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Dear Ann,

I held back on watching All Creatures Great and Small, the new Masterpiece Theatre series based on James Herriot’s enduring and beloved books about life as a country vet in the Yorkshire dales in the early to mid-20th century. These books are a sort of holy writ for me because my first introduction to them was during an extended dark and sad period of my life. I wrapped myself up in Herriot’s vivid tales of animals and people. They were just what I needed: an alternative reality that felt real and solid and full of goodness despite it all.

Herriot’s stories were made into a movie (starring Anthony Hopkins as Herriot) and then into a long-running television series in the late 1970s and 1990s. I have memorized long swaths of that original TV series. It is a treasure, but one that is hard to find and a bit dated, but it really holds up. In a long-form television series, story lines and characters get to take their time.

When I heard there would be a fresh, new telling of All Creatures, I was equal parts delighted and wary.

Having binge-watched the series in two nights, I can now attest that there was no reason for wariness: it’s wonderful. I was a little disoriented at first, as in a dream where all your family members have different faces but are still recognizably themselves.

I am dying to compare notes on the great and small differences between the two TV series, but mainly I just want everyone to watch this new one, enjoy it, and know that if you love these characters, you can get your fill in the old series. (The older series definitely has more up-close animal husbandry, more cold stone barn floors, and more accents that will be totally new to American ears.)

Mind you, MDK’s own DG Strong has described All Creatures as “mumsy.” As a proudly mumsy personage myself (hero: Aunt Bea), I am indignant—but he has a point.

It’s mumsy, but excellent.

Don’t even get me started on the handknits— a stunning stranded scarf and hat is actually a plot point!  (Where is the pattern? I demand a certified authentic replica pattern!)  I could do a PhD thesis on just the sweater vest differences between the two series. (Tristan used to be more pastel, for one thing. Everybody was more colorful in the older series. What is up with that—research, or art direction?)

Ann, I’m sorry to report that the cat content is pretty slim. To meet your needs, I recommend the older series or the books themselves.

Right now All Creatures Great and Small is airing on PBS stations in the US; I watched it on the PBS Passport streaming service.



P.S. There will be a second series.


  • We are watching it here, having both also read the books and seen the original series. Loved that one. Not sure new actors fit the part as well, but enchanted nevertheless!

    • I’m glad to be called “mumsy!” During the pandemic my husband and I have watched or streamed much more television that normal. As far as I am concerned this “All Creatures Great and Small” is fabulous, wholesome, with lovely scenery and very interesting characters! Yea PBS! An Added plus is I can knit as I watch!

  • I had the same reservations about the new series, and thoroughly enjoyed it. The added story lines are well done, I really want to know these people better!
    Question for the knitting history buffs- the colors in the knits are really bright.
    The garments from the 1930’s usually are more muted, including the ones in other recent tv productions, (ie Land Girls).

    • I was a child in that part of the world, memory going back to the forties. Any one who had fair isle hats and vests had the brightest colors you could get. Usually from earlier garments unraveled to reknit, yarn not available in wartime.

    • If you ever get a chance to look at Susan Crawford’s Vintage Shetland Project book, one of the things she comments on is her surprise at the colors used in the knitwear she studied. It was a time when chemical dyes were becoming more widespread, and Shetlanders at least made use of them in their personal knitting. Some of those projects are unexpected colors indeed. Also Sharon Miller’s hap shawl book – lots of bright colors in the historical pieces.
      And as goes Shetland goes the rest of the knit world 😉

    • That was my reaction, too. Still, eye candy.

  • I can’t work out from the website whether this will be available in the UK or not. Just for the record though, it’s Dame Diana Rigg (playing the old auntie). I’m not sure how famous she is in America, but she’s an icon here and it’s kind of rude for them not to give her her title.

    • It’s not rude for Americans to not note a title bestowed by another country. Rigg was the host of Masterpiece Mystery for more than a dozen years. She is well known and respected by PBS fans.

    • This is available in the UK . channel 5 and catch-up. There’s also a Christmas special.

    • I think Dame Diana Rigg was introduced to a new generation of fans by her fabulous role as the Queen of Thorns in Game of Thrones. It was pretty popular here in the States.

