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“Patrick Stewart has hair!!” or One Clav Divs,Part II

Instead of making my first blog entry a general ‘How do you do,my name is Andy.I’m 42 years old,I like golf,swimming,scuba diving and I am a New Man and very touchy-feely in a Dave Cameron stylee….’,I thought I would continue in the same vein as my esteemed and pressed collegue on this site;the Boris Johnson lookalike,Mr Tony Gallichan.

For a few weeks, the BBC had been advertising the new TV series:”Ancient Rome;The Rise and Fall of an Empire”,charting the more notable emperors and players in the snakepit of political intrigue that was Rome.I have been following the series which has had some good actors in it like Sean, the son of P’Twee, as Julius Caesar,trying to be a fair ruler of Rome and quelling a Sea Devil uprising in a lighthouse off the mainland of England…(sorry,wrong actor but the soundtrack was great!)

After the first episode had finished and it went to programme links,the announcer said that the costume drama ‘I, Claudius’ was about to start on BBC 4 shortly.Having recently coming into possession of a TV that could pick up the all new,all singing and dancing digital channels, my interest was piqued,to say the least.

“Ah Ha!” I said and flipped over to BBC4.It has been a long time since I saw “I, Claudius” and I was curious to see how it would look again through a pair of eyes that had aged slightly since the last time.At great risk of revealing my age, let’s just say that it first came out on BBC1 (or was it 2?) back in 1976 when I was in my second year at secondary school.Blimey,doesn’t time fly!

Derek Jacobi still shines as the lame and stammering man who would eventually outlive the diabolical machinations of his almost reptilian grandmother Livia,magnificently played by Sian Phillips, as she systematically poisons,banishes or otherwise gets rid of everyone who would stand in her way so that she could make sure that her beloved but surly and taciturn son ;Tiberius (played by George Baker of Blakes 7 and Inspector Wexford fame) can gain ascendancy to the throne of Rome.Brian Blessed as the BOOOOOMMIINNG Augustus Caesar,who despises what he sees but is either too weak or too blind to resist the implacable will of his wife.He,too, eventually falls victim to her schemings after eating poisoned figs.The particular scene I must raise my hat to as Brian Blessed,lying on his death bed, managed to play dead and keep his eyes open and remain expressionless for the best part of two minutes while the camera focused on his face whilst in the background,Livia explained, almost to herself, her motivations and her aims,secure in the knowledge that he could never reveal her innermost thoughts.

I found my eyes watering in sympathy for Brian as I could never keep expressionless for that long and keep my eyes open that long without blinking in order to keep my eyes moist.

In last weeks episode, we saw Patrick Stewart in one of his earliest TV roles as Sejanus;captain of the guard,sporting a full head of wavy hair, and a loyal servant of Livia.This was rather unnerving as I have always imagined that he was born without hair and never developed any during his entire adult life after seeing him appear in ‘Star Trek:The Next Generation’ and ‘Dune’….His role was only a couple of minutes onscreen as he received orders from Livia to go and despatch some of her opponents in a very blood-thirsty manner.

The series is a veritable rolecall of stalwarts of British TV,film and Theatre including a very young looking Ian Ogilvy as Germanicus and John Hurt,who would appear later on in the series as a completely barking-mad Caligula and in the final episode,strangely enough,Christopher Biggins as Nero.An odd choice for the role but he does carry it off very well indeed.

In passing, all I can say is go out and buy it and watch it for yourselves.Where other period costume dramas can look, well, dated,’I Claudius’ has stood the test of time due to the calibre of the acting and those actors who portray those who once took such a major role in forging an empire whose influence still echoes down the ages to this day……..

4 Responses to "“Patrick Stewart has hair!!” or One Clav Divs,Part II"

  1. Hobbit says:

    …um…Patrick Stewart probably WAS born without hair…

  2. Nah, I have this image of a newborn Patrick Stewart with a crazily massive afro. Gave everyone quite a shock in the delivery room with a scene not unlike the birth of the green baby in V.

    As for all this Rome stuff, what prompted it all suddenly? A very late reaction to Gladiator (or very early in the case of the original I, Claudius broadcast!)? There was that BBC/HBO Rome series earlier in the year (or was it last year?), now Ancient Rome and also this rescreening of I Claudius. Bandwagon TV! Oh well, at least people seem to say these are quality productions. I really should take a look myself.

  3. Hobbit says:

    I think it’s to do with all those end of the world predictions by Nostradamus. He waffled on about the Roman Empire rising again and people have suggested he was talking about the good ol’ US of A (but obviously didn’t realise it). So Auntie Beeb and co are showing all these ‘Rome’ documentary thingies to warn people how bad things can be. Or is that just me reading too much into it..?

  4. Ian Mc says:

    Good isn’t it (though I did always wish the camera would pan around to the non-existent crowds in the amphitheatre scenes)… reminds me of the am-dram version of Zulu, when the chap looks out of the tent door (and off stage) and then back to his companion exclaiming “there’s thousands of them out there!”

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