'All Creatures Great & Small' Keeps "The Home Fires" Burning

Picture shows: Richard Alderson (Tony Pitts) fusses over his pregnant daughter Helen Herriot (Rachel Shenton). She's sitting in a chair in a sunny farmyard wrapped in a blanket.

Richard Alderson (Tony Pitts) and Helen Herriot (Rachel Shenton).

Credit: Courtesy of Playground Entertainment and MASTERPIECE

With James leaving for Devon at the end of last week’s All Creatures Great & Small for his RAF training, Helen is lonely despite the affectionate company of her adopted cat, Oscar. She busies herself with fixing the leaking kitchen tap before Siegfried blusters in and takes over. Skeldale House is also quieter than usual, with only one veterinarian for Siegfried to shout at. Mrs. Hall suggests getting in someone who knows what they’re doing for the plumbing. Also, she gently pushes Helen to visit her father and sister, Jenny (Imogen Clawsen), for a change of scenery at the family farm Heston Grange. 

Up at the farm, the family is anxious to hear news of James, and Helen tells them what she knows he hasn’t flown a plane yet because he’s still in training with exercises and drills. Her dad is limping from a twisted knee and refuses to visit a doctor, leaving him grumpier than usual, and when Helen asks about her own birth and his memories of her as a baby, he claims he’s forgotten.

Back at Skeldale House, Siegfried is also bidding for the grumpiest man in Darrowby, picking a fight with Richard and refusing to allow him to accompany him on rounds. Mrs. Hall suggests Richard should try standing up to Siegfried. When Helen returns from her visit, she tells Mrs. Hall and Siegfried she’s decided to move back home because of her father’s injury. But as soon as she’s back and trundling a wheelbarrow, her father wants her to sit and rest in a chair in a sunny spot, not do any work. Helen, as we know, wants to keep busy, and eventually, her dad allows her to feed the calf Smokey when Helen is concerned he won’t eat.

Picture shows: Mrs. Hall (Anna Madeley), Helen (Rachel Shenton)

Mrs. Hall (Anna Madeley) and Helen (Rachel Shenton).

Credit: Courtesy of Playground Entertainment and MASTERPIECE

As Gerald and Mrs. Hall enjoy a cozy evening by the fire with a chessboard and cups of tea, he mentions his dog, Rock, is limping. Mrs. Hall points out one of Rock’s testicles is enlarged; Gerald should bring him in for surgery. Gerald doesn’t seem to like that, nor does he like that Mrs. Hall hasn’t given notice yet. Mrs. Hall returns to write a resignation letter. Upon receiving it, Siegfried gasps, “You’re leaving me!” She suggests he open and read the letter, explaining it’s the chance for a new life with Gerald now her divorce is finalized, and she starts packing to leave.

Back at Gerald’s, the BBC is transmitting an ominous broadcast advising people what to do in case of an invasion since England is now fighting against Germany alone. He turns the radio off but is relieved to hear that she’s given notice. Rock, meanwhile, helps himself to some meat on the kitchen table and eats some before Mrs. Hall snatches it away. Of course, she washes it; meat is rationed, and you don’t let a bit of dog saliva ruin your plans for dinner!

The following day, Gerald brings Rock in to have the swollen testicle inspected. He is soon trapped in the examination room with Siegfried, who lets loose his frustration over Mrs. Hall’s departure with a diatribe over Gerald’s irresponsibility in not coming in sooner. Gerald is further shocked to learn that Rock will need surgery and is terrified for his dog. He says he needs time to think and takes Rock home.

Picture shows: Mrs. Hall (Anna Madeley) and Gerald Hammond (Will Thorpe) meet in his house when she tells him she's changed her mind about him again.

Mrs. Hall (Anna Madeley) and Gerald Hammond (Will Thorpe) break up again.

