‘Call the Midwife’, Christmas Special 2017 (TV)


Please feel free to comment on my review.

The ‘Call the Midwife’ 2017 Christmas Special was the first ‘Call the Midwife’ episode I ever reviewed on ‘Bradley’s Basement’ in December 2017. This was after seeing the ‘Doctor Who’ Christmas Special called ‘Twice Upon a Time’ with Peter Capaldi on Christmas Day. So much has changed since.

Back then, I had no knowledge about previous ‘Call the Midwife’ seasons before this Christmas Special. My parents had been getting into ‘Call the Midwife’ on DVD in 2017, but I wasn’t interested. Now I know a lot more about the ‘Call the Midwife’ series in terms of the characters and the settings.

When the series started, it was set in the late 1950s. Now we’re in the early 1960s with this Christmas Special going from the end of 1962 into early 1963. I’ve noticed how things have become colourful in the early 1960s compared to when things looked bleak, grimy and grey in the late 1950s.

I’ve also noticed how things have changed in terms of the regular cast coming and going. When the show started, it was about Jessica Raine as Jenny’s story. Now it’s about Trixie, Barbara, Valerie, Sister Julienne, Sister Monica Joan, the Turner family, the Buckles and many more characters here. 🙂

At this point, ‘Call the Midwife’ had been going on for six seasons and was about to enter into its seventh season for transmission on BBC TV in early 2018. My parents and I did miss watching Series 7 of ‘Call the Midwife’ when it was transmitted on TV in 2018, but we’ll watch Series 7 soon on DVD.

When I reviewed this 2017 Christmas Special many years ago on my blog, I established how it stood on its own without seeing the previous six seasons. Now that I’ve caught up with the TV series and know who the characters are, I have a stronger understanding of what goes in the series throughout.

Jenny Agutter of course returns as Sister Julienne whilst Judy Parfitt returns as Sister Monica Joan. There’s also Linda Bassett as Nurse Phyllis Crane and Helen George as Nurse Trixie Franklin. I’ve noticed how the four women have top billing on the Series 7 DVD as I review this special episode.

As I’ve indicated, the special first takes place over Christmas 1962. The Christmas segment does seem to be quickly glossed over as Boxing Day comes and it brings in a large snowfall that covers all the country, which leads into early 1963. This was something known as ‘the Big Freeze’ in early 1963.

My Mum and Dad shared with me what they remember of the Big Freeze when they were living in 1963 as kids whilst we were watching the Christmas Special on TV back in 2017. It’s amazing to know that 1963 had the biggest snowfall. It must have been bigger than the snowfall we had in March 2018.

It was intriguing to see how the midwifery team coped with the 1963 Big Freeze in the special. Little milk is provided since the milk float struggles to make deliveries. It was also interesting how the lives of people were affected in the special and how the midwifery team carry out their duties as normal.

The adverse weather also causes major disruption across Poplar with roads being blocked and pipes freezing. Families had to queue outside for water from standpipes. Trixie’s pre-planned holiday with her boyfriend Jack Hawkins as Christopher Dockerill also gets cancelled due to the heavy snowfall. 😦

I can imagine the people in early 1963 were having their ‘lockdowns’ due to the heavy snowfall occurring across the country. I’m not very certain if the ‘lockdown’ from 1962 to 1963 caused by snow would be better than the ‘lockdown’ we’ve had in 2020 and 2021 caused by the coronavirus. 😐

Meanwhile, Jennifer Kirby as Valerie helps an unmarried couple who live in a caravan. They are Francene Turner as Linda Openshaw and Joel Morris as Selwyn Garvie. They’re preparing for their baby and Valerie provides encouragement to them that the delivery of their baby will be successful.

But not all goes according to plan as unforeseen complications occur when the labour in progress for Linda. This is a subplot that got me emotionally-gripped whilst watching the episode on TV back in 2017 and still does when watching it on DVD in 2021. It also made me connect to Valerie’s character.

It was emotional when the baby didn’t seem to be breathing. It looked like the baby had died stillborn. It was saddening, especially as Trixie came to see how things were for Valerie. But then a miracle happened. An amazing twist happened when Valerie took the baby back to Nonnatus House.

