Based on the novels by James Herriot (real name Alf Wight), which were previously adapted as a movie and as a much-loved BBC television series, this new version of All Creatures Great and Small stars Nicholas Ralph, Samuel West, Anna Madeley, Rachel Shenton, and Callum Woodhouse.
The drama, which launched in the UK on Channel 5 in September 2020, follows newly trained Glaswegian veterinary assistant and “fish out of water” James Herriot (Ralph), who has landed a job at a rural Yorkshire veterinary practice with eccentric boss Siegfried Farnon (West). As soon as he arrives, he falls head-over-heels for local woman Helen Alderson (Shenton).
Here’s what we know about the future of the show.
When is All Creatures Great and Small back for season 2?
After a bit of a wait, All Creatures has now been renewed for a second season. Season two will consist of six episodes and a Christmas special, and will be filmed in 2021. Hopefully, that means it’ll air on Channel 5 in the UK towards the end of 2021.
Writer Ben Vanstone told Salon in February: “The final couple of episodes we’re still working on but the majority of it is written… we start filming in four weeks time for series two.” That means the shoot should begin in the last week of March 2021.
After the show was renewed, Channel 5 Deputy Director of Programmes Sebastian Cardwell said: “In challenging times, this new adaptation gained a special place in the heart of the British public. With values of community spirit, solidarity and heart-felt compassion, these stories are important ones for us to tell, now more than ever. I’m delighted that we will be seeing more of James and his Darrowby family when they return to our screens soon.”
While the official announcement took a little while to come, though, the team had already begun working on season two before the first had even aired.
Speaking about the impact of coronavirus, executive producer Colin Callender said: “There is a bizarre, slightly odd silver lining for us, because we are using this time to commission Ben Vanstone [the writer] and the writing team to work on season two, with the hope of getting back into production in the New Year on the second season. And so we’re able to use this lockdown period to work on the development and script development.”
He added: “Ben [Frow, head of Channel 5] has already said he wants a second season; Masterpiece, who are playing this in America in the New Year, they want a second season; all3media, who are our financial partners, they want a second season.”
Throwing Channel 5’s weight behind the idea of a second season, Frow told press: “I was the first one to go, ‘Oh we should be doing this again – we should definitely be doing this.’ We will find a way to do it again. Look, whatever happens we’re going to do it again.”
The All Creatures cast have always been on board with a second season, with Samuel West saying: “It’s odd actually how little you get the chance as an actor to play a character for a while. And when they’re as important as these ones, the possibility of doing it for more than one would just be wonderful.”
What will happen in season 2?
*Spoilers for season one!*
Now that Helen Alderson (Rachel Shenton) has jilted Hugh Helton (Matthew Lewis) at the altar, hopefully she and James can finally be open about their feelings for each other and begin a relationship. But it’ll be tricky in a village like Darrowby, where the close-knit community may not take too kindly to Helen’s decision – especially if she moves on too quickly.
Writer Ben Vanstone told Salon: “There’s an intention to earn that relationship in a way between James and Helen. I think it’d be easy just to let them sort of fall together if people knowing the books understand where they end up, but we want to explore why they’re together and and why they work with one another.”
Then there’s the question of whether Tristan Farnon (Callum Woodhouse) will ever find out he failed one of his veterinary exams, and is not qualified after all. Having lied about what was in the letter (and then burned it), Siegfried Farnon (Samuel West) saved the family from a miserable Christmas; but will he admit the truth, or keep the secret? And could he be rumbled when Tristan begins practising as a vet?
Vanstone revealed: “In series two, we begin with Tristan unaware of what his brother has done. And, Siegfried, he’s very much done this because he’s so desperate to move forward in his relationship with his brother.”
In terms of widower Siegfried’s love life, things are looking positive for his relationship with Dorothy (Maimie McCoy) after he summoned all his bravery and kissed her after the Christmas Eve party. There are still plenty of opportunities for him to mess things up, however…
And after Mrs Hall (Anna Madeley)’s heartbreaking storyline where her estranged son Edward didn’t turn up to the party as promised, we’re keen to find out more about her backstory (and hopefully actually see Edward on screen one day).
Plus, of course, season two will feature plenty more animal stories as cows, dogs, horses and sheep all require the veterinary expertise of James Herriot and the Farnons.
Sadly, after filming her role has Mrs Pumphrey in season one, the actress Diana Rigg died in September 2020. The show’s bosses say that no “final decision” has been made on whether to recast Mrs Pumphrey, or whether to write the character out entirely.
How many seasons of All Creatures will there be?
Channel 5 boss Ben Frow has already raised the prospect of multiple future series, even beyond the point where the material from the original books runs out (as it has with Call the Midwife).
“We will definitely do a second series,” he said. “And a third! And wouldn’t it be nice if we could do a fourth and a fifth and just – how many series of Downton Abbey were there? Quite a lot. And we just keep going, we can go into the ’40s and then we can go to the ’50s and then we start making it up, a bit like Call the Midwife.”
Season one took place in 1937, and season two will take place in 1938. In season three, we’d hit 1939 and the outbreak of war – and the next five seasons would take place during wartime.
Donald Sinclair (the real Siegfried Farnon) served in the RAF during the war. But, as Vanstone explained, “We will certainly be touching upon that as we move forward, but the nature of the show will still very much be the Yorkshire Dales… it’s an interesting way to explore that huge event in history through that very sort of parochial prism of the Yorkshire Dales.”
What happened in the All Creatures Christmas special?
Christmas specials could hardly come more festive than this, as we said in our four-star All Creatures Christmas special review.
In the episode, which aired in the UK in December 2020 (and on PBS Masterpiece in the US in February 2021), Skeldale House was all decked out in tinsel, candles, lights and mistletoe, with piles of mince pies and tasty Christmas treats baked by Mrs Hall – and Darrowby was getting ready to celebrate a wedding.
The official synopsis for the All Creatures Christmas special revealed news of a festive wedding.
Channel 5 said of the special before its release: “It’s Christmas Eve and the day before Helen and Hugh’s much anticipated wedding. James is trying to bury his pain over Helen and has invited his new girlfriend Connie to the annual Skeldale Christmas party.
“Preparations are well under way, Tristan has decked the halls with mistletoe and Mrs Hall has laid on a feast and is looking forward to her son Edward returning for Christmas. Siegfried is delighted when Dorothy turns up and wonders if now is the time to throw caution to the wind.
“As the house fills with locals James receives a call from Bert Chapman who wants help with his dog who is struggling to give birth. James has to leave the party and is surprised when Helen asks if she can go with him to get away from all the wedding gossip.
“Up at the Chapmans’, James is faced with a puppy stuck in the birth canal, and Helen sees how much he loves being a vet. When it’s time to leave, James is horrified to discover the fog has descended trapping them high up in the Dales until morning. James calls Skeldale and promises to get Helen back to Darrowby in time for the wedding, meanwhile wondering if he will be able to suppress his true feelings for her.”