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|Captain Kevin Darling|
|First appearance||Captain Cook|
|Portrayed by||Tim McInnerny|
Darling is the name of several fictional characters played by Tim McInnerny in the British mock-historical sitcom Blackadder. Introduced in its fourth iteration, Blackadder Goes Forth, Captain Kevin Darling is main character Captain Edmund Blackadder (Rowan Atkinson)'s intellectual peer and bitter rival; while Blackadder reluctantly serves in World War I trenches, Darling is safely stationed some distance from the front line. Darling is the sycophantic adjutant to Stephen Fry's General Melchett. The character was originally conceived as "Captain Cartwright"; writers Ben Elton and Richard Curtis were simply unable to think of a more amusing name for him. Eventually however, Stephen Fry suggested "Darling" would be a more comedic alternative; the series makes use of a recurring joke where his name is used or referred to for comedic effect.
Although Darling only features as a main character for one series of the original Blackadder run, several of his ancestors and descendants are also portrayed by McInnerny, in keeping with the series' ongoing motif of identical descendants. The Blackadder feature-length special Blackadder: Back & Forth (1999) introduced descendent character Archdeacon Darling, on better terms with the contemporary Blackadder. The time travel narrative of the special also allowed writers to introduce more historical Darlings to the series' chronology: the Duke of Darling, aide to the Duke of Wellington (Fry), and the Duc de Darling, assistant to Napoleon I (Simon Russell Beale). The final Darling, however, is also a Blackadder and was portrayed by Atkinson in BBC promotional materials in 2002; the name Sir Osmond Darling-Blackadder suggests an unknown familial union between Blackadders and Darlings at some point in their histories.
McInnerny had appeