The Last Czars (2019) s01e01 Episode Script

The Chosen One

The past it is a dangerous place.
So many decisions that can't be undone.
So many ghosts.
In 1905, I accepted a job with the Romanovs, Russia's royal family.
I saw their incredible wealth.
The palaces, the balls, the jewelry.
And then I saw the madness.
The revolution.
It all ended here in this house The richest family in the world, the Emperor and the Empress of Russia, Nicholas and Alexandra their five children vanished without a trace.
[children screaming.]
[gun shots.]
Now there are rumors of a survivor a deeply troubled girl in Berlin who claims to be Anastasia, the Romanovs' youngest daughter.
It is my task to see if she is telling the truth.
I understand they want you to identify her.
I worked in the family for 13 years.
I was the children's tutor.
[door clangs shut.]
You have a visitor.
She has retrograde amnesia.
Her memories are confused.
It's a common symptom.
Do you remember me? [clock ticks.]
[gun fires.]
[sound of a priest chanting.]
In 1894 Czar Alexander III died suddenly at the age of 49.
Russia was in shock.
His heir, Nicholas, was just 26.
[male choir singing.]
[soft footsteps.]
Jesus, he's fucking rotting.
Sh! You can't silence this, sweetheart, they've botched the embalming.
He stinks.
[woman whispers.]
She already looks like an empress.
Let's just hope she's a good breeder.
Are you all right? I'm sorry there's been no time for us.
[woman wails.]
- Mother.
- Oh! [mother gasps.]
- [mother.]
Ah, thank you, Alix.
- I'll take her outside.
- I'll come.
- No, no.
You stay.
You'll be all right.
I should go back.
I worry about you so.
The wedding, on top of all this.
[Dr de Orellana.]
The young Nicholas II is quiet, indecisive, and very much living in the shadow of his great, imposing Grand Duke Uncle Sergei.
To be czar is to be field martial, emperor, prime minister, all of these things, pope, all rolled into one.
[Dr de Orellana.]
This is like a medieval monarchy where the czar has ultimate control over everything.
And what man in the world is qualified for such a post? Get you through the next few hours, eh? [sighs.]
What am I going to do, Sandro? I'm not ready to be czar.
You were born for this.
I can't run a country.
I have so much more to learn.
And who will teach me now? You don't need a teacher.
Trust yourself.
God chose you.
Divine bloody right.
[Dr Hetherington.]
The Russian Empire that Nicholas II inherits is one of the largest empires the world has ever seen.
It was colossal, it was a sixth of the world's surface.
There were over 146 nationalities, many languages.
And the Romanovs have ruled Russia for almost 300 years.
Their wealth is beyond computation.
An embarrassment of riches.
Land, gold mines, diamond mines, the famous Fabergé eggs.
There are palaces everywhere.
Marrying into this world is Alexandra of Hesse, a shy, religious girl brought up in a tiny German principality.
If Catherine the Great wore them, so can you.
Smile, Sunny.
Mother and father would have been so proud of you.
It's all right.
It's been a hell of a few weeks.
Are you sure it's not bad luck? Having the wedding while we're all still mourning? The people say I come to them behind a coffin.
Well, that's not true.
I don't know the customs of this country.
I can't even speak Russian.
[sister, laughing.]
I can help with that.
I feel such an outsider.
I was a foreign princess once.
Head up.
Neck straight.
Carry the weight, proudly.
Czarina, and Empress of all Russia.
Now, you're one of us.
[Dr de Orellana.]
Alexandra of Hesse is a granddaughter of Queen Victoria.
She is deeply religious, and this obsession with religion plays a key role in her marriage to Nicholas and in her role as Czarina of Russia.
[Dr Hetherington.]
This marriage is unusual as a Romanov marriage, and for a royal marriage in general in this time period.
And that's because it's very much a love match.
They're one of the only royal couples in Europe that share a marital bed.
[Alix sighs.]
- Well, Mrs.
- [Alix laughs.]
- Got it.
- [Alix giggles.]
[Alix sighs.]
You know, my father was a great leader.
