I, Claudius: Season 1, Episode 13

Old King Log (6 Dec. 1976)

TV Episode  -   -  Drama | History
8.2
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AD 54: Claudius feels that Rome should return to be a Republic but nonetheless marries his niece Agripinilla and makes her son Nero co-heir with his own, teen-aged son Britannicus. Aware of... See full summary »

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Title: Old King Log (06 Dec 1976)

Old King Log (06 Dec 1976) on IMDb 8.2/10

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Episode cast overview, first billed only:
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Bernard Hepton ...
John Cater ...
...
Agrippinilla
Christopher Biggins ...
...
...
George Howe ...
Senator
Roger Bizley ...
Freda Dowie ...
The Sybil
Cheryl Johnson ...
Octavia
John Drake ...
Consul
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...
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AD 54: Claudius feels that Rome should return to be a Republic but nonetheless marries his niece Agripinilla and makes her son Nero co-heir with his own, teen-aged son Britannicus. Aware of a prophecy that Nero will indeed become sole emperor Claudius encourages Britannicus to flee abroad and then return to restore the Republic but the boy refuses and he is killed by Nero. Claudius resignedly allows himself to be poisoned by his wife and dies. Nero and Agripinilla look for his will but find only his chronicle which they burn. However Claudius and the Sibyl have the last laugh as he has made a copy, which he has buried to be found long after his death. Written by don @ minifie-1

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Drama | History

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6 December 1976 (UK)  »

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1.33 : 1
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Last show of the series. See more »

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The Sybil: Farewell, Tiberius Claudius Drusus Nero Germanicus, god of the Britons, onetime emperor of the Roman world. Farewell.
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Old Emperor Frog
28 October 2012 | by (Cieszyn, Poland) – See all my reviews

And here we are...at the final episode of I CLAUDIUS. What is there to expect from that part if not the inevitable fate of our protagonist? As an 'old king log doomed to float immortally in a stagnant pool,' he is aware of the prophesy that no one could do anything about to stop. He utters a memorable line: "Let all the poisons that lurk in the mud hatch out." He follows the advice "write no more," looks forward to seeing the final curtain and welcomes death calmly prepared to close his eyes forever and hear the last 'Hail and Farewell' from the presence that has kept him company for all his life...

Apart from this purely ancient (particularly Greek and Roman) aspect of 'inescapable doom' there is something very up-to-date and universal in this episode, something audience will easily identify with. Everything comes to a conclusion: Claudius' reign, the story of his life and the story that he writes for prosperity. Amidst the ever present intrigues and poisons that lurk in the mud, the fate of Rome gets under the control of two new characters with old features, two villains: Barbara Young as yet another ruthless woman Agripinilla, Caligula's sister, Claudius' fourth and last wife – a woman of little heart, another poison queen, and Christopher Biggins as...someone who really shook the foundations of the Roman Empire and whose name was written in 'a pretty thing a fire was' for him: Lucius Domitius preferably nicknamed NERO. Actually, he was Claudius' successor and the last fruit of the family, a very sour one... But before I outline some of the characteristic features of these two characters (who gradually gain a sovereign control in the final episode) let me focus on our 'old king log.'

Finally, Claudius becomes a character who reveals all of himself to us. Now the words of the reviewer Hal Himmelstein about the emperor carry more relevance than ever: "Claudius is among the most fascinating dramatis personae of Roman history." Pulman frames his script within the dramatic climax (with the undeniable inspiration of Graves' novel) and highlights the truest features of an old person, his twilight years, the reflections, melancholy and a sentimental escape into a world that he once knew but a world that exists no more. Yet, it is all deeply carved in the old mind of memories and fantasies and resembled in dreams and hallucinations. That is beautifully depicted in one scene that constitutes a sort of gate to the very final sequence, towards the final curtain.

Actually, in episode 13, Claudius appears in the Senate twice: firstly, it is a victorious visit when Britanny's king Caractacus (Peter Bowles) with his family stand in the Roman senate (a historic event) and with courage and dignity he wins the heart of the senators even though he does not bow before the victor; secondly, it is a hallucinatory visit, a dream sequence when 'the dead come to life again' and, referring to Claudius' words, 'Rome is delivered up again being seen as she truly was...' But who can see this Rome? This Rome of the past, his world of dusty memories and secret truths that he dwells in whilst writing his story? They allow him for a glimpse of old man's safe haven, the haven of that 'fool Claudius' but an emperor, after all!

Little attention is paid to old man's memories by the young and the ambitious. Those who have their moment of history and for whom the end justifies the means, naturally, consider supreme education of the truthful history as a supreme obstacle for their targets. Barbara Young and Christopher Biggins brilliantly portray an ill mother-son relationship based on over-care, deadly sick ambition and even intercourse. As cinema buffs, we probably have been too much attached to the magnetic portrayal of Nero by Peter Ustinov. Biggins, in this short but memorable episode of I CLAUDIUS, portrays a very young Nero and the very deviations he was used to since his early youth. Agripinilla is the real person who corrupts him and keeps old Claudius alive long enough for her son to come of age. Perhaps historical Agripinilla did not have both the looks and the intelligence but Ms Young can truly boasts of both of the 'virtues.' She gives great performance as yet another serpent-like woman of the serial. Consider her raging emotions at the banquet scene when Claudius reads her mind so quickly. By an affair with Claudius' assistant Pallas (Bernard Hepton) and, more importantly, by becoming Claudius' wife, she gets what she wants – a throne for her son. It is memorably depicted in the very first scene of the episode when they are looking for Claudius' last will. It is easier for them to act when the emperor's mind is going and theirs are not... (we have had that before, haven't we?).

But before ending my analysis of I CLAUDIUS episodes, I would like to address yet another aspect: young people whose lives are harshly influenced by older generation and their decisions. This refers to the contrast of young Nero vs young Britannicus (Graham Seed). Carrying a certain historical accuracy, Britannicus embodies the noble features of a young Roman, he is definitely the sweet fruit of the family. He can be a true 'emperor elect.' However, old Claudius listens to his own dictates and chooses Nero because of the prophesy – how vague it is for the young rebel! His deserved chance is, forever, lost due to old man's dictates and prefabricated decisions. With Claudius' death, all is over and all is, symbolically, consumed by fire.

That is the story that once won world acclaim as a novel and a terrific BBC series – the story of 'Tiberius Claudius Drusus Nero Germanicus, God of the Britons, onetime emperor of the Roman World' with whom, after all these centuries, we, the prosperity he was writing to, have so much in common.


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