This episode’s a sequel to the Christmas special, with guest star Cleo Sylvestre conveniently returning to remind star Nicholas Ralph he’s actually going to have to tell his love interest, Rachel Shenton, he likes her for anything to happen. But we also get to see the dog from the Christmas special, so it’s all good. And having Shenton sit around the home veterinary office with Sylvestre and Anna Madeley is nice. “All Creatures Great and Small” seems to know its got strength in its homeyness, but it uses that strength sparingly.
Shenton’s hanging out because she’s waiting for Ralph to take her to the Daffodil Ball. In addition to following up on Christmas special story threads—it’s not just Sylvestre’s return—the episode also does some retconning. For example, the Daffodil Ball. If Ralph wasn’t in town for the Daffodil Ball the year before, he just missed it, so his utter unfamiliarity plays a wee contrived. Though the episode opens with him jogging through the countryside like they suddenly remembered they’d established him as a jogger in the first episode then forgot about it.
The other Christmas special followups aren’t guest stars but lack thereof. In this episode, we find out Samuel West’s love interest is off playing grandma on an island, never to return. Then Callum Woodhouse also needs a new one because his regular love interest, the local bartender, has apparently given up on him. Or something. It’s left a lot more unclear than West’s, which is decidedly over, so he can pursue fetching divorcée Dorothy Atkinson. Woodhouse’s love interest for the Ball—Ella Bruccoleri—seems more temporary. She’s a farmer’s daughter; Woodhouse and West were there earlier on a case, one Woodhouse determinedly finishes to ensure there’d be time to go to the Ball.
While Woodhouse’s romance arc is mostly comedic, West’s works to set him up as a more determined business owner. One of his most annoying clients, James Fleet, keeps threatening to take his business to the competition Kriss Dosanjh (who’s been absent from the series since maybe the second or third of last season), and West shows off for Atkinson. The show appears to be setting Atkinson up as a more constant love interest for West, which is fine. They’re charming together, and he’s not constantly unsure like with the last one.
The big romance plot is obviously Ralph and Shenton, who go on their first date together to the Ball (though they don’t call it a date), but the cutest is Anna Madeley’s entirely unexpected one. One of the veterinary cases is an injured dog in need of emergency surgery; as the owner, played by Will Thorp, waits around the house, he and Madeley work up a rapport. It’s the first time Madeley’s ever had the slightest bit of a romantic plot, and it’s very nice to see her get something else to do besides fret over the boys.
The main veterinary case is Fleet’s, which the episode ends up playing for some very good, very gross laughs. Besides Thorp’s injured dog, the cases all have a big humor component.
Also, there’s some unexpected progress on Ralph’s “moving back to Glasgow” subplot. He tells Madeley about it early in the episode and how his romantic interest in Shenton will be a deciding factor, so she’s concerned about it now.
It’s a very nice episode and seems to be setting up the season going forward. But who knows; someone else might move to an island never to return too. Can’t take “All Creatures” guest stars for granted.