Blackadder the Third

Blackadder the Third

Title screen of Blackadder the Third
Created by Richard Curtis & Ben Elton
Starring Rowan Atkinson
Tony Robinson
Hugh Laurie
Helen Atkinson-Wood
Theme music composer Howard Goodall
Country of origin United Kingdom
Original language(s) English
No. of episodes 6
Producer(s) John Lloyd
Running time 30 minutes
Original network BBC One
Picture format 4:3
Audio format Monaural sound
Original release 17 September 1987 – 22 October 1987
Preceded by Blackadder II
Followed by Blackadder: The Cavalier Years
External links

Blackadder the Third[1] is the third series of the BBC sitcom Blackadder, written by Richard Curtis and Ben Elton, which aired from 17 September to 22 October 1987. The series was set during the British Regency, and saw the principal character, Mr. E. Blackadder serve as butler to the Prince Regent and have to contend with, or cash in on, the fads of the age embraced by his master.

The third series reduced the number of principal characters again compared with the previous series, but instead included a number of significant cameo roles by well-known comic actors.[2] The programme won a BAFTA award for Best Comedy Series in 1988 and received three further nominations.[3]


Blackadder the Third is set in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, a period known as the Regency. For much of this time, King George III was incapacitated due to poor mental health, and his son George, the Prince of Wales, acted as regent. During this period, he was known as "the Prince Regent". Although the Regency was in place between 1811 and 1820, the historical events and persons depicted and referenced appear to date the series before this time; anywhere in the period of the Age of Enlightenment between 1755 (the publication of Samuel Johnson's Dictionary) and 1805 (just before the Battle of Trafalgar).

In the series, E. Blackadder Esquire (Rowan Atkinson) is the head butler to the Prince of Wales (Hugh Laurie), a spoiled, foppish idiot. Despite Edmund's respected intelligence and abilities, he has no personal fortune to speak of. On the other hand, given the ease with which he is able to manipulate the Prince, he is generally in good financial straits. According to Edmund he has been serving the Prince Regent all of his life, ever since the Prince was breastfed (when he had to show the Prince which part of his mother was "serving the drinks").

Baldrick (Tony Robinson) remains similar to his Blackadder II predecessor, and although his "cunning plans" cease to be even remotely intelligent (except in the last episode), he is the most aware of political, religious, and social events. As Blackadder himself is now a servant, Baldrick is labelled as Blackadder's "dogsbody". In this series, Baldrick often displays a more belligerent attitude towards his master, even referring to him once as a "lazy, big-nosed, rubber-faced bastard". Blackadder often affectionately calls him "Balders" (and Baldrick sometimes calls Blackadder "Mr. B.").

There are three main sets: the Prince's quarters, which are large and lavish, the below-stairs kitchen hangout of Blackadder and Baldrick, which is dark and squalid (though in fairness, very large and with a very high ceiling), and finally Mrs. Miggins' coffeehouse. Mrs. Miggins' pie shop was a never-seen running gag in Blackadder II; she or at least, a descendant of hers is now finally shown, played by Helen Atkinson-Wood.

The plots of the series feature a number of then-contemporary issues and personalities, such as rotten boroughs, Dr. Samuel Johnson (played by Robbie Coltrane), the French Revolution (featuring Chris Barrie) and the Scarlet Pimpernel, over-the-top theatrical actors, squirrel-hating female highwaymen, the practice of settling quarrels with a duel and discussing tactics with Duke of Wellington (played by Stephen Fry).

The last episode of the series also features Rowan Atkinson in the role of Blackadder's Scottish cousin MacAdder, supposedly a fierce swordsman; this leads to a dialogue in which Atkinson is acting both parts. Following the aftermath of this episode, Blackadder finds fortune and ends up (permanently) posing as the Prince Regent after the real Prince Regent, disguised as Blackadder, is shot by the Duke of Wellington.


