British comic actor Rowan Atkinson plays all five versions of Edmund, beginning with the villainous and cowardly Duke of Edinburgh, whose scheming mind and awful haircut seem to stand him in good stead to become the next Archbishop of Canterbury - a deadly occupation if ever there was one. Among tales of royal dethronings, Black Death, witch-smellers (who root out spell-makers with their noses), and ghosts, Edmund is a perennial survivor who never quite gets ahead in multiple episodes.
Jump to the Elizabethan era and Atkinson picks up the saga as Lord Edmund, who is perpetually courting favour from mad Queen Bess (Miranda Richardson) and is always walking a tightrope from which he can either gain the world or lose his head. Subjected to bizarre services for her majesty (at one point, Edmund is asked to do for potatoes what Sir Walter Raleigh did for tobacco), Edmund - like his ancestor - can never quite fulfill his larger ambitions.
The next incarnation finds Edmund in Regency England in the late-18th-century. This time, Blackadder is a mere butler to the idiotic Prince Regent (Hugh Laurie in a brilliantly buffoonish performance) and is caught in various misadventures with Samuel Johnson, Shakespearean actors, the Scarlet Pimpernel, and William Pitt the younger. With a brief stop in Victorian London for a Christmas special, the series concludes with several episodes set during the Great War.
In the fourth and final chapter of the chronicles of the Blackadder dynasty Edmund is a career army officer, but a scoundrel all the same; shirking his duties whenever possible and taking advantage of any opportunity for undeserved reward. Set in a much darker period of history, Edmund is doing all he can to escape the trenches of the First World War and the dreaded order to go 'over the top'. This award-winning series is renowned for the closing moments of the final episode, a bold and highly poignant last scene when Blackadder and his men finally do charge into No-Man's-Land.
Co-written by Ben Elton and Richard Curtis, Blackadder included some of the biggest names in British comedy – Rowan Atkinson, Stephen Fry, Hugh Laurie, Tony Robinson, Rik Mayall, Adrian Edmondson and Miranda Richardson. Across all four series there were guest appearances from the likes of Robbie Coltrane, Peter Cook, Tom Baker, Brian Blessed, Warren Clarke, Nigel Planer, and many other well-known, highly respected performers.
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This show is rightly seen as one of the all time great sitcoms and this collection does it full justice. As well as the 4 series and the specials there are several commentaries from the cast, writers and producer and there are documentaries too. A must but.
Proof should you need it that you can’t have too much of a good thing – Rowan Atkinson and the team at their very best (in my humble option) at a bargain price.