The new year will bring a brand-new series of Call the Midwife as the Christmas decorations are taken down, and aA the nurses and nuns launch themselves headlong into 1965.
Series writer and creator Heidi Thomas said: "As the unfamiliar terrain of the Hebrides stretches the team to the utmost at Christmas, their return to Poplar sees them braving a landscape that feels suddenly unfamiliar."
Here's what we know about series nine and what's next for our favourite characters:
What will happen in Call the Midwife series nine?
Writer Heidi Thomas has given us a taste of what's to come – and it sounds like an eventful year in Poplar.
"As the series unfolds, and 1965 rolls by, we see the team dealing with cases involving cancer, diphtheria, dementia, fistula, and homelessness," she revealed.
"They are faced with loneliness among the elderly, the traumas of an exhausted carer, and the defiant behaviour of a young and vulnerable prostitute. They deliver more babies born out of wedlock, care for a couple whose beloved infant dies, and support a brave and beautiful new mother who is blind. Meanwhile the Turner's own family comes under threat, Lucille’s romance does not run smooth, and Sister Julienne is driven to take an extraordinary step.
"In the interests of balance, I feel obliged to mention here that there is also a posse of visiting medical students, a fashion show in which Trixie wears the shortest miniskirt ever seen in Poplar, a Horticultural Extravaganza which tests Fred to the limit, and a firework display with a lot of toffee apples. Life, in some ways, has never been sweeter. But time and again, we see our beloved regulars patching over the gaps in the system with ingenuity, kindness and - that eternal, priceless, beautiful thing - their care."
Is Nonnatus House under threat?
There are rumours that Nonnatus House might be under threat in series nine – though considering Call the Midwife has already been recommissioned, we're not too worried about the future of the show.
Heidi Thomas teased: "Budgets are being cut, and hospitals reorganised. Terraced houses are being demolished, and traditional family structures torn apart. There are wrecking balls everywhere, and it’s up to Sister Julienne, and the midwives and medics of Nonnatus House, to help find a way out of the rubble. When they themselves come under threat, their job becomes even harder."
Stephen McGann added: "As obliquely as I can make it, the community is going through rapid change. We are not immune from the things that are happening around us. Slums are being cleared, the district is changing, and we are part of those same changes.
"And also without spoiler-ing anything, there is a kind of a rising - science and medicine is becoming 'big science' and 'big medicine'. And hospitalisation is becoming 'big hospitalisation'. And town planning is becoming big and a machine, and our little place: can it hold out against such an advance? Can it hold out forever? You'll have to wait and see."
And as we go into 1965, according to Helen George, "There’s definitely a feeling of unrest. About our future and whether we still have a place in the community but I think through the storylines it’s proved there is definitely a place. We see that now, that there’s a place for community nursing."
The funeral of Winston Churchill
In January 1965, a major event took place in London which was watched by hundreds of millions around the world: the funeral of Winston Churchill. The wartime Prime Minister was honoured with a state funeral and a grand procession through the capital and along the river.
"We see the procession," Nurse Trixie Franklin actress Helen George said. "It was quite interesting putting ourselves in that. It dates your character. Trixie’s father was in the war, so what Winston Churchill would have meant to all those characters – because now he’s just this caricature historical character, but for them they have such a personal connection."
The return of Val's abortionist gran
In the previous series of Call the Midwife, there was a shocking revelation: the person responsible for performing dangerous backstreet abortions in Poplar was none other than Elsie Dyer (Ann Mitchell), Nurse Val Dyer's beloved grandmother. A devastated Val (Jennifer Kirby) had to hand Elsie in to the police, and now she's in jail.
Looking ahead to series nine, Kirby said: "Throughout the series you see her coming to terms with where her grandmother is and owning it. In her head there will always be that war between love and her profession and what she feels about it all. So, it's still a confusing time, but there is much more of that going on inwardly for Valerie. Outwardly, she is just getting on with her job and being efficient. But there are definitely moments throughout the series where it keeps cropping up and you learn more how she feels about it."
Elsie herself will be back on screen, too: "I love working with Ann. She's a brilliant actor and an excellent person to work with. It's been great to re-explore that relationship on the other side of what happened at the end of the last series, which was obviously pretty tumultuous."
But while this series will be "not as heavy" for poor Val, Kirby also revealed: "You also see a bit more of my family in the early part of the series. They’ve become estranged and it’s a difficult situation. So the other midwives have become more important to her."
Lucille faces more racism
The racism faced by Nurse Lucille Anderson when she first arrived in Poplar has not gone away. Call the Midwife's first West Indian midwife, played by Leonie Elliott, periodically bumps up against ugly prejudice in Poplar – and we'll see some of that in series nine.
The actress said: I can't speak too much on that storyline, but I think as an immigrant she's going to face that, I'm sure, constantly throughout her years. I don't think you can wrap it up in a bow in one episode. I know we saw that during my first season, but I think this is something which she would constantly face, speaking to relatives that have a similar story.
"So I think it's good that they're touching on it, but it's part of her story – it's not the whole of her story."
The arrival of four junior doctors
"Suddenly there’s this wonderful development when these younger doctors turn up," said Dr Turner actor Stephen McGann. Arriving on the scene are four male junior doctors to work with the midwives – and that requires a big adjustment for everyone involved.
Jennifer Kirby said: "They throw it all up in the air don't they? In terms of the house, because they come and stay and we all have to squish up to accommodate them. Nonnatus House is a female domain, so it's a big change."
Some are keener than others. Sister Hilda is "quietly amused" by the men, Sister Frances is "terrified", Dr Turner is relieved to get some extra help, and Nurse Crane and Lucille are irritated to be booted out of their room at Nonnatus House to make way for their guests.
And what about Nurse Trixie Franklin? According to Helen George, Trixie doesn't have "a massive love story" this series, but she does enjoy the company of these young men. "The injection of the new doctors is quite fun in getting that sparkle back in and thinking 'Oh actually she does still like a bit of male attention.' She’s not all serious, there’s still some fun to be had," George said.
Romance between Lucille and Cyril?
"Cyril is back," Leonie Elliott revealed. "It’s a slow burner but its nice. We go on a couple of dates. Lucille is not one to rush things." But, she teased, "We get to see Lucille's relationship with him blossom."
Mechanic and fellow-immigrant Cyril Robinson is played by Zephryn Taitte, and he has been determined to woo Lucille since he first laid eyes on her.
Vaccination – and the return of diphtheria
"One way and another, the new season of Call The Midwife contains quite a few pieces of advice," writer Heidi Thomas said. "For example: vaccinate your children."
Series nine will see the return of diphtheria, a serious (and often fatal) infectious disease which particularly affects children. The vaccine was offered free to children on a national scale from the 1940s onwards and achieved impressive results, cutting cases from 46,000 to less than 1000 in a decade – but not everyone was persuaded to immunise their children.
We'll also see cases of measles and influenza causing devastation in 1965.
'It's quite a strong one for vaccination this year," Linda Bassett said. "Because people are stopping doing it, and we're getting outbreaks of measles which people don't take seriously because they didn't go through the time when it killed lots of people."
The Call the Midwife Christmas special airs on 25th December at 7pm on BBC One, with series nine airing from January 2020