There’s special delivery of Call the Midwife

Sunday: Call the Midwife: Special Delivery; (BBC1, 9pm)

Saturday, 29th May 2021, 5:00 pm
Nurse Phyllis Crane, Nurse Trixi and Nurse Lucille Anderson

The current series of Call the Midwife comes to an end this week, which is sad news for fans.

However, to lessen the blow the BBC is also bringing us Call the Midwife: Special Delivery which celebrates 10 years of the hugely successful show. (Pedants might like to point out that the first episode actually aired in 2012, but the Beeb is using the fact that the current run is the 10th series as an excuse to celebrate the anniversary.)

The drama has been around so long, it’s hard to remember that it probably didn’t seem like a ratings smash when the idea of turning Jennifer Worth’s book into a TV series was first suggested.

Executive producer Pippa Harris says: “I can still vividly remember discussing Call the Midwife with [writer] Heidi Thomas for the first time, even though it was over 10 years ago. We had both fallen in love with the world of nuns, midwives, and healthcare on the cobbled streets of 1950s Poplar, which Jennifer Worth depicted in her memoirs.

“However, we weren’t convinced we could persuade the BBC that these were the ingredients of a prime-time drama. Luckily for us, the BBC also saw the potential, and here we are a decade later.”

Now though, she’s come up with a theory about why the stories have struck a chord with viewers.

Pippa says: “People often ask what is the key to the show’s longevity? Could it be the strength and variety of the ensemble cast, or the wealth of period detail in design and costume, or perhaps the many complex medical issues we’ve covered?

“But for me, it is one simple factor, and that’s Heidi Thomas’ screenwriting. Heidi manages to write about challenging, and at times disturbing, issues with such sensitivity that the audience are drawn in, and empathise immediately with the characters she creates. Her writing is full of warmth and emotion, but it’s never sentimental – she perfectly embodies the old saying of being an iron fist in a velvet glove.”

The special will look back at some of the tougher storylines Call the Midwife has covered over the years, including spina bifida, tuberculosis, FGM, abortion, racism and Thalidomide.

There will also be behind-the-scenes interviews and a selection of the cast’s favourite scenes. As with any long-running show, there have been changes over the years, and there will be a chance for fans to remind themselves of favourite former characters such as Jenny (Jessica Raine), Chummy (Miranda Hart), Cynthia (Bryony Hannah), Barbara (Charlotte Ritchie) and Sister Evangelina (Pam Ferris).

Many of the former cast members have gone on to new projects since leaving the show (Ritchie starred in the sitcom Ghosts and recently cropped up on Taskmaster), but there will also be a glimpse of perhaps Call the Midwife’s most successful graduate, Emerald Fennell, who played Patsy.

Since leaving, she’s gone on to star as Camilla Parker-Bowles in The Crown, be the showrunner of season two of Killing Eve, pen a musical with Andrew Lloyd Webber and just last month, she picked up an Oscar for the movie Promising Young Woman, which she wrote and directed.

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