Follow TV Tropes


Series / All Creatures Great & Small (2020)

Go To

"The animals are the easy part. It's the people cause all the bother."
Siegfried Farnon, "You've Got to Dream"

The latest television adaptation of the classic books by James Herriot, inspired by his career as a rural Yorkshire veterinarian beginning in the 1930s. The show stars Nicholas Ralph, Samuel West, Anna Madeley, Callum Woodhouse, and Rachel Shenton.

In 1937, Glasgow native and newly-qualified veterinary surgeon James Herriot (Ralph) is seeking his first professional position. He receives a job offer from the experienced but mercurial Siegfried Farnon (West) to assist in his practice at Skeldale House in Darrowby, North Yorkshire, and there embarks on his career of helping to care for farmers' livestock and villagers' pets. The two vets are ably assisted by Mrs Audrey Hall (Madeley), Skeldale House's inimitable, unflappable, motherly housekeeper, and by aspiring vet Tristan Farnon (Woodhouse), Siegfried's rakish younger brother.

As James gets used to his new job and surroundings, he finds himself falling hard for local farmer's daughter Helen Alderson (Shenton), but discovers that he has a rival — initially, at least — in Hugh Hulton (Matthew Lewis), a wealthy landowner. Among the vets' clients is Mrs Pumphrey (the late Dame Diana Rigg in Series 1, Patricia Hodge from Series 2 on), a wealthy but eccentric widow who owns a pampered Pekingese named Tricki Woo.

Produced for Channel 5, the show premiered in the UK in September 2020; four months later PBS began airing it in the US as part of Masterpiece. By January 2022, the show had been renewed through a fourth series.

See All Creatures Great and Small (1978) for the previous TV adaptation.

This series provides examples of:

  • Adaptation Expansion: A lot of plot lines are added which didn't exist in the books. For instance, James' choice to euthanize a mortally injured horse is controversial here, with his reputation on the line until Siegfried's autopsy confirms his assessment, and he gets called "horse killer" by another farmer mockingly. Neither of these had occurred before — rather, only the corrupt farm manager was angry about it, with Siegfried also backing up his decision immediately. Also, Helen never got engaged to anyone else, and their relationship proceeded far more smoothly (she only briefly dates anyone else before the two get married). Mrs. Hall's personal life never gets delved into at all, while here she's suffered past domestic abuse and is estranged from her son. This was both to add more drama and, much more importantly, give the women (specifically Mrs Hall and Helen) deeper and more well-rounded characterization.
  • Adaptational Intelligence: Patricia Hodges' Mrs. Pumphrey is a little less dotty than she was originally portrayed (compared to both the previous season's late Diana Rigg and the original material).
  • Adorably Precocious Child:
    • Jenny, Helen's little sister. She takes a keen interest in veterinary work and sometimes takes it upon herself to help care for the convalescing animals.
    • Eva, the wartime evacuee who's staying at Skeldale House in "Merry Bloody Christmas".
  • Age Lift: Siegfried is much older than his original counterpart. Here he's portrayed as having served in World War I, while in the books he's described as being just a few years older than James. (This may have been altered to better fit actor Samuel West's age, as he was 54 when the series began — although he could pretty easily pass for a couple decades younger). Conversely, the books describe Mrs Hall as being in her sixties, but here she's played by the 44-year-old Anna Madeley.
  • The Alleged Car:
    • James's company-car 1933 Vauxhall Light Six has a loose passenger seat and "intermittent" brakes. The practice was essentially operating a quasi-emergency service in mountainous territory, which was a far more severe service than most small British cars of the period were built to withstand.
    • Tristan purchases an even more dilapidated Morris Major saloon in Series 3.
  • Always Lawful Good: James never fails to provide an honest account of an animal's condition, even if doing the opposite would make his life easier.