    • Diana Rigg! As Emma Peel, a worthy successor to Wonder Woman as a role model to this American girl growing up in the 1960s. Now I’m really piqued to watch this new version of the Herriot stories.

    • I recognized her immediately and have always been a fan (in America).

    • This has already been on last year here in the U.K and there was a Christmas special. I absolutely loved it, and cant wait for the next series. I was a bit wary to start with, having watched the old ones when younger but I really love this version!

    • Your tender years are showing! I grew up watching “The Avengers” (the original British one, not the current comic-book one.) Oh, did I love Emma Peel. Ground breaking character so perfectly brought to life by not-yet Dame Diana Rigg. Was thrilled to see her, again.

      • I LOVED Mrs. Peel.

    • She is wonderful, and though she may not be as well known here, not using someone’s title is not a sign of disrespect from Americans. We don’t do titles, so they don’t mean much to most of us and are used inconsistently. It’s been that way since about 1783. 🙂

      • It’s a sign of not caring at least if you know someone has a title and you don’t use it.

  • I read the stories in all 3 books over and over as a kid. I still have my books! But I’ve never seen any of the TV series or movie adaptations. Maybe I’ll check this out

  • Plus, we get one of the Durrell brothers as Tristan, and Neville Longbottom all grown up! And the actor who played Seigfried in the first series turned up as the Minister of Magic in Harry Potter. I do miss, from the books, the pack of dogs who rush to the door every time someone comes to the dispensary.

    • Yes when my dog barks at the door I always think of this program how Siegfried just “ got on with “ answering the door. Love the old series and the new and of course the books

    • Me, too! That was one of my favorite plot points in the books!

  • I had the same reservations that you did. I LOVE the books and was afraid to ruin their great memory but the series is amazing I can’t wait for the next episode! Finally something on tv to look forward to.

  • shows made in the past or about the past tend to be black & white, or sepia, or misty….in other words vague and colorless. But in reality they were as sharp and lively as we are today. Different times had different colors. And there were some depressing times and stories. All Creatures, like the Durrells bring their stories to life, to me and I enjoy them.

  • All eight seasons of the old series can be found on Britbox. There were just enough differences in the first episode to make me pull out the books!

    • Thanks! If love to rewatch those; in not really interested in updates. Tll

  • I read every book as a country girl and aspiring veterinarian and cherished them. So far I haven’t been tempted to watch any screen adaptations out of fierce loyalty to my youthful mind-movies, but with your endorsement and a bit of nostalgia I’m old enough now to try it. I have a feeling it could lead to retreading all the books too!

    • * rereading

      • I was a huge fan of the books and read them several times. I enjoyed the original series a great deal.
        At the beginning of COVID We discovered we had DVDs of the first season and watched them- a perfect balm in scary times.
        The DVD set had a feature about the real James Herriot at the end of it. I was annoyed all over again that the man was Scottish, yet they had the very English Christopher Timothy portray him. I’m delighted that they corrected that with this series.
        The new actor who plays Siegfried looks a little too much like Robert Hardy, who played him so perfectly in the first series. It’s almost creepy. The poor guy has a tough job because Robert Hardy was so wonderful.
        Peter Davison’s Tristan was sunnier and more lovable, but perhaps this new guy will grow on me.
        Mrs. Hall was an older woman. Casting a younger person in this role and hinting at attraction between her and Siegfried is annoying.
        But, I’m just trying to view this as a different creature all together (see what I did there?) and enjoy it for what it is. And it is enjoyable.
        The scenes of the countryside are swoon worthy. And it’s great to get the shots of the outside of Mrs Pumphrey’s “house.”
        I do miss the pack of dogs though! (Animal safety laws during filming are behind the loss of much of the animal scenes.)

  • I love this new series! Can’t wait to see the next episode. Thrilled to hear there will be a second season!!

  • I had reservations about this new version as well but I ended up loving it. The cozy ambience of the village, the beautiful scenery, the muck and mess of the farms. I didn’t think anyone could replace Robert Hardy as Siegfried or Peter Davison as Tristan but the two actors in the new version grew on me. I’ll be binge watching again tonight.

