Big Issue Vendor

All Creatures Great and Small: Inside the Christmas Special

Adrian Lobb books an appointment with Nicholas Ralph, star of the smash hit All Creatures Great and Small.
Nicholas Ralph as James Herriot Anna Madeley as Mrs. Hal Samuel West as Siegfried Farnon Callum Woodhouse as Tristan Farnon

All Creatures Great and Small was a surprise smash hit on the small screens of 2020. Adrian Lobb booked an appointment with star Nicholas Ralph, who plays young vet James Herriot, to talk about its success and the Christmas special.

The Big Issue: Why was All Creatures Great and Small such a hit this year?

Nicholas Ralph: That source material is just so good. The books have not been out of print in 50 years and those stories are so charming, so funny and really touching. The characters are based on real people, they are so three-dimensional
– people can see themselves in them, or in the relationships.

And it has that community vibe, it’s all about helping your neighbour. With the pandemic and people being stuck inside, we were longing to be part of the community.

Support The Big Issue and our vendors this Christmas by signing up for a subscription

It felt like the right show at the right time.

Yes, and so many wonderful dramas out there just now are about rich people. But this one is about people struggling to survive – one animal can be the difference between a family farm surviving or not. So it’s really high stakes.

And then there is the scenery…

Of course. The scenery delivers that escapism. We didn’t realise when we were filming just how important it might be to see the rolling Dales. So many people wrote to me about that. And I got sent pictures of cats and dogs watching – ‘even Fido is enjoying the show’ – so it really is for all the family, animals included.

You’re from the Highlands of Scotland – how do the landscapes compare?

There are a lot of similarities. But it seemed like there was more space between the Dales in Yorkshire, whereas the Highlands is more up and down. If you made me choose between the two? I’d have to say the Highlands.

The Christmas special – can we expect James Herriot’s dinner to be interrupted by cow emergencies, a little donkey, some baby animal in a stable?

You want some goss? Well, it’s a continuation of the story, there’s a lot more highs and lows, there might be the odd interruption, there will be some baby animals in there and there might even be some snow. So it will have that Christmas magic.

All Creatures Great And Small is out on DVD and available on Acorn TV. The Christmas special airs on December 22 at 9pm and again on Boxing Day at 7.45pm on Channel 5