The Pilot Episode

Here it is…. The pilot episode that’s never been broadcast in the UK. Which is quite ironic because although the comedy is British, I got the tape from an American (Thanks Erik). What makes this different from any other episode of Black Adder? Well read on…

Script cover

Script cover

UPDATE: Some bloody nice bloke called Brett emailed me with some interesting nuggets of info – his dad was a cameraman on the filming of the pilot episode. He’s kindly scanned in a copy of the shooting script cover (signed by Rowan Atkinson himself) to prove it. It’s worth noting the date of the filming, 20th June 1982.

The Cast:
Prince Edmund – Rowan Atkinson
The King – John Savident
The Queen – Elspet Gray
Prince Harry – Robert Bathurst
Percy – Tim McInnerny
Baldrick – Philip Fox (still very much alive and doing various bits on TV)
McAngus – Alex Norton
Rudkin – Simon Gipps-Kent
Jesuit – Oengus Macnamara



You will straight way notice a few changes to the cast list. The most important one being the actor playing Baldrick – it’s not Tony Robinson (image right). Other noticable changes are the actors playing the King, and Prince Harry. The actor playing the King can currently be seen in Coronation Street, and Robert Bathurst was last seen in the ITV programme, Cold Feet. Philip Fox is still around; he was most recently in I’M ALAN PARTRIDGE, KISS ME KATE, BIRDS OF A FEATHER and as The HeadTeacher in THE HEAD TEACHER (one of the great PEOPLE LIKE US series with Chris Langham). He also played an evil Nazi officer to great acclaim in GABRIEL at the Soho Theatre. He was also in the comedy series Watching, which also starred Patsy Byrne (that’s Nursie to you and me). It’s also worth noting that Philip was ‘let go’ from THE BLACK ADDER with no explanation – One of the rather less funny sides of the production team according to the man himself who took the time to email me. He would like to say that he definitely isn’t dead.

Other people that are quite important:
Written by Richard Curtis and Rowan Atkinson
Music – Howard Goodall
Fight Arranger – Malcolm Ranson
Senior Cameraman – Pete Ware
Vision Mixer – Angela Wilson
Properties Buyer – Tricia Ruddell
Visual Effects – John Brace, Simon Taylor
V.T. Editor – Graham Hutchings
Technical Manager – Dave Hare
Graphic Designer – Marc Ortmans
Costume Designer – Richard Croft
Make-up Artist – Jill Sharlow
Production Team – Camilla Howard, Hilary Bevan Jones
Lighting – Peter Winn
Sound – Richard Chamberlain
Production Manager – Michael Leggo
Designers – Roger Cann, Philip Lindley
Produced and Directed by – Geoff Posner

OK… The Pilot; what’s it all about?
It is basically the episode “Born to be King” from the first series, with some noticable differences (apart from some of the actors).

  • Edmund has the same mannerisms as Edmund Blackadder (in the second series)
  • He sort of looks like him (without the beard)
  • He certainly talks like him

The script is fairly close to the broadcast episode. Although there are a few jokes that were kept for other episodes.

Here is the story of the pilot episode courtesy of Steve Roberts.

“It is Europe, 400 years ago. In Spain, war rages, as Christians from every land fight off the threatening terror of Turkish invasion. The French… are in uneasy peace. But in England, under the tutelage of a powerful king, the Ship of State ploughs a steady course as the court awaits the Queen’s birthday and the return of a Scottish hero from the war…”

The show then opens with Prince Henry, the King, and the Queen discussing the war with the Spanish. They hope it will soon be over so they can get on with fighting the French. The Queen is in high spirits, as it is her birthday and she has been given the county of Shropshire as a present.

Prince Edmund is in his chambers with his servants Percy and Baldrick. He is clearly unhappy about the task he has been given, which is to arrange the festivities for both the Queen’s birthday and the return of the Scottish hero McAngus to the court. He refers to his brother Henry as “the bastard.” Baldrick points out that if Henry actually was a bastard, Edmund would one day be King. When he finds out that the eunuchs scheduled to appear have cancelled, Edmund decides to have them executed. (“This is a Royal command performance — there are only two options. Either you do it, or you don’t do it. If you do it, you don’t get paid. If you don’t do it, you get beheaded.”)

