IT was 30 years ago today that arguably the greatest end to a television comedy series ever shown stunned the viewing public across the UK.

The final scene of Blackadder Goes Forth had been kept under wraps by the BBC and no one outside the cast and crew had any inkling about the ending of the fourth and final series of Blackadder.

There are still people who consider it a “Kennedy moment” and can recall where and when, and who with, they watched it on the night of November 2, 1989.

The scene has been shown many times in repeats on television and on DVDs and Youtube, and perhaps it has lost its power to shock, but back in 1989 it left a nation dumbstruck as their favourites Captain Blackadder (Rowan Atkinson), Baldrick (Tony Robinson), Lieutenant George Colthurst St Barleigh (Hugh Laurie) and Captain Darling (Tim McInnerny) went “over the top” into no man’s land having finally failed to escape their fate.

In slow motion they charged to the barbed wire and their deaths, to the accompaniment of explosions and machine gun fire, and given that it was shown ten days before Remembrance Sunday, the poignancy of the scene was heightened immeasurably.


BECAUSE it was so unexpected, it carried a punch that left many viewers in tears. The whole of the sixth and final episode entitled Goodbyee had an elegiac feel while never losing the dark humour that made Blackadder Goes Forth such a massive hit.

The acting was superb as always, Atkinson winning a Bafta and the series itself being named Best Comedy by Bafta.

The absurd nature of the tragedy of World War One was summed up in one Blackadder line: “We’ve advanced no further than an asthmatic ant with some heavy shopping.”

The lines leading up to the final charge were utterly apt: “I rather hoped I’d get through the whole show,” says Darling who,

of course, has spent the entire series trying to get Blackadder killed in action.

Blackadder tells George: “Don’t forget your stick.” He replies: “Bravo, sir. Wouldn’t want to take on a machine gun without this.”

The press reported widely on the shock across the UK, while there was unanimous praise from the critics. The actors themselves knew they had made something special.

In the documentary about the Blackadder phenomenon entitled The Whole Rotten Saga, actor Tim McInnerny confessed: “I just cried, partly because it was so beautifully done, as well done as any scene like that in a drama …I thought it was beautifully done and it was groundbreaking for comedy.”


THE scene was created in the collective minds of writers Richard Curtis and Ben Elton, producer John Lloyd and director Richard Boden. Knowing that there was little chance of a fifth Blackadder series, they intended it to be a shocking end, and wanted to make the point about war’s inhumanity.

Yet the final version was achieved almost by accident. The four main actors and the extras alongside them duly did their charge but when John Lloyd insisted on a retake, Atkinson said no on behalf of the cast as it was the most frightening scene they had ever done. The men who saved the day were director Boden and programme editor Chris Wadsworth who recalled: “It was so obvious that we had so little material to work with.

“We had to really slow the pictures right down in order to stretch them in time but that produced an incredibly good effect … in slow motion this suddenly achieved a grandeur which was not obvious in the full motion.”

It was a personal assistant to the producers who suggested showing poppies and Boden found the perfect picture, while an assistant sound recordist slowed down the Blackadder theme and added the birdsong to create iconic images that are recalled to this day 30 years on, and will never be forgotten, certainly not by those of us who watched it the first time.


YES, because there was always a slight edginess to the humour in all four series.

We had grown to love the characters and the regular actors – Atkinson, Robinson, McInnerny, Laurie and Stephen Fry, joined by Miranda Richardson and Rik Mayall on occasion – so to see them mown down was very sad.