a docudrama by Clare Beavan
2011 | 62 mins | UK
›› Britain's Greatest Codebreaker
the life and troubled times of noted mathematician Alan Turing.
Britain's Greatest Codebreaker by Clare Beavan Screened by Channel 4 as part of their continued contribution to gay themed dramas, here we find the life and troubled times of noted mathematician Alan Turing laid bare, as this insightful work pays tribute to Britain's greatest codebreaker.

Rightly remembered for his sterling work at Bletchley Park during World War II that by way of having devised a technique termed Turingery, helped speed the end of the conflict itself by ultimately cracking the German Naval Enigma code. Then again, perhaps this was of no surprise given and as this informative docudrama illustrated, Turing's cryptanalytic brain was years ahead of its time, having gone on to ponder the basis of morphogenesis, let alone pioneering the concept of artificial intelligence.

Britain's Greatest Codebreaker by Clare Beavan Only the British government did not view his genius in the same light, as his contemporaries. Open about his homosexuality at a time in which it was unwise to do so, Turing upon a robbery at his home on the 23rd January, 1952, gave an all too candid account to the authorities, who promptly turned their attention instead to his then illegal sexuality. Arrested and duly convicted for an act of gross indecency, the same law that had been used against Oscar Wilde, Turing rather than face imprisonment, opted for probation so as to continue with his work, conditional on his agreement to undergo hormonal treatment; aka chemical castration. Subject to a series of injections of the female hormone oestrogen, the effects on his body and some would argue his mind, are open to debate. Officially committing suicide by way of cyanide poisoning, Turing died on the 7th June, 1954; a matter of weeks before his 42nd birthday.

Yet and in as much as this revealing insight into a largely unsung hero is intercut with a series of contributions from experts in the field of technology, including Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, the human aspect of it comes in the form of scripted conversations between Ed Stoppard as Alan Turing and his subsequent sessions, seven months after his conviction in 1952, with Dr Franz Greenbaum, here played by Henry Goodman as his caring physiologist, sequences that give way to touching recollections from Greenbaum's two daughters of times spent with the man himself, when he would visit the home of Greenbaum as a friend. Both actors wonderfully play their parts, even if given the constraints of the script by Craig Warner and its time line, Turing's sexuality is all but reduced to the narrative variety. That said, this work does go out of its way to rightly acknowledge the questioning scientific mindset that Turing found in Christopher Morcom, a close school friend and eternal love of his life who gave Turing the desire to achieve, but who would tragically succumb to TB before the start of Turing's Cambridge years.

That the man who Winston Churchill would credit as having made the single biggest contribution to Allied victory would later come to be treated as a criminal solely on account of his sexuality, by the very country that he helped save, would result with Prime Minister Gordon Brown making an official "we're sorry; you deserved so much better" public apology on behalf of the British Government in September 2009. Granted a posthumous Royal Pardon by Queen Elizabeth II in 2013, the real tragedy remains that and like Wilde himself, we are left to wonder what these brilliant minds would have further achieved, had their sexuality not been such an unnecessary cause for concern.

Gay Visibility - covert. 
Nudity - none. 
Overall - file under ... 3+ stars. 
a Channel 4 docudrama premiere: Monday.21.November.2011.
starring: Ed Stoppard as Alan Turing and Henry Goodman as Dr Franz Greenbaum.
with contributions from experts in the field of technology and those who knew the man himself.
intercut with archive footage / memorabilia and the words of Turing biographer,
David Leavitt. Narrated by Paul McGann.
Revised and Updated: March 2015.
Copyright 2015 David Hall - www.gaycelluloid.com.
archive reference #448
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