The series aired for six episodes broadcast on Thursdays at 9.30 on BBC One. The titles of the episodes are always a noun paired with another, derived from an adjective beginning with the same letters, based on the Jane Austen novel Sense and Sensibility (Pride and Prejudice is a similar example). On the first broadcast, Amy and Amiability was billed in the Radio Times under its working title of Cape and Capability.[4]

No. Title Airdate
3-1 Dish and Dishonesty 17 September 1987
The newly elected Prime Minister, Pitt the Younger, plans to bankrupt Prince George by striking him from the Civil List. With Parliament deadlocked, Blackadder devises a plan to have Baldrick elected as an MP in the rotten borough of Dunny-on-the-Wold and thus ensure the bill will be defeated. This episode lampoons British parliamentary politics, BBC election coverage and a corrupt British honours system.
3-2 Ink and Incapability 24 September 1987
To increase his intellectual standing, the prince decides to become patron of Dr. Johnson's new dictionary, much to Blackadder's disgust. However, Johnson is also planning to publish a novel written by Blackadder under a pseudonym, thus making him a millionaire. Matters are complicated, however, when Baldrick destroys the manuscript of the dictionary by burning it. Blackadder must devise a scheme to ensure that Johnson's dictionary, and thus his novel, are published. Robbie Coltrane makes a guest appearance as Dr. Johnson.
3-3 Nob and Nobility 1 October 1987
The Scarlet Pimpernel is the hero of the age. Blackadder, irritated by the new obsession with all things French, decides to cash in on the new craze. Attempting to emulate the elusive Pimpernel, Blackadder accepts a bet to rescue a French nobleman and collect a handsome reward. His plans go awry, however, when he and Baldrick are captured and have to escape from the clutches of the French revolutionaries. Former cast member Tim McInnerny returns as a guest star, as well as fellow comic Chris Barrie.
3-4 Sense and Senility 8 October 1987
After an assassination attempt is made on the prince by anarchists, the prince hires two actors to help him improve his image and help him deliver a speech. Out of favour with the prince, Blackadder vows to leave his service but instead returns in time to discredit the actors by accusing them of plotting to assassinate the prince and thus reclaim his place in the household.
3-5 Amy and Amiability 15 October 1987
On discovering that the prince has lost his money playing cards, Edmund attempts to marry him off to Amy Hardwood, the daughter of a rich northern industrialist. Acting as middle man in the courtship, Blackadder eventually discovers that Amy's father is also broke. However, it is also revealed that Amy is in fact The Shadow, a notorious highwayman, and Blackadder hatches a scheme to make himself rich. Former cast member Miranda Richardson returns as a guest star playing Amy.
3-6 Duel and Duality 22 October 1987
The Prince incurs the wrath of The Duke of Wellington by spending a night with his nieces. Wellington vows to kill the prince in a duel, leaving Blackadder to formulate a cunning plan to substitute his own Scottish cousin, MacAdder, for the Prince in the duel. When this plan falls through, however, Blackadder must swap places with the Prince and fight the duel himself. Stephen Fry guest stars as the Duke of Wellington.


The principal cast of Blackadder the Third in their Regency-styled costumes. Hugh Laurie (seated), Tony Robinson (bottom), Rowan Atkinson (standing) and Helen Atkinson-Wood

Although this series reduced the size of the show's cast, the programme featured a number of guest appearances in each episode. Tim McInnerny decided not to continue playing the character of Lord Percy for fear of being typecast, although he appeared in a guest role in episode three.[5] In addition to McInnerny, Stephen Fry and Miranda Richardson, who had played major parts in Blackadder II, appeared in guest roles. Fry and McInnerny would return as regular performers for the fourth series of Blackadder.

