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Customer Review

VINE VOICEon 26 December 2013
Disregarding what was (in my view) a rubbish first series, Blackadder was a sitcom of perfection, one-episode after the next throughout three succeeding series, a one-shot for Comic Relief (`The Cavalier Years') and a Christmas Special (`Blackadder's Christmas Carol'). All throughout history, incarnations of nasty & brilliant Edmund Blackadder and his foul, dim-witted slave Baldrick would appear, leaving their infallible mark age-after-age.

For the fourth & final series of the Blackadder Dynasty, writers Richard Curtis & Ben Elton provided a difficult historical premise in World War One. Obviously, the Great War 1914-1918 is nothing to make fun of, and the idea of making a sitcom based on the subject was surely a high-risk concept.

But Elton & Curtis clearly knew what they were doing with their portrayal of life in this dark & despairing time. Their humour for Blackadder Goes Forth was timelessly sharp & hilarious, but what speaks volumes about Ben & Richard's writing is how throughout this series, they clearly emphasise their thoughts & feelings against war, and how they make sure to honour the brave sacrifices made by all those who gave their lives for their families, king & country.

Aside from handling the setting with the utmost respect & care, this final series of Blackadder scores the traditional high-points for it's incarnation of the title character, and the situation he finds himself in. Here, Captain Edmund Blackadder (impeccably portrayed as ever by Rowan Atkinson) is in command of the front line on the Western Front. `Assisting' him in the trenches are his second-in-command - the honourable, loyal & stupid Lieutenant George (Hugh Laurie) - and Private Baldrick (Tony Robinson). Further impeding his safety and desire to escape this God-awful war are his commanding officer - the INSANE General Melchett (Stephen Fry) - and his hated rival, Captain Darling (Tim McInnerny).

Like series 2 & 3 before, this fourth series is nothing but genius, thanks to perfect writing and performances from a well-chosen cast. Each episode is unforgettably good, subtle, different and distinctive, using the World War One setting to brilliant creative effect, whilst underlining the pointlessness of war at the same time. Special guest-appearances from the likes of Rik Mayall, Adrian Edmondson, Miranda Richardson & Geoffrey Palmer only make the experience of these six-episodes all the more richer.

Because of both the writing & the performances, Blackadder has been able to function just as well on audiobook as it has on television/home video. As such, it remains easily to visualise in this 3-disc CD set. However, various parts of the episodes have been edited/removed altogether, so that the program can work best in this format. While it's understandable in some respects (as there were some instances/gags in the TV Series that worked solely on a visual basis), I do question certain cases that have been removed (like where Blackadder tricks Darling into eating a dead slug), because a little imagination would all be that's required from the listener to make the gag work just as well in audio.

But it's a minor issue on what will forever be remembered as a faultless series that ended Blackadder on an absolute high. The final episode `Goodbyeee' is a truly powerful swansong (uncharacteristic of Blackadder as a whole, but beautifully poignant and necessary in paying tribute to all the fallen heroes of war) and one that makes the episode (and this series) arguably the greatest ever in Blackadder. Unmissable.
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