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The BBC has produced many quality comedy sitcoms, which have become household names throughout the world. Each programme has its own unique sense of humour. Blackadder is one of the most successful comedies to come from Britain and stars Rowan Atkinson (also renowned for Mr Bean). Blackadder’s sense of humour mainly focuses on sarcasm and farcical situations. This is a review of the fourth and final series of Blackadder which incidentally I consider to be the best in the series.

Blackadder Goes Forth
Plot
For anyone who is not familiar with Blackadder, there are four series which cover the periods from 1485 to 1917. Blackadder goes forth is set during the First World War between 1914 and 1917. For anyone who has not heard of Blackadder here is a brief description of the characters. The main character in all the series is Edmund BlackAdder (Rowan Atkinson). In this particular series Blackadder is a captain in the British army. He is not keen on fighting in the war, and so takes every opportunity to try to escape. He shares a trench with George (Hugh Laurie), a war abiding Lieutenant who likes to do everything by the book. Also staying with Blackadder is Private Baldrick (Tony Robinson), a smelly young lad who is not very bright. Baldrick’s favourite phrase is “Sir, I have a cunning plan!” There are two other characters that feature extensively in the series as well. They are General Sir Anthony Hogmanay Melchett (Steven Fry), and Captain Kevin Darling (Tim McInnerny). Melchett is Blackadder’s commanding officer and often gets him to do tasks.

This DVD release contains all six episodes from the final series. Each episode can be specially chosen from a selection menu and you also have the choice to watch them in succession. Here is rundown of each episode:

Episode 1 - Captain Cook
This is a good episode to start the series off. If you find this episode funny then you will enjoy the series. It shows a perfect example of what makes Blackadder so funny. There are lots of sarcastic comments from Blackadder, and the episode also has its fair share of gross moments. The episode concentrates on building the morale of the troops. Melchett has a plan to boost morale by getting a man to paint a picture of a battle scene for the next issue of ‘King and Country’ magazine. Melchett quizzes Blackadder about whether is knows of a man capable of painting the picture. In true Blackadder style, the crafty captain forges a plan which he thinks will get him out of the trenches. Blackadder has visions of painting pictures away from the war in places like Paris and so volunteers for the job with a little help from George and Baldrick. The job doesn’t exactly turn out as Blackadder had expected, and he soon wishes that he had stayed in the trenches.

Episode 2 - Corporal Punishment
This is probably my favourite episode in the series. The phone lines don’t appear to be working any more so Captain Darling send a message to Blackadder by carrier pigeon. However Blackadder is not particularly keen on birds and shoots the pigeon. He soon regrets the killing when he realises that he faces a death sentence. There is a communication crisis at the moment so shooting a carrier pigeon results in a court martial. To make matters worse the pigeon was Melchett’s favourite one so Blackadder is sentenced to death. Is this the end of Blackadder? Not if George has his way. George has a relative that could get Blackadder off the charge and save his life in the process.

Episode 3 - Major Star
Melchett has a plan to host a concert to boost the troop’s morale, and looks for a man to organise the event. The reason for the low morale is that news has broken that the Russians have pulled out of the Eastern Front leaving the way free for the Germans. Once again Blackadder sees this as an opportunity to get out of the trenches and sets about trying to persuade his captain that he is the man to organise the concert. Surprisingly the concert proves to be a success, especially with the popularity of the leading lady Georgina. This episode is probably the weakest in the series. It doesn’t have as many funny moments as other episodes and some scenes are just too silly. For example the leading lady is actually George dressed as a woman and no one really seems to notice this.

Blackadder Goes Forth
Episode 4 - Private Plane
This episode introduces us to squadron commander Lord Flasheart (Rick Mayall). He is the envy of all men as he is a hit with the women. Basically he is a sex-mad pilot who has a vulgar mouth. I am quite surprised that this episode made it into the series as it is based on themes which are a lot more adult than other episodes. The episode centres on Blackadder’s attempt to join the ‘Twenty-Minuters’. The ‘Twenty Minuters’ are renowned for doing very little flying each day (twenty minutes!) and this sounds ideal for Blackadder.  Blackadder and Baldrick join the group and instantly get thrown in at the deep end. They are asked to fly straight away and accidentally end up in a German prison. They are held captive by Baron von Richthoven (Adrian Edmondson), who is the legendary German pilot. George learns of his friends’ troubles and teams up with Flasheart to save the day.

Episode 5 - General Hospital
George gets injured in a freak accident and ends up spending time in hospital. At the same time Melchett receives information that there is a spy about who is giving information about every move the British army make.  More importantly is that he also suspects that the spy is in the hospital so Blackadder is sent in to find the suspect. The obvious choice seems to be Mr. Smith (Bill Wallis), a patient with a German accent. Blackadder becomes friendly with Nurse Fletcher-Brown (Miranda Richardson) and learns that finding the spy might be harder than he first thought.

Episode 6 - Goodbyeee
This is the final episode in the series and last episode ever made (that’s if you don’t count the millennium special). There was another episode made for the millennium but Goodbyee is considered the last true Blackadder episode. The war is not looking good for the British and rumours are spreading through the camp that the last push is about to begin. Blackadder is desperate not to be involved so he sticks a couple of pencils up his nose and underpants on his head. Why you may ask? He think that this behaviour will convince Melchett that he’s gone insane and he will be sent home to England.

The fourth series of Blackadder was written by Ben Elton and Richard Curtis. Blackadder has always been built around sarcasm but this series is a lot more crude. Fans of Blackadder won’t be disappointed by this final series and viewers who haven’t seen it before will not need any prior knowledge of the programme. This is one of the best comedy programmes to come from Britain. The best thing about this series is that there are no weak episodes. Each episode has its funny moments and will keep you entertained for a few hours.

Video
Blackadder Goes Forth is presented with its original aspect ratio of 1.33:1 (4.3 full frame). I have to admit to not owning the past Blackadder series on DVD so I cannot tell you how this compared to previous series on DVD. As with most BBC related DVDs you won’t get a blockbuster quality transfer. The colour levels seem a little dull and skin tones are pale. I remember seeing the series when it was originally transmitted on TV but I cannot recall the colours being this subdued. Detail level seemed good but there was a fair amount of grain present. At times this was particularly distracting. All moaning aside this is probably as good as we are going to get. BBC related DVDs are not renowned for excellent transfers and Roadshow have done a reasonable job with this release.  

Blackadder Goes Forth
Audio
As with most BBC releases you get an unspectacular but perfectly acceptable audio soundtrack. With this disc you only get the one soundtrack which is Dolby Digital 2.0. The dialogue is perfectly clear and precise. There was no sign of synch problems and overall this is a perfectly reasonable soundtrack. Also included are two sets of subtitles (English and Dutch).

Extras
Sadly there are no extras to report on. The episode selection section is well laid out but apart from that there are no extras. This is a little disappointing, but to be expected. Fans of BBC comedies will realise that this is normal. With the disc having an overall running time of nearly three hours I suppose we cannot complain too much.

Overall
I am a huge fan of the Blackadder series so it nice to finally have the best series of the programme released on DVD. The audio and visual aspects of this disc are on par with previous BBC comedy releases so if you are a fan of the programme there is no reason not to buy this disc. If you haven’t been lucky enough to see Blackadder yet then don’t hesitate to buy this disc. It is British humour at its best!


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