Call the Midwife review – could be much improved by morphine

We’re only at 1960! There’s potentially another 55 years of this to go, if you all continue to watch in your millions

“When a child is born, the world is altered in an instant. A new voice is heard, new love comes into being. Years later, we pause and say: ‘Yes, that is when it all began, on that day, in that room, when I saw that face.’ Birth is the smallest of magnificent things.” Yeah, all right Vanessa (Redgrave, as the voice of Jennifer Worth), enough of your platitudes, save them for the inside of a greetings card, the new-baby section, Clintons Cards.

Where are we at then, in Call the Midwife (BBC1, Sunday)? The 21st century let’s hope, and the ladies with the starched morals at Nonnatus House have been replaced by midwives from eastern Europe, and Africa, and Asia and everywhere else, to make life more interesting and the Ukippers cross ... No such luck, it’s only 1960. God, there’s potentially another 55 years of this to go, if you all continue to watch CtM in your millions.

Anyway, there’s a birth to attend to, on the back seat of a car on the quayside, with an opportune express ride on a milk float to get there on time; plus breast milk to be expressed; also, thanks to be expressed, to God mainly. And a sad family of little urchins is rescued, from their mother, from their unfortunate circumstances and from the age. They’re scrubbed down and deloused, and sent off to Australia to start again. That’s this week’s weepy storyline, and it is indeed weepy.

Chin up though, because there’s pain relief aplenty – the usual yacking about cake and biscuits among the sisters, ho ho. Plus rosehip syrup to fend off colds, and Cinzano Bianco and Billy Fury to take the edge off a lonely evening. Some poor bicycle loading, and parking, by the new midwife leads to more hilarity and spilled underwear on the road. And Chummy is having problems finding the biting point when trying to reverse the car. (That’s not very sisterly is it, having all these ladies not very good at operating their wheeled vehicles?)

She – Chummy, Miranda Hart – is the main pain relief, walking, talking gas’n’air. Oh, but she’s off to look after that out-of-town mother-and-baby centre from the Christmas special, so it looks like we’ll be seeing less of her. More pain, less relief. God, will someone give me an epidural now, please? What, epidurals weren’t available in 1960? Morphine then, a double dose. I’m certain Call the Midwife would be much improved by morphine.

And the last Foyle’s War (ITV, Sunday). Again. It died once before remember, cancelled in 2007, before emerging, like a phoenix from the ashes or Holmes from the Reichenbach Falls, reborn due to popular demand. This time it looks a bit more final, though – even writer Anthony Horowitz says he’s run out of stories.

And that’s no bad thing. This obsession with longevity is a new thing, and comes from America, where television is kept going for financial reasons, obviously. But a TV programme, like a person, has a natural lifespan, and to keep it going beyond that – artificially, with medicine and machines and God knows what else – can be more cruel than kind. Which do you remember more fondly: Inspector Morse (33 episodes), which Foyle’s War replaced, incidentally, or The Bill (2,400 episodes)?

Obviously, the number of episodes isn’t the only thing, and Foyle’s War (28 episodes) isn’t anywhere near DNR stage. But it probably has reached its natural lifespan. Quit while you’re ahead and everything.

Which it does. It’s a perfect finale: Hilda Pierce gunned down, on the steps of MI5, on her way into work, an assassination attempt that leads Foyle to re-examine the shadowy role of the Special Operations Executive during the war, and reopen new wounds in the process. Plus spivs, dodgy golfing Russians, bent coppers. Michael Kitchen is classily cool and understated in the lead, as ever. I’ll remember him fondly. Also, Honeysuckle Weeks as Sam the driver, for being so splendid and splendidly suited to the era. For her name in the credits even, doesn’t it just sound like the loveliest time in spring?

And then an ending that is genuinely tender and touching and moving – in a thoroughly buttoned-up, British, 1940s kind of way, of course. “I’d really like it if you’d be the godfather,” Sam tells Foyle (she’s PWP, pregnant without permission). “Honoured.” “Thank you.” “Pleasure.” And a kiss, the first and last.


Sam Wollaston

The GuardianTramp

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