  • Always on Duty: All the residents of Skeldale can and will be called out at any and all hours of the day and night if an animal is hurt or sick. Justified and Truth in Television for both the time period and the profession; until very, very recently, veterinary surgeons/veterinarians were always "on-call" to their clients because medical emergencies don't wait for business hours, and particularly in small one- or two-vet practices there was no one else to take the call. Even today, with the rise of emergency veterinary hospitals and out-of-hours services, many rural practices still have an on-call rota for their vets and nurses because there aren't any emergency services in the area, and that GDVnote  or trauma injury won't wait till morning.
  • And Starring:
    • In Series 1, Nicholas Ralph receives an "Introducing" billing to show that this is his first professional television role. In Series 2, he receives the "And" billing while moving up to third in the credits after Samuel West and Anna Madeley.
    • In episodes they appear in, Matthew Lewis receives the "With" billing while Diana Rigg and then Patricia Hodge receive the "And" billing after the five main cast members are credited.
  • Animated Credits Opening: The show's Title Sequence is a gorgeously illustrated rendering of the drive into Darrowby, featuring many wild and domesticated animals on the way.
  • Antagonistic Offspring: Mrs Hall's son, who broke off contact with her after she refused to take the fall for him Stealing from the Till at her previous job. They semi-reconcile in Series 3's "Edward".
  • Artistic License – Gun Safety: Averted. All characters who have to use long guns always handle them in the correct stance: chambers open until needed, barrels pointed towards ground or other safe place, finger does not touch the trigger guard until the last moment. At some point, Tristan has to shoot an injured cow and keeps the safety on until the owner calls him up on it. As of 1937, most older characters were WWI veterans and had the gun safety discipline deeply ingrained.
  • As the Good Book Says...:
    • Siegfried and Mrs Hall discuss the story of the Prodigal Son. Siegfried, who points out the parallels to the Farnon family, resents that the responsible elder son was forced to forgive the prodigal "swine" when he came traipsing back.
    • Siegfried tries to use this to call Mrs Hall out for lying, but is let down by his lack of knowledge of Scripture:
      Siegfried: What is it the seventh commandment tells us?
      Mrs Hall: [drily] Thou shalt not commit adultery.
      Siegfried: ...Well, the other one, then.
  • Ascended Extra: Though she wasn't exactly an extra, Mrs Hall had a fairly minor presence in both the original books and the classic series. In this adaptation, she's far more fleshed out, with her own fully-developed characterization and backstory. She is also significantly younger than in the source material; she is implied to be closer to Siegfried's age, having served in the Wrensnote  as a young woman at the same time that a newly-qualified Siegfried was serving as an Army vet on the battlefields of Belgium.
  • Ass Shove: Being a vet, James often finds himself with his arm shoulder deep up animals' backsides.
  • Away in a Manger: The trope is downplayed (it's in a farmhouse rather than a stable, and the mother is a dog) but unmistakeably present when James and Helen assist at the birth of puppies in the early hours of Christmas morning.
  • Baseball Episode: "The Last Man In" focuses on a cricket match sponsored by Mrs. Pumphrey.
  • Beauty Is Never Tarnished: After having to untwist a horse's uterus during labor, James is only a bit sweaty and still clean enough to put his arm around Helen in her nice dress (as opposed to covered in grass stains and bodily fluids).
  • Better with Non-Human Company: Siegfried is notoriously terrible at dealing with other humans, but he is absolutely fantastic with animals.
  • Beware the Quiet Ones: Mr Alderson (Helen's father) doesn't say much, but he can be pretty scary if you piss him off.
  • Big Friendly Dog: Jess, Siegfried's pet golden retriever. She can usually be seen cuddling on the couch with one of the residents of Skeldale House.
  • Birthday Episode: "Many Happy Returns" (2021) for Tristan.
  • Brilliant, but Lazy: Tristan. Siegfried outright tells Mrs Hall that Tristan is smarter than him; a major reason he's so frustrated is because he knows Tristan would be great if he just applied himself.
