Blackadder: Back & Forth
|Blackadder: Back & Forth|
|Directed by||Paul Weiland|
|Produced by||Peter Bennett-Jones|
|Written by||Richard Curtis|
|Music by||Howard Goodall|
|Edited by||Guy Bensley|
(VCI Home Video)
Blackadder: Back & Forth is a 1999 sci-fi comedy film based on the BBC period sitcom Blackadder that marks the end of the Blackadder saga. It was commissioned for showing in the specially built SkyScape cinema erected southeast of the Millennium Dome on the Greenwich peninsula in South London. The film follows Lord Edmund Blackadder and his idiotic servant, Baldrick, on a time travel adventure that brings the characters into contact with several figures significant to British history.
In a 1999 interview, Richard Curtis described it as "an irreverent trek through British history – a time travel adventure story consisting entirely of people who are either rude or stupid." Rowan Atkinson and Tony Robinson reprised their roles as the series' core characters Blackadder and Baldrick, respectively. In an interview, Atkinson stated that making a Blackadder film had always been an ambition. Joining Atkinson and Robinson are other main cast members from the last three series, Stephen Fry, Hugh Laurie, Tim McInnerny and Miranda Richardson.
Blackadder: Back & Forth was produced almost 10 years after the final episode of the Blackadder television series, but reunited almost the entire cast and writers of series 2–4 of the television programme, with the exception of the original series producer, John Lloyd. Due to the increased budget, it is the only Blackadder story to be shot entirely on film and with no laugh track, although one was added for the BBC One broadcast in 2002. It is also the only Blackadder to be filmed in widescreen; 2.20:1 aspect ratio for cinema showings, and 16:9 (1.77:1) for the DVD and television screenings.
The opening sequence features various depictions and photographs of historical scenes, edited to contain a Blackadder, accompanied by a full orchestral version of the Howard Goodall's Blackadder theme. The closing theme is a reprisal of the heroic version of the first series, with new lyrics sung by Giles Underwood; the lyrics appear onscreen with Blackadder's head as a bouncing ball.
At Blackadder Hall in 1999 Lord Blackadder (Rowan Atkinson) is entertaining three guests on New Year's Eve. He informs them he has invented a time machine and wagers £10,000 each that he can bring back any item from history they ask for. Archbishop Melchett (Stephen Fry), Archdeacon Kevin Darling (Tim McInnerny), Major George (Hugh Laurie) and Lady Elizabeth (Miranda Richardson) agree to this and request he brings back a Roman centurion's helmet, wellingtons worn by the Duke of Wellington on the day of the Battle of Waterloo, and an ancient, reeking, stinking pair of 200-year-old underpants. The whole thing is actually a scam, Blackadder has, in fact, had Baldrick (Tony Robinson) retrieve the items from his stores, and the time machine is just a prop. Blackadder stages the time machine travelling through time for his guests, with himself and Baldrick hiding inside, but when he opens the door he finds it has actually worked.
They are now in the Cretaceous Period, where they are attacked by a Tyrannosaurus. They throw away their wager items but are eventually able to knock it out using the underpants. Baldrick admits that, as he never got round to writing the dates on the dials, they cannot return to the present.
Blackadder and Baldrick return to Blackadder Hall but during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I (Miranda Richardson) who, mistaking him for his ancestor, orders his beheading unless he has a present for her. While rummaging through his pockets, Blackadder knocks some Polos onto the floor which he then offers to the Queen. She likes it, rewards him with her crown and orders him to go forth and bring back lots more "minty things". On his way back to the time machine, Blackadder runs into William Shakespeare (Colin Firth). He punches him saying "that is for every schoolboy and schoolgirl for the next four hundred years" and promptly leaves.
Blackadder tries to remember how the dials were set. They eventually land in Sherwood Forest and are captured by Robin Hood (Rik Mayall). Blackadder asks the Merry Men why they steal from the rich, facing certain death if caught, live in the forest with "not very nice" toilet facilities and yet are willing to give all they steal to the poor. Believing he has a point, the Merry Men shoot Robin. After having sex with Maid Marian (Kate Moss), Blackadder leaves, taking Robin's hat as a trophy.
