What will Call the Midwife be like without Jessica Raine?

By January, you’d be forgiven for forgetting Jenny Lee ever left, says Ellie Walker-Arnott

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Cardigans on, bicycle bells at the ready, Call the Midwife is coming back to our telly screens – and it’s set to look a little different.

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Our narrator, our main protagonist, the midwife from who all these tales have sprung is no more. Jenny Lee – the poster girl for Call the Midwife, the leader of the bicycle pack – has hung up her red cardigan and thrown her midwifery bag, forceps and all, to the wayside.

There was shock and dismay from fans when Jenny (played by Jessica Raine) left at the end of series three, even calls for the show to cease, but Call the Midwife is going to be just fine without her. I promise.

Now of course I don’t mean that Jenny Lee wasn’t important. She was the midwife who first introduced us to poverty-stricken Poplar and its heart Nonnatus house. We entered the East End just like she did, eager-eyed and naive. We learned to love bolshy Sister Evanglina and whimsical Sister Monica Joan. We learned terms like postpartum and how not to wince every time a baby’s head came out. We started fancying Babysham and Battenburg cake again.

But just like the circle of life, the show continues and really it doesn’t suffer from losing Miss Lee. It might help that Jenny doesn’t leave altogether, or at least right away. The Christmas episode is flanked by some very special scenes, featuring Vanessa Redgrave as an elderly Jenny Lee reminiscing about her time at Nonnatus and the importance of enduring friendship. As well as heart-warming evidence that Jenny stays in touch with her friends from the East End. 

Plus there are plenty of strong characters left to confidently lead us over Poplar’s cobbles. Lovely Trixie takes on more of a role, as does wonderful, plummy-voiced, red-head Patsy. Cynthia has a serious storyline this Christmas while Shelagh and Chummy are still on hand to tell tales of their own. And that’s not forgetting the impending arrival of newbie Nurse Barbara Gilbert. Barb, as I’m already calling her, is played by Fresh Meat’s Charlotte Ritchie, and although she’s not much like Jenny in character, she’s poised to fill some of that whole, as a new and naive face among the experienced midwives.

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Midwife returns this Christmas, and in the new year, with a set of strong and thought-provoking episodes. By January, you’d be forgiven for forgetting Jenny Lee ever left.