  • Call-Back: When Tristan goes off to his military training in the third Christmas episode, he stows away in one of the train's cargo cars, just as he had when he arrived to Darrowby in the first series.
  • Christmas Episode: As with most UK dramas, the show produces a yearly Christmas special:
    • "The Night Before Christmas" (2020)
    • "The Perfect Christmas" (2021)
    • "Merry Bloody Christmas" (2022)
  • City Mouse: James is initially out of his depth in the Yorkshire countryside, having spent his whole life in urban, industrial Glasgow with his only exposure to farm animals being through veterinary school.
  • Cool Car: Siegfried's green 1935 Rover 12 P1 sports tourer. In the second episode James and Tristan borrow it and promptly damage the back bumper.
  • Cruel to Be Kind: James insists on examining Clive the bull even after Clive's been given the blue ribbon and gets the truth out of Dobson about his heifers (who'd Clive serviced) not being pregnant, which results in the prospective buyer turning him down and Clive being sold off for meat at a much lower price than he'd have gotten as a stud. Helen and her father thank James for it because he hadn't pushed back against Hugh's interference and let them sell a compromised animal, the Alderson's name would have been mud all over the Dales.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: Dorothy drops a hint that Audrey Hall is a survivor of Domestic Abuse, and Siegfried is revealed to have lost his wife Evelyn just four years prior to the start of the series, on top of serving in World War I.
  • Declaration of Protection: His notable eccentricities aside, Siegfried makes it abundantly clear in a discussion with Helen in series 3 that he takes the safety of everyone he is responsible for utterly seriously, and that regardless of all appearances, he is still very much the head of the household and he will protect everyone in their ad hoc family no matter what.
    Siegfried: Helen, look at me. Everyone under this roof is in my care. Do we understand one another?
  • The Determinator: Until he's convinced that nothing more can be done, James will not rest until he has healed an animal.
  • Eccentric Millionaire: Mrs Pumphrey, who lives on a lavish estate with a full complement of servants and can most often be seen doting on Tricki Woo.
  • "Eureka!" Moment: After seeing Mrs Pumphrey go right back to stuffing Tricki Woo the moment he is returned to her care, Siegfried decides that writing Tristan a cheque and sending him back to school will be the same thing, and he'd be better off being tutored by Siegfried. Tristan is... not thrilled about this.
  • Family of Choice: Skeldale House has formed its own tight-knit little family, with Siegfried and Audrey as the parents, James as the responsible older brother, and Tristan as the rapscallion little brother. Helen joins as well, particularly once she and James get engaged and then married.
  • Fictional Counterpart: Edinburgh Veterinary College, which Tristan is portrayed as attending, is a fictionalized version of the University of Edinburgh's Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies (aka "Dick Vet"), the real-life alma mater of both Donald and Brian Sinclair.
  • Foregone Conclusion: The characters' hopes and Chamberlain's promises in the series 2 finale notwithstanding, Britain will be going to war.
  • Fourth-Date Marriage: James and Helen get engaged maybe six months, if that, after they officially get together. It works anyway, for two reasons; first, they had been growing closer as friends for nearly a year before they started seeing each other, and second, they are obviously perfect for each other, to the point where their engagement comes across as absolutely believable despite the short time frame.note  The real people they're based on also married within a year or so after meeting.
  • Full-Name Ultimatum: Used by an irate Audrey Hall trying to get the truth out of Siegfried:
    Audrey: Siegfried Donald Farnon!!
  • Game of Nerds: James being a football fan himself, he is rather baffled to discover that the rest of Skeldale House is absolutely cricket-mad. Both Siegfried and Tristan play, with Tristan in particular having been a champion cricketer at prep school, and Audrey Hall is such an enthusiast that she knows chapter and verse about the sport and does the scoring for the annual cricket match at Pumphrey Manor. James does come to appreciate the sport, however, and even steps in to play at the last minute.
