‘Four Lives’ provokes anger from BBC One viewers that Port was able to strike again

Stephen Merchant as Stephen Port
Stephen Merchant as Stephen Port in 'Four Lives’ (Image credit: BBC)

The dramatisation of serial killer Stephen Port's murders, Four Lives, began on BBC One and murders aside the subsequent bungled police investigation came in for particular criticism as many watching grew angry that he was allowed to kill again.

The so-called 'Grindr Killer’ drugged, raped and murdered four young gay men in Barking, Essex between 2014-2015.

It was a shock to some viewers that comic star Stephen Merchant was playing a person as twisted as Port. 

One viewer tweeted: "Im not sure I've ever seen Stephen Merchant play a straight role before. It'll take a while for me not to expect some cheeky quip I suspect.”

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The Barking & Dagenham Metropolitan Police immediately looked conflicted, dismissively quizzing first victim Anthony Walgate’s neighbour China about his sexuality.

Four Lives viewers were quick to realise Port wasn’t the only wrongdoer in this story.

One person wrote: “15mins in #FourLives and I know the police incompetence is going to make me angry.”

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Another viewer shocked by the developments wrote: “Total ineptitude and insensitivity of the police is pretty obvious so far isn’t it?”

“Watching #FourLives and absolutely appalled at the horror show Barking & Dagenham Met were…” said another.

Sheridan Smith as Anthony’s mother Sarah Sak looked certain to be the hero of the drama, if anyone could be titled that in such a terrible story.

One viewer wrote: “Sheridan Smith is an amazing actress there isn’t a role she can’t play”.

Another posted: “Sheridan Smith on BBC right now, Maxine Peake on ITV at the same time - we are so blessed to have these two amazing actresses #FourLives #Anne”.

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One viewer pointed out the horrible incongruity of Four Lives and how the investigation was mishandled: “Watching the prejudiced, casual and dismissive way the police handled this case makes it feel like these must be events from decades ago, rather than just a few short years”.

The drama provoked strong reactions from many gay men. “#FourLives so many mixed emotions! Sad at the loss of the 4 men and think of the poor friends and family. Anger at the police and their inability to catch Port before he killed more. Scared at the thought of how little we think of our safety when hooking up!” one man posted.

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The creative team behind Four Lives drew special praise for the way they’re telling the story. “I really like that they’ve avoided showing gore & violence and instead give us an insight into who the actual victims were #FourLives”, according to one person watching.

Four Lives continues on BBC One on Tuesday and Wednesday nights.

Patrick McLennan

Patrick McLennan is a London-based journalist and documentary maker who has worked as a writer, sub-editor, digital editor and TV producer in the UK and New Zealand. His CV includes spells as a news producer at the BBC and TVNZ, as well as web editor for Time Inc UK. He has produced TV news and entertainment features on personalities as diverse as Nick Cave, Tom Hardy, Clive James, Jodie Marsh and Kevin Bacon and he co-produced and directed The Ponds, which has screened in UK cinemas, BBC Four and is currently available on Netflix. 

An entertainment writer with a diverse taste in TV and film, he lists Seinfeld, The Sopranos, The Chase, The Thick of It and Detectorists among his favourite shows, but steers well clear of most sci-fi.