No one would dispute that women are the focus of Call the Midwife. This series celebrates the strength, sacrifice and dedication of the sisters of Nonnatus House; their young but able subordinates, the lay midwives; and even the overburdened mothers of Poplar itself.
Who couldn’t love awkward but big-hearted Chummy, for example? Even Sister Evangelina, the no-nonsense and acerbic nun, has a secret soft side we can appreciate…she just doesn’t normally show it when you first meet her.
Unfortunately Call the Midwife won’t be returning to our screens again until Christmas. So I thought while we wait why not give the male characters on the show their due. With so much emphasis on childbirth and such, a little testosterone wouldn’t go astray.
Each and every one is a good man, in his own way, beginning with…
PC Peter Noakes
PC Noakes, played by Ben Caplan, is a police constable in Poplar; however, we really become acquainted with Peter when a wobbly Chummy runs into him on her bicycle. From there, we witness the unfolding of a hesitant but blossoming relationship.
What is most wonderful about Peter is that although he has ambitions of rising up through the constabulary, he is, first and foremost, devoted to Chummy. When she can no longer resist her calling to be a missionary, he supports her decision and makes arrangements to travel with her by transferring temporarily to the police force in Sierra Leone.
Though perhaps more common today, I can’t imagine there were many husbands in the 50’s who would have put their career on hold for the dreams of their wives. He’s definitely a keeper.
Dr. Patrick Turner
Dr. Turner (Stephen McGann) is another upstanding member of the Poplar community. A physician for the district, he’s often in close proximity since he oversees the midwives’ antenatal clinics and is present at more complicated deliveries.
He is a widower with a young son, Timmy, whom the nuns are concerned is a bit neglected due to his father’s busy schedule and dedication to his patients. He also smokes more than he should. Foreshadowing? I hope not.
In series 2, Sister Bernadette takes a special interest in Timmy and even more so in Timmy’s father. She respects the doctor and becomes quite protective of him with the other nurses. Dr. Turner is obviously smitten as well but seeing as he’s falling for a nun, he is respectful and tries to keep his distance.
As their affection for one another grows, it becomes something of a Maria and Captain Von Trapp scenario – forbidden feelings lead to a nun’s questioning of her calling and vows taken.
In the end, we have, not Dr. Turner and Sister Bernadette, but Patrick and Shelagh or Sheila (I’ve seen it both ways). As you can imagine, this turn of events has brought out the shipper videos and the obligatory couple name – Turnadette, in this case.
Played by George Rainsford, Jimmy is a life-long friend of Nurse Lee.
When he shows up in London with nowhere to stay, Jenny sneaks him into Nonnatus House to sleep in a storage room. As the two get reacquainted, it is clear Jimmy has feelings for her but when he finally comes out and says so, Jenny, thinking him a bit immature, rejects him.
After all the things she’s been forced to see since coming to Poplar, she’s had to grow up quickly. That and the fact she had an affair with a married man she can’t seem to get over.
When Jimmy and Jenny meet up by chance in series 2, Jenny sees a more adult Jimmy with a proper job and a mature attitude.
However, shortly after their encounter Jimmy learns that Francine, a girl he’s been seeing who was “just a bit of fun”, is pregnant. He still loves Jenny and she is torn because in her heart she was hoping he’d give her a second chance.
In the end, Jimmy ends up accepting his responsibilities – marrying the mother of his child and becoming a doting father. Did anyone else think that Francine might have intentionally gotten pregnant so she could get the perfect little life she wanted?
Jimmy even tries fixing Jenny up with a work colleague because, like a real grown-up and friend, he truly wants her to be happy.
We can still hope for a TB outbreak that strikes poor Francine down in her prime, can’t we? I’m not rooting for Jimmy and Jenny in particular. I just really have a problem with gold-diggers.
Fred (Cliff Parisi) is not just the handyman at Nonnatus House; he’s part of the family. Though always eager to make a quick and questionable quid, Fred has a tender heart as evidenced by the fact that he fretted so terribly over one of his money making schemes – a pig in labor.
Fred is protective of all the ladies in the convent – he makes sure their bikes are in good repair and insists they sit through his scooter safety lessons despite the fact that he doesn’t know how to ride the blasted thing himself.
But of all the midwives, Fred seems to have the biggest soft spot for Chummy. He helps her with her scout troop and even takes her place as leader when she goes away for her missionary assignment in Africa.
We don’t learn that he even has a family of his own until the end of series 2 when Fred’s daughter Dolly comes to visit with her son and a baby on the way. When Dolly has to go into hospital with toxemia, Fred is left to care for his grandson – another occurrence that I think might have been highly unusual in the 50’s and to which many a granddad might not have agreed. Though flustered, Fred does his best caring for the young boy.
He also passes along his very simple philosophy on parenting to Chummy who is nervously awaiting her own first child. And in honor of his kindness, Chummy names her son Fred after her friend and parenting mentor. High praise indeed.
While the Reverend is not a regular in Poplar, his story was one of my favorites in the whole of series 2. Jason Watkins plays Applebee-Thornton, a vicar newly returned from Sierra Leone (where Chummy currently is doing her missionary work) and in need of temporary lodgings.
It’s not an understatement to say that he talks non-stop and while he’s completely well-meaning, all the midwives do their best to avoid being in his boring company for too long.
Except newcomer Jane, the medical orderly who has joined the staff at Nonnatus House. She is quiet as a mouse and her lack of conversation dovetails perfectly with the Reverend’s patient attention and constant yammering. Sister Bernadette, ever the romantic, sees a possible match between the two and hatches a plan to get them together.
Though their first date is aborted by Jane’s paralyzing fear, these two eventually reveal their vulnerabilities to one another; what it is that makes the Reverend so verbose and conversely Jane so withdrawn. It is truly touching story that proves the old adage that there is someone for everyone.
The Men of Call the Midwife – you might not want to see most of them on a pin-up calendar, but they make life in Poplar more interesting and sweeter to be sure.
Who’s your favorite?
Carmen is an American wife and mother of two college students who live away from home. With her yellow lab Malcolm by her side, she watches and writes about British television for her own blog Everything I Know about the UK I Learned from the BBC. Read more of Carmen’s posts here.