Chaos comes to the Yorkshire vets in All Creatures Great & Small

Vets at war! Nazis, a headbutting boxer dog and a cocky new partner all bring chaos to the Yorkshire vets in All Creatures Great & Small

  • Second World War casts a shadow over the fourth series of the Channel 5 show
  • READ MORE: All Creatures Great And Small shares a FIRST LOOK at series four as Rachel Shenton’s Helen prepares to start a family with her new husband James under the threat of war

A surprisingly swift tortoise, a headbutting boxer dog and a terrier who keeps crashing into scenes uninvited… there’s a fresh set of animals for the vets to contend with as Channel 5’s hit reboot of All Creatures Great & Small returns for a fourth series – and they don’t always escape with their dignity intact.

‘Wealthy Mrs Pumphrey is fostering a boxer called Cedric – played by a dog called Millie – and it was boisterous both on and off screen,’ reveals Nicholas Ralph, who plays James Herriot. 

‘She kept jumping up at me – and headbutted a particular part of my anatomy every time.’

Millie wasn’t the only problem for the actors during the series, which has now reached 1940 and is based on Alf Wight’s James Herriot books. 

If James Anthony-Rose, who plays new trainee vet Richard Carmody, thought examining a tortoise would be an easy introduction to life at Skeldale House surgery he was mistaken.

Rachel Shenton and Nicholas Ralph play Helen and James in the fourth series of  All Creatures Great & Small on Channel 5 

‘George – or Bernard as he is in the show – was keen to explore the surgery and, for a tortoise, he was quick on his feet,’ explains James. 

‘In fact he was faster than a lot of the other animals. He seemed particularly attracted to the studio lights and was forever heading off in their direction.’

In contrast, Abbey and Anna the goats were very well behaved. ‘In the story they run amok at Skeldale, but in reality they did exactly as they were told time and time again,’ says Rachel Shenton, who plays James Herriot’s wife Helen. 

‘They even climbed onto the kitchen table as part of their “performance”, right on cue!’

The new series also features Mrs Pumphrey’s Pekingese Tricki Woo – a show favourite – plus a variety of other animals needing help from vet Siegfried Farnon (Sam West) and his team.

Patricia Hodge, who plays Mrs Pumphrey, says, ‘We’re constantly being upstaged by the animals. They’re always going to win, you just can’t worry about it. But we’re aware how much the viewers love them.’

They provide light relief amid the dark days of the war, as does new boy Richard who’s replaced Tristan (Callum Woodhouse) at the surgery. 

Tristan’s left Yorkshire to serve with the Royal Army Veterinary Corps, leaving his brother Siegfried and housekeeper Mrs Hall (Anna Madeley) fretting over his fate.

Cedric the boisterous boxer is just one of the animals the Yorkshire vets must contend with on the new series 

His replacement is a bit of a buffoon. ‘Richard is an upstart,’ says James. ‘He’s straight up to Yorkshire from training in London and is rather too sure of himself.

‘Siegfried quickly realises he lacks people skills, the ability to get on with the owners of the animals brought to the surgery.’

There’s also something of the clown about Richard, who struggles with his equipment and even fails to put his stethoscope on the right way round. 

‘I felt I had to reach a certain level of competence with medical procedures so I could then do things comically badly,’ he says. ‘Like Les Dawson playing the piano or Tommy Cooper performing magic tricks.’

The war casts a significant shadow over the series. Mrs Pumphrey holds a garden party to raise money for the war effort, and although they want to start a family James and Helen aren’t sure it’s the right time when James could be called up and the threat of Nazi invasion is growing.

If Carmody’s errors and the various animals bring laughs on screen, it was the support of the crowds who watched the show filming on location in Yorkshire that boosted the cast’s morale.

‘People seem to know where we’re going to be filming and because the show’s become so popular it attracts a large “live” audience,’ says Rachel. ‘They bring their chairs, sit out of shot and watch us while eating ice creams.’

The Second World War casts a significant shadow over the series

Nicholas adds, ‘We’ve had families coming over from the US to watch, it’s very popular there. And a woman from Thirsk in Yorkshire, who’s called her sons Tristan and James after the show’s characters, also came along.’

The public are normally well behaved while the cameras roll – with one exception.

‘There’s a woman in Grassington [the village that doubles for fictional Darrowby in the series] who refuses to stop walking her terrier and carries on regardless across the set, whether we’re shooting or not,’ laughs Nicholas.

‘Fair play to her – it’s her village, not ours!’

  • All Creatures Great & Small series four is coming soon to Channel 5 and My5.

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