Monday, 26 May 2008

Did Hut 33 actually exist?

No. There were a number of real huts, namely Huts 1, 3, 4, 6, 7, 8, 10, 11, 14 and I read somewhere about a Hut 17. I also don't know why there wasn't a Hut 2, 5, 9, 12 and 13 to speak of. But then, this was a place for mathematicians, so maybe there is a sequence buried in those numbers in some complex logarithm. That said, there was plenty of linguists, musicians and brains from all disciplines so perhpas its not a maths puzzle at all.

The point is Hut 33 is a fictional, outlying, also-ran hut created on purpose for Archie, Charles, Gordon, Josh and Minka. When I originally thought of setting a sitcom in Bletchley Park, the show was called 'Hut 6'. It scanned nicely as a title and had something about it. Perhaps it was because this was a famous hut (You can read about the goings on and its personnnel here.) But it was mainly out of respect for these wonderful, intelligent men that I veered away from taking a real hut and moved towards inventing one.

I therefore hoped to avoid causing offence on those grounds. In this, I still failed. The first series was criticised on BBC Radio 4's Feedback programme by a veteran of Bletchley Park who said life in the huts was nothing like that portrayed in the sit-com. I am relieved that this was the case, or else we might have lost the war. (I suspect occupied France did not resemble that portrayed in Allo Allo). But this is what happens when you set a sit-com in a specific place. People complain. I remember a sitcom a few years ago called 'Chalk', set in a school. Lots of teachers complained about that. It's right and good that people complain and voice their opinions. It's a free country. It's why we fought the war in the first place.

So where did the number '33' come from?
It seemed the right number, despite not being a prime. In case you didn't know, prime numbers are funnier than non-Prime numbers. I don't know why. They just are. It explains why 17, 19, and 37 crop up in comedy disproportionately often. A friend suggested whether 'Hut 33' was a reference to Catch 22. Subliminally, it may well have been. I read Catch 22 round about the time I was writing the pilot of the show.

What is the fictional role of Hut 33?
In Series 1, our regular characters are breaking Italian Naval codes. It's worth noting that, despite jokes about the inadequacies of the Italian Army, the Italian Navy were rather handy and cause the Allies plenty of strife in the Mediterranean. In some ways, their role felt too important given their ineptitude and bickering so in Series 2, Hut 33 have been demoted to Norway. Norway was invaded and overrun in 1940 in Operation Weserübung. The fight did not last long. Thereafter, Norway was something of a backwater, with a hint of excitement in its heavy water plants, which does crop up in Series 2 at some point.