All Creatures Great and Small (2020-) Satisfies

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The new All Creatures Great and Small (2020-) doesn’t tread new ground. It looks and feels in many places like a shiny HD remake of the 1970s version (which I adore, of course!), at least judging by the first couple episodes. The storyline is obviously the same since both series are taken from the books, but the story beats and pacing are very similar as well, which I noticed strongly since I recently rewatched the older version.

The actors are walking the fine line between staying true to the book characters, paying tribute to the original TV show characters, and creating new versions. So far, so good. I don’t know that any of them will ever feel as iconic as the ’70s versions, but these ones are all enjoyable and satisfying enough.

All Creatures Great and Small (2020)

Yes, usually, I hate a remake, and especially when the original is so deeply imprinted on my memory and the public consciousness. Christopher Timothy became typecast as James Herriot, Robert Hardy will always be the best Siegfried, and Peter Davison was an ideal Tristan, it is true! But maybe the pandemic and lockdown have gotten to me, because I don’t have any hard feelings towards this remake or reboot or whatever you want to call it. The new show feels very much like the old one, and I’m not mad about it. This is the opposite of a gritty reboot! It’s a shined-up homage, and in these trying times, I’ll take it. YMMV.

There are two major differences between this show and the first version that are worth noting: 1) the Yorkshire scenery! 2) a few more posh costumes. Now, the first is really the biggest difference, and if you can, I strongly recommend watching the show on the largest TV screen possible (not just a computer screen, folks). This series is beautifully shot and will make you yearn for the countryside, no matter how much of a city-dweller you are, promise. The landscape is a character in its own right in this show, setting the emotional tone throughout.

Being Frock Flicks, we’re interested in the costumes, and while the 1930s remote, small-town farms of this story doesn’t usually mean fine frocks (and didn’t in the original show), we do get a little upgrade this time around. Most of the clothes are practical workaday gear on the local folks, lots of tweedy suits on the gents, some knits here and there. But the more upper-crust characters are even more markedly fancy in apparel here, such as Mrs. Pumphrey (the late, great Diana Rigg) and Hugh Hulton, James Herriot’s rival for the affections of Helen Alderson.

All Creatures Great and Small (2020)

Dame Diana Rigg, I already miss her!

All Creatures Great and Small (2020)

Her party (or her dog’s party, really) is the social affair.

Costume designer Ros Little (Poldark, The Crimson Field) did her research at least. According to an interview with the Yorkshire Post, she had insider info from her brother, Dr. Christopher Little, a veterinarian and a lecturer at the University of Glasgow School of Veterinary Medicine. That’s where Alf Wight (aka James Herriot), the author of the original novels, studied. Ros Little referred to 1930s photos of vet school students and talked to older vets who’d worked in Yorkshire. She notes that the character of James Herriot starts this series in somewhat more formal suits since he’s come from Glasgow, but: “He gradually moves into a more tweedy look and wears mostly corduroy trousers, which wouldn’t be what a professional man would wear but what farmers wore, something practical and washable.”

All Creatures Great and Small (2020)

Nicholas Ralph as James Herriot (in his first screen role ever!).

Being a more eccentric character, Siegfried’s wardrobe gets touches of flash. Ros Little said in the same interview:

“Siegfried is a very strong character. He’ll wear a lovely maroon waistcoat and a flamboyant tie and always has a brightly coloured handkerchief. We wanted those flashes of colour and that bit of individuality, a little bit dapper without being impractical.”

All Creatures Great and Small (2020)

Samuel West as Siegfried — he was Leonard Bast in the original Howards End & has been in plenty of frock flicks since.

All Creatures Great and Small (2020)

A bit of Siegfried’s maroon velvet waistcoat here as he buys a car from this lady in a smart suit (her outfit has maroon touches too).

Younger brother Tristan’s sweater has meaning behind it too. Ros Little said: “Fair Isle knitting was very fashionable at the time and Tristan is a dandy, sitting on a haystack while giving a few words of advice, so he doesn’t get his hands dirty.”

All Creatures Great and Small (2020)

Callum Woodhouse as Tristan – most recently in The Durrells in Corfu.

This version of the books is a bit shined-up and accordingly, the female characters sport the ever-so-slightly more elegant costumes. Rachel Shenton, who plays Helen, said in This Is Y magazine:

“Helen has the best wardrobe, bar none. Ros [Little] and the wonderful costume department did an amazing job. She was the first woman in her village to ever wear trousers and in 1937 that was pretty bold. Helen loves her dungarees and corduroys and two pieces. She has serious style for a farmer’s daughter, practical chic. She is on the back of tractors and wrangling bulls and moving cattle around and you can’t be doing that in a dress.”

