Blackadder’s Christmas Carol (1988) – Directed by Richard Boden – Starring Rowan Atkinson, Tony Robinson, Miranda Richardson, Stephen Fry, Hugh Laurie, Robbie Coltrane, Miriam Margolyes, Jim Broadbent, and Nicola Bryant.
If you have not seen BLACKADDER’S CHRISTMAS CAROL, you should take 45 minutes out of your day and go watch it. There are three reasons why if you only see one adaptation of Charles Dickens’ non-cricket starring Christmas story this season, it should be this one.
Reason #1: It’s really funny. BLACKADDER was the coolest comedy back in the day, and it still holds up remarkably well. Rowan Atkinson sits at the center of a merry cast of characters, and he’s able to mold each different iteration of Blackadder to that time period’s different cast of characters, while still managing to be a pretty big assh*le in each one. (If you haven’t seen BLACKADDER, each season of the show sees the series recast in a different time period from British history.) In this version, Blackadder is the nicest guy in London, and on Christmas Eve everyone comes in and takes advantage of his generosity, leaving him penniless. Atkinson and Tony Robinson play extremely well off each other and the episode’s funny is derived largely from their relationship.
Reason #2: The big name stars. Nearly everyone here is someone you’ll recognize: Hugh Laurie, Stephen Fry, Miranda Richardson, Jim Broadbent, Robbie Coltrane … heck even Doctor Who’s Companion Peri (Nicola Bryant) makes an appearance. Double heck, it was co-written by Richard Curtis, who you know as the guy who wrote Love Actually and “Vincent and the Doctor.”
Reason #3: This is a really well-done and executed adaptation that sees the traditional story flipped on its lid. Instead of the Scrooge character being a wretched human being that gets set straight by the Ghosts of Christmas, the Scrooge character (Blackadder) is actually the nicest guy in London. Everyone takes advantage of him, and his yearly profits of seventeen pounds and one penny walk out the door in donations on Christmas Eve. Heck, even his Christmas bird and bowl of nuts get taken away from him.
Blackadder doesn’t mind, though, as he puts a positive spin on everything. He heads to bed and he’s visited by the Spirit of Christmas (Robbie Coltrane), who just wants to pop in and pop out because Blackadder is such a nice guy there’s nothing to show him. Blackadder convinces the Spirit to do the whole deal, so he shows him scenes from the past. We see the series versions of Blackadder, and the Christmas Blackadder sees how his ancestors were rather reprehensible. Instead of thinking better of himself, however, he begins to admire them. As awful as his ancestors are, they weren’t taken advantage of the way Christmas Blackadder has been abused by the locals.
The Spirit of Christmas is horrified and doesn’t want to show Blackadder the future, but he relents and does. In one version of the future, Christmas Blackadder becomes this super space-faring bad ass; in the version where he continues to be nice, he becomes the sidekick.
So he decides to become a dick, and ends up blowing his opportunity to gain a fortune and a royal title from Queen Vic.
It’s a great inversion of the original tale, and makes for a satisfying final twist to a very satisfying special.
Be sure to check out the Holiday Review Index for all the Holiday-themed reviews to be found at Atomic Anxiety.