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Blackadder: Back & Forth

Blackadder: Back & Forth (1999) is a 34 minute short film based on the BBC mock-historical comedy series Blackadder. It was commissioned especially for showing in the specially built "SkyScape" cinema, erected southeast of the Millennium Dome on the Greenwich peninsula in east London. The film was co-financed by Sky Television and the BBC, with sponsorship from—among others—Tesco PLC.

Rowan Atkinson and Tony Robinson reprised their roles as the series' core characters Blackadder and Baldrick, respectively. In an interview, Atkinson admitted that "Bringing Blackadder to the big screen has always been an ambition." Joining Atkinson and Robinson are other main cast members from the last three series, Stephen Fry, Hugh Laurie, Tim McInnerny, and Miranda Richardson.

It is the only Blackadder story to be shot entirely on film and with no laugh track, although one was added for the 2002 BBC screening. It is also the only Blackadder to be filmed in widescreen; 2.20:1 aspect ratio for cinema showings, and 16:9 (1.77:1) for the DVD and television screenings.

In a 1999 interview, Richard Curtis described it as "an irreverent trek through British history - a time travel adventure story consisting entirely of people who are either rude or stupid." The film was nominated for "Best Situation Comedy" at the British Academy Television Awards 2001.


The opening titles feature comical photographs of the ever-continuing line of Blackadder seen throughout events in British history including the Battle of Hastings, in the presence of Queen Victoria, on a World War II battlefield with Winston Churchill and at a political rally held by Margaret Thatcher.

The film opens with at Blackadder Hall where the present day Blackadder (Rowan Atkinson) is entertaining guests on New Year's Eve, 1999. As a practical joke, he plans to convince them he has a working time machine (and win £30,000 into the bargain). Having been charged by his guests — Bishop Flavius Melchett (Stephen Fry), Archdeacon Kevin Darling (Tim McInnerny), Lieutenant George Bufton-Tufton (Hugh Laurie) and Lady Elizabeth (Miranda Richardson), all presumably descendants of previous Blackadder characters — to travel back through time to bring back a Roman centurion's helmet, the Duke of Wellington's Wellington boots, and a really smelly pair of 200 year old underpants, Blackadder intends to scam his guests by dredging the items from his personal store. However, in pulling a lever, he discovers the time machine, built by Baldrick (Tony Robinson) according to plans by Leonardo da Vinci, actually works.

The pair first land in the middle of a prehistoric world, where they are attacked by a Tyrannosaurus rex. Baldrick uses his underpants to beat back the T. Rex, who takes one sniff and collapses. It is implied that Baldrick's underpants were responsible for the dinosaurs' extinction. Blackadder realises that they must somehow reset the time machine's dials to their original configurations in order to return home. This proves difficult, as Baldrick never got around to writing the dates on any of the dials.

After reconfiguring the time machine, Blackadder and Baldrick land back at Blackadder Hall, apparently amidst the court of Queen Elizabeth I, with Nursie (Patsy Byrne) and Lord Melchett at her side. The Queen mistakes Blackadder for his ancestor, Lord Blackadder, and says that unless Blackadder gives her a present, she will behead him. Blackadder first pulls out a credit card, which does not impress the queen, then he offers her a Polo mint, which the Queen proclaims to be "the tastiest thing in the history of the world". She rewards him with her crown, then sends him away to bring back more mints. On his way out, Blackadder meets William Shakespeare (Colin Firth), who is working on a draft of Macbeth. After giving Shakespeare his ballpoint pen and convincing him to sign the title page of the play, Blackadder kicks and insults the Bard in the name of "every schoolboy and schoolgirl in England for the next four hundred years".

