Blackadder the Third
Title screen of Blackadder the Third
Written by
Directed byMandie Fletcher
Theme music composerHoward Goodall
Country of originUnited Kingdom
No. of episodes6 (list of episodes)
ProducerJohn Lloyd
Running time30 minutes
Original release
NetworkBBC 1
Release17 September (1987-09-17) –
22 October 1987 (1987-10-22)

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 is set during the Georgian Era, and sees 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 successor to Blackadder II, the 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]

A fourth and final series, Blackadder Goes Forth, aired in 1989.


Blackadder the Third is vaguely set in the late 18th and early 19th century period known as the Regency, although it is not possible to precisely date any episode as the historical events and persons depicted and referenced are (perhaps intentionally) anachronistic. For example, the formal Regency (during which King George III was incapacitated due to poor mental health and his son, George, Prince of Wales, served as regent) was in place between 1811 and 1820, and the series repeatedly refers to George as "Prince Regent". However, the second episode depicts Samuel Johnson (who died in 1784) working on his groundbreaking dictionary (which was published in 1755). Likewise, the final episode is set just before the Battle of Trafalgar (1805), but refers to George as Prince Regent, depicts George III as suffering from mental illness, and refers to Arthur Wellesley, who was not created "Viscount Wellington" until 1809, as "Wellington".

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 financially comfortable. 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" or deliberately comparing his face to his cousin, MacAdder, who Blackadder openly believes to be ugly. Blackadder often affectionately calls him "Balders" (and Baldrick sometimes calls Blackadder "Mr. B.").

There are three main sets: the Prince's quarters, which are opulently decorated; 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; a descendant of hers is now finally shown, played by Helen Atkinson-Wood.

The plots feature 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 the discussion of tactics with Duke of Wellington (played by Stephen Fry).

The last episode features Rowan Atkinson as Blackadder's Scottish cousin MacAdder, supposedly a fierce swordsman. This leads to a dialogue in which Atkinson is acting both parts. After this episode, Blackadder finds fortune and ends up (permanently) posing as the Prince Regent after the real prince, disguised as Blackadder, dies after being fatally shot in the chest by the Duke of Wellington.


See also: List of Blackadder episodes

The series aired for six episodes broadcast on Thursdays at 9:30 pm on BBC 1. The titles of the episodes are always a noun paired with another, derived from an adjective beginning with the same letters, in the manner of the Jane Austen novels, Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice. On the first broadcast, fifth episode Amy and Amiability was billed in the Radio Times under its working title of Cape and Capability.[4]

No. in
TitleDirected byWritten byRecorded dateOriginal air date
131"Dish and Dishonesty"Mandie FletcherRichard Curtis & Ben Elton19 June 1987 (1987-06-19)[5]17 September 1987 (1987-09-17)

Edmund attempts to win an by-election in the rotten borough of Dunny-on-the-Wold against the petulant teenager William Pitt the Younger (who plans to bankrupt Blackadder's master, the Prince Regent), using Baldrick (later known as Mr. S Baldrick, the initial letter standing for "Sodoff") as the MP. Unfortunately, after Baldrick wins, he votes for Pitt, pushing Blackadder to meddle with politics even further.

Featuring Vincent Hanna as "his own great-great-grandfather".
142"Ink and Incapability"Mandie FletcherRichard Curtis & Ben Elton5 June 1987 (1987-06-05)[6]24 September 1987 (1987-09-24)

The Prince decides to become patron of Dr. Samuel Johnson and his new dictionary, until they become enemies. When Blackadder discovers that Baldrick has burnt Dr. Johnson's dictionary and Johnson has no copy, Blackadder must rewrite the dictionary.

Guest starring Robbie Coltrane as Dr. Johnson.
153"Nob and Nobility"Mandie FletcherRichard Curtis & Ben Elton10 July 1987 (1987-07-10)[7]1 October 1987 (1987-10-01)

Irritated by the new obsession with all things French, Blackadder makes a bet with Lords Topper and Smedley and goes out to rescue an aristocrat and claim his 1,000 guineas.

Guest starring Tim McInnerny, Nigel Planer and Chris Barrie.

