The Black Adder
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2 - Blackadder II

set during the Elizabethan era...

Blackadder II is set in England during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I (1558–1603). The principal character is Lord Edmund Blackadder, a descendant of the original Black Adder. During the series, he often comes into contact with the Queen, her advisor, Lord Melchett and her nanny, Nursie.

Following the BBC's request for improvements to be made to the show, several changes were made. The second series was the first to establish the familiar character of Blackadder: cunning, shrewd and witty, in sharp contrast with Prince Edmund of the first series. To make the show more cost effective, it was also shot with far fewer outdoor scenes than the first series and several, frequently used, indoor scenes, such as the Queen's throne room and Blackadder's front room. Each episode in the series also features another unique location, from Bob's father's front room to a Spanish dungeon.

The opening titles are played to a version of the theme on an Elizabethan wind instrument and an electric guitar, over shots of a black adder slithering about on a checkerboard surface. The snake is eventually removed and replaced with something to do with the title of the episode, which in this series was always a single noun. The opening ominous violin music and initial shots are a parody of the opening credits of the 1975 BBC television adaptation of Robert Graves' I, Claudius.

The closing titles use a different arrangement of the theme on various instruments, with lyrics reflecting the storyline of the episode, over a shot of Blackadder walking through a palace garden and being annoyed by a high-pitched minstrel. As each episode elapses, this sequence becomes a mini-series in its own right in which Blackadder constantly tries to apprehend the musician. At the end of the final episode, Blackadder catches the minstrel and dunks him into a fountain numerous times.

 

09 Jan 86   Bells

Lord Blackadder falls in love with his new servant, "Bob", who is in fact a woman named Kate, disguised as a man. Worried, he searches for a cure, until Bob reveals that she is in fact a woman. Relieved, the two decide to marry, but during the ceremony, she elopes with the best man, Lord Flashheart (played by Rik Mayall).

 

16 Jan 86   Head

Blackadder, the newly appointed Lord High Executioner, decides to execute a prisoner, Farrow, early, to give himself some time off. He has to pretend to be the prisoner when the Queen allows Farrow's wife to visit her husband in prison before his scheduled execution. When the Queen pardons Farrow, it looks bleak for Blackadder. Fortunately, Baldrick has executed the wrong prisoner and Blackadder is saved.

 

23 Jan 86   Potato

The return of Sir Walter Raleigh (played by Simon Jones) and his new discovery, the potato greatly impresses the Queen. Blackadder, hoping to regain the Queen's favour, declares he is to set out for the dangerous sea around the Cape of Good Hope, expecting only to travel to France. His captain however, Redbeared Rum (played by Tom Baker) is barking mad and so they travel far off course, returning two years later to discover the Queen is no longer interested in sailors.

 

05 Feb 86   Money

Blackadder owes 1000 to the Bank of the Black Monks of St. Herod and when he can't pay, the Bishop of Bath and Wells threatens to kill him. His efforts to raise money are thwarted as the Queen continues to "borrow" money from him. Fortunately, he manages to drug the Bishop and have a painting produced showing him in a compromising position with Percy.

 

13 Feb 86   Beer

Blackadder agrees to a drinking competition with Lord Melchett at his house. Unfortunately, his puritanical aunt and uncle, the Whiteadders, are having dinner with him the same night to discuss his inheritance. Edmund's tolerance for alcohol is very low and is soon found out. Fortunately, everyone gets drunk and soon forget their differences.

 

20 Feb 86   Chains

Blackadder and Melchett are captured by the Spaniards and end up in the dungeons of Prince Ludwig, the Indestructible (played by Hugh Laurie). Ludwig learns that the Queen is hosting a fancy dress party and attends, dressed up as Nursie in a cow costume. Blackadder and Melchett escape and stab Ludwig, saving the day. Unfortunately, Ludwig comes back and kills the entire cast, disguised as the Queen and replaces her on the throne.

 

Lord Edmund Blackadder

Edmund is a courtier to Queen Elizabeth I. Most of Edmund's adventures revolve around his need to please "Queenie." Should he fail in this task, the consequences often appear dire. His main competition in this field is Lord Melchett. The two hate each other bitterly.

Lord Blackadder is much more like the traditional Blackadder than his great grandfather Prince Edmund, who was cowardly, slimey and snivelling. Whilst Lord Blackadder is still cowardly, it is veiled behind a mask of pretend bravery (for example, Lord Blackadder claims he will sail around the deadly Cape of Good Hope, to appear brave to the Queen and to show up Sir Walter 'Ooh What A Big Ship I've Got' Raleigh, when in reality he has no intention of sailing around the Cape, but instead plans to sail to France, get a suntan, and return claiming he has been to the Cape).

