BBC1’s hit period drama Call the Midwife bade farewell to the tale’s main character Jenny Lee at the end of season three, when actress Jessica Raine left the series for pastures new.
That might have seemed a natural place to call time on the drama. Especially as it coincided with the writers running out of source material: the novels of Jennifer Worth, based on her memoirs of life as a midwife during the late 1950s.
But the decision was made to keep going. And while that decision pleased fans the world over, it seems it didn’t go down quite so well with Worth’s family.
Speaking at the Telegraph Ways with Words literary festival last week, Suzannah Hart, the daughter of Jennifer Worth, who passed away in 2011, said: “They’ve written Jenny out of the series simply because Jessica [Raine], the actress that played her, doesn’t want to come back again. In my opinion that would have been the time to end it.
“The third series has strayed quite a lot and because they’ve used up most of the material Heidi Thomas, the scriptwriter, is now making the material up herself. She’s doing it very well and very sensitively, she’s doing her research, but it’s not the same.
“They’re doing a fourth series now and I don’t think there’s anything that’s any resemblance whatsoever to mother’s writing.”
But Heidi Thomas, the show’s writer and executive producer, is of a different opinion. Although the drama has moved on past the source material, she’s confident that taking the remaining nuns and midwives forward into the swinging 60s was the right move, saying “The medical, social, and emotional stories at the heart of Call The Midwife continue to inspire and compel me. The Nonnatus House nurses and midwives feel like my best-loved friends.”
And BBC Drama controller Ben Stephenson is in agreement, saying that there are still new tales to be told now Worth’s novels have run out.
“Call The Midwife has been a phenomenon that has won the hearts of the nation, it’s one of BBC One’s most successful series enjoyed by millions and we hope it continues for many years to come,” he said, adding: “Jennifer Worth’s original books still play a crucial role in inspiring the next series, supplemented by the testimony of other midwives from the era and new historical research.”
It seems that feeling translates onto the cast, too. Speaking to RadioTimes.com recently Laura Main, who plays Shelagh in the hit period drama, said: “I wonder if people will think there isn’t a fourth series because it felt so final in so many ways – so many stories were tied up. But as was the case, Jennifer kept in touch with the nuns for the rest of her life, particularly Cynthia.
“I honestly think it couldn’t have happened before now,” she continued, “but I think the show has expanded so much and we’ve got to know all the characters and the world they inhabit so much better now over these three series that I think it’ll be fine [without Jessica Raine].”
But what do you think? Should the nuns of Nonnatus house have been left at the end of series three? Or are you looking forward to learning about the other characters in more series of the cardigan and cake-filled period drama?
Call the Midwife will return to BBC1 later this year for a Christmas special and a fourth series.