Thirty-five years on, though, the question is: how does the show hold up? The short answer: splendidly. The slightly longer answer: splendidly, but you know, it’s 35 years old.
This is most apparent in the staid and static staging. Like many BBC programs of the era, I, Claudius was shot on sound stages and looks like it. The sets have an airless sense of flimsy unreality to them, and the color palette is washed out, in part a result of shooting on videotape, not film. Most importantly to young audiences used to Rome and Spartacus, there are no exterior shots; few street scenes and no free-for-all melees. A whole lot of people die, but there isn’t a great deal of fighting to be seen. Crowds are thin on the ground, suggested by offstage sound effects, while burning buildings are indicated by lighting effects and horrified expressions. It all looks rather like a filmed stage play, because that’s more or less what it is.
The good news is that little of this matters. If there were ever a need to argue that excellent dialogue and on-target acting can trump big-budget spectacle, this series could function as Exhibit A. Jacobi and company rattle through Jack Pulman’s excellent screenplay with gleeful energy, and the viewer is taken along for the ride as plots are hatched and carried out, victims are eliminated and power is gained and lost. Claudius himself, crippled and stuttering, is seen by his own family as too simple and unthreatening to be concerned with, which turns out to be his salvation. That, and his brains, which are considerable.
Tengo un recuerdo de infancia de la serie. Quizá debería volver a verla.