Spoiler warning: these reviews reveal plot twists.
Cast: Rowan Atkinson plays Ebenezer Blackadder, a gentle, polite and generous Victorian shopkeeper. In the visions shown to Ebenezer by the ghost, Atkinson also plays Lord Blackadder from series two, Mr Blackadder from series three, and two potential Blackadders in a distant sci-fi future. Tony Robinson plays five iterations of Baldrick: the new Victorian version, the servants from Blackadder II and Blackadder the Third, and two possible Baldricks in the far future. Miriam Margolyes and Jim Broadbent reprise their double-act from series one, this time playing Queen Victoria and a dippy Prince Albert. A succession of people turn up in Blackadder’s moustache shop and con or guilt-trip money and presents from him: one of them, his goddaughter Millicent, is played by Nicola Bryant; another by Dennis Lill. Robbie Coltrane plays the Spirit of Christmas. In the scenes set in the time of Blackadder II, Miranda Richardson, Patsy Byrne and Stephen Fry reprise their former roles. Hugh Laurie puts his Prince George costume back on for the Blackadder the Third scene. And in the future stuff, Richardson, Byrne, Fry and Laurie all play new characters. (Laurie also provides the opening narration.)
Blackadder’s Christmas Carol (23 December 1988). Kind businessman Ebenezer Blackadder faces a sparse Christmas because he’s always giving to the poor and needy (and blatantly wanty). But then he’s visited by a ghost who shows him Blackadders past and future, so Ebenezer starts to question why he’s being good…
* We hear Blackadder approaching. “Humbug! Humbug!” He then walks into his shop with a bag of sweets. “Humbug, Mr Baldrick?”
* Baldrick has written a Christmas card, but spelt ‘Christmas’ so badly he hasn’t used a single correct letter.
* When told that the local workhouse’s nativity play lost its baby Jesus, Blackadder philosophically says, “This high infant-mortality rate’s a real devil when it comes to staging quality children’s theatre.”
* Prince Albert keeps getting excited and giving away secrets and surprises – each instance is followed by an annoyed, “Daaaamn!”
* Charity-conscious Blackadder says to Baldrick, “In the feeling-good ledger of life, we are rich indeed!” Baldrick replies, “I just wish were weren’t doing so well in the bit-short-of-pressies-and-feeling-a-gullible-prat ledger.”
* Blackadder, not unkindly, tells Tiny Tom’s mother that if he eats any more he’ll turn into a pie shop.
* “Looked like a fat git to me,” says Baldrick of a man who’s just come round and swiped their stash of nuts. “Strip away the outer layers of a fat git,” says Blackadder, “and inside you’ll find–” “A thin git.”
* Prince Albert wonders if Blackadder can give a gift for the poor: “What about a goose?” he says, and Victoria giggles.
* “I am from Glars-go!”
* The ghost says he’s just visited a man so miserly he cuts down on heating bills by using his John Thomas as a draft excluder.
* In Elizabethan London, Baldrick gives Lord Blackadder a Christmas present then asks if he’s getting one. “Oh, it’s nothing really,” says Blackadder. “No, really, it’s nothing. I haven’t got you anything.”
* “I can’t see any subtle plan.” “Baldrick, you wouldn’t see a subtle plan if it painted itself purple and danced naked on a harpsichord singing, ‘Subtle plans are here again.’”
* When Lord Blackadder sarcastically suggests Melchett would want to whip him in the streets of Aberdeen, Melchett laughs: “I don’t think we need go that far, Blackadder. Aylesbury’s quite far enough.”
* The Regent, Prince George, asks: “What can I do with a girl that I can’t do without you?” Blackadder: “I cannot conceive, sir.”
* Baldrick’s go at charades. “It’s a book,” says Blackadder. “Well done, Mr B! I didn’t think you’d get it that quickly.”
* “Two silly bulls?”
* Prince George wants to hear a Christmas story, as long as it’s not that one about the chap who’s born on Christmas Day, shoots his mouth off about everything under the sun and then comes a cropper with a couple of rum coves on top of a hill in Johnny-Arab-land.
* The future stuff – a la bad Blake’s 7 with tones of terrifically painful dialogue.
* Baldrick – and then Blackadder – in a posing pouch.
* Now turned cruel, Ebenezer tells Baldrick he’s found a present in his stocking: a fist.
* “If we were little pigs, we’d sing piggy-wiggy-wiggy-wiggy-woo!”
* Blackadder says Millicent’s head is emptier than a hermit’s address book.
* “We are Queen Victoria!” “What, all three of you?”
* Blackadder suggests Victoria is the winner of the Round Britain Shortest, Fattest, Dumpiest Woman Competition.
* Blackadder tucks into his turkey then passes Baldrick a wishbone. “What do you wish?” he asks. Baldrick: “I wish there was some meat on this.”
History: Charles Dickens’s novella A Christmas Carol – formally called A Christmas Carol in Prose, Being a Ghost-Story of Christmas – was published in 1843. Queen Victoria (1819-1901) and her consort, Prince Albert (1819-1861), are in the main storyline; Admiral Lord Nelson (1758-1805) is played by Philip Pope in the Regency scene.
Review: A one-off Christmas special based on the notion of a friendly Blackadder who’s shown that being bad can have its rewards. The show unites regulars from the previous two batches of episodes – the first series is pointedly ignored! – as well as some notable guest stars. Great fun.
Nine foul Marmidons out of 10