‘All Creatures’ interview: Nicholas Ralph on marriage, war and cats in Season 3

All Creatures Great and Small is back!

Based on author James Herriot’s much-loved collection of stories, Channel 5’s period drama follows the heartwarming and humorous adventures of a young country vet in the Yorkshire Dales in the 1930s.

Three months on from the end of the last season, it’s now spring 1939 as the hit series returns for its third run.

Some big changes are happening at Skeldale and everyone has to learn how to adjust. Tristan is now a qualified vet while James enters into a new stage of his life with Helen and at the practice.

After being made joint business partner by Siegfried, James pushes to take on more responsibility via the Ministry of Agriculture’s new bovine TB testing scheme, but its unexpected challenges risk pushing him to breaking point.

And as a potential Second World War looms, all of our Skeldale family have to consider their purpose in Darrowby and beyond.

Watch the trailer:

Season 3 premieres in the UK at 9pm on Thursday nights from 15th September on Channel 5.

The new episodes will then air in the US at 9/8c on Sunday nights from 8th January 2023 on Masterpiece on PBS.

Here actor Nicholas Ralph chats about what’s coming up for James…


James made a lot of progress in Season 2, both in his career and personally, where do we see James at start of Season 3?

“At the end of series two, James is in a great place, engaged to the girl of his dreams, and having a really good time. So in series three, of course, after engagement comes wedding and that is on the horizon.

“I think professionally he is continually trying to take on more responsibility, keep pushing Siegfried in the right direction and progressing the practice to keep up with the times – to keep it as modern as possible, using the best treatments with the best equipment so that they can give the best treatment and care to animals, is ultimately what he really wants to do. That’s very much on his mind in this series…he seems to fill out his vets coat a little more.

“He is continually growing into himself and also helping out others within Skeldale House. James will always give Tristan a nudge in the right direction, he will give him that bit of confidence or reassurance if he needs it. I think we see him continually growing personally and professionally this year, as well.”


James takes on a little more responsibility this series with TB testing. Does it change the way the practice works and his relationship with Siegfried and Tristan?

“It certainly does because Siegfried is so set in his ways and James is trying to progress and modernise the practice. There’s going to be a butting of heads because there’s this young upstart coming up who he’s promoted, who has progressed underneath him, but at the same time, they are going to be at loggerheads over certain decisions or ideas.

“That’ll be a little bit of strain in the relationship at certain moments. Then of course, with progression comes more responsibility and that could be something that appears between Tristan and James as well. Tristan, obviously being the younger brother to Siegfried and looking for his approval.

“You have James coming in as an already qualified vet and making his way up the ranks ahead of him, so it’s an interesting dynamic professionally for the three boys to work through the series.”


Is James looking forward married life and how is he looking to the future and what might come?

“I think everybody’s super excited for the wedding. The filming of it was brilliant, I think as well. James just wants it to come off without a hitch and to be the perfect wedding, not all glitz and glamour.

“It’s very much the opposite for James and Helen. The filming of it was a lot of fun Rosie and Jim, Alf Wight’s children, came along as well. It’s lovely because Rosie always calls me Dad whenever I see her too.

“Of course, as any good drama, it doesn’t all go to plan. I think when I read the script for the episode, I just smiled from start to finish. I thought it was just really funny, touching and it was romantic too – but also really hilarious and proper laugh out loud funny. It is such a celebration. That’s how I felt about it.”


We see Helen move in to Skeldale, do you think that changes the dynamic in the house?

“Yeah, absolutely. Any change would take a minute and Helen is finding her place because she’s been at the farm all her life. So, it’s very different for them both. There are of course positives, and there’s little challenges. Little things like where she sits at the dinner and the breakfast table.

“What’s lovely is that they are up in the attic bed sit, which starts off a bit ramshackle and then bit by bit, they make it more homely and it’s their little space. The thing I love about it, and thinking from an acting point of view as well, is that you’ve got public and private, and you’ve got these two, what are they like, privately you know?

