When Call the Midwife series nine wrapped up on BBC One back in February 2020, we could hardly have imagined how much (and how quickly) the world was about to change. But by the end of the following month, production for the Call the Midwife Christmas special and series 10 had been postponed in the midst of a global pandemic.
And then came good news! In August 2020, after a five-month delay, the doors of Nonnatus House were reopened and filming was officially able begin.
Naturally, fans have been wondering what this means for the show. Here’s what we know:
When will Call the Midwife be back?
UPDATE: The 90-minute Call the Midwife Christmas special will air on 25th December 2020, with series 10 in early 2021.
How has coronavirus affected Call the Midwife?
After series nine, we expected the drama to return (according to its usual timetable) in December 2020, with a Christmas special (set in Poplar) and then series 10 from January 2021. However, in March 2020, filming for Call the Midwife was postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic, and nobody was 100% sure when it would be safe to return to filming.
Executive Producer Dame Pippa Harris said in a statement on the show’s Facebook page: “Very sadly, we have had to postpone the filming of this year’s Call the Midwife Christmas Special and series 10. Our priority is the safety of our amazing cast and crew, and we don’t believe that shooting at the current time is feasible or responsible.
“However, the moment the situation improves, the nuns and nurses of Nonnatus House will be back on their bikes, bringing babies into the world and joy into your living rooms. We send our warmest love to the worldwide Call the Midwife family, and look forward to being back in Poplar soon.”
But though fans were worried, the team behind Call the Midwife was determined to deliver the festive episode in time for Christmas. Writer and creator Heidi Thomas told RadioTimes.com in April ahead of our ‘Call the Midwife Unite’ RadioTimes.com watchalongs: “Scripts are still being written, and we will start filming as soon as circumstances allow. The Christmas Special is our absolute priority, and we are determined to get it on screen on Christmas Day.”
And Call the Midwife producer Annie Tricklebank told us in May that fans could “absolutely, definitely” still hope to see the Christmas special: “We are going to make it and it’s going to be on the air on Christmas Day.”
They were true to their word – and in August 2020, Call the Midwife restarted filming.
Dr Turner played by Stephen McGann on set at Call the Midwife (BBC)
Heidi Thomas said: “Everyone is overjoyed to be whisking the dust sheets off Nonnatus House and getting back to filming after lockdown. It is a particular thrill to be able to deliver the Christmas Special on time, just as we promised at the start of the pandemic. We are very much a family at Call the Midwife, and like families everywhere, we have missed each other.
“We will now be putting more love and energy into our work than ever and can’t wait to share series ten with our fantastic, loyal audience.”
One direct impact of the pandemic, however, is that series 10 has been reduced to seven hour-long episodes instead of the expected (and usual) eight episodes.
Are they filming Call the Midwife?
Yes! Many of the cast have shared updates from set.
Here’s Leonie Elliott looking radiant as Nurse Lucille on 31st August, the first day of fiming:
In September, Jenny Agutter also shared a statement: “I have just started filming on Call the Midwife & am so happy to be back at Nonnatus house, seeing all the cast & crew, albeit six feet apart following all the guidelines! But we are delighted to be working on our Christmas Special. Can’t give anything away, but but it’s lovely script and the circus comes to Poplar.”
Shelagh Turner actress Laura Main also shared a selfie, writing on Instagram: “These selfies were taken last week, during pre-production of Call the Midwife, and back in a trailer again, after a hair and make up test and before heading to a costume fitting. It was so great to see Shelagh starting to form and looking back at me again, even from behind a mask! It’s a little bit different with lots of protocols now, but Call the Midwife series 10 has started filming and I’ve my first proper day back today!”
And Daniel Laurie, who plays Reggie, gave us a sneak peak at his Christmas jumper…
What will happen in the Call the Midwife Christmas special?
It looks like the show has some big storylines in store for Sister Monica Joan, Nurse Trixie Franklin, Nurse Phyllis Crane and Shelagh Turner.
“This year’s Christmas Special is set in December 1965,” say the show’s producers. “Everyone at Nonnatus House is looking forward to traditional celebrations with all the trimmings, but nothing goes quite to plan. Sister Monica Joan is rushed to hospital, and Trixie is incensed to receive a subscription to a Marriage Bureau as a Christmas gift.
“Meanwhile, a surprise reunion for Shelagh involves her in a deeply moving birth, and the Circus arrives in Poplar, bringing new friendships, new experiences, and an exciting adventure for Nurse Crane.”
(And in case you were wondering, a Marriage Bureau is “an establishment which arranges introductions between people who want to get married.”)
It may also be time to pre-order the tissues, as Stephen McGann said the script had him “laughing” and “weeping”…
Who will star in Call the Midwife?