This Blackadder also used verbal insults more frequently, and with greater success than his ancestor. A prime example of these trademark insults, directed at Baldrick, would be 'God made man in his own image, and it would be a sad lookout for Christians around the globe if God looked anything like you Baldrick'.

Lord Blackadder is apparently the great grandson of the original 'Black Adder', Prince Edmund. As Prince Edmund's wife, Princess Leia of Hungary, was only 14 when he died, and as a legitimate child would have inherited the throne, it is likely that Edmund had an affair with a woman, telling her he was 'The Black Adder'. This seems particularly likely, as illegitimate children of British royalty were often given lordships and the like.

Though Blackadder claims to have amassed a great fortune, he later reveals that this was little more than a cunning web of deceit subtly spun about the court to improve his standing, as he claims to be 'one of England's finest liars'. In fact, his father had blown the family fortune on wine, women and amateur dramatics and by the end of his life he was eking out a living doing humorous impressions of Anne of Cleves.

As well as inheriting his name, Blackadder also appears to have inherited his ancestor's cohorts. Edmund is accompanied by the increasingly-stupid Baldrick and Lord Percy, who is as stupid as ever.

Baldrick is Blackadder's bondsman and has been in his service since he was two and a half (Blackadder points out that this is probably why he is so sick of the sight of Baldrick). Percy is a halfwit 'friend' of Blackadder who Edmund doesn't seem to be able to shake off. Blackadder hints that he keeps Percy around because he likes "to start the day with a complete dick-head to remind (him he's) best".

Blackadder almost married his 'manservant' Kate, but the wedding was halted when Kate ran off with the best man, Lord Flashheart. He was head executioner for the Queen, a job that almost lost him his life when he executed a man two days early and then found his family had succeeded in having him pardoned. He was almost killed by the baby eating bishop of Bath and Wells when he failed to repay the black monks of St. Herod (banking with a smile and a stab). He foolishly tried to talk a 'whopping great inheritance' out of his fanatical puritan aunt and uncle, Lord and Lady Whiteadder, whilst at the same time, holding a wild drinking party in Baldricks' bedroom. The party almost ended in tragedy when Queenie threatened to have the whole party executed when Blackadder accused her of being Merlin, the Happy Pig. Fortunately, she got drunk and forgot.

Lord Blackadder, along with the rest of the cast, was murdered by Prince Ludwig the Indestructible, master of diguise, after being kidnapped with Melchett. However, like his great-grandfather before him, Edmund left a secret bloodline which led to the next descendant to have his adventures chronicled.

 

Baldrick

The Elizabethan Baldrick is the servant and bondsman, rather than a friend, to Lord Blackadder, who mistreats him, and, Baldrick claims, at first tried to kill him. He has a bedroom in Blackadder's house, but has also been forced to sleep in the gutter and on the roof. He has a tendency to eat dung. Baldrick has been in Lord Edmund's service longer than either of them care to remember. Yet although his master treats him with the sort of contempt reserved for lepers, he remains intensely loyal.

This Baldrick, whilst perhaps not as dim as his descendants, is much more stupid than the original. A kindly soul, Baldrick's lack of formal education is compensated for by his basic streetwise cunning. Whilst his 'cunning plans' do sometimes have a strange, twisted and often perverse logic and cunning to them (one suggestion was that Blackadder repay his debts by making money as a male prostitute, another is to disguise a 'mad, wild, killer bull' as a rooster and enter it in a cock fight), he does show an entertaining display of stupidity. In one episode, Blackadder attempts to teach Baldrick how to add. Baldrick's conclusions, which include 'two beans plus two beans equals some beans', 'two beans plus two beans equals three beans... and that one' and 'two beans plus two beans makes a very small casserole', lead Blackadder to comment 'to you, Baldrick, the Renaissance was just something that happened to other people, wasn't it?'

It was also in this series that the first signs of Baldrick's love of turnips was shown, in the episode 'Beer', where he and Percy famously discover a turnip shaped like a 'thingy'. Baldrick later describes the incident as 'triffic'. He is particularly delighted by the discovery, because it contrasts with his own 'thingy' which is shaped like a turnip.

