Blackadder is the name used to cover four series of a British comedy show and the several one-off episodes. The series ran between 1983-1989 and followed the life of Edmund Blackadder (played by Rowan Atkinson) throughout the ages, who in each series is a member of an English family dynasty who was present at significant periods of British history.
In 2000, Blackadder Goes Forth ranked at 16 in the "100 Greatest British Television Programmes", a list created by the British Film Institute. Also in the 2004 TV poll to find "Britain's Best Sitcom", Blackadder was voted the second best British sitcom of all time. However, the series has been condemned by conservatives for its vulgarity, rejection of family values, and attacks on Christianity.
The Black Adder (Series 1)
Set in the Middle ages, series 1 sees Edmund Blackadder as the second son of King Richard.
Blackadder II (Series 2)
Blackadder II is set in England between 1558–1603. This series revolves around the main character Lord Blackadder, the great-grandson of the original Black Adder. During the series, Blackadder comes into contact with Queen Elizabeth I (Miranda Richardson) and the Lord Chamberlain Lord Melchett (Stephen Fry).
Blackadder the Third (Series 3)
Blackadder the Third is set in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. This series follows the life E. Blackadder Esquire, the butler to the Prince of Wales (Hugh Laurie).
Blackadder Goes Forth (Series 4)
The final series is set in 1917, on the Western Front in the trenches of the First World War. Captain Blackadder is the main character and the series follows him on his quest to avoid getting shot. Blackadder is accompanied by Lieutenant George (Hugh Laurie) and Private S. Baldrick. General Melchett (Stephen Fry) rallies his troops from a mansion thirty-five miles behind the front line.
The character of Baldrick is played by Tony Robinson and appears in all four seasons of the show. Baldrick is Blackadder's servant in the first three seasons and is an army private in the last season. He is intelligent in the first season, more so than Blackadder, but he becomes stupider as the history goes on. He is known for his many "cunning plans", ridiculous plans to get Blackadder out of dangerous situations. The plans are usually pathetic and are derided by Blackadder. Nevertheless, Blackadder usually tires them out of desperation.
Blackadder is the anti-hero of the show. He is played by Rowan Atkinson. In the first series he appears as Prince Edmund, the second son of King Richard IV. Like later Blackadders he is selfish, sly and cowardly. However, unlike later Blackadders, he is not intelligent or witty. His main aim in the series is to become King. He is helped in the aim by his friend Lord Percy and his servent Baldrick. The Blackadder of the second series is Lord Blackadder. Once again Percy and Baldrick accompany him. He is far more intelligent and witty than Prince Edmund. The next Blackadders share these characteristics. In this series Blackadder attempts to solve many problems which come his way, while at the same trying to please the Queen (or at least trying to avoid her wrath!). The third series involves another Blackadder, E. Blackadder Esquire, butler to Prince George. His aim is to swindle as much out of his master as possible. The fourth series follows the fortunes of Captain Blackadder during the First World War. His lieutenant, George, and Private Baldrick, accompany him. His main aim is to find a way out of the war.
'Bob' is a pseudonym used by a woman who disguised as a man in several episodes. She appears in series two and four and is played by Gabrielle Glaister. In the second series she disguises as a man in order to become a servant so that she can support her poor and aging father. She replaces Baldrick as Blackadder's servent. Blackadder does not realize that Bob is actually a woman but he falls in love with her. He attempts to marry her when she reveals her identity but this fails. In series four she disguises a man because she wants to see "how a war is fought, so badly."(To which Balckadder replies, "well you've come to the right place. A war hasn't been fought this badly since Olaf the hairy, chief of the Vikings, ordered ten thousand battle helmets with the horns on the inside." Captain Blackadder spots her real identity immediately, a sign of the Blackadder dynasty's growing intelligence.
Captain Darling is Blackadder's main adversary in series four. He is played by Tim McInnerny. He is often insulted by Blackadder, both for his name and his cushy job (he is servant to General Melchett). In response Darling attempts to expose Blackadder's real motives for what he does. Blackadder, however, usually lies his way out of Darling's claims.
George, played by Hugh Laurie appears in series three and four in two different roles. In series three he is Prince George, the Prince of Wales. He is Prince Regent as his father, King George III, is mad. Prince George is a stupid, egotistical, lustful fop. His servant is E. Blackadder Esquire who, unknown to the Prince, steals most of his money. In the series four ‘George’ refers to Lieutenant George. Lieutenant George is an extremely patriotic young officer, very keen to 'go over the top'. However, unlike Blackadder, he is blind to the realities of how dangerous this would be for him. He is upper class and a student of the University of Cambridge. He is as stupid as Prince George but he does not share the Prince's other negative characteristics.
King Richard IV
King Richard IV, played by Brian Blessed, is the King of England in the first series. He is king in an alternate universe where Richard III defeated Henry Tudor in the Battle of Bosworth Field. In the battle Richard III is killed, but his nephew, also called Richard, becomes king as Richard IV. Richard IV is very loud and aggressive. He is also a neglectful father, caring only about his first son, and heir, Harry, Prince of Wales. He cares little about his second son, Prince Edmund 'Blackadder'. He almost always forgets Edmund's name and sometimes even forgets Edmund exists. He is married to Queen Gertrude.
There are two Melchetts in the show, both played by Stephen Fry. The first Melchett is Lord Melchett who appears in the second series. He is Lord Chamberlain. He is a suck up to the Queen (though this is quite understandable, as the Queen often executes people for simply annoying her). The second Melchett appears in the fourth series as General Melchett. The character is intended as a satire of World War I generals who are often regarded as being incompentent and out of touch. We see this by the way Melchett directs the war from a mansion far away from the trenches. We also see by how he sends Captain Darling to the trenches as a present. Like most, if not all, generals of the time he is upper class. He is also a family friend of Lieutenant George. His catchphrase is simply "Baah!"
Mrs. Miggins appears in series three and is played by Helen Atkinson-Wood. She owns a coffee shop often frequented by Blackadder. Like many other characters in the show she is often at the receiving end of Blackadder's insults, even though she is friendly to him. Other Mrs. Miggins are also mentioned in the second and fourth series, although they are never seen.
Nursie, real name Bernard, appears in series two and is played by Patsy Byrne. She was Queen Elizabeth's childhood nurse. But by the time of the series is an insane old woman but is still a member of the Queen's court. She often embarrasses the Queen by telling stories of her childhood.
Percy appears in the first two series of the show. He is played by Tim McInnerny. The first Percy is the Duke of Northumberland. He is initially a friend to Prince Edmund, although the Prince later despises him. He often, along with Baldrick, helps with Edmund's schemes. The second Percy is Lord Percy Percy. He often accompanies Blackadder, who hates him more than ever, and tries to help in Blackadder's schemes.
Prince Harry is the Prince of Wales and brother of Prince Edmund in the first series. He is played by Robert East. He is heir to the throne and his father's favorite, much to the annoyance of Prince Edmund who often plots against him. He is kind-hearted and is not as stupid as some of the other characters on the show, although he is quite gullible.
Queen Elizabeth I
Queen Elizabeth I is the Queen Regent of England in the second series. She is played by Miranda Robinson.