Thursday, 23 September 2010

Chelmsford 123: Vidi, Veni, Vici

Still a bit rushed off my feet with moving and so on, but I did find time while unpacking to watch an old episode of Chelmsford 123 on 4oD (which now offers streaming so you don't have to download it, which is nice!)

Well, you can really tell all you need to know about this episode from the title – 'I saw, I came, I conquered'. Badvoc is kidnapped and his (rather surprisingly) distressed girlfriend Gargamadua goes to stay with Aulus Paulinus, who pretends to look for Badvoc while actually trying to get off with her. He succeeds, briefly, but eventually gives up and finds Badvoc leading his kidnappers in an attempt to defraud Aulus himself.

Badvoc is kidnapped by a vicious tribe called the Triconi, whom Badvoc claims never to have heard of, which I’m choosing to interpret as an in-joke, since they’re not real. In fact, they later explain that they’re not really a tribe, there’s only two of them.

There's very little in this episode that really relates to the Roman Empire - for the most part, this story could have been set in any time period, or at least any time period where the threat of kidnapping was a problem. Chelmsford 123 frequently portrayed its characters as no different at all from modern men (and the odd man's view of what a modern woman is like) and this one does so even more than most. The story may have been inspired by the dangerous side of life in Roman Britain, surrounded by discontented tribal warriors, but it interacts very little with its historical setting.

This episode suffers from the fact that there is another, later sex-based episode which was rather more memorable and funnier – this one is mildly amusing but not laugh-out-loud funny. The bit where Aulus brings wine over, talking about its nose, and Gargamadua knocks in back in one as if it was beer was funny, and might possibly still work as a joke about an Italian and a Brit, depending how much we want to deal in stereotypes. We also get a reference to the Roman poet Catullus and the sparrow which is pretty funny. Catullus' most famous poem is about how his girlfriend's sparrow is dead (actually there are several poems about the sparrow, but this is the best known), and apparently it's actually very rude, though I've never sat down to work out how exactly. Aulus wants to read one of them to Gargamadua but tries to translate it literally, with predictably awful results, which is fairly amusing. Overall, though, this episode is too much based on paper thin characterisation and stereotypes (nagging girlfriend, drunk mates and so on) to be really entertaining.

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