'Call the Midwife' exclusive — Stephen McGann and Jenny Agutter reveal set secrets from the devastating season 11 finale

Jenny Agutter in Call the Midwife
Will Sister Julienne (Jenny Agutter) and Dr Turner (Stephen McGann) survive the 'Call the Midwife' train crash? (Image credit: BBC and Nealstreet Productions)

Call the Midwife season 11 is ending its latest season in explosive style as lives hang in the balance following a devastating train crash.

The finale, airing in the UK on Sunday, Feb. 20 on BBC1 at 8pm and later this spring on PBS America in the US, sees all hands on deck at Nonnatus House, which is operating as an emergency first aid station helping the injured.

But there are huge concerns as Dr Turner (Stephen McGann) and Sister Julienne (Jenny Agutter) were on board and were last seen lying motionless in the carriage. Will they survive?

We caught up with Stephen McGann and Jenny Agutter to get the exclusive lowdown on Call the Midwife’s biggest finale to date…

Stephen McGann as Dr Turner in Call the Midwife

Dr Turner (Stephen McGann) is in danger in 'Call the Midwife'. (Image credit: (C) Nealstreet Productions)

'Call the Midwife' ends in a dramatic fashion this week. What did you think when you read the script?

Jenny Agutter: “I thought it was a very exciting storyline, with a great deal packed into it. It keeps one on edge from beginning to end. Everyone is involved and Heidi [Thomas, the show’s creator, who is married to Stephen], keeps one guessing. Her imagination takes us in interesting directions…”

Stephen McGann: ‘This is a huge event. Heidi said, ‘I want something where the ones at Nonnatus House who normally run things when something goes wrong should be the ones imperilled. Therefore, everybody else has to step up.’ A disaster like this can make or break people. Who's going to collapse and who’s going to steer the ship?”

Cliff Parisi as Fred Buckle in Call the Midwife

Fred Buckle (Cliff Parisi) helps the rescue effort in 'Call the Midwife'. (Image credit: (C) Nealstreet Productions)

What is it like to see Dr Turner and Sister Julienne in this vulnerable situation?

Jenny Agutter: “The scenes are beautifully written and left us discovering different sides of the characters. Both are battling to deal with extraordinary circumstances and perhaps using the strength they needed to draw on in the past during the war.” 

Stephen McGann: “We don't know their fates or what their injuries are. We know Dr Turner was thrown around. We also have other people in the carriage who are horribly injured, it’s a mess. We don’t know if their injuries will take their lives or, if they revive, what will be the long-term effects? They don't know when help will come. There’s real danger.”

Dr Turner’s wife Shelagh (Laura Main) and son Timothy (Max Macmillan) are very worried, especially as Timothy and Dr Turner rowed last week, but Timothy, who is a student doctor, sets out to find him doesn’t he? 

Stephen McGann: “Yes, Timothy feels guilt. But disasters are what medics cope with and Tim’s no different, even though he’s training. Max has grown up with Call the Midwife and this series has marked a lovely transition where he’s taken on a proper storyline. Max relished it and it’s exciting seeing Tim step out of his father's shadow.”

Max Macmillan as Timothy Turner in Call the Midwife

Student doctor Timothy (Max Macmillan) is desperate to find his dad and Sister Julienne. (Image credit: (C) Nealstreet Productions)

Were there any memorable moments when you filmed the train crash?

Jenny Agutter: “It wasn’t easy. It had to be filmed in short sequences but the director planned the crash like a military operation. There were some hysterically funny moments! Trying to place a tea trolley on our lovely guest artist Stephanie Jacob, who plays [train tea lady] Mrs Carnie, there was a conversation about how it would look best. Eventually, Stephanie, at 3am, lying at an awkward angle on the floor, said, ‘How long is this going to take?!’”

Stephen McGann: “It's always fun to do the big ‘flash bang whizzo’ stuff! The crew pulled out all the stops. But it was cold shooting on an autumn night! We filmed at a railway station in Winchester [in Hampshire] and they had a real old carriage adapted for our needs. It was like I remember when I was younger, with wood paneling, so that was a journey into the past for me.”

How will the disaster change things at Nonnatus House?

Jenny Agutter: “Everything that happens to the Poplar community and Nonnatus House has an ongoing effect, even if it’s only to bring home the idea that we never know what the future holds. I don’t know how Nonnatus will change. I also can’t give away the few things I know about Sister Julienne's future!”

The Call the Midwife season 11 finale airs in the UK on Sunday, Feb. 20 on BBC1 at 8pm and later this spring on PBS America in the US.

Caren Clark

Caren has been a journalist specializing in TV for almost two decades and is a Senior Features Writer for TV Times, TV & Satellite Week and What’s On TV magazines and she also writes for What to Watch.

Over the years, she has spent many a day in a muddy field or an on-set catering bus chatting to numerous stars on location including the likes of Olivia Colman, David Tennant, Suranne Jones, Jamie Dornan, Dame Judi Dench and Sir Derek Jacobi as well as Hollywood actors such as Glenn Close and Kiefer Sutherland.

Caren will happily sit down and watch any kind of telly (well, maybe not sci-fi!), but she particularly loves period dramas like Call the Midwife, Downton Abbey and The Crown and she’s also a big fan of juicy crime thrillers from Line of Duty to Poirot.

In her spare time, Caren enjoys going to the cinema and theatre or curling up with a good book.