‘Call the Midwife’, Christmas Special 2016 (TV)

CHRISTMAS SPECIAL 2016

Please feel free to comment on my review.

At the time of this review, it’s like four days before I’ll see the 2020 Christmas Special of ‘Call the Midwife’, which I’m really looking forward to. Hopefully my viewing of the 2020 Christmas Special and Series 10 in 2021 won’t affect my reviewing when it comes to coming back to reviewing Series 6.

Anyway, the 2016 Christmas Special of ‘Call the Midwife’! I really enjoyed this special. It’s certainly a lot different compared to how previous ‘Call the Midwife’ Christmas Specials have celebrated the festive occasion. I also assume they had a lot of money to go aboard and film in South Africa itself. 🙂

Maybe this is how ‘Doctor Who’ was able to film episodes aboard in South Africa for Series 11 and 12 because of this ‘Call the Midwife’ Christmas Special. 😀 Anyway, the special begins with everybody we know in Poplar celebrating the festive occasion. It’s truly become a ‘white Christmas’.

And we’re in Christmas 1961 by the way. Everyone we know is there at Nonnatus House. There are the Turners: Laura Main as Shelagh, Stephen McGann as Dr. Turner and Max Macmillan as Timothy. Jenny Agutter as Sister Julienne and Victoria Yeates as Sister Winifred are also at Nonnatus House. 🙂

There’s Judy Parfitt as Sister Monica Joan and Helen George as Trixie. Incidentally, I saw Helen George in ‘Nativity Rocks’ recently at the time of this review. All I’ll say is, she was the best thing in that movie. 😀 There’s Cliff Parisi as Fred Buckle and I believe Annabelle Apison as Violet was there. 🙂

Also there are Emerald Fennell as Patsy, Kate Lamb as Delia, Jack Ashton as Tom, Charlotte Ritchie as Barbara, Linda Bassett as Nurse Crane, and Bryony Hannah as Sister Mary Cynthia. It’s clearly a happy gathering where the ‘Call the Midwife’ characters we know and love are celebrating Christmas.

I like that references are made to Sister Evangelina (played by Pam Ferris) who recently passed away at the end of Series 5. Sister Julienne and Sister Monica Joan are clearly still saddened by the loss of Sister Evangelina, but thankfully no unkind word is said about that and her spirit remains with them.

By the way, don’t be deceived by the photo above in that most of the special is going to take place in Poplar at around Christmas. The special starts on Christmas Day and it’s when we get to the main plot. For you see, an unexpected SOS call is made from the Mother House, interrupting festivities. 😐

Apparently Hope Clinic, which is a tiny mission hospital in South Africa that has links to the Mother House Order, is threatened with closure. A small working group of midwives and a cleric have been called upon to travel out to South Africa in order to work at Hope Clinic and assess its future viability.

Naturally, Sister Julienne agrees to summons and she swiftly procures the help of Sister Winifred, Trixie, Barbara, Nurse Crane, Dr. Turner, Shelagh, Fred and Tom to go with her to South Africa. They’re soon transported to South Africa where they meet the staff and patients to help Hope Clinic.

Now this is interesting to talk about South Africa. At this time in human history, South Africa is under the regime of apartheid. This is something I learnt when studying GCSE History. Apartheid is where blacks and whites were discriminated. This is clearly indicated with there being a ‘whites only’ beach.

I wonder if I should or whether ‘Doctor Who’ should do a story about apartheid South Africa someday. I can imagine the Chris Chibnall/Jodie Whittaker era going for that kind of story. The ‘Call the Midwife’ team sent out to South Africa get met by soldiers who are clearly stern with apartheid.

It’s clear the apartheid soldiers are no-nonsense and they don’t approve of the ‘Call the Midwife’ nurses interacting with black patients. It’s harsh and I can imagine that the ‘Call the Midwife’ team don’t approve of the way things are run at the Hope Clinic, especially with many problems encountered. 😐

Speaking of which, the Hope Clinic are faced with water problems as the water supply is running dangerously low. There’s also no electricity which makes things difficult for the ‘Call the Midwife’ team to use their equipment to save patients’ lives. I would find that situation to be very hard-going.

