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4 - Blackadder Goes Forth

set during World War One...

This series is set in the trenches of the First World War. Another "big push" is planned, and Captain Blackadder's one goal is to avoid getting shot, so he plots ways to get out of it. Blackadder is joined by the idealistic, gung-ho Lieutenant George (Hugh Laurie), and the world's worst cook, Private S. Baldrick. The first initial "S" is taken from the first episode of Season 3, in which Baldrick says he can't remember his first name, but assumes it must be "Sodoff", as when he introduces himself to people, they generally say, 'yes, we know: Sod off, Baldrick'. Loony General Melchett rallies his troops from a French mansion, where he is aided and abetted by his administrator, Captain Darling (Tim McInnerny), pencil-pusher supreme, whose name is played on for maximum comedy value. Every episode's title is based on the pairing of a military rank, major, general, etc., and another word. This format is not used in the final episode, titled "Goodbyeee". In a list of the 100 Greatest British Television Programmes drawn up by the British Film Institute in 2000, voted for by industry professionals, Blackadder Goes Forth was placed 16th.

Note: Captain Darling's name was originally intended to be Captain Cartwright, until Stephen Fry chirped in with the name 'Darling', and the name, along with Blackadder's pronunciation of 'Bob', became one of the funniest words to be said in the series.

The theme tune here was played by a military band (in this case the Band of the 3rd Battalion, The Royal Anglian Regiment) over opening title images of Blackadder and George parading their men past Melchett and Darling, while Baldrick plays the triangle. The music starts with the opening bars of 'The British Grenadiers' before segueing into the familiar Blackadder theme. In the closing credits, the full Blackadder theme plays as the men march off down the parade ground. Of note is that the titles here are presented as static captions instead of being rolled as on the previous three series, and that the crew credits are presented in pseudo-military fashion: for example, the designer is credited thus: ' Dgr – 404371 Hull, C '. Also of note is that the opening sequence is filmed in color, while the closing sequence is filmed in grainy, streaky black-and-white.

The final episode of the last series, "Goodbyeee...", is known for being extraordinarily moving for a comedy — especially the final scene, which sees the main characters (Blackadder, Baldrick, George, and Darling) finally going over the top and charging off to die in the fog and smoke of No Man's Land. (Melchett remains at his office but blithely orders a reluctant Darling to meet the others.) Blackadder's final line, said before this scene, offered after Baldrick claims to have one last plan to stop them going over the top (at which point a RSM-type command voice orders the men to "stand ready", then to ascend to the fire step, then to go "over the top"): "Well, I am afraid it will have to wait. Whatever it was I am sure it was better than my plan to get out of this by pretending to be mad. I mean, who would have noticed another madman around here? Good luck everyone." is particularly poignant and memorable. "Goodbyeee..." also had no closing titles, simply fading from Blackadder, Baldrick, George and Darling charging across No-Man's Land under fire, to a field of poppies in the sunlight, an obvious reference to the poem "In Flanders Fields". "Goodbyee" was also the title of a popular song during the First World War.


28 Sep 89   Plan A: Captain Cook

General Melchett needs a piece of art for the front cover of the magazine King and Country. Having suggested that the chosen artist should be allowed to leave the trenches for Paris, Capt. Blackadder proceeds to take credit for Lt. George's painting. Melchett then reveals that chosen artist will in fact go into no man's land and draw the enemy positions. With the help of George and Pte. Baldrick, he returns with a made-up sketch. Melchett orders an attack, which the three avoid by dressing up as Italian chefs.


05 Oct 89   Plan B: Corporal Punishment

In trying to avoid communication of any kind, Blackadder shoots Melchett's carrier pigeon, Speckled Jim. When Melchett finds out, Blackadder is arrested and with Melchett acting as Judge and Lt. George acting as his defence, he is soon found guilty at the trial. He is sentenced to execution by firing squad. Fortunately, George's uncle Rupert, the newly appointed Minister of War, reverses the decision.


12 Oct 89   Plan C: Major Star

Melchett asks Blackadder to organise a cabaret, which features Baldrick's Charlie Chaplin impression and Lt. George's drag act, "Gorgeous Georgina". Melchett also asks his driver, Corp. "Bob" Parkhust, to aid Blackadder. Unfortunately, Melchett falls in love with "Georgina" and proposes to her. Blackadder is forced to replace George with Parkhust and the show is soon cancelled.


19 Oct 89   Plan D: Private Plane

Though put off by the brash Squadron Leader, Lord Flashheart, Blackadder joins the Royal Flying Corps. With Baldrick as his navigator, he is shot down and captured by Baron von Richthofen (played by Adrian Edmondson). However, George asks Lord Flashheart for help and the two are soon rescued to return to the trenches.


