Call the Midwife, BBC Drama - What Happens Next? A preview of Series Season 5

Jessica Raine, Helen George and Bryony Hannah star as midwives in the BBC drama 'Call the Midwife'
Jessica Raine, Helen George and Bryony Hannah star as midwives in the BBC drama 'Call the Midwife'

In 2012 the BBC launched a hit comedy drama titled Call the Midwife. Series (season) 5 is now being screened in the UK.

The show is based on a novel by Jennifer Worth and set in East London (also known as the East End) in the 1950s and has drawn huge audiences in the UK and across the world.

'Midwives' cashes in on the Downton Abbey phenomenon from BBC rivals ITV and the public’s thirst (on both sides of the Atlantic) for period dramas tinged with a heavy dose of cliché and nostalgia.

The series is heart warming, feel good stuff, perfect for a BBC1 audience on a Sunday evening. In the UK there was also a Christmas Special at the end of 2012. However, some critics have accused the show of being too cosy and nice and that it fails to capture the gritty reality of life in London's East End in the 1950s.

The BBC are therefore promising a darker, more gritty midwife drama in season 5. Along with home baking on the menu, they also promise a diet of prostitution, domestic violence and child neglect.

Here is a summary of a typical Midwife hour long episode from the early part of series 5. This is how the BBC will use obstetrics to give ITV and Downton Abbey a run for its money!

Read on if you want to know what happens next in 'Call the Midwife' and explore future plot lines.

(Warning that spoilers may follow.)

Jenny Lee, Midwife on her Bike
Jenny Lee, Midwife on her Bike

Call the Midwife Products

Call the Midwife – Typical Heart Warming Plot

Jenny Lee, newly qualified midwife, played by Jessica Raine, is on the late shift and has been dispatched for her first pub delivery on a bike.

You probably think of a pub delivery as involving a truck loaded with barrels of beer, possibly horse drawn in 1950s for added nostalgia and quaintness? Not so in this case. No, poor Jenny is expected to deliver a baby in a public bar at closing time.

Jenny Lee is the heroine of our tale (she wrote the book). Jenny is very nice, neat, pretty and worthy. She is also an expert bike rider. Just what you look for in a 1950’s midwife.

‘Mum to be’, Enid is laid out on a bench seat in the lounge bar of the Seven Bells near the piano. Lucky her because for everyone else it is standing room only. A sing song is in full swing and beer flows like there is no tomorrow.

Mum sings along with the rest.

“I’m ‘Enery the eighth I am, ‘Enery the eighth I am, I am …”. Enid then pauses to scream as the next contraction hits. Her Mother, Ethel hands her a glass of gin in lieu of a cylinder of nitrous oxide.

“I ‘spect the midwife will be here any minute, Lovey,” says Ethel cheerfully

Incidentally, cheerfulness is supposed to be an East Enders thing although you wouldn't think it if you watch the BBC1 soap offering ‘East Enders’. In the modern soap, things are distinctly gloomy and folk maim and murder one another or blow up buildings, particularly in the (unseasonal) Christmas Specials.

1950s East End Kids
1950s East End Kids

Jenny Lee to the Rescue

Thankfully ‘call the Midwife’ is not like that. Poor, posh Jenny cycles urgently through narrow alleys beset with choking smog and urchin children climbing lampposts, dancing the Conga or singing ‘Knees Up Mother Brown.’

Every so often Jenny has to swerve to avoid a ‘lady of the night’ on duty under a lamp post, a policeman on his beat or a passing drunk.

Jenny is not sure she likes the East End. The people are friendly enough but very irresponsible. Surely their children should be safely tucked up in bed before nightfall? Jenny prays that her client will be in the lounge bar and not the public.

For those of you who are not from England or do not remember the 1950s then the public bar was predominantly men only and any women found there were up to no good.

Finally Jenny arrives at the Seven Bells, know locally as the ‘Seven Bells in the East End’ (or ‘Bell End’ for short) totally exhausted. Could the nuns not provide a car or even a horse with a blue light and a bell on the front to make these emergency calls easier?

She props her bike against the wall and attaches the ‘Midwife on Call’ sign to the handlebars to ensure it isn't pinched or impounded by the police.

The lounge bar is packed and gloomy with smoke. A couple of men make sexist comments as Jenny squeezes her slim frame through the crowd carrying her medical black bag but they quickly apologise when they see her smart uniform.

“Over there love,” says one pointing towards the piano.

Jenny soon locates her patient and suggests that she be moved to a more private room. The young midwife quickly gathers there isn’t one and anyway the family would prefer her to give birth in the bar.

The Midwives with Chummy 2nd from the Left
The Midwives with Chummy 2nd from the Left

Born in the Seven Bells

“It’s a family tradition,” says her Father, proudly, “to be born in the Seven Bells.”

Jenny removes her coat, clears some space and conducts an examination. She notes the birth is progressing well.

The crowd now sing ‘If you were the only girl in the world’ and mum to be, Enid has tears pouring down her face. Whether this is due to pain or sentiment Jenny is not sure.

The landlord comes over from the bar having received a telephone call from a nun to inform Jenny both her midwife colleague ‘Chummy’ Brown plus Doctor Turner are making their own way to the Bells to assist her.

A bit of background is necessary here. Chummy Browne (Camilla Fortescue-Cholmeley-Browne) is even posher than Jenny but is big and clumsy and played by the fabulous, award winning comedian Miranda Hart.

