Being a veterinarian came easily to James Alfred Wight. Becoming a writer, however, was less of a straight line. Wight, who adopted the pen name James Herriot, whiled away his days in the stables and fields of Yorkshire by telling stories and scribbling down anecdotes of his experiences. Herriot learned to type, studied how-to-write books, and endured the rejection of multiple manuscripts before he finally published his first book, a memoir of sorts called If Only They Could Talk, in 1970, when he was well into his 50s. Ultimately, Herriot went on to publish eight books, selling more than 60 million copies in 26 different languages.
His subject matter mostly hewed to the adventures of a blithe country vet who often accepted slices of chocolate cake in lieu of payment, and his books so successfully tapped into the British psyche that, in 1977, they were adapted to create All Creatures Great and Small, a successful TV series that ran on the BBC until 1990.
Now, to coincide with the 50th anniversary of If Only They Could Talk’s publication, the series is receiving a modern reboot starring Samuel West, Nicholas Ralph, Anna Madeley, and Dame Diana Rigg. Set in a bucolic pocket of Yorkshire, the plotlines are expected to follow those found in the original series—the escapades of feral cattle, a pig called Nugent, and a rotund Pekingese named Tricki Woo. The mood is playful, hopeful, and earnest, but it all makes for charming and escapist television—a welcome diversion from daily life in a time when it’s never been more essential.
All Creatures Great and Small airs on Channel 5 in the U.K. starting in September, and will debut on PBS Masterpiece in January 2021