The hour-long first episode, starring Emily Watson, 50, and Ben Chaplin, 47, contained a number of sex scenes – including a traumatic rape scene likely to upset viewers.
They took place between the two lead characters in several public places, which included a cupboard in the House of Commons.
The psychological thriller, broadcast after the 9pm watershed, is an adaptation of Louise Doughty’s bestselling 2013 novel.
The first episode stars Emily Watson and Ben Chaplin
We all know Hollywood tends to ignore women from a certain time onwards
It tells the story of a prominent geneticist, Dr Yvonne Carmichael (Watson), who embarks on a secret affair with Mark Costley (Chaplin), a mysterious man she barely knows.
The actress has praised the drama for the way it explores the issue of sex in middle age.
“To be playing a woman of that age, who is having an affair and is so vibrant and positive, at least at the start, felt great,” she said.
Emily told the producers at the start that she did not want to be filmed nude
Ben Chaplin plays Mark Costley
“Just the fact that the protagonist is a sexualised woman in her 50s is a good, feminist statement.”
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Emily, who told producers at the start that she did not want to be filmed nude, also hoped that Apple Tree Yard would pave the way for more representations of sexually active older women.
She added: “We all know Hollywood tends to ignore women from a certain time onwards.
Emily Watson has praised the drama for the way it explores the issue of sex in middle age
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“That cultural shift is likely to be driven by television. I really hope that there is a shift happening.
“This idea that female sexuality is the preserve of 22-year-olds is just absurd.
“If anything, your sexuality blossoms during your late 40s and 50s.”
Viewers will follow as the married Dr Carmichael throws herself into the affair with wild abandon, only for it to come back to haunt her, after a string of harrowing incidents that eventually land the character in a criminal court.