All Creatures Great and Small Christmas special: See the touching scenes as Mrs Pumphrey faces Christmas alone while Tricki Woo lies ill at Skeldale House - SPOILER ALERT

A touching performance by Patricia Hodge is the highlight of the All Creatures Great and Small Christmas special. Stephanie Smith reports.

The All Creatures Great and Small Christmas TV special touched the hearts of viewers with storylines emphasising the value of friendship, community spirit and the bond between humans and animals.

The festive episode, screened on Channel 5 on Christmas Eve, saw Patricia Hodge give a poignant, sensitive performance as Mrs Pumphrey, wealthy owner of the local manor house, alone after sending home her staff so they could be with their families on Christmas Day. She is alone too because her beloved pekingese, Tricki Woo, is ailing and has been taken by the vets back to their surgery in Darrowby, so they can treat and monitor his progress.

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The video clips here show how the story developed, so look away if you have not yet seen the episode.

Mrs Pumprey, played by Patricia Hodge, and Tricki Woo, played by Derek, face a worrying time.

Tricki Woo is played by Derek, described by members of the All Creatures cast as a scene-stealer with a wonderful personality. Patricia Hodge has said that the pooch is “the most unbelievable animal I've ever worked with”, while Callum Woodhouse, who plays Tristan Farnon, has joked that the dog sometimes knows where and when he should be on set rather better than some of the actors.

The storyline highlights the bond between pets and their owners, and emphasises the importance of kindness, friendship and community spirit at all times, but especially at Christmas. Speaking to the Yorkshire Post, Nicholas Ralph, who plays James Herriot, said: “It is full of love and compassion, not only for one other, but for the animals as well.” Rachel Shenton, who plays Helen Alderson, pointed out that the books, written by Thirsk vet Alf Wight under the pseudonym James Herriot, are packed with kindness and compassion, cleverly adapted by writer Ben Vanstone for a modern TV audience. “It could feel a bit sickly at times, if it wasn’t pitched just right, but he absolutely manages to get that every time,” she said. “The story with Tricki and Mrs Pumphrey is one of my favourites.”

In other storylines, Mrs Hall (Anna Madeley) and Siegfried Farnon (Samuel West) hold a lively debate over who should be invited to Christmas dinner at Skeldale, with Mrs Hall suggesting that Siegfried’s latest love interest, Diana, should be invited, prompting a cheeky counter-suggestion from the vet. There is also news about Tristan’s exam results.

The festive episode is a celebration of togetherness, a theme certain to chime with many modern-day viewers, some finally able to gather with friends, neighbours and loved ones this year, and some once again separated due to Covid-19.

Patricia and Derek at the press preview screening for series two.

Series Two of All Creatures Great and Small ended with the engagement of young vet James Herriot (Nicolas Ralph) and young farmer Helen Alderson (Rachel Shenton), who now face a recognisable festive dilemma - where to spend Christmas Day and eat their Christmas dinner. Mrs Hall (Anna Madeley) is expecting them at Skeldale House and Helen’s sister Jenny (played by Harrogate Grammar School student Imogen Clawson) is planning a feast at the family farm, Heston Grange. The couple are reluctant to disappoint either party, a situation that raises bigger questions about what their lives together will look like in the future.

There is no rest from animal emergencies for the Darrowby vets over the festive period. James attends the seriously ill sheep of a curmudgeonly Dales farmer, while Siefried (Samuel West) is the first vet on the scene to assess pampered pooch Tricki Woo.

Season Two was set in 1938, the year before the Second World War started, and the final episode of that series of six touched on the prospect of war with news of Neville Chamberlain entering peace talks, leaving the characters nervous about what was on the horizon. But, in the Christmas episode, for the time being, Darrowby is a place for love, togetherness and mutual support, celebrating the true spirit of Christmas.

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The repeat is on December 30 at 5:40pm on Channel 5.