The Foretelling

Blackadder21st August, 1485. King Richard III’s victory at the Battle of Bosworth Field is ruined only by the unfortunate fact that his head was cut off by Edmund, second son of Prince Richard. Once his father is crowned King Richard IV, the newly ennobled Prince Edmund, Duke of Edinburgh, begins his life as “The Black Adder”. But Edmund is haunted by the ghost of the slain King and finds he’s been unknowingly harboring the King’s enemy, Henry Tudor…

Season 1 Regular Cast: Rowan Atkinson (Edmund, Duke of Edinburgh, The Black Adder), Brian Blessed (King Richard IV), Robert East (Harry, Prince of Wales), Tim McInnerny (Percy, Duke of Northumberland), Elspet Gray (The Queen), Tony Robinson (Baldrick), Patrick Allen (Narrator)

Order the DVDswritten by Richard Curtis and Rowan Atkinson
with additional dialogue by William Shakespeare
directed by Martin Shardlow
music by Howard Goodall

Guest Cast: Peter Cook (Richard III), Peter Benson (Henry VII), Jay Bura (Prince Edward), Tan Bura (Prince Richard), Stephen Tate (Lord Chiswick), Kathleen St. John (Goneril), Barbara Miller (Regan), Gretchen Franklin (Cordelia), Philip Kendall (Painter)

Season 1 Notes: Rowan Atkinson became a household name (especially in England) on the strength of his portrayal of the various Blackadders. He also found success with the title role in the TV series Bean and its spin-offs (a movie and an animated series). Genre work includes the “unofficial” James Bond film Never Say Never Again (1983), Scooby-Doo (2002) and a comedic portrayal of legendary BBC character The Doctor in the 1999 charity special Doctor Who and the Curse of Fatal Death.

Brian Blessed is a veteran of stage and screen, appearing in countless plays, films and television productions. His first standout television appearance was as Emperor Augustus in the BBC series I, Claudius. Genre work includes Space: 1999, Blake’s 7, Doctor Who, Flash Gordon (1980) and Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace (1999).

Robert East has made appearances on several British television shows, including Rumpole of the Bailey, Yes, Prime Minister, ‘Allo ‘Allo! and The Canterbury Tales.

Elspet Gray began her career in the late 1940s and worked regularly for the next 50 years. Key work includes appearances on such shows as Fawlty Towers, Inspector Morse, Poirot and the Richard Curtis-penned film Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994). Genre work has been minimal, but does include the role of Chancellor Thalia in the pivotal Doctor Who story Arc Of Infinity. Gray is one of only three cast members (along with Atkinson and Tim McInnerny) to survive The Black Adder’s transition from pilot to series.

Tim McInnerny was a regular cast member in all Blackadder series except Blackadder The Third (where he made a guest appearance). Other genre appearances include Erik The Viking (1989) and a guest appearance on The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles as Franz Kafka.

Tony Robinson has the distinction of being the only cast member besides Rowan Atkinson to appear in all full Blackadder productions (except the pilot). Other work includes the TV series Maid Marian And Her Merry Men, a comic look at the Robin Hood legend, and Blood and Honey, a narrative retelling of Biblical stories.

Notes: Although this episode clearly establishes the origin of the “Blackadder” name, later sources, notably Blackadder: Back & Forth and the script collection/historical overview “Blackadder: The Whole Damn Dynasty”, indicate the name is much older.

The portrayal here of King Henry VII as a liar who re-wrote history is in line with modern thinking that King Richard III’s reign was unfairly portrayed as a means of justifying the Tudors’ questionable hold on the English throne.

The three old women at the end of The Foretelling are based on the witches from Shakespeare’s “Macbeth”, but are named after the daughters from “King Lear”.

Before his death in 1995, Peter Cook was acknowledged as one of the greats of British comedy, most notably for his longtime collaboration with Dudley Moore on such projects as the 1960s TV series Not Only… But Also… and the 1967 film Bedazzled. His genre work was minimal, but does include the dubious distinction of being a second-string bad guy in Supergirl (1984).

