The Wednesday Play: Breaking The Code (1996)

Alan Turing, war hero

Probably one of the biggest British heroes of the Second World War was Alan Turing. Indeed, although he can’t be said to have won the war, without him, it’s very possible we would have lost it, such was his contribution. Because Turing, after whom the famous ‘Turing Test‘ is named, was the mathematician responsible for large parts not only of the Allies’ code-breaking efforts, focusing particularly on Germany’s Enigma machines, but some of the foundations of computing theory that are in use today even now.

So how did we reward him after the war? Well, he was gay so naturally we threatened to put him in prison, which prompted him to commit suicide. Well done us.

The story of Turing’s life was turned into a stage play, Breaking The Code, which the BBC adapted in 1996 in association with PBS in the US, with Derek Jacobi as Turing. As with all stage plays turned into TV plays, differing runtimes meant that cuts and changes had to be made, so arguably the TV version is a slightly inferior piece in comparison to the original. It also didn’t help that PBS asked for a speech on mathematics delivered by Jacobi to be cut because ‘Americans won’t understand it.’ Oh dear.

But despite the shorter runtime, it’s well worth a watch, especially if you’d never heard of Turing until now. Enjoy!

  • JustStark

    It's far from certain that Turing did commit suicide, you know. So one might suggest it is better to give him the benefit of the doubt and assume he didn't.