Call the Midwife: Ep. 1

“Sometimes new beginnings come not at once but at last.”

Call the Midwife

You know, I think Call the Midwife may be the only thing left on telly that I actually look forward to watching. Sure, there are objectively better programmes: Silent Witness springs to mind at the moment. But in the absence of Sherlock, and to a lesser extent Doctor Who, Call the Midwife has a comforting familiarity to it, a strange mix of fluffiness and grit, that makes it a genuinely nice thing to watch, rather than one which tries relentlessly to plumb the dark depths of human nature. That becomes wearing after a while.

So I greet the beginning of a new series with happy anticipation. And, indeed, despite the cast changes, things are going on pretty much as usual at Nunatus House. Though Chummy appears to be leaving again, a new girl from Liverpool (although any accent less Liverpudlian I cannot imagine) is arriving as nurse. Meanwhile, Trixie is reminded of a bad childhood by a case of extreme neglect, and Sister Evangelina is ill.

And so it goes on: the gentle but relentless rose-tinted juggernaut that insists that all ills can be cured by strong cups of tea, sisterhood, generosity of spirit and Vanessa Redgrave’s good-natured narration. I do love that all the main characters here are women, and that none of them are one-note: party-loving serial girlfriend Trixie is perhaps the most competent and compassionate of the young nurses; the slightly mad Sister Monica Joan often has gems of wisdom to share; Chummy can be both comically hopeless and motherishly helpful. That’s undoubtedly the best thing about this admittedly often formulaic series, and one unrivalled in anything else I can think of. And if the moral occasionally becomes a little strained, as it does here (the Children’s Migrant Programme – which, by the way, is an awful piece of British history that everyone should know about – strikes a slightly off note in the gently positive message this episode is trying to convey), well, I’m quite ready to forgive that. What, after all, is life without a little sentiment?

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