A few weeks ago, Twitter's number 1 Blackadder fan group Best of Blackadder asked its 25K+ followers: What are your top 5 episodes of Blackadder in order? Fans sent their lists in and the votes were tallied. Join me as we look at the results!
11. The Queen Of Spain's Beard - The Blackadder
It's the one where... Edmund's father attempts to force Black Adder into a marriage with the unattractive Spanish Infanta.
Did you know? Jim Broadbent confessed that he had no idea at the time what a Spanish accent should sound like, so he improvised "a very bad cod Italian accent" - which went down very well.
Richard Curtis remarked that it was an "astonishing technical feat, to get the rhythms of the English language so completely wrong."
What Makes it Great? The reason this is a top 11 list and not a more conventional top 10 list was to highlight the fact that despite the bad reputation of series 1 (even amongst former cast and crew members) it is highly regarded by hardcore Blackadder fans.
This was a strong start for the Blackadder formula, as it marks the first appearances of Miriam Margolyes and Jim Broadbent, who would later re-join Blackadder in Blackadder's Christmas Carol, with a version of Prince Albert that had a similarly baffling accent to the Spanish translator he plays here.
The characters were also behaving most like their Blackadder II incarnations in this episode, particularly in this brilliant exchange between Black Adder and Percy:
10. Head - Blackadder II
It's the one where... Blackadder is appointed Lord High Executioner. After acquainting himself with the ‘Ploppys’, he decides to move the execution date of one Lord Farrow forward to give himself the middle of the week off. However, this plan goes awry when Lady Farrow manages to secure a meeting with her husband before his scheduled execution date, resulting in Blackadder pretending to be Lord Farrow with a bag on his head.
Did You Know? This episode was originally intended to be the first episode of the series, but was switched with 'Bells', which is why Percy has a beard despite having shaved it off in the previous episode.
What Makes it Great? It could be argued that this episode probably has the strongest opener of all the Blackadder episodes, beginning with the famous adding scene.
'I have two beans, then I add two more beans. What does that make?
'A very small casserole.'
But that's probably not the only reason that this episode made number 10. The plot involving Blackadder and Percy running around trying to fix their Farrow debacle is a quite traditional, almost Fawlty Towers style farce, done absolutely brilliantly. My favourite is Percy's delivery of the line,'He's only got one arm!'
9. Dish and Dishonesty - Blackadder The Third
It's the one where... Blackadder advises the Prince Regent that under the new Prime Minister Pitt the Younger he is incredibly unpopular, and should therefore consider bribing an MP to curry favour. After the MP they choose for this task dies unexpectedly, Blackadder attempts to get Baldrick elected as the new MP of Dunny-on-the-Wold, a rotten borough, but definitely not a robber button.
Did You Know? Geoffrey McGivern makes a cameo in this episode as Ivor Jest-Ye-Not-Madam Biggun. He was the original Ford Prefect in the Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy radio series. The original Arthur Dent, Simon Jones, had previously appeared in the Blackadder II episode 'Potato'.
What Makes it Great? Packed to the rafters with gags:
'Lord Nelson's got a vote.'
'He's got a boat Baldrick'
This episode manages to be not only an excellent piece of historical comedy, but also a timeless piece of satire on the state of British politics. To be honest, I think this episode deserved to be a bit higher on the list, if only for Hugh Laurie's chicken impression 'Lark Lark Lark!' and his attempts to say antidisestablishmentarianism - 'anti distinctly minty...'.
There are too many brilliant scenes to list. It also raises awareness of that universal problem, never having enough pairs of socks, and of course we find out that Baldrick's first name might be ‘Sod-Off’.
8. Money - Blackadder II
It's the one where... Blackadder owes £1,000 to the Bishop of Bath and Wells and will be killed if he doesn't pay up! He tries his hand at everything to get the cash, from prostitution, to selling his property, and Percy even has a go at alchemy...
