4 January 2014, Varsity Online Culture Section
“At Christmas, we like to see things in their proper place”, cooed Vanessa Redgrave at the beginning of this year’s Christmas outing of Call the Midwife. This was rare festive television in that everything actually did fall into its proper place, producing a suitable addition to the winter schedule.
It was a cheerier affair in Poplar this Christmas compared to last. With this year’s episode showing on Christmas Day, the writers couldn’t match the gritty themes of their previous special, and instead contented themselves with shell shock, wedding jitters, polio, unexploded bombs and Sandi Toksvig thrown in for good measure. The episode blended a warm dose of Christmas values with Call the Midwife’s usual stirred depictions of the working class East End.
The episode concentrated on the upcoming nuptials of Shelagh and Dr Turner, who appears to be the only physician in the city. Coupled with this, the discovery of an unexploded German bomb under the streets of Poplar, which put the whole area in jeopardy at the height of Christmas celebrations.
It often felt as if this episode was trying to fit too much into too short a time, which I suppose is rather apt for Christmas. Its dealings with polio were particularly disappointing, in that they were relegated to playing a side role.
Nonetheless, writer Heidi Thomas deserves credit for steering these many streams into a single, seamless flow shot through with moments of comedy. Mention must also be made of the episode’s cast, particularly the scene-stealing Chummy, played by Miranda Hart.
All in all, this Christmas outing managed to combine a good deal of festive cheer with high-quality drama, even if it did feel a bit too busy in Poplar. With a good dose of humour and added tinsel, Call the Midwife was a joy rather than an unnecessary supplement to a bloated day.