Next, the time machine lands at the Battle of Waterloo killing the Duke of Wellington in the process, Blackadder steps out to steal the Duke's boots, feeling he may as well try to win his wager. This is followed by them landing at Hadrian's Wall in Roman Britain. After stealing a helmet, Blackadder and Baldrick escape just ahead of a charging Scotsmen.
Baldrick mentions that dying people have their lives flash before them and that if Blackadder was about to drown, he might see how the dials were originally set. Blackadder agrees with this but puts Baldrick head first into the time machine toilet. The plan succeeds and Baldrick remembers how to set the dials to return home. On the way back, Baldrick suggests that anyone can change the world for the better, though Blackadder is sure that all most people can do is make a bit of money.
Returning to 1999, the party guests are impressed by what Blackadder has returned with, but due to his interference with history, Robin Hood is unheard of, Shakespeare is only known as the inventor of the ballpoint pen, and Britain has been ruled by the French since Napoleon's victory at Waterloo. Horrified by this, Blackadder gets back into the time machine to try and fix things. He encourages Shakespeare, flatters Robin Hood, and prevents the death of the Duke of Wellington.
They return home to collect Blackadder's winnings from his guests. He tells them to go upstairs and watch the New Year's festivities on television, assuring them he will soon return. He informs Baldrick he has a "very, very, very cunning plan", and they set off again in the time machine. The guests watch the broadcast of the royals and the prime minister arriving at the Millennium Dome. Blackadder is shown to now be King Edmund III, who is married to Marian of Sherwood (Kate Moss) and is joined by Prime Minister Baldrick.
The cast reunited most of the regulars of series two to four of the television series, who each played a variety of different incarnations of themselves, in a similar fashion to Blackadder's Christmas Carol. The cast also included a number of cameos from British actors and celebrities.
- Rowan Atkinson as Lord Blackadder, King Edmund III and Centurion Blaccadius
- Tony Robinson as Baldrick, Prime Minister and Legionary Baldricus
- Stephen Fry as Flavius Melchett, General Melchius, Lord Melchett and the Duke of Wellington
- Hugh Laurie as Major George and Consul Georgius
- Tim McInnerny as Archdeacon Darling, Duke of Darling and Duc de Darling
- Miranda Richardson as Lady Elizabeth and her relative Queen Elizabeth I
- Patsy Byrne as Nursie
- Rik Mayall as Robin Hood (aka Lord Flashheart)
- Kate Moss as Maid Marian
- Colin Firth as William Shakespeare
- Simon Russell Beale as Napoleon
- Sacha Bennett as Will Scarlet
- Crispin Harris as Friar Tuck
- Jennie Bond as Royal Reporter
Screening rights dispute
In 1999, before Back & Forth had premiered at the Millennium Dome, a dispute broke out between Sky and the BBC over who had the right to broadcast the one-off special after the Millennium year. Sky claimed that they had paid £4 million for exclusive rights while the BBC argued that it was absurd that the channel from which the programme originated would not be screening it and that "[t]he stars agreed to do it on the basis that it would be on BBC One."
The film was shown at the 'SkyScape' cinema eight times a day throughout the celebratory year 2000, after which it was aired on television, first on Sky One in 2001 and then on BBC One, where it was scheduled to be shown on Easter Sunday in 2002, but was postponed until 21 April because of the death of Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother.
Rating, awards and DVD release
Because of the film's intended audience (it is rated PG rather than 15) a number of scenes were cut from the final edit. Some of these were later shown in a corresponding "making of" documentary called Baldrick's Video Diary which was produced to accompany the DVD release, which also featured the Comic Relief special Blackadder: The Cavalier Years. All of this material, together with Blackadder's Christmas Carol, was later included on Disc 5 of the Blackadder Remastered: The Ultimate Edition DVD box set. The DVD release does not include the laugh track.
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