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All Creatures Great and Small is a British TV series based on the memoirs of James Herriot about his life as a veterinarian in the North Yorkshire town of Darrowby in the 1930s and beyond. The show ran from 1978 to 1980, had two Christmas Episodes in 1983 and 1985, and came back to run from 1988 to 1990, concluding with another Christmas Episode.

The show followed the lives of unassuming newly-fledged vet James Herriot; his temperamental but good-natured boss, Siegfried Farnon; Siegfried's laddish younger brother, Tristan; and James' eventual wife, Helen. The Revival added Calum Buchanan, a back-to-nature Scottish vet. Other recurring characters included Mrs. Hall, the invaluable housekeeper, and Mrs Pumphrey, the eccentric owner of a spoiled Pekinese.

The Theme Tune, Piano Parchment, is particularly lovely.


This show provides examples of:

  • The Alleged Car - Pervasive throughout the books: small, mass-produced 1930s British cars were woefully underpowered, lacked the bodily integrity to keep winter drafts out (let alone heaters!) and generally weren't up to the duties called for by a quasi-emergency service in mountainous territory.
  • All-Natural Snake Oil - Farmers sometimes try natural home remedies on their animals before calling the vet. These can range from the mildly useful to the downright sadistic.

 Siegfried: (regarding a "home treated" horse) It's hardly worth saying, I know, but if I'd pushed eighteen raw onions up yours the chances are you'd be unsteady on your feet too.

    • Ironically, many of the standard veterinary practices of the 1930s seem only a little better to a modern audience. Trepanning (drilling holes in the head), for example.
      • Routinely lampshaded in the books when Herriot mentions that he doesn't doubt that the modern vet student will look at his descriptions of their treatments of the time and consider them to be unbelievably barbaric (lungworm, for example, was treated with turpentine squirted into the lungs). He usually mentions, in the same breath, that the technology and attitudes of the time just didn't allow for better practices - either the science wasn't there yet, or no one had realized that there were better ways. And in the story about the first time he ever got to use sulfonamide on some seriously ill calves, which was spectacularly successful curing them, he notes that he still considers it to be a godsend, even for all the problems that have resulted from over-prescription.
  • Bad Boss: James once had to work for Angus Grier, a rage-prone drunken vet who makes Siegfried look like a saint.
  • Benevolent Boss: Siegfried is a genuinely good guy, despite his faults. For instance, when James, on his very first professional case, is forced to put down a valuable horse because it was too far gone with an incurably agonizing twisted bowel because the estate manager couldn't be bothered to call a vet until it was too late, Siegfried backs him up all the way.
  • Busman's Holiday: James has to do tuberculin testing on his honeymoon.
  • Butt Monkey; Life enjoys screwing with Tristan. Unlike James, Tristan remains a Butt Monkey because he usually reacts with the wounded dignity of a petulant 10-year-old.
  • Can't Hold His Liquor: James, at least compared to heavyweights like the Farnon brothers.
  • Cats Are Mean: Boris. Tristan's duel with the evil thing is here.
    • In a later episode, Siegfried is quite happy about going to Mrs Bond's because Boris is dead. He then panics on encountering what turns out to be the identical, and even worse-tempered, Son Of Boris.
  • Chivalrous Pervert: Tristan. When one of his dates gets locked out of her building for missing curfew, he gives her his bed and sleeps on the couch. Of course, Siegfried ends up barging into his room in the middle of the night to wake him for a call out, and finding a woman wearing a slip in his bed he assumes the worst and ransacks the room looking a Tristan to thrash. Eventually, the truth comes out, but Siegfried doesn't apologise.
  • Christmas Episode: Three movie-length ones.
  • Cool Pet: Calum has a badger!
  • Crazy Cat Lady: Mrs. Bond, the owner of Boris, believes that he's a reincarnated gladiator. She owns at least a dozen other cats.
  • Eccentric Townsfolk - Quite a few of these turn up.
  • Mr. Fanservice: Adorable blond scamp Tristan, ably played by not-yet-a-Doctor Peter Davison. According to the books, Siegfried is an even more literal example - Tristan chases girls, but Siegfried is chased by girls.
  • Eureka Moment: A tricky diagnosis is eventually solved when James is reminded that the cow looked like it was wearing spectacles.
  • Fan Disservice: James and Tristan often get shirtless, and then promptly get covered in cow shit.
  • Good Smoking, Evil Smoking: The show is set before the 50s so Tristan smokes cigarettes and Siegfried smokes a pipe.
  • Hands-On Approach: With a guitar Here.
  • Happily Married: James and Helen.
  • Have a Gay Old Time: If you hear someone say "bitch," they're talking about a female dog.
  • Horse Racing: Shows up a few times.
  • Hospital Hottie: Tristan is very fond of nurses.
  • Hypocritical Humor: Siegfried's trademark. He often patronizingly lectures James and Tristan for exhibiting the same faults as himself or for following advice he gave them last week and has now changed his mind about.

 James: You know the one thing I can't stand about your brother, Tris? It's when he gets patient with you. He gets this saintly look on his face and you know that any moment now he's going to forgive you. For something he's just done.