Following a brief diversion where the time machine strays rather too far into the future, Blackadder and Baldrick land in Sherwood Forest and are captured by Robin Hood (Rik Mayall) and his Merry Men, who mistake the former for another of his ancestors. Before Robin can give the order for Blackadder to be killed, Blackadder convinces the Merry Men that their way of life - robbing from the rich and giving to the poor - is useless. The Merry Men turn on Robin Hood and kill him instead. Maid Marian (Kate Moss) is impressed and falls in love with Blackadder. Blackadder takes Robin Hood's hat as a trophy.

A further attempt to reconfigure the dials results in Blackadder and Baldrick landing at the Battle of Waterloo atop the Duke of Wellington (Fry), killing him before he can deliver his famous plan to defeat the advancing French army. Blackadder leaves quickly, stepping out of the time machine only long enough to steal Wellington's boots to win his bet.

One last attempt to set the dials at random lands the time machine at Hadrian's Wall in the time of Roman Britain. The time machine appears to be seeking out Blackadder's DNA throughout history, as the wall is being guarded by Blackadder's centurion ancestor, with a Roman Baldrick as his shield-carrier. After stealing his ancestor's helmet, the modern Blackadder and Baldrick escape just ahead of a charging wall of angry Scotsmen.

Back in the time machine, Blackadder is becoming more discouraged about ever going home, but Baldrick, in his trademark way, comes up with "a cunning plan". Baldrick mentions that dying men are rumoured to see their entire lives flash before their eyes and that, if one of them were about to die, they might remember how the dials were originally set. Blackadder tests this theory by holding Baldrick's head in the time machine's toilet until Baldrick almost drowns. True to form, as Baldrick's life flashes before his eyes, he remembers how to set the dials to return home.

The two return to the present day with their prizes. The party guests are impressed by the crown of Queen Elizabeth and Wellington's boots, but thanks to Blackadder's interference with history, William Shakespeare is now known only as the inventor of the ballpoint pen and Robin Hood is unheard of. Moreover, Britain has been ruled by France for the past two hundred years. Blackadder and Baldrick leap back into the time machine to repair history and save Britain - by encouraging Shakespeare, flattering Robin Hood, and preventing the death of the Duke of Wellington - then return home to collect their winnings from the now-amazed partygoers. After one of Blackadder's friends mentions what an unscrupulous person could do with a time machine, Blackadder gets an idea. He tells his friends to go upstairs to watch the New Year's festivities on television, assuring them he'll be right back. Blackadder and Baldrick hop back into the time machine.

The four friends sit down to watch the broadcast of the royals and the prime minister arriving at the Millennium Dome. On the television screen, Blackadder - now King Edmund III - steps from a limousine along with Baldrick, who is announced as the prime minister. As the television announcer gushes about the King's high approval ratings and the success of the Prime Minister's government, it is revealed that the King is now married to the beautiful Marian of Sherwood (Maid Marian or a descendant of hers). Edmund Blackadder's tale comes to an end as the Blackadder family has finally triumphed, with their scion having (openly) become the ruler of England.

The film closes as the credits sing praises of Blackadder's reign, with the promise that Blackadder will return in Summer 3000 in Blackadder: Back & Forth 2.



In 1999, before Back & Forth had been premiered at the Millennium Dome, a dispute broke out between Sky television and the BBC over who had the right to screen the one-off special after the Millennium year. Sky television claimed that they had paid £4 million for exclusive rights while the BBC argued that it was absurd that the channel from which the programme originated would not be screening it and that "The stars agreed to do it on the basis that it would be on BBC One. The film was shown at the SkyScape cinema eight times a day throughout the celebratory year 2000, after which it was aired on television, first on Sky in 2001 and then on BBC One on Easter Sunday in 2002.

Rating and DVD release

Because of the film's intended audience (it is rated PG rather than 15) a number of scenes were cut from the final edit. Some of these were later shown in a corresponding "making of" documentary called Baldrick's Video Diary which was produced to accompany the DVD release, which also featured the Comic Relief special Blackadder: The Cavalier Years.


  • Richard Curtis and Ben Elton. Blackadder: Back & Forth. Penguin Books, 2000. ISBN 0-14-029135-0

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