LogBook entry by Philip R. Frey

The Queen Of Spain’s Beard

Blackadder1492. The King, in need of a strategic alliance with Spain, decides to marry Edmund to the Spanish Infanta, since Harry is already engaged to several other young women. Initially excited by the notion, Edmund’s enthusiasm wanes quickly upon actually meeting the Infanta. After failing in his many attempts to evade the altar, it seems Edmund will be married whether he will or no…

Order the DVDswritten by Richard Curtis and Rowan Atkinson
with additional dialogue by William Shakespeare
directed by Martin Shardlow
music by Howard Goodall

Guest Cast: Jim Broadbent (Don Speekingleesh), Miriam Margolyes (Infanta Maria Escolosa), Jane Freeman (Mrs. Applebottom), Howard Lew Lewis (Mr. Applebottom), John Rapley (Rev. Lloyd), David Nunn (Messenger), Stephen Tate (Lord Chiswick), Kenn Wells (Messenger), Richard Mitchley (Messenger), Willoughby Goddard (Archbishop), Natasha King (Princess Leia of Hungary), Harriet Keevil (Lady on Ramparts)

Notes: The Queen Of Spain’s Beard was originally transmitted out of order, switching places with Born To Be King.

Miriam Margolyes’ comic skill has been used in many diverse films, from wacky comedies such as Morons From Outer Space (1985) to full dramas like Romeo + Juliet (1996) to popcorn fare like Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002). Margolyes also appears in Blackadder II (Beer) and in Blackadder’s Christmas Carol.

Jim Broadbent is a highly regarded actor, known for his work in such films as Richard III (1995) and Iris (2001), for which he won an Academy Award. His only other Blackadder appearance is in Blackadder’s Christmas Carol. He also appeared with Rowan Atkinson in the Doctor Who charity special The Curse Of Fatal Death, portraying the 11th Doctor to Atkinson’s 9th Doctor.

Natasha King’s portrayal of Princess Leia would be seen only one more time, in the following episode, Witchsmeller Pursuivant.

LogBook entry by Philip R. Frey

The Archbishop

BlackadderNovember, 1487. The death of the Duke of Winchester heightens the rivalry between the Church and the Crown. After disposing of the current Archbishop of Canterbury, the King decides to name Edmund to the post in hopes of a more pliable Church leader. While Edmund proves at last to be of use to his father, forces are conspiring against his staying long in the job…

Order the DVDswritten by Richard Curtis and Rowan Atkinson
with additional dialogue by William Shakespeare
directed by Martin Shardlow
music by Howard Goodall

Guest Cast: William Russell (Duke of Winchester), Arthur Hewlett (Godfrey, Archbishop of Canterbury / William, Bishop of London), David Nunn (Messenger), Leslie Sands (Lord Graveney), Joyce Grant (Mother Superior), Carolyn Colquhoun (Sister Sara), David Delve (Sir George de Boef), Bill Wallis (Sir Justin de Boinod), Bert Parnaby (Cain), Roy Evans (Abel)

Notes: William Russell is best known for his portrayal of Ian Chesterton, one of the original cast members of the long running BBC science fiction show Doctor Who. He was credited on this episode under his real name, “Russell Enoch.”

Bill Wallis’ long career includes genre appearances in The Avengers, Robin of Sherwood, and The Canterville Ghost (1986). He also appears in Blackadder II (Head) and Blackadder Goes Forth (General Hospital).

Bert Parnaby and Roy Evans (Cain & Abel) re-appear in Witchsmeller Pursuivant and The Black Seal.

LogBook entry by Philip R. Frey

Born To Be King

Blackadder1486. The King is away on a Crusade, but will be home by St. Leonard’s Day, a time of great feasting. While Prince Harry is running the country in his father’s stead, Edmund is in charge of the sheep and getting the frolics together for the feast. When a visiting Scottish Lord calls Prince Harry’s parentage into question, a plan is hatched to remove Harry from the right of succession…

Order the DVDswritten by Richard Curtis and Rowan Atkinson
with additional dialogue by William Shakespeare
directed by Martin Shardlow
music by Howard Goodall

Guest Cast: Alex Norton (McAngus, Duke of Argyll), David Nunn (Messenger), Angus Deayton (Jumping Jew)

Notes: This episode is a re-writing of the original Black Adder pilot, which took place about a hundred years later in history. Born To Be King was originally transmitted out of order, switching places with The Queen Of Spain’s Beard; it was intended to be the second episode.

Alex Norton re-creates his portrayal of McAngus from the original Black Adder pilot. He is considerably more savage (and filthy) here.

