Princess Cleopatra becomes Egypt's Queen and has an out-of-wedlock son with the son-less Roman ruler Julius Ceasar. Through two romances she strives to protect Egypt from the Romans and make her son the heir to Ceaser's Roman Empire.
This was an interesting series, it made a real effort to re-create style and manner of the Egyptian court. I remember a lady professor (I think it was) at the time saying it was interesting to see professional dancers translating the fixed and stylized images we have from tomb paintings into actual dance. Did they have bare breasts? Yes, the tomb paintings do, so the dancers do. Every effort is made to keep the costumes match what we know of dress at that time.
The series set an entirely believable note of claustrophobic pomposity. We do know that the Egyptian court was remarkably insulated from the ordinary Alexandrians, whom they feared, and they had good reason to to. It was a very inward looking group.
The series is bedeviled by the occasional outbreak of truly dreadful acting, e.g. Caesar's reaction when Cleopatra is unrolled from her carpet - that is the clip that is always shown. But most of it was pretty good. The contrast between the straight laced, changing to thuggish Romans is nicely contrasted with the hedonistic Egyptians. Sadly, Cleopatra is all wrong. She is presented as a sort of precocious 6th former, a 17 year old convent schoolgirl, whereas it is quite obvious that she was in fact a very tough and ruthless survivor from an early age. More like Elizabeth I than some kind of ingénue.
I have long thought that the BBC should issue the series in DVD, but 1983 was in the early days of video recorders and the rights situation may just be too complicated.
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