It’s a mark of the popularity of BBC One drama Call the Midwife that a month before the start of the fifth series, the Beeb’s director general, Tony Hall, announced a sixth outing for the Sixties-set show.
It was a happy moment for the cast. “It’s a lovely feeling when the audience really takes to you and you know that your work is being appreciated,” says Pam Ferris, 67, who plays no-nonsense Sister Evangelina.
She is quick to point out that just because Call the Midwife is nostalgic and set in the past, it doesn’t mean it should be dismissed as a cosy Sunday night TV.
“I feel very worried that people don’t realise how groundbreaking this is. It has a familiar, slightly nostalgic air, but we really do some gritty stuff.”
And with the new series opening with a story about the birth of a thalidomide baby, there is plenty of serious subject matter to come. Set in 1961, amid a period of social and personal change for Nonnatus House’s residents, the cast is confident about the direction of the fifth series, with Judy Parfitt, 80, who plays dementia-stricken Sister Monica Joan, calling it “the best ever”.
“There are some very powerful storylines,” agrees Jenny Agutter, 63, who stars as the strong and steady head of the house, Sister Julienne.
Call the Midwife, BBC1, Sunday, 8pm