DON’T worry. When you tune into the new series of All Creatures Great And Small tonight to see what Channel 5 have done with the much-loved classic based on the life of Thirsk vet Alf Wight, you’ll be able to do so in the knowledge that no animals were harmed in the making of the programme.

Yes, there were real animals aplenty used in the making of the series - not least the huge bull that central character James Herriot meets in episode 1. But when it came to filming intimate and unseemly scenes such as rectal examinations... “Well, we were not actually going to do anything to an animal that it didn't require medically!” says Sam West, who plays Herriot's boss, the eccentric Darrowby vet Siegfried Farnon.

Those medical scenes, therefore, were filmed using prosthetics. Not that you’ll be able to tell the difference. “The tricks of film-making!” says Brian Percival, the lead director on the new series.

Channel 5’s new six-part production (which is already being tipped for a second series) is based not only on the much-loved TV series from the 1970s and 80s starring Christopher Timothy, but also on the equally much-loved Vet books by James Herriot (Alf Wight’s pen name).

Remaking such a classic comes with the risk of failure and disappointment.

But from the opening moments of tonight’s episode, it looks as though Channel 5 are on to a winner.

The scene opens on a busy Glasgow dock. It’s 1937, between the Depression and the war. A young James (played by TV newcomer Nicholas Ralph) is running along the dock-side, his shirt stained with sweat. He turns into a run-down tenement, picks up his post, scans it eagerly, sighs with frustration.

Upstairs, his mum says he should get work on the docks, like his dad. Then his father hands him another envelope. “The postie forgot one,” he says, in a thick Glasgow accent. “I’ve got an interview!” says James, opening the letter.

Cut to a bus journey, which ends with the young would-be vet being deposited at an empty crossroads high up in the Dales, all impossibly golden-green in the sunlight. The music swells, and the title All Creatures Great And Small breaks out...

This new series is actually more of a return to Alf Wight’s original books than a remake of the earlier TV series. There's more depth to some of the characters - especially the women. "You get to see Helen on her own, away from James," says Rachel Shenton, who plays the young vet's love interest Helen Alderson, the 'first woman in the village to wear trousers'.

But as before, it is the interplay between James, his wonderfully capricious boss Siegfried, and Siegfried’s errant younger brother Tristan (Callum Woodhouse) that’s at the heart of the show.

West tells a story about Donald Sinclair, the real-life vet that Alf Wight based his Siegfried on. He once fired both barrels of his shotgun into the wall after dinner, West says, because he wanted everybody to leave. “I’ve always wanted to do that!” the actor says.

The other stars of the show, of course, are the animals - and the glorious, swooping landscape of the Yorkshire Dales.

It's a landscape that has perhaps never looked lovelier. The TV crews made use of the very latest technology, including drones, to bring it to life, says executive producer Colin Callender. On the evidence so far, it was worth every penny.

  • All Creatures Great And Small begins tonight at 9pm on Channel 5 - straight after The Yorkshire Vet.