It might be questioned whether Blackadder Back & Forth qualifies for consideration as a time travel movie. That it is intended as a farce is not particularly relevant–the same might be said of Army of Darkness, Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure and their subsequent Bogus Journey, Bender’s Big Score, Hot Tub Time Machine, and Frequently Asked Questions About Time Travel, along with several other movies which were not so intended. The issue here, though, is whether this is a time travel movie. It is less than sixty minutes in total length, and bills itself as being the fifth “season” of the Blackadder television series, but is the only episode in that season. On the other hand, however, it appears to have been shot on film for the big screen, and to have had a limited theatrical release in the United Kingdom before going to television.
It is also in other ways distinct from an episode of a television series. Blackadder does not exactly follow the same characters through the entire run; rather, it creates a line of characters who are supposed to be British nobility, descendants of each other through the centuries. There is always an Edmond Blackadder, played by comic great Rowan Atkinson, whose turns in this series and The Thin Blue Line gave him fans among Britcom watchers long before he gained fame more generally as Mr. Bean and Johnny English (and as the voice of Zazu in The Lion King). He is supported by someone named Baldrick, a completely filthy incompetent servant provided by Tony Robinson, and by a cast of others whose identities change but who are usually provided by Hugh Laurie (in the mold of his wifty character rolls such as Bertie Wooster for which he was best known prior to becoming Gregory House), Tim McInnery, David Fry, Miranda Richardson, and a host of supporting characters. Indeed, when Baldrick says that throughout history there has always been a Lord Blackadder and there has always been a Baldrick, the fictional history of the four previous series and occasional specials tends to support this. (In the true irreverent form of Blackadder tradition, the short list of the cast also includes appearances by “Tyrannosaurus Rex” as “Dinosaur” and “Hordes of Scots” as “Scottish Hordes”.) This Edmond Blackadder and this Baldrick have never appeared in any previous episode of the series of series, and excepting one scene the characters from those previous Blackadder stories are not part of this story, save as ancestors of the main characters. It is in that sense a stand-alone product; a viewer new to the characters would not miss much for not having seen the previous adventures.
That also mattered. There was, after all, Blackadder’s Christmas Carol, in which one of the famed Dickensian ghosts stops by the shop of a Blackadder descendant and regales him with tales of his unscrupulous ancestors, presented as scenes from earlier runs of the show, and a time travel movie that involved taking a the character into moments in the series would be too integrated with the series to be manageable. However, there are no scenes here from those stories, and only the one scene in which characters from Black-Adder II are recreated by their original portrayers in an entirely new scene involving the new character, mistaken for his ancestor.
Some of the humor is crass, gross, or mildly vulgar, and there is a moment of brief faux nudity, all of which is within the bounds of British television standards.
And, as has often been the case with time travel movies made for laughs, in poking fun the story uncovers a number of interesting time travel problems. We thus will begin examining the story next time.