I, Claudius (1976– )
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Waiting in the Wings 

Whilst Tiberius in exile derives some comfort from hearing of the mysterious death of Gaius, Antonia confesses to Julia her disappointment in Claudius. She chastises his siblings ... See full summary »



(novels), (screenplay)

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Episode cast overview, first billed only:
Frances White ...
Darien Angadi ...
Ashley Knight ...
Young Claudius
Katharine Levy ...
Michael Clements ...
Kevin Stoney ...
Alan Thompson ...


Whilst Tiberius in exile derives some comfort from hearing of the mysterious death of Gaius, Antonia confesses to Julia her disappointment in Claudius. She chastises his siblings Germannicus and Livilla for shunning him but still feels that he is stupid. However everybody is amazed when an eagle drops a wolf cub into Claudius's arms and an augur reader interprets this as meaning that in the future Claudius will save Rome in its hour of need. Livia continues her campaign against Julia by proving that she is a serial adulteress, leading to her banishment, a fact which upsets Augustus, who actually loved her. With the news that Lucius has also perished, drowned in a boating accident, Augustus recalls Tiberius from his exile to be his co-heir with his grandson Postumus. Written by don @ minifie-1

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Release Date:

27 September 1976 (UK)  »

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Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


We see a musician playing pan pipes, but the sound is of a recorder, not invented until the middle ages. See more »


Young Claudius: What's the matter?
Young Postumus: Nothing.
Young Herod: Cheer up, young Agrippa. Caesar had adopted you into his family and made you his heir! That is an honour!
Young Postumus: Yes, Herod - but he had also adopted my stepfather and we all know that both of us cannot succeed him. I'm frightened! I want my mother, I want my mother! Where is she? Where is she?
See more »

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Waiting In the Shadow of Omen
22 July 2012 | by (Cieszyn, Poland) – See all my reviews

Prophesies and signs are known to have occurred at the heart of life in antiquity. A good or bad omen influenced many events and campaigns. That 'touch of superstition' predominantly finds its fulfillment in episode three of I CLAUDIUS, the action of which is set in the times when human beings, in spite of power, had respected the signs from gods and still hadn't dared proclaim themselves 'divine.'

We see Tiberius living his days in exile on the island of Rhodes. It seems he will 'stay there and rot' for good. Daily, he consults Thrasyllus (Kevin Stoney), his astrologer, curious about the horoscope shaping his hope for the news from Rome. However, he will need to learn a great deal how to 'wait in the wings' till the desirable moment when an eagle appears on the island and the answer from Rome is 'yes.' Most importantly, however, an unforgettable moment calls our attention to another unexpected eagle at Antium who directs its sight towards Claudius (Ashley Knight), a young boy who is ignored by many members of imperial family as a mere 'model of idiocy.' He least resembles the hero of the story. Yet, at one of the unpredictable moments, a wounded wolf cub is freed from the eagle's claws and falls into Claudius' arms where he finds safety. Supplied with the dramatized prophetic intensity along with Gnaeus Demetrius' interpretation, the scene appears to be a crucial one on that subject of omen and prophesy. It symbolically expands to Claudius' little sister, Livilla. Consider her words enraging Antonia who punishes her daughter almost 'prophetically.'

As a result, there are two views on that subject. While Tiberius' horoscope comes to an ambiguous conclusion along with the extensive, boyish, immature laughter (underlining irony and nervous breakdown of men equal to boys - at moments, the scene becomes even disturbing), the prophesy about Claudius, nicely incorporated into storyline, is too mysterious to be questioned. Tiberius' horoscope, however, is a sheer product of human manipulation. That contrast, seemingly, between two ways of addressing the supernatural has accompanied humanity for ages. And the mainstay themes of the series?

Plots, cruelty, disguise, ruthlessness meet their fulfillment in the episode even more dramatically. Forgiving some historical flaws in chronology, the episode builds up some captivating content. With Livia (Sian Phillips) in action, Augustus' evil genius, the time comes for another victim, this time the closest member of Augustus' family, his daughter Julia (Frances White). She has already appeared as a hint to being a foil for Livia and her evil schemes, her downfall comes. Skillfully and brutally accused of debauchery, Julia is banished for life by her own father. In one of the most dramatically powerful scenes, we see her desperately knocking at the door of her father's room and begging for another chance. In spite of his deep down love for her, he becomes a mute stone. What remains is merely the shadow of the one who manipulates the domestic empire... Julia's tragic fate is not enough...within 18 months, both of her sons, so beloved by the emperor, die in the most unpredictable circumstances where even omens and prophesies cannot satisfy human pursuit of reasonable justification. How come Augustus himself still does not realize someone had a hand in those deaths? The time will come for him to open his eyes but it is not now...

In this family drama that is beginning to resemble a Greek tragedy, as Tiberius puts it at the news of Lucius' death, Brian Blessed gives his truly best moments. Now it is time for him to display one of the hardest decisions a father/ruler is forced to make without any delay, simply "as quick as boiled asparagus." Augustus is torn apart between the fear of indulgence that would result in weakness and the tragedy of radical deed taken once and for all. Simply unforgettable at the symbolic scene of quintessential rhetorical question: "Is there anyone in Rome who has not slept with my daughter?" The exaggeration in his reaction turns into a motive driven duty of a just ruler who cannot dare display slightest indulgence. We empathize with him near the finale when it truly occurs that even if his mind is going (ironically, a hostage is 'a likable little chap' while the daughter is cursed), there is a woman who rules him and rules Rome. But the best scene Sian Phillips and Brian Blessed share is when Augustus comes out of the room. What a manipulation appears from Livia and what a thought provoking chance for the appalled Augustus. "It's hard to see a child banished and still harder when one knows the banishment is undeserved..."

Among the supporting cast of the episode, a mention should be made of Simon MacCorkindale as Lucius, Julia's son. Given considerably little time on the screen, he accurately depicts a young man of honor who wants to open Augustus' eyes. Plautius (Darien Angadi), his friend, appears to be incarnation of ambition and lust so significant in Julia's story and themes ever present in Graves' novel. The scene of the orgy is depicted respectively and tastefully. The children's performances, though influencing confusion of historical chronology, are memorably handled by Ashley Knight as young Claudius, Michael Clements as plucky Herod, Alister Kerr as desperate Postumus in the final moment. As far as women are concerned, there is, humorously, another hint that being corpulent was considered 'a virtue' in ancient Rome. The scene of Julia and Antonia (Margaret Tyzack) discussing a diet appears to be a somewhat reference to their conversation in the massage chamber of the previous episode.

The drama of the finale calls our attention to the bitter truth that finds its resemblance in all times. The innocent seem to suffer most with the loss which the evil-doers won't even consider. "Where is my mother? Where are my brothers?" Even the senile Claudius cannot give a satisfactory answer for this waiting in the doomed shadow of omen.

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