Credit: Courtesy of Playground Entertainment and MASTERPIECE 

Meanwhile, Helen, concerned about Smokey’s listlessness and loss of appetite, summons Richard to examine him. He learns that the calf has been gorging himself on windfall apples in the orchard, which could beseveres if he’s blocked his digestive system. But Papa Alderson insists all that’s needed is linseed oil, and while he’s usually a taciturn, blunt man, this anger and aggression is unusual. Richard doesn’t have much choice; linseed oil is it. Alderson rants about his experience as a farmer versus book learning until Richard loses control of the animal, and the calf knocks down both Alderson and Helen. However, they are unhurt, landing in the hay.

Unsurprisingly, that doesn’t work, and Siegfried, still fighting the kitchen tap, is distracted when Helen phones again as Smokey’s condition is deteriorating. Helen and her father quarrel violently, with him shouting at her to do as she’s told. She responds by packing back up and returning to Skeldale House, only to learn Mrs. Hall has given notice. Helen asks if Mrs. Hall and Gerald are now engaged, and she replies cryptically, “In a manner of speaking.” She probably won’t be there for the birth of Helen’s baby.

Richard and Siegfried get to work on poor little Smokey’s stomach, distended and blocked by his apple gluttony. Ashamed of his loss of control, Alderson apologizes to Richard and leaves to visit Helen. There, he opens up about a piece of family history that has been a well-kept secret; when Helen was three, her mother gave birth to a stillborn baby. Like Helen, her mother always wanted to be busy and active, and he’s afraid Helen is overdoing things; Alderson sees their mother in Helen and Jenny all the time, and they all miss her. Helen reassures him as best she can, and they make their peace.

Picture shows: Helen (Rachel Shenton) laughs and cries with relief as she listens to her baby's heartbeat.

Helen (Rachel Shenton).

Credit: Courtesy of Playground Entertainment and MASTERPIECE

But later, Helen tells Mrs. Hall she’s worried her baby isn’t moving, and she can’t get hold of the midwife, so Mrs. Hall takes her to Siegfried (because, apparently, there is no doctor in town?), driving like a demon to the Aldersons’ farm, where Smokey’s surgery is completed. Siegfried agrees to examine Helen’s abdomen; Richard, faced with female flesh, panics and offers to make tea. (They tell him to shut up.) Siegfried is nervous. He’s done this, but never before on a human specifically, a human he cares about. He asks Richard to put the stethoscope into Helen’s ears, and she laughs and cries with relief when she hears the heartbeat.

When they all return to Skeldale House, Siegfried asks Mrs. Hall for help composing an ad for a new housekeeper. He read her letter, touched by her appreciation for him providing her refuge and work. But her life is continuing, and they’re both sad about it. Instead of helping, Mrs. Hall visits Gerald, declaring she’s not ready to leave. It is yet another breakup. Mrs. Hall then heads to Heston Grange under the pretext of taking them bread to tell Helen she will be there for the baby’s birth. 

Siegfried’s incompetent plumbing repair is interrupted by Gerald, who has brought Rock for surgery and is waiting it out in the kitchen. He’s glad Gerald made the right decision; the tumor is easily removed. Gerald tells Mrs. Hall he will leave soon, as the clock he fixed early in their relationship chimes, and Mrs. Hall comments it’s kept perfect time. After he’s gone, Mrs. Hall asks Siegfried if she can stay on, as they realize Gerald fixed the kitchen tap. Meanwhile, Helen decides it’s time she and Oscar, the cat, went home. They return to Skeldale House, where she, Mrs. Hall, and Siegfried settle in for a cozy game of Scrabble.

In the U.K., this was the season's finale episode; here in the U.S., it will stand as the penultimate episode, with the Christmas special coming next week.

Stream Now

All Creatures Great And Small

James Herriot’s adventures as a veterinarian in 1930’s Yorkshire get a new TV adaptation.
All Creatures Great and Small: show-poster2x3

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.

More to Love from Telly Visions