I do love comedy especially when it comes to a sitcom. Over the years I’ve enjoyed some truly wonderful series such as Fawlty Towers, Father Ted, Spaced, Scrubs and Peep Show but if you were to ask me for my personal favourite I will always say Blackadder. Though the first series was good it didn’t mark Blackadder out as one of the great comedies it later became. Rowan Atkinson relinquished himself of writing duties for the second series while Richard Curtis joined with Ben Elton and together they fashioned the most brilliant comedy I have ever seen. Series 2 is my favourite but 3 and 4 are not far behind. The historical settings are also a plus but the genius of Blackadder is the script and the delivery by such comical geniuses as Rowan Atkinson, Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry. It’s been a challenge but I have compiled my ten favourite moments from this comedy masterpiece. ‘I have a cunning plan’ dear readers, why don’t you share this gem with the rest of the world.
Leaving the Trenches
Making a comedy of out such a sad chapter in history as the First World War must have taken guts but Blackadder Goes Forth pulled it off brilliantly. For all the hilarity in Blackadder the highpoint of all four series is not remotely funny. Having spent the series avoiding leading his men out of the trenches and into No Man’s Land, Captain Blackadder’s luck finally runs out. The final episode entitled Goodbyeee begins with many laughs but gradually the comedy recedes as Blackadder (Rowan Atkinson) fails to escape his fate and receives orders that he will lead his men in a suicidal charge against German machine guns! Even more moving is George (Hugh Laurie) who is invited by General Melchett (Stephen Fry) to return to headquarters and wait for news of the advance but he declines the offer, too excited at the prospect of fighting.
Another wonderful aspect to this episode is Blackadder’s nemesis, Captain Darling (Tim McInnerny) who is also sent to the front line. Entering the trench, Darling is greeted by Blackadder with “Captain Darling” rather than just hearing his surname, which Blackadder had previously done to great effect throughout the series. There are no nasty verbal exchanges from these men who are resigned to the fate that awaits them in just a few moments. George, so enthusiastic and excited about the war, suddenly voices his fears and desire not to die. Baldrick (Tony Robinson) shares the same sentiment but soon it’s time for Blackadder to line his men up for battle.
Awaiting the call to advance the soldiers hear the German guns stop and Baldrick suggests the war may be over. Sadly Captain Darling reveals it isn’t by saying “The Great War 1914-17.” Before advancing Baldrick informs Blackadder he has one of his trademark “cunning plans” to help them escape but it’s too late for him to reveal it. Since Baldrick’s “cunning plans” are always useless we can assume this one was as well but maybe, just maybe, on this occasion Baldrick did have a good idea. Sadly, we’ll never know.
All that’s left is for Blackadder and his men to advance against the Germans. In the original take the studio audience watched the characters run forward only to be mowed down by German machine gun fire. It was an understandably unsuitable denouement so instead the emergence from the trenches of the soldiers was slowed down, gunfire dominating their initial appearance but then giving way to a poignant piece of music before Blackadder and his men slowly fade from view. We’re left with a shot of the trenches – mud and barbed wire – but this scene fades and is replaced by a beautiful field of poppies with birdsong prevalent in the air. It’s one of the most moving conclusions I have ever seen and every time I see it the impact is still the same. It’s a doubly sad moment for not only are a group of characters whose company we’ve enjoyed for six episodes all facing their inevitable deaths but it’s a tender reminder of the millions of men whose lives were needlessly lost in the First World War, men whose sacrifices we shall never forget.
Final Top Ten:-
1) Leaving the Trenches
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