Blackadder where would we be without the character that is Edmund Blackadder and his poor unfortunate sidekick Baldrick. British greats in Rowan Atkinson as Blackadder together with Sir Tony Robinson as his dogsbody and servant Baldrick, the show has to be without doubt one of the greatest historical based sitcoms ever to grace British tv or any tv around the world for that fact. In the following post I take a look at series together with some favourite moments, memories and quotes where some have entered everyday conversations.
The Black Adder
When the very first series appeared on tv, I was only six and too young to be watching such fine comic delights. I have to say though when I did get to watch the first series, it didn’t quite grab me as the rest would. Was it due to the fact that there were a lot of outside scenes, was it that the first series was written by Richard Curtis and Rowan Atkinson alone? Who knows but it whilst it wasnt as funny as the rest, it still has place in my comedy collection.
The very first Blackadder series was set in an alternate 1485 where Richard IV was king and Edmund was the Duke of Edinburgh, the second and unfavoured son. Edmund decided to call himself The Black Adder and attempt to overthrow his father and get himself higher up and noticed.
Having been expensive to make a reported £1 million and Michael Grade not keen commissioning it, the likelihood of was quite possible that it would never make it beyond series two, especially with Rowan Atkinson no longer wishing to write. It featured the first of three appearances by the late Rik Mayall Thankfully it was all to change thanks to some changes and a meeting between Richard Curtis and Ben Elton. The show was brought inside and filmed in front of a studio audience and as they say the rest is history..although the show is all history.
Series two which is set in Elizabethan times, started well with the episode Bells, although it might appear that this should have been the second episode given the beard of Lord Percy appears in Head and disappearing in Bells. Series two has to be one of my favourites out of the four as we see the appearance of a sarcastic and witty Blackadder who finds himself plagued with Lord Percy and Baldrick.
It is of course one of the best series for Blackadder’s put downs and lines. Episode one sees him mock Lord Percy’s latest interest Jane Harrington who seems to be a bit popular with the men enquiring as to whether it is Jane ‘bury me in a y shaped coffin’ Harrington together with that she goes like a privy door when the plague is in town. Edmund looks like giving a bit of sympathy when he says to Percy he’ll get over her and then hits him with a knock out blow as having said that he did, that even Baldrick had got over her.
The first episode sees the first appearance of the iconic character that is Flashheart played by the fantastic but sadly no longer with us Rik Mayall. Blackadder looks certain to marry Kate (Bob) but is dashed when his very own best man Lord Flasheart appears and takes her away leaving Blackadder regretfully asking Baldrick, who is a bridesmaid whether he will honour the Bridesmaids role in replacing the bride.
Episode two (Head) has a great opening scene where Edmund is teaching Baldrick advanced mathematics much to Edmund’s dismay. He is on top form when Percy makes an appearance wearing a ruff, You can check out the scene here.
Series two continues to excel in the following three episodes with guest appearances from legend Tom Baker in Potato, Ronald Lacey as the Bishop of Bath and Wells in Money. Money is a great episode that sees Blackadder turn his debt situation into a great revenge scheme, Miriam Margoyles makes an appearance as the puritan Lady Whiteadder, who visits whilst Blackadder is trying to host a party.
Series 3 which is now 30 years old this year sees Blackadder returning once more but in the reign of the Prince Regent, played by another favourite of mine Hugh Laurie. Blackadder is the servant to George. The opening episode is set around the election and the battle to keep Prince George on the civil list as the Prime Minister, Pitt The Younger, wants rid. So Blackadder sets off on another scheme and some more witty put downs. Unfortunately when the key part of your plan is one S Baldrick or Sod Off Baldrick as he was called at school, you just know things are never going to go to plan. Although for Blackadder, he seems best when he is verbally tying up someone. When he comes across Pitt The Younger, who is the recently elected PM, Blackadder launches into some fine mockery. Pitt intends to put his brother up as a candidate to which Blackadder which Pitt this would be? Pitt The Toddler? Pitt the Embryo? Pitt the Glint in the Milkman’s eye?
Blackadder, having rigged the election for his purposes, sees the dimwitted Baldrick only going and screw things up by unwittingly voting against the Prince Regent. Fear not of course because there is no way that the lords would be happy, so step two in the plan is about to evolve. This plan is a step into the lords for Baldrick which sadly sees the downfall in his plan. Give Baldrick some money and you know its going to end in only one thing a huge turnip for £4,000.
