Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Chelmsford 123: Mine's a Double

In this episode, Badvok and Aulus both somewhat unexpectedly turn out to have long lost identical twin brothers, who both turn up after a ten-year absence needing somewhere to stay. They turn up, cause trouble and reveal all the old family secrets - such as Badvok's real name ('Rosemary') and the fact that Aulus is actually a Spanish provincial rather than native Roman. Aulus runs into Badvok's twin and thinks it's Badvok, Badvok runs into Aulus' twin and think it's Aulus, and hilarity ensues.

The trope of the identical or nearly identical sibling/relative who turns up uninvited requires said relative to be some kind of polar opposite to our regular hero, like the brave-to-the-point-of-stupid MacAdder, cousin of the cowardly Blackadder, or the alcoholic loser brother of Captain Mainwaring. In this case, Aulus' brother is a dirty, rude career criminal with a terrible Spanish accent, while Badvok's is a walking stereotype of camp. Badvok's brother is actually slightly more likeable than Badvok, while the nice thing about Aulus' is that it makes him and Grasientus look slightly closer, since Grasientus is less of a pain than his brother.

At one point, Aulus' brother insults all the patrons in a British drinking den. The idea of British drinking dens that are off-limit to Romans is interesting. I don't know if that's true or not, I can't remember coming across it before - though I think it's safe to assume the opposite (exclusively Roman drinking dens) certainly existed. It would certainly be a good way to make the locals feel that they had a place that was still their own - but given the possibilities for plotting rebellion in such a place, especially only a few decades after Boudicca, I doubt they really existed.

The story revolves around Mungo's theft of one of Aulus' priceless statues of the divine twins Castor and Pollux. Naturally, Aulus wants it back, Badvok wants the other twin, there's all sorts of twin-swapping going on, and everyone gets very confused. The scene where Aulus interrogates his hapless guard (Chris Langham), who has not only barely guarded the villa, but was actually present when Mungo stole the statue and let him do it, is really pretty funny. A second scene, in which the guard reveals that Badvok has managed to convince him he was the emperor, is even funnier.

This episode wasn't half bad - better than the rather tired plot might imply. The attempt to lampshade how totally ludicrous it is that everyone has a long-lost identical twin who's suddenly decided to show up is a bit forced, but saved by Blag's sudden gift of prophecy regarding the invention of television and Panorama, and the final joke, in which we are introduced to Grasientus' identical twin, pushes the idea so far it becomes funny again - and it's an amusing joke too.

All Chelmsford 123 reviews

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