Watching “All Creatures Great and Small” appears like gripping a heat cup of tea and settling inside a very cozy, extraordinarily British snow globe. Primarily based on the immensely well-liked novels by Alf Wight (aka James Herriot), the sequence follows a Thirties veterinary apply in a sleepy Yorkshire city the place farmers and vets alike collect each night over foaming pints on the native pub after a lengthy day’s work. The impossibly inexperienced hills roll into an infinite horizon, dotted with stone barns and braying livestock. There are at all times animals to assist, challenges to satisfy and sort phrases to be discovered alongside the best way. Even when life presents merciless twists, there’s by no means a doubt that the great medical doctors tending to them have solely the perfect intentions at coronary heart.
The primary tv adaptation of “All Creatures Great and Small,” which ran from 1978 to 1980 and once more from 1988 to 1990, had a sly wit and quiet allure that made it a cornerstone of British interval drama. In revisiting the story for seven episodes — with extra to return, following an early renewal — producer Colin Callender, author Ben Vanstone (“Merlin”) and director Brian Percival (“Downton Abbey”) are betting that a new technology is able to have its personal variations of medical doctors James Herriot and Siegfried Farnon — and extra importantly, that a fashionable “All Creatures Great and Small” doesn’t need to be extra clearly “fashionable” to work simply as properly. (It additionally has Dame Diana Rigg in her last on-screen position, taking part in the fussy proprietor of a fussier Pekingese, so actually, it doesn’t get way more British and beloved than that.)
Following within the authentic sequence’ footsteps, the primary episode opens with younger James Herriot (Nicholas Ralph) leaving his native Scotland for the Yorkshire Dales in hopes of touchdown an assistantship on the veterinary hospital headed up by Siegfried Farnon (Samuel West). It’s not spoiling a lot to say that even within the face of Siegfried’s reluctance, James does, in fact, get the job. In the meantime, Siegfried’s gregarious youthful brother, Tristan (Callum Woodhouse), returns dwelling after failing his vet exams, a lot to Siegfried’s impotent frustration.
Within the 1978 sequence, Robert Hardy’s Siegfried was a agency boss but additionally a little bit of a jolly eccentric. West’s, in contrast, is gruff and cussed, cracking solely when Mrs. Corridor catches him doing his greatest to not emote and units him straight. This characterization actually works, particularly reverse Madeley’s Mrs. Aubrey Corridor and Ralph’s bleeding-heart optimist James. West’s a veteran who is aware of his stuff and is unsurprisingly nice as Siegfried, however Ralph deserves particular point out right here; “All Creatures” marks his tv debut, not that you’d realize it from how rapidly snug he is within the position. He’s significantly good reverse Woodhouse, whose Tristan is one thing of an sudden new brother to James, giving him as a lot hassle as help.
Although Siegfried unquestionably runs the vet, his friend-slash-housekeeper Mrs. Corridor runs the house as a makeshift matriarch within the absence of another ladies preserving everlasting residence within the lives of the three bachelor vets. (On this model of the story, Siegfried is a widow, his spouse having died 4 years earlier than James reaches his doorstep.) James, Tristan and Siegfried are inclined to drive the tales, as they do in Wight’s novels. However essentially the most noticeable replace on this iteration of “All Creatures” is how way more it offers to its ladies characters exterior their relationships with the lads. Mrs. Corridor isn’t simply an environment friendly matron however a loving girl whose estrangement from her son makes her decided to nurture everybody round her. Farmhand Helen (Rachel Shenton) has at all times been an admirably pragmatic character, however extra so a love curiosity for James. So even when Shenton and Ralph have lovely chemistry, it’s refreshing that this primary batch of episodes works to make Helen stand on her personal, whether or not as a de facto guardian to her younger sister (Imogen Clawson), a companion to her wealthy childhood good friend (Matthew Lewis) or a girl making an attempt to determine what she really desires for herself.
Naturally, the entire above unfolds earlier than that attractive Yorkshire backdrop, which appears to have solely gotten greener within the a long time since “All Creatures” first aired. The present even re-creates the crossroads James continually finds himself driving to regardless of which rendering of his story he occurs to be in.
So followers of the unique can take coronary heart in figuring out that this decade’s “All Creatures Great and Odor” doesn’t intention to reinvent its supply materials; in reality, the present is a downright love letter to it. And but, even because it introduces most of the identical tales and character dynamics, the PBS Masterpiece “All Creatures Great and Small” finds key methods to tell apart itself from depictions previous, particularly because it makes essentially the most of a good-looking price range and embraces a welcome, earnest heat in its storytelling. This iteration has little interest in shattering its historic roots or flipping its style’s tropes on their heads, nevertheless it additionally is open to creating the sorts of changes that make an replace of a beloved property worthwhile.
“All Creatures Great and Small” premieres January 10 on PBS Masterpiece.