All Memories Great and Small – Expanded Edition by Oliver Crocker (Book Review)

With one notable exception (Doctor Who) the production histories of many British television programmes aren’t terribly well documented. There are exceptions of course (the sterling work carried out by Andrew Pixley for a variety of series, David Brunt’s painstaking Z Cars tomes and recent books about programmes as diverse as Star Cops and The Brothers have all been more than welcome).

Until the original edition of All Memories Great and Small in 2016, the BBC version of All Creatures was one of those neglected series, but Oliver Crocker’s wonderfully exhaustive book certainly rectified that. Now reissued with additional interviews and fascinating production information for 35 of the series’ 90 episodes, it’s better than ever.

Since the original publication, several of the interviewees (such as Bill Sellars and Robert Hardy) have sadly passed away, which makes the book even more of a valuable resource as there’s no substitute for first hand recollections. The roster of those who agreed to be interviewed is impressive – not only key regulars such as Christopher Timothy, Robert Hardy, Carol Drinkwater and Peter Davison, but also a plethora of guest stars and behind the scenes crew who are able to share many stories about the series’ production.

The icing on this particularly succulent cake has to be a slew of wonderful production photographs with the odd studio floor plan thrown in for good measure,

The format of All Memories Great And Small is straightforward and effective. Each episode (from Horse Sense in 1978 to the final Christmas Special in 1990) is given its own chapter. All have reminiscences from a variety of contributors (some specific to that episode, some more general) whilst selected episodes also contain production info (handy if you’re looking to pinpoint specific locations used, for example).

Clocking in at just over 400 pages, it’s plain that this book was a real labour of love. If you’ve got the original edition then it’s still worth an upgrade for the additional material. But if you’ve yet to buy it and have any interest in the BBC series, then All Memories Great and Small is an essential purchase. An absolute treasure trove of a resource, I know that it’ll be something I’ll return to again and again in the future.

All Memories Great and Small can be ordered directly from Devonfire Books via this link or from them via this Amazon link.

Witness Statements: Making The Bill Series 1-3 by Oliver Crocker (Book Review)

Given The Bill‘s length of service (1983 – 2010) it’s surprising that books about the series are very thin on the ground. Although maybe it’s worth remembering that this is the fate of most television shows – programmes like Doctor Who (which have been examined in painstaking detail) are very much the exception rather than the rule.

During the series’ lifetime, The Bill generated several glossy, large format books (by the likes of Hilary Kingsley and Geoff Tibballs). These are good to have, but Witness Statements: Making The Bill Series 1-3 offers a much more forensic examination of the early years of the show.

Oliver Crocker’s Bill podcast has been running for several years now, clocking up an impressive number of episodes (each one interviewing a different Sun Hill alumni). With all this material to hand, it made sense to distill some of it into book form (plus Crocker has carried out new interviews especially for this book). Witness Statements concentrates on the original incarnation of The Bill – when it was a post-watershed 50 minute series (prior to its re-formatting in 1988).

Each episode, from the Woodentop pilot to the final episode of S3 – Not Without Cause – is given its own chapter. A highly impressive roster of personnel – both in front of and behind the screen – provide commentaries on the episodes in turn.

Every contributor offers something of interest, but John Salthouse’s comments were especially fascinating (possibly because he’s rarely spoken about his time as DI Roy Galloway before in any depth).

I’ve recently been revisiting the first series of The Bill and I’ve found Witness Statements to be an excellent companion. If you have any interest in The Bill – or indeed British television of this era in general – then Witness Statements is an invaluable book which comes highly recommended.

Witness Statements: Making The Bill Series 1-3 by Oliver Crocker, published by Devonfire Books, is available from Amazon.