Cleopatra has a bombshell for Caesar – she’s pregnant. He’s obviously delighted and after the child (as she predicted, a boy) is born, she visits Rome. Cleopatra’s self absorption is made very plain within the opening minutes of this episode. Her two maids, who are completely sycophantic in her presence, have a very different opinion of her when she’s not around.
Ammonius (Frank Duncan) is the Roman official who’s been tasked with preparing Cleopatra’s Roman villa. When he mentions that he was a great admirer of her father, he receives a polite but cool response. After she’s left the room her maids tell him that he shouldn’t “harp on about her father too much, she didn’t care for him. She cares only for herself. We recommend flattery, you can’t lay it on too thick.”
It’s interesting that Caesar later tells her that “you’re an intelligent woman, you like plain speaking. And you hate meaningless flattery.” According to her maids she loves flattery – so who is closer to the truth? Of course, the fact that Caesar tells her to her face that she hates flattery is a form of flattery in itself. Caesar doesn’t seem very manipulative – Hardy plays him as an affable sort of chap – so maybe he’s sincere in what he says.
The only scene between Caesar and Mark Anthony is highly entertaining. Caesar tells him of his desire to be crowned king, but can he persuade the republican loving Roman citizens? Neame’s Anthony is full of boyish enthusiasm for his plans and exuberantly tells him so. Compared to Hardy’s laconic Caesar, Neame’s Anthony is much more hyperactive. Like some of the other performances throughout the series it’s not a subtle one, but there’s a certain amount of pleasure to be derived from watching him chew the scenery.
For all Cleopatra’s self-centeredness, she did seem to be genuinely in love with Caesar – and he with her – and she takes the news of his assassination hard. When Mark Anthony presents himself to her, she wonders why he “didn’t die protecting him? Or die with him?” Mark Anthony’s equally as upset as her though, as is made plan as Neame full-throttles his way through the scene.
Familiar faces (and voices) who turn up in this episode include Geoffrey Chater as Perigenes, a plain-speaking Egyptian official. Amongst his many credits he had a memorable recurring role as Bishop, opposite Edward Woodward in Callan. John Moffatt, as Quintus Dellius, might not have been such a familiar face, but he was a highly skilled radio actor, playing the role of Hercule Poirot over several decades.
With Mark Anthony and Octavian victorious, Cleopatra should be glad that Mark Anthony is now ruler of half the world – but that’s not enough for her. Julius Caesar ruled the world and she wants Mark Anthony to do the same ………