  • Forgot to mention in my previous comment that I watched this on Amazon Prime from Canada. Hope that helps other viewers.

  • I have much history with All Creatures Great and Small too, and have been debating whether to watch the new version. You’ve convinced me, but I need to know, is there a Tricky Woo?

    • There is definitely a Tricky Woo!

      • On the Masterpiece Theatre website there is a whole aria to Derek, the dog who plays Tricky Woo.

  • The new series is pretty to look at, but if you want a more engaging script that is closer to the original books, a stronger sense of Britain’s culture before WW1, and better acting, please watch the late 70s version of ACG and S.

  • For completeness, you should be aware that there is a series, which shows on Acorn, called The Yorkshire Vet, which shows the modern veterinary practice in Thirsk, and includes a vet who trained with “James Herriot”. There are several seasons, and the usual quota of vets with their arms up cows’ behinds.

    • Oh, must watch!

  • Next: Foyle’s War! Also so well done.
    Agree on All Creatures. Tristan’s vest had me pause the play-back, so I could really look at it. Wow! A lotta color there! Really enjoying it, episode by episode, though, because I was already in the middle of binging Foyle’s War (again). GREAT to knit to, though I’d do something somewhere between high-concentration and social knitting. Actually, something closer to social knitting. It can be very engrossing. Another period piece that is timeless. The Brits do get these things right! Thank you, PBS.

    Happy Sunday!

  • I read the books, or should I say devoured, long ago. We are watching this new series and it is delightful, heavenly and a balm for these troubled times. I could watch each one over and over, if only for the good feel that all is well in Herriot Land. It is a beautiful series. How I wish there were other creative types to write and produce such sterling material.

  • I want the pattern to the white sweater worn by Dorothy in Episode 5.

  • I’ve been watching and loving it! The knitwear is excellent! I read the books close to forty years ago, and still remember some of the characters.

  • Agree in way,

  • I binged the new series in 3 sittings and I loved every minute. The handknits are downright inspirational. I am now addressing my little dog Maude as Tricky-Woo. (She just ignores me.)

  • I do so love all of your cultural postings. I danced to John Batiste. I went down a rabbit hole following Scottish music, after you posted the Transatlantic Sessions. And oh my, the Dig. I watched it twice in two days. This isn’t even mentioning all the posts over the last few years that sent me exploring and enjoying. Thank you so very much. I selfishly hope that you keep up the good work.

  • The acting, costumes, and stunning scenery are excellent, but the story has been twisted and the twists have changed the personalities, especially Mrs Hall and Sigfried. I will not watch the rest of the series.

    • I agree the new series has changed the personalities, especially Mrs. Hall which is an entirely new storyline. However, I am enjoying it as a different series with beautiful scenery. And much as I loved Diana Rigg (I believe she is deceased.), she is not Mrs. Promfret (sp?) to me. At least Tricky Woo has somehow survived all these years and looks the same, despite the popular mixing and matching of breeds that is so popular now.

  • I, too, read and loved all the books and watched the original series when it was “original” and recently on Amazon Prime. I think the scenery is magnificent in the new series and enjoy all the new actors, except Tristan. He absolutely has no charm. Yes, the original Tristan was a bit of a rogue but he had warmth and charm. This new one is just a rogue. Also, did anyone note that the original Tristan was a model in many knitting books? Yes, he often modeled vests. Actually, I’m not sure how I feel about this new Helen. She’s certainly more independent and “outdoorsy,” but I loved the original Helen, not the one who replaced her in later episodes. All in all, however, it’s a wonderful series, and I’m happy to hear there are more in the offing.

  • #TeamMumsy

  • Derek! Gets billing! This Pekingese mom is thrilled.

  • My favorite part of it is that Siegfried is Leonard Bast from Howards End. It’s hard to watch every time he gets near a bookcase, though.

  • I read all the books when I was young. Now I’m old enough to admit if I saw the original series I’ve forgotten it! So I shall go devour this.

  • I, too, enjoyed the books more than once, as well as the original series, which I prefer. Nevertheless, I am enjoying the new series and the knitwear.

  • What more could we want? The pattern for Tristan’s vest, of course. It’s fabulous!

