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Radio / Hut 33

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Charles, Josh, and Archie

Radio 4's Hut 33, written by James Cary and produced by Adam Bromley.

Bletchley Park, 1941. As WWII rolls on, the men and women at Bletchley work tirelessly to break German codes, matching wits with the fabled Enigma Machine.

When they aren't too busy bickering with one another, and otherwise having the most ridiculous war imaginable.

Archie (Tom Goodman-Hill) is a working-class Geordie who was rejected from Oxford by a pompous don for not knowing how to use a fish fork properly. Years later, this don re-enters his life when Charles (Robert Bathurst) is assigned to act as their hut's resident linguistics expert. Mutual hate ensues between the working-class, socialist Archie, and arrogant, old-monied, conservative Charles.

Also stationed in Hut 33 are young prodigy Gordon (Fergus Craig), IQ 196, whose mother won't let him wear proper trousers until he turns 18, and the ever-silent Winstanley. They are overseen by Third Lieutenant Joshua Featherstonehaugh-Marshall (surname pronounced 'Fanshaw', played by Alex MacQueen), kicked upstairs for driving an entire tank regiment into the sea ("The colours on the map were very misleading. I honestly thought that blue meant 'sky'."). Polish resistance fighter Minka (Olivia Colman) often drops in — with varying degrees of literalness — and rounding out the cast is cheerful, lascivious Mrs. Best (Lill Roughley), proprietor of the local pub.

Tropes that appear in this work include:

