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Program Title
Breaking the Code

Based On
Stage play by Hugh Whitemore and a book by Alan Hodges

Adapted By
Hugh Whitemore

Number of Episodes:

'Breaking the Code' tells the story of the mathematical genius, Alan Turing, who, seconded to the top secret Bletchley Park during World War II, was responsible for designing the first computer which enabled the allies to crack the German Enigma code and, some would argue, win the war. It was on Churchill's specific instructions that Turing was given all he resources he required--and his personal behavior tolerated. Turing was a practicing homosexual at a time when it was illegal. At Bletchley Park, Turing encounters his new boss, Dillwyn Knox who immediately recognizes Turing's genius. And perhaps his sexual predilictions. Whilst discussing the practical applications of scientific research, Turing speaks what is perhaps the central line of the play: 'I have always been willing--indeed eager--to accept moral responsibility for what I do.' It was that uncompromising stance, plus his perhaps unworldly genius, which was Turing's strength when it came to scientific research, but also his personal undoing...

Original broadcast date

Cast Characters
Derek Jacobi Alan Turing
Harold Pinter John Smith
Prunella Scales Sara Turing
Amanda Root Pat Green
Alun Armstrong Mick Ross
Richard Johnson Dilwyn Knox
Julian Kerridge Ron Miller
Blake Ritson Christopher Morcom
William Mannering Young Alan Turing

Executive Producer: John Drury
Producer: Jack Emery
Director: Herbert Wise

BREAKING THE CODE/Intro by Russell Baker

In World War Two the Germans came up with what seemed to be an unbreakable code called Enigma. This is one of the machines they used to encode and decode their messages.

Among other things, the Germans used the code to position their so-called submarine wolf packs on the Atlantic shipping lanes. These submarines were sinking British shipping at a prodigious rate in what Winston Churchill called the Battle of the Atlantic.

Churchill worried that Britain would be starved into defeat -- unless the submarine campaign was stopped.

Breaking the Enigma code was one way to stop it. If the British could read Enigma messages, their navy could locate and destroy the subs.

"Breaking the Code" is based on incidents in the life of a mathematical wizard named Alan Turing.

Turing was a key figure in solving the Enigma puzzle, but he was important for other reasons too.

Before the war -- when he was still in his twenties -- he pioneered the development of the digital computer and even pushed the theory that computers could be made capable of thinking.

Men like Turing are usually hard to take for government people who need their brains but fear they're too different from you and me to be entirely trustworthy.

Turing may be a hero for breaking one code. But in tonight's story, breaking another makes others see him as a threat to society.

Incidentally, Derek Jacobi's stammer in tonight's performance is not an effort to repeat something he did marvelously in "I, Claudius." The real Alan Turing also stammered.

Now complete in one episode, Breaking the Code.

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