Did You Know? The writers practically rewrote the character of Queen Elizabeth I after they saw Miranda Richardson's wonderfully silly schoolchild like interpretation. Brian Blessed had also expressed a desire to play Elizabeth I in drag. That version of the character would have been madly in love with Edmund.
What Makes it Great? As mentioned, Percy attempting to make gold, but instead making 'some green' is probably one of the most iconic moments, not just in Blackadder, but British comedy in general.
That alone makes this episode worthy of its position on the list, but there's lots more to enjoy here too. Percy is probably at his most dim-witted in this episode, briefly distracted as he is by 'Oh Look Percy a giant humming bird is about to eat your hat and coat!'
This episode is also home to another classic scene in which Baldrick and Blackadder go 'down the docks',where they encounter a customer with some strange requests.
7. Duel and Duality - Blackadder the Third
It's the one where... Prince George has angered the Duke of Wellington by having a fling with both his nieces. The duke challenges the prince to a duel, so Blackadder comes up with a plan to replace the prince in the battle, by dressing his mad Scottish cousin MacAdder up as the Prince.
Did You Know? This was the series finale of Blackadder the Third, and the only one of the four seasons of the show to have a happy ending for Blackadder. He takes the place of the Regent of the United Kingdom here, but in all the other seasons, he meets a tragic death (in first and second season he is poisoned and in fourth season he dies tragically on the battlefield of World War I).
What Makes it Great? Fry and Laurie were reunited in this episode, as Stephen Fry delivers an excellent turn as the enraged Duke 'TEEEEEAAAAAA!'
It's hard not to feel sorry for Prince George in this episode, as he's mercilessly hit, taking on the servants role, by swapping clothes with Blackadder (like the fairy tale The Prince, and the Pauper, and the Porpoise).
There's also lots of fun with Rowan Atkinson playing his Scottish brother MacAdder. The best line of the episode for me would probably have to be, 'Baldrick! Does it have to be this way? Our valued friendship ending with me cutting you into long strips and telling the Prince that you walked over a very sharp cattle grid in an extremely heavy hat!’
6. Bells - Blackadder II
It's the one where... Blackadder falls in love with a boy called ‘Bob’.
Did You Know? Rik Mayall designed Flashhart's costume himself. The rest of the cast had never seen it prior to his entrance in the wedding scene. According to John Lloyd, he also virtually rewrote his part to feature "loads of jokes". It proved so popular that the BBC decided to switch the series running order, so this would be the debut episode of Blackadder II.
What Makes it Great? There isn't a single part of this episode that isn't iconic. From Blackadder getting a huge laugh every time he says 'Bob' to Blackadder's quest to find The Wise Woman:
'You do know her then?'
'No, just a wild stab in the dark, which is what you'll be getting if you don't start being a bit more helpful.'
The crowning glory of course was Rik Mayall stealing the show at the end as Flash, a character that had so little screen time, but such an astonishing impact! If you had to nominate an episode of Blackadder to introduce the show to someone it would probably be this one.
5. Corporal Punishment - Blackadder Goes Forth
It's the one where... Captain Blackadder definitely did not shoot that delicious plump-breasted pigeon.
Did You Know? Two of the men's names in the firing squad are Corporal Jones and Private Fraser. An obvious reference to the classic sitcom Dad's Army, which Ben Elton has frequently mentioned had a big impact on him.
What Makes It Great? One of the best things about Goes Forth was the teaming up of the two stupidest characters in the show (although the jury is still out on whether Percy could have beaten George on that front).
The inspired naive friendship of George and Baldrick was very much the centrepiece of this episode. George's fight to save Blackadder in the courtroom is so famous, that it is a scene that seems to have (indirectly or otherwise), inspired practically every comedy courtroom scene since.
4. Private Plane - Blackadder Goes Forth
It's the one where... Blackadder tries to join the Flying Corps and Lord Flashheart makes an enigmatic return as the commander of the "20 Minuters" squadron.
