Skip to main content

'Freddie Mercury: The Final Act': all you need to know about the BBC's documentary on the Queen singer's last days

'Freddie Mercury: The Final Act' will also show Queen performing in their heyday.
'Freddie Mercury: The Final Act' will also show Queen performing in their heyday. (Image credit: BBC/Getty)

Freddie Mercury: The Final Act is a new feature-length documentary on BBC2 that reveals how the Queen frontman hid his deadly AIDS diagnosis from the world and what happened in the flamboyant singer's heartbreaking last few years and months. With an air date of Saturday Nov. 27 at 9pm on BBC2, this documentary also features  interviews with Freddie's bandmates Brian May and Roger Taylor, plus Brian's wife — former EastEnders star Anita Dobson — and Freddie’s sister Kashmira Bulsara, all sharing their memories of this heartbreaking time.

In 1986 Queen were one of the biggest rock bands in the world. But just a year after a world tour, two sell-out shows at Wembley and the release of their worldwide hit A Kind of Magic, the band’s flamboyant frontman Freddie Mercury was secretly diagnosed with AIDS.

"There were signs something was wrong. We’d seen him disappearing and coming back with these kind of burns to his skin," says Freddie's fellow bandmate, Queen guitarist Brian May, in BBC2’s moving 90-minute film Freddie Mercury: The Final Act to mark the 30th anniversary of Freddie Mercury’s death. 

"Eventually Freddie sat down and said, ‘okay you guys probably know what’s going on with me. I don’t want to talk about it. I just want to keep on making music for as long as I can.’ And that was it."

Due to the stigma surrounding AIDS at the time, the band were forced to deny press rumours that anything was wrong. But Freddie Mercury’s health deteriorated rapidly and, by the time Queen accepted the award for Outstanding Contribution to British Music at the BRITs in 1990, it was clear he was very ill.

'Freddie Mercury: The Final Act' will show Queen at the 1990 BRITs that revealed how ill Freddie really was.

'Freddie Mercury: The Final Act' will show Queen at the 1990 BRITs that revealed how ill Freddie really was. (Image credit: Getty)

'Freddie Mercury: The Final Act' — the singer's last year, death and legacy

In May 1991, Freddie filmed the music video for the hit These Are The Days of Our Lives, which turned out to be his last. "By then he was finding  it hard to walk, and he was even finding it hard to sit because he was in a lot of pain. But he never complained, never," says Brian May.

"He could barely stand then, so it was a very brave thing to do," adds Queen drummer Roger Taylor. "But he wanted to do it and do it he did. It was like a goodbye. It was very moving."

During the last two weeks of Freddie’s life, the press camped outside his London home, as Freddie  made the decision to stop taking the drugs keeping him alive. 

On 24 November 1991 Freddie fell into a coma and died, just 24 hours after revealing his AIDS diagnosis to the world. But as this BBC2 documentary reveals, while Queen fans paid tribute to  Freddie’s musical genius, some corners of the press vilified him for his homosexuality. 

"The day Freddie died we spent the whole night at my house just trying to make sense of it. It hit us very hard,’ recalls Roger Taylor. "We were very angry and we had to stick up for our friend, for our best friend. I became fixated with the idea of giving him one hell of a send off – and it was a wonderful day. The warmth was infinite."

"I remember he said, 'When I can't sing anymore darling, then I will die. I will drop dead," Anita Dobson says about Freddie's final words to her and her husband Brian May. Her memories are truly heartbreaking.

Determined to change the stigma surrounding HIV/AIDS, in April 1992 Queen performed at Wembley alongside the likes of Elton John, David Bowie, Annie Lennox, The Who and George Michael as part of The Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert shown live on BBC1 to raise awareness of the disease. This documentary shows terrific behind the scenes footage of that concert, with rehearsals and Queen's particularly worries over whether Guns and Roses singer Axl Rose would turning up on stage in time to sing Bohemian Rhapsody. It also tells of George Michael's hidden sadness at the time, plus you'll hear Elizabeth's Taylor's moving and groundbreaking speech to Wembley Stadium and Liza Minnelli's final rousing rendition of Queen's hit We Are The Champions at the end of the concert.

When is the air date for 'Freddie Mercury: The Final Act' and BBC2's Queen Night? 

The air date for Freddie Mercury: The Final Act is Saturday Nov. 27 at 9pm on BBC2. It will then become available on the BBC's streaming service BBCiPlayer. We are yet to hear about a US or worldwide release date for this documentary but will update if we hear. This documentary is part of 'Queen Night' on BBC2 on the same Saturday, which includes Queen At The BBC (8pm BBC2) that features a select number of TV Appearances by the band over the years. Then Queen: The Legendary 1975 Concert (10.30pm, BBC2), sees the rockers in concert from the Hammersmith Odeon in London in that year. This features Queen's early singles including Keep Yourself Alive, Now I'm Here and Bohemian Rhapsody as well as Brian May showcasing his guitar skills in Brighton Rock.

Freddie Mercury strutting the stage during Queen's massive 1986 tour.

Freddie Mercury strutting the stage during Queen's massive 1986 tour. (Image credit: Getty)

* Best BBC documentaries
*
Best Channel 4 documentaries
*
Best Channel 5 documentaries on My 5
*
The Lakes with Simon Reeve
*
Top Gear 2021