For their debut broadcast in 1982, Channel 4 opted to launch themselves with this exquisite and shocking drama about a young man with a learning disability and his cruel treatment at the hands of society.
Written by David Cook, directed by Stephen Frears, and starring Ian McKellan, Walter was a sobering examination of the maltreatment of the vulnerable in society. With excellent supporting performances from Barbara Jefford, Keith Allan, and Jim Broadbent, the calibre of the talent here should make it clear that Channel 4 was determined to make a lasting impression with their debut.
Aside from the quality cast and production crew, the broadcast was also pitched to be shocking whilst not exploitative. The film was considered particularly shocking upon broadcast for its depiction of same-sex sexual assault and violent scenes within the institution to which Walter is sent. And yet, the excellence of the drama was more than enough to ensure that Walter was given the due it deserved.
The decision to create and air Walter as their premiere drama was one that cemented Channel 4 as a stable of British Television, courting controversy from the off.