The 1989 British TV show Blackadder goes forth may not be known to most Americans. But it should be. The 4th installment of the main 4 part series continues the adventures of Edmund Blackadder, (played by Rowan Atkinson) and his idiot manservant Baldrick (played by Tony Robinson) as he is reincarnated into different eras in English history, Starting out in the war of the roses, then the Elizabethan era, then the Regency, and finally in Blackadder goes forth, the First world war.
As you can probably tell this is were the satire comes from. But before we get to that, lets talk about the cast. The cast has the best actors from the previous 3 seasons all playing characters that each perfectly contribute. Theirs Capt. Edmund Blackadder, a career soldier and veteran of numerous colonial African conflicts in which he fought against people of far less technological advancement, once against a women armed with a sharp slice of fruit. Upon fighting against people with actual weapons, he declared it to be stupid and barbaric. Blackadder since then spends his time completely dissalutioned with the war and tries his best to wait out the remainder of the war in his trench. His superior is General Sir Anthony Cecil Melchett VC KCB. He is a complete idiot. Like many Generals at the time he is a boistourous, out of touch arm chair general who’s sheer hubris and unwilling to change to modern battle tactics. He is accompanied by Captain Kevin Darling, Blackadders rival and suck up to Melchett. these 3 are were some of the shows best satire come from.
In the first episode Blackadder is asked to come to Melchett to discuss a planned offensive straight from field marshal Douglass Haig. Their after some talking Blackadder correctly surmises the battle strategy,
"Would this brilliant plan involve us climbing out of our trenches and walking very slowly towards the enemy, sir?"
From this Darling is suprised that he guessed correctly. This leads to the following extange.
Blackadder:It’s the same plan that we used last time, and the seventeen times before that.
Melchett: E-e-exactly! And that is what is so brilliant about it! It will catch the watchful Hun totally off-guard! Doing precisely what we have done eighteen times before is exactly the last thing they’ll expect us to do this time! There is, however, one small problem.
Blackadder: That everyone always gets slaughtered in the first ten seconds.
If WWI is known for anything its insainly high numbers of young men slaughtered en mass under the command of idiots for stupid reasons. The mindset of British Generals like Melchett was that the most important factor was not technology or logistics but instead moral. This lead to many failure blamed not on them but their soldiers. The generals were also Extremely over optimistic, used to decisive battles quickly ending the war.
Their are also 2 more characters. Private Baldrick, and Lt. The Hon. George Colthurst St. Barleigh, and over eager and gullible soldier who belives every lie he was told. One originally 10 of a pals brigade called the Trinity college Tiddlywinks. Despite being dumber than somehow both Melchett and Baldrick he is a Lt., probably because he is high born. But he does have an upbeat attitude and has a kind heart. He does however show some awereness. When he is about to go over the top with all the other cast (baring Melchett) he said “I’m scared”. He and the rest died in the battle.
However, it wouldn’t be a satire without an alternative. And it does have it, during one episode he said that it would be more efficient to shoot 3000 of our own men a day back in englang.