In 1917, the Russian Revolution breaks out in earnest and Lenin and Krupskaya - now living in exile in Zurich - are both thrilled as the news finally reach them in Switzerland. They long to return to...
The Grand Duke Serge is assassinated by terrorist in Moscow in 1905 and the Tsar sees the need to dismiss his Police Chief and appoint a new one in order to heighten security in St Petersbourg. Tsar ...
The life of Edward VII (1841 - 1910), the King of the United Kingdom. Before becoming the king, he developed a reputation of a playboy which angered his mother, Queen Victoria. He was a reformer and modernizer, but also an elitist.
After the murder of her lover Julius Caesar, Egypt's queen Cleopatra needs a new ally. She seduces his probable successor Mark Antony. This develops into real love and slowly leads to a war with the other possible successor, Octavius.
When Elizabeth Tudor comes to the throne, her (male) advisers know she has to marry. Doesn't she? Thus starts a decades-long political/ matrimonial game, during an age of high passions and high achievement.
Astonishing - the most painless history lesson you'll ever get
Many of the BBC's mini-series dealt with Britain's loss of Empire - "Jewel in the Crown" was just one. Here the subject is the end of monarchy and the collapse of major royal houses of Europe: Germany, Austria-Hungary and Russia.
The history is grand and sweeping, but the focus of these television dramas is not on spectacle, but on the personalities of the participants. On that basis it succeeds wildly. The cast is huge and the acting is splendid.
Patrick Stewart gives the performance of his career as Lenin, and the same goes for Barry Foster's Kaiser Wilhem. An astonishing array of acting talent strides through, often with only a few telling moments on screen: Michael Aldridge, Pamela Brown, Rosalie Crutchley, Marius Goring, Michael Gough, Charles Gray, Freddie Jones, Curt Jurgens and the list goes on.
Plus it's always fun to see major talents near the beginning of their career, such as Tom Conti and John Rhys-Davies. It's also surprising how little overlap there is with the cast of "I, Claudius" which followed only two years later. What a deep bench the BBC had in those days!
The scripts are uniformly intelligent, though the budget often requires major events to be described rather than shown. However the art department does a valiant job of differentiating among the splendid apartments of different countries, so you almost always know where you are before anyone starts speaking.
If you want to see thousands of extras tumbling across the giant screen, watch "Nicholas and Alexandra" or "Dr. Zhivago" instead. But if you want to meet fascinating people in an absorbing story of the decline and fall of the Hapsburgs, the Hohenzollerns, and the Romanov's, this is grand television.
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