I, Claudius (1976– )
8.7/10
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A God in Colchester 

Whilst Claudius is invading Britain Messalina is challenging the prostitute Scylla to see who can take the most partners, Messalina easily winning. She also takes the young senator Silius ... See full summary »

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Cast

Episode cast overview, first billed only:
...
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Bernard Hepton ...
John Cater ...
Moira Redmond ...
Jo Rowbottom ...
...
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Manning Wilson ...
Marsus Vibius
George Innes ...
Quintus Justus
...
Charlotte Howard ...
Scylla
Linal Haft ...
Geta
...
Girl
Danny Schiller ...
Slave
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Storyline

Whilst Claudius is invading Britain Messalina is challenging the prostitute Scylla to see who can take the most partners, Messalina easily winning. She also takes the young senator Silius as her lover, forcing him to divorce his wife so that she can marry him whilst sending Claudius a divorce decree when he is away. She hopes that Rome will rally with her against her aging husband but she is mistaken as, on Claudius's return, he is informed of her treachery and she and Silius are executed. At the same time Claudius learns that Herod has died whilst also planning to overthrow him. However there is some good news - he has been proclaimed a god in Colchester in Britain. Written by don @ minifie-1

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Drama | History

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29 November 1976 (UK)  »

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1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?

Quotes

Minester: Permit me to introduce myself. My name is Minester, I'm an actor. Most people have heard of me.
Scylla: My name is Scylla, and I'm a whore. Everybody's heard of me.
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User Reviews

 
A God in Camulodunum, A Fool in Roma
14 October 2012 | by (Cieszyn, Poland) – See all my reviews

After the 'beautifully played, thriving drama' performed by Caesar's young wife who was unlucky to fulfill her teenage dreams and bed with her mother's husband, her historical 'excesses' are something we encounter in this episode. At the beginning, we see Messalina (Sheila White) mating an actor, Mnester (Nicholas Amer). This is one of the most daring scenes of the serial not only because of nudity...Mnester, the actor, most people in Rome have heard of, comes up with the idea of 'copulation contest' between two unusual women of Rome who will differ considerably in social status and motives. Scylla (Charlotte Howard), a whore, everybody have heard of, will treat lust as her job; Messalina (Sheila White), the empress, everybody have gossiped of, will consider lust as her hobby. Both women, however, will not refrain from losing all dignity and becoming the objects of lust for the biggest number of hungry men. Although historically such contests did not take in the imperial palace, it is true that Messalina was notorious for visiting Rome's many brothels as Lykiska. And what about poor Caesar Claudius?

He is the last one to know the truth. Coming back victorious from Britain where he won a great victory re-establishing the province for the empire, the hardest lesson of life is ahead of him. He will have to put the advice 'trust no one' to practice. While his triumph lies in conquest, his tragedy lies at home where friends become enemies and wives become cheap harlots. The dramatized (not so much historical) tragedy for Claudius ranges from his wife Messalina to his friend Herod. Both of them are lost and the poor emperor...the title 'god in Colchester' (the village Camulodunum he reached with his army) turns into a pitiful 'fool' in Rome.

As far as Herod Agrippa's (James Faulkner) downfall is concerned, its form of a report from one Marsus Vibius (Manning Wilson) clearly makes it a background story to the entire episode. Some viewers even skip it. But, due to its interesting reference and the importance of Herod in Claudius' life (he has actually been with us since episode 4), I consider it an aspect worth outlining. The king of the Jews, apart from Caligula earlier in the series, is allegedly another impostor for being a 'messiah' – the anointed one. The report of his birthplace, Bethlehem, and his claims as for the savior of the Jews, may occur quite confusing. A sort of another 'false Christ?' Weird as it may seem, it has very logical references from the historical point of view. By winning the people and forcing their reigns in the Palestine, most rulers attributed themselves to divine features. From the Acts of the Apostles, moreover, we know that Herod was a serious enemy of early Christians persecuting St Peter and St Jacob. Why? Seemingly, they stood in his way... Anyway, that does not make a difference. He was Claudius' friend. Pulman nicely ended the Herod plot: as for Herod, a 'messiah'..."perhaps, the Jews must wait a little longer"...as for Herod the friend, a letter to his best friend explains a lot but also makes way to loneliness.

Messalina's excesses and inevitable failure is surely the drama of this episode. Sheila White gives a sophisticated performance again, in particular at the scenes with Silius (Stuart Wilson), the man she bewitches, she falls in love with and she marries. The orgy scene of their wedding has some accurate hints (again) to what decadence does to people. It was a historical wedding which ended in a frenzy anticipated by the famous sentence being uttered: 'storms are approaching from Ostia.' In the previous episode, Messalina was focused on one man, one plan; here (with the symbolic contest at the beginning), she takes everything and everybody (almost everybody) and ruthlessly disguises as the innocent hiding her guilt until her head is chopped off. The moment of her execution highlights one of the best camera-work of the serial setting the tone for the climactic tension and climactic irony.

Within this plot, we anticipate divisions to come with the two characters that, so far, are both Claudius' men, his assistants: Pallas (Bernard Hepton) and Narcissus (John Cater). In the series, we see them both come to the drunk emperor with the 'significant' documents to be signed. Then, they come to let him know about the greatest irony of his destiny. The background of the scene is such a deep silence with only some birds chirping. It is, for me, the best scene of the episode, its final one actually. Historical Claudius is said to have reacted calmly and unemotionally at the news of Messalina's execution. Here, however, for the sake of drama and our greater empathy with the protagonist, Claudius is sinking in grief. But what a parody of history's irony: a historian, a deep down republican has become a 'god' in Colchester. Just pity he occurred to be a naive fool in Rome...

Old lonely Claudius whom we have somehow learned to like as an emperor is what is left from the many proud characters of the Julio-Claudian dynasty? May they speak again to the 'old king log'? What is left for him if not letting 'all the poisons that lurk in the mud hatch out'? But that awaits us in the final episode...


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