Since Jennifer Kirby quit Call the Midwife in August 2020, we’ve been wondering how they would explain Nurse Valerie Dyer’s absence from the Christmas special and series 10. Would the topic be addressed directly? Would it be a definitive exit storyline, or would be space be left for a comeback?
And now we have our answer.
Why has Valerie Dyer left Nonnatus House?
The explanation for Nurse Valerie Dyer’s exit comes in the opening few minutes of the 2020 Christmas special, when Nurse Trixie Franklin (Helen George) is trying to fix Nurse Lucille Anderson (Leonie Elliott)’s new hairdo. She goes to borrow Val’s teasing comb – and notices that Val’s side of the dressing table has been completely cleared. “Where are Valerie’s things?” Trixie asks, puzzled. “She’s only gone to the maternity home. Why on Earth would she take her heated rollers there?”
The answer comes over dinner, when Sister Julienne (Jenny Agutter) tells the assembled residents of Nonnatus House: “Miss Dyer begged for my discretion, and indeed my silence. She came to me in considerable distress soon after her grandmother had passed away, asking to hand in her resignation.”
Val has had a difficult couple of years. In series eight (2019) she had to report her beloved grandmother to the police for her actions as an illegal abortionist; then in series nine (2020), her grandmother became ill in prison. She was released into Val’s care and died of cancer in the series finale, leaving Val grief-stricken and wrestling with guilt.
But Sister Julienne actually refused Val’s resignation; Val then refused Sister Julienne’s offer of a leave of absence; and finally a solution was found to satisfy them both.
Val has just snuck away to catch a flight from London Airport to South Africa, where she’ll work at Hope Clinic – the rural mission hospital featured in the 2016 Christmas special.
While everyone looks rather glum, Sister Monica Joan (Judy Parfitt) has a rather optimistic take, announcing merrily: “In that case she has not left us, she has merely been transposed to another of our spheres.”
But when Lucille asks how long Val has gone for, Sister Julienne says: “There’s no way of telling. I did not press for any sort of promise.”
Why did Jennifer Kirby leave Call the Midwife?
In August 2020, Jennifer Kirby announced that she was leaving Call the Midwife – although she didn’t share a specific reason.
She wrote in a statement: “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.
“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.”
Call the Midwife Executive Producer Pippa Harris told: “It has been a delight to work with Jennifer on Call the Midwife and we wish her well as she cycles away from Nonnatus House.”
Will Val ever come back?
You never know! Looking at her exit storyline, the door has clearly been left open for Valerie to come back from South Africa – if Jennifer Kirby does ever want to return to Call the Midwife.
As Trixie says: “Well, perhaps she’ll come back when she runs out of hair lacquer.”
However, from the actress’s statement it does sound as though she is leaving Call the Midwife for good.
How will Val’s exit affect Call the Midwife?
Val’s friends and colleagues are terribly sad about her decision to leave – and none more so than Lucille, who is devastated that Val didn’t say goodbye.
Speaking from the set of Call the Midwife, Lucille actress Leonie Elliot told journalists: “Lucille bonded with Val from the moment she got to Nonnatus House and they’ve been friends ever since, so yes, I think Lucille is devastated… it’s definitely devastating to Lucille.”
She added: “We love Jen and we miss her.”
Linda Bassett, who plays Nurse Crane, said: “We are all sad to see Jen not with us anymore. We miss her terribly. We miss people when they go. We still miss Emerald [Fennell] and Charlotte [Ritchie] and everybody. They still feel like part of Nonnatus.”
After the Christmas special, Call the Midwife will return for season 10 in 2021. Looking for more to watch? Check out our guide to the best Christmas TV 2020 or find out what to watch tonight with our TV Guide.