David Nunn appeared in several episodes of The Black Adder as the somewhat dim messenger seen in this episode. He returned to Blackadder for a small appearance in Blackadder’s Christmas Carol.

LogBook entry by Philip R. Frey

Witchsmeller Pursuivant

BlackadderAutumn, 1495. The Black Plague is ravaging the land. The King himself is ill, leaving Harry and Edmund to deal with the crisis. It is decided to call on the Witchsmeller Pursuivant to root out the evil. Edmund’s vocal opposition is rewarded by being pegged as a witch, himself. Prince Harry agrees to put Edmund on trial, but with the Witchsmeller out to get him, Edmund’s survival is anything but certain…

Order the DVDswritten by Richard Curtis and Rowan Atkinson
with additional dialogue by William Shakespeare
directed by Martin Shardlow
music by Howard Goodall

Guest Cast: Frank Finlay (The Witchsmeller Pursuivant), Richard Murdoch (Ross), Valentine Dyall (Angus), Peter Schofield (Fife), Stephen Frost (Soft), Mark Arden (Anon), Perry Benson (Daft Ned), Bert Parnaby (Dim Cain), Roy Evans (Dumb Abel), Forbes Collins (Dopey Jack), Patrick Duncan (Officer), Barbara Miller (Jane Kirkettle), Natasha King (Princess Leia), Howard Lew Lewis (Piers), Sarah Thomas (Mrs. Field), Louise Gold (Mrs. Tyler), Gareth Milne (Stuntman)

Notes: Frank Finlay is best known for his extensive theatrical career. He early work included multiple Shakespearean productions, including Othello (1965), Much Ado About Nothing (1967), Julius Caesar (1969) and The Merchant of Venice (1972). Genre work includes The Deadly Bees (1966), the role of van Helsing in Count Dracula (1977), The Magical Legend of the Leprechauns (1999) and Ghosthunter (2000).

Cain and Abel (Bert Parnaby and Roy Evans) are back (following their appearance in The Archbishop) and re-appear in the final episode, The Black Seal.

Following her appearance in The Queen Of Spain’s Beard, Natasha King makes another brief appearance as Edmund’s wife, Princess Leia.

Stephen Frost makes a return appearance in the Blackadder Goes Forth episode Corporal Punishment. He is probably best known to American audiences for his many appearances on the British improv show Whose Line Is It, Anyway?

LogBook entry by Philip R. Frey

The Black Seal

Blackadder1498. Humiliations at court finally lead Edmund to attempt to overthrow the King. He dismisses Baldrick and Percy and sets out to form The Black Seal, a band consisting of the six most evil men in the land. With their help he hopes to gain the Crown. But Edmund’s new friends are not really the type you can trust in a pinch…

Order the DVDswritten by Richard Curtis and Rowan Atkinson
with additional dialogue by William Shakespeare
directed by Martin Shardlow
music by Howard Goodall

Guest Cast: John Carlisle (Murdered Lord), Bert Parnaby (Cain), Roy Evans (Abel), Forbes Collins (Trusting Father), Des Webb (Person of unrestricted growth), John Barrard (Retired Morris Dancer), Perry Bevon (Pigeon Vendor), John Hallam (Sir Wilfred Death), Roger Sloman (Three-Fingered Pete), Patrick Malahide (Guy de Glastonbury), Ron Cook (Sean, the Irish Bastard), Paul Brooke (Friar Bellows), Big Mick (Jack Large), Rik Mayall (Mad Gerald), Patrick Allen (Philip of Burgandy, The Hawk)

Notes: Edmund’s wife, Princess Leia, is notably not among those killed at the end of this episode. While Leia was likely around ten at the time of her marriage (1492), she would be about sixteen by the time of this episode, a more than reasonable child-bearing age for the day, thus assuring the Blackadder line to follow.

Cain and Abel (portrayed by Bert Parnaby and Roy Evans) have had a hard time. Three years earlier (in Witchsmeller Pursuivant) they were still healthy, if stupid. By 1498, they’re both blind.

Rik Mayall returned for appearances in Blackadder II (Bells), Blackadder Goes Forth (Private Plane), and Blackadder: Back & Forth. The role of Mad Gerald was credited in this episode to “himself.” Mayall is best known for his alternative comedy work in such TV series as The Young Ones, Bottom and The New Statesmen. (He also starred in Drop Dead Fred (1991), but let’s not hold that against him.)

LogBook entry by Philip R. Frey

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