    • I also watched it all in one sitting….I loved the knits…who is going to write some of the patterns…i see a book in the making….the scenery and color pallette of the series is dreamy…

  • From the actual books to movies to both series these are the best! Real life! Soothes my soul. Last night I watched the old series and it was the beginning of war. Tristen and Siegfried stop along a road with beautiful scenery and ponder what is to come. Helen and Mrs. Hall listening to the radio as the country goes to war. It was an episode for the ages! The books written by Mr Herriot will always be classics on our shelves. There is a series of children’s books too. Kittens warming in ovens and the Christmas Kitten. And if I grow up to be Mrs. Hall that’s fine by me!

    The Dig and Land Girls also have some great jumpers! Scarves, hats, mittens. Oh my!!
    Stay safe, warm, cozy and knit on!

    • That episode of the old series is pure gold. Nothing like it.

  • Something to watch found on YouTube is Vintage Roads Great and Small. It is 3(?) episodes of Christopher Timothy (not English but Welsh but not Scottish either!) and Peter Davison driving an old car along old country roads in the UK. Beautiful scenery and a treat to see these two old friends enjoying themselves.

    My veterinarian husband and I had to make a pilgrimage to Thirsk on a visit to England in the 1980’s. We are enjoying the new production, and he says he is very glad to have had an obstetrical sleeve (very long rubber glove) when he had to examine a cow in veterinary school.

  • I was nervous about watching this for the same reasons as Kay – I read the books as a child growing up on a dairy farm in Maine, and yes, we had our country vet who came around for all the farm animals. Dr Cooper – gruff, kind, and thought little kids playing with barn kittens was about the best thing there could be. I watched the series in the 70s while still young. All made me quite sure I’d be a vet one day. That did not come to be, but the books and earlier series were touchstones. A new adaptation felt risky, but it is really wonderful fun and drama.

  • Thank you for the recommendation – I’ll look out for the series. I think we all loved “All Creatures” back in the day. On a sad note, Dame Diana Rigg died on 10 September 2020. For me she’ll always be the wonderful Emma Peel, though indeed she had a long and illustrious career.

  • I loved the books, loved the old series, and love the new series. In the Washington DC area we have a public television station devoted entirely to British programming (WETA-UK) and the old series is ubiquitous there. I just watched an old episode last night, which led me to google photos of Tristan Farnum and marvel at the many fair isle vests he wore. I do like the actors in the new series — the only one I recognized from elsewhere was Samuel West as Siegfried and as much as I loved Robert Hardy, I am enjoying this performance. I also love that Mrs. Hall gets a bit of a storyline!

  • I am happy to hear this, as I have fond memories of watching the original series with my nephew who just turned 21! “Gone flopbottom” was a favorite reference over the years. He may not be up for the new one at this point, but I am! Thanks for the review.

  • Something else to check out if you have Acorn TV. “McLeod’s Daughters”. It’s like a nighttime soap set in Australia with a women run ranch, hot neighbor guys, horses, cattle and sheep. Best of all, there are 8 long seasons. I’m in season 2, but on episode 22.

  • I read all of James Herriotts books when I was at school and am loving the series. The knitted items in the costumes are making my fingers itch to knit similar ones

  • I’ve been an All Creatures fan for years. My mom used to read the books aloud to us on cold winter nights here in Wisconsin. Then we all watched the series together on PBS. No binge watching but slow, luxurious character development. Now my husband and I are loving the new series. My favorite moments are when Diana Rigg is on, as I’ve been a fan since childhood Avengers watching.

    I would definitely be all over a pattern for the sweater vests. They’re to die for.

  • Dear KAY- Please write the aforementioned All Creatures PhD thesis- with patterns- for the good of the order!

  • I loved it! Goldfish win!

  • I need the pattern for the scarf and hat! and patterns for the vests! surely someone somewhere is creating a book of patterns from the show???

  • I am actually working on the scarf pattern at the moment, I have managed to create a few of the pattern charts, but some of the patterns are not so clear.

  • In our family we refer to the show as Vets In Vests.
    I wish someone would publish a book of the knitting patterns of these glorious sweaters.

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