By: Emily Maybanks
*WARNING: contains spoilers!*
“Why did I ever start this? I must have been mad!” These are the opening words of Jennifer Worth’s memoir about working as a midwife in the poverty-stricken East End of London in the 1950s. Six years after Heidi Thomas first adapted these tales for BBC One, Call the Midwife has returned each year brighter, fresher, stronger, and still with so much to say. Series 7 of Call the Midwife finished on Sunday (11th March 2018) and now fans all over are at a loss of what to do at 8p.m. on a Sunday evening for another year! “Why did I ever start this? I must have been mad!” are also the words I ask myself year on year when I settle down for the first episode of the new series, knowing that I’m in for 8 weeks of emotional television viewing. Call the Midwife has been one of my favourite TV shows ever since it first began and each year, it provides new knowledge and new storylines.
Series 7 has been one of my favourite series so far, I think. New characters have been brought onto the scene in the form of Nurse Lucille Anderson (played by Leonie Elliot). Her character unfortunately experienced racial prejudice, personally and institutionally. Her story also gives focus to the experiences of Caribbean nurses in the Sixties who were enlisted to work for the NHS.
I think the only disappointment I felt about series 7 was the unexplained departure of three characters; firstly, Nurse Cynthia Miller (who later became Sister Mary Cynthia) played by Bryony Hannah – who had an intense storyline at the end of series 6 focussing on mental health and PTSD. Also the departure of Nurse Patsy Mount (played by Emerald Fennell) and Nurse Delia Busby (played by Kate Lamb) who were a couple and in love during Call the Midwife. Their sudden departure leaves a lack of LGBT+ representation in the show. This is until the final episode of the series, which I will come onto later.
There are very few other TV shows which represent the power of women as well as Call the Midwife. The first episode of the new, seventh series included the story of a pregnant stripper who opted against the adoption that she was expected to have, giving a sense that women were much more in control than they had been previously.
The episodes that followed offered insights into conditions including: a stroke following pregnancy, a heart-breaking storyline involving Huntington’s disease in the third episode. This episode also saw the conflict surrounding abortion as well as well-known and long serving character Nurse Trixie Franklin’s demons with alcoholism return, leading to her being granted leave of absence (this is because actress Helen George was pregnant with hers and Jack Ashton’s baby girl). Jack Ashton of course plays Reverend Tom Hereward who married Nurse Barbara Gilbert – now Nurse Hereward – (Charlotte Ritchie) at the end of series 6. One of the older Nuns – Sister Monica Joan has her own ongoing storyline throughout series 7 with her sight, which aimed to emulate the actresses (Judy Parfitt) own similar experience. A beautiful moment at the end of the series finale sees the whole Poplar community come together to celebrate Sister Monica Joan’s Birthday by showing a film of her life so far.
Perhaps the most emotionally devastating episode of the series was the 7th penultimate episode. The episode preceding this saw Nurse Barbara Hereward taken ill with what we learnt to be meningococcal septicaemia and whilst during the 7th episode, she appears to be making a full recovery, we should all know by now that Call the Midwife does not hold back when it comes to emotional storylines. Nurse Hereward sadly passes away towards the end of the episode. However, the scene I found most heart-breaking and gut wrenching was a later scene which saw Nurse Phyllis Crane (Linda Bassett) sitting alone on the steps outside Nonnatus House, crying at the loss of her friend.
The series 7 finale topped – in my opinion – every series finale of Call the Midwife since series 1. We began with Nurse Hereward’s funeral (if there is a show that can have me in floods of tears in the first 4 minutes, it is Call the Midwife) and throughout the episode, we see each character coping with grief yet having to carry on with their midwifery work as usual. There was a beautiful moment towards the end of the episode where we see four different women give birth and that to me summed up this final episode – entwining the beginning and the ending of life, also with reference to the assassination of President Kennedy in the USA. What I personally found most interesting or moving about this final episode was the elderly gay couple. We know that in the 1960’s, homosexuality was illegal in the UK. The two male characters had been in love for years previously and one man had a pregnant daughter, while the other was diagnosed with pre-senile dementia. It was both heart-breaking because they’re in love but obviously can’t publically show it, yet heart-warming because the daughter eventually accepts their relationship.
Call the Midwife will certainly be missed for another year and it will return for its usual Christmas special and then its eight series in 2019. Series 7 has been amazing and its usual emotional and powerful self. Although another television show which I can certainly recommend, and which will be returning to ITV on Sunday 18th March 2018 for its second series of Good Karma Hospital. Good Karma Hospital is a bit like both Call the Midwife and the film The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. It stars Amanda Redman, James Floyd and Neil Morrissey to name a few and is set in India. So, after 8 weeks of emotional Call the Midwife viewing on a Sunday evening, I can now look forward to equally as powerful and moving Good Karma Hospital.