Tenshot: I, Claudius
So I know a lot of you fellow Game of Thrones fans are down in the doldrums because there’s no more story to come. Sure, HBO is talking about spinoffs but when was the last time a spinoff was that great?
Fortunately, Dr. Mike has a cure for what ails you: the classic BBC miniseries, I, Claudius.
- I, Claudius has everything Game of Thrones had — political intrigue, nudity, incest, murder, an unscrupulous woman vying to put her children on the throne, fighting, torture, poison, true love, revenge. Granted, there’s a few more British actors and not quite as many dragons. But it all happened in real life.
- Well, sort of. Robert Graves’ books, upon which the series is based, are more historical fiction, depending heavily on Suetonius (and, to a lesser extent, Tacitus) and adding a bit of romantic ideas. There are genuine disputes about some of the facts (e.g., just how bad Caligula really was).
- The comparison between the two is hardly surprising. GRRM drew much of Game of Thrones from history. The War of the Roses was his primary inspiration, but one can feel the echoes of Rome in the story’s bones.
- I, Claudius has been rightfully hailed since it aired as one of the greatest series ever created. The plaudits are deserved. The writing, directing and acting are all outstanding.
- I mean, seriously, just look at the cast. Derek Jacobi, Sian Phillips, George Baker, John Hurt, Patrick Stewart (with hair), John Rhys-Davies. You may never see a greater collection of acting talent. And if you ever wanted to see Stewart do a turn as a villain, here’s your chance (spoiler warning for something that happened two thousand years ago).
- The story spans almost a century and uses the same actors for the various roles. Aging is done with makeup and while it shows a bit at times, I vastly prefer it to the CGI-aging and de-aging currently in vogue.
- If watching it stimulates an interest in Roman history, you will find yourself better for it. Rome is the best historical parallel to our own country, complete with our slow descent into a reign of caesars.
- Some DVDs include a documentary of the failed effort to make an I, Claudius film with Charles Laughton. This is also worth your time, if the subject interests you.
- Star Trek II director Nick Meyer has said that art thrives on restrictions; that the ability to create anything we want through special effects has, in some respects, compromised our story-telling abilities. I, Claudius shows this beautifully. Despite a lavish budget, it’s studio-bound and big battles, gladiator games and mobs are offscreen. But I think that’s part of the reason the writing and acting come together so perfectly. They had to tell an epic story without a Hollywood budget.
- If you were disappointed with the ending of GoT, you will not be disappointed with the ending here.