Music and titles

The opening theme is this time a minuet played on a harpsichord, oboe and cello over close-ups of Blackadder searching a bookcase.[6] The credits and title appear on the books' spines, and each has a condition and script to match each character, for example Baldrick's is plain and in poor condition. Other amusing interspersed titles include From Black Death to Blackadder, The Blackobite Rebellion of 1745, The Encyclopædia Blackaddica and Landscape Gardening by Capability Brownadder.[5] Hidden inside a hollow book, he finds a romance novel (complete with cover art) bearing the title of the particular episode. The closing credits are presented in the style of a theatre programme from a Regency-era play, and with an accordion/synthpop closing theme that only samples the melody of the original theme.


The programme won a BAFTA award for Best Comedy Series in 1988. In addition the series was nominated for three further awards; Rowan Atkinson for "Best Light Entertainment Performance", Antony Thorpe for "Best Design" and Victoria Pocock for "Best Make Up".[3] The four series of Blackadder were voted into second place in the BBC's Britain's Best Sitcom in 2004.[7]

Media releases

Blackadder The Third is available on a variety of BBC Worldwide-distributed DVD and VHS video releases, either as an individual series or as part of a boxset with the other series of Blackadder. In addition, a BBC Radio Collection audio version created from the TV soundtrack is available on Cassette and CD.[8] All four seasons and the Christmas special are also available for download on iTunes.[9] The complete scripts of the four television series were released in 1998 as Blackadder: The Whole Damn Dynasty 1485–1917, and later reissued by Penguin Books in 2009.[10]

VHS releases

VHS video title Year of release/BBFC rating Episodes
Blackadder The Third- Dish and Dishonesty (BBCV 4142) 6 March 1989 (PG) Dish and Dishonesty, Ink and Incapability, Nob and Nobility
Blackadder The Third- Sense and Senility (BBCV 4143) 6 March 1989 (15) Sense and Senility, Amy and Amibility, Duel and Duality
The Complete Blackadder the Third (Double Pack) (BBCV 4786) 7 September 1992 (15) TAPE 1: Dish and Dishonesty, Ink and Incapability, Nob and Nobility,
TAPE 2: Sense and Senility, Amy and Amibility, Duel and Duality
Blackadder the Third- The Entire Historic Third Series (BBCV 5713) 2 October 1995 (15) Same as 'The Complete Blackadder the Third' but with all 6 episodes on a single video: Dish and Dishonesty, Ink and Incapability, Nob and Nobility, Sense and Senility, Amy and Amiability, Duel and Duality

DVD releases

DVD Title DVD Content Region 1 Region 2 Region 4
Blackadder 3
Complete third series, no extras.
26 June 2001
5 February 2001
28 February 2002
The Complete Blackadder All four series, no extras.
12 November 2001
3 October 2002
Blackadder - The Complete Collection All four series and specials, no extras.
26 June 2001
3 October 2005
Blackadder Remastered - The Ultimate Edition All four series and specials remastered, plus Blackadder Rides Again documentary, audio commentaries on selected episodes and interviews with cast.
20 October 2009
15 June 2009
1 October 2009


  1. Presented as "Black Adder The Third" on the title screen, but referred to as one word by the BBC
  2. Lewisohn, Mark, Blackadder the Third at the former BBC Guide to Comedy, URL accessed 3 June 2007
  3. 1 2 Awards at IMDb, URL accessed 4 April 2008
  4. BBC Genome listing, 15 October 1987
  5. 1 2 Trivia at, URL accessed 3 June 2007
  6. Official Howard Goodall website. Retrieved 17 March 2007
  7. The final top-ten of Britain’s Best Sitcom, URL accessed 4 April 2008
  8. BBC Radio Collection (7 July 2003). Blackadder Goes Forth (CD). London: BBC Audiobooks Ltd.
  9. Apple iTunes Store (2010). Blackadder Goes Forth (aac codec). London: BBC Worldwide.
  10. Curtis, Richard; Atkinson, Rowan; Elton, Ben (5 November 1998 / 2 July 2009). Blackadder: The Whole Damn Dynasty 1485–1917. London: Michael Joseph Ltd (original) / Penguin (reissue). ISBN 0-7181-4372-8. Check date values in: |date= (help)

External links

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