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YMMV / I, Claudius

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  • Alternative Character Interpretation: Claudius' behavior in the last act of the books. Was he only feigning indifference, as the Stopped Caring entry suggests, or was he passive-aggressively grooming Nero as revenge for his generally miserable life?
  • Awesome Music: The main theme.
  • He Really Can Act: The series is proof that BRIAN BLESSED is occasionally capable of understated acting. Between this and not having a beard, he's almost unrecognizable to people who know his later work.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight:
    • The joke Tiberius and his brother make about Livia, "They say a snake bit her once and died." Commonly known nowadays as one of the most well-known Chuck Norris Facts.
    • Much is made of Caligula thinking he is the Messiah of the Jews. His actor, John Hurt, would go on to have a cameo as Jesus in Mel Brooks' 1981 comedy History of the World Part I.
    • For Doctor Who fans, the fact that Caligula would later become The Doctor and Claudius would later become a particularly unstable version of The Master. Especially since, despite appearing years apart from each other and never meeting onscreen (or on audio), they were both in these respective forms for most of the Time War.
  • Jerkass Woobie:
    • Livia, in her final moments, becomes a figure of pity when Caligula tells her he will not redeem her of all the blood on her hands by making her a goddess as he promised.
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    • As much as an asshole as Tiberius is, it's kind of hard not to pity him when he learns that his son had been murdered by his allegedly "trustworthy" advisor. Also he never really wanted to be emperor in the first place and was pushed into it by his mother... whose plans necessitated forcing him to divorce the woman he was deeply in love with.
    • Caligula, murderous bastard that he is, is clearly suffering and terrified when he suffers his mental breakdown. Even later, he tells Claudius about how he barely sleeps at night, and seems almost aware that something about him is terribly wrong.
  • Moral Event Horizon:
    • This is a series populated by devious conniving bastards who get away with some pretty horrible acts, but one of the worst dog-raping examples is provided by Praetorian Guard captain Macro when his predecessor Sejanus falls out of favor with the Emperor. Macro kicks off a bloody purge of everyone even remotely connected with Sejanus. Rome's streets run red, but the icing on the cake is when he orders the death of Sejanus's (very) young daughter. An officer reminds him that it's unlawful to execute a virgin. His response? "Then make sure she's not a virgin when you kill her, now GET ON WITH IT!"
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    • Caligula wasn't a great guy to begin with. He had already killed a lot of people, including Germanicus, before becoming Emperor and deciding he was a god. But he didn't go fully off the deep end until he cut his wife open and ate their unborn child.
    • Messalina might have cheated on her husband and become the biggest whore in Rome. And yeah, wanting to sleep with her stepfather, and then accusing him of trying to rape her when he rejected her, sure was bad. But she didn't reach the Moral Event Horizon until she threatened her own mother!
    • Livilla was always a detestable person, but she truly crosses the line when she murders Castor and attempts to poison her own daughter.
  • Special Effect Failure: A few examples, this being a lower budget television production from 1976. However, the writing and acting are so magnificent that this sort of thing doesn't matter.
    • The assassination of Caligula shows how theatre actors stab someone and make it look real. Unfortunately, this is television, so their methods (squeezing a sponge soaked in red dye, sliding a sword down someone's back instead of into their chest, etc) are a bit too obvious. For that matter, this applies to most of the murders.
    • As Marcellus prepares to address the (unseen) crowd at the games in the first episode, they fall silent to listen to him. When he says, "Let the games begin!" the applause begins - instantly at full volume, with not even the briefest crescendo. It's very clear that someone has pressed "play" on a tape left in the middle of an applause track.
  • Squick:
    • Drusus's horse fell on him and trapped his leg against a sharp rock tearing it. We see the hideous open gangrenous gash on his leg and the make-up team did a great job at making it as disgusting as possible.
    • Caligula. Incest. Eating babies. Groping his great-grandmother. As she herself puts it: "Little Monster."
    • Agrippinilla addressing Claudius as "Uncle" in the middle of an attempt to seduce him with a passionate speech. Possibly intentional on her part, as she and Pallas have been musing that Claudius might be attracted to her precisely because of the incest factor.
  • Values Dissonance: Antonia, although her actress stated that her behavior is largely due to the time period in which she was raised.
  • Visual Effects of Awesome: The makeup used to age Derek Jacobi, which is even more impressive now that we know he aged to look exactly like it.
  • The Woobie: Derek Jacobi's portrayal of Claudius clinches it. While he's certainly not a saint, the amount of suffering he experiences over his lifetime makes it impossible not to feel sorry for him, especially since his only major character flaw is cowardice, which could easily also be interpreted as a sensible regard for his own skin. Even becoming Emperor, and then a God during his lifetime (which was not unprecedented but still unusual), isn't enough to turn his fortunes around. Indeed the scene in which he finds out he has become a God is also the scene in which he founds out that, while drunk the night before, he had signed the order to execute his (beloved, but also seriously treacherous and epically unfaithful) wife, and that she had just been killed. The fact that there is a historical basis to believe that the majority of the things that happen to him during the show actually happened puts the icing on the cake OF SUFFERING.


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