Last week, the cast and crew of Call the Midwife announced they had finally finished filming their latest series. This marks the tenth year of seeing the much-loved, oft-misrepresented, show on our screens.
Created from the initial source material provided by Jennifer Worth’s memoirs of being an East End midwife in the 1950s, the show has since taken on a whole life of its own, as vibrant, poignant, and meaningful as ever it was. Having collected numerous awards, dazzling viewing figures, and many of our hearts in its time, fans will be delighted to know that Series Eleven has also been commissioned. So what makes the show extraordinary? What can we expect from the new series? And, most importantly of all, what will Sister Monica Joan be getting up to this time?
Nobody doubts the warm fuzzy feeling of settling down with a good cup of tea and an ample biscuit supply to watch the nuns and midwives of Nonnatus House. You can be confident of at least two things: there will be new-born babies, and narrator Vanessa Redgrave’s honey-velvet voice will be teaching us a lesson in love and kindness That it has become a national treasure in its own right is undeniable. However, what the show’s fans have been urging viewers to recognise for years (and what finally seems to be getting through) is just how seminal the programme is to opening up a dialogue about contentious social, cultural, and emotional issues which still loudly resonate today.
Heidi Thomas, the show’s immeasurably talented writer, never backs away from such topics as abortion, poverty, racism, homophobia, chronic illness, prostitution, and FGM, always handling them with the care and respect required.
At times, episodes become uncomfortable, shocking, and teary viewing. It is this juxtaposition of light with dark which makes for such a well-balanced, pivotal commentary on issues which need to receive more awareness. Even characters built seemingly for comic relief, such as bumbling handyman Fred Buckle (played by Cliff Parisi), are given important storylines which add depth and layers to the fabric of the show. Call the Midwife does not do ‘two-dimensional’.
Looking forwards, then, to Series Ten and how it has been achieved. The series is set in 1966, and we know there will be seven episodes rather than eight, due to the tricky conditions of creating the series since last year. Five months behind its usual filming schedule, the cast and crew wrapped at about the same time we would normally be several-episodes-deep into viewing. Nevertheless, under current restrictions, the very fact we will have something to watch is remarkable. No official release date has been given as yet, but I predict we should be seeing this series by June at the very latest.
The regular cast (as of the 2020 Christmas Special) are expected to return, including characters who have been there from the very beginning: the wise and admirable Sister Julienne, played by the endearingly brilliant Jenny Agutter, the always kind and hardworking Shelagh and Dr Turner (Laura Main and Stephen McGann), and totally chic style icon, Nurse Trixie Franklin (Helen George). Social distancing will have been the aim throughout, so expect some clever camera trickery. It has also been reported that prosthetic babies have been used considerably more than usual and when real life babies have been on set, their own mothers have dressed up as midwife/mother body doubles to allow for the intimate shots that we’re so familiar with.
Here are a few of my storyline predictions, some more realistic and optimistic than others:
Sister Monica Joan (the wonderful soul played by Judy Parfitt) will become very engrossed in the World Cup this series. I think this will probably be a story with a happy ending, but you never know…
The vivacious Miriam Margolyes will hopefully make a reappearance as the formidable Mother Mildred, bringing with her some home truths about the future of Nonnatus House (remember, it’s not yet safe from demolition).
Sister Julienne will fight to save Nonnatus House. She will win, but it will inevitably be bittersweet in some way. So prepare yourselves for that saga.
We last saw Nurse Phyllis Crane (Linda Bassett) living out her dreams in sequins as she swung from a trapeze. I think life will seem rather mundane for her after that. Hopefully, this series will see her friendship with Miss Higgins blossom further. I doubt it will become much more than friendship, but you can always hope! (We miss Patsy and Delia so much)
There will be a suspicious number of contagious disease outbreaks, conveniently necessitating limited social contact and perhaps Dr Turner’s strict advice that masks be worn…
Timothy Turner (Max Macmillan). He’s been quiet of late. That boy is seriously overdue to become a big source of angst.
In 1967, abortion and homosexuality are going to be legalised, surely becoming the heart of Series Eleven. Perhaps there will be some focus on the development of related storylines in anticipation of this.
Lucille (Leonie Elliott) and Cyril (Zephryn Taitte) will pull themselves together and realise just how perfect they are for each other (and preferably get married… if they like… no pressure…).
Trixie will realise she truly does not need a man in her life and will take up a worthy cause to show the world just what a force of nature she is.
And finally, in the biggest revelation of the series, Sister Monica Joan’s immortality will finally be discovered.
So, let’s really look forward to what this new series brings. Goodness knows we need it, now more than ever before.
Feature image by joeannenah available on flickr.