Filmed in the Yorkshire Dales over the summer, the new season picks up in the spring of 1940, with James and Helen wondering when might be the right time to start a family, not knowing whether or not James will be called up to serve in the RAF.
The Second World War has brought changes that will continue to affect everyone in Skeldale House. The absence of Tristan Farnon (Callum Woodhouse) is felt by all, but especially by Siegfried (Samuel West), as he attempts to hold the growing household, and himself, together.
Mrs Hall (Anna Madeley) and Helen’s friendship blossoms as they look to the future. With Tristan away serving in the Royal Army Veterinary Corps, Siegfried and James bring in extra hands to help and so Neve McIntosh (Shetland) joins the cast as efficient bookkeeper Miss Harbottle.
Another new character arrives in the shape of studious but unworldly undergraduate veterinary student Richard Carmody (James Anthony-Rose), causing complications in the house and - judging by a still of a startled Richard seeming to prepare to meet an uncooperative farm animal - bringing humour to series four. Another image shows a pair of goats causing mischief at Skeldale House, no doubt much to the consternation of Mrs Hall.
There is also a photograph showing two tiny figures, said to be Siegfried and Clifford Slaven, making their way across a snow-sprinkled Yorkshire Dales landscape towards a remote farmhouse, while another shows Mrs Hall and Siegfried side by side as they talk with James.
Will Thorp returns as the handsome Gerald, and fans will be intrigued to find out whether or not romance continues to blossom between him and Mrs Hall.
Patricia Hodge reprises her role as the wonderfully eccentric Mrs Pumphrey, alongside her adored pampered Pekingese Tricki-Woo (Derek). Sheffield-born actor Tony Pitts returns as Helen’s father, Richard Alderson, and Imogen Clawson, from Harrogate, is back as Helen’s sister, Jenny Alderson.
Cleo Sylvestre MBE will return as farmer Anne Chapman (viewers might remember that in series one, Anne and her husband Bert (Dave Hill) lived in the remote hilltop farm where James and Helen were snowed in on the night before Helen was due to marry Hugh Hulton (Harry Potter’s Matthew Lewis). Paul Copley and James Bolam MBE will also appear. Coronation Street’s Sam Retford is set to appear as FO Woodham, and Channel 5 promises that a colourful ensemble of farmers, animals and townsfolk will also star.
Fans were disappointed to learn that Callum Woodhouse is not due to appear in series four because his character, Tristan Farnan, is serving in the Royal Army Veterinary Corps, but Channel 5 has pointed out that Tristan’s absence is in line with the original books by James Herriot.
Filming took place in the Yorkshire Dales from March to July this year, centred around Grassington, which is used for Darrowby and the front exterior of Skeldale House, the vets’ practice and home in All Creatures Great and Small. Fans from across the world gathered in the village to watch the production.
The Christmas episode was filmed in July, like last year in swelteringly hot conditions. Fans visiting the location were also looking for signs of a new baby, reporting that areas surrounding James and Helen were screened off from view.
From BAFTA and Golden Globe-winning production company Playground, series four will have six 60-minute episodes plus a Christmas Special, and will air on Channel 5 in the autumn (no precise date has been given as yet).
In the US, MASTERPIECE on PBS will air the new series in early 2024, beginning on Sunday, January 7.
James Herriot is the pen name of James Alfred Wight, a veterinary surgeon who graduated from Glasgow Veterinary College at the age of 23 and headed to a veterinary practice in Thirsk, Yorkshire, in 1940, where he fell in love with the Dales and the woman he would marry, Joan Danbury. She later encouraged Wight to write the stories based on his own adventures and James Herriot quickly became one of Britain’s best-loved authors.
Returning for a fourth series is executive producer Ben Vanstone who will write the Christmas special. Writer Jamie Crichton also returns, this time as lead writer with fellow writers Maxine Alderton and Helen Raynor.
Series three aired in 2023, averaging 3.8 million viewers, and an impressive 18 per cent share, making Channel 5 the most popular terrestrial channel during that slot while All Creatures Great and Small was on air.
Sir Colin Callender CBE, executive producer and CEO of Playground, said: “We are thrilled to be back in the glorious Yorkshire Dales for a fourth season of family, community and, of course, animal hijinks. Our wonderful cast and crew are all delighted to be returning to adapt more of James Herriot’s joyful and life-affirming stories.”
Paul Testar, commissioning editor, Drama, Channel 5 and Paramount+, said: “All Creatures Great and Small is one of the highlights of our year and we are eager to return to the glorious Yorkshire Dales this autumn. We can’t wait to welcome some new additions to our stellar cast for series 4.”
* The series will also be available to stream weekly on My5 and catch up of series 1-3 is available now.