I, Claudius

Season 1 Episode 1

A Touch of Murder

Aired Unknown Sep 20, 1976 on BBC Two
out of 10
User Rating
27 votes

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Episode Summary

Livia, wife of the Emperor Augustus, is determined to see her son from an earlier marriage, Tiberius, succeed Augustus, but she must first remove the emperor’s first choice as heir, his son-in-law, Marcellus.

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  • Unique.

    Could this ever be done again? Taking two complex books and turning them into a multi-episode series without simplifying things? No camera tricks or hip photography that might distract the viewer from concentrating on the complex stories, told by actors trained on the stage.

    The voice-over, given by the elderly Claudius looking back on his life, is the only help the viewer gets. Some might say it's a cop-out, but it offers opportunities for irony. The complexity of the imperial family is taken for granted; family connections are mentioned in throwaway lines, but you don't need to be able to keep them in the back of your mind to appreciate the tensions and the tragedy. In the first episode the upstart Marcellus needs to be removed to make way for Livia's plans. The tension between him and Livia is apparent in one of the first scenes. From then onwards it's just a matter of how and why he should be killed. Like most of the early episodes, this one belongs to Livia, a remarkable character portrayed by Sian Phillips, an actress who can suggest a lot by doing very little. That's where the stage training comes in. It allows for a languid rhythm that we will probably never see in television drama again.moreless
  • -

    This was a good show, but I'm not inclined to contribute here any more, and there is no way to close one's account here. This was a good show, but I'm not inclined to contribute here any more, and there is no way to close one's account here. bye bye

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (1)

  • QUOTES (11)

    • Musa: There ought to be an inquest, I suppose.
      Livia: No, there's no need of that. We know what he died of.
      Musa: Do we?
      Livia: Food poisoning! Well, you said so yourself!
      Musa: Uh, yes. (walks away, then looks back) I couldn't swear to it.
      Livia: (to herself) I could.

    • Augustus: People, they like to make factions. And that can make bad feelings faster than boiled asparagus!

    • Augustus: See that they're properly fed. Don't give them scraps and leftovers.
      Thallus: They'll eat better even than the kitchen staff, Caesar.
      Augustus: Well, there's no need to go that far. Better than us will be quite sufficient.

    • Livia: When I start to forget things, you may light my funeral pyre and put me on it ... dead or alive.

    • Claudius: (Narrating) If Augustus ruled the world, Livia ruled Augustus.

    • Tiberius: I wish . . . just once I wish you would behave like a normal woman.
      Livia: To be a normal woman, you need normal men around you.

    • Tiberius: Anyway, where does all this get us? There's not only Marcellus, there's Agrippa too. And August prefers both of them to me.
      Julia: {offstage}: No! Noooo!
      Tiberius: Ye gods! What's that?
      Livia: It sounds as though there is now only Agrippa.

    • Tiberius: Mother, I'm a happily married man. Julia doesn't interest me. She wouldn't interest me if you hung her naked from the ceiling above my bed.
      Livia: (amused) She might even do that if I asked her.

    • Tiberius: {About Marcellus} Frankly, I wouldn't have thought you'd care whether he lived or died.
      Livia: Oh I care very much whether he lives or dies.

    • Augustus: Wait 'til you see what Marcellus has arranged. He's got a rhinocerous.
      Livia: What's that?
      Augustus: Oh, it's an extraordinary beast. It's got a horn in its nose.
      Livia: So did Scipio's wife. He could have used her.

    • Agrippa: {to Marcellus} I'm getting a little tired of being taught the arts of war by kids that have only just learned how to piss in a pot. When you've actually done something, lad, instead of just studied it, come back and talk to me again.

  • NOTES (4)