A contemporary screenplay by Andrew Davies
London. Sometime in the future. A city seething with racial tension and unrest following the death of a black man in police custody.
Publicly, the white Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police (Bill Paterson) vows to combat the climate of racism. This sentiment is applauded, but then ridiculed when he is taped making racist remarks in a public toilet.
On the streets, unrest grows. A riot breaks out, only to be quashed by a black officer who speaks passionately to London's angry people. The cameras of the world are there to capture this shining new light of law and order. His name is John Othello (Eamonn Walker).
And then comes a call from Downing Street. Othello is offered the top job -- to take over as Commissioner of the Met -- leapfrogging his mentor and best friend Jago (Christopher Eccleston). Jago buries his seething anger and wounded pride, and congratulates his friend, promising his support and devotion. But secretly, Jago begins to hatch a plan to undo the Met's new and formidable star.
Jago has a tough opponent. Othello is not corrupt and apathetic as was his predecessor, but brilliant, dedicated and true -- the very model of integrity. So Jago bides his time and looks for a weakness elsewhere. When Othello puts the seal on his perfect life and marries his true love Dessie (Keeley Hawes), Jago realizes that this is the way and sets about sowing seeds of doubt over Othello's new wife's fidelity. Jago even begins a sexual relationship with Dessie's best friend -- Lulu (Rachael Stirling) -- to gain whatever information he can.
Jago finds it very easy to turn the screws. Othello's relationship with Dessie is passionate and intimate, but he doesn't really know her that well. And when Dessie is threatened by some neo-Nazis -- secretly put up to the job by Jago -- Othello determines that his wife have proper protection. Superintendent Michael Cass (Richard Coyle) is attractive and gets on well with Dessie. Othello is at first relaxed about Cass's relationship with his wife, indeed about her relationships in general, but Jago soon begins to manipulate Othello's deepest fears.
Othello starts to distrust Cass and suspect his relationship with Dessie. His paranoia is triggered by Jago's hints and insinuations. Jago is a master manipulator, helped by unfortunate incidents in which Dessie and Michael find themselves innocently compromised.
Increasingly Othello is prepared to suspect the worst. Moreover, he's experiencing terrible stress at work. Jago has been overseeing the investigation into the death of the black man killed by racist policemen. But their trial descends into farce when the chief witness -- honorable young police officer Roderick (Del Synott) -- turns up dead. Murdered by Jago, Roderick is the ultimate symbol of how Othello is failing to build a new, honest police service. Othello finds his reputation in ruins and is therefore too ready to believe in his wife's infidelity. Finding Cass half dressed in his own robe -- a gift from Dessie -- finally unsettles Othello's mind.
Jago persuades Othello to have the robe DNA tested for sexual secretions. Jago argues that the robe will show signs of any unfaithfulness. Jago tells him he will never know happiness again unless he knows for sure.
Dessie's heart is breaking in confusion and Othello is driven to desperate physical violence. He searches their home for evidence of an affair and fights violently with Michael Cass. Bereft, Dessie can't work out what she has done wrong, so she confides in Lulu and Jago to help her talk sense into her beloved. Jago, however, sticks the knife in further, causing the rift to widen irreparably. He tells Othello that the DNA test proves absolutely that his wife is adulterous. Deaf to his wife's pleas, Othello strangles his beautiful wife, the love of his life, to death.
Set against a fascinating world of police corruption and institutional racism, Shakespeare's classic tale of jealousy, love and obsession enters the millennium.
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