Now, the beloved show about a group of country veterinarians in England’s Yorkshire Dales is about to embark on its own dark chapter as its characters look ahead to the horrors of World War II.
At a virtual TCA presentation on Thursday, producer Colin Callender of Playground Entertainment and Susanne Simpson of PBS’ “Masterpiece” joined cast members including Nicholas Ralph, Samuel West, Callum Woodhouse and Anna Madeley to discuss Season 3, which premieres in the U.K. in September and on “Masterpiece” on Jan. 8.
“When we launched, we wanted to give each character a real backstory so we could really explore that,” explained Callender. “In [Season 3] in particular, we dug deep and made these characters more complex and full-blooded. There are some wonderful moments for each character.”
While the cantankerous Siegfried (West) will navigate his relationship with younger brother and blossoming vet Tristan (Woodhouse), he’ll also have to confront his own past with World War I coming back to haunt him, explained Callender. Meanwhile, Mrs. Hall (Anna Madeley) and Helen (Rachel Shenton) have “similar challenges in this season, with Helen trying to balance being a wife and leaving behind a previous life and having to navigate what that’s like, and Mrs. Hall figuring out if there’s a life outside Skeldale House.”
Ralph, who plays James Herriot, said the spread of tuberculosis also plays a major role in Season 3 as the vet must “learn how to go about those procedures.”
“It’s something new that comes into this series in a big way,” said Ralph.
Woodhouse, meanwhile, said that Tristan continues to question his purpose in life. Although he’s finally got the credentials he craved in Season 2, “it doesn’t quite hit in the way he wanted it to,” said the actor. “It doesn’t solve all his problems and anxieties about himself and the world around him. In this series, it’s more of a step up with the work, and he goes out to do more vet visits — and he doesn’t kill any budgies this series — but there is something missing there, still. It’s as much about finding what that is [in] this series, as well as coming into his own with the work.”
A short teaser for Season 3 showed trouble ahead for Darrowby in the form of a looming war. “Gentlemen, I’m sure you’re aware of the growing tensions in Europe,” a local solemnly tells Tristan and James at one point. Tristan is later shown arguing with Siegfried about enlisting in the army.
Meanwhile, we also get a glimpse of James and Helen’s married life, and in particular, Helen’s journey finding a place for herself in Skeldale house and co-existing with long-reigning matriarch Mrs. Hall.
Despite the troubles on the horizon, however, the Season 3 sneak peek reassures that the show will maintain its warmth and continue to focus on Darrowby despite the external pressures.
“Our audience has let us know that this show is a kinder and gentler show, and they were ready for something like that when the pandemic started,” said Simpson.
The London-based West referenced the U.K.’s record-breaking heatwave in late July, and said the series is “set in a land that we’re trying to look after and farm sustainably — where the death of one cow is a problem and could be a tragedy and enough to build a story around, rather than just a stat.
“Maybe that’s the scale our heads need to be at right now,” said West. “I feel it is a lot of the time and that’s why I feel so pleased and proud to be a part of [the show].”