“What are they like together when they’re in their own world? How do they speak to one another? How are they affectionately with one another? As opposed to publicly. So, I think that’s really interesting to see and work through as actors too and something we see more of with Helen moving in.

“I think they help one another. As far as James’ life is concerned, Helen gets a bit more involved in the work side of things which keeps them together professionally, so they’re around each other more. I think James is there to help her in Skeldale and settle in as much as possible. But things may slip through the net…we’ll see.”


Helen helps James with the TB testing this series. Does that bring up any conflict?

“Yeah, but only because they have very different angles and perspectives: James, professionally as a vet, and Helen being a farmer. So, for James, I think he was more factual about it. It was just testing and eradicating. It’s fairly straightforward. Very simple, Jim, you’re saving lives, you’ve got to do it and that’s it.

“Whereas for farmers, there’s a big dilemma because if one cow is positive, they lose not only that cow, but they have to shut down their farm for a certain amount of time. If it spreads or if it was to take hold of the herd, it can be devastating for the family and a farm, so Helen has that in her head as well. They bring their different perspectives to the relationship.

“After the tug of war, they start to see it from each other’s perspectives. Actually, I think it’s a real benefit because then once they start listening to one another, they see the barriers and understand each other’s side a lot more, and how to overcome the issues.”


This season is set in the shadow of war, in 1939…how do you think James deals with this and the imminent threat that they all face?

“I mean for the characters; they don’t know what we know of course. So, they know that war is no joke and it’s a very scary prospect. He’s just newly married and building a life together with Helen. They could plan out the next few years and would have a good idea of where they would like to be.

“They see people starting to sign up and there’s a bit more of a drive for people to sign up to the military which could bring a bit of guilt and pressure for James – seeing younger people signing up because vets are a protected profession so there’s that side of it as well.

“But of course, Siegfried did serve in World War l, so I think that is a very complex mix of emotions for him and a moral dilemma for him dealing with James and Tristan.

“I think that James goes through this series kind of balancing all that out. He’s got Tristan as well who is like his brother and in a very similar boat to him, and they all have their own ideas about it. It’s very multifaceted.”


Any hairy moments with animals this season?

“Cats are untrainable. I have to give a cat an examination and any time Dean the animal handler left for a second the cat just bolted. They are impossible to train!

“I did have to deal with cows a lot this series for the TB testing, but they are in the crushes so it’s straightforward as they are very restricted in the amount of movement they’ve got. I do remember one time the animal handlers were taking the cow to another field after we were finished filming.

“There was just this one that got very lively and the handlers were holding on to it and had to like roll out of the way as the cow basically galloped, so he had to hit the deck and rolled very professionally out of the way. He had obviously been in that situation a few times before. I was glad I was miles away from that!”


Do you feel a bit more comfortable working with animals now?

“Absolutely, like anything it comes with experience. We were filming TB testing and the director wants to make sure everything is right and I am now like, “Yep, I know my way around this. I’ve done TB tests loads this year.” You just get more confident and comfortable and are around animals all the time really.

“There’s been a few new additions this year as well which have been lovely to get to know and work with. Little Dash is still one of my favorites and we had a little bit of Bobby this year who is adorable. Horses, I’m still very wary of horses and a little bit intimidated by them.”


And how did it feel bad to be filming in the Yorkshire Dales? Does it feel like coming home now?

“Now that this is the third series, people know we are here. When I was driving up to film this series and round to the same apartments I was in last year, it really felt like I just left 10 minutes ago. It did feel like a kind of homecoming.

“We are very fortunate to have an incredible cast and crew and a lot of returning cast and crew and returning directors. Everyone gets along and we welcome lots of new faces as well. Wonderful new faces. I’ve had an absolute ball.

“Yorkshire – it’s a character in itself and it is stunning. We’ve had some wonderful new locations – at a farm up in the high, high Dales. The farm is on a big slope, sort of a cliff side and it was stunning. And the locals are very, very supportive and continue to be so we’re very grateful for that as well.”


All Creatures Great and Small is available on DVD on Amazon.