The Bletchley Circle is a 2012 television mystery drama miniseries, set in 1952, about four women who used to work as codebreakers at Bletchley Park. A series of murders takes place that seem to have a pattern. The police apparently overlook the pattern, so the women start investigating themselves.On 8 May 2013 it was announced that ITV had ordered a second series
theguardian.com, Thursday 6 September 2012 / http://www.theguardian.com/tv-and-radio/2012/sep/06/the-bletchley-circle-tv-review
TV review: The Bletchley Circle; Wartime Farm
It's been a busy old week for Anna Maxwell Martin. Just two days after standing in the dock as Tina the prison warden in Jimmy McGovern's Accused, she was back as Susan the suburban housewife in The Bletchley Circle (ITV1). Having almost singlehandedly shortened the duration of the second world war by a couple of years with her code-breaking skills, Susan was understandably finding life on civvy street in the early 1950s rather boring until a serial killer appeared near her neck of the woods in London to liven things up.
The idea of a group of former Bletchley Park code-breakers banding together as crime-fighters is more promising for a new crime drama than many, although it required a large suspension of disbelief. Initially, Susan decided to tackle the killer alone and, having stumbled on the concentric theory of geographical profiling at least 20 years ahead of any other forensic psychologist, she persuaded her husband, Dim Tim, to get her an interview with the police commissioner at Scotland Yard, who immediately redeployed several dozen officers to hunt for a body no one knew was missing.
The police search was, however, unsuccessful and Susan was obliged to rope in some of her old wartime buddies. At which point, The Bletchley Circle threatened to dissolve into cosy, afternoon drama cliches, with the three other women all having their well-defined specialisms – Millie the Map Reader, Lucy the Memory Woman and Jean the Blagger – and only deciding to team up after having the obligatory scene in which they all agreed "this is never going to work".
While straying dangerously close to Rosemary and Thyme territory at times, The Bletchley Circle just about kept the right side of the line, thanks to a goodish plot, a strong cast and some unexpectedly stylish touches of 50s period noir. If it can keep the padding to a minimum – why is that every bloke in dramas with strong women leads is either dull, stupid or feckless? – and trust the intelligence of the viewers enough not to downsize the more cerebral, deductive sequences to barely a minute of round-table guesswork, then this is a series that may well have legs.
It can't be a coincidence that ITV's latest crime drama is set amid the rationing of the early 1950s; austerity is on everyone's minds right now and it was certainly very much on view in Wartime Farm (BBC2), the latest historical re-enactment from Ruth Goodman, Alex Langlands and Peter Ginn, the team that previously gave us Victorian Farm and Edwardian Farm.
I know it reflects poorly on me that I don't find Ruth a more engaging presenter: she's obviously a decent, intelligent person who knows her subject well. But something about her manner grates. It's the way she rolls her eyes when she sees the 1930s kitchen for the first time and exclaims: "How am I supposed to manage with that?" and insists on calling the two men "boys". She's too jolly-hockey-sticks, though at least she has a discernible personality, which is more than can be said for the men.
That said, Wartime Farm works far better than Edwardian Farm, which felt exactly the same as Victorian Farm, but with a few more gadgets. There is an immediacy in the way the team are forced to innovate in response to a situation that requires the upheaval of decades of traditional agricultural practices in a matter of weeks. Out had to go the inefficient livestock, and millions of acres had to go under the plough for crop farming.
At least that was the idea. We didn't actually see any cows, sheep or pigs get the chop in vast numbers – and something tells me we may not in future episodes either, as I can't see the real owner of Manor Farm near Southampton topping his entire herd just for the cameras. But there was a lot of enjoyment to be had as our intrepid trio tried to make an underground boring tool to stop a field becoming waterlogged. They failed. Ingloriously. Peter said: "I hope to God we don't have a wet summer, or the Ministry of Agriculture will be down on us like a ton of bricks." Stand by to be interned, Peter.
As ever with this programme, some of the enjoyment was almost certainly accidental. After one reconstruction of a night time manoeuvre by an auxiliary unit – think farmers with guns – the moustachioed officer said: "This has just been an exercise. There are no Germans." Captain Mainwaring couldn't have put it better. In wartime, you take your pleasures where you find them.
The Bletchley Circle – TV review
The Guardian, Monday 6 January 2014 / http://www.theguardian.com/tv-and-radio/2014/jan/06/the-739-david-morrissey-sheridan-smith-tv-review
( …) One of the few good things about going back to work in January is that the TV programmers recognise that everyone, bar Carl and Sally who are cosying up in the sauna at the gym, is staying in and so they tend to raise their game. On any other night The Bletchley Circle (ITV) would have got star billing.
