Against the Law

Powerful factual drama of Peter Wildeblood and the infamous Montagu Trial

Feature-length factual drama Against the Law is part of the BBC’s Gay Britannia season, following the true story of gay journalist Peter Wildeblood, whose illicit love affair with another man was one of the turning points in the path to the legalisation of homosexuality in the UK. Against the Law is interspersed with touching testimonials from elderly gay men who lived in fear of truly expressing themselves throughout the 1950s.

“Here was all of the wit and compassion you find in Wildeblood’s prose, combined with emotions I’d hitherto only been able rather half-heartedly to imagine: bewilderment, fear, agonising pain.”

Rachel Cooke, The New Statesman

Against the aw
Against the Law
“I’m incredibly proud to be part of a drama that tells such an important real-life story. Peter Wildeblood is a fascinating, complex, yet flawed character from a time when being a gay man in Britain was incredibly difficult”

Daniel Mays

The detail

Daniel Mays (Line Of Duty, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Public Enemies) stars in BBC Two’s powerful factual drama as Peter Wildeblood, a thoughtful and private gay journalist whose lover Eddie McNally (played by newcomer to television, Richard Gadd), under pressure from the authorities, turned Queen’s evidence against him in one of the most explosive court cases of the 1950s - the infamous Montagu Trial.

More than ten years before the decriminalisation of homosexual acts in 1967, Peter Wildeblood, and his friends Lord Montagu (Mark Edel-Hunt) and Michael Pitt-Rivers, were found guilty of homosexual offences and jailed.

With his career in tatters and his private life painfully exposed, Wildeblood began his sentence a broken man, but he emerged from Wormwood Scrubs a year later determined to do all he could to change the way these draconian laws against homosexuality impacted on the lives of men like him. The drama also features Mark Gatiss (Taboo, Sherlock) as Wildeblood’s prison psychiatrist, Doctor Landers and Charlie Creed-Miles (Ripper Street, Peaky Blinders) as Superintendent Jones.

Woven through this powerful drama is real-life testimony from a chorus of men who lived through those dark days, when homosexuals were routinely imprisoned or forced to undergo chemical aversion therapy in an attempt to cure them of their "condition". There is also testimony from a retired police officer whose job it was to enforce these laws, and a former psychiatric nurse who administered the so-called cures. All of these accounts serve to amplify the themes of the drama and help to immerse us in the reality of a dark chapter in our recent past, a past still within the reach of living memory.

Written by Brian Fillis, Against the Law is directed by Fergus O’Brien, produced by Scott James Bassett and executive produced by Aysha Rafaele, Creative Director of The Documentary Unit, BBC Studios.

Made by The Documentary Unit, Against the Law was broadcast on BBC Two in July 2017 as part of the BBC’s Gay Britannia series.