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The Bletchley Circle was one of the best dramas on TV when it premiered in 2014. Its premise was simple — in the years after WWII, a group of women who worked together during the war come together to solve crimes. But these are not just any women.
They worked for the British Secret Service (at its super secret Bletchley Circle HQ) to break the German codes during the war, saving untold lives. Thrust back into civilian life, the women are forced to take those menial jobs that were "suitable for women” after the war. There are a smattering of female sleuths on various TV shows, but rarely has it given a group of intelligent women a series of their own. Until The Bletchley Circle.
The Bletchley Circle begins when Susan (Anna Maxwell Martin), a typical early 1950s housewife with two children, sees a pattern in a series of gruesome murders of women. She solicits the help of her former distaff code-breakers, and they discover that a serial killer is on the loose and has been killing women for many years. The police refuse to believe in the serial killer scenario and instead treat each murder as a separate event. The killer has been very smart in setting up a patsy for every murder.
The series is brilliantly written by Guy Burt, an English novelist and veteran TV writer. The characters he has created are unforgettable, not only because of their unique talents, but also for their refusal to give up what they do best — solve mysteries.
Susan's husband is dismissive of her intellectual pursuits — he is always surprised at how readily she does the Times’s crossword puzzle, regarding it as a freak talent. Lucy (Sophie Rundle)'s physically abusive husband doesn't know why his wife can remember the minutest detail of every newspaper story she reads, not realizing she has a photographic memory. Millie (Rachael Stirling), a brilliant linguist, leads a bohemian life, stuck in low paying “women’s jobs” such as waiting tables. Jean (Julie Graham), the oldest, keeps everyone in line; she has no private life at all and spends most of her time at the library she runs.
In their personal lives, none of them can tell their family and friends what they did during the war because, in England, the Official Secrets Act prevents any disclosure of clandestine activities — and this law is not subject to judicial review, so if you break it, you do not pass go, you go straight to jail. Separately, they have woven their lives into the drab quilt that was post-WWII England. Together, they blossom into one of the best vigilante groups of all time.
Each of the stories begins with a small commitment on their part to figure out the puzzle of some crime — it is just an intellectual exercise like breaking a code. Soon, they are forced to get directly involved in order to prevent an injustice or solve a crime, bringing them closer to the danger that they only read about during their code-breaking days.
Ultimately, the series is not about the crimes being solved but rather the true identities of these extraordinary women. Each of them is forced to live a lie, pretending to be the helpless, hapless stereotypes that the male-dominated society of the time forced them to play.The secrets they are forced to keep, including the most damaging one — who they truly are — eventually poison their personal lives. Only the strongest survive that self-betrayal.
In the end, Bletchley Circle does what all great crime dramas do, revealing more about the crime detectors and their world than the criminals and how they are caught.
And then it was cancelled.
Incredibly, its producers, ITV, a commercial public service television network in the United Kingdom, decided not to continue the series even though the third season had already been written. No reason was given for the cancellation.
Is it a coincidence that, in an entertainment industry more and more dominated by movies and TV shows geared to teenage males, a show about a group of adult, intelligent, resourceful women, who show up their male counterparts by combining their unique talents, gets canceled?
No, it wasn't. Until now.
IT IS COMING BACK!
The world has changed because courageous actresses outed a producer pig who used a casting hotel room to prove to himself how powerful he was - hey, he was a pervert not a blind pervert. He knew none of those actresses were coming to his room because of his good looks.
And so ITV sees a chance to jump into the #wetoo movement,but who cares about reasons - Bletchley Circle is back. Sort of.
Two of the original characters,Millie and Jean, travel to San Francisco and join forces with American female code breakers to solve crimes. The migrating women are the characters without a family. We can only hope that the new series will not discard the context of the original, a world in which men dominated every aspect of society. For example,take look at the New York Philharmonic in the mid-1950s. No females (except on harp, the female instrument).
BRITBOX is the commercial arm of BBC so it will only be available for a fee.
ORIGINAL SERIES AVAILABLE NOW ON NETFLIX
CAST:Julie Graham , Rachael Stirling, Anna Maxwell Martin and Sophie Rundle
CREATED BY: GUY BART