Doctor Turner chats to Yours about the best Call the Midwife series yet

Doctor Turner chats to Yours about the best Call the Midwife series yet

Every Sunday night, we're exactly the same. All warm and fuzzy from the post Sunday lunch slump, we settle into the sofa for an hour of great British drama that we're almost certain will leave us a complete teary mess.

From the horrors of thalidomide to the plight of unmarried mothers, this series of Call the Midwife, which ends next Sunday, has been one of the most touching and hard-hitting yet, leaving more of us than ever clambering for the tissue box well before the husky voice of Vanessa Redgrave comes over to give her final verdict on that evening's rollercoaster episode.

But for one of the culprits behind our mascara-strewn faces, it's the fact these stories are so real and from a period of history that's so recent – the show currently depicts Poplar life in 1961 – that makes them all the more emotional. And adds an even greater sense of responsibility to the stellar cast behind the show to tell these stories properly.

"I feel a great sense of pride in telling these live stories" says Stephen McGann, who plays the dependable workaholic Doctor Turner. "Especially the fact we can tell these stories before 9 o'clock, meaning we can play to a massive audience that mixes all of society, including children who can sit down with their parents and talk about the issues that come up.

"Like many of the women that come into Doctor Turner's surgery and Nonnatus House, my mum was a Fifties girl and for her, a lot of the Sixties passed her by because she said she just had kids then. All that hippy dippy stuff of the Sixties was happening elsewhere for her and so many others – many of whom have written into us to say as much since we started the show.

I feel a great sense of pride in telling these live stories

"But these women of my mum's generation were the ones who were really changing things. And they didn't do it by burning bras. They changed it one day at a time, one woman at a time, talking to a husband or a child, saying maybe things could be a bit different. Maybe we don't have to do it this way. Maybe a woman out of wedlock doesn't have to be condemned. And so we have a duty to tell their stories properly and to celebrate them.

"You know, I like to think we don't just entertain on Call the Midwife, we also show people things that make them think, as well as things about kindness and human nature. It's not nostalgia. It's saying look at this. There are lessons from history in this - things we must understand and must not go back to. And I'm not sure when we finally pack up that you will see the like of Call the Midwife again."


But there's no sign of that happening anytime soon as the show goes from strength to strength, something Stephen, along with his wife, Heidi Thomas, who writes and produces the series, never anticipated at the beginning. "When we first started, it was just a six-part series that had every chance of getting a lukewarm reception. And after all, going into a birthing room and doing all these things, celebrating female relationships that weren't defined by men, was very new.

"But it went ballistic. I remember when we were filming the first key scenes in the birth room, I just thought this is amazing and we all ended up crying on set. I was thinking this is one of the most extraordinary parts of human life - birth - why hasn't anyone done this before?"

We don't just entertain on Call the Midwife, we show people things that make them think

And the most ironic thing for Stephen was that his character Doctor Turner allowed him to explore his big passion in life: medicine. In fact, at the time Stephen was offered the part by his wife – which was only a small one in the first series – he was at Imperial University as a mature student studying science communications. And today when he's not a 1960s GP, he still gives talks to the medical community.

That's why the producers of the Call the Midwife approached Stephen earlier this year to ask him to write a companion book to the show, delving into some of the history behind the medical breakthroughs and catastrophes the past series of Call the Midwife have brought to life. The result is Doctor Turner's Casebook, a fascinating mix of fact and fiction that explores the nitty gritty of the early days of the NHS, where incubators came from, the truth about smallpox and the tragedy of thalidomide, matched with a diary-like insight into the head of Doctor Turner.

"Of course on tele you never get to see what characters are really thinking, so I had the chance to do that. And also bring to light the really important changes that were going on at the time. Things that really happened and don't just exist in history books. Medicine is amazing things done by ordinary people and I wanted to champion that.

"I often give talks on and get very animated about making sure we don't lose the legacy the days of  Call the Midwife gave us. We fought so hard for it back then, so we mustn't lose it.

"As for the show itself, Call the Midwife has acheived phenomenal things. And I want to tend to it like the tenderest doctor for the future." And I'm sure in that, Stephen would have flocks of us loyal fans volunteering to play nurse to help make sure our favourite Sunday night show carries on its incredible success.

  • Stephen's book, Doctor Turner's Casebook, is available to buy now, rrp £16.99, Simon & Schuster UK
  • The last episode of the current series of Call the Midwife is on this Sunday at 8pm
  • There's more celebrity chat in every issue of Yours