  • The Heart: Audrey Hall, the resident Team Mum of Skeldale's ad hoc family. She is not only a caring mother figure to James and Tristan, but Siegfried's sounding board and chief source of support, and it's made fairly clear that all of them would be lost without her.
    Dorothy: [to Siegfried] Audrey has a big heart, and she opens it up to everyone — even those who don't always deserve it. Look out for her for me.
  • Heroes Love Dogs: James loves dogs and they seem magnetically attracted to him. This endears him to Mrs Pumphrey because he gets along with Tricki Woo, leading her to make James the dog's Honorary Uncle.
  • Hidden Depths:
    • Mrs Hall turns out to be a crack shot with a gun, and uses her knowledge to get the better of a carnival stall owner.
      Siegfried: [visibly impressed] Where on Earth did you learn to shoot like that?
      Audrey: What'd you think we did in the Wrens? Embroidery?
    • Tristan's first impression when he turns up is of a lazy wastrel who's more interested in flirting than veterinary work. He does prove soon that he can be insightful when he's paying attention, is the one to work out how to perform surgery on a cow's neck abscess without killing her, and gives a shy boy advice on how to be more confident in the Christmas episode (along with volunteering to spend the rest of the party with a sick donkey).
  • Hired Help as Family: Audrey Hall is far more than just Skeldale's housekeeper. Not only is she a surrogate mother figure to both Tristan and James, but she is also, by all appearances, the closest friend Siegfried has in the world and the only person he will truly confide in without reservation.
  • Holding Hands:
    • James and Helen hold hands frequently, particularly after they start dating. This being 1930s Yorkshire, this and a few chaste kisses are about all they can do in public.
    • This gesture is fraught with meaning for Siegfried and Audrey, who — as Brits in their forties in the late 1930s, and an employer and his housekeeper to boot — are not at all prone to showing physical affection to each other. The moments when they do hold hands — such as when Siegfried is comforting Audrey in church after her estranged son Edward fails to show up for Christmas or when he opens up to her about the suicide of an old war comrade — are confined to moments of true, raw emotional intimacy between them.
  • Hollywood Pudgy: Tricki Woo is, according to the narrative, so overweight it is badly affecting his health. Derek, his canine "actor", is a perfectly normal Pekingese. Given the very real health risks to a dog of Tricki's actual body condition, though, this one can be chalked up to Acceptable Breaks from Reality.note  invoked
  • Horsing Around: James gets a couple of solid kicks from a horse with a painful abscess.
  • Hypocritical Humour: Siegfried is full of this. As an example, he tells Tristan off for sitting with his feet up on the table and then immediately does the same thing himself. Also, he grumbles about people keeping dogs as pets (as he believes dogs should be kept as working animals) despite having a beloved pet dog (Jess) himself.
  • Implied Love Interest: Though Siegfried dates other women over the course of the show, his true emotional partner and confidante is Audrey Hall, in whom he seems to have complete trust and who brings out his softest side. She is also the only person he will listen to when he's being particularly bombastic and mercurial. Unsurprisingly, there is plenty of Ship Tease between the two.
  • Insatiable Newlyweds: In Season 3, James and Helen are depicted as this for about half an episode after their marriage. They do settle down after that, though they remain very much in love.
  • Instant Drama, Just Add Tracheotomy: Happens with Flo Pandhi's dalmatian in Season 3. After a brief collapse and recovery with no other symptoms, the dog suffers an attack again and she brings it to the surgery. Tristan finds that it has a pebble caught in its throat which is intermittently blocking the trachea, and he has to perform a hasty procedure to extract it... after a day of surgery and his usual habit of neglecting clean-up until the last moment. The scare convinces him to get on top of cleaning.
