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Recap / Blackadder S 1 E 0 Pilot

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The first-ever Blackadder episode, filmed in early 1982, and an early version of what would later become "Born to be King" in the actual series. This episode was never aired, due to the eventual series getting a Retool which placed it in the War of the Roses, along with a much larger budget and a somewhat different cast (this episode has Philip Fox as Baldrick, John Savident as the King, and Robert Bathurst as Prince Henry, though all the other roles are the same).


We open in an Alternate History in the mid-16th Century, with England under the rulership of a nameless King, who has two sons — the kind natured but idiotic Henry, Prince of Wales, and the more cunning and ruthless Edmund, Duke of York. The latter (along with his two even more idiotic sidekicks, Percy and Baldrick) has been charged with preparing the entertainments for the queen's birthday party, but is finding it hard to find suitable acts, a task not made easier by the arrival of Dougal McAngus, a Scottish knight who has been fighting on behalf of England against Spain. The King hands all of Edmund's lands in Scotland over to McAngus, and the infuriated prince immediately begins plotting to kill him.

While snooping around his bedroom, Edmund overhears a conversation between McAngus and the Queen, insinuating that McAngus's father may have been involved in some rather inappropriate relations with the Queen in the past. Edmund then recruits McAngus to take part in a play he's just written, called The Death of the Scotsman. That night Edmund, Percy, Baldrick and McAngus start performing the play, which if all goes to plan will see McAngus "accidentally" hanged for real during the play's climax. Before going on-stage, the drunken McAngus lets slip that he has some letters between his father and the Queen, which he claims would throw doubt on the parentage of Henry if they were to get out in the open. Edmund attempts to stop the play, but Percy and Baldrick take Edmund's previous warning that "if McAngus lives, you die" a little too seriously and go to insane lengths to try killing the scotsman despite Edmund actively trying to stop them. Eventually, despite nearly hanging McAngus himself by accident, Edmund stops his two servants.


The following morning, armed with the incriminating letters, Edmund gathers the court and begins to accuse Henry of being an illegitimate son, but pauses halfway through his speech upon realising that McAngus screwed up the dates, and that Edmund is likely the illegitimate son, not Henry. Edmund accuses McAngus of forging the letters, which he quickly destroys, and in the heat of the moment challenges him to a duel, which McAngus accepts. Edmund decides to cheat and tells Baldrick to swap McAngus's sword for a theatrical prop he used in the play, but succeeds in winning the duel anyway — only for it to turn out that Baldrick swapped his sword for the fake one. McAngus prepares to kill Edmund, but the King and Queen beg for mercy, and McAngus agrees on the condition that Edmund not contest the handover of his lands in Scotland, and swear never to set foot in that country again. Nonetheless, Edmund succeeds in getting rid of McAngus anyway, by going with a plan that Baldrick had suggested earlier and tricking him into blowing his head off with a cannon.


  • Bumbling Sidekick: The Baldrick of this episode is about halfway between the Baldricks of The Black Adder and Blackadder II — while he's not smart at all and makes a massive mistake with the fake sword in the climatic fight, he does do a better job than Percy of articulating why killing McAngus in front of dozens of witnesses would be a bad idea.
  • Dumb Muscle: The pilot's version of McAngus is depicted as this, getting drunk before he was supposed to appear in Edmund's play, not realizing that the dates in his letters mean that Edmund is illegitimate rather than Henry, being clearly a less skilled swordsman (even if he's physically stronger) than Edmund, and then being dumb enough to stick his head in a cannon (the only one of these mistakes his broadcast counterpart commits).
  • Establishing Character Moment: In this version, the first thing we see Edmund do is ordering the eunuchs to be executed for their failure to show up. In the broadcast "Born to be King" this action just comes across as a petty and spiteful act by that weedy version of Blackadder, but in this episode it makes Edmund seem far more ruthless, not least because the reason the eunuchs aren't showing up is because Edmund won't pay them.
  • Expy: The Queen's appearance is obviously styled after Elizabeth I, though she doesn't act anything like the eventual Queenie we'll later see in Blackadder II.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: If not for Edmund swapping out the swords (thus leading to Baldrick's screw-up), he would have actually won his duel with McAngus quite legitimately.
  • Idiot Ball: While Edmund at least realizes the error with the dates himself rather than needing Prince Henry/Harry to point it out for him, it does come across as a rather uncharacteristic mistake considering this version of Edmund is much more intelligent and competent than his counterpart in the full series.
  • Nonindicative Name: The pilot technically never explains who or what the Black Adder is, with Edmund's clothing choices being the only things that hint it's supposed to be him.
  • Revenge Before Reason: After the King hands Edmund's lands over to McAngus, he resolves to kill the Scotsman right there and then. Percy points out that it might be just a touch obvious that Edmund's the murderer, but the prince is simply too enraged to even care about this. It's not until Baldrick points out that the King would likely exile him and leave him financially destitute that Edmund backs down.
  • Straight Man: The King in this episode is the polar opposite of Richard IV from the series, being an intelligent and entirely serious character. The Queen (who is still played by Elspet Gray) is also a much saner woman, rather than the Cloud Cuckoolander of the broadcast series.
  • Too Dumb to Live: McAngus's death via the cannon actually makes a lot more sense in this version, where he's depicted to be a good fighter but not particularly intelligent. In contrast, the McAngus in the actual series is obviously much cleverer than Edmund, making it seem a little odd when he falls for Edmund's trap.
  • The Unfavorite: As with the broadcast series, Edmund is very much this compared to Henry/Harry, albeit because he's a dishonourable cad rather than a snivelling idiot. Unlike the final version however, the King does at least care enough to save Edmund's life when it looks like he's about to be killed, as opposed to Richard IV being perfectly happy to let Edmund be slaughtered in the name of some St. Leonard's Day entertainment.
  • Upper-Class Twit: Prince Henry has pretty much the same sort of personality as Percy does, which goes a long way to explaining Edmund's resentment toward him. Notably, when the possible truth of Edmund's parentage comes out, Henry says "No, I think you're the bastard" with a completely straight face, while the Prince Harry of the finished series turns it into a verbal smack-down and even then it was said matter of factly (just less childishly) without realising that Edmund said it figuratively.
  • You Don't Look Like You: Leaving aside the characters that were recast for the actual series, Edmund has a much more respectable hairstyle than his ludicrous pudding-basin cut, the Queen looks like Elizabeth I, and McAngus has short hair and stubble rather than the long hair and Badass Beard he has in "Born to be King." In what seems to be one of the few constants in the Blackadder universe, Percy looks the same as his later counterparts.


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