The people adored him.
It's not the people I worry about.
[Alix thinks.]
It's your family.
You need to be strong.
You're the Czar.
Master of the land.
The leader of all Russia.
[Alix thinks.]
The god-given one.
Nothing will ever come between us.
- [horses galloping.]
- [man.]
Yah! - [horse whinnies.]
- [men shouting.]
- [galloping.]
- [men shouting.]
Yah, yah! [galloping continues.]
Come on.
Come on.
Yah, yah! - [galloping.]
- [grunting.]
- [man shouts.]
- [horse whinnies.]
You're either on my side or in my fucking way.
- [thwack.]
- [Rasputin groans.]
Rasputin is one of the most remarkable figures of the 20th century.
Okay, we can talk.
- [thwack.]
- [groans.]
But his background is sort of shrouded in mist and and legend.
[people shouting.]
[Dr de Orellana.]
His parents were farmers and church elders.
He was one of eight or nine siblings, but it would seem that all of them died in his childhood.
- [people shouting.]
- [thumps.]
Rasputin, he drinks, he fights with his father.
He chases girls.
But, above all he's ungovernable.
He's fearless.
[people shouting.]
Quiet! [Rasputin pants.]
The horse is safe.
Back in his stable.
I only borrowed it.
You stole it! Thieves must be punished.
Banish him! I don't want to be a thief.
But we got to eat.
Huh? You've got to eat.
You need to eat.
I did a bad thing.
But I did it for my wife Mm? [kissing child.]
 and my son.
What do you want to do with him? [woman yelling.]
Banish him! - [woman.]
Punish him! - What about my family? You can't do this.
Give me a chance, hm? Give me a chance.
Send me on a pilgrimage, hm? Come on.
This is my judgment: go on a pilgrimage, turn to God, but leave the village, now.
Will you really go to the monastery? I don't know.
I won't let you down.
[door rattles.]
I love you.
Rasputin's wife, Praskovya, is a very long-suffering figure.
It's hard to say if Praskovya loves Rasputin or not.
But she's a constant figure, a supportive figure.
When Rasputin picks up and leaves home as a pilgrim in 1897 he enters what might be considered his university.
He sleeps out of doors, he becomes infinitely aware of the beauty of the Russian landscape, of Russian life, of folk ways.
[roar of thunder.]
He walked through all weathers, being soaked, being frozen, being sunburnt.
It was a really hard, strange, lonely life.
But one that got him closer to God.
[Dr de Orellana.]
Away from the Siberian plains, Russia is changing ever faster.
[sound of a crowd.]
[clink of tools.]
The telephone replaces the telegram, cars replace carriages, electric lights replace lamps.
Nicholas becomes Czar at the dawn of the modern age.
[Dr de Orellana.]
Russia is industrializing at breakneck speed, hundreds of thousands of workers flock to the big cities, creating huge social change.
They're building railways, building factories.
Conditions there are appalling, workers' rights are nonexistent.
So there was a great hunger for new political institutions.
Nicholas' first speech as Czar is a great opportunity for him to show what kind of ruler he wants to be.
In the early part of his reign, Uncle Sergei is probably Nicky's most important advisor.
He's very dogmatic, extremely right wing.
He's highly religious.
He's the ultimate Romanov hardliner.
[Dr de Orellana.]
What Nicky is about to say is critical.
He can either embrace democracy and modernity like Western Europe, or he can choose to remain an absolute monarch.
I'm aware that recently in some zemstvos the people have been carried away with senseless dreams of taking part in the business of government.
Let everyone know that I will retain the principles of autocracy as firmly and unbendingly as my unforgettable late father.
It's Sergei who tells him to give the speech, and he encourages Nicholas to embrace sacred autocracy as the only way to rule Russia.
Good speech.
It's a terrible mistake.
He stamps out any possibility of reform.
[Dr Hetherington.]
By showing he has no intention of sharing power democratically, Nicholas lays the foundations of his own demise.
Rasputin visits various monasteries, including Verkhoturye, which is one of the great monasteries of Russia.