Note: Despite this being the third episode in the series, this was actually the last one to be filmed.
164"Sense and Senility"Mandie FletcherRichard Curtis & Ben Elton12 June 1987 (1987-06-12)[8]8 October 1987 (1987-10-08)

When an assassination attempt is made on the Prince, Blackadder decides to help him with his image by writing a public speech. Against Blackadder's advice, the Prince employs two over-the-top actors, Enoch Mossop and David Keanrick, to coach him on how to give the speech.

Guest starring Hugh Paddick, Kenneth Connor and Ben Elton.
175"Amy and Amiability"Mandie FletcherRichard Curtis & Ben Elton26 June 1987 (1987-06-26)[9]15 October 1987 (1987-10-15)

When the Prince runs out of money, Edmund attempts to marry him off to the daughter of a rich industrialist, but is thwarted at every turn by the mysterious highwayman "The Shadow".

Guest appearances by Miranda Richardson as Amy Hardwood and Warren Clarke as Mr Hardwood.
186"Duel and Duality"Mandie FletcherRichard Curtis & Ben Elton3 July 1987 (1987-07-03)[10]22 October 1987 (1987-10-22)

The Duke of Wellington promises to kill the Prince in a duel after the Prince hangs out with the Duke's nieces. Baldrick comes up with a plan involving Blackadder taking the Prince's place in the duel, and Blackadder intends on using his mad Scottish cousin, MacAdder.

Guest starring Stephen Fry as the Duke.


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 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 as Lord Topper in episode three.[11] Stephen Fry and Miranda Richardson, who had played major parts in Blackadder II, also appeared in guest roles as the Duke of Wellington and a disguised highwayman, respectively. Fry and McInnerny would return as regular performers for the fourth series of Blackadder. Other notable guest stars included Denis Lill as Sir Tolbert Buxomley, Robbie Coltrane as Dr. Samuel Johnson, and Hugh Paddick and Kenneth Connor as stage actors Keanrick and Mossop, respectively.

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.[12] 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.[11] 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 closing theme that samples the melody of the original theme.


The programme won a BAFTA award for Best Comedy Series in 1988.[3] It was also nominated for three more awards; Rowan Atkinson for "Best Light Entertainment Performance", Antony Thorpe for "Best Design" and Victoria Pocock for "Best Make Up".[3][13] The four series of Blackadder were voted second in the BBC's Britain's Best Sitcom in 2004.[14]

Media releases

Blackadder The Third is available on BBC Worldwide-distributed DVD and VHS video as an individual series or as part of a box-set with the other series of Blackadder. A BBC Radio Collection audio version created from the TV soundtrack is available on cassette and CD.[15] All four seasons and the Christmas special are available on iTunes.[16] The complete scripts of the four television series were released in 1998 as Blackadder: The Whole Damn Dynasty 1485–1917, and by Penguin Books in 2009.[17]

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. Retrieved 3 June 2007
  3. ^ a b c "Television Nominations 1988". British Academy of Film and Television Arts. Archived from the original on 17 February 2008. Retrieved 2 November 2023.
  4. ^ BBC Genome listing, 15 October 1987
  5. ^ Filming date included with description(s).
  6. ^ Filming date included with description(s).
  7. ^ Filming date included with description(s).
  8. ^ Filming date included with description(s).
  9. ^ Filming date included with description(s).
  10. ^ Filming date included with description(s).
  11. ^ a b Trivia at Retrieved 3 June 2007
  12. ^ Official Howard Goodall website Archived 5 February 2012 at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved 17 March 2007
  13. ^ Awards at IMDb. Retrieved 4 April 2008
  14. ^ The final top-ten of Britain’s Best Sitcom. Retrieved 4 April 2008
  15. ^ BBC Radio Collection (7 July 2003). Blackadder Goes Forth (CD). London: BBC Audiobooks Ltd.
  16. ^ Apple iTunes Store (2010). Blackadder Goes Forth. BBC Worldwide (aac codec). London.
  17. ^ Curtis, Richard; Atkinson, Rowan; Elton, Ben (2 July 2009). Blackadder: The Whole Damn Dynasty 1485–1917. London: Michael Joseph Ltd (original) / Penguin (reissue). ISBN 978-0-7181-4372-5.