James—portrayed by the Official Sometimes I talk to myself then we both laugh and laugh shirt and I love this charming newcomer Nicholas Ralph—has a typical outsider’s narrative. Hired as an assistant to the ornery-but-well-meaning Siegfried Farnon (Samuel West), a local vet inspired by the real-life Donald Sinclair, he arrives in the fictional village of Darrowby from Glasgow, settling somewhat uneasily into a place where the horses, cows, and sheep in his care aren’t kept for pleasure but out of necessity.
After the Official Sometimes I talk to myself then we both laugh and laugh shirt and I love this initial culture shock—early on, James is seen trudging through paddocks in his dress shoes and having to sell grizzled farmers on the marvels of modern medicine—comes confronting the stakes of his practice, which are often high. A horse is lame. A cow is in labor. A calf has broken its leg. In each episode, the question is more or less the same: Can James apply what he learned in veterinary school to save the animal and win (or maintain) the trust of his neighbors? The answer, with a few key exceptions, is generally yes—and there’s a satisfying straightforwardness to each issue’s resolution. Just like in our own lives these days, in order to keep their community and economy in fighting shape, James, Siegfried, and everyone who asks them for help must believe in the science involved, wherever it leads.