The Bletchley Circle Review Series 2 Episode 1

The Bletchley Circle Series 2A smoke filled room, lines of wooden tables stacked with trays of documents and lit by the yellow light of table lamps. A woman in civilan clothes concentrates on a machine in a wooden box. It is the Enigma and this is the Machine Room, Bletchley Park, 1943.

A blonde woman in a WRNS uniform (Women’s Royal Naval Service) stands by the Bombe Machine, the green, yellow and red wheels turn working to try to find the daily settings for the Enigma machine. There is a sparkle in the young woman’s eyes. Job up. 

The typewriter like letter keys of the Enigma are tapped, lighting the letters of the lampboard. Two men hover nearby, frowning in frustration. “If the Germans have changed their machines we may as well all give up and go home,” says John Richards. Jean stands by, watching.

The blonde woman in the uniform, Alice walks over, “They haven’t changed the machine,” she says, “they’ve changed the code.”

The Bletchley Circle Series 2, a new four part drama produced by World Productions for ITV has officially started [insert squeals of excitement here].

Like the first series, the opening scene is full of atmosphere and drama, evoking an colourful snapshot of how Bletchley Park could have looked in World War 2.

“Getting to film at Bletchley was magical. It feels a bit like hallowed ground. A very special experience as I had to do some work on an original machine and filmed a scene outside, in between the huts in moonlight.

“If you squint you could be back there in the war. Especially with the extras milling around in their costumes. I’m sure in many ways nothing has changed. It was very inspiring for playing the character of Alice.”  Hattie Morahan

Millie, Jean, Susan, Lucy

Millie, Jean, Susan, Lucy Copyright

The night scene with Bletchley Park Mansion lit by moonlight is one of my favourites but all too soon the night closes on the war years and the show jumps forward ten years to 1953  (one year on from the haunting events from Series 1).

Mansion Through the Lense Copyright

Mansion Through the Lense Copyright

Stern, practical Jean is reading a newspaper article about Alice Merren’s forthcoming trial for murder of her former Bletchley Park colleague, John Richards (Paul McGann). Alice was one of Jean’s girls. Jean knows she will never turn her back on one of her girls so she reunites the circle to help one of their own.

“Jean is a straightforward, down-to-earth, pragmatic, practical person. She is very much a woman of her time. Someone like her would probably find it hard to adapt to modern society, as we know it now.  She’s very old fashioned with old fashioned values. But she’s incredibly kind, compassionate and smart.

Jean is the catalyst this time in bringing them all together again. When she learns of Alice’s case her gut instinct is that there’s something not quite right about it. So the only way to investigate further is to get the gang back together.” Julie Graham

Susan (Anna Maxwell Martin) is reluctant to get involved after her near death experience with the Crowley, the serial killer. She is no longer the driving force of the circle, she’s jumpy, scared of putting her family into danger. In fact, it’s Susan’s response to the events in the first series that tempted Anna Maxwell Martin back into the role.

“One of the reasons I liked this story so much and returned to it is because sometimes with a series it’s easy to conveniently forget a journey a character has gone on a year before.  They decided to reflect the truth of how someone would feel a number of months after something bizarre, awful and extreme like that happening in their lives. So I really loved that aspect of the script and that Susan is genuinely having difficulty coping and getting over and recovering from it – in a life and marriage of secrecy. I found that really interesting.” Anna Maxwell Martin

Lucy (Sophie Rundle) has experienced enormous growth with the support of her friends. Free of her abusive husband she is now embracing a new start as an independent woman with a clerical job at Scotland Yard.

“Scotland Yard is very lucky to have Lucy, knowing what we know about her past at Bletchley Park. But obviously she’s keeping that all totally under wraps. In their eyes she’s simply a secretary. These women had to really play down their amazing abilities, their strengths and minds. They had to pretend they hadn’t done anything special in the war and that means Lucy has to downplay her intelligence. She is upholding the Official Secrets Act.”  Sophie Rundle

Sophie Rundle (Lucy)  Copyright

Sophie Rundle (Lucy) Copyright

Millie (Rachel Stirling) is still a sassy, thoroughly modern woman and an excellent linguist she has found work as a German translator, but trouble is never too far away from this street wise beauty.

“When we meet Millie again she is doing government translating work with the Germans. Pretty quickly after the war you had to re-assess who was and wasn’t the enemy and re-align. And Millie has always been a shade of grey rather than black or white. So she has to shift her perspective and stop thinking of the Germans as the enemy.” Rachel Stirling

What could be so secret that would make Alice face the hangman’s noose willingly? And who is Lizzie Lancaster?
Faye Marsay (Lizzie) Copyright

Faye Marsay (Lizzie)

The true depth of the danger dawns on the circle as they investigate the mystery.

“What the hell have you got us into?” 

I am sure you’ll agree that this is a fabulous start to the second series of hugely popular The Bletchley Circle. Viewing statistics show that a whopping 4.5 millions viewers tuned in on Monday evening to share another mystery with Millie, Jean, Susan and Lucy.

Listen to the cast and production staff talk about their time filming The Bletchley Circle Series 2 on the Bletchley Park Podcast during interviews recorded at the official Press Screening with three of the stars of the series, Rachael Stirling, Julie Graham & Hattie Morahan. Executive Producer, Jake Lushington & series Writer & Creator, Guy Burt also shared their thoughts on the series.
If like me you will devour the series over and over again, you can get it on pre-order (release date 3 February 2014 in UK)

Click on the image or click here to buy The Bletchley Circle Series 2 [DVD] and if you want to read about the life of a real Bletchley Park Codebreaker, don’t forget to buy your copy of my book Dear Codebreaker. The ebook is at a low, low price while The Bletchley Circle Series 2 is airing.

Dear Codebreaker - The letters of Margaret RockYou will hear Rachel Stirling talk about Margaret briefly in her interview at the press screening. Margaret is the epitome of an enigmatic codebreaker.

Photographs reproduced with the kind permission of Bletchley Park. Read more about the show on Bletchley Park’s website by clicking here

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