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The Black Adder - Original Pilot
The Black Adder - Unaired Pilot

UK 1982
produced by
Geoff Posner for BBC
directed by Geoff Posner
starring Rowan Atkinson, John Savident, Elspet Gray, Robert Bathurst, Tim McInnerny, Philip Fox, Alex Norton, Simon Gipps-Kent, Oengus MacNamara
written by Richard Curtis, Rowan Atkinson, music by Howard Goodall

Black Adder

review by
Mike Haberfelner

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Prince Edmund (Rowan Atkinson) is a man who desperately wants to be king - but no, he is only the King's (John Savident) second-born, and while his effeminate brother Henry (Robert Bathurst) spends his days in blissful idleness waiting for the crown to land on his head, Edmund is entursted with all sorts of ungrateful tasks, like organizing the entertainment for his mother's (Elspet Gray) birthday. And does he get the tiniest thank you for that?

Nope, his father even gives away Edmund's lands to a Scottish warhero, McAngus (Alex Norton), just because he doesn't give a shit about his second-born. Edmund wants to have his revenge on McAngus, or to put it otherwise, he wants to murder him - but killing him just like that wouldn't sit well with daddy, who likes McAngus and would be sure to find out Edmund to be the culprit ... so Edmund has a cunning plan to put up a play for mommy's birthday, at the climax of which McAngus is hanged - and just "by accident", the hanging would be a real one. Nobody could blame Edmund for an accident, now could they?

During the little play, McAngus gets roaringly drunk, and just before his death scene (which would also be his death), he tells Edmund about letters in his possession that would prove Edmund's brother to be not the son of the King but of McAngus' father - in other words a bastard, which would disqualify him as heir to the throne. However, before McAngus can hand over these letters to Edmund, he is about to be hanged on stage by Edmunds henchmen Percy (Tim McInnerny) and Baldrick (Philip Fox), and Edmund has to go to quite some length to save him.

The next day, Edmund tries to prove his brother to be a bastard, but by more careful examination in front of everyone it turns out that not his brother but Edmund himself is the bastard. To distract everyone's attention from that fact, Edmund immediately challenges McAngus to a duel, defeats him and stabs him - only to discover Baldrick has handed him a trick sword, upon which he has to beg McAngus for forgiveness on top of everything else ...

In the end, Edmund is at least allowed to get a little bit of satisfaction when he tricks McAngus into sticking his head into a cannon and ... well, take a guess!


It is regarded as common knowledge that the first season of Black Adder, in which the lead character is portrayed as a hapless clown, is pretty shitty, and that it has to be credited to writer Ben Elton, who only joined the series with Black Adder II, to have turned him into the ruthless schemer everyone has come to love. This Ben Elton-less original and unaired pilot however is proof to the contrary, it already shows Rowan Atkinson at the top of his game as ruthless schemer, with next to no clown-stuff. God knows who decided this was not the way to go with the (first) series that would follow, and interestingly the pilot was later remade with Atkinson in clown-mode as episode 2 of the first series, Born to be King.

However, all is not great about this pilot, the slapstick for instance is rather sloppily put onto screen, the chemistry of the characters is not quite there, and especially the character of Baldrick, the despicable but loveable weirdo as portrayed by Tony Robinson throughout the rest of the series, remains totally pale and disappointingly ordinary as portrayed by Philip Fox.

Still, at least fans of the series should give this one a try, as they will not be disappointed.


review © by Mike Haberfelner


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Robots and rats,
demons and potholes,
cuddly toys and
shopping mall Santas,
love and death and everything in between,
Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

is all of that.


Tales to Chill
Your Bones to
a collection of short stories and mini-plays
ranging from the horrific to the darkly humourous,
from the post-apocalyptic
to the weirdly romantic,
tales that will give you a chill and maybe a chuckle, all thought up by
the twisted mind of
screenwriter and film reviewer
Michael Haberfelner.


Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

the new anthology by
Michael Haberfelner


Out now from




On the same day
a Burglar wants to kill you
and your Ex wants
to make up ...
... and for the life of it,
you can't decide


A Killer Conversation

produced by and starring
Melanie Denholme
directed by
David V.G. Davies
written by
Michael Haberfelner
Ryan Hunter and
Rudy Barrow

out now on DVD