The original series of the legendary comedy series `Blackadder' was of a very different style to the one that most fans know and love, largely due to the absence of writer Ben Elton and director Mandie Fletcher, who came on board from series 2 onwards. It is usually regarded as the weakest series. This may be accurate, however, it seems somewhat incomparable to series 2-4 and therefore may not be so much weak as it is distinct.
The production is has far more grandeur than the other series, and Elton's sharp but somewhat slapstick approach to comedy is absent. The main characters Blackadder (Rowan Atkinson) and Baldrick (Tony Robinson) were originally very different. Blackadder is a much nastier snake-like character and is almost impossible to warm to and Baldrick, in fact, is the more intelligent of the two! The storytelling and re-writing of history is tantamount to genius, and the cast is solid, including Elspet Gray, Robert East and the legendary Brian Blessed. There are also outstanding appearances from Rik Mayall, Miriam Margogles, Frank Finlay, and comic genius Peter Cook.
Those who are willing to give the series some time might discover that it actually includes some of the best episodes in the entire Blackadder catalogue. `The Archbishop' sees Balckadder, something of an atheist, unwillingly taking on the role of Archbishop of Canterbury: a job that has seen many predecessors supposedly coming to `tragic and untimely' ends through a series of ludicrous calamities. `Witchsmeller Pursuivant', arguably the best episode of the series, sees Blackadder on trial for witchcraft, with his prosecutor managing to convince everyone of his guilt based on evidence given by a silent horse, an old lady who claims to have given birth to a poodle, and the fact that Blackadder was once overheard offering a cat some milk!
The series did, in fact, coin some of the phrases that became well-known, most notably `I have a cunning plan'. The series was an excellent piece of work, and the fact that it was re-commissioned supports this claim. The real genius may have been yet to come, but this was a strong start that set the foundation for one of the most successful, longstanding and acclaimed sitcoms worldwide.