Every season, GBH Drama prepares to bring you coverage of the latest and greatest in British dramas. This month, we get the long awaited third season of MASTERPIECE’s remake of the classic series All Creatures Great and Small. Featuring eccentric characters, adorable animals, and the vast, rolling hills of Yorkshire, this series does not disappoint. GBH Drama contributor Amanda-Rae Prescott is here to recap the magic as it happens.
This week’s episode of All Creatures Great and Small has a more serious tone than last week’s but it fills in a critical piece of missing backstory. Siegfried has always been the kind of guy who liked animals over people, and we finally find out why. Alongside Siegfried’s past, there are also insurance scams and violent cats in the present. Let’s discuss it, but before we do, note that this episode discusses death by suicide which may be a trigger for some viewers.
The episode begins with a World War I flashback, and several more are interspersed throughout the episode as Siefgfried takes on a particularly difficult equine patient. We’re now seeing Young Siegfried on the battlefield as his unit rushes to save a horse. Poison gas is all around them and one of his fellow soldiers, Sergeant Oliver, doesn’t put his mask on fast enough. Sgt. Oliver later dies of his injuries. Young Siegfried is played by Andy Sellers, who is extremely convincing in his role.
Major Sebright-Saunders calls Siegfried to diagnose what’s wrong with his new racehorse River. The major brought River over by boat from Ireland, but he is refusing to accept anyone riding or even putting a saddle on him. Siegfried examines River and can’t find any physical abnormalities, which means the issue is psychological. River reminds him of the horses who suffered and died alongside their riders during WWI. Major Sebright-Saunders was Siegfrieds’ commanding officer at the time which is what ties the war flashbacks to River’s treatment.
Siegfried figures out after River tries to kill him by trampling that something is triggering his fight or flight response. Major Sebright-Saunders wants to put River down because he can’t run, but Siegried convinces the major that he can help River heal through slowly modeling good horse behavior versus punishment. Can Siegfried make River run again?
While Siegfried is working on River, James is called to Mr. Cranford’s farm. One of his cows sadly died overnight but Mr. Cranford insists lightning is the cause. James questions this because he didn’t recall a thunderstorm the night before. In addition the cow is not lying in the right position for it to be a lightning strike. James insists that he conduct an autopsy with the help of Malick the butcher to see what the cause of death is. Mr. Cranford is angry because he wants the insurance company to send him a check quickly, but agrees.
Later on at Malick’s, James confirms that the cow died of lung disease which the insurance will definitely not compensate for since illness is a natural cause. Mr. Cranford’s get rich quick scheme is over, but he has one last trick up his sleeve to get back at James. Mr. Cranford says that at the next Farmers’ Union meeting, he’s going to convince the farmers not to go along with James’ TB testing program. At the pub, Mr. Cranford also tries to rabble rouse the other farmers to protest TB testing. However, Richard Alderson, thanks to Helen’s earlier talk, stands up and tells everyone that he’s agreeing to the program. Once again, Mr. Cranford is thwarted.
Tristan has taken on more of the surgery hours but a lot of the grunt work is still on James. Helen ends up driving James to some of his daytime appointments because he’s too tired to drive after late night calls. Siegfried also notices that Tristan placed a bottle of poison next to the antiseptic in the medicine cabinet and rightfully yells at him to clean up. Skeldale’s pharmaceutical rep Mr. Barge makes a surprise visit. Siegfried isn’t there so Tristan is convinced to buy Cargill’s newest sedative drug for difficult animals. While Siegfried is impressed by the orderly medicine cabinet he is not at all happy Tristan possibly spent his money on ineffective medicine.
Later on, Helen makes a comment about how Tristan hasn’t taken on more of the night shift work. Siegfried has another tantrum because he feels his authority on running the practice is being unfairly challenged. Everyone notices that Siegfried is angrier than usual but does not know the reason why. How will they resolve the division of labor dispute?
Mrs. Beck appears to be a nice older widow but like many of the Darrowby residents, she does not appreciate that the level of care Farnon & Herriot provide for their furry patients needs to be fairly compensated. She wants her cat Georgina to be spayed, but claims not to be able to afford more than 10 shillings. James tries to put his foot down but he fails because he’s too nice. After all, he did warn Helen that the supposedly nice older ladies are the most resistant clients.
Georgina isn’t happy at all about her treatment and rebels every step of the way. James and Helen nearly spin out of control while driving because Georgina escapes from her box in the car’s backseat and scratches both of them. Tristan thinks he can tame the wild beast through an injection of Cargill’s wonder sedative but that only results in more claw marks on his face. Georgina is finally spayed and returned to Mrs. Beck. Of course she weasels her way out of paying James for treatment claiming she’ll pay up at the followup checkup. At this rate, that bedsit is never going to get upgraded.
Ypres 1918 Pt. 2
Siegfried keeps thinking back to the war as his frustration with Major Sebright-Saunders grows. He feels that the Major is thinking more about his bottom line than River’s well being. He received a letter from Maurice, another comrade, a month ago which he keeps reading and re-reading. Siegried looks at another war photo with an army horse and we then see when that photo was taken. Later, Siegfried remembers when he was told that the war with Germany was officially over. He’s expecting to help transport the horses back to England but the orders from above are that the horses must be put down so the Belgians and French can use them for food. Siegfried is outraged that they have to kill these otherwise healthy animals. Major Sebright-Saunders at the time passed the buck of responsibility to Siegfried, which is why he wants River not to end up the same way. We also find out via Mrs. Hall’s questions that Maurice died by suicide a month ago, which Siegfried is also extremely saddened by. This is why he’s been so hard on everyone else.
Small Steps Lead To Big Steps
Siegfried apologizes to Helen for yelling because she was right about the division of labor. Tristan also notices that Siegfried has been lost in his own thoughts and asks if he’s OK. Siegfried reveals he’s not and then Tristan says he will take on more of the night calls since James is taking too much of the responsibilities. Working together is the only way the practice will survive and also how everyone else will survive Siegfrieds’ moods.
As for River, Siegfried now has to model that riding is not going to hurt the horse. River runs alongside while Siegried rides another one of the major’s horses. River also gets a shot of the Cargill sedative but it fails to stop River from rearing and throwing Siegfried to the ground. It turns out River was scared by the riding crop one of the Major’s horse handlers used. The major, after seeing this, is convinced River needs to be put down. Siegfried returns to Skeldale House to get the humane kit and Tristan’s assistance. Siegfried appears to be ready to put River down but then he stops and demands that the Major stays to observe. Siegfried then says that even though he wasn’t able to help Maurice he is willing to help River overcome his fear of the riding crop. He manages to get River to gallop through the fields without any incidents. Will Tristan be able to handle fewer restful nights? Will the Farmer Karens ever pay their vet bills? We’ll find out next week on the next episode of All Creatures Great And Small.