Wednesday, 25 February 2015

TV Review: Call the Midwife

“Call the Midwife” still keeps up very high standards, and some wonderful touching moments – the birth at the gypsy camp, the diabetic and her lover. This series has been perhaps more thematic than past ones, but that has worked very well producing strong drama.

I was not sure how Linda Bassett as Phyllis Crane would fit in; at first she seemed something of a stereotype – someone who was something of a fusspot, but her character, and the way it is played by Linda Bassett has made for some very powerful drama indeed.

Vaughan Sellars is the local boy who has been at Borstal, but is trying to put his life right, but she understands that. He asks her how she knows. "Do you know someone who went wrong?" “I was the wrong ‘un, Vaughan”, she replies. This strand of the story is about acceptance. The pregnant diabetic girl Paulette Roland loves him, but her mother can, initially, only see Vaughan through the eyes of prejudice. But by saving Paulette, at the cost of going back to the Courts, she comes to see that he loves her daughter as much as she does.

Sister Mary Cynthia is goodness personified, slight, seemingly timid, kind and caring, and you would have thought it was difficult to believe a story with such a sweet character, but again the story works well. We see how she cares for the gypsy about to give birth, and the gypsy’s slowly dying mother, who wants to remain in the camp until she dies. After the grandmother’s death, in traditional fashion, the Vardo, or gypsy caravan, is set alight, a wonderful sight.

The goodness of Sister Mary is in contrast to the town people, who see the gypsies as rogues and vagabonds, who imagine the young girl with child is underage and unmarried. The viewer is meant to see that is wrong, and that the Council, evicting the gypsies, is pandering to those prejudices. Unfortunately, those attitudes have not gone away, even today, and there are still as many prejudices, often ill-founded, against those who have chosen a nomadic existence on the road.

Part of the joy of “Call the Midwife” is its depiction of the 1950s Poplar, bringing back a lost time within living memory, and showing both the light and the dark.

We have moved on in some ways – homosexuals – as in a recent episode – are no longer sentenced, as Alan Turing was, to a medical treatment with side effects, supposedly for their own good. But other attitudes are still as much present today as they were then. In that respect, it becomes a period mirror, reflecting our own times back in its own stories, and showing us how we can face and overcome our own hidden prejudices.

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