Episode two sees another fine outing. The episode titled Ink and incapability, sees a guest appearance from Robbie Coltrane as Dr Samuel Johnson. The Prince Regent attempts to up his intellectual standing by becoming a patron of Dr Johnson’s new dictionary. Blackadder isn’t amused and calls the new dictionary the most pointless thing since How to Learn French was translated into French. His bitterness might be to do with the fact that Johnson has ignored a novel that he has written under a pseudonym. Under the name of Gertrude Perkins, Blackadder has written his magnum opus titled A Butler’s Tale, that contains over 400 sizzling chapters of domestic servitude in the eighteenth century. Not forgetting of course the hot gypsies he has thrown in.
Not to be undone Baldrick has his as he calls it magnificent octopus which is on a piece of paper. He doesn’t like long books and his story is about a sausage called Baldrick, that lives happily ever after. Blackadder of course isn’t impressed by Baldrick’s story but adds seeing that it’s rubbish, Dr Johnson will probably like it. Enter then of course the very person as Robbie Coltrane enters the scene. Anyone can read a script but to make it seems genuine and not just a load of words, which would be quite apt,you need someone who can transform those words and Coltrane does just that.
As Johnson rifles off some long words to describe how he feels after completing the dictionary, Blackadder opts for very much the same and starts what seems a game of one upmanship creating made up words such as contrafribblarities, that Johnson makes note of. Then of course Prince George enters the fray. Johnson becomes dismayed as George becomes disappointed that the dictionary he is patronising doesn’t have any scenes of action or anything. It is then when Johnson storms off that Blackadder’s hopes are suddenly broken. With the Prince abandoning his patronage, Johnson then informs him that he has missed out the only book better than his dictionary. That book being Edmund: A Butlers tale. Blackadder then tries to convince unsuccessfully to get Johnson to change his mind.
The nightmare then begins in earnest for our man of sarcastic put downs and scheming plans as upon returning, it turns out that Baldrick has only gone and thrown Johnsons manuscript into the fire and to make things worse, Edmund finds out that it was the only copy and to add to his troubles, the poets Shelley, Colleridge and Byron are all worse for wear in Mrs Miggins pie shop. Byron it seems is quite happy to get 50 men to deal with whoever it is.
Back at the house, when Edmund returns with bad news, Baldrick suggests they rewrite the whole dictionary. Baldrick is mocked but then upon realisation of the alternative both Prince George and Balders set to work. Not Britain’s best hope at salvaging the dictionary. We see a moment when Blackadder is dreaming with a returning Dr Johnson no longer interested in his dictionary, alas for Prince George’s servant, it is a hallucination when he notices an aunt with a dogs head. Dr Johnson does enter but this time a tad more angry and demanding his dictionary. One glimmer of hope for Edmund is when Johnson requests the manuscript by Gertrude Perkins this is when Edmund reveals that he is indeed Gertrude Perkins and has the manuscript to prove it. The world caves in for him when Baldrick reveals that its been burnt in the fire leaving Blackadder slightly upset.
Baldrick offers his book which angers Johnson once more who promptly leaves , it turns out that he had left out sausage and aardvark. Blackadder and Prince George later leave and we see Baldrick throwing more paper into the fire and completely unaware the very dictionary itself.
Blackadder Goes Forth
So to the final series and this time we see all the cast back together. Atkinson, Robinson, Fry and Laurie, McInnerney and Mayall all feature in this outing. In these final six episodes we see a Captain Edmund Blackadder trying to escape the trenches of World War One and head back to England. This series captures some more fine writing from Elton and Curtis along with the sharp tongue of Blackie as once again he is left to deal with the not so bright Captain George and Private Baldrick.
The series is strong throughout with notable highlights and Blackadder put downs throughout. The first episode sees Blackadder heading out of the trenches and into the kitchens but not before claiming that Baldrick’s idea of cooking would see him arrested for the biggest case of food poisoning since Lucretia Borgia invited 500 of her friends for a wine and anthrax party. Still though it’s a plan that is worth them getting out of the trenches albeit for a short time.
Blackadder almost becomes a cropper in episode two when he thinks that no one will miss a pigeon on the frontline, it turns out to be almost the end of the Captain. Unfortunately for Edmund it turns out to not be any old pigeon, but General Melchett’s Speckled Jim. General Melchett like with Lord Melchett in series two, is played by the fantastic Stephen Fry. Blackadder is eventually sentenced to be shot at dawn, no thanks to Lieutenant George being his defence QC. Strangely enough for Edmund, George is involved again. This time it’s his uncle that he completely forgot about until getting drunk that denies the premature end of Blackadder.