26 Oct 89   Plan E: General Hospital

After George is injured in an explosion, he is taken to a local hospital, where it is soon discovered that a spy is operating. Melchett asks Blackadder to investigate, where he meets Nurse Mary (played by Miranda Richardson). Despite the obvious presence of a German in the ward, Blackadder concludes, following several intimate encounters, that Nurse Mary is the spy.


02 Nov 89   Plan F: Goodbyeee

With the Big Push looming ever closer, Blackadder decides to feign insanity. He fails to convince Melchett, who also asks Darling to join the men at the front line. The series ends with the men going over the top.


Captain Edmund Blackadder

Naturally, Blackadder spends most of his time trying to get out of the trenches before the insane General Melchett gives him the order to 'climb out of the trenches and walk very slowly towards the enemy' which means certain death. Blackadder's attempts to escape are usually opposed by General Melchett, who does not seem to realise the futility of sending men to their certain deaths, and Captain Darling, who does. As a result of the mutual personal distaste between Darling and Blackadder, Darling would gladly see Blackadder mown down by German machine guns. The two bury the hatchet without saying a word when Darling is posted to the front line in the final episode.

Captain Blackadder claims to have joined the army in 1888, joining the 19th/45th East African Rifles, when Britain was still fighting colonial wars during the Scramble for Africa, and when 'the prerequisite for any battle was that the enemies should under no circumstances carry guns'. He described it as having been 'little more than a travel agency for men with unusually high sex drives'. He was hailed as the 'Hero of Mboto Gorge' in 1892, where he had faced 'ten thousand Watutsi warriors armed to the teeth with kiwi fruit and dry guava halves'. He even saved the life of Douglas Haig (later Field Marshal Douglas Haig) when he was nearly killed by a pygmy woman with a seriously sharpened mango. Blackadder was quite shocked when 500,000 very large, very German, Germans 'hove into view'. At some point before the First World War, Captain Blackadder transferred to the local regiment of Cambridge (either the Cambridgeshire Regiment or the Suffolk Regiment).

Blackadder was, as always, accompanied by Private S. Baldrick, and also Lieutenant George. The lack of appreciation for their predicament, and general incompetence of George and Baldrick acts as a major hindrance to Blackadder's escape attempts, and generally ruin his experience of the war.

Edmund's attempts to avoid going over the top include posing as Italian chefs, with Baldrick as cook (thereby nearly poisoning Melchett and Darling); joining the Royal Flying Corps under Lord Flashheart; accepting capture by Baron von Richthofen so as to escape through the 'humiliating' punishment of spending the rest of the war teaching home economics in a German convent; working in a British field hospital under "Operation Winkle" (ie:to winkle out the spies); organising a music-hall performance with Lieutenant George as the drag act "The Beautiful Georgina" (this plan was aborted when General Melchett fell madly in love with Georgina and Blackadder was forced to fake her death); shooting a homing pigeon (an act which almost results in his death by firing squad); and sticking two pencils up his nose, putting his underpants on his head and saying 'Wibble' (Blackadder admits this plan was particularly badly-thought-through, rather in a melancholy tone, when in the last moments of the final episode, in response to Baldrick saying he's got a plan, he says, "Well, I'm afraid it will have to wait. Whatever it was, I'm sure it was better than my plan to get out of this by pretending to be mad... I mean, who would've noticed another madman around here? Good luck, everyone.")

In the final scene of the series, Blackadder shows the first (and, so far, only) sign of genuine bravery (and nobility) from any Blackadder in the entire series. Finally deciding it would be futile to keep running, he accepts his fate and leads Captain Darling, Lieutenant George and Private Baldrick over the top of the trench and out into No man's land for the 'Big Push'. Blackadder's final recorded words (before "CHARGE!"), standing in the trench with Darling, George and Baldrick (along with everyone else in trench), were "Good luck, everybody". These words from someone who, over the space of four series spanning several centuries, had become known to the public as an egotistical, self-centered, cynical, blunt, sly, thieving, corrupt, villainous, yet curiously likable character, went a long way to underline the serious, sobering mood of this episode. In these last few moments of this momentous sitcom all the clever put-downs, the witty one-liners, the slapstick and the turnip jokes, were, with this one line, effectively pushed to one side, and the viewers realised that this was no longer a comedy, but a harsh, cruel and grim statement of fact.

It is believed that Captain Blackadder was killed 'going over the top' in 1917.