Later — the main hall. The Scottish hero, McAngus, appears. It is clear that Edmund treats him with contempt, feeling that slaughtering a few Turks is not very heroic. He is stunned when the King gives all Edmund’s lands in Scotland to McAngus.

Edmund’s Chambers — Edmund is furious. He, Percy and Baldrick plot to kill McAngus. Percy warns that the King will cut Edmund off if he thinks he has deliberately killed McAngus, so they agree to make it look like an accident. Baldrick suggests putting McAngus’s head in the mouth of a cannon and firing it, but Edmund dismisses this as feeble.

McAngus’s Room — Edmund enters looking for McAngus, but the room is empty. He finds a spiked Turkish helmet on the table and tries it on, but it gets stuck. Hearing someone approaching, he hides behind the door. McAngus enters, followed by the Queen. McAngus tells the Queen that his father sends her his regards — they used to know each other very well! The Queen leaves, and McAngus discovers Edmund. They manage to get the helmet off, and Edmund invites McAngus to act as the Scotsman in the play “The Death of the Scotsman,” to be performed for the Queens birthday.

The main hall, later that evening — They are about to start the play, when they discover that McAngus is drunk. Percy and Baldrick begin the play, and are later joined by Edmund and McAngus. In the play, McAngus insults the Queen, then stabs Edmund with a fake telescopic sword. He is sentenced to be hung from the gallows. Leaving the stage, Edmund instructs Percy and Baldrick to remove the safety hook from the gallows, and warns them that whatever happens, if the Scotsman lives, they will die.

Off-stage, McAngus tells Edmund about hidden love letters from the Queen to McAngus’s father, casting doubts on the lineage of Prince Henry. McAngus is back on stage about to be hanged before Edmund realises he needs him alive to show him the letters. He tries to stop the hanging from off-stage by cutting the noose with a spear, but it fails, so in a last-ditch attempt, he throws a sheet over his head, and enters the stage as the ghost of the Prince. He pleads mercy for the Scotsman, but Percy and Baldrick, mindful of his previous threat, are determined to carry out the execution. A comic fight sequence ensues, which ends with Edmund inadvertently hanging McAngus himself, but then holding him up to stop him choking.

Later, in McAngus’s room — A gleeful Edmund is shown the love letters that his mother wrote. He instructs Baldrick to have the court assembled in the morning.

The main hall, the following morning — Edmund tells everyone about the letters, which are dated November and December 1526. He begins to falter as he realises that this was nine months AFTER Henry’s birth, but nine months BEFORE his own — it is he who is the bastard, not Henry! McAngus is as surprised at this revelation as Edmund is. Edmund tries to pretend that McAngus has forged the letters, and challenges him to a duel — to the death. Edmund instructs Baldrick to get the fake telescopic sword, but Percy gives Edmund the fake instead. There is a big fight, which culminates in Edmund stabbing McAngus with the fake sword. On finding out that Edmund tried to set him up with the fake sword, McAngus is furious and is about to kill Edmund, when the King begs him for clemency. McAngus agrees, but only if Edmund begs for mercy, which he does.

Later, in the King’s chambers — The King, Queen and Henry are discussing the letters, which apparently turned out to be French forgeries. Edmund and McAngus are now supposed to be the best of friends. However, up on the tower, McAngus is peering down the barrel of a large cannon, at Edmund’s request. Back in the King’s chambers, a loud bang is heard. Edmund comes rushing in to announce that there has been a terrible accident — as everyone else leaves the room, he turns to the camera, and waves both fists in triumph…

The final shot is of the family coat of arms, inscribed with the motto:
Veni Vidi Castratavi Illegitimos.

This very roughly translates as:
I came, I saw, I castrated the bastards!

If you’re still here then you’re in for a treat – here’s the pilot in video form for your enjoyment.

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