The Bletchley Circle TV Poster Image

The Bletchley Circle



Dark murder mystery features smart women.
  • Network: PBS
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 2012

What parents need to know

Positive messages

The series sends many implicit pro-woman messages, though they are wrapped in a sensational murder mystery in which women are stalked and killed.

Positive role models

The quartet of strong women at the center of The Bletchley Circle are smart and hardworking and may make young viewers more interested in math and science.


Women are bound and gagged and scream piteously as a man looms over them; another woman is hit hard in the face; women are stalked and the viewer sees dead, bruised, half-naked bodies. Actual murders/deaths happen offscreen but we hear about "post-mortem penetration" and other graphic murder details. references to sexual assault and harassment.


Audiences see a vintage pornographic picture of a woman with her breasts exposed. There are references to prostitution, attempted sexual assaults, and a woman's boss suggests she have sex with him to pay him back for a favor.


Some rough language: "Bloody hell!" A woman tells a man that no woman will "screw" him.

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Many characters smoke and drink; one character drinks and then is violent towards his wife.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that The Bletchley Circle is a period murder mystery centered on a group of female sleuths. Audiences will see victims stalked and menaced, bound and gagged, screaming piteously. In other scenes, viewers see dead bodies being caressed by a faceless man, women being hit in the face, and bruised corpses. Actual violence and murder usually occurs offscreen, but there is a disturbing near-rape involving a main character in peril. Breasts are visible in a shot of vintage pornography. Characters frequently smoke and drink; one character drinks and then abuses his wife. There are double entendres about prostitution. A man threatens to fire a female employee for not having sex with him.

Kids say

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What's the story?

Officially, THE BLETCHLEY CIRCLE's Millie (Rachael Stirling), Susan (Anna Maxwell Martin), Lucy (Sophie Rundle), and Jean (Julie Graham) did clerical work during World War II. In reality, the women were part of a group of military codebreakers who helped the Allies win the war. Nine years later, they've all moved on with their lives. That is, until Susan starts seeing a pattern in reports of a British serial killer preying on young women. She thinks with the help of her three ex-coworkers, she can find the killer. The only problem? He might find them first.

Is it any good?


There's a thrilling moment in the first episode of The Bletchley Circle in which Susan assembles a crime-fighting team like she's putting together a vintage British all-female Justice League. Lucy's got an photographic memory, Susan's good with patterns, Millie handles maps, and Jean's a rough-and-tumble black marketeer who knows how to get secret official information. Yeah, Bletchley Circle! Wonder Twins power, activate!

Yet the Circle's crime-fighting team spends more time poring through railroad timetables and cross-referencing maps than chasing criminals over rooftops, so the action might be a little slow for those who like their serial killer dramas to be bam-bam-bam! The Bletchley Circle is more akin to an old Sherlock Holmes mystery than a modern crime drama, with plenty of plot twists and deductive leaps of logic; Agatha Christie appreciators should take note. Fans of lushly styled period shows like Mad Men will also enjoy the show's vintage details, from old school hats and hairstyles to plot points involving food rationing coupons and newspapers tucked under a commuter's arm.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about why murder mysteries are such an enduring staple of television drama. Think about some modern murder mysteries such as Law & Order and The Killing. How is The Bletchley Circle alike? How is it different?

  • PBS has been making many period dramas that involve historical settings, such as Downton Abbey and Mr. Selfridge. Why do you think PBS in particular favors period shows such as these? Does the historical time period read as more cultured or intellectual? Why?

  • Why do so many shows feature male serial killers stalking young, attractive women? Why would an audience find that scenario particularly compelling?

TV details

Premiere date:September 6, 2012
Cast:Anna Maxwell Martin, Julie Graham, Rachael Stirling, Sophie Rundle
Topics:Great girl role models
TV rating:TV-14
Available on:DVD

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What parents and kids say

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Adult Written byoliverseal November 8, 2014

Trauma trigger: Dialog and some scenes reference necrophilia and rape

I believe this show is mis-rated at TV-14. I think it's actually a very good show, but the there are some intense scenes dealing with rape or necrophilia that shouldn't be viewed by anyone that isn't old enough to deal with the intensity associated with sexual assault depiction. There are a few scenes that would definitely be trauma triggers for anyone that has been a victim of sexual assault. Again, it's actually great story-telling and there are a lot of great things about the show, but it should be viewed by a mature mind who can deal with violence that is a little too-close-to-real sometimes.
What other families should know
Great role models
Too much sex
Parent Written byCSM Screen name... January 31, 2014

Very engaging

Be forewarned- a necrophilia reference. Not something most kids will have encountered in a television program. It does have a few intense images of a murder victim. Strong female characters.