Everything to Remember About 'All Creatures Great & Small' Season 3

Picture shows: On a sunny day in the Dales, James (Nicholas Ralph) and Helen (Rachel Shenton) hold hands, paused on a rough track flanked by drystone walls.

James (Nicholas Ralph) and Helen (Rachel Shenton) enjoy their day at the Alderson family's farm.

  Playground Entertainment/MASTERPIECE

Welcome back to Yorkshire! As we’re about to embark on a new season of All Creatures Great and Small, let’s catch up on what happened last season. There have been massive changes in Darrowby, and in all of Britain, as the country shifted closer to war: recruiting officers in the town square, blackout precautions in place, soldiers and airmen training in the countryside around the town, and the arrival of children evacuated from the major cities of the north. Although exempt from war service, the younger farmers flocked to sign up once the war was declared. Veterinarians, too, were a protected profession, and both James Herriot and Tristan Farnon were torn between duty at home and patriotism. Like the farmers’ sons, they knew this was their generation’s fight and signed up.  

But the season started in the spring, well before war was declared (although it was just a question of when), and finally – finally! James and Helen Alderson – stopped making excuses and buckled down to the business of getting married after months of hesitation. It all went as smoothly as expected, with Tristan as best man. To begin with, a dog ate the wedding ring. But moving on, Helen and James took up residence in the attic of Skeldale House, and James received a wedding gift from his boss Siegfried, a partnership in the business. Helen left her sister Jenny to run the family farm; Jenny, who had wanted to farm all her life, was thrilled at the responsibility. 

Helen and James adapted smoothly to their new home, far better than Siegfried did at having the married couple in the house. But James had a rude shock when he opened his first pay packet. As a partner, he now received a share of the monthly income and could expect only a modest and fluctuating income. In addition, Siegfried dumped extra responsibilities on him, namely the accounts, the job no one wanted and which had been neglected for some time. With no talent for numbers, James floundered in chaos until Helen, who’d done the family farm accounts for years, stepped in. 

Picture shows: James Herriot (Nicholas Ralph) and Helen Alderson (Rachel Shenton) get married.

James Herriot (Nicholas Ralph) and Helen Alderson (Rachel Shenton).

Credit: Courtesy of Playground Entertainment and MASTERPIECE.

Shamed by Helen’s efficiency, Siegfried was further threatened by James’s plans for dairy herd TB (tuberculosis) testing. While currently a voluntary program, farmers were suspicious of government interference, afraid their herds would be culled and their farms closed. In those days before antibiotics, TB was a killer disease, particularly lethal for children. Farmers were compensated for any cows that had to be destroyed, but the process was unpopular among stubborn Yorkshire farmers. James, who was fine with testing cows but incompetent with the barrage of forms that accompanied the work, realized that this could be a money-maker for the practice and protect public health. All he had to do was get the farmers on his side, and he now had Helen, respected in the farming community, to argue his case. But Siegfried was angry that James had taken the initiative.

Altogether, this was not a good year for Siegfried, who, like so many veterans who fought in World War I, suffered from PTSD (known then as shell-shock). Seeing the unmistakable signs of mobilization as the country prepared for war brought back terrible memories for him, as did a case with a beautiful horse, River, traumatized by cruel treatment. Siegfried’s calm consistency and kindness saved River, but the horse developed lameness before a major race. The retired officers who ran the upper-class racehorse mafia offered a deferment to Tristan’s military recruitment if Siegfried could use a quick fix to cure River. 

With Tristan’s call-up letter in his pocket, Siegfried agreed, knowing the race could permanently damage the horse. With no idea of the deal Siegfried was about to make, Tristan took the initiative of withdrawing River from the race, to his brother’s fury. As Siegfried admitted (but only to River), what else could he do? It was his little brother. Tristan and Siegfried’s relationship sank to a new low after a local schoolboy interested in veterinary work as a profession came into the surgery for a day, and Tristan witnessed Siegfried give the encouragement and attention he rarely received as a child. 

