Everything to Remember Ahead of PBS's 'Call The Midwife' Season 12

Picture shows: The cast of Call The Midwife, Season 11, posing outside Nonnatus House

Laura Main as Shelagh Turner, Stephen McGann as Dr Patrick Turner, Max Macmillan, Alice brown as Angela Turner, April Rae Hoang as May Tang, Edward Shaw as Teddy Turner, Zephryn Taitte as Cyril Robinson, Georgie Glen as Miss Higgins, Jenny Agutter as Sister Julienne, Fenella Woolgar as Sister Hilda, Leonie Elliott as Lucille Anderson, Ella Bruccoleri as Sister Francis, Judy Parfitt as Sister Monica Joan, Annabelle Apsion as Violet Buckle and Cliff Parisi as Fred Buckle

Neals Street Productions

Season 11 of Call The Midwife packed a lot into its eight episodes. Set in 1967, the year Nonnatus House celebrated its centenary, profound cultural changes took place in the neighborhood of Poplar and all over the world. Nonnatus House’s world is close to ours, despite advances in medicine and cultural change, celebrating women’s skill, kindness, and courage. For all the joy in the series, we are also reminded of the tragic consequences of inadequate medical care, bad decisions, and poverty, issues still with us now.

But the real miracle of Call The Midwife is that it never preaches, judges, or indulges in excessive sentimentality, although many of us keep the tissues handy when watching. Characters came and went in this season, ending up with significantly fewer midwives and nuns in residence, although Sister Monica Joan continued to prove herself immortally eccentric. And Season 11 ended on a distinctly unusual note, with a tragedy no one saw coming, and which threatened the survival of some of our favorite characters. It wasn’t until the Christmas special that normality picked up again.

There was tremendous excitement in 1967 with the Eurovision Song Contest, and Nonnatus House’s inhabitants, like everyone else who could, gathered around the television to see Britain’s own Sandie Shaw win with “Puppet on a String.” Following an adorable Easter celebration, Sister Hilda (Felicity Woolgar) was all set to organize Nonnatus House’s centennial celebration. Wisely and with her usual tact, Sister Julienne (Jenny Agutter), following some health problems, decided that Nurse Shelagh Turner (Laura Main) should be in charge.

Picture shows: Nurse Lucille Robinson (Leonie Elliott)

Nurse Lucille Robinson (Leonie Elliott).

Courtesy of Neal Street Productions

Nurse Lucille Robinson (Leonie Elliott) discovered she was pregnant, and although she and her husband Cyril (Zephryn Tate) weren’t planning to start a family quite so soon, they were delighted. To add to their joy, Cyril received a job offer matching his engineer qualifications after a long and frustrating search. Things seemed to be looking up for them, but then Lucille suffered a miscarriage, actually delivering her own fetus in a heart-rending scene. Influenced by current thinking that emotions should be kept at bay and a brave face maintained, Lucille tried her best, as did Cyril, but we realized the depths of her fragility.

And there’s romance in the air! The relationship that unfolded with such delicacy and propriety between Nurse Trixie Franklin (Helen George) and Matthew Aylward (Olly Rix) finally took a step forward into romance. But Trixie received a letter from her beloved aunt in Portofino, who was suffering from cancer, and she left to nurse her. Nonnatus suffered further drama when the unflappable Miss Higgins (Georgie Glen) flipped. Her flat was burgled, and she was too unnerved to return home.

Nonnatus House offered hospitality, which Miss Higgins accepted, and proceeded to disrupt and annoy everyone, even her friend Nurse Phyllis Crane (Linda Bassett). She wasn’t used to communal living, and the last straw may have been her recorder recital. Clearly, she had to go, and fortunately, Sister Julienne found her a small terrace house nearby, and everyone became friends again. Nurse Crane had a significant change in her life, too, with a sudden financial windfall, with which she fulfilled a lifelong dream of taking a coach trip around Europe. So three midwives — Trixie, Lucille, and Phyllis — left, putting additional strain on Nonnatus’s services.

Picture shows: Nurse Nancy Corrigan (Megan Cusack) walks beneath a brick arch, carrying comics. She's smartly dressed and smiling.

Nurse Nancy Corrigan (Megan Cusack).

Courtesy of Neal Street Productions

Sister Monica Joan ventured beyond the realms of the Anglican Church to consult a spiritualist after a raven, a harbinger of bad luck in English folklore, flapped and screeched around Nonnatus House. What did this mean? A Bad Thing would happen at Nonnatus, she was told. Yet Sister Monica Joan made a connection with the medium, and not only by bringing cake, but she also persuaded the woman to accept medical treatment.

Nurse Nancy Corrigan (Megan Cusack) passed her examinations, and we know that her dream is to become independent and live with her daughter Colette (Francesca Fullilove). She told Colette in a low-key way that she wasn’t exactly her big sister. With staff shortages, Nancy was challenged by extra responsibilities and demands as homelessness grew in Poplar, particularly among substance abusers. But she went out of her way to befriend a homeless methylated spirits drinker and persuaded him to get medical care for a peaceful end to his suffering. The medical establishment, even kindly Dr. Patrick Turner (Stephen McGann), believed nothing could be done. 

