He has been an inspiration to members of my family for hundreds of years and it came as a shock to see him featured in the BBC historical drama Gunpowder, clearly represented as being “in on the plot”. The characterisation of Fr Gerard was so far removed from all historical accounts that I believed it could only have been a deliberate misrepresentation.
I complained to the BBC that the priest they called “Fr Gerard” was an entirely fictitious character, and that it was unethical to use the name of a real person whom the drama was implicating in a serious crime.
The BBC did not dispute my comments, but its guidelines for historical dramas allow substantial leeway in departing from the facts. They clearly need to be changed.
This was followed by a historical documentary series on BBC Two, Elizabeth I’s Secret Agents. In this series, Fr Gerard was given a starring role at the centre of the Gunpowder Plot, suggesting not only that he had prior knowledge of it, but also that he supported it and, most offensively, that he blessed the plot “in the Blood of Christ”. It was clearly stated that he played a leading role in devising the plot. . . .
Working through the BBC’s complaints process took a great deal of patience and tenacity: it involved at least six exchanges of letters, as the complaint gradually filtered up to the top level. The eventual outcome, however, was a great credit to the corporation. It accepted that the programmes were “seriously misleading” and a “breach of editorial standards”. It has agreed to publish an apology on its website and has had the series re-edited to reflect my complaints, prior to re-broadcast. I could hardly have asked for more.
The Jesuits in Britain website also reported on this story. Here's their biography of this intrepid missionary: