"We dig our own graves."A 1974 BBC Drama Mini Series, dealing with the Royal families and other leading figures of the three continental European Empires of Prussia/Imperial Germany, Austria-Hungary and Tsarist Russia. Telling stories of the politics, both internal and international from the late 19th century, until the end of World War I.
—Victoria Adelaide Mary Louisa, Her Imperial and Royal Majesty The German Empress & Queen of Prussia
This work provides examples of:
- Ambiguously Evil: In the series, it is never made clear whether Rasputin is simply a deluded but well-intentioned hedonist who genuinely believes he is carrying out God's will or is simply a sociopathic charlatan who cravenly exploits the royal family for his own amusement. See here.
- The Chessmaster: Chancellor Otto von Bismarck. He is portrayed single-handedly orchestrating a series of treaties and domestic policies that ensures Germany's prosperity long after his own political downfall.
- Vladimir Lenin also qualifies given the manner in which he ruthlessly outmaneuvers rivals in the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party to seize control and transform it into a disciplined band of radicals poised to take power in the chaos of the 1917 Russian Revolution.
- Alexander Helphand deserves mention as well given that he is responsible for organizing an agreement between the Bolsheviks and the German Government that guarantees the former safe passage into Russia to bring about the October Revolution.
- From Nobody to Nightmare: Its clear from the start that no one really expects much to come from Wilhelm II. Otto von Bismarck attempts to mold him into another Puppet King for the Imperial bureaucracy he's created. However, he underestimates the young man's ambition and loses all his power and influence as a result. Without Bismarck's Machiavellian yet prudent guidance, the impetuous Kaiser ultimately plays a central role in plunging the entire Western world into World War I.
- General Ripper: General Ludendorff, who pronounces the war lost after his offensive fails and dramatically fainting at a General Staff meeting...and then reverses himself a month later, risking arrest for defying the Kaiser's intention to seek peace and blaming politicians and leftists for the position they were in..
- Historical Hero Upgrade: Vladimir Lenin (played by Patrick Stewart).
- Jerk Ass Woobie: Wilhelm II. Despite growing up to be an arrogant and self-centered warmonger, it's hard not to view him in a somewhat sympathetic light due to the cold and at times even abusive treatment he is depicted to have received from his parents as a boy. This is hammered home in "The Honest Broker" when he seeks retribution against his mother following his father's death by ransacking her residence only to be reminded he will always be haunted by a childhood largely devoid of emotional warmth.
- Know When to Fold 'Em: Prince Max of Baden and, later, Field Marshal Paul von Hindenburg throw their lot in with the provisional German Government headed by Friedrich Ebert in neat and orderly fashion, with the former even announcing Wilhelm II's abdication before it happens and the latter propping them up as soon as the Kaiser boards his train to Holland.
- Large Ham: Otto von Bismarck and Kaiser Wilhelm II.
- Manipulative Bastard: Otto von Bismarck and Vladimir Lenin.
- Man Child: Wilhelm II. For most of the series, his personality seems largely stuck in a state of adolescence even when he is well into his mid-50s as the leader of a world power. It is only when he witnesses the terrible consequences of plunging his country into World War I that he shows signs of becoming more mature and reflective, by which time it is ultimately too late.
- Royally Screwed Up and Too Dumb to Live: The Hapsburgs, aside from Franz Joseph, and the Romanovs, aside from Alexander III.
- Puppet King: Wilhelm I's indecisiveness and disregard for civilian interference in royal and military affairs helps him quickly fall into Otto von Bismarck's grasp.
- Smug Snake: Kaiser Wilhelm II serves as the most notable example. While far more strong-willed than his indecisive grandfather and gravely underestimated by Bismarck, it becomes all too apparent as the series progresses that he is hardly the "supreme warlord" and visionary statesman he fancies himself to be. Ultimately, his hubris brings about the downfall not only of the Hohenzollern dynasty but the entire German Empire as well.