The Sixth Commandment episode 1

The Sixth Commandment on BBC One: Questions we have after episode 1 of brilliant true crime drama

It's based on the disturbing true story of Peter Farquhar's tragic death

The Sixth Commandment began on BBC One tonight, and episode 1 painted a picture of Peter Farquhar’s life before and after he met his murderer.

The opening scenes showed the admired teacher and novelist in his element – surrounded by the people who respected him. However, it hinted at his loneliness, too, and a repressed desire.

Peter craved companionship, and that’s where predator Ben Field stepped in. Ben spotted his vulnerability and saw his opportunity to befriend him. He used his charm to reel him in, but then abused his trust and his dreams of romance. Ben manipulated Peter, and used his insecurities against him in a disgusting campaign of gaslighting.

As well as telling the true story of murderer Ben Field and his victims, The Sixth Commandment also shines a light on the elderly, and how they are often ignored. Ben was able to prey on the older community, an often invisible part of society.

Here are the questions we’re left with after watching The Sixth Commandment episode 1.

***Warning: spoilers from episode 1 of The Sixth Commandment ahead***

The Sixth Commandment on BBC One
The Sixth Commandment dramatises the sad true story of Peter Farquhar, Ben Field, and Ann Moore Martin (Credit: Wild Mercury 2023/Amanda Searle)

Episode 1 of The Sixth Commandment questions – why did no one see the red flags?

Months after Ben and Peter became betrothed and started living together (in Peter’s house), Peter began to behave differently. He became unfocused and confused at work, where previously he’d been sharp and witty.

Unbeknownst to him, or anyone else, Ben was poisoning Peter (Timothy Spall). He was only 69, hardly old by today’s standards. With the benefit of hindsight, it’s hard to believe that no one connected the dots. That Peter’s problems began with Ben.

Out of the blue, Ben told Peter’s family that Peter had been drinking heavily – which was totally out of character for him. As Peter became more and more disorientated, Ben’s masterplan took shape. He began to cruelly mess with Peter’s mind.

Of course, we also know that Ben’s accomplice Martyn Smith, a failed magician, was actually living in the same house as Ben and Peter. Was Ben such a charmer that no one suspected? How did Ben get away with what he was doing?

One of the most disturbing things about the crime, is that it was done under everyone’s nose.

Is it all true?

At the beginning of The Sixth Commandment episode 1, viewers were told that this is a “true story”. It continued: “What follows is based on extensive research, interviews and published accounts, with some scenes created for dramatic purposes.”

The series is also dedicated to Ben Field’s victims Peter Farquhar and Ann Moore-Martin.

We know the characters are real. And we know that Ben Field really did kill Peter Farquhar. But we can never really know what happened behind closed doors between Peter and Ben.

ÉANNA HARDWICKE as Ben Field, and Timothy Spall as Peter Farquhar in The Sixth Commandment
Éanna Hardwicke as Ben Field, and Timothy Spall as Peter Farquhar in The Sixth Commandment on BBC One (Credit: Wild Mercury/BBC)

The Sixth Commandment episode 1: How did Peter Farquhar die?

By the end of The Sixth Commandment episode 1 (Monday, July 17, 2023), Peter Farquhar was dead. The closing minutes of the episode showed Peter’s cleaner arriving at his Maids Moreton home, only to find his lifeless corpse slumped in a chair.

At the end of the episode, we don’t know how he died. However, in real life, Ben made Peter’s death look like an accident or suicide. In fact, Ben Field “suffocated Peter” when he was too weak to resist, and left a half-empty bottle of whisky beside his lifeless body to create the misconception he had drunk himself to death.

In the trial, Peter’s daily journals were crucial evidence. Thames Valley Police were able to piece together what happened and close-in on the cold killer using extracts from the late Peter’s diary.

At the end of episode 1, we saw neighbour Ann (Anne Reid) opening a card from Ben. No sooner was Peter dead, Ben went to work on Ann.

Why did Ben Field kill Peter Farquhar?

This has to be one of the most sickening crimes of recent years. Ben ruthlessly targeted Peter Farquhar. But what were Ben Field’s motives?

Of course, in episode 1, we learnt that Peter had changed his will after becoming betrothed to Ben. He told his brother: “I’ve changed my will to reflect my relationship with Ben. He is now my main beneficiary.”

Tragically, during Ben’s trial, it transpired that churchwarden Ben Field had murdered Peter to inherit his estate. Ben duped 69-year-old Peter Farquhar into a fake relationship to get him to change his will.

ÉANNA HARDWICKE as Ben Field, and Anne Reid as Ann Moore Martin
The Sixth Commandment depicts how Ben Field moved on to Ann after killing Peter (Credit: Wild Mercury 2023/Amanda Searle)

The Sixth Commandment episode 1: What has writer Sarah Phelps written before?

After watching this brilliantly executed drama on BBC One, you might be wondering what else writer Sarah Phelps was worked on.

Screenwriter Sarah Phelps has adapted plenty of Agatha Christie works, including The Witness for the Prosecution, And Then There Were None, Ordeal by Innocence, The ABC Murders, and The Pale Horse.

She’s also adapted Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations and Oliver Twist, as well as J. K. Rowling’s The Casual Vacancy. She is perhaps best known for her work on EastEnders.

Read more: Why did Ben Field kill Peter Farquhar, and where is the Maids Moreton murderer now?

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The Sixth Commandment continues on Tuesday, July 18, 2023 at 9pm on BBC One.

What did you think of The Sixth Commandment episode 1? Leave us a comment on our Facebook page @EntertainmentDailyFix.

Helen Fear
TV Editor