Like everyone in ‘Midwives’ her heart (Hart) is in the right place but she is called upon by the script writers be incredibly clumsy, banging into screens, dropping surgical instruments and generally causing mayhem by knocking over policemen or fellow midwives whilst in the saddle. Fortunately she finds true love at the end of the first series with one of the policemen she felled.

Dr Turner, played by Stephen McGann is a world weary doctor with a passion for the National Health Service and the poor. The NHS is an innovation of the ‘50s that bought free health care to not only the working classes but everyone in the UK.

Some of you American readers will be thinking he must have been a communist. You may also be shocked to hear that the NHS still delivers free health care in 2013. No wonder Britain is much like Cuba!

Incidentally there are several British actors called McGann. They are all brothers, all fine actors and look the same and no one can ever work out which one is which.

Anyway, Jenny is worried that Chummy will either never find the Bells in the dark or that she may fall from her bike. This latter fear is confirmed a few moments later by the sound of breaking glass and intermittent cries of “Oh Gosh!”, “Golly!” and “Sorry!”

By the way, in real life Miranda Hart is a competant cylist and relished the scenes where she wobbles about all over the place.

Jenny Agutter as Sister Julienne
Jenny Agutter as Sister Julienne

Dilation

As Jenny slips her delicate fingers inside Enid, checking for dilation, Chummy is carried through the crowd by a posse of urchin boys, drunks and other folk who inhabit the lane outside.

Fortunately Doctor Turner arrives in his motor car and quickly patches Chummy up on top of the bar.

“She fell off her Fred,” piped a grubby child from time to time.

“You mean her head?” queried the Doctor.

“No its cockney rhyming slang init,” explained a man at the bar. “Fred, shed, bike shed. She fell off her Bike see?”

The doctor nods absently. He reflects that he might have studied medicine for several years and been top of his year at medical school but the logic of cockney rhyming slang still totally escapes him.

Chummy, once on her feet again, proves a wizard at crowd control. She expertly creates a cordon around the scene of the birth, repelling curious drunks and stray children alike from the birthing area.

She also firmly removes the gin from Enid and replaces it with a pint of water, explaining that it is vital that Enid is actually awake when the baby arrives.

Jenny urges the final push as the baby’s head appears and Doctor Turner looks on encouragingly explaining to any one who will listen how wonderful the new National Health Service is.

Whoopi Goldberg in Sister Act
Whoopi Goldberg in Sister Act
Julie Andrews in Sound of Music
Julie Andrews in Sound of Music

The Final Push

Father to be holds his wife’s hand tightly while his other hand grasps a pint of Best Bitter. Meanwhile, the jellied eel seller does a roaring trade moving from table to table selling his wares.

Jenny tells him firmly to remove his eels from the birthing scene. “Jellied eels have no place in a modern delivery,” she says crisply.

Once delivered, Jenny announces “It’s a boy!” The pub goes wild and the pianist strikes up “My old man, said follow the band.”

The family buy drinks for everyone including Jenny, Chummy and the Doctor and the baby, still slightly bloody, is passed around from hand to hand. Jenny meanwhile delivers the placenta, making sure it doesn't get mixed up with all those jellied eels.

Some of the nuns now arrive from the oddly named Nonnatus House, intending to support Jenny in her endeavours rather than to partake in liquor. They include the actress Jenny Agutter, much loved in the Railway Children (long skirt) and Logan’s Run (very short skirt).

However, nuns in popular fiction and entertainment are now firmly linked in the public psyche with musical performance (blame Julie Andrews and Whoopi Goldberg) so the nuns make their way reluctantly to the piano and attempt a cheerful, celebratory cockney knees up to the tune of ‘My old man.’

Jenny Lee retrieves the baby in order to wash it and ensures no one literally ‘wets the baby's head’ again except her. This follows an incident, a few minutes ago, where a pint of beer has apparently been tipped over the baby boy’s head in order ensure a long, happy life.

So ends an early episode of series 5 of Call the Midwife. The new season promises to be so stuffed with cockney charm and good will that the BBC will surely commission series 6 for 2017.


Call the Midwife - Trailer

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Comments 6 comments

jacqui2011 profile image

jacqui2011 4 years ago from Leicester, United Kingdom

I haven't watched "Call the Midwife" yet. It's on every Sunday night for 6 weeks. I have recorded them all and plan to watch them in one six hour hit. Everyone I've spoken to say it is a wonderful series. Well written and informative hub. Voted up and interesting.


Rik Ravado profile image

Rik Ravado 4 years ago from England Author

Jacqui - thanks for being the first to comment - I hope you enjoy those recordings!


Suus 4 years ago

Aw, I love this show! Can't wait till it's on TV again. And I'm happy Chummy is in this series too. Love her character.

Recommend the books too by the way. :)


MOI 4 years ago

Fantastic series, beautifully presented. I can't wait for series2. Miranda Hart is brilliant and so are the rest of the cast.


sallybea profile image

sallybea 3 years ago from Norfolk

Did not dare read the whole article - since it included spoilers but just wanted to say, I love the show - especially love Chummy


brainmatters 3 years ago

The BBC and other Brit networks have been doing this kind of thing for at least the 40 years I've been watching, and likely before I tuned in. Downtom Abbey is hardly the first epic period piece to cross the pond. Ever hear of "Upstairs, Downstairs"?

I'm happy younger people are discovering how well the Brits do these things, but take a look at the archives at PBS.org/video and you'll find a wealth of similar programming--which you can stream for free!

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