For the majority of us this series of Call the Midwife has been all about the brewing attraction between Dr Turner and Sister Bernadette as well as the latter’s questioning of her faith. This slow-burning storyline really started during the Christmas special and built up to last week’s scene in which he kissed her hand before she pulled away. This week sees a TB epidemic hit Poplar which draws the two together once again as they fight to have a new X-Ray machine bought to their area.
We do indeed start this episode by focusing on Sister Bernadette who is continuing to deal with her personal issues on her own as we see her look at her hand and then stare at the cross on her bedroom wall. Though Sister Julienne is still concerned about her charge she has bigger fish to fry when the nurses notice that a lot of the women attending their anti-natal clinic have developed bad coughs. When Dr Turner starts to examine these women he realises that it is the start of a tuberculosis epidemic and he later informs Sister Julienne that this is the worst outbreak of TB that he has ever known. He tells Sister Julienne that the best course of action is to appeal for an X-Ray machine to come to Poplar and she agrees to go with him to argue his case to the board. Of course when the day comes to give the speech Sister Julienne is called on urgent business and sends Sister Bernadette in her place which means an uncomfortable car journey in which an awkward silence is shared between the pair. When in front of the board Dr Turner argues that TB should no longer be a death sentence and that the X-Ray vans should be coming to Poplar as the risk of disease spreading is much higher than in some of the more affluent areas of London. However the board only begin to listen when Sister Bernadette speaks up as her passionate words speak to them and eventually they grant the pair’s wish sending a van to Poplar. The success of getting an X-Ray van to Poplar puts a spring back in Sister Bernadette’s step however we’re unsure if this is more to do with her spending extended time with Dr Turner. The next problem facing the nurses is actually getting the people of Poplar to come to the van as a lot of them are spooked out by the machine so Trixie and Cynthia take it upon themselves to give a flier to almost every resident of the town. It appears though as if the nurses needn’t have worried because the majority of Poplar turn out in their masses with Sister Evangelina controlling traffic while Bernadette and the Doctor once again work side by side. Though the X-Ray van coming to Poplar was seen as a reason to celebrate, this mood doesn’t last very long as the results of the screenings spell disaster for one of the central characters.
The recurring theme of TB ruining lives is also seen through the story of ex pub landlord Mr Masterson who lost the majority of his children to the disease expect older daughter Julia who left the family home following her mother’s death. Julia then went off to college and joined a typing pool but returns to her family home after six years after she gets a call to say that her father needs constant care. As he insults her , including calling her an icy cold wind, she threatens to leave but is talked down by Jenny Lee – who else? Jenny can also plainly see that Julia is pregnant and is using a girdle to conceal the fact that she is almost full term as she believes she will lose her job if her boss finds out. The pregnancy was the result of an affair with a man that Julia thought was in love with her but in the end went off to marry his childhood sweetheart leaving Julia in a fix and unmarried. Jenny eventually convinces Julia to tell her father the truth and from this moment on they reconnect with both airing their grievances for the first time. It appears though if the two won’t be together for long as Mr Masterson is dying and wouldn’t you just know it that the night his grandson is being born is the night that he is expected to die. This prompts Jenny and Sister Julienne to attempt to deliver Julia’s baby in time so that her father can meet his grandson before he slips away and while I won’t spoilt the outcome I think you can guess which way this story goes.
With two big stories such as these there wasn’t really room for much more however the continuing plot thread concerning Monica Joan’s deteriorating health. This continues at the start of the episode where Fred encounters Monica Joan off to morning prayers without her habit which of course she was unaware of. Later, as the X-Ray van awaits, Monica Joan blocks herself in the bathroom claiming that she is now in her ark. As Jane is unable to get through the door she asks Fred to climb up a ladder to talk to Monica Joan so it’s a shame that he’s afraid of heights. Though this could easily have been a throwaway comedy storyline it is the gravitas of Judy Parfitt’s performance that makes it something special especially when she refers to Fred as her rock and her fortress.
I have to say after three solid episodes of Call the Midwife and despite some great performances, once again from Laura Main as Sister Bernadette and the aforementioned Parfitt, I didn’t find myself as involved with the characters as I have previously been this series. While the TB storyline linked into the romance between Sister Bernadette and Dr Turner as well as the betterment of Poplar I wasn’t really a fan of the Masterson story as I felt it something that Call the Midwife has done before although I have to admit they were still well-acted. I do think though that Heidi Thomas has done some good work building up to the last two episodes what with one of our heroines being diagnosed with TB however on the other hand Miranda Hart is back next week which will probably mean more comic larking about.
What did you think of tonight’s Call the Midwife? Did you think it was one of the weaker episodes of the series? Leave Your Comments Below.