Baldrick once went on an 'all mouse diet' by hanging a piece of cheese off of the end of his nose and lying with his mouth open, hoping that mice would scurry in. He later tried the same thing, with a mouse on the end of his nose to catch a cat, for variety.

Baldrick was also bridesmaid at Lord Blackadder's abortive wedding. "Queenie" kept him as a pet calling him Lassie (Baldrick did not complain) and he stuck two pencils up his nose, so that he could attended a Royal fancy dress party as a pencil case.

 

Lord Percy Percy

Lord Percy of Blackadder II being the descendant of that seen in The Black Adder. Unlike the first two Blackadders and Baldricks, the two Lord Percys are almost identical. In the first series, Percy is Duke of Northumberland, while in the second he is heir to the title.

Incredibly loyal yet incredibly stupid, Lord Percy is described by Lord Blackadder as 'a dimwit I can't seem to shake off'.

Lord Percy is a caricature of an English, "upper-class twit", obsessed by the frivolities of his age. These include neck ruffs of varying sizes (the largest making him look like 'a bird who's swallowed a plate', according to Blackadder), dressing like half an allotment in Nottingham Forest to celebrate the return of Sir 'Rather A Wally' Raleigh, collecting religious artefacts (which are largely fraudulent) and archery — in one episode he declares 'I would like to see the Spaniard who could make his way past me!'. Blackadder suggests he should go to Spain, where there are millions of them.

Lord Percy is also the inventor of 'Green'. He discovered this particular entity whilst working on alchemy. The only real fundamental difference between green and gold is that green is green rather than gold, it comes in 'splats' rather than nuggets and it has no value whatsoever.

Lord Percy somewhat dislikes Baldrick. This is perhaps as a result of the fact that, despite his higher social status, he still receives the same amount of affection (or lack thereof) from Blackadder. This was particularly true in the first series, when Percy was intent on looking down his nose at Baldrick, however, this is rarely of any avail as Baldrick is much more intelligent than him. By the second series this appears to have largely subsided (perhaps because Baldrick is now closer to his intelligence level) and the two appear to be quite friendly (Lord Percy at one point kisses Baldrick, believing him to be a bridesmaid). However, there are still signs of the Lord Percy's distaste towards Baldrick, as he is reluctant to count him in on the money he plans to make by fashioning 'Green' as jewellery.

Lord Percy only appeared in the first two series of Blackadder, as McInnerny was worried about being typecast. However, McInnerny did have a small role in series three and returned as a different character — Kevin Darling — in series four. Presumably for this reason, while both Blackadder's Christmas Carol and Blackadder: Back & Forth return to the setting of Blackadder II, neither features Percy.

In a scene that was filmed for the final episode of the first series but not used, Percy identifies himself as 'Lord Percy Percy, seventh son of the seventh Duke of Northumberland'. This and most of the other location scenes for the series were filmed in Hulne Park, Alnwick, Northumberland, at that time in fact the property of Hugh Percy, 10th Duke of Northumberland. The castle that appears in the title sequence and in location shots throughout the series is Alnwick Castle, home of the Percy family since 1766.

 

Lord Melcett

The first Melchett appeared in series two of Blackadder. He was Lord Chamberlain to Queen Elizabeth I. He was also a snivelling toady. Melchett was usually seen standing to the left of Queenie's throne, with Nursie on the right. As one of the Queen's favorites, he often came into conflict with Lord Blackadder. Affectionately known to the Queen as 'Melchy', the earnest Lord Melchett has set himself up as her closest personal adviser. A deeply religious man, he guards his position jealously.

Lord Melchett's rivalry with Lord Blackadder saw such devious deeds as them try to drink each other under the table (an interesting competition considering that the two were complete lightweights). Lord Melchett once recommended to the Queen that Blackadder be made Lord High Executioner (a job at which, apparently, no one ever lasts more than a week without being murdered), and pressured Blackadder to sail around the deadly Cape of Good Hope. However, Blackadder got the last laugh, as he had never intended to go to the Cape, and instead, sailed around aimlessly for a while (via Australia), before returning to a hero's welcome and giving Melchett, as a souvenir, a 'fine wine', which turned out to be a bottle of Baldrick's urine. Blackadder's Christmas Carol also showed Blackadder getting the last laugh, as he tricks both Melchett and the Queen into "autographing" a death warrant that condemns Melchett to be executed, and leaves Blackadder with all his property.

There were also (largely confirmed) rumours about his activities with a sheep named Flossy while at a monastery in Cornwall.