Moving onto episode four and it’s the return of the great Rik Mayall as Lord Flashheart. This time as Squadron Commander in the Royal Flying Corp. Mayall is at his best in this episode where Blackadder is using the Flying Corp as another means to escape the front line. As usual things don’t go to plan as especially when he has Baldrick as his co pilot. The two end up crashing but only it seems in German territory. Blackadder could see out the rest of the war as a PoW although with Baldrick loitering around, that may not have been so much fun. For Edmund, what he doesn’t realise is that his fellow soldier and trusty Lieutenant George is harassing Captain Darling and General Melchett for him to be rescued.
Bad news is that the eventual rescue party of Flashheart and George is on the way much to the dismay of the Captain, who along with Baldrick have already had a visit from Oberleutnant Von Gerhardt who warns them of a fate worse than death with a visit from the Baron Von Richtofen, who is played by Ade Edmondson. The visit from Von Richtofen brings a fate worse than a fate worse than death when he warns they will be sent to a convent school in Germany, where they will teach young girls home economics. Blackadder notices that the German has left the door open, for many it would be a chance to make a break, for Blackadder though wants to stay despite Baldrick’s hope to escape. For the captain the moment to get the door locked is at an end.
His hopes to escape bombs schrapnel whizzbangs and films with whoops in the title come to an abrupt end as Lieutenant George is standing at the door. George thrilled to be rescuing his chum, doesn’t quite get the reception he plans for as Blackadder pushes the door. Blackadder feigns injury in order to remain in prison and then tries to warn the guards with a sudden ‘cough’. Flashheart though forces him to change his mind with the threat of turning the prison walls with an interesting new colour called hint of brain. As they try to escape, they are then greeted by Von Richtofen whose moment with the finest flying fellow is short lived as Flasheart shoots him before they all go to escape.
Upon return to Captain Darling’s office, Darling is surprised to see Blackadder standing in his office. So begins a conversation where Flashy verbally lays into Darling before knowing his name where Blackadder informs him. In typical Mayall delivery of Flashheart, he tells Darling the last time I called someone darling she was pregnant 20 seconds later. Darling doesn’t make life easier for himself telling the Commander that trying to rescue Blackadder was a waste of resources. In typical response Flasheart says this is waste of my resources but Im going to do it anyway, to which he headbuts Darling.
So to the final episode. Goodbyeee!! A well written episode that sees Captain Blackadder trying to escape the front line one more time. We see more great humour and lines with put downs through the episode, the three share moments and even Baldrick’s suspect poetry. At one point Blackadder tries to use a pair of pants and pair of pencils which proves fruitless as he overhears General Melchett describing how they shot deserters for doing the same thing. He remembers that he is owed a favour from General Haigh (played by the talented Geoffrey Palmer) unfortunately it proves a waste of time as he tells Blacky to put a pair of pants on his head and two pencils up his nose. Edmund then utters the well known line of “I believe it rhymes with clucking bell”.
As the episode heads towards the end, it seems not even Captain Darling, who had once locked horns, could escape the front line as Melchett sent him packing to the front. The reality of war gets ever closer having shared brief words including where Kevin Darling had hoped to keep wicket with the Croydon gentlemen as well as marrying Doris, the bravado seems to have disappeared with everyone saying how scared they were. There aren’t many words to describe the final scene, so I will just leave it here Good Luck Everyone.
Now to leave you with some of Blackadder’s finest words, thank you for reading and pip pip Bernards your uncle.
Some Quotes and put downs
‘Baldrick, does it have to be this way? Our valued friendship ending with me cutting you up into strips and telling the prince that you walked over a very sharp cattle grid in an extremely heavy hat?’
‘Unfortunately most of the infantry think you’re a prat. Ask them who they’d rather meet, Squadron Commander Flasheart or the man who cleans out the public toilets in Aberdeen, and they’d go for Wee Jock Poo-Pong McPlop every time.’
‘There hasn’t been a war run this badly since Olaf the hairy, King of all the Vikings, ordered 80,000 battle helmets with the horns on the inside.’
‘Percy, far from being a fit consort for a Prince of the Realm, you would bore the leggings off a village idiot. You ride a horse rather less well than another horse would
“Oh, God. Fortune vomits on my eiderdown once more.”
“Worst idea since someone said ‘yeah let’s take this suspiciously large wooden horse into Troy, statues are all the rage this season’.”