Every season, GBH Drama prepares to bring you coverage of the latest and greatest in British dramas. This month, we get the triumphant return 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.
The second season of All Creatures Great And Small draws to a close with a Christmas special that nonetheless includes a year round message about finding love and support from a chosen family or the greater community. Fun fact: the MASTERPIECE tradition of airing Christmas specials after the holiday is because of the staggered airing schedule between the UK and the US. Let’s find out what happens.
Getting One Over
It’s the day before Christmas Eve at Skeldale House. James gets a very early phone call from Mr. Kitson. So early that he doesn’t bother changing out of his pajamas to see the patient. James administers Mr. Kitson’s calf an anti-pneumonia shot, then notices that one of his ewes is very sick after giving birth. Kitson claims that he’s letting nature take its course. James isn’t sure this is the best option for the animal so he grabs a painkiller injection from the car. Kitson is one of those clients who is absolutely sure he knows more about animal care than James or any of the other vets. James isn’t known for throwing his academic credentials around Darrowby, so he lets Kitson believe he’s correct.
Kitson knows that the ewe ended up recovering from the shot, but he hides this information from James just to support his anti-science viewpoint. Will James find out he was right all along?
Prep for the annual house party the vets throw on Christmas Eve is in full swing. Tristan starts to help Mrs. Hall with the shopping list but ends up distracted for two reasons. First, they run into Diana at the market and she’s awkwardly talking about whatever goes on on her dates with Siegfried. She also advises Mrs. Hall to use the party as an excuse to dress up nice to impress Gerald. Then Tristan decides to abandon the list and spends time flirting with Maggie at the pub.
Mrs. Hall intercepts the mail hoping for a letter from her son Edward but there’s nothing. Tristan’s exam results did arrive which Mrs. Hall makes sure to give to him directly. Because of last year’s drama, Tristan refuses to tell Siegfried if he passed or not. He even lies and tells Siegfried the envelope with the results is a bill to keep him away from reading it.
There’s a bit of a kerfuffle over the guest list for Christmas Day lunch at Skeldale House. Mrs. Hall invites Gerald but Siegfried is skittish to invite Diana because that creates “expectations” around belonging to a committed relationship. Diana’s fine with the lack of invite; she’s excited to spend Christmas with no one harassing her. James and Helen have their own struggle. Jenny is cooking up a storm and expects both of them to eat her goose and liquor soaked pudding. Mrs. Hall expects Helen to join the vets, and Helen doesn’t want to disappoint Mrs. Hall. Will there be any extra guests for Christmas lunch?
A Call For Help
Mrs. Pumphrey calls for emergency assistance. Tricki Woo has diarrhea and refuses to eat his indulgent treats. Poor baby! Siegfried rushes over to figure out what’s wrong. The house is empty and depressing as Mrs. Pumphrey gave her staff the holiday off to spend with their family. Siegfried diagnoses Tricki’s woes as gastroenteritis and takes him for treatment at Skeldale House so he can be monitored. Mrs. Pumphrey is depressed, as this means she will be truly alone for Christmas. Will Tricki Woo reunite with his doting mother?
Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree
The farmers always ghost Siegfried when it’s time to pay the vet bills, but they make sure to come through on Christmas Eve for free booze. Like last year’s turn up, the party is more about the interpersonal drama than the actual theme of the party.
Tristan hung 5,000 bunches of mistletoe because he’s a hot mess. Mrs. Hall takes Diana’s advice to get glammed up, but then chickens out as she runs into Siegfried with some of the confiscated mistletoe. He tells her that she indeed looks glamorous and that scares her into changing into a plainer frock. Once again the Siggy/Audrey ‘shippers are taunted with a good time only for it to be over before it started.
Maggie falls for Tristan’s leafy trap, but then tells him she’s engaged to some dude named Arthur. This doesn’t stop her from asking for one last night of fun. They sneak off into an empty room. I am unsure how to translate the American “first base, second base,” baseball analogies for romantic activity to cricket, so let’s just assume Tristan and Maggie made out without taking clothes off because All Creatures Great And Small wants to keep their PG rating intact.
We later see them cuddling and talking about how they want different things out of life. She wants to settle down and Tristan’s clearly not interested in anything except casual dates. Whatever they had is clearly over after tonight but this raises a few questions. Is Maggie actually engaged, or did she lie to drive Tristan away? If Arthur actually got on bended knee, did Tristan just enable cheating? Remember all his accusations of James trying to take advantage of Helen’s indecision at the Chapmans? Tristan teasing James in earlier episodes looks even more suspicious in hindsight.