Private Baldrick

Baldrick is a soldier in a First World War trench, serving under Captain Blackadder and Lieutenant George. His hero is Lord Flashheart.

Equally as disgusting as the third Baldrick, Private Baldrick is, without a doubt, the most stupid of the Baldrick dynasty to date. His 'cunning plans' verge on those of an insane person. Examples include carving his name on a bullet, in relation to the old saying 'a bullet with your name on it', his explanation being that if he owns the bullet, it won't ever kill him as he won't ever shoot himself ('shame' comments Captain Blackadder), and the chances of there being two bullets with 'Baldrick' on them are 'very small indeed'.

Despite his stupidity, Private Baldrick (however inadvertently) delivers the most profound speech of the lot. In preparation for 'the final push', tension is high, and Baldrick demands, "Why can't we just stop sir? Why can't we just say 'no more killing, let's all go home'? Why can't we pack it in? Why?". Neither Captain Blackadder nor Lieutenant George are able to come up with a good answer.

It is believed that Private S. Baldrick was killed going 'over the top' in 1917.


Captain Kevin Darling

Darling - whose surname was a constant embarrassment to him - was a pencil-pushing creep and aide to General Melchett. His main duties included unloading and assigning truck loads of paperclips, sending orders to charge and helping General Melchett with his dickie-bows and his dicky bladder (which Melchett claims to be wooden.)

Much like Lord Melchett in series 2, Darling and Captain Blackadder share a mutual hatred of one another, and are constantly embroiled in a game of one-upmanship. However, the two finally make amends when Darling is sent to join Blackadder and his men at the front line for the 'final push'.

Darling was given his orders by the insane General Melchett who believed it to be something of a treat, rather than a death sentence.

At home in England Darling worked for 'Pratt and Sons', kept wicket for the Croydon Gentlemen and had a girlfriend called Doris, who, had it not been for his untimely death, he intended to marry. He kept a diary, the final entry in which, written shortly after being ordered to the front line, simply read 'Bugger'.

McInnery played the role of Lord Percy in the first two series of the show but decided not to appear as Percy in the third series, in fear of being typecast, opting instead to play a minor role.

Three other Darlings appear in the millennium special Blackadder: Back and Forth. In the modern day setting McInnery plays Archdeacon Darling, the assistant of Bishop Flavius Melchett. When Blackadder visits the Napoleonic Wars, we learn that the Duke of Wellington (played, as in Blackadder the Third by Melchett actor Stephen Fry) was aided by the Duke of Darling, whereas Napoleon's aide was the Duc de Darling.

The character was originally named 'Captain Cartwright', as writers Ben Elton and Richard Curtis were unable to think of a more amusing name for him. Eventually however, Stephen Fry suggested 'Darling' would be a more comedic alternative.


General Sir Anthony Cecil Hogmanay Melchett

Although the character Melchett did not appear in series 3 of Blackadder, Stephen Fry had a show-stealing role in the final episode as The Duke of Wellington. The role seemed to fit Fry like a glove, and, when the character Melchett returned in the fourth and final series of Blackadder, he was no longer the sycophantic toady his ancestor had been in series 2, but an insane, bellowing army General, much like Fry's portrayal of Wellington. The two also shared the trademark bellow 'Baaah!', which would be delivered at random intervals for no apparent reason. (Fry has put it down to smoker's asthma, but it frequently seems to serve as a signal of the character's insanity. In the final episode of the second series, Prince Ludwig the Indestructible tortures Lord Melchett, after revealing that he was the sheep Melchett had had relations with, by yelling 'Baaah!' at him.)

The insane General Melchett was something of a popular caricature of World War I generals like Field Marshal Douglas Haig, who have been controversially portrayed by authors such as Alan Clark and John Laffin as sending men to a senseless death, with seemingly no tactics at all.

This is parodied in a scene where Haig is talking to Captain Blackadder on the phone. In front of him is a model of a trench with rows of men on either side. He places all the models on top of the trench, then knocks them over with a stick.

The General is constantly trying to lift the morale of the men, completely ignorant of the fact that they are too afraid of their impending deaths to have their spirits lifted by a Charlie Chaplin film or a drag act. He also attempted to have Captain Blackadder shot for eating his pet pigeon, tried to marry Lieutenant George, and shot Captain Darling in the foot to provide a believable disguise for undercover hospital work.

In series four, the role of the snivelling creep, and Blackadder's rival, was filled by Captain Darling, who acted as General Melchett's aide and who was always by his side, right up until Melchett sent him to the front line.

It appears he is a family friend of Lieutenant George's.