And he meets with the monks, and he learns the gospels practically by heart.
And he becomes steeped in Russian Orthodoxy.
But there's too much control, there's too much order, there's too much discipline, there's too much routine.
I can't find God here.
Come with me.
Rasputin is a free spirit, and he seeks out some of the cults who have a different and much more instinctive, and much more passionate approach to religion.
[door clatters.]
[male voice muttering in Russian.]
[muttering in Russian.]
Be full of joy and gladness, for Christ has risen! [male voice muttering in Russian.]
[almost growling.]
Be full of joy and gladness, for Christ has risen! [man gasping hysterically.]
Be full of [man shouts.]
Oh, God! We feel you! Oh, God! Oh, God! [man shouts.]
We feel your Spirit, God! [gasping.]
We feel you! We feel your Spirit! [gasping.]
[man moans.]
We feel your spirit! [gasping and moaning continues.]
The Khlysty, which means "whips" in English, are one of the most notorious of all Russian sects.
They're illegal, they operate in secret, and they engage in all sorts of wild orgiastic rites and rituals.
There's even talk that they cut off the breast of a virgin and eat it at the end of their rites.
But there is a logic under lies it all.
If one does not sin, one cannot repent.
And without repenting, one cannot be saved.
And this suits Rasputin right down to the ground.
He's a man of enormous sexual appetite, he's a heavy drinker, he loves women, and he adopts this idea of sin leading to redemption as the essence of his own faith.
Rasputin has a true religious experience.
And this launches him into becoming a holy pilgrim, a new man imbued with religious fervor, traversing across vast expanses of the empire for many years.
[general hubbub.]
[hubbub continues.]
[Dr de Orellana.]
For Nicky's coronation at the Khodynka Field, people are invited to participate in a public feast for anyone that wants to come.
[shouting from the crowd.]
There will be food and little commemorative gifts from the Czar to his people.
[Dr Alexandrova.]
The gifts include a kerchief, a commemorative mug, sausage, gingerbread, so it sounds wonderful to a regular Russian peasant.
They flocked to the field even before dawn and some even walked on foot from Siberia in their Bass shoes.
That's fine, I'm done.
Looking good.
Feeling shit.
Couldn't sleep.
You know, you're lucky, you'll never know responsibility like mine.
I'll never know money like yours either.
Or power.
Are you ready? [sighing.]
As I'll ever be.
- Are you? - [Uncle.]
You wanted to see me? How are the plans for Khodynka? A fucking nightmare.
Too many peasants in one place, all wanting free food and drink.
You should send more Cossacks for crowd control.
I don't want to waste time and money on Cossacks.
It will be fine.
Do you want me to go after him? You'll only aggravate him.
Isn't that the point? [laughs.]
Today is about us.
[hubbub continues.]
Uncle Sergei is in charge of the public event and he really is expecting 2- 300,000 peasants.
In fact, 800,000 peasants turn up.
The problem is that this feast has been very badly organized by Uncle Sergei.
The field has been torn apart by military exercises, and only a few planks have been put down to cover deep trenches.
There are very few policemen to keep security.
[Dr Alexandrova.]
The people in the stalls start panicking.
They start hurling those packages into the crowd.
[hubbub escalates.]
Everyone starts to rush towards where they believe the presents are being given.
[Dr Alexandrova.]
People start falling to the ground, human dominos, other people trample upon them.
This scene is horrible carnage.
[choir singing.]
The coronation of a Russian Czar was magnificent, majestic, jewel-infested, exquisite, the cost was extraordinary.
The rituals were complex and ancient.
Everything was designed to project wealth, power and the glory of the dynasty.
The coronation really defines the emperor as a ruler whose power comes from God.
And Nicholas completely believes this and embraces it.
[choir singing.]
[chink of metal.]
[hushed murmurs.]
It doesn't mean anything.
Oh, Lord, God of our fathers.
You have chosen me as sovereign and judge over your people.
I confess to your inscrutable providence in selecting me.
Inspire and enlighten my path, and direct my actions in this awe-inspiring mission.
May the wisdom that descends always from your throne abide with me.
