Mark Watches ‘I, Claudius’: Episode 1 – A Touch of Murder

So, this is a unique set of commissions for Mark Watches, but I AM WILLINGLY VENTURING INTO THIS FUTURE. A bunch of folks over at Mark Spoils have commissioned all thirteen episodes of the BBC miniseries I, Claudius, something I’ve been recommended for at least two and a half years now. AND NOW IT’S HAPPENING.

First of all, the video file for “A Touch of Murder” is available for download here, and all Mark Watches videos will be indexed in my Dropbox folder.


  • The first thing I noticed about this show is that it’s essentially a play in terms of the way the actors are blocked, the way it’s filmed, and the way that dialogue is largely used to convey plot and characterization. I could see how this might turn folks off from watching the show just based on this episode alone. I don’t feel any particular desire to defend this quite yet, but I’m willing to give it a chance not only because it’s beloved, but because it’s very different from anything else I’ve covered for Mark Watches.
  • And my god, the acting stands out so much, and it’s why it doesn’t bother me that this all feels like it’s happening on a stage. Brian Blessed, Derek Jacobi, and the supreme queen Siân Phillips are unreal here. THIS BETTER BE A SHOW ABOUT LIVIA AND HER UNBELIEVABLE POWERS OF MANIPULATION OR I WILL BE DISINTERESTED. I’m kind of into vicious ladies doing things that are immoral? Like, specifically the trope of women using the system which they live in to gain their own power over men without the men realizing they’re doing it. (Which is a huge reason why I love the characters of Sansa and Cersei in A Song of Ice and Fire. Both make bad decisions, one arguably more despicable than the other, but I’m fascinated by this framework. Oh god, this show just makes me want to read ASOIAF meta. IS THAT SO BAD.)
  • So, how is this show going to progress? What parts of Roman history are they going to dramatize? Because while this is a fictional show, these characters were all real people, and the stories told here aren’t totally fictional, either. I got the sense that Claudius’s attempt to write his own family’s history is going to provide the framing device for the series. So… we’ll see how he got to where he is now? Yes?
  • I admit that not every moment of this first episode is gripping. It’s all talking. That’s how we learn everything. It’s entirely based on dialogue, and if I wasn’t such a huge fan of that style, I don’t know that I could have paid attention the entire time. Again, the fantastic acting helped a lot, but this show has a very specific and serious tone that might turn other people off. Oh god, it’s very much a Masterpiece Theater kind of show. Like, this is what I imagined was shown on Masterpiece Theater when I was growing up!
  • In terms of the story, I can’t claim that this was terribly suspenseful. I was drawn more to the characterization than the story at this point in the show. That being said, I got the sense that this would be a slow-building show, that this first episode set up these characters, set up the framing device, and everything after this would continue to accelerate towards Claudius’s present time. The dialogue is heavy on the political intrigue, yes, and the show isn’t doing much to define things for us. I’m okay with that. It’s a lot more immersive than I expected.
  • So I’m excited! I think I might actually like this a lot. Allow me to take one last moment to praise Siân Phillips because HOLY SHIT, SHE IS AMAZING.

Thanks, Mark Spoils folks! This should be fun.

About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
This entry was posted in Mark Does Stuff and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.