It’s also pretty hot out there for the ‘Call the Midwife’ team. Characters like Fred and Barbara find it difficult under that intense heat and Trixie is disappointed her ‘mascara’ is getting ruined. Um, I wouldn’t worry about your make-up Trixie, considering there’s little chance of dating in South Africa.

The Hope Clinic is run by Sinéad Cusack as Dr. Myra Fitzsimmonds. I’ve seen Sinéad Cusack before in 2006’s BBC production of ‘North and South’ with Richard Armitage. Dr. Myra is a clinic doctor who’s suffering from a mysterious illness. Dr. Turner and Shelagh uncover how they can help Dr. Myra out.

It’s interesting how Dr. Myra seems reluctant to accept any help from anyone when she’s suffering and trying to keep the Hope Clinic open and running for as long as possible. She has to come to trust Dr. Turner when he offers help and he and Shelagh find a way to cure her of the illness she’s having.

The biggest hurdle meanwhile in this South Africa endeavour is when a neighbouring white farmer, Danny Keogh as Mr. Starke (and that’s ‘Starke’ with an ‘e’ not without the ‘e’ in case you thought he was a relation of Tony Stark in the ‘MCU’. 😀 ) refuses access across his land for a new water pipe. 😐

The water pipe could save the clinic’s future. At first, it’s assumed Mr. Starke is generally racist and hates black people. But there’s more to it than that as Mr. Starke lost his wife and baby child due to admitting them at the Hope Clinic. Tom Hereward tries to ask for Mr. Starke’s help but he refuses. 😦

As Tom and his team try to dig a new water pipe somewhere else which could take longer, Sister Julienne sees Mr. Starke and persuades him to help well as overcome the grief of losing his family. I like how that story arc was resolved and how Sister Julienne persuaded Starke to change his mind. 🙂

The ‘Call the Midwife’ team continue to face the challenges head on whilst they’re at Hope Clinic in South Africa. I like how the ‘Call the Midwife’ team interacts with the patients and that they get on well with them. I have heard many stories said that the people in Africa can be very nice to talk to indeed.

Dr. Turner goes through a story arc where he overcomes his guilt about failing the people of Poplar with the thalidomide treatment he gave to patients during Series 5. I like how he becomes confident with setting up a completed polio immunisation programme for the patients at the Hope Clinic here.

It was amusing to see the ‘Call the Midwife’ team using a van to make several trips in remote parts of South Africa to save lives with the polio immunisation programme. Fred even helps Nurse Crane out when helping a mother to deliver her baby under a tree in the desert, taking the van with them.

In the special, Trixie becomes very brave when she has to perform a tricky caesarean on an expectant mother using candlelight. It must’ve been very difficult but thankfully she’s successful. Emotionally overwhelmed, Barbara supports Trixie and she applauds her efforts in the endeavour. 🙂

I do wonder what Series 6 would’ve been like if the entire season took place in South Africa. I know that’s not the case in terms of looking ahead to future episodes, but I wonder if ‘Call the Midwife’ ever considered filming an entire season set in South Africa. It’d be expensive but pretty intriguing. 🙂

Incidentally, at the end of the special, Trixie decides to stay behind in Hope Clinic to continue helping out. That means we won’t see much of Helen George as Trixie in about two episodes of Series 6. I’m not really sure if Helen George was filming something else at the time to justify her absence here. 😐

Barbara and Tom’s relationship continues to grow whilst they spend time in South Africa. At the end of special, Tom proposes marriage to Barbara. He hasn’t got a ring but they establish their engagement using a ‘green vine’ or something. I’m pleased they get engaged by the special’s end. 😀

The patients and staff at Hope Clinic are also grateful to the ‘Call the Midwife’ team for helping them out in such difficult times. They even have group photos, using Nurse Crane’s camera, to keep memories of their time spent in South Africa. It’s amazing the special ended on that particular note.

The 2016 Christmas Special of ‘Call the Midwife’ has been pretty enjoyable and interesting throughout. It’s a different take of a ‘Call the Midwife’ Christmas Special with it being filmed and set in South Africa. I appreciate the time and effort taken to film the Christmas Special in hot sunny conditions.

‘Christmas Special 2016’ rating – 8/10


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