Nurse Mary

Nurse Mary Fletcher-Brown appears in the Blackadder Goes Forth episode "General Hospital." Like Amy she has a "fluffy bunny act" (her bedside manner), but is really a highly intelligent and cynical person. (While Prince George is disgusted by Amy's stupid act, Lieutenant George thinks Nurse Mary is "an absolute peach", and appears to be regressing to the nursery under her care.)

She had a brief fling with Captain Blackadder, but this time it was he who was leading her on, suspecting her of being a German spy and eventually exposing her. She was executed by firing squad.


Bobby Parkhurst

In the Blackadder Goes Forth episode "Major Star" we meet General Melchett's driver, Bob Parkhurst. This time Captain Blackadder recognises Bob's gender immediately, saying she's "a girl with as much talent for disguise as a giraffe in dark glasses trying to get into a polar bears only golf club". She explains that all her brothers have signed up, and she wants to see how a war is fought so badly (and as Blackadder says, this war is indeed being fought badly, as badly in fact as the time that "Olaf the Hairy, High Chief of all the Vikings, ordered 80,000 battle helmets with the horns on the inside").

While Blackadder isn't fooled Lieutenant George is, failing to spot the truth even when she emerges from the shower wearing only a towel. So is General Melchett, who, while attracted to the singer Gorgeous Georgina (utterly failing to recognise Lieutenant George), is outraged when she is replaced by what he perceives as a drag act involving Bob.

Driver Parkhurst also appears in the following episode, "Private Plane", once more involved with Lord Flashheart. Apparently she has become more open about her gender, and is now calling herself by the unisex "Bobby". We are never told her real first name, but in keeping with the tradition of characters recurring in each series it would seem reasonable to assume that it is Kate.


Squadron Commander The Lord Flashheart

Captain Blackadder appears to be the only man in England who dislikes Flash. This encounter ends in opposite manner to the episode in Blackadder II - instead of starting out as friends and ending up as (presumably - one did steal the other's bride) enemies; they start out as foes and end up as comrades, united in their desire for revenge on Captain Darling who had refused to send official help to Blackadder and Baldrick when they were captured by the Germans, leaving Flashheart to answer Lieutenant George's plea for an unofficial rescue mission. Blackadder even referred to Flashheart as "a friend of mine" at the end, though did quietly call him a "git" as he exited the room. Flashheart, meanwhile, had got into the habit of calling him "Slackie", an affectionate abbreviation of a previously derogatory nickname of "Slackbladder".

The rescue was required after Blackadder and Baldrick crashed their planes behind enemy lines and into the captivity of the German flying ace Baron von Richthofen played by Adrian Edmondson. Pairing the well-known duo of Mayall and Edmondson together in a one-off project proved an intriguing masterstroke, especially as unlike in all their previous projects (The Young Ones, Bottom, Filthy, Rich and Catflap) it wasn't Edmondson's character who bullied the Mayall character. This time, Mayall emerged on top by shooting Edmondson's character in the stomach. It's assumed that this shooting was fatal - however, in reality, von Richtofen died after being shot in the chest during an air chase.

Flash's hobbies include fighting, snogging, shagging, punching Baldrick in the face, flying, sailing and, for some reason, wearing dresses.


Lieutenant The Honourable George Colthurst St. Bartleigh

Public school educated, George served as a stereotype of the ever-optimistic Tommy which was portrayed back in England during World War I. (A couple of episodes indicate that George is an alumnus of Trinity College, Cambridge.) George is just as loud and foolish as Prince George in series three (indeed, it would not be too great a stretch of the imagination to say that Lieutenant George was a descendant of the ever-promiscuous Prince George), yet Lieutenant George carries himself with a great deal more innocence than the Prince, and his blind optimism shows that he is unaware of the seriousness of the situation he is in.

George serves in a trench under Captain Blackadder, to whom his presence is a constant annoyance. The dugout in which they live is also shared with Private S. Baldrick. George has a special friendship with General Melchett, as the two both attended the same public school. Melchett even offers George a way out of the trenches for the 'final push', which he refuses, much to Blackadder's annoyance.

George apparently has several hidden talents, which include painting and performing in a drag act.

George died going 'over the top' in 1917.

With the Lieutenant, Laurie and the writers confirmed that the "George" character was intended to replace Percy as the "upper class twit" figure in Blackadder, though George is more of a 'public school-boy'. Laurie would reprise the role in the millennium special Blackadder: Back & Forth, playing the Roman Consul Georgius and the modern day Lt The Viscount George Bufton-Tufton.


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