Blackadder II

Blackadder II

Infobox Television
show_name = Blackadder II

caption = Title screen of "Blackadder II"
format = Situation comedy
camera =
picture_format = 4:3
audio_format =
runtime = 30 minutes
creator = Richard Curtis & Ben Elton
developer =
producer = John Lloyd
executive_producer =
starring = Rowan Atkinson
Tony Robinson
Tim McInnerny
Miranda Richardson
Stephen Fry
Patsy Byrne
voices =
narrated =
theme_music_composer = Howard Goodall
opentheme =
endtheme =
country = United Kingdom
location =
language = English
network = BBC One
first_aired = 9 January 1986
last_aired = 20 February 1986
num_series =
num_episodes = 6
list_episodes =
preceded_by = "The Black Adder"
followed_by = "Blackadder the Third"
related =
website =
imdb_id =
tv_com_id =

"Blackadder II" [Presented as "Black-Adder II" on the title screen, but referred to as one word by the BBC] is the second series of the BBC situation comedy "Blackadder", written by Richard Curtis and Ben Elton, which aired from 9 January 1986 to 20 February 1986.

The series was set in England during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I (1558–1603), and saw the principal character, Edmund, Lord Blackadder, as a Tudor courtier attempting to win the favour of the Queen while avoiding the fate that befell many of her suitors.

The series saw a number of significant changes from the format of "The Black Adder", notably Ben Elton replacing Rowan Atkinson as the second writer, filming in studio sets, rather than on location, and the introduction of the more familiar Machiavellian "Blackadder" character.Lewisohn, Mark, [ "Blackadder II] at the former BBC Guide to Comedy, URL accessed 17 March, 2007]


"Blackadder II" is set during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I (1558–1603) (Miranda Richardson). The principal character, Edmund, Lord Blackadder (Rowan Atkinson), is the great-grandson of the original Black Adder, and is now a member of the London aristocracy. Unlike his forefather, he is both dashing and intelligent, although he is still scheming and cynical in his outlook. The series follows his attempts to win the favour of, and avoid annoying, the childish, yet immensely powerful (and occasionally psychotic) Queen. As before he is aided, and often hindered, by two less intelligent sidekicks, his servant Baldrick (Tony Robinson), and Lord Percy Percy (Tim McInnerny), heir to the Duchy of Northumberland, with whom Blackadder has a grudging friendship.

Throughout the series, Blackadder's chief rival is Lord Melchett, the Queen's pretentious and grovelling Lord Chamberlain (Stephen Fry). Melchett is himself in fear of upsetting the Queen, and thus attempts to outdo Blackadder by supporting the Queen in whatever current fad she is interested in. Comic relief in the Court is provided by the Queen's demented former nanny, Nursie, played by Patsy Byrne.

Baldrick, who in the first series was the most intelligent of the main trio, became more stupid, an idea proposed by Ben Elton to make him "the stupidest person in the history of...human beings", and to act as a foil to Blackadder's new-found intelligence."I Have a Cunning Plan - 20th Anniversary of Blackadder", BBC Radio 4 documentary broadcast 23rd August 2003. Excerpts available at [] ] The series was also the originator of Baldrick's obsession with the turnip, although this apparently arose from a botanical error on the part of Ben Elton, who confused the vegetable with the "amusingly shaped" parsnip.

Lord Percy remained similar in character to the original series, as a foolish sidekick in Blackadder's predicaments. In this respect, McInnerny has stated that the character bears a resemblance to Sir Andrew Aguecheek in Shakespeare's "Twelfth Night". Indeed, as with "The Black Adder", the series featured many tongue-in-cheek references to the plays of William Shakespeare, who, in addition to being mentioned a number of times as a contemporary Elizabethan, has many famous quotations twisted for comic effect by the writers." [ Britain's Best Sitcom - Blackadder] ", 2004 BBC Television documentary, presented by John Sergeant] In particular the first episode "Bells", follows a similar plot to "Twelfth Night". [ [ Bells] at, URL accessed 17 March, 2007]


The series aired for six episodes broadcast on Thursdays on BBC One at 9.30pm between January 9 1986 and February 20 1986. The titles of the episodes are single words based on the theme of the episodes - "Bells" (a wedding), "Head" (decapitation), "Potato" (exploration), "Money" (debt), "Beer" (alcohol) and "Chains" (prison).

"Head" was originally intended to be the first episode, and was first to be filmed. This resulted in the small continuity error of Lord Percy still having a beard in "Head" which he shaves off in "Bells". In addition, during the early scenes of "Head", the principal characters are introduced to the audience with Baldrick's stupidity highlighted.

