Born: May 1, 1935;

Died: November 24, 2021.

IAN Curteis, who has died aged 86, was a television dramatist who wrote The Falklands Play, about the British war in the south Atlantic, in a decade when the BBC was being roundly criticised by the Conservative government for alleged left-wing bias in some of the programmes it made.

His work represented a right-wing viewpoint and he claimed that the play was dropped by the BBC in the 1980s because it “presented Margaret Thatcher and her policy on the Falklands in a favourable light”.

The controversy came at a time when the Corporation was under attack from government more than ever before. Its coverage of the Troubles had frequently caused Conservative MPs to question the corporation’s neutrality. Thatcher, as Prime Minister, had demanded that the BBC “put their house in order”.

The Falklands War of 1982 served only to up the ante, with accusations that Newsnight was “almost treasonable” and Panorama “subversive”. A year later, the BBC commissioned Curteis to write a drama about the war and events leading up to it.

With the 1983 election looming, Director-General Alasdair Milne deemed it too sensitive to start production immediately. It began two years later, with a plan to screen the play in 1987 to mark the war’s fifth anniversary.

But, according to Curteis, after delivering a fourth draft of the script in April 1986, the BBC’s head of plays, Peter Goodchild, demanded changes that were “political”, not “dramatic”, including the deletion of a scene where Thatcher displays emotion over the deaths of British service personnel, and the rewriting of another to show ministers taking the coming election into account during the crisis.

Curteis refused to make changes and the production was cancelled three months later, purportedly because the broadcast would be too close to another election.

The Falklands Play was, however, finally made, starring Patricia Hodge as Thatcher, in a production broadcast in 2002 to mark the 20th anniversary; Curteis had to cut the script to fit BBC Four’s 90-minute time slot.

It included a brief moment showing the Prime Minister holding back tears and a scene where she says: “It’s a terrible thing to send those men in to fight, to risk their young lives in those atrocious conditions.” The Guardian remarked that the “glare” of Thatcher’s teeth “was matched only by her halo, which writer Ian Curteis polished with every passing line”.

Redeeming reputations of Conservative Prime Ministers had been at the heart of previous works by Curteis. Suez 1956, screened in 1979 but written five years earlier – when it was felt to be too controversial – tackled the British government’s gravest post-war foreign-policy crisis before the Falklands. Curteis said it was a “defence” of Anthony Eden’s justifications for war.

Meanwhile, Churchill and the Generals (1979), a sympathetic view of the war-time Prime Minister’s stormy relationship with his military commanders, went ahead without controversy. But Curteis’s attempt to rehabilitate to some extent the British Union of Fascists leader Oswald Mosley was stopped in its tracks when the Home Office withheld documents he needed for research.

Curteis was born Ian Jones in Uxbridge, Middlesex, in 1935 to Edith (née Bayley) and John Jones, a bank manager. He attended Slough Grammar School and studied English at London University.

Taking an ancestor’s surname, Curteis worked as an actor at Joan Littlewood’s Theatre Workshop in the mid-1950s, then in repertory theatre. From 1956, he earned extra money as a script-reader for BBC television and, in 1963, joined its directors’ course.

He directed for BBC and ITV, on series such as Z Cars (in 1964) and Front-Page Story (1965), but switched to writing after finding the challenge of keeping on schedule difficult. His final job as a director, on the sci-fi-anthology series, Out of the Unknown, in 1966, was finished without him.

He then concentrated on writing and his thorough research was first seen in biographical dramas such as Beethoven, and Alexander Fleming (both 1970), and Mr Rolls and Mr Royce (1972).

Curteis also contributed scripts to popular BBC and ITV series such as Doomwatch (1972), Hadleigh (1976) and The Onedin Line (1976-77), and there was also an adaptation of People Like Us (1978), based on RD Delderfield’s novels set between two world wars.

Curteis started ploughing his own furrow with the Cambridge spy-ring drama Philby, Burgess and Maclean (1977); Hess (1978), about the deputy fuhrer’s attempt to arrange a peace deal between Britain and Germany; The Atom Spies (1979), about the German physicist Klaus Fuchs, who passed research secrets to the Russians; and the eight-part royal saga, Prince Regent (1979).

Later, Curteis adapted a sumptuous version of JB Priestley’s novel, Lost Empires, for a 1986 series starring Colin Firth as a young magician and Laurence Olivier as a fading comedian on the music-hall circuit on the eve of the First World War.

He also adapted The Nightmare Years (1989), starring Sam Waterston, from William L Shirer’s book about an American journalist in 1930s Nazi Germany, and The Choir (1995), from his second wife Joanna Trollope’s novel following the internal politics of a cathedral choir school.

When the BBC said it was cancelling the writer’s planned drama marking the 50th anniversary of the 1945 Yalta conference for budgetary reasons, he again claimed political bias.

Curteis’s first two marriages, to actress Joan Macdonald (née Armstrong, 1964-84) and Trollope (1985-2001), both ended in divorce. He is survived by his third wife, Lady Deirdre (née Hare), whom he married in 2001, and by Tobit and Mikol, the two sons of his first marriage, two stepsons and two stepdaughters.