There are moments in Call The Midwife when it seems things haven’t changed much half a century and a continent away. Dr. Turner started a measles vaccine campaign and met resistance from patients who mistrusted science, despite measles’ ability to cause devastating problems and even death. As Sister Frances (Ella Bruccoleri) found, teenage pregnancy was becoming a problem. She and Nurse Nancy somewhat ineptly attempted to play birth control counselors. But their very young patient Carole, waiting to move into a council flat with her baby, revealed that she was in the final trimester of a second pregnancy. Without any prenatal care, sadly, her baby did not survive.

Picture shows: Tim Turner (Max Macmillan) wearing his Dr. Turner's white coat and carrying his medical bag goes in search of his father, past debris and fires from the train wreck.

Tim Turner (Max Macmillan) at the train wreck.

Credit: Courtesy of BBC / Neal Street Productions

Timothy Turner (Max Macmillan), looking very grown-up, returned home unexpectedly from medical studies, suffering from mononucleosis. He was annoyed to return to the status of a child again and picked fights with his father. Dr. Turner and Sister Julienne attended a conference in obstetrics and took Nancy Corrigan with them, knowing that her enthusiasm and outgoing personality would benefit from the experience.

But tragedy struck on the train ride home. Train driver Lionel (Marc Elliott) had been suffering from headaches, and his wife Edina (Maya Saroya) was in labor, attended by Sister Hilary. Poor Lionel, sicker than anyone knew, had a seizure, and the train crashed. Debris from the train damaged the neighborhood and injured bystanders; many riding the train were local. Fred Buckle (Cliff Parisi), in his role as a Civil Defense officer, helped police and fire workers with rescues, with Nonnatus House as the triage center. Nancy was mostly unharmed, but Timothy became the hero of the hour while getting some hands-on triage experience.

His father had a head injury and a broken wrist, and they feared Sister Julienne had a heart attack. Even so, Sister Julienne was able to comfort the train’s seriously injured tea lady, Mrs. Carnie (Stephanie Jacob), who died under her care. Miss Higgins summoned Nurse Crane back from her European adventure to help, and who better — these older characters had lived through the Blitz when this part of London was heavily bombed, and they knew what to do, putting their memories of trauma aside.

Picture shows: Nurse Trixie Franklin (Helen George), Collette Corrigan (Francesca Fullilove), Nurse Nancy Corrigan (Megan Cusack), and Nurse Lucille Anderson (Leonie Elliot) in the snow.

Nurse Trixie Franklin (Helen George), Collette Corrigan (Francesca Fullilove), Nurse Nancy Corrigan (Megan Cusack), and Nurse Lucille Anderson (Leonie Elliot).

Courtesy of Neal Street Productions

By the time the 2022 Christmas Special rolled around the December, taking place about two months later, we knew Sister Julienne did not have a heart attack as feared, and both she and Dr. Turner had recovered from their injuries. Trixie returned from Portofino as Sister Hilda was summoned back to the Mother House. Sister Francis, out on a difficult delivery, fell in the snow and carried on saving baby and mother’s lives despite a broken shoulder. She, too, was sent to the Mother House to recover.

But the community still needed help recovering from the train crash with so many families in need. Fred decided to run a talent show as a fundraiser, assisted by Reggie, Cyril and Lucille Robinson, and Timothy. Based on a popular TV show, Poplartunity Knocks was a massive financial success and raised everyone’s spirits. And yes, you guessed it, Miss Higgins gave one of her special recorder concerts, but Reggie and his guitar took the grand prize. And Matthew proposed, and with some assistance from Nurse Nancy (who also helped him with the first official date), got the right ring, giving us the strong possibility of Trixie Bridezilla vibes before closing with their wedding.

There were also other exciting events in Season 11 — a scabies outbreak, the discovery of live World War II bombs, and straitlaced Matthew had a brush with counter-culture when he discovers hippies squatting in one of his warehouse properties. Above all, there are the moving stories of births of all varieties — unexpected, challenging, longed-for, and joyous, or unwanted, shamefully concealed, and tragic. The extraordinary loving tenderness of the series makes Call The Midwife one of the best shows around. Stock up on tissues, and enjoy Season 12!

Call The Midwife Season 12 premieres on most PBS stations on Sunday, March 19, 2023, at 8 p.m. and is available early for PBS Passport members. As always, check your local listings.

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Call the Midwife

Call the Midwife is a moving and intimate insight into the colorful world of midwifery.
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Janet Mullany

Writer Janet Mullany is from England, drinks a lot of tea, and likes Jane Austen, reading, and gasping in shock at costumes in historical TV dramas. Her household near Washington DC includes two badly-behaved cats about whom she frequently boasts on Facebook.

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