Rachael Stirling and Anna Maxwell Martin are fantastic in Series 1 of The Bletchley Circle, which I’ve finally gotten round to watching
“You really think that just by listening to the wireless, you can tell the police where to look for a murder victim”
I don’t really know how I have left it this late to finally watch The Bletchley Circle, just nine years since series 1 first aired in the UK. It is tailor-made for my interests too: Rachael Stirling, Anna Maxwell Martin, women in wartime(ish), oh and Rachael Stirling 😍 and with the show being on one of my streaming services, I finally took the plunge. This miniseries was written by Guy Burt and directed by Andy De Emmony, with Julie Graham and Sophie Rundle rounding out the lead cast.
And but of course, I loved it. An all-too-brief three episodes take us through the crime-solving exploits of four women who worked as codebreakers at Bletchley Park but now, in 1952, find their talents ignored by a resumption of traditional societal values. As a serial killer murders young women across London and the police fail to take their warnings sufficiently seriously, the foursome start to delve into the investigation themselves despite the intense danger that emerges.
It works on several levels. As a crime drama in and of itself, it is an engaging and gripping story which manages to avoid much of the genre’s tropiness in offing young women with glee. And as a piece of social history, it explores the role of women in post-war society with nuance and intelligence. This is naturally an extreme example -not that many wives couldn’t tell their husbands what they did in the war because of the Official Secrets Act – but the point still stands, the difficulties in being forced back into social strictures after the relative freedom offered whilst being called to duty.
Maxwell Martin shines as the brightest of the bunch, the one who spots the patterns that cracked codes in wartime and reveals habits that the killer scarcely knows he has. But the writing is beautifully balanced so that the differing strengths of all four leads get their moment to come to the fore. Stirling’s practicality as Millie drives them forward, Graham’s former supervisor Jean keeps them on track and the eidetic memory of Rundle’s Lucy proves an endlessly invaluable resource. More fool me for waiting this long to catch up with them all.