Meanwhile, the kids are getting restless about visiting Santa. James offers to forestall the riot by putting on the cheesy costume. Helen quickly puts on the helper elf costume. They use the breaks in between granting wishes to discuss their situation.
Helen and James are still engaged, not only because it’s inviting bad luck to attempt to repeat the planned winter wedding, but also, most importantly, they haven’t figured out where to live yet. James admits he was wrong to assume that Helen would immediately accept Siegfried’s invitation to move into the upper floor of the house. But the Aldersons don’t have a phone inside their house, which would make James’ night shifts way more difficult. James and Helen finally figure out that they can’t be at two places in once, and that includes the Christmas lunch plans.
Helen overhears Kitson and the other farmers talking and drinking so she joins them. Kitson calls her “Mrs. Herriot” prematurely, then proceeds to talk smack about James’ expertise. So much for that premature sign of respect. He also admits that the ewe he left for dead actually recovered. This means the painkillers worked! Helen then tells James that Kitson is still being loud and wrong. Something good comes out of the drama, however.
The guests start to leave as they are either tipsy or filled with good cheer. Gerald offers to clean up to help Mrs. Hall and she gives him a teeny peck on the cheek to make up for yet another mishap with Tristan’s mistletoe. Tristan sees what happens and is very pleased that Mrs. Hall fell for one of his traps. He accepts her offer to come to Christmas lunch. Diana, on the other hand, still passes on Christmas lunch and wants Siegfried to come over for after dinner drinks.
Tricki Woo’s Struggle Is Real
While everyone is drinking and having fun, Siegfried and Tristan are trying all sorts of medicines on Tricki Woo. He’s feeling even worse and he can’t keep any food down. He’s losing his ability to fight the illness. James suggests the healing power of love. Maybe Tricki Woo will improve if Mrs. Pumphey is there to comfort him. Siegfried admits that he’s running out of options and he agrees to bring Mrs. Pumphrey over.
James suggests giving Tricki Woo the same shot he gave the ewe who magically recovered. The upside is that it would stop his vomiting and allow his body to heal in sleep. The downside is that Tricki may not ever wake up. Mrs. Pumphrey agrees to the shot and she holds his paw as James gives him the shot.
The next morning, the three vets check on Tricki Woo. James gives him adrenaline to counteract the earlier shot. Tricki Woo grunts then accepts a treat from Tristan followed by a full breakfast. He’s on the mend! They call Mrs. Pumphrey to tell her Tricki Woo will be home for Christmas!
Guests Inviting Themselves In
Mrs. Pumphrey offers James a sherry in gratitude for making Tricki feel better. James and Helen still are technically double booked for lunch but he accepts anyway. After seeing how lonely Mrs. Pumphrey is in her empty house James gets the bright idea to bring the festivities to Pumphrey Manor.
James, the Aldersons, Mrs. Hall, the Farnon brothers, and Gerald bring over Christmas decorations and the food that would have been eaten at the separate luncheons. They all sing carols, and Siegfried and Mrs. Pumphrey even have their own duet at the piano! In fact, Patricia Hodge and Samuel West are playing "Ding Dong Merrily" themselves. Alexandra Harwood, the series composer, posted the sheet music if anyone wants to try it.
Coming together as friends, family and chosen family to celebrate the good times and bad really is at the heart of the series.
The Results Are In
Just before James calls the Farnons and Mrs. Hall to come to Pumphrey Manor, Tristan and Siegfried are in the middle of arguing about the exam results. Tristan knows he passed, but he refuses to give in to Siegfried’s paranoia that he’s lying about the results. After some back and forth, Siegfried sees the written result and is forced to admit Tristan really did work hard for that reward.
The episode ends with a smaller gathering at Skeldale House. James calls his parents in Glasgow to check in on them and promises to come back and visit soon. Although he can’t see his family, he replicated one Christmas Day tradition from Scotland. He found a piece of wood to carve into a Cailleach, or old man winter. The carving is then burned for good luck in the new year.
He also recites what we now recognize as the song Old Lang Syne, which started out as a Robert Burns poem. Mrs. Hall notices a war plane overhead which means they'll need all the luck they can get.
This Christmas special is such a satisfying end to All Creatures Great And Small Season 2. James and Helen are on their way to the altar despite all of the bumps in their road. Tristan finally passed all of his exams. Mrs. Hall has found a friend outside of work. Siegfried may finally be ready to move on from the past. We’ll find out next season when and how the war affects Darrowby.
Episode 1 recap: spring in the Dales
Episode 2 recap: The Daffodil Ball
Episode 3 recap: community care and love
Episode 4 recap: Tristan's trainwreck birthday
Episode 5 recap: cricket and old flames
Episode 6 recap: the proposal