Music and titles

The opening titles are accompanied by a mock-Elizabethan arrangement of Howard Goodall's "Blackadder" theme played on a recorder and an electric guitar, and feature a black snake slithering about on a marble table. The snake, noncompliant to the wishes of its handler, is eventually removed and replaced with something related to the episode title, which in this series is always a single noun. The opening ominous string crescendo and imagery are a parody of the opening credits of the 1976 BBC television adaptation of Robert Graves' "I, Claudius". [ Trivia] at, URL accessed March 17, 2007]

The closing titles use a different arrangement of the theme on various instruments, accompanied by a countertenor [ [ Official Howard Goodall website] , URL accessed 17 March, 2007] who sings lyrics reflecting the events of the preceding episode, over a shot of Blackadder strolling through a formal garden and being annoyed by a lute-wielding minstrel played by Tony Aitken. This sequence was incorporated as a separate subplot, with Blackadder constantly attempting to apprehend the musician each time with mixed results. At the end of the final episode, Blackadder catches the minstrel and repeatedly dunks him in a fountain. [ [ Credits] at, URL accessed March 17, 2007]


Due to the high cost of the first series, the then controller of programming of BBC One, Michael Grade was reluctant to sign off a second series without major improvements and cost cutting to be made to the show, leaving a gap of three years between the two series.

Rowan Atkinson did not wish to continue writing for the second series, so writer and stand-up comedian Ben Elton was chosen to replace him. According to producer John Lloyd, Ben Elton was particularly keen on the choice of the Elizabethan age for the series, because it was "a sexy age that "the kids" can relate to." As a stand-up comic, Elton often acted as the studio warm-up comic to amuse the audience before filming began. [ Trivia] at UKTV, URL accessed April 2, 2007] The scripts were also tightened up during principal rehearsals with the actors - according to Richard Curtis, a whole script for a murder mystery-style episode was dropped because the writers felt it did not work.

To make the show more cost effective, it was principally filmed on general purpose indoor sets at BBC Television Centre. In particular, the Queen's throne room and Blackadder's front room were featured in every episode, with only two further unique sets per episode, including an execution chamber in "Head" and a Spanish dungeon in "Chains". Only one outside location shoot was used in the whole series, which took place before principal filming on Thursday May 30 1985 at Wilton House, Wiltshire. These outside scenes were Blackadder's courting scene in "Bells" and the end title sequences. [ Blackadder Hall], URL accessed January 13, 2008] Studio recordings shot in front of a live audience began on Sunday June 9 1985 with the recording of "Head". Subsequent episodes were filmed on a weekly basis in the order "Bells", "Potato", "Money", "Beer" and "Chains". Director Mandie Fletcher was keen for the action to be shot spontaneously and was averse to complex costume changes or special effects which required recording to be halted. She is reputed to have said filming it was "a bit like doing Shakespeare in front of an audience - it's not at all like doing sitcom."


* Rowan Atkinson as Lord Edmund Blackadder
* Tony Robinson as Baldrick
* Tim McInnerny as Lord Percy Percy
* Miranda Richardson as Queen Elizabeth I
* Stephen Fry as Lord Melchett
* Patsy Byrne as Nursie

The size of the principal cast was reduced compared to the previous series, with a fixed number of characters appearing in every episode. Richard Curtis has been quoted as saying that due to the familiar cast, the series was the happiest for him to work on, comparing it to a "friendly bunch of school chums".

The series also featured at least one significant cameo role per episode, with notable appearances from Rik Mayall, playing the debonair Lord Flashheart in "Bells", two figures famous for their roles in science fiction series - Tom Baker and Simon Jones - in "Potato" and Stephen Fry's comedy partner Hugh Laurie appearing twice, first as the drunken Simon Partridge in "Beer" and in the final episode as the evil Prince Ludwig. Laurie was later given a larger role as George in the next two series. Also seen for the first time was Bob, played by Gabrielle Glaister, who went to school with Ben Elton. Several of the characters were seen in similar guises in later series.


The complete series of "Blackadder II" is available as a Region 2 DVD from BBC Worldwide, as well as in a complete box-set with the other series. An earlier VHS release of the series was also produced in 1996. The series is also available in Region 1 DVD in a box-set of the complete series. In addition, an audio recording taken from the television episodes is available on cassette and compact disc.


External links

* [ "Blackadder II"] at the former BBC Guide to Comedy (archive)

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