All Creatures Great and Small (2020)

Rachel Shenton as Helen. Note her hair up in a snood.

For contrast to her everyday wardrobe, Helen gets a stunning peacock blue velvet gown for Mrs. Pumphrey’s party. As costume designer Ros Little said: “We wanted to have an astonishing change of mood. I designed the whole look around her dress.”

All Creatures Great and Small (2020

Very swanky!

All Creatures Great and Small (2020

I don’t love that her hair is down with just a little side clip, but I guess it’s supposed to contrast with the older women who have more coiffed styles.

All Creatures Great and Small (2020

Siegfried’s housekeeper, Mrs. Hall, is notably younger in this series than the 1970s one. Maybe as the season goes on, she’ll get a backstory? That could be fun. Ros Little gave her wardrobe careful thought, showing this is a fully fledged character, saying:

“Mrs. Hall is a woman on her own. She needs a live-in housekeeper role where there would be no suspicion that she was anything other than a professional woman, so she is always very plain and her clothes are sensible and well-used. The cardigan we see her wearing a lot, it’s darned and a little bit frayed, but it’s a practical garment she puts on every day. Occasionally, we see her wearing a print apron. That is based on photographs of women in Yorkshire. They wore the same things day in day out and had a couple of different pinnies that cheered things up a bit. And she has a lovely coat and hat but it’s backdated. We don’t really see her shape. We don’t want to draw attention to the fact that she’s a young, beautiful woman.”

All Creatures Great and Small (2020)

Anna Madeley as Mrs. Hall – she’s had a long career in costume dramas.

All Creatures Great and Small (2020)

Nice detail of a ’30s ‘do on Mrs. Hall.

While the first season has finished airing in the U.K., we’re still in the middle of it here in the states. Look for it on your PBS station or the PBS streaming. Hopefully there will be more seasons, because, as the costume designer said: “If there is another series, which we hope there might be, it might film in warmer weather and we will see more original print dresses.” Wouldn’t that be lovely!

 

 

What do you think of the new All Creatures Great and Small?

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About the author

Trystan L. Bass

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A self-described ElderGoth, Trystan has been haunting the internet since the early 1990s. Always passionate about costume, from everyday office wear to outrageous twisted historical creations, she has maintained some of the earliest online costuming-focused resources on the web. Her costuming adventures are chronicled on her website, TrystanCraft. She also ran a popular fashion blog, This Is CorpGoth, dedicated to her “office drag.”

24 Responses

  1. Bea

    The original series irritated me when I was a kid. :)
    Because I WAS a farmer and too many of the episodes (like Little House on the Prairie) gave what I thought was a “happy gloss” to farming and farm communities.
    And, because he played Tristan, I was totally opposed to Davison becoming the Doctor in classic Who. Because I wouldn’t have trusted Tristan Farnon with a newborn lamb, let alone all time and space….

    Reply
  2. Frannie Germeshausen

    Yes to the scenery! In the first episode, as they were driving across the dales, I started to cry. First of several cries. Second episode, lost it when Diana Rigg appeared. How will they carry on without her? So, having watched the original (and loved it) and read a couple of the books, I’m all in for this gentle story to soothe my tattered nerve/heart. And the fact that they look right is the cherry on top!

    Reply
  3. Kim Andert

    I was feeling cautiously unoptimistic about this reboot!l I love the original. I have also seen Samuel West in soooo many things, I couldn’t quite see him as Siegfried. After episode two, though, I am sold. It is charming; not as gritty as the original, but we could all use a bit of sentimentality in our lives right now. I am giving it a thumbs up!

    Reply
  4. Kate Dominguez

    I’ve never seen the original, but this was just the speed I needed to destress. Very lovely. And the scenery!!! Maybe when I finish this one, I’ll go back and watch the original!

    Reply
    • Maggie May

      So, that is why we need a remake! All the people who didn’t catch the original.

      I quite enjoyed the old version but it was not the sort of thing I wanted to watch many times. (Saw the beginning last week, realized it was episode two and resolved to catch up on streaming.)

