‘The Last Czars’ – A Six Episode Netflix Presentation

John Thomas

Staring at nothing, she lies on a plain white bed in a mental hospital in Berlin, Germany. In her more lucid moments, she claims to be Anastasia Romanov, youngest daughter of Czar Nicholas II and his wife Alexandra of Russia.

Now in the mid 1920s, her former tutor, Pierre, comes to visit her with the hope of establishing she is who she claims to be and not an impostor. From his experience with the family and long before DNA testing, he would know.

Her father, Nicholas, aka Nicky, was crowned Czar at the young age of 26. Without any leadership training and susceptible to omens, superstitions and unreliable counseling, he makes many disasterous governing decisions – his reign is quickly doomed.

At the same time, both Nicky and Alix are busy producing children – four in total. After three daughters, the parents are anxious for a male heir. When the son finally arrives, he is diagnosed with hemophilia. The parents are overjoyed to have a son, but devastated by his condition, it’s a secret they must keep.

While all this activity is swirling within St. Petersburg, Rasputin, a peasant from Siberia, is making a name for himself as a healer and holy man. He is also known as a womanizer and heavy drinker as he wanders towards the Russian capital.

By the time he arrives, his fame and credibility are well established, and he is welcomed to court by Nicky and Alix. He soon becomes their significant advisor and friend. His powers to heal their son and charm the ladies make him a permanent fixture.

Sadly, he is such an influence at the palace that he becomes the only source of information that Nicky and Alix rely on. While trouble, unrest and the chance of a revolution are brewing throughout Russia, Rasputin is saying prayers and predicting a promising future for the royal family.

Had Nicky had a more realistic picture of what was really happening outside the palace walls, he and his family might have lived to the retirement age. Instead, after a brief reign, in 1918 they are moved to The House of Special Purposes.

The Netflix presentation of this often told story is a departure from the Netflix usual format in that there are intermittent commentaries by Russian historians. To some viewers these interruptions are an annoyance – to others they are an enlightenment. These scholars are bright, enthusiastic and add considerable depth and understanding to the tragedies taking place on the screen. One has a choice – either study the black and white text on the Wikipedia website or see this gripping, profoundly moving story slowly unfold in dazzling color.

Main cast members: Czar Nicholas II (Nicky) – Robert Jack; Rasputin – Ben Cartwright; Alexandra (Alix) – Susanna Herbert and Pierre: Oliver Dimsdale

Directed by Adrian McDowall (three episodes) and Gareth Tunley (three episodes), “The Last Czars” is a “should see” film.



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