  • Instrumental Theme Tune: A piano-heavy number composed by Alexandra Harwood, which includes a couple of subtle nods to the theme from the 1978–90 series.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: Though Siegfried isn't always kind in his delivery, he regularly hammers home hard truths about the exigencies of veterinary medicine, particularly since many of the locals rely on their animals for their own livelihood. Sometimes, compassion and idealism have to lose out against sheer, brutal pragmatism.
  • Just Train Wrong: James travels from Glasgow to Yorkshire in the 1930s on a train made up of a Great Western Railway steam engine and postwar British Railways coaches.note 
  • Kindly Housekeeper: Mrs Hall, although she can also be a Servile Snarker when someone deserves it.
  • Kindly Vet: The archetypal ur-example is present here in lead character James Herriot, natch. Siegfried Farnon also qualifies, however; eccentric and grumpy he might be with people, but with animals he is amazing.
  • Knight in Sour Armor: Siegfried is perpetually irritable, but he has a good heart and genuinely wants the best for everyone.
  • Liar Revealed: Tristan comes home claiming he's passed all his veterinary college exams, which pleases Siegfried so much that he buys his younger brother a car. This immediately wracks Tristan with guilt until Mrs Hall's discovery of the truth (he failed two out of three exams) forces him to fess up.
  • Like an Old Married Couple: Siegfried and Mrs Hall bicker like they've been married for decades, but obviously care for each other a great deal and trust each other implicitly.
  • Living Emotional Crutch: A lot of the pets are this for their pet-owners. Notable examples are Tricki Woo to Mrs Pumphrey, the dachshund at the fair to its owner, and Peter the Budgie to the blind old lady.
  • Loophole Abuse: Subverted. James realizes mid-explanation that he never signed the form that Mrs. Hall mistakenly sent to the MAG (erroneously stating that there was no TB in the Aldersons' herd), which makes it null and void. Harcourt quashes his moment of relief by saying that signed or no, the form's existence still makes it look like he was he trying to deceive the Ministry of Agriculture.
  • Maligned Mixed Marriage: An elderly couple of a black woman and a white man appear in the first Christmas special when James helps their pregnant dog give birth. The wife tells James and Helen that she and her husband lost all their friends when they decided to marry.
  • Manly Tears:
    • James is seen Trying Not to Cry after he has to put down a horse, and starts crying in earnest when Siegfried tells him that he was right to have done so. He also wells up when his Love Interest reveals that she is engaged to another man.
    • There have been a few occasions that Siegfried has looked like he is on the verge of tears when yelling at his brother Tristan (when Tristan has really let him down). It is implied that Siegfried promised his dying father that he would bring Tristan up, and he regards Tristan's failings as a failure to keep his promise. Siegfried also becomes a bit teary when Tristan (finally) passes his exams, and when opening up to Mrs Hall about a friend who killed himself.
    • Tristan cries after he discovers that he hasn’t passed his exams after all, and Siegfried had lied to him about his results.
  • Mercy Kill: If an animal is too far gone, James recommends a quick death to put them out of their misery. In one instance, he puts down a race horse himself.
  • Mister Muffykins: Tricki Woo, a Pekingese that Mrs Pumphrey spoils to the detriment of his health. He is generally quite a nice dog and takes an immediate liking to James, but holds a grudge against Tristan for stepping on his tail.
  • Mood Whiplash: Tristan's birthday dinner goes from being a heartwarming scene to a tearjerker, thanks to Siegfried letting it drop that Tristan didn't qualify as a vet.
  • My Local: The Drovers Arms.
  • Mythology Gag: Several, though in this case to Herriot's real life rather than the 1978 adaptation.
    • Siegfried's middle name is 'Donald' — an obvious nod to Donald Sinclair, upon whom Siegfried was based.
    • Helen's late mother's name is said to be 'Joan' — named after Joan Wight née Danbury, upon whom Helen was based.
    • Siegfried's late first wife is named 'Evelyn', a name she shares with the first wife Donald Sinclair lost to cancer in real life.
