Queen Cleopatra Review – a disappointing docuseries about a true female icon

By Romey Norton
Published: May 9, 2023 (Last updated: May 12, 2023)
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Netflix Documentary series Queen Cleopatra


A mediocre show with little to offer other than subpar acting and boring lectures, leaving me wanting more and heading to the History Channel.

We review the Netflix Documentary series Queen Cleopatra, which will be released on May 10th, 2023.

Queen Cleopatra is a 4-part documentary series from executive producer Jada Pinkett Smith and hopes to teach audiences about one of our most prolific female rulers, Cleopatra.

It states that Hollywood legend Smith narrates the series, but this is a grand exaggeration to describe her contribution. The first season of African Queens followed the 17th-century warrior Queen Njinga, who ruled over Ndongo and Matamba and received mixed reviews from audiences. (Please note: since the publication of this review, Netflix have changed the title, and it no longer has African Queens in it. It’s now aptly named Queen Cleopatra).

Queen Cleopatra Review

Cleopatra was one of the most powerful and influential women in history, and as someone who is interested in Ancient Egypt, I feel this series is a mismatch of historical inaccuracies, disjointed scene work, and sub-par acting.

Slightly infuriating, this documentary made it seem as if all Cleopatra’s choices were about seducing men, which I feel does her a massive disservice. It’s more concentrated on her love life than her intellect, cunning, determined nature, and Egypt at the time of her rule.

I did enjoy Cleopatra being shown as more vulnerable, giving birth, and becoming a mother, as we do see her as a strong, powerful, complex woman, so this is a nice balance between the feminine and masculine. 

Each episode is roughly forty minutes long. In between the drama, there are many historians in an interview setting, giving information and attempting to set the scenes. Sometimes this works very well. Other times it feels disjointed.

READ: Best Netflix Documentary Series of All Time

Reenactments to support their words works, but when there are full scenes of drama between the actors, this is where the historians’ interjections disrupt the drama and break the rhythm.  

What was disappointing about this series is the hair and makeup. When one thinks of Cleopatra, one thinks about her exquisite look. This leader has money at her disposal and made herself irresistible to people. In this series, the hair and makeup are very plain and underwhelming. 

There has been a lot of controversy about her race, as black actress Adele James (Casualty) has been cast to play Cleopatra. During the time of her reign, Egypt’s population was multicultural and multiracial. Cleopatra’s race was unlikely to be documented, and the identities of her mother and paternal grandparents weren’t known.

Some speculate she was a native Egyptian woman, while others say she was Greek. Cleopatra herself was vocal about being Egyptian and fought to rule over Egypt strongly.

READ: Who plays Cleopatra in the Netflix series?

This documentary states she is depicted differently by the people depicting her, and some refer to her as a black woman. As there is much speculation and Cleopatra’s body has never been found, it still feels as if this documentary is forcing the color black onto her; after suggesting her story has been whitewashed. 

The final episode is the most entertaining of the four, depicting Cleopatra’s downfall and eventual, inevitable death. Cleopatra committed suicide, and it’s still unknown how, but the reasons why are clear.

We see what happens to her children and the future of Rome and Egypt. To this day, we do not know where Cleopatra’s body or burial ground is, and that is fascinating. This episode has a strong pace and finishes the docuseries nicely.

Is Queen Cleopatra on Netflix Good or Bad?

It’s not very good. Overall, it lacks context, personality, and a reason for being made. I think the series would have been more successful with a personal touch from Jada Pinkett Smith or more involvement from her.

Is Queen Cleopatra Worth Watching?

In my opinion, there are much better documentaries available out there on multiple streaming services to teach you about ancient Egypt and the life of Cleopatra.

However, if you are completely new to the history of Egypt and who Cleopatra was, this documentary could be a good start. 

What did you think of the Netflix Documentary series Queen Cleopatra? Comment below.

Netflix, Streaming Service, TV Reviews
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