Thanks to Selwyn putting the hot water bottle in with the baby in Valerie’s bag, the baby woke up and cried. It felt joyous and a relief when Valerie brought the baby into Nonnatus House and it’s great they took the baby back to Linda and Selwyn via ambulance whilst keeping it in an oxygen tank.

I like how the after-effects of what happened are reflected upon since it seems to have knocked Valerie’s confidence in her ability as a midwife. There’s a nice scene between Valerie and Sister Monica Joan where Sister Monica tells Valerie that God had it in hand with the baby being revived. 🙂

Valerie makes it clear to Sister Monica Joan that she doesn’t believe in God, but Sister Monica tells Valerie that it doesn’t matter whether she believes in God or not. Sister Monica shares what she believes to be the case with God handling things and I like how that gets acknowledged in the special itself here.

I also liked the subplot where Sister Julienne rescued a widow from almost dying in her flat and discovered an uncomfortable history of family abuse. It’s touching how Sister Julienne tried to reconcile the daughter with her mother since intriguing revelations were revealed during the special.

We do meet the husband of that abused widow and daughter early on in the special when he goes to see Stephen McGann as Dr. Turner at his surgery. That was Peter Quince as Percy Tillerson. It’s interesting as he seemed a nice genuine friendly man once having his legs attended to by Dr. Turner.

Sadly, Percy Tillerson died in the freezing weather of Poplar when Dr. Turner and Cliff Parisi as Fred Buckle find him in the snow. Anita Dobson guest stars as Mabel Tillerson, Percy’s widow in the special. There’s also Rebecca Callard as Anthea, the runaway daughter of Percy and Mabel Tillerson.

I’ve heard Rebecca Callard in a few Big Finish audios of ‘Doctor Who’ including ‘Time Reef’ and ‘A Perfect World’ with Peter Davison and Sarah Sutton. She also voiced Tamar, Jairus’ little daughter in the film ‘The Miracle Maker’ and she’s been in one of the episodes of ‘The Mrs. Bradley Mysteries’. 🙂

The special seems to feature the departure of Jack Ashton as Tom Hereward who gets offered a new position as a curate in Birmingham. This would mean him taking his wife Charlotte Ritchie as Barbara Hereward along with him for at least six months. Hopefully we’ll be seeing these two again soon. 🙂

It’s fascinating that when I saw the 2017 Christmas Special back in December 2017 on TV, I knew nothing about Tom and Barbara as characters. Now that I’ve seen the first six seasons of ‘Call the Midwife’, I really like Tom and Barbara as characters as they come across as a loving devoted couple.

Nurse Crane also gets to meet her match when we’re introduced to the new policeman, Trevor Cooper as Sgt. Woolf. I assume Ben Caplan as Sgt. Peter Noakes has left the series for good. I wonder what happened to him and Miranda Hart as Chummy though. What has become of their baby lately?

I’ve seen Trevor Cooper in the ‘Doctor Who’ story ‘Revelation of the Daleks’ and he’s done Big Finish audios like ‘The Haunting of Thomas Brewster’, ‘Castle of Fear’ and ‘The Emerald Tiger’. He’s perhaps well-known in sci-fi circles for playing Colin Devis in ‘Star Cops’ both on TV and in the Big Finish audios.

Sgt. Woolf challenges Nurse Crane in her abilities to drive a car as well as command the boy scouts. Nurse Crane gets to prove him wrong and becomes instrumental in bringing the milk float back to Poplar. I wonder if more confrontations between Nurse Crane and Sgt. Woolf will occur in the series.

Laura Main as Shelagh also comes back to work at Dr. Turner’s surgery when it’s all hands on deck to help during the snowy weather crisis. Daniel Laurie as Reggie Jackson also appears in the Christmas Special with Fred Buckle and his wife Annabelle Apsion as Violet and he assists Nurse Crane at times.

I enjoyed watching the 2017 ‘Call the Midwife’ Christmas Special on Christmas Day on TV. It provided a relaxing atmosphere, despite some of the emotionally churning bits. I’m glad I’ve been able to catch up on the series since watching the 2017 Christmas Special, though I’ve yet to watch Series 7. 🙂

On Disc 1 of the Series 7 DVD of ‘Call the Midwife’, there’s the behind-the-scenes featurette ‘The Big Freeze’ to check out with cast and crew interviews.

‘Christmas Special 2017’ rating – 8/10

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