Written by Russell T Davies, the man behind Queer as Folk and Cucumber, the new BBC drama Anatomy of a Scandal makes no bones about its intentions – to probe through the anatomy of a political scandal and uncover all its dirty secrets in the process. Based on the novel of the same name by John Preston, it follows the story of James, played by Ben Daniels, who faces charges after Olivia Lytton, parliamentary researcher on his staff, accuses him of rape. The case turns into a media circus with everyone having an opinion about it. Anatomy of a Scandal: Naomi Scott as Olivia Lytton

How did we get here?

Olivia Lytton, parliamentary researcher on James’s staff, who has an affair with him and later accuses him of rape. Just days after returning to London in Episode 1, she visits James and is horrified when he ignores her. Later that day at work she tells Maya that they need to end their relationship and is clearly upset by his behaviour.

How does this affect public opinion?

Olivia Lytton is widely believed to be James’s former lover. Her accusation is used by Sipowicz and Tutuola to paint him as guilty. James has an alibi for Olivia’s accusation, his whereabouts verified at one of his clubs. He also passed a lie detector test administered by Lester Freamon. Freamon also found that her story did not jibe with forensic evidence, proving she had sexual intercourse with someone else after having sex with James.

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How will this affect the Prime Minister’s agenda?

Our hero, Rhodes Boyson, hasn’t quite been brought down by revelations he had an affair with a young parliamentary researcher. But what’s worse, in James Graham’s play? The revelation that one of his chief whips (Mr. [William] Dennis) was sleeping with the woman who accuses him? Or that she later accuses him of rape – which isn’t really proven but does cast doubt on her original story?

What happens next?

Though Lytton doesn’t have any known relatives, she has plenty of friends in high places. While her case proceeds, James makes impassioned speeches calling for justice to be served and pushes to make rape within marriage a crime. Despite his efforts, however, he is convicted on a lesser charge and sentenced to two years in prison. His wife leaves him while he’s still awaiting sentencing, then publishes an account of their relationship that paints him as monstrously abusive—and also claims that Lytton was stalking her husband before he raped her.

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Naomi Scott as Olivia Lytton

The character is based on Kate Maltby, an academic and daughter of Conservative MP Sir Hugh Maltby. It has been reported that she had a relationship with Damian Green, who was at that time part of David Cameron’s Cabinet. As with her real-life counterpart, Lytton will be shown to have been in an illicit relationship with James. The character also happens to have alleged connections to Russian intelligence agencies – something which Green was also accused of having by Maltby herself.

Anatomy of a Scandal: Naomi Scott as Olivia Lytton
Anatomy of a Scandal: Naomi Scott as Olivia Lytton

The Music

The Parliamentary researcher on James’s staff, who has an affair with him and later accuses him of rape. Its main plot follows James (Joel Edgerton), married to Emily (Jennifer Ehle) and father to their two children, but perpetually unfaithful. However, when his oldest friend from Cambridge days Toby Young (Ben Whishaw) stumbles into the public spotlight after writing an incendiary book about posh young people that captures a national mood, they are all forced to take stock.

The Dialogue

‘I am not going to let him bully me,’ she says. ‘He has accused me of being hysterical and mentally ill. But it is he who is abusive, not me. He has threatened to make things difficult for me at work if I don’t go along with his story that nothing happened between us.’ She pauses and looks out over Westminster Bridge. ‘It would be career suicide for me to tell anyone about it, wouldn’t it?

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The Scene

In episode 4, The End of Play, James (Dominic West) and Amy (Catherine Steadman) are getting intimate in his office when they hear an intruder. It turns out to be Olive Byrne (Naomi Scott), a bright young researcher on James’s staff, who is there to get his opinion on a report she is preparing for him. Soon she and James begin to have an affair, but by episode 6 her new boss makes it clear that it has no future.

The Aftermath

The character, portrayed by Naomi Scott and presumably named for being on James’s staff (staff is most likely an antiquated term for parliamentary researchers and people who work under parliamentarians; a stenographer or ministerial staff member might also be accurate) is a parliamentary researcher (also called an extern) on James’s staff.

Is Naomi Scott actually Indian?

The role of Olivia Lytton, parliamentary researcher on James’s staff, was played by Naomi Scott. Young and beautiful, she is desperate to get ahead in Westminster. The only way for her to do that would be to sleep with someone powerful. And that is exactly what she does – with James… When we meet Olivia Lytton (Naomi Scott), she’s a young woman trying to make it in Westminster. She works as a junior aide for an MP called James (Alistair Petrie) who has been married for over twenty years and has two children. He’s also one of those politicians who says he believes in family values but doesn’t always act like it.

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