Channel 4 commissions Alan Turing documentary
"One day, ladies will be walking their computers in the park and saying 'do you know, my little computer said a very funny thing to me this morning!'" Alan Turing, 1951.
Channel 4 Commissioning Editor for History Julia Harrington has commissioned Furnace Television to make The Hero of Station X (w/t), due for transmission on Channel 4 in the autumn. This drama documentary examines the life and legacy of Alan Turing, the brilliant British mathematician who, in World War Two, broke the Enigma code, saving countless lives; who invented the digital computer, pioneered artificial intelligence and was one of the first to discover morphogenesis, the mathematical basis of living things.
Turing was a genius and a visionary who foresaw the digital world in which we now live and who believed machines would one day think. In the eyes of scientists today Turing sits alongside Isaac Newton, Albert Einstein and Charles Darwin at the table of scientific greats. But he was also openly homosexual at a time when homosexuality was illegal. In 1952 Turing was convicted of "gross indecency" with another man and underwent so called ‘organotherapy' or chemical castration. Two years later, he killed himself, aged just 41, with cyanide. Disgraced in the eyes of the intelligence and scientific communities, the importance of his ideas has long been obscured.
In the last 18 months of his short life, Turing visited a psychiatrist, Dr Franz Greenbaum, who, fascinated by Turing's mind and theories, tried to help him. To bring Turing and his ideas to life, this film dramatizes these sessions between Turing and Greenbaum, based on Turing's writings and accounts of those who knew him. Each session deals with one of his key ideas or a chapter in his controversial life, and shows the terrible pressures that may have contributed to his suicide. The film features interviews with contemporary experts from the world of technology and high science who will bring Turing's exciting contributions right up to date, illustrating that in many ways modern technology has only just begun to explore the potential of Turing's ideas. It also includes the testimony of people who actually knew him and who remember his technicolour exuberance and genius first hand, some of whom have never spoken before.
The Hero of Station X is written by Craig Warner whose credits include The Queen's Sister for Channel 4, which was nominated for several BAFTA awards, Maxwell and The Fall of the Lehman Brothers. The cast includes Ed Stoppard (Upstairs, Downstairs, Any Human Heart) as Alan Turing and Henry Goodman (The Damned United, Olivier award for Best Actor in 2000 for his role as Shylock in The Merchant of Venice and in 1993 for Stephen Sondheim's musical Assassins) as Turing's psychiatrist.
Julia Harrington says, "Turing is a fascinating and controversial figure who lived before his time. He's an incredibly inspiring character who deserves to be a hero beyond the world of the technophiles, who already sit at his feet."
Executive producer Paul Sen says, "Alan Turing is the great unsung hero of British science. We are only just beginning to appreciate the importance and relevance of his ideas. This is a great opportunity to bring his story to a primetime Channel 4 audience."