Blackadder Goes Forth
UK, BBC, Sitcom, colour, 1989
Starring: Rowan Atkinson, Tony Robinson, Stephen Fry
The premise: Captain Blackadder is a career soldier who enlisted to escape the rigours of civilian life and who has enjoyed an action-free existence across three continents. He's a man of simple ambitions: an easy life, the occasional drink and promotion to an even safer, higher-paid position. Unfortunately, the Great War has interfered with his plans and he has found himself stuck in the trenches, uncomfortably close to the front. With him, as always, is a prize idiot from the Baldrick clan - this time a particularly unpleasant army private, serving as Blackadder's batman. Also entrenched, as it were, is Lieutenant George St Barleigh, a keen, vacuous type anxious to volunteer for all sorts of loony escapades and devoted to Captain Blackadder. Their very lives are in the hands of General Melchett, a direct conduit to General Haig, who delivers the plans and orders that dictate their movements. Melchett is quite mad - a gung-ho, bloodthirsty armchair warrior from a military family - and is assisted by an aide-de-camp, the sycophantic Captain Darling. Blackadder's main concern is how to dissuade Melchett from sending him and his men to certain death.
This was a marvellous finale to the Blackadder saga, bringing the tale to the 20th-century and the killing fields of the First World War. Despite sharing many of the despicable traits of his ancestors, this Blackadder character managed to elicit genuine affection from an audience in sympathy with his plight. The madness of war and of warmongers like Melchett were the real villains here and Blackadder's failed attempts to escape his inevitable fate seemed a realistic response rather than a cowardly one. More serious in approach than its predecessors, Blackadder Goes Forth still managed to mine many laughs out of the hopeless situation, with the sheer horror of their environment and the delicacy of their position adding to the blackness of the comedy. In the end, the creative team stuck to their guns and, instead of having Blackadder succeed in his quest, had him and his men forced to join the advance and fulfil their fears by going 'over the top' to their deaths. This grim image, the frame frozen and then dissolving into one depicting the same field full of poppies, memorably ended the series on a note of dark satire and was a fitting conclusion to a comedy premise that had always sported an underlying intelligence beneath its farcical surface.
Note. The 16 October 1989 edition of the BBC2 series Behind The Screen reported on the making of Blackadder Goes Forth.
Researched and written by Mark Lewisohn.
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Rowan Atkinson - Captain Blackadder
Tony Robinson - Private Baldrick
Stephen Fry - General Hogmanay Melchett
Hugh Laurie - Lieutenant George Colthurst St Barleigh
Tim McInnerny - Captain Darling
Richard Curtis - Writer
Ben Elton - Writer
Richard Boden - Director
John Lloyd - Producer
Number of episodes: 6
Length: 30 mins
28 Sep-2 Nov 1989, BBC1 Thu 9.30pm
The information in the bbc.co.uk Guide to Comedy is complied from 'The Radio Times Guide to Television Comedy' by Mark Lewisohn, published by BBC Books. More information about the book is available from the BBC Shop.
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Reviews supplied by Radio Times © 2003 BBC Worldwide - used under licence from BBC Worldwide.
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