  • Impossible Insurance:
  • Innocent Innuendo: A nurse-friend of Tristan's sleeps in his room and is woken up in the middle of the night by Siegfried. The resulting conversation must be heard to be believed, and Mrs. Hall ends up fleeing the room in horror.
  • It Got Worse: James' dates with Helen usually go like this. Fortunately for him, she just finds it endearing.
  • I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: Tristan's girlfriend breaks up with him because she overheard him planning to give up on veterinary medicine in order to move to Scotland and marry her, and she doesn't want him to throw away his future in a career he loves just for her.
  • Kick the Dog: Quite literally. The practice occasionally runs into some bad cases of animal abuse.
  • Kindhearted Cat Lover: More than a few. Tristan himself is "absolutely potty about cats".
  • Kindly Vet: Should go without saying.
  • Long Runners - Sort of. The show ran for twelve years but only had seven series.
  • Mister Muffykins - Mrs Pumphrey's Pekinese named Tricki Woo. She treats him like her adopted son, claims that he's reincarnated from Chinese royalty, and can discuss with all seriousness what "Tricki" said the other day. (The vets put up with this because Mrs Pumphrey is very rich, and "Tricki" is very generous. Both are also genuinely likable personalities, in an eccentric way.)
  • My Local: The local pub is probably the second most used set in the show, right after Skeldale House itself.
  • National Stereotypes: Siegfried will sometimes rib James about his Scottish background.
  • Not That Kind of Doctor: A few clients end up mistaking the practice at Skeldale House for a regular doctor's office.
  • Old Dog: Mr Dean's dog Bob.
  • Old Retainer: Mrs. Hall. She's an invaluable housekeeper and cook and everyone knows it. Offending Mrs. Hall is considered a crime of the highest order.
  • One-Note Cook: Tristan can make excellent bangers and mash, and that's it.
  • Oop North: The show is set in North Yorkshire, so thickly accented farmers in flat caps are the norm.
  • The Other Darrin: Helen is played by Carol Drinkwater for the first part of the series and by Lynda Bellingham for the second.
  • Overtook the Manga: The show eventually ran out of book to adapt and began using scripts without any connection to the books.
  • Pet the Dog: Most characters, even the complete bastards, adore their animals.
  • Quirky Town
  • Real Life Writes the Plot: Several examples. James was confined to the surgery after Christopher Timothy hurt his leg and could only do studio work. Mrs. Greenlaw replaced Mrs. Hall after Mary Hignett died and Lynda Bellingham became Helen after Carol Drinkwater's real life relationship with Christopher Timothy ended.
  • Replacement Flat Character: Inverted. Instead of becoming less uptight, Tristan becomes less rambunctious over the years and Calum is brought in partially to provide the necessary level of wacky hijinks. He's less of a Niles and more of a Chachi.
  • Road Sign Reversal: The 'removing road signs to confuse invading troops' version happens in one of the episodes set in World War Two. A local tells the soldier who is removing a sign that, if he wants to confuse the Germans, he should leave that particular sign up as it has been pointing the wrong way for years.
  • Romantic False Lead: James' rival for Helen's affection, Richard Edmundson. This overlaps with Rich Suitor, Poor Suitor as Richard is landed gentry.
  • Scenery Porn: The English countryside gets a lot of screentime. And it's very pretty.
  • Series Hiatus: The break in the series between 1980 and 1988 wavers between this and Revival.
  • Serious Business: The local agricultural fair is not to be taken lightly.
  • Shout-Out Theme Naming: Meta example. The author of the original novels fictionalized some things, including most people's names. He was also a fan of the opera. Is it any wonder that his coworkers ended up with the names Siegfried and Tristan? This was Lampshaded inadvertently when Siegfried claims his father was a great fan of Wagner upon meeting James, which leads to the humorous observation that their names could have been worse-Wotan or Pogner, for instance.
  • Sibling Rivalry - Siegfried and Tristan are constantly trying to get one over the other. Siegfried tends to use his position of power as the head of the practice to stick Tristan with the worst jobs, always claiming that it's either a complete coincidence or for Tristan's own good. Tristan has to resort to sneakier plans that can range from a Batman Gambit to a Zany Scheme. He rarely succeeds.
  • The Slacker: It takes Tristan a long time to pass his exams.
  • Suspiciously Similar Substitute: Mrs. Greenlaw for Mrs. Hall.
  • Tyrant Takes the Helm: The dictatorial secretary Miss Harbottle, who lectures anyone who doesn't follow her system for keeping track of the receipts and hands out nagging little notes about it. When Siegfried finally snaps, he gives her a creepy, intense stare and dramatically rips up the note in her face. She is absolutely terrified and quits the next day. When Siegfried hears the news he drives around the countryside singing 'Hallelujah' at the top of his voice. You can see Siegfried desperately trying not to punch the old woman in the face here at 6:10 in.
  • Unexplained Accent: Helen Alderson, born and brought oop on the Darrowby moors, and Glaswegian James both speak with a Standard English accent. No explanation is given.
  • A Very British Christmas: The Christmas Episodes.
  • Violent Glaswegian: Averted hard with gentle Woobie James.
  • Wounded Gazelle Gambit: Tristan isn't above playing up his injuries to gain sympathy from a young lady, or to score a free drink.
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