an item and her role was taken by Lynda Bellingham). James and Helen’s children were now growing up but otherwise it was business as usual. Seigfried was still cantankerous, Tristan still an incurable romantic and James the family man.
During the show’s run many of the farmers James saw made regular appearances as did the character of Mrs Pumphrey and her troublesome dog Tricky Woo, spoilt to the Nth degree, James would find himself regularly attending to the dogs needs, although Mrs Pumphrey, who was very rich, usually looked after the boys very well.
In December 2011 BBC-1 broadcast a 3 part part series called Young James Herriot with James as a young student vet. A hoped for series didn’t eventuate.
UK / BBC1-A&E / 88×50 minute episodes 3×90 minute episodes / Broadcast 8 January 1978 – 5 April 1980 and 17 January 1988 – 24 December 1990
Creator: Johnny Byrne / Music: Johnny Pearson / Vetinary advisor:Jack Watkinson /Producer: Bill Sellars
CHRISTOPHER TIMOTHY as James Herriott
ROBERT HARDY as Siegfried Farnon
PETER DAVISON as Tristan Farnon
CAROL DRINKWATER as Helen Herriott(78-80)
LYNDA BELLINGHAM as Helen Herriott(88-90)
JOHN McGLYNN as Calum Buchanan(88-90)
MARGARETTA SCOTT as Mrs Pumphrey
MARY HIGNETT as Mrs Hall(78-80)