Greetings, Sevenettes. Welcome back to Blackadder month here at Sy’s Seven Plus. Are you enjoying it so far? I hope so. We’re about half way through now and we’ve looked at some of Baldrick’s greatest cunning plans, memorable guest stars and even put the very lineage of Blackadder under a microscope. This week, we’re gonna get a little bit personal and take a look at some of my own favourite Blackadder episodes. For this, we’re also including each special as an individual episode in it’s own right. Let’s do this.
Sy’s Seven Favourite Blackadder Episodes
1:- Back And Forth
We are going to begin at the end for this list. Blackadder: Back And Forth is the final (so far) episode of Blackadder and basically comes across as one huge love letter to the fans of the franchise. It’s set in the (at the time) present day of 1999 and sees Blackadder and Baldrick travelling through time visiting several time periods, including those we have seen before.
The one-off special brings back some of our favourite characters such as Queenie and a Flashheart-inspired Robin Hood. They also brought in some pretty heavy duty actors, including Colin Firth as Shakespeare. Sadly, Brian Blessed was unable to reprise his role as King Richard IV due to health reasons but the special was still fantastic.
Back And Forth was one of two projects that Rowan Atkinson was involved in that year that spoofed Doctor Who, the other being the Comic Relief special Curse Of Fatal Death. It’s been said by a great many people that these two specials contributed to the increased interest in Doctor Who which, in turn, led to the Doctor Who revival in 2005. So, NuWhovians, you now know who to thank for that.
2:- Corporal Punishment
In Corporal Punishment, Captain Blackadder is sentenced to death by firing squad for shooting a delicious, plump-breasted carrier pigeon that happened to have belonged to General Melchett since his childhood. It is exactly as ridiculous as it sounds.
I picked this one because I felt that it perfectly showcases the characterisation of General Melchett as being this batcrap crazy General. Stephen Fry, who plays him, is just hilarious in this episode.
That’s not to say that the rest of the cast were slacking off. The timing and delivery in this episode is on point and there are just so many quotable lines thrown around. The courtroom scene, with Blackadder’s legal counsel (who happens to be the dimwitted George) fined £50 just for turning up, is a prime example of this. Take a look for yourself.
3:- The Witchsmeller Pursuivant
Featuring the talent of Frank Finlay as the titular “witch hunter”, this episode is a hysterically over the top retelling of the ridiculous witch trials of the medieval era. After failing a (rigged) test, Prince Edmund is tried as a witch and sentenced to death via burning at the stake.
If you thought the courtroom scene from Corporal Punishment was funny, the one from this episode puts it to shame. The whole thing is a complete farce featuring a talking horse, a poodle that was allegedly sired by Edmund himself and a guy dressed in a devil costume in the jury. The whole time, Frank Finlay is playing Witchsmeller as being dead serious about his accusations, referring to Edmund the whole time as Grumbledook.
He actually succeeds too. Edmund is found guilty despite every piece of evidence being either circumstantial or blatantly forged. The icing on the cake, however, comes when Edmund’s wife, Princess Leia (an obvious Star Wars reference), visits Edmund and gives him a doll. The doll is revealed to be a poppet, made my Edmund’s mother. When it gets dropped into the fire as Edmund is burning, it causes Witchsmeller to spontaneously burst into flames, revealing the Queen to be the real witch, but only to the audience and Princess Leia.
4:- Sense And Senility
This series 3 episode begins with an anarchist, played rather fittingly by Ben Elton, trying to assassinate the Prince Regent in a theatre with, honest to God, a cartoon style bomb. Seriously, take a look at the thing.
Ridiculous, right? Well that’s only the beginning. Prince George decides to make a speech to the people to address the poor living conditions and, hopefully, increase his standing among the general public. To aid him in this, George brings in two professional actors. What follows is Blackadder mocking the actors for most of the episode by continuously mentioning the name of the (ahem) Scottish play, a commonly known superstition in the theatre.
The actors have this ritual that they perform every time someone mentions the name of the Scottish play, which involves playing pat-a-cake while reciting the rhyme “Hot potato, orchestra stalls, Puck will make amends” ending with tweaking each others noses. They literally do this every single time throughout the episode and it just doesn’t get old. They even try it while being escorted away in shackles after they get “mistakenly” arrested for plotting to assassinate the Prince.
5:- Blackadder’s Christmas Carol
I mentioned this one on my Christmas Specials list last year during Listmas but it’s a well written special that deserves another mention. It’s a comedic retelling of the popular Dickensian tale that, much like the aforementioned Back And Forth, revisits previous incarnations of Blackadder. This time it’s in the form of the flashbacks shown by the Ghost Of Christmas Past.
In the original tale, the Ghost Of Christmas Past shows some of the more deplorable acts Scrooge has committed over the years. With Ebeneezer Blackadder being a fine, upstanding citizen of the realm who carries out a number of charitable acts, the Ghost Of Christmas Past initially doesn’t feel the need to show him anything. He is, however, persuaded to stick around and show Blackadder the highlights when offered a drink.
This winds up having the opposite effect to the original tale. When the host shows Blackadder some of the negative actions his ancestors have done while still attaining wealth and power, Ebeneezer sees the error of his ways and vows to become just as despicable as his forefathers. This, unfortunately, manifests in him unknowingly insulting Queen Victoria and her husband, Albert, when they come round to award him riches galore for being the most charitable man in the realm.
Lord Blackadder gets called to the palace to help tend to (read: make fun of) an ailing Lord Melchett, only to discover he’s not dying, just hung over. This kicks off half of a plot that wouldn’t be out of place on Three’s Company. Blackadder challenges Melchett to a drinking contest on the same night he’s playing host to the massively puritanical Lord and Lady Whiteadder, relatives of his who he intends to con out of their inheritance.
Blackadder spends most of the time flitting between the party being held in his back room and the dinner with his relatives. At one point he comes back in to the dinner wearing a pair of fake comedy breasts which he miraculously passes off as earmuffs.
The crowning moment of awesome is when one of the party goers bursts in on the dinner exclaiming “Great booze up, Edmund.” Edmund covers this up with a phenomenally well told tale about a missionary and a tribal Chief called Great Bu who has just awoken from sleeping sickness. It has to be seen to be believed. The episode ends…well, I won’t spoil it. Go watch it for yourself.
The final episode of the fourth series is one of the most notable episodes in the entire show. While it begins with the usual comedy, this goes out of the window part way through the episode as the characters realise their impending death coming via the Big Push.
The comedy seamlessly transitions into the drama and this leads to some of the most memorable dialogue in the entire series. One particular thing of note is that the usual animosity between Captains Blackadder and Darling is gone once Darling gets reassigned to the trenches. Recognising that the two are in the same boat, facing certain death at the hands of the German cannons, the two refer to each other by rank as opposed to pronouncing each others name with disdain.
The episode itself attracted some controversy over how it was going to handle such dark subject matter, being a sitcom and all. Once the episode aired, these issues were quickly quelled and the episode was declared “poignant” and the ending described as “powerful and memorable.” The episode is still aired around Remembrance Day even now.
Thus concludes another Seven. I’ll be back next Tuesday with Trivia. If you wanna help out the blog, buy yourself some Loot Crate goodies via the link below. See you next week, dudes. Party Hearty.
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