Don't be put off by the fact that Geoffrey Sax's Othello is a modern "updating" of Shakespeare's play - none of the impact of the Bard's tragedy is lost in what is an utterly fabulous adaptation. While the language certainly loses Shakespeare's poetry, in some respects the context in which this version is presented is more potent, immediate and compelling.
Made for British television, Eammon Walker played the first black head of the Metropolitan Police Force at a time when the "institutional racism" of London's police was offset by positive discrimination in the recruitment of officers from racial minorities. John Othello takes command to deal with rising racial tension on London's streets, while Jago, his secretly embittered second-in-command, believes his promotion is based on political correctness rather than merit and plans his downfall.
Walker's powerful performance is perfectly complemented by a intensely mesmerising turn from Christopher Eccleston as Jago, whose motivations are much more convincing here than they were in the context of Shakespeare's Venetian/Ottoman conflict. The relationship John has with his wife, Dessie (Keeley Hawes) is also set in the sensitively plausible context of race and class here as Jago exploits John's inexperience with "wealthy British girls", injecting doubts and fears into his mind and then confirming them with planted DNA (as opposed to the handkerchief in the play). It is a rewarding, imaginatively crafted, brilliantly well-acted piece of British television drama.