The Bletchley Circle

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The Bletchley Circle
Alt=Series title in front of a Bombe electromechanical device
Written by Guy Burt
Directed by Andy De Emmony
Jamie Payne
Sarah Harding
Composer(s) Nick Green
Country of origin United Kingdom
Original language(s) English
No. of series 2
No. of episodes 7 (List of episodes)
Executive producer(s) Simon Heath
Producer(s) Jake Lushington
Cinematography John Pardue
Running time 45 minutes
Production company(s) World Productions
Original channel ITV, STV, UTV
Original run 6 September 2012 (2012-09-06) – 27 January 2014 (2014-01-27)

The Bletchley Circle is a television mystery drama miniseries, set in 1952–53, about four women who used to work as codebreakers at Bletchley Park. Dissatisfied with official failure to investigate complex crimes, the women join to investigate for themselves.[1]

The first series of the miniseries, produced for ITV,[1] was originally shown in the UK in 2012, and had its U.S. audience premiere in April 2013, on PBS.[2] A second series was broadcast on ITV in January 2014, and on PBS in April 2014.[3] Both series were later aired by Australia's ABC TV.[4]

The programme was not renewed for a third series.[5]


Episode list[edit]

Series 1[edit]

# Title Directed by Written by Original air date UK Viewing Figures (millions)
Sourced by BARB; includes ITV1 HD and ITV1 +1
1 "Cracking a Killer's Code, Part 1" Andy De Emmony Guy Burt 6 September 2012 (2012-09-06) 5.81
Seven 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 tells police she knows where another body is, but they are unable to locate it and dismiss her. Susan turns to her friends Millie, Lucy and Jean. They work out where the next victim will be taken, find the body, then decide only they can find the killer.
2 "Cracking a Killer's Code, Part 2" Andy De Emmony Guy Burt 13 September 2012 (2012-09-13) 5.73
The women collate information about the schedules of trains the victims had been on and use this to identify suspects. Susan gives the police names of three potential perpetrators. Jean and Lucy discover seven similar murders that the police have solved, but the women believe innocent men have been framed and convicted. The police arrest a man whose name was given to them by Susan. 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. Susan comes face to face with the killer at a closed mental hospital.
3 "Cracking a Killer's Code, Part 3" Andy De Emmony Guy Burt 20 September 2012 (2012-09-20) 5.37
Susan returns with the police, but the killer has gone. She 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; Susan, following the thread, walks alone into a trap set for her by the killer.

Series 2[edit]

This series is 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 "Blood on Their Hands, Part 1" 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 "Blood on Their Hands, Part 2" 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, whereupon they themselves come under surveillance.
3 "Uncustomed Goods, Part 1" Sarah Harding Guy Burt 20 January 2014 4.63
Due to her notoriety, Alice cannot get a job, so Millie offers help. Millie is involved in the post-war black market. When she disappears, the women must search for her because 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 "Uncustomed Goods, Part 2" Sarah Harding Guy Burt 27 January 2014 4.66
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 gang's 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, but instead find an old Enigma machine. However, they still have to find a way to inform Customs and Excise about the contraband, which includes the trafficked girls.

Allusions to real events[edit]

In the second series, one character refers to the history of sarin gas, as having been developed by the Germans during World War II, along with other such chemical weapons, then taken up by the former Allies. The UK did have an incident of a young man killed from experiments with the gas in 1953; in 2004 his inquest was reopened and the cause of death was altered from death by misadventure to death by "application of a nerve agent in a non-therapeutic experiment".[6]

The premise of the series is based on the women who worked at Bletchley Park as part of World War II, who for the most part did not continue in intelligence work, and under the rules of the Official Secrets Act 1939 in the UK never shared the nature of their work in crucial aspects of the victory for the Allies.[7][8][9][10]


Upon its U.S. premiere—which occurred in prime time following U.S. episodes of Call the Midwife and Mr SelfridgeVariety called it "smart, addictive and situated in a fascinating historical moment".[2] In a review of the first series, The New York Times said the series finds "a clever, entertaining way to pay tribute to women who in their time were often overlooked and underestimated, and nevertheless found ways to never be ordinary".[11]


  1. ^ a b "ITV press release". ITV. Retrieved 7 January 2013. 
  2. ^ a b "TV Review: The Bletchley Circle". Variety. 17 April 2013. Retrieved 22 April 2013. 
  3. ^ "PBS press release". PBS. Retrieved 12 March 2014. 
  4. ^ The Bletchley Circle at ABC TV, September 2014. Retrieved 8 September 2014
  5. ^ Taylor, Francis. "Digital spy". Retrieved 17 April 2014. 
  6. ^ "Nerve gas death was 'unlawful'". BBC News Online. 15 November 2004. 
  7. ^ Emily Langer (17 November 2013). "Mavis Batey, Bletchley Park code breaker in World War II, dies at 92". The Washington Post. Retrieved 20 April 2014. 
  8. ^ "Bletchley Park History". Retrieved 20 April 2014. 
  9. ^ "WWII’s Female Code-breakers in Bletchley Park". War History On Line. 19 November 2013. Retrieved 20 April 2014. 
  10. ^ Ruth Styles (13 January 2014). "The REAL Bletchley Circle: Fascinating work of female codebreakers of World War II revealed". Mail Online. Retrieved 20 April 2014. 
  11. ^ Stanley, Alessandra (19 April 2013). "Secret War Heroes, Hiding New Work From Husbands". The New York Times. Retrieved 20 April 2014. 

External links[edit]