    • Surprising absolutely nobody, James' middle name is revealed to be 'Alfred' in honour of Alfred 'Alf' Wight, the real James Herriot himself.
    • Helen mentions having wanted to go to secretarial school before her mother died. Joan Danbury (later Wight), the "real" Helen, actually was a secretary when she and Alf met.
  • Named by the Adaptation:
    • Unlike the original books or the 1978 series, Mrs Hall actually is given a first name in this adaptation: Audrey.note 
    • The series also gives a first name to Mrs Pumphrey; the 2022 Christmas special reveals that her given name is Marjorie.
  • No Badass to His Valet: Siegfried overawes just about everyone with his tempestuous bluster — except for Audrey Hall, who is not intimidated in the slightest and is the only person who is consistently shown to be able to get him to back down.
    Siegfried: Yes, well, I couldn't help but notice that both of you took rather a long time to fully appreciate—
    Audrey: [fondly] Oh, be quiet.
  • Not What It Looks Like: James and Helen have to visit Harcourt, the short-tempered Ministry of Agriculture official, when Mr. Alderson culls a TB-infected cow in a panic so that his farm doesn't get shut down. James and Helen convince Mr. Alderson to tell the truth, but meanwhile the uncorrected form gets mailed by mistake, which would make it appear that James was cooking the books to protect his father-in-law. Mr. Harcourt takes a lot of convincing that they really weren't trying to pull a fast one. Even so, the main reason he doesn't strike James off is because Helen points out that James is the only vet who could have convinced the Dales farmers to even sign up for TB testing and that they'll turn against the MAG if they take his license.
  • Not So Above It All: They try to keep Tristan in line and model good behaviour, but when a client is rude to Audrey Hall and in retaliation Tristan "accidentally" mixes up a faecal sample with the salve said client had requested:
    Tristan: No one gets to be rude to Mrs H.
    Siegfried: Quite right. Well played.
    Audrey: Good boy.
  • Obstructive Bureaucrat: Mr Foyle, the organizer of the Darrowby Show.
  • Official Couple: Even if the narrative weren't telegraphing their feelings for each other to all and sundry, anyone with even the vaguest knowledge of either the books or the '70s adaptation will know that James and Helen are going to get married eventually. Fortunately, the show doesn't rely on this, instead taking the time to develop their relationship and show why they're so in love.
  • Oop North: This accent abounds in this Yorkshire-set show. The major exceptions are James, who speaks with a Scottish accent, and Siegfried and Tristan, who speak RP (a result of where they were educated, as both attended rather posh public schools).
  • Pair the Spares: Hugh Hulton, who lost out on Helen's affections to James, is implied to end up with fellow member of the landed gentry Margot Sebright Saunders, whom Tristan tries and fails to woo after being snubbed by on-and-off girlfriend Maggie.
  • Pet the Dog: Played literally straight with the notoriously grumpy Siegfried, whose soft side is seen always with animals and almost never anywhere else. There is also his relationship with Audrey Hall, with whom Siegfried has more moments of vulnerability and tenderness than with Tristan and James combined.
  • The Pig-Pen: Mallock the slaughterhouse man is a more disgusting example than most. He doesn't bother washing up between his work dressing carcasses and his meal breaks. The local MAG official immediately recognizes a form signed by him because it has a bloody pork pie stain on it.
  • Practically Different Generations: The age gap between Tristan and Siegfried is quite large in this version. Although a specific timespan isn't given, Siegfried's comments about Tristan being their parents' "miracle baby" and taking Tristan in during his first marriage imply that he was either an adult or close to it when Tristan was born.
  • Promotion to Parent:
    • Siegfried has taken responsibility of Tristan, paying for his schooling and trying to guide him toward a career in veterinary medicine.
    • Helen is trying to stand in as Jenny's mother since their own died young, which Jenny resents. They start getting along better when Mrs Hall advises Helen that in spite of losing a mother, Jenny still needs Helen to be the big sister she was before.