      I, Claudius was one I watched many times. It is a masterpiece. Current production standards call for a new version. I can almost hear “Exterminate” coming in from the next studio. But how could a new cast come up to the standard set by the originals? Before they were famous. I would approach that remake with trepidation…

      Reply
  5. Alexander Sanderson

    I have to say that I had been put off watching, due to very fond memories of the original – but your article has really piqued my interest and I will start watching this week. It will be gentle and comforting in these truly horrid times. I also have to say a huge Rest in Peace to the mighty Diana Rigg. I will also miss her terribly. She was truly a legend and we have lost a national treasure. Hugely talented, of true class, and absolutely stunning! To me she will always be Emma Peel (of course) and Moll Flander’s (Alex Kingston’s) Mum – but I will also remember seeing her performing live on stage on a few occasions. Her Agrippina in Britannicus was truly mind blowing!

    Reply
  6. Susan Pola Staples

    I too am not a fan of Tristan. I wouldn’t trust him with a sick hamster much less valuable livestock.
    So far the show makes me all warm and cuddly. What I do miss is Siegfried’s love of horses. Robert Hardy knew how to ride and gave me a felling he loved horses. And Samuel West is Timothy West’s and Prunella Scales’ son.
    I loved seeing Dame Diana Rigg as Mrs Pumphrey. She came across as elegant, sexy and rich, besides loving her Tricki.

    Reply
  7. Misty

    Samuel West…. sigh

    Totally agree, loved the first one, but sometimes we need a ‘gentle’ series to chill with & this works perfectly.

    Reply
  8. Charity

    I adore it. Binged the entire series last weekend on PBS Passport, and am enjoying watching one a week with my family. It’s sweet, innocent, charming, full of feel-good moments, and quite funny. Also, gorgeous to look at and that’s always a plus in my mind. Siegfried is by far my favorite. If he’s looking for a wife, I volunteer as tribute. ;)

    Reply
  9. MCMom

    This show is exactly what I needed right now. I binged all of the episodes online and am so happy that it has been renewed for a second season. In addition to all of the delightful things everyone else has mentioned, this series has the distinct advantage in that nearly all of the characters—even those who are cranky or emotionally detached—are fundamentally decent people. With so many real humans unable to reach that same threshold, I was delighted to see so much just plain kindness onscreen.

    Thank you for sharing the information about the costumes.

    Reply
  10. Joni

    I binged the whole thing already, and I loved most of it, but the zipper on the front of that jacket that Helen wears in several episodes makes me CRY. It is a modern plastic zipper that doesn’t look a BIT 1930s!

    Also, I’m surprised no one has yet mentioned the presence of Matthew Lewis aka Neville Longbottom. They made his character a bit dorky (a shame since he’s so damn hot for real) but he’s really an endearing dork.

    Reply
  11. Roxana

    Maybe I’m just hopelessly biased but this cast seems… Blander. Of course, to be fair, nobody could chew scenery like Robert Hardy. Or whine better than Peter Davidson 😉
    But the animals are gorgeous!

    Reply
  12. Lily Lotus Rose

    I’m totally loving it. I had neither seen nor heard of the original series until a few months ago when the re-boot was mentioned on this blog. Coming to it with fresh eyes and an open heart, I was sold after the very first episode. I’m being disciplined by not binging the whole series on PBS Passport, and instead watching it week by week. As a cat lover, I hope to see more cats in the series, but I’m not holding out too much hope for that since it the practice is so farm-centric.

    Notes on the cast: I think everyone is great in their roles. Like many of you, I miss Diana Rigg, and am enjoying her bittersweet performance in this role. If there hasn’t yet been a Man Candy Monday dedicated to Samuel West, then I’m casting my vote for one right now. Personally, I think he’s gotten more attractive as he’s matured. The actress who’s standing next to West whose outfit had maroon touches too was just pictured in the recent Phoebe post in her outfit as Mildady de Winter in the recent Musketeers re-boot. The woman who plays the housekeeper distracts me in every episode because she looks like a doppelganger for one of the main characters in Home Fires. Whenever I see the maid, I think, “Oh, they really wanted the lady from Home Fires and so they made this actress look almost exactly the same.”

    Once again, it’s totally awesome. I plan to read the book after I finish watching the TV show. And I may watch the original show too.

    Reply
    • Roxana

      Undoubtedly my problem is I remember the original to well to get into the new version. Its m, not the production.

      Reply
  13. Terry

    I love love love this show! And so glad to have a Scottish Herriot. I’ll always love Christopher Timothy but young Nicholas Ralph is a good James, more the better for his lovely Glaswegian accent. And he’s easy on the eyes too ;)

    Reply
  14. Angharad

    I’ve loved the books since I was young but never saw the earlier series. I saw the trailer for this one and as initially super excited–but the “vibe” of the trailer really put me off. It seemed so cartoony and almost a parody of the series? Has anyone who has read the books give me an idea of how they compare and if they enjoyed the new show?

    Reply

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