How many dead? [Uncle.]
It is yet to be confirmed.
A hundred? - More? - As I say, it is yet to be confirmed.
- How many hundred? - Unfortunately, we are talking thousands Thousands? It is yet to be confirmed.
- We must cancel the celebrations.
- I would advise against that.
But surely we must acknowledge the tragedy.
It is only a tragedy if you make it one.
Where you lead, others follow.
[footsteps fade.]
2000, 3000 bodies of peasants lie on this coronation field, where soon there are to be festivities, the Czar, the Grand Duke, the Royal Family are to arrive.
[cheering from the crowd.]
[cheering continues.]
And some of the bodies, they just pile into carts.
So that as the royal family are going out to the Khodynka field, they pass carriages where they think the people are waving at them and suddenly, as they get close, they realize that these are all dead people, crushed to death.
Nicky should have done what a modern politician would do, go to all the hospitals, and be seen to be visiting and showing love for his people.
[chamber music plays.]
What he, in fact, does is to make a decision against his better judgment, to go to the party of the Marquis de Montebello, the French ambassador.
I can't.
It's not right.
Just this one, then we'll have done our duty.
[playing "Symphonie Fantastique".]
This will come back to haunt us.
There's no room for sentimentality in politics.
You should have sent more Cossacks to manage the crowds.
The people won't forgive him.
Grow up.
This blood will stain his reign.
[Uncle chuckles.]
Fucking kids.
[Dr de Orellana.]
In the first day of his reign, the Czar and his German wife were dancing and drinking, even as hundreds and thousands of Muscovites had been killed.
And from this point onwards, he is known as Nicholas the Bloody.
It's a disastrous beginning to Nicholas' reign.
- [soft footsteps.]
- [dogs' distant barking.]
Would you have food and a bed for the night? - Of course.
- Thank you.
Very nice, thank you.
[quiet, shaky breathing in background.]
[shaky breathing continues.]
[shaky breathing in background.]
[shaky breathing continues.]
What's all this shaking, old man? Hm? Too many seasons.
Feel God flow in you again.
That's it.
Breathe his spirit.
Remember how they ran.
The hills they climbed.
It's all still there.
- Uh? - Good.
Rasputin becomes more and more convinced of his own abilities, of his power as a healer his insight into human nature.
He's superb at getting close to people.
 He has empathy.
He has a feral charisma.
And then he has those eyes.
And he knows the effect that these eyes have on people.
Especially women.
It's alright to sin.
Brings us closer to God.
How can you be redeemed if you haven't sinned? [gasps.]
He's a man who emits electricity from his fingertips.
His physical presence is something that overwhelms people.
And people are transfixed by this.
[muffled squeaks.]
By 1901, Nicky and Alix have three daughters; Olga, Tatiana and Maria.
And when Alix gets pregnant again of course, everybody is longing for the much-needed son and heir.
[Alix groans in labour.]
Oh, Lord, forgive us our sins.
May our prayers be answered.
We thank you for our daughters, but may you bless us now with a son.
- [doctor.]
Push! Push it! - [shouts.]
- [gasping.]
- [baby crying.]
- [Alix gasps.]
- [baby cries.]
Tell me.
We have a beautiful, healthy baby.
I'm sorry.
- [baby cries.]
- [Alix.]
A son would belong to the people.
This little girl is ours.
Hello, Anastasia.
[male narrator.]
In Greek, the name Anastasia means, "the one who is reborn.
" Now I had to ask if she truly had been resurrected.
The eyes are the same.
But not the face.
There may be good reasons for that.
Her jaw's been broken.
She has missing teeth.
She's been through serious emotional and physical trauma.
I don't know if anyone could have survived that massacre.
[clock ticks.]
[faint screams.]
[baby crying.]
One thing that is certain, is that the birth of Anastasia was both a blessing and a curse.
More than ever, Nicholas and Alexandra needed a son and heir.
Come back to bed.
We need help.
And their desperation would open a door [Alix.]
There must be something we can do.
to a darkness that would destroy their world.
There must be someone.