The Christmas Special cast will include Jenny Agutter (Sister Julienne), Linda Bassett (Nurse Crane), Judy Parfitt (Sister Monica Joan), Fenella Woolgar (Sister Hilda), Ella Bruccoleri (Sister Frances), Helen George (Trixie), Laura Main (Shelagh Turner), Leonie Elliott (Lucille), Stephen McGann (Dr Turner), Cliff Parisi (Fred), Annabelle Apsion (Violet), Georgie Glen (Miss Higgins), Max Macmillan (Timothy), Daniel Laurie (Reggie) and Zephryn Taitte (Cyril).
It will not, however, include Jennifer Kirby (Nurse Valerie Dyer), who sadly has decided to leave the show.
“After four joyful years spent with Call the Midwife I have decided to say goodbye to Nonnatus, Val, and the wonderful cast, crew and production team,” Kirby announced in August.
“The programme is truly a national treasure, and it will always be a huge honour for me to have been a part of something so wonderful. I can’t wait to keep watching our beloved Nonnatuns from the other side of the screen. Long live Call the Midwife. So long chicks.”
So far, it remains to be seen how she will be written out of the show.
What will happen in Call the Midwife series 10?
After Christmas 1965, the next eight episodes of Call the Midwife will be set in 1966. And while we don’t yet know exactly what will happen in the new series, we do know some of the historical events that happen in that time period.
For one thing, we’re almost certainly getting England’s World Cup win. On 30th July of that year, England beat West Germany at Wembley 4-2, watched by a UK television audience of around 32 million. (To put that into context, the total population was 55 million. So that’s a lot.)
Heidi Thomas told us before series nine that the show “mustn’t do any sporting stories” for 1965, because “I know that England will win the World Cup in 1966.” But what we don’t know is whether Call the Midwife will mention the headline-grabbing incident in the run-up to the World Cup, when the trophy was stolen from Westminster Central Hall; it was later recovered by a dog named Pickles who found it wrapped in old newspaper under a hedge.
Pickles the dog watches the World Cup Final (Getty)
The World Cup was not the only big event of 1966, of course.
In March, there was a snap general election, with Labour Prime Minister Harold Wilson gaining the comfortable majority he needed.
But he had a lot on his plate, what with events in “Rhodesia” (the unrecognised state in southern Africa run by the white minority government of Ian Smith) and friction with US President Lyndon B Johnson over Vietnam and more. At home, this was also a time of major social change and reform.
Then there was the Aberfan disaster; one morning in October, a mountain of coal waste collapsed onto Pantglas Junior School in Aberfan, Wales, killing 116 children and 28 adults. The tragedy is sure to touch a few hearts at Nonnatus House.
Heidi Thomas has also indicated that we’ll continue to encounter changing social and legal attitudes in the run-up to some important legislation. She’s previously told us: “What I do know is that when we get to series 11 it will be 1967, so abortion will be legalised and homosexuality will be legalised, and these are big staging posts in modern social history, so I know we’ll be referencing those and we might be referencing the journey towards those things.
“There was a lot of public debate about the changes in society, so I know in a very general way that the change that has fuelled us so far will take us forward.”
Will there be another series of Call the Midwife?
The drama has already been re-commissioned by the BBC for both series 10 and 11. That means the show will be on air until at least 2022. Each series was originally commissioned for eight episodes, along with their Christmas specials – although series 10 will now be seven episodes long.
The deal was actually announced back in March 2019, just after series eight – so writer Heidi Thomas has been able to plan out some long-term storylines across at least three series.
“It is actually lovely to have some certainty, because I feel Call the Midwife is fuelled by character and character development,” the show’s creator told RadioTimes.com. “I mean, I’ve loved the slow burn of Lucille’s romance with Cyril, for example. Hopefully that’s something that we can spool out at a natural pace. When you only have one series commissioned at a time, it’s sometimes a bit tempting to kind of rush through everything, and not savour your stories and not let people grow up slowly. So I think it’s really lovely actually, it’s a great privilege.”
Is Nonnatus House being knocked down?
We don’t know!
In the finale, Nonnatus House did secure a victory after Nurse Trixie Franklin (Helen George) made a passionate speech and persuaded the authorities not to demand impossible rent or slash the Order’s budget. But this stay of execution only lasts for a year.
And the building itself is still due for demolition in the next two years, as the surrounding streets are bulldozed to make way for new development.
“It reflects what was going on in the East End at that time, and indeed what happened to the original order of nuns who were based there and whose work inspired our series,” said Heidi Thomas as she discussed the fate of Nonnatus House at the Radio Times Covers Party.
“I think it would not feel very realistic if they weren’t under some sort of threat. Their premises are rented, we know they’ve already had to move once before because of an unexploded bomb that then exploded. And now everything is being torn down around them.”