Last Night's Viewing: The Bletchley Circle, ITV1
Hilary Devey: Women at the Top, BBC2

 

There was a neat moment early in The Bletchley Circle that it's hard to know who to credit to. The drama is based around a group of former Station X cryptographers who apply their wartime skills to tracking down a killer. In a short pre-credit sequence you see them during the war as one of them, Susan, spots a pattern in the intercepts that turns out to be strategically critical.

 "All those troops are on the move now because of us," she says wonderingly to a friend as they prepare to go to sleep that night. "Not bad for a few ordinary girls in a tin hut." And then the credits roll, rather literally in this case with a close-up of the revolving drums of the bombe, the primitive computer built to assist in breaking the Enigma code.

What you see next looks like a cipher, a meaningless string of numbers and letters. And then you see the wool and the needles. That's Susan's plight right there. Reduced from weaving world history to working out knitting patterns. And what her friend replies – "You couldn't be ordinary if you tried" – is the cue for the drama that follows.

Susan really does try. She gets married, has children, keeps house and knits. But it isn't quite enough to satisfy her and she feeds her passion for unravelling by following the details of a series of local murders, creating a kind of crime board on the back of her dressing-table mirror. When she thinks she's spotted another pattern she goes to the police. Naturally, she encounters male condescension, failure and a galling consolation from her careerist mouse of a husband: "I'll buy you a new book of puzzles," he says. So Susan decides to go it alone in tracking a man she believes is a serial killer and calls in the assistance of her wartime friends: Millie is "good with maps", Jean can boss her way into official archives and Lucy functions as a kind of human hard-drive, absorbing masses of facts and spitting them back out on demand.

It's a good idea, powering a crime mystery with the frustrated intelligence of clever women. But it needed to be a little cleverer itself about the intractability of the world it was depicting. You could just about believe that Susan's husband might get her a meeting with a senior police officer to lay out her theory. But her explanation of her thinking was then so sketchy that it seemed incredible he would reassign policemen to search where she'd directed. And the post-war London shown here is at one moment crisply real – as when the women work their way through local train timetables to try and work out how the killer is selecting his victims – and at the next magically pliable.

The women just seem to stumble on the location of the final victim by lucky chance, and there's no exploration of the complications that might follow on such a discovery. Writers should remember that audiences are often much smarter than they're given credit for. They can't always be fobbed off with a book of puzzles.

Female empowerment was also the theme of Hilary Devey: Women at the Top in which the Cruella de Vil type from Dragons' Den explored women's continued exclusion from senior jobs. The gimmick here was that Devey began by thinking the only problem was female commitment. If she could do it, she said, so could anyone. There was no such thing as the glass ceiling, she announced, and if women had to work harder to achieve the same as men, well... tough. She had her mind changed (I think), not least by the discovery that the most gender-balanced departments in her own business were delivering the best profit. If you're a woman and you fancy the idea of driving a fork lift truck, it might be worth giving her a call.

twitter.com/tds153

Arts and Entertainment
Matthew Healy of The 1975 performing on the Pyramid Stage at the Glastonbury Festival, at Worthy Farm in Somerset

music
Arts and Entertainment
booksThe Withnail and I creator, has a new theory about killer's identity
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
tvDick Clement and Ian La Frenais are back for the first time in a decade
Arts and Entertainment
The Clangers: 1969-1974
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Rocky road: Dwayne Johnson and Carla Gugino play an estranged husband and wife in 'San Andreas'
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Nicole Kidman plays Grace Kelly in the film, which was criticised by Monaco’s royal family

film
Arts and Entertainment
Emilia Clarke could have been Anastasia Steele in Fifty Shades of Grey but passed it up because of the nude scenes

film
Arts and Entertainment
A$AP Rocky and Rita Ora pictured together in 2012

music
Arts and Entertainment
A case for Mulder and Scully? David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson in ‘The X-Files’

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Impressions of the Creative Community Courtyard within d3. The development is designed to 'inspire emerging designers and artists, and attract visitors'

architecture
Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010

GlastonburyWI to make debut appearance at Somerset festival

Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister

TV reviewIt has taken seven episodes for Game of Thrones season five to hit its stride

Arts and Entertainment
Jesuthasan Antonythasan as Dheepan

FilmPalme d'Or goes to radical and astonishing film that turns conventional thinking about immigrants on its head

Arts and Entertainment
Måns Zelmerlöw performing

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
Graham Norton was back in the commentating seat for Eurovision 2015

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Hammond, Jeremy Clarkson and James May on stage

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The light stuff: Britt Robertson and George Clooney in ‘Tomorrowland: a World Beyond’
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Reawakening: can Jon Hamm’s Don Draper find enlightenment in the final ‘Mad Men’?
tv reviewNot quite, but it's an enlightening finale for Don Draper spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Breakfast Show’s Nick Grimshaw

Radio
Arts and Entertainment

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
'Youth' cast members Paul Dano, Jane Fonda, Harvey Keitel, Rachel Weisz, and Michael Caine pose for photographers at Cannes Film Festival
film
Arts and Entertainment
Adam West as Batman and Burt Ward and Robin in the 1960s Batman TV show

Comics
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

    Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

    Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
    Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

    The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

    Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
    Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

    The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

    Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
    The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

    The future of songwriting

    How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
    William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

    Recognition at long last

    Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
    Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

    Beating obesity

    The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
    9 best women's festival waterproofs

    Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

    These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
    Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

    Wiggins worried

    Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
    Liverpool close in on Milner signing

    Liverpool close in on Milner signing

    Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
    On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

    On your feet!

    Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
    With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

    The big NHS question

    Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
    Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

    Thongs ain't what they used to be

    Big knickers are back
    Thurston Moore interview

    Thurston Moore interview

    On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
    In full bloom

    In full bloom

    Floral print womenswear
    From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

    From leading man to Elephant Man

    Bradley Cooper is terrific