  • Race for Your Love:
    • Subverted in "The Night Before Christmas". James is on his way home to Glasgow to visit his parents before he changes his mind and heads back to Darrowby to persuade Helen not to marry Hugh. He arrives too late and misses the wedding, but it turns out that Helen called it off of her own accord anyway.
    • Played for laughs in "The Last Man In", when Siegfried tells Mrs Pumphrey to remove Tricki Woo's lead and let him do what comes naturally. The last shot of the episode shows the pooch running toward a neighbor's dog in slow motion.
  • Race Lift:
    • In the novels, George Pandy (the other vet in Darrowby) is implied to be white like everyone else in town. In the series, he and his daughter are people of color and his surname is spelt “Pandhi”. Season 3 establishes that he is from India and stayed in Britain after his parents sent him there to be educated. His marriage to a white British woman is touched on lightly when she says her parents were shocked, and their daughter Florence says that people tend to ask her where she's "really" from.
    • The townspeople are more diverse than in the 1978 series, which was almost entirely white.
  • Rage Quit: Siegfried, Tristan, and Mrs Hall all have bets on just when in the day James will throw down his duties as all-purpose animal man at the village fete. Tristan thinks it'll be before noon, Siegfried thinks he'll hold out 'till 3:30, and Mrs Hall believes he'll last the whole day. He just manages it but blows a gasket at the rule-pushers and sore losers nonetheless.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech:
    • James against the dishonest horse owners who resent him for measuring their horses accurately.
    • Helen against Hugh for arranging for Mr Dobson to lie about her bull's success as a sire. He wins her back with an Anguished Declaration of Love, though.
  • Rejected Marriage Proposal: After Tristan impulsively pops the question to Florence Pandhi in "For Whom the Bell Tolls", she gently tells him that although she's quite fond of him, he really needs to find out who he is before even thinking of committing to wedlock.
  • Relationship Upgrade: James and Helen start properly dating toward the beginning of the second series, and get engaged in that series' finale.
  • Runaway Bride: Helen gets to the altar with Hugh before calling it off. This happens off-screen, however; we learn about it the same way that James does, after the event.
  • Scenery Porn: The Yorkshire Dales locations are as spectacular as you might expect — not for nothing is Yorkshire known as "God's country".
  • Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right!: James, Siegfried, Tristan and Mrs Hall all employ this at various points. A notable example for James is when he disobeys Siegfried and decides to train Scruff, the Aldersons' dog, to not bark at sheep, because the alternative would have been that the Aldersons would have been forced to put him down.
  • Second Episode Introduction: Tristan Farnon doesn't appear until the second episode.
  • She Cleans Up Nicely: Helen, normally seen in farming wear, makes quite the impression on James when she turns up at Mrs Pumphrey's party in a fetching midnight blue evening gown.
  • Shell-Shocked Veteran:
    • When trying to relate his love of horses to the haughty General Ransom, Siegfried speaks of having served in Belgium during World War I and how he's haunted by his experiences on the battlefield, having to put down large numbers of horses because it was cheaper than treating them or shipping them back home.
    • Audrey Hall served in the Wrens during the First World War. Though she rarely shows the signs of it, quiet moments during the Series 2 finale — as she listens to radio reports of Prime Minister Neville Chamberlainnote  and his visit to Munich — show that the memories still haunt her.
    • Audrey reveals her husband was a good husband before the war, but the untreated trauma led him to become alcoholic and abusive.
    • Major Sebright Saunders is a haughty prat both in the present and in the flashbacks to WWI, but he's not unaffected by watching England build up to war again — when Siegfried asks if money is all that matters to him, Saunders replies that it's one of the only things that makes sense in a mad world. (Unfortunately, he's also cynical enough to use his knowledge of Siegfried's trauma to try and extort him.)
