Back and Forth was able to revisit some old favourites (Queen Elizabeth I) and go to some periods the original four series (and two specials) missed out, as Blackadder and Baldrick try to learn to steer a time machine built by Baldrick according to a design by Leonardo da Vinci (nice touch - if anyone could ever be capable of inventing a time machine, it would be Leo!).
Blackadder and Baldrick discover their distant ancestors guarding Hadrian's Wall from the Scots (which is inaccurate by the way - the Scots came over from Ireland later, Hadrian's Wall actually kept out the Picts. So any and all jokes about Scottish people - red-haired etc - are all out too).
My favourite joke No 1 - Blackadder wonders why they are trying to keep the [Picts] out by building a three foot high wall. Roman remains are not well preserved in Britain - villas are usually reduced to a few buried walls and mosaics. I haven't been to Hadrian's Wall, but I believe (from photos) that it has survived in a somewhat reduced state. I suspect the original wall was a little higher.
A typical Roman ruin in Britain - this is a villa near Gloucester, which we stopped off at after going to the annual cheese-rolling one year.
My favourite joke No 2 - Hugh Laurie appears in a very, very short skirt, then Stephen Fry appears in his pants. Basically, each man's tunic is shorter than the last. Luckily, Baldrick appears to be wearing the longest tunic.
Stephen Fry praises the others for practising their 'English' - like Chelmsford 123 (an old C4 sticom, posts on that to follow at a later date), the conceit is that 'English' is the local langauge of the Romano-British (actually 'British' would have been a Celtic langauge - see Dr Who post).
Fry's character is a distant ancestor of his General Melchett, from Blackadder Goes Forth (and , presumably, of Melchett from Blackadder II, though he is more similar to the General). He switches to speaking in Latin (yay!), pronounced in the modern way (vs as ws, hard cs) and explains that Rome is under attack and all the Emperor has done is poison his mother (based on Nero, who tried to drown his mother and then had her stabbed to death) and marry his horse (loosely from Caligula, who thought about making his horse a senator, but twisted over time - I'm planning to write a paper on that subject for the CA conference next year). He finishes with my favourite joke No 3 - converting WW1 General Melchett's favourite expression, 'Baaaa!' to 'Baaaaa-us!'
Then they're attacked by 'Scots', who are referred to as Rod Stewart's ancestors and look like extras from Braveheart. Sigh.
It's a shame Blackadder didn't do more in the Roman period - I think the political world of ancient Rome would be perfectly suited to his scheming and conniving. It would have ruined the forward momentum of the series though, and series 2, 3 and 4 are so good I wouldn't want them changed (and even series 1 has it's moments - Jim Broadbent's Spanish translator is genuis and the Archbishop of Canterbury episode is great). At least we have this clip, and anything that provides a slightly more entertaining way to revise Latin has got to be a good thing!
Hugh Laurie and Rowan Atkinson, short skirts hidden by three foot high wall