I, Claudius: Season 1, Episode 7

Queen of Heaven (25 Oct. 1976)

TV Episode  -   -  Drama | History
8.2
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Tiberius embarks on a series of acts of debauchery, having sex with anybody he pleases, with Caligula a willing participant. Livia is shocked and Tiberius arranges to give her a horoscope ... See full summary »

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Title: Queen of Heaven (25 Oct 1976)

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Cast

Episode cast overview, first billed only:
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Isabel Dean ...
Lollia
Fiona Walker ...
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Edward Jewesbury ...
Titus
Aubrey Richards ...
Varro
Kevin Stoney ...
Thrasyllus
Peter Williams ...
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Storyline

Tiberius embarks on a series of acts of debauchery, having sex with anybody he pleases, with Caligula a willing participant. Livia is shocked and Tiberius arranges to give her a horoscope for her birthday to suggest to her that she has not long to live. Augustus's son Castor is perturbed at the free hand given Sejanus in bringing to trial anybody Tiberius feels is opposing him but Castor's wife, Livilla, disagrees and is having an affair with Sejanus, ultimately poisoning Castor to get him out of the way. After Sejanus has forced him to marry Aelia, Sejanus's adopted sister, Claudius attends to the dying Livia, who confesses her murderous misdeeds to him and expresses her fear that they will relegate her to Hades. She tells Claudius of a prophecy that claimed he would become emperor and, before she dies, asks that when he is ruler he make her a goddess. Written by don @ minifie-1

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Drama | History

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25 October 1976 (UK)  »

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1.33 : 1
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Quotes

Claudius: Why do you allow Caligula to act like that?
Livia: Because it amuses me. And because he will be the next emperor of Rome.
[Claudius stares]
Livia: You don't believe me?
Claudius: If you say so, grandmother. You know I don't concern myself with higher politics. Still, what about Castor? And Caligula has two older brothers.
Livia: Castor is ill and Thrasyllus says he won't recover. He also says Tiberius will choose Caligula to succeed him.
Claudius: Why?
Livia: Vanity. Tiberius wants to be loved, at least after his death if not before. And the ...
[...]
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Queen of Decadent Royalty
10 September 2012 | by (Cieszyn, Poland) – See all my reviews

Like all of the episodes depict some characters' drama and downfall, this one calls our attention towards Livia's decline and death. Referred ironically to as 'queen of heaven' in the title (no profanity hidden but satire on rulers' glorification/deification), she seems to be at the core of attention after viewing the episode. It marks Livia's birthday and Livia's death. The final scene, as the most memorable moment of the episode, evokes an unbelievably powerful depiction of dying combined with two most horrific things: fear and loneliness. Who is there? First, Caligula who brings a demonic breath to the moment, a 'monster,' a schizophrenic 'god.' Second, that fool Claudius who promises to make her a goddess if the prophesies come true.

Yet, the opening scene which almost bewitches us with its ostentatiously tragic script and performance proves otherwise. It is not Livia on the focus but the depraved state of the Roman Empire partly promoted by emperor Tiberius (George Baker). Mind you the fact that the episode's beginning and end are marked by death – death of the old world, the old order – something that prevails in history when extremes are ahead. This change now is revealed in rotten decadence and the once prophesied 'tragic days for Rome.'

The sour fruit that is growing within the heart of the empire is revealed in two characters that somehow embody the episode's aspects: Sejanus (Patrick Stewart) and Caligula (John Hurt). In between them stands Tiberius who at last acts as himself, without his mummy at hand...and how does he act? He badly needs someone else's influence. Mummy is too old now. A ruling marionette – something really tragic for politics throughout history. While Sejanus is the representation of POLITICAL impact on the emperor, Caligula is the representation of MORAL impact on the old man whose wounds of broken marriage in youth (with Vipsania in Episode 2) had left the undeniable desire for sexual lusts and...a heavily burdened mind. This problem is beautifully expressed in the scene when Sejanus presents additional treason trials to the emperor, he visits the emperor occupied by state affairs and Caligula comes with porn manuscripts (asking if he could borrow that when the emperor will not need it to rouse himself). And that is what men in power may become...

One of the best scenes of the entire episode is Livia's birthday. It is undeniably dominated by three characters: Livia, Claudius and Caligula. That republican Claudius is again among the monarchist 'ghosts' or 'monsters' where the aim is the same and only methods have changed. Caligula retires from the banquet when he boyishly feels insulted (what a terrific portrayal of the character by John Hurt) but he cannot leave without some little pleasure. He gives a monstrously disgusting kiss to the old great-grandmother and delights in the touch of her breast. And the historian Claudius? In such circumstances, only wine could make him bolder and ask present a 'small condition' to Livia. But Pulman does a good job (though it may a bit collide with the whole storyline) and supplies the scene with the first Livia-Claudius fine conversation. Bravo! She does not mock him! She does not consider him a 'monkey.' More to say, Livia's 'confession' (if that term may be used in the context). She confesses all the terrible things she has done and yet, mind you this self-justification all 'for the good of Rome' That is something that she repeats (she has said it to the dying Augustus in episode 5) and that is something that beautifully depicts any totalitarian reign, totalitarian regime – all means are accepted for the good of the country. What a paradox!

We can say that this episode serves as a bridge between two periods of the Roman Empire referred to in many historical materials as well as Graves' novel. Two periods before Claudius himself (a republican mind) becomes an emperor. The first period is the time of Augustus and its distortion but yet 'replica' in Livia and the second period is the time of old Tiberius with Sejanus who paves way to heights of madness embodied in Caligula. Therefore, even sexual lust is there just very well fitting to the moment of history and general situation: sex becomes depraved, instrumental, egocentric. Mind you just two scenes: first Lollia's (Isabel Dean) story at the beginning and then Livilla-Sejanus lustful meeting in secret. That aspect reaches its climax in Castor (Kevin McNally) death scene. The good characters die or hide in secret, including Claudius who at least is still there...

An interesting episode but a difficult one. It should be viewed in the open minded way without resorting to clichéd forms of criticism as 'blasphemous' or 'historically inaccurate.' It takes lots of liberties with the novel, too but you'd rather not take those sources that seriously. View it as a great display of acting skills and a reference to modern times. You will see the irony of history.


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