  • Abhorrent Admirer: Mrs. B to Charles.
  • Action Girl: Minka.
  • Ax-Crazy: Minka, who carries a Bren gun everywhere and is delighted to be presented with rusty barbed wire as a Christmas present.
  • Cheese-Eating Surrender Monkeys: Charles and Minka's opinion of the French. Minka's opinion of the French Resistance is equally unflattering.
    Minka: Ooh, I am French Resistance! I work in cafe in Paris, and sometimes I serve Nazi officers croissant that is not quite fresh!
  • Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Winstanley is not mentioned after the fourth episode.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: 3rd Lieutenant Josh Featherstonehaugh-Marshall, who was equally sad to find out that Santa and Winston Churchill don't exist, and reports that the Germans are fielding armies of flying monkeys after seeing a "newsreel" in London. His advice during a bombing raid is to "stand very still. They'll go away!"
    • Josh's father, General "Crusher" Featherstonehaugh-Marshall, combines this with Ax-Crazy. Has mistakenly invaded Denmark, Switzerland and Chad.
    Josh: He says, "When you attack the enemy, scream and shout as you do so."
    Archie: That reminds me. How did his raid on Dieppe go?
    Josh: Very badly. It was almost as if the Germans knew we were coming.
    • The Cuckoolander Was Right: However Crusher did attempt to lead a tank assault on Berlin, but was rebuked by Field Marshall Haig, who objected to anyone advancing more than 15 miles.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Archie
  • Department of Redundancy Department: One of Minka's similes on silence is "as quiet as a dead Nazi lying dead in the snow... Dead."
  • Double Agent: In one episode, Mrs. Best.
  • Extended Disarming: Applies to Minka on several occasions.
  • Genius Bonus: A few times that actual code breaking is talked about, there can be mention of something used by the historic Bletchley Park breakers, for example breaking Italian codes by looking for double letters in words that might be part of the encoded message.
  • Gentleman Snarker: Charles
  • Hidden Depths: Mrs. Best was stuck in Berlin during the last war, has slept with many of the current German High Command, knows how to use a luger, and is the contact point for a German spy - and captures the spy for MI5. No-one thinks to wonder if she is more than she seems.
  • Historical In-Joke: Many, which is fitting given the setting. For example, Charles admits he may have been friends with Gavrilo Princip, and have suggested a place to stand to get a good-sight line of Arch-Duke Ferdinand.
  • I Call Her "Vera": Minka has names for several of her weapons, including "Mr. Choppy-Chop" the knife.
  • It Will Never Catch On: The "I-tube", an inter-hut communications system. Gordon envisions it one day spanning the globe in a massive interconnected network, and it will be called ... "The World Wide Spider!"
    • Charles' higher cause: "Of course I don't want Germany to win. Imagine what Europe would be like if everything got standardized, measured and regulated! I'm fighting this war to make sure that never happens."
  • Kicked Upstairs: Josh, after losing an entire tank battalion by driving it into the English Channel. He is also demoted to Third Lieutenant - a rank created specifically for him to make him the lowest ranking commissioned officer in the British army!
  • Mother Russia Makes You Strong: (Polish version.) As a contrast to the British men, who range from polite to effete, Minka is the sort of woman who can probably strangle a cow and believes that the way to a man's heart is through using a bayonet.
  • Ninja Maid: Minka is, ostensibly, the Hut 33's secretary. She rarely seems to be doing any secretarial duties, however, and is more often found keeping guard or performing interrogations.
  • Oop North: Archie. Charles has strong prejudices against anywhere north of, roughly, London.
  • Really Gets Around: Mrs. Best. Name any prominent figure of the period and she will announce, "I've had 'im."
  • Running Gag: Several.
    • Minka appears out of nowhere, and everyone screams in fright.
    • Another Minka: "When Nazis invade your country you learn to move silently, like...", then adding something such as " With Bren gun."
    • Mrs. Best turns out to have had sex with someone famous.
    • Charles turns out to have known a famous Nazi.
  • Stealth Hi/Bye: Minka's preferred method of dropping in. It tends to terrify everyone else in the room.
  • Stiff Upper Lip: Charles, as a consummate gentleman, likes to believe he has this.
  • Super Gullible: Josh. Both his Sandhurst classmates and hutmates routinely play "games" with him like "Josh Overboard," "Josh in the Middle of the Scottish Highlands," "Five Shillings Short" and "bet you can't find me a bottle of Special Reserve sherry."
    • Freddy, an American tourist who buys photographs from the Radcliffe Camera for a hundred pounds a pop.
  • Take That!: Numerous.
    • From the time the team was nearly sent to Iraq: "Even the Nazis wouldn't be so barbaric as to bomb an ancient city like Baghdad!"
    • Minka: "Cardiff make me homesick. It look just like Warsaw, after Nazi destroy it."
    • When playing Monopoly: "In what insane world would it cost £200 to get a train from King's Cross?"
  • Token Evil Teammate: Sorta. Certainly this is Archie's view of Charles. While Charles has spoken in favor of some of Hitler's practices (and ability to organize), he dreads Germany homogenizing Europe according to their standards of cuisine. Archie thinks he's a fascist, but he's mostly just arrogant and exceedingly privileged, rather than a full-on Nazi sympathizer. Charles is also quick to point out that he didn't edit Mein Kampf, but just was in Wittenburg when a proof copy happened to turn up on his desk.
    • Charles knew several Nazis socially before the war, and Archie insinuates others. In one episode it is revealed that he taught one at Oxford, accepting him over Archie because "he was bright, well-read and not from Newcastle."
  • Too Dumb to Live: Characters often wonder just how Josh is still alive.
  • Unusual Euphemism: Mrs. Best's descriptions of famous people she's had sex with
    • Admiral Doenitz: "I'm not playing Up Periscope again."
    • Albert Einstein: "I'd patent some of the things he could do with a slide rule."
  • Victoria's Secret Compartment: Minka often produces a knife when there is no readily obvious place it could have been hidden. When asked where she was keeping it, she replies simply "Secret place".
  • World War II: The setting is Bletchley Park at the height of the war.
  • Wrote the Book: Charles didn't write Mein Kampf but, in his words, may have been in Wittenberg working as a book editor in the 1920s when he was handed a proof version and he gave a few edit suggestions.