Given that the “Call the Midwife” Christmas Special on Sunday night didn’t waste a whole lot of time setting up the overall premise of the event, we probably shouldn’t either. Admittedly, the structure of the story was rather flimsy: The Hope Clinic in Africa was struggling, and without the help of Nonnatus or someone else, it would shut down and leave countless of young children out there destitute and without any aid.
Therefore, the midwives and nuns came to the rescue! While many of the characters took a boat down, eventually Shelagh and Dr. Turner joined them by plane while everyone took in the dramatic new sights of the country. Visually, this special was a stark contrast to anything that we’ve seen on the show before — and this was just the beginning of the story.
The issues of the clinic – The biggest one is simply that there is only so much time, and only so many resources, to give to many of the people in the area. The people are malnourished, the structure is flimsy, and the reality is that over time, being a part of this world can make you hardened. We also had the specter of Apartheid hanging over many of these people, as it was clear that many of the mothers in need were stripped of much of their identity.
From here, we started to see more of the show dive into what we’ve come to expect from it over the course of its run; in other words, this means mostly a chance to see a variety of stories about the midwives trying to save the lives of mothers and children. There are some things that are fundamentally the same no matter where you are, and this is one of them.
It wasn’t until around thirty-five minutes into the episode that the story of racial segregation started to resurface, as officially forced Trixie, Barbara, and some of the other nuns to separate from their patients. Follow that, there were issues with the water supply, with potential false diagnoses, and then eventually some tension between Tom and Barbara over how they should be spending their spare time. She wanted to make sure every second of the day was spent concentrating on the Hope Clinic, while Tom and others did want a brief holiday.
Moments of hope – Where the special was best was when they reminded us of how geographical borders often don’t matter. Take, for example, Trixie bonding briefly with a woman who at home point had a nice job in the city. Also, Tom debating a proposal to Barbara led to him and Trixie having a nice moment at the beach, one where he told her to get her a new ring rather than the same one he gave to her. He listened, and later on in the episode proposed to Barbara using a mere blade of grass that Walt Whitman would be proud of. She agreed! Now, we could have a wedding in season 6.
Perhaps just as importantly with this episode is that many of the deliveries that we saw were successful, but not all of them felt necessarily contrived or shoved in that was just because it was Christmas and the series did not want to depress you. Specifically, a tense one near the end tested Trixie’s abilities more than almost any other we’ve seen on the series over the years.
While we do not think that the Nonnatus House midwives managed to turn things around in South Africa, but they served their purpose, establishing leadership, fixing the water supply, and allowing the people to at least have a chance. It’s more than they had previously.
Moments of humor – We also don’t want to pretend that this special was almost completely devoid of comedy. Shelagh and the goats was, by our estimation, gold. We had something similar later with Dr. Turner and “Christmas Cake.”
Overall – We will say that making this special a full ninety minute may have proven to be somewhat of a mistake in retrospect, given that there were several moments over the course of this that it dragged. We could’ve had the same story with about 15 minutes cut out. Episode Grade: B+.
Want to know more news in terms of when the series is returning? Then be sure to head over to the link here right now! (Photo: BBC.)