Then, after Brutus despatched her lover, Cleopatra's next trick was to sail to see Rome's leading general Mark Antony in a heavily perfumed vessel filled with ancient Egypt's equivalent of the Spice Girls. That performance seems to have been enough - there was no need to fix his follicles. Sadly, Timewatch's fascinating study failed to mention her other great contribution to the art of love - Cleopatra's preferred method of contraception was, legend has it, a judiciously positioned piece of camel dung.
Nevertheless, Jonathan Lewis's entertaining and informative film took a hard look at a figure whose reality is difficult to disentangle from Elizabeth Taylor's life. Add in two millennia of story-telling, much of it based on smears put about by her Roman detractors, and getting at the truth is even more taxing.
We learnt that Cleopatra was not, in fact, a great looker, though she had bags of personality. And, like her incestuous predecessors, she married and murdered a sibling. The picture that emerged was of a smart politician, desperate to preserve her family's dynastic hold over the remnants of an empire overshadowed by Rome's might. Hence her sexual liaisons, in both cases producing offspring, with the two Romans she hoped would secure her reign.
The film also explored her historical significance. Several clips caught an intriguing debate among Afro-American women as to whether Cleopatra was in fact black, rather than, as previously thought, of Greek lineage. For these intellectuals and feminists, the power of the Egyptian queen's image arouses as much passion as ever.
Equally interesting was speculation about the importance of her defeated alliance with Mark Antony in Rome's civil war for the imperial succession. Thus, the classical world lost its chance to bind East and Western culture in a more harmonious relationship. It is a defeat whose consequences are still felt today. On the other hand, Cleopatra's demise probably saved a lot of bald men from unnecessary torment and thankfully kept Britain's bedrooms smelling fragrant.
The troubled life of Andrew Parker raised several pertinent questions about those who survive traumatic events only then to brave the attentions of the press. Picture This: Accidental Hero (BBC2) followed the last decade of the former bank clerk, who famously saved dozens of lives by making himself into a human bridge to safety for those trapped aboard The Herald of Free Enterprise. It capsized off Zeebrugge in 1987 and Parker was awarded the George Medal for his courage.
This depressing film began as a tale about the ultimate emptiness of heroism, a study of a man who had offered so much so selflessly to so many but gained so little as a result. It then seemed to veer towards attacking the press, which was preoccupied with Parker for several years, leading him to become distracted from his work and, eventually, to lose his job. But Niall Fraser's profile was too honest to be satisfied with such a simplistic apportioning of blame.
The unravelling of Parker's story revealed that the press, in fact, offered him the opportunity to talk and thus unwittingly played the part of psychotherapist. But it left incomplete the job of healing a wounded psyche. When the media finally lost interest and ceased to maintain him in the role of great hero, Parker at last faced the real horrors of his experience. So he plunged into the depression, the chaos and anger that had only been delayed by public attention. And he lost everything - his family, home, the lot.
The lesson of the story? That we cannot overestimate the long-term damage caused by trauma, that, despite all the counselling now offered, we still do not understand how best to help victims. Ten years on, Andrew Parker seemed to be making this film as his final farewell to the trappings of heroism. He still has not cried. He looked like he needed to. Perhaps, after this, he will.Reuse content