I, Claudius: Zeus, By Jove!
November 18, 2017 8:49 PM - Season 1, Episode 8 - Subscribe

Rome, AD 37–38. Tiberius dies (actually smothered to death by Macro with Caligula's connivance), leaving Caligula and Gemellus as his joint heirs. Claudius' life-long friend Herod has returned to Rome in time for Caligula's ascension. Caligula chooses Claudius to be his co-Consul, over Claudius' objections. Caligula displays signs of mental instability and falls into a coma; upon awakening he declares that he has become Zeus.

I, Claudius: Zeus, by Jove!
This is the first of two episodes covering the reign of Caligula, and opens with an exhortation from Old!Claudius to believe everything, even if it seems incredible - which is ironic, as this episode strays the furthest from actual recorded history (reliable or otherwise).

We have to despatch with old Tiberius first though, which turns out to be more difficult than Caligula thought. Claudius skips through the last five years of Tiberius' reign, and we see Gimli leaning over Tiberius on a bed in Capri and telling Caligula that Tiberius is dead. Caligula goes outside and announces the sad event, along with a story about how Tiberius left him the Empire (which has actually been left to him jointly with Gemellus, his young cousin) when a slave who obviously has a death wish himself runs in to tell them all that he's alive after all, and wants his supper and his ring back.

Yes, it's THAT episode
In the documentary, I, Claudius: A Television Epic, John Hurt recalls having to get approval from director Herbert Wise for his idea to play Caligula’s farewell dialogue with Livia while in bed together, rather than standing beside her:

Herbie was not at all sure about this, because this was at the time when it was almost not allowed to get into bed with your own wife. You know, you could sit on the bed, or sit by the bed, but you couldn’t be in bed. I think it was just post that, but it was still you had to be very careful on television.

That puritanical approach to showing intimacy didn’t extend to showing blood and gore — and Zeus, by Jove! is definitely the bloodiest and goriest I, Claudius episode. Yet, that stems from only two scenes.
posted by the man of twists and turns (2 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
This is a truly unforgettable hour of television. I remember when I first saw it, in high school. Blew my callow young mind.

It also inspired me to actually see Caligula. This is my first public admission to having done so. For those of you who haven't, and are curious: it's not worth it.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 3:04 AM on November 21, 2017

The movie Caligula will probably ruin whipped cream for you.
posted by ian1977 at 4:33 AM on November 21, 2017

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