 

Queenie

Often childish and silly, but with a fiery temper, 'Queenie', as she came to be known, would readily threaten her courtiers with execution if they did not do as she wished. She was portrayed in the manner of a school girl bequeathed with the power to have executed anyone whose nose is prettier than hers - a power which she revelled in. It would appear that there was nothing Queenie liked more than to "get squiffy and seduce [nobles]", apart from beheading them. A naughty schoolgirl at heart, Queenie loved to party, play games and get drunk. And if anyone failed to so much as laugh at her jokes, they risked execution, but at times she tired of their toadying and welcomed a more cynical approach.

Her favourites included Edmund Lord Blackadder, along with his friend, Lord Percy and his "pet monkey"; Lord Melchett; Sir Walter Raleigh, played by Simon Jones; and her childhood nurse, Nursie. However, her ire was easily raised against them: Raleigh was threatened with execution after she grew bored of his tales of exploration, but was spared for 'blubbing' on his way to the block; Blackadder was threatened with execution for refusing to admit a woman to see her husband, who was also to be executed; and Melchett accidentally signed his own name on his death warrant — the Queen mused that she could not go back on it without dismantling the whole English constitutional system. She also threatened the entire cast—sans Nursie—with execution after she became entangled in a drunken party and Blackadder accused her of being 'Merlin, the Happy Pig'. She became drunk and forgot.

She—and the rest of the cast—were murdered by Prince Ludwig the Indestructible, a master of disguise, who then usurped the throne in disguise, although he did have trouble getting the voice right.

 

Nursie

Childhood nurse to Queen Elizabeth I, the Queen appears to have had some sort of fondness or loyalty to her now senile nurse. Lord Blackadder described her perfectly as a 'sad, deranged old woman with an udder fixation'.

Nursie has a tendency to embarrass the Queen, telling tales about her childhood.

Nursie had a three year engagement to Captain Red-Beard Rum (played by Tom Baker) and was heart-broken to hear of his death, despite having only met him for two minutes before he set off on the voyage on which he perished. When Lord Blackadder informed her that he had salvaged his beard she declared 'my lucky stars! I shall wear it always', before proceeding to put it on.

She also claims to have three sisters called Donald, Eric and Basil. Her real name is Bernard. In the final episode of the series, she was murdered along with the rest of the main cast by villain Prince Ludwig the Indestructible of Germany (Hugh Laurie).

 

Bob

Bob (or rather, Kate) is one of the first characters to appear in Blackadder II. She is a somewhat naive young woman (she is convinced her mother is dead, despite her father's insistence that she ran off with his brother). Her insane father tells her he can no longer afford to keep her so, despite his pleas that she should become a prostitute ("oh please go on the game, it's a steady job, and you'd be working from home") she decides to disguise herself as a boy, and seek her fortune in London. Her Father points out the futility in walking to London when she could make a fortune lying on her back.

Upon arrival in London, she is hired by Lord Blackadder as his manservant, (Baldrick is casually kicked out onto the streets), however, when Blackadder questions why this boy is called "Kate", she quickly covers claiming it is short for "Bob". However Blackadder becomes increasingly concerned about the attraction he feels to the boy, as time passes he falls in love with "Bob". Eventually he learns the truth, and several seconds later they become engaged. This is reminiscent of the Shakespeare play Twelfth Night, in which the lead character, Viola, is forced to disguise herself as a man after a shipwreck. She, however, is hired by a Duke with whom she falls in love.

The wedding is due to be officiated by Lord Melchett, with Baldrick acting as bridesmaid (Kate didn't have any girl-chums, as her family was too poor to afford friends). Blackadder pays Kate's father 10 to go away, much to her dismay. Blackadder's promise to have Baldrick beat him up and retrieve the money does little to comfort her. Unfortunately Blackadder asks Lord Flashheart to be the best man. Flash and Kate decide to run off together (although, as Kate has discovered she prefers wearing boys' clothes, and Flash feels more comfy in a dress, they swap outfits first), leaving Blackadder jilted at the altar.

 

Lord Flashheart

In series two, Lord Blackadder claims Flash to be his oldest and most trusted friend, and chooses him to be his best man (although, Lord Flashheart ends up stealing the bride, and describes "Eddie" as a jerk). His reputation goes before him, as Lord Percy immediately recognises the name when Blackadder reveals that he will be the best man, and Percy - upset as he wanted the role for himself - thus recalls Flashheart's achievements in life ("Lord Flashheart - the best sword, the best shot, the best sailor and the best kisser in the kingdom").

 

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