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" A Cunning & Successful Plan"
on 23 January 2013
Quite simply the definitive guide to the much loved comedy series. The making of each incarnation is discussed in detail from the unscreened pilot, through The Black Adder, Black Adder 2, Blackadder the 3rd up to Blackadder Goes Forth taking in the specials; Blackadder's Christmas Carol, Blackadder the Cavalier Years and Blackadder Back and Forth (which none of those involved seem to like).
There is information on why this particular period was chosen for spoofing, which characters were originally intended for different actors e.g. Tony Robinson was always intended to play Baldrick but when the pilot shoot was delayed and he was unavailable Philip Fox took the role (for the pilot only). Also there were what you might call "double acts" such as Miriam Margolyes and Jim Broadbent (Queen of Spain and her translator series 1), Mark Arden and Stephen Frost (guards series 1), considered succesful in series 1 had roles more or less written for them which had to be recast when one was not available. E.G. Arden returned to play another guard in series 2 but Frost was unavailable. Lord and Lady Whiteadder were intended for both Miriam & Jim but in the event only Miriam was available. When it came to Christmas Carol, the chance to reunite them as Victoria and Albert was taken.
There are in addition to well known tales such as how series 2 had to scale down budget and how Rik Mayall wanted to have better lines than Atkinson for Flashheart, lesser known stories and information. Examples are how the latest Bishop of Bath and Wells was the subject of baby eating jokes, people still stopping Miriam Margolyes in the street requesting she slaps them crying "wicked child" how Wilfrid Brambell walked off the set in series 1 and who Brian Blessed wanted to play in series 2.
We also get a brief look at Royal Variety type skits which many readers won't have seen and for these script excerpts are included.
There is information on the road to Blackadder I.E. how key players came to be writers, actors, producer and the genesis of Blackadder. Similarly there is information on projects they worked on between and after Adders and what may be considered Adder inspired projects e.g. Tony Robinson's Maid Marion and her Merry Men.
If there is an unsuccessful portion to the book then perhaps it's the attempt to place each incarnation in historical context which doesn't work well.
The author interviewed key players like Rowan Atkinson, Tim McInnnerney, Tony Robinson, Rik Mayall, Stephen Fry, Brian Blessed, writers Richard Curtis and Ben Elton, producer John Lloyd and others.
We round up with a look at the Adders that never were ( a big bonus is script excerpts for an xmas special Blackadder in Bethlehem which never got off the ground) and the most frequently quoted/popular suggestions for where to go if it ever returned. One of the most popular (amongst the cast)is Blackadder and Co in a Colditz style camp.
The conclusion is there could be more Adders one day but it's probably something not to count on.
If you love the series, you'll love this book.