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Interview: Writer Ben Vanstone on All Creatures Great and Small Season 2

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All Creatures Great and Small interview: Lead writer Ben Vanstone talks Season 2

The second season of Channel 5’s All Creatures & Small reboot begins this Thursday, here Ben Vanstone tells us what we can expect through the season.

What’s happening in Darrowby when we return to All Creatures Great and Small?

“Since the Christmas episode, James has been keeping his head down and getting on with work in his new role as senior vet. He’s given Helen the space and time she needs to get over what happened.

“Having missed out on seeing his family at Christmas, he’s gone back home to Scotland for Easter to spend some time with his mum and dad.

“Siegfried has allowed Tristan to continue believing that he’s passed his exams but is careful not to let him take on any work that might tarnish the practice’s reputation should be mess-up. For his part, Tristan is glad to have Siegfried off his back and is quite glad to live the easy life carrying out menial tasks in Skeldale House.”

James starts the series back home in Glasgow, what was the inspiration for that beginning?

“We wanted to make sure that James’s choice was about more than just his relationship with Helen.

“It’s also a love story between him and the Dales. We made the decision to have James offered a job so we could play out that choice to stay in the Dales. A place he’s come to love and to think of as his new home.”

What can viewers expect in terms of the James and Helen story…

“It was important for us to play out the truthful consequences of Helen’s decision not to marry Hugh. It didn’t feel right that the next time we see Helen, she was already in a relationship with James. We wanted to play out the impact of Helen’s decision and allow her the space to discover quite what she wants next in life.

“We are quite aware of James’s feelings towards Helen but I don’t think the same can be said for her. Obviously, she has some feelings for James but we really wanted to give Helen some time to discover who she is and what she wants before launching into a relationship as a fait accompli.”

How did you approach Patricia Hodge joining the show as Mrs Pumphrey?

“Firstly, I have to say that it was terribly sad to lose Dame Diana Rigg last year and she’ll be sorely missed. We appreciate all the time we spend with her and know that she was well loved by fans of the show.

“When we looked to recast, we wanted to make sure that we honoured the work Diana had done before and continue the legacy of the iconic character of Mrs Pumphrey.

“I was absolutely thrilled when I heard Patricia accepted our invitation to join the show and I did have a detailed conversation with her about what she wanted to bring to the part.”

Tell us how you came to write such strong female characters in this adaptation?

“We always strive to have well-rounded, truthful characters, with their individual wants and needs so naturally this is how we approach our female characters.

“Both Mrs Hall and Helen are women of their time but who are perhaps more forward looking and progressive than many of their contemporaries of that era.

“Mrs Hall is someone who carries the burden of a difficult past that sometimes prevents her from moving on in certain aspects of her life. But time can be a great healer and hopefully this year we might see Mrs Hall doing something for herself for a change.”

What animal storylines should we look out for in Season 2?

“There’s a very moving story about a widowed farmer’s wife called Mrs Dalby. It’s brilliantly told by a new writer joining the show, Chloe Mi Lin Ewart and comes at a crucial point in the development of James and Helen’s relationship.

“I think my favourite story is one involving a budgie and Tristan. Callum (Woodhouse) does an excellent job and it still makes me laugh after watching it goodness knows how many times in the edit.”

World War ll is on the horizon this series how will that affect storylines?

All Creatures Great and Small is a show about a family of vets in the Dales and the community they serve. While it’s impossible to ignore the fact that war is on the horizon, we never wanted it to be something that overrides the fundamental nature of the show.

“We will experience the gradual creep of looming conflict but this will be very much through our characters rather than with a bird’s eye view of the wider political context.”

Why does All Creatures Great and Small appeal to viewers, especially during the difficult times we’ve faced in recent months?

“So much TV drama portrays events that are outside the realm of human experience. How many of us have been party to a grisly murder, or death? How often do we conduct illicit affairs that lead to bloody consequences?

“And I can’t remember the last time I saw a zombie chasing someone through Westfield shopping centre; true I’ve not been there on a Friday night for some time but still…”

“In all seriousness, I think the success of the show has far more to do with the fact that it portrays more relatable human experience. Hard-working people, trying to find ways to get through life, where small and simple acts of kindness have huge significance. We don’t all have soaring romances or have lives ruled by cataclysmic events.

“Instead, it’s the small things that matter, a friend checking in on you when you’ve had a hard time, someone noticing that you need support when things aren’t going well, a squeeze of the hand when someone sees your upset and all the things left unsaid when a look is all it takes.

“This has never been more true in the difficult times we’ve all experienced lately and maybe there is a desire for a more gentle form of storytelling alongside the high octane fare that dominates a lot of the various platforms.”