Televised in the British Isles between Thursday, 9 Jan. and Thursday, 20 Feb. 1986, “Black-Adder II” was the second series in the highly popular “Blackadder” British period historical comedy franchise.
Stepping away from his writing duties on the show, Ronan Atkinson was replaced by Ben Elton. With Elton in one of the writer’s chairs, Richard Curtis continued to co-write episodes for the franchise. Atkinson wanted to concentrate on the acting side of the franchise.
In addition to Atkinson, this second series regular cast included Tim McInnerny, Tony Robinson, Miranda Richardson, Stephen Fry and Patsy Byrne as Lord Percy, Baldrick, Queen Elizabeth I, Lord Melchett and Nursie.
In the directorial chair for this second series was the fabulously talented Mandie Fletcher. For people not familiar with Fletcher’s work, not that you would not be aware of the series she worked on, the director was responsible for directing various episodes of “Only Fools and Horses….,” “Brush Strokes,” “No Frills,” “Hamish Macbeth” and “Absolutely Fabulous.”
Unlike that which was seen with “The Black Adder,” from the way in which the title of this second series is written, the title Black Adder has become hyphenated, Black-Adder.
In this second series, set during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, sees Atkinson step into the shoes of the fictional Edmund, Lord Blackadder. This Edmund is apparently a descendant of Edmund, Duke of Edinburgh, also played by Atkinson.
With “Blackadder II” having been filmed in studio sets rather than on location, the cost of creating this second series was significantly lower than “The Black Adder.”
The first episode of “Black-Adder II,” as previously indicated, was televised on Thursday, 9 Jan. 1986. Titled “Bells,” the episode sees Blackadder engaging in employment a young man named “Bob.” Unknown to Blackadder, Bob is a young woman named “Kate.” The character is played by Gabrielle Glaister.
If you are wondering where you know Glaister, including “Rockliffe’s Babies,” “London’s Burning” and “Casualty,” it is probably any number of British television productions. In respect to the “Blackadder franchise, the actress is not seen again until she plays Bob Parkhurst / Kate Parkhurst in “Major Star,” the third episode of “Blackadder Goes Forth.” I digress…
Kate is in disguise because she desperately needed a legitimate job. Her father had suggested that she become employed at a nunnery. During the period in which “Black-Adder II” is set, nunnery was the commonly used terminology for brothel.
If you are wondering where Curtis and Elton got the idea for the premise of this episode, you need look no further than the Bard himself, William Shakespeare. The plot of the episode, a young woman disguising herself as a man so that she might find employment in service and falling in love with her employer, is in part based on a plot thread found in Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night.”
Playing Kate’s Father was Edward Jewesbury. Jewesbury is one of those character actors impossible to typecast because he was so good at everything he did. Despite this point, having appeared in “The Winter’s Tale,” “Henry V,” “Much Ado About Nothing” and “Richard III,” the Marylebone born actor’s preference for classical productions is well known.
Much to Blackadder’s dismay, even though he still did not know Bob was a woman in disguise, he found himself oddly attracted to his new servant. Once Bob’s identity is revealed, Blackadder hopes to marry her. Unfortunately for Blackadder, Kate elopes with his friend and best man, Lord Flashheart. Flashheart is played by Rik Mayall.
Even though it apparently annoyed the writers, Mayall rewrote much of his script so that it would include significantly more jokes than that which either Curtis or Elton had initially envisioned for the episode.
Further to being a pain in the writer’s backside, with Mayall having designed his own costume for Flashheart, it has been indicated costume designer Annie Hardinge was also irritated by the actor.