  • Shipper on Deck: Helen's younger sister Jenny is clearly taken with the idea of having James as a brother-in-law, and does what she can to help their courtship along.
  • Ship Tease: There has been some subtle but unmistakable ship teasing between Siegfried and Audrey Hall, both in the more conventional narrative sense (the church scene in the first Christmas special, for one example, and his tenderness and vulnerability with her and almost no one else, for another), and in the meta sense (she shares her first name with the second wife of the "real" Siegfried, Donald Sinclair — whose first marriage was to a woman named Evelyn, which is also the name of Siegfried's late first wife in the show).
  • Shirtless Scene: This isn't really that kind of show, but we do get to see James with his shirt off a couple of times – once when he goes swimming in the river, and once in the middle of a lambing.
  • Shown Their Work: Like the books it was based on, this series is a remarkably accurate look at veterinary medicine in a time when antibiotics were practically non-existent, radiography was just coming on the scene, and profitable small-animal surgery was still decades in the future. For those in the field in particular, this look at long-ago history is a poignant reminder of just how far their profession has come.
  • Significant Name Shift: Mrs Hall inviting Helen to call her 'Audrey' signals a growing closeness between the two, as only her longtime friend Dorothy had been seen to use her first name. Narratively, it also represents Helen's growing inclusion into Skeldale House's ad hoc family as her relationship with James evolves toward marriage.note 
  • Silk Hiding Steel: Audrey Hall is warm, sweet, soft-spoken, kind, motherly, feminine, a divine cook by all indications — and is also a crack shot with a gun, served in the Wrens in World War I, and is the only person capable of managing Siegfried, who obeys her orders when he won't listen to anyone else.
  • Special Edition Title: All Christmas Episodes after the first feature one of these, complete with snow-covered landscapes and Snowy Sleigh Bells in the theme music.
  • Stern Teacher: Siegfried guides James and Tristan as they begin their careers, but is very serious, demanding, and spare with praise.
  • Team Dad: Siegfried takes on this role to James and Tristan, with his firm-but-fair disciplinary approach balanced by Audrey Hall as the Team Mum.
  • Team Mum: In the books, Mrs Hall is an Old Retainer in her sixties. In this adaptation, however, she is of the same generation as Siegfried, to whom she serves as a confidante and sounding board, and mothers James and Tristan with warmth and kindness.
  • Titled After the Song: From the Anglican hymn "All Things Bright and Beautiful" (1848) by Cecil Francis Alexander.
    All things bright and beautiful,
    All creatures great and small,
    All things wise and wonderful,
    The Lord God made them all.
  • Trickster Mentor: Siegfried is introduced this way, with Mrs Hall noting that he sets up all his assistants to fail so he'll have an excuse to get rid of them. After James passes muster, Siegfried transitions to being a Stern Teacher.
  • The Un-Favourite: When Siegfried mentors and befriends a young boy who wants to be a vet, Tristan feels resentful that Siegfried never treated him with the same patience and affection when he was growing up. Siegfried clarifies that he’s always cared for Tristan, even when Tristan was a child; it’s just that Siegfried wasn’t mature enough to come across as the loving older brother that Tristan wanted him to be.
  • Unresolved Sexual Tension: James and Helen throughout the first series; at that point they are quite clearly attracted to each other but still don't know each other that well. It can more or less be said that in the first series, they fall in like, but in the second, they fall in love.
  • Working-Class People Are Morons: Zig-zagged. Despite coming from a working-class background himself — albeit not a farming background — James seems to have this attitude toward a farming couple who suggest several odd-sounding folk cures for their ailing cow. He's forced to change his mind when one of those cures works perfectly.
  • You Called Me "X"; It Must Be Serious: Siegfried and Audrey usually call each other "Mr Farnon" and "Mrs Hall", as is proper. But when Siegfried opens up about a particularly traumatic letter he had just received regarding an old friend from World War I:
    Audrey: Oh, Siegfried.