Did You Know? This episode continued Blackadder's trend of reuniting double acts with Rik Mayall and Adrian Edmondson both featuring in this episode, after Fry and Laurie had done so in the previous series. For the flying scenes, footage from the 1976 movie, Aces High was re-edited and dubbed over with the actors' voices.
What Makes it great? Flash returns! And this time he's got loads more to do ('Let's DoooOOOooo It). Including defeating the evil Baron Von Richtoven (Adrian Edmondson). Flash once again steals the show, and listening to the audience laughter, you can hear the amount of cheers and love for Rik and his beloved character - especially when he shoots the baron. It's really not hard to see why this episode ranks so highly on this list.
3. Beer - Blackadder II
It's the one where... Blackadder entertains the puritans Lord and Lady Whiteadder, while he also attempts to hold an outrageous drinking party in the next room.
Did You Know? Baldrick's obsession with turnips arose from an initial script error on the part of Ben Elton. He had confused the vegetable with the "amusingly shaped" parsnip.
What Makes it Great? A very traditional Shakespearean farce, but played out Blackadder style. Beer is a well-deserved number three on this list. Particularly iconic for the turnip scene (“Almost exactly the same shame as a thingy”) and Miriam Margolyes’s performance as Lady Whiteadder, who eventually loosens up after a few beers. 'Weh-hay Luck do you get it? Sounds almost exactly like...'
2. Ink & Incapability - Blackadder the Third
It's the one where... Samuel Johnson is keen to make the Prince Regent patron of his new manuscript: the dictionary! To prove he isn't an ‘utter turnip-head' the Prince is keen to support it, but he hasn't banked on the fact that Baldrick has burned the only copy!
Did You Know? Richard Curtis and Ben Elton had previously seen Robbie Coltrane play Dr Samuel Johnson in a one-man show Your Obedient Servant in 1987 at the Lyric Theatre, Hammersmith.
What Makes it Great? Ink & Incapability takes the number two spot, and it's not hard to see why; Robbie Coltrane's Doctor Johnson is perfect 'SAUSAGE? SAUSAGE?!'
And all the scenes where Prince George and Baldrick chip in to help with the impossible task of rewriting the dictionary ''the big papery thing tied up with string' are gold.
'And your definition of dog?'
'Not a cat.'
The dream sequence is a personal favourite of mine, especially Blackadder’s line, 'I love you Doctor Johnson and I want to have your babies.' From start to finish this episode literally never has a dull moment. If you don't agree, then I must offer you my sincere contrafibularities
1.Goodbyeee - Blackadder Goes Forth
It's the one where... They all go over the top.
Did You Know? The title of this episode is based on the popular First World War song "Good-bye-ee!" with the chorus 'Good-bye-ee!' sung in a very exaggerated way, which had been popularised as a catchphrase by a famous comedian of the time, Harry Tate.
What Makes it Great? There could only really have been one winner of this poll. Blackadder Goes Forth popularised tragic moments in sitcom, with its classic ending that everybody is familiar with, but what makes it all so impactful is that it's not just tragedy in this episode. Captain Blackadder sticking two pencils up his nose, and saying 'wibble', and Baldrick's war poems are two of Blackadder's most iconic and funny scenes.
Right up until the last moments, the jokes are still coming thick and fast. 'Wouldn't want to face a machine gun without this!' George says brandishing his stick. The best lines here though aren't jokes: George's failure to find a reply when Baldrick asks 'why can't we just say no more war?'
And Blackadder's reply to Baldrick saying he has a cunning plan at the end. 'Whatever it is it will have to wait. I hope it was better than that plan to pretend to be mad, I mean who would notice another madman round here?'
The ending itself is as impactful as it ever was. It remains a very important piece of television, and is undoubtedly the greatest Blackadder episode! It might sound like a bit of a pious hope, but honestly this episode along with the whole of Goes Forth should be shown in schools.
So there you have it! Here are the full results if your favourite didn't make the top 11:
I think this poll gave a fairly accurate result, with only a few surprises and the right winner!
Thanks so much for Best of Blackadder for allowing me to use their polling data!
Written by Rhianna Evans