We've moved on a few years since the first series – "The Germans are now are friends and the Russians our enemies," said Millie the Map Reader, helpfully – but otherwise everything is still reassuringly the same. London is still rendered in 1950s noir and our four main characters, Susan, Millie, Jean and Lucy, are still largely unencumbered by the burden of any men – Susan looks set to dispense with her dreary husband, the nice-but-dim Tim – in whom the Foreign Office has noticed some well-hidden talent and charisma and now wants to post abroad – and are so free to resume their careers as amateur sleuths.
This time round, one of their former colleagues at Bletchley Park has been charged with murder and, as she didn't do it – obvs – the Famous Four have set out to find out just who did. So far they have turned up an adopted daughter, some top-secret files, a military coverup and a copy of Paradise Lost and failed to spot a suspicious man in a trilby who's been walking a few paces behind them. At times it threatens to get a bit too Enid Blyton as they wander round in a pack solving crimes and making sure they all have roughly the same number of lines each, but it never lapses into twee and hits a sweet enough spot for a wet Monday in January.
Title Directed by Written by Original air date UK Viewing Figures (millions)
Sourced by BARB; includes ITV1 HD and ITV1 +1
1 "Episode One" Andy De Emmony Guy Burt 6 September 2012 5.81
Seven(nine) years after WWII, four women who worked as codebreakers at Bletchley Park have taken up mundane civilian lives. Susan, now a housewife, has collated data about a series of murders. She tries to convince the police she knows where another body is, but they are unable to locate it and dismiss her. Susan turns to her three friends. They work out where the next victim will be taken, find the body, then decide they are the only ones who can track down the killer.
2 "Episode Two" Andy De Emmony Guy Burt 13 September 2012 5.73
The women collate information about the schedules of trains the victims had been on and use this to identify potential suspects. Susan gives the police names of three potential perpetrators. As Susan gives the police the information, Jean and Lucy discover seven similar murders that the police think they have solved, but where the women believe innocent men have been framed and convicted. The police arrest one of the men who was among the names given to them by Susan after finding evidence connecting him to the victims. The women devise a plan to trap the killer using Lucy as bait but it backfires when she goes with the wrong man. Another suspect emerges from a top secret war department headed by Cavendish and Susan comes face to face with the killer at a closed mental hospital.
3 "Episode Three" Andy De Emmony Guy Burt 20 September 2012 5.37
Susan returns with the police but the killer has gone. Susan finds a coded message in her home with Cavendish's address, and going there finds him dead. A postcard on Cavendish's desk provides a clue; and Susan, following the thread, walks alone into a trap set for her by the killer.
This series will be made up of two 2-part stories totalling four episodes.
# Title Directed by Written by Original air date UK Viewing Figures (millions)
Sourced by BARB; includes ITV1 HD and ITV1 +1
1 "Episode One" Jamie Payne Guy Burt 6 January 2014 5.46
Former Bletchley Park colleague Alice Merren (Hattie Morahan) is awaiting trial for the murder of a distinguished scientist (Paul McGann). Despite the overwhelming evidence, Jean is determined to prove Alice is innocent and reassembles the women to prove it. Their investigation reveals the misguided reason Alice is willing to hang for a crime she did not commit.
2 "Episode Two" Jamie Payne Guy Burt 13 January 2014 4.98
The circle's investigation discovers three men with chemical burns in a truck crash on Salisbury plain near the chemical warfare establishment at Porton Down. They suspect a high level cover-up involving the death of the scientist and the framing of Alice Merren and they themselves come under surveillance.
3 "Episode Three" Sarah Harding Guy Burt 20 January 2014 3.93 (Overnight)
Due to her notoriety Alice cannot get a job and Millie offers help. Millie is involved in the post war black market and when she disappears the women begin to look for her when the police will not take them seriously. Millie is being held hostage by Soho Maltese gangsters until her shady business partner Jasper (Rob Jarvis) pays money he owes them. While in captivity Millie discovers the gangsters are importing eastern European girls to be sold into prostitution.
4 "Episode Four" Sarah Harding Guy Burt 27 January 2014 3.89 (Overnight)
Jasper is murdered and corruption in the vice squad leads to no action by the police. The women plot to catch the gang red-handed by buying contraband goods, a ruse that enables Lucy to memorise the gangs encrypted ledger. The women return to Bletchley Park, now a college, where Alice's daughter is studying to take a Typex machine, from the derelict huts, and instead a find an old Enigma machine, but they still have to find a way to inform Customs and Excise about the contraband which includes the trafficked girls.