Picture shows: Siegfried Farnon with River the horse.

Siegfried Farnon (Samuel West)

Credit: Courtesy of Playground Entertainment and MASTERPIECE.

For three seasons now, there has been a slow, subtle attraction between Siegfried and housekeeper Mrs. Hall, who was too aware of the many obstacles that would make such a relationship impossible. (Siegfried’s personality being the main one.) Mrs. Hall suffered as her estranged son Edward (Conor Deane) nursed his anger and resentment, but when a letter arrived asking her to meet him at a railway station, she hoped for a reconciliation. 

Armed with a box of his favorite shortbread, Mrs. Hall waited several hours for Edward to turn up. She had realized long ago that World War I destroyed her husband’s well-being, and the decision she had made to turn Edward in to the authorities when he took to crime as a teenager made the relationship between mother and son difficult. With Edward off to war (he joined the Royal Navy), this could be their last chance at forgiveness and reconciliation.

Mrs. Hall’s relationship with Gerald Hammond (Will Thorp), centered on walks with dogs and picnics, was an even slower burn. They both made it clear they did not intend to remarry, and then Gerald took a big romantic step forward, asking her on an actual date to go to a concert. But Mrs. Hall, in her best outfit, was intimidated by the other couples, and backed off. Poor Gerald deliberately dropped the flowers he was carrying, and it seemed the romance was off before it started. That is, until Christmas Eve at Skeldale House. Gerald was invited at the last moment to dinner when he and Mrs. Hall met in the marketplace, and he told her he was leaving town to live with his sister. With some desperation, Mrs. Hall kissed Gerald thoroughly at the party while Siegfried lurked nearby and realized his chance was long gone.

Picture shows: Mrs. Hall (Anna Madeley) and Gerald Hammon (Will Thorp) walk across a green field, with drystone walls, rocks, and a tree in the background. Mrs. Hall carries a picnic basket and Geral carries a folded rug. They both look very happy.

Off on a picnic, Mrs. Hall (Anna Madeley) and Gerald Hammon  (Will Thorp).

Credit: Courtesy of Playground Entertainment and MASTERPIECE.

Since the series began, Tristan has maintained a reputation for dating and dropping women but never becoming emotionally involved. Clearly, it’s about time, and Daisy, the choking Dalmation, brought him and her owner Florence (Sophie Khan Levy), daughter of rival vet George Pandhi (Kriss Dosanjh), together. They seemed well-matched, but Florence was smart enough to realize Tristan and his brother had to sort out their troubled relationship before he could move on. Despite having what she described as the best date of her life – a picnic followed by a car chase ending at the knackers’ yard after a farmer’s prize milker had been picked up instead of a cow with a positive tuberculosis test – it just wasn’t the right time for this relationship.

Christmas of 1939, the first after the declaration of war, saw joy muted with the realization Tristan would be leaving for the RAVC (Royal Army Veterinary Corps) in a very short time. But Skeldale House was enlivened by the presence of a child, Eva Feldman (Ella Bernstein), an evacuee, who shared a joyful Hannukah seder with the household. Siegfried drove Tristan to the station, where his departure shared similarities with his arrival in Season 1––broke, leaving a hefty tab to be paid at the pub (probably by his brother), and traveling without a ticket in the guards’ van.

All Creatures Great and Small Season 4 debuts on Sunday, January 7, at 9 p.m. ET and will air one episode a week through Sunday, February 18, 2024. All seven episodes of Season 4 will arrive on PBS Passport on premiere day for members; Seasons 1 to 3 are available now. As always, check your local listings.

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All Creatures Great And Small

James Herriot’s adventures as a veterinarian in 1930’s Yorkshire get a new TV adaptation.
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Janet Mullany

Writer Janet Mullany is from England, drinks a lot of tea, and likes Jane Austen, reading, and gasping in shock at costumes in historical TV dramas. Her household near Washington DC includes two badly-behaved cats about whom she frequently boasts on Facebook.

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