Wartime wizards at Bletchley Park

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TELEVISION is a never-ending mystery to me, and, I guess, many other viewers.

So in the week that ITV foist the ‘Queen of blather’ Lorraine Kelly on bleary-eyed households as the new presenter of ‘Daybreak’ (“come back Penny Smith, all is forgiven”) they redeem their reputation with ‘The Bletchley Circle,’ a new murder mystery, this Thursday evening.

The title refers to Bletchley Park near Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire, now a popular tourist attraction as I found out last month, unlike its secret role during World War II when its code-breaking skills proved legendary, saving lives and shortening hostilities.

Among the many wartime wizards are four women, now back in civilian life in the early 1950s, who are called “to active service” by housewife Susan (Anna Maxwell Martin who played the headmistress in ‘South Riding’) after she spots a pattern in a string of murders which are baffling the police in London.

The quartet get together to use their razor-sharp intelligence to help the Met, but their theories seem to draw a blank . . . until they spot a link that could foil the killer from claiming a fifth victim.

Aiding and abetting the investigations are Rachael Stirling (‘Women in Love’) as Millie, who can speak 14 languages and has a streetwise approach to life; RADA graduate Sophie Rundle (‘Garrow’s Law’) as Lucy, whose youthful, naïve exterior masks a brilliant memory for data recall, and Jean (Julie Graham from ‘Survivors’), the methodical no-nonsense organiser with valuable access to key records and documents.

Probably when they’ve finished their three-part series they could try to decipher my gas and electricity bills, which seem to be written in a language of their own.

Another programme going back in time, but in a different direction, is ‘The Corrie Years’ (ITV, Thursday), which returns for a second series with ‘Scandals,’ the first of six revealing episodes looking behind the some of the most memorable storylines of the last five decades.

Katherine Kelly narrates the series, which also looks at the special on-location episodes that took characters away from the street, and what happens to the actors after they have said goodbye to the Weatherfield cobbles.


Dallas -- Channel 5, Wednesday. It’s 21 years since this Texan soap opera had viewers glued to the screens. See how much has changed for JR Ewing and family in the opening chapter of this new, 10-part series.

Hilary Devey: Women at the Top -- BBC2, Thursday. The former ‘Dragons’ Den’ panellist checks out why men still hold 80% of the top jobs in Britain.

Trollied -- Sky Living, Friday. More trouble’s in store as the second series continues with new, no-nonsense manager Lorraine (Stephanie Beacham, of ‘Dynasty’ and ‘Corrie’ fame, who said that she modelled her character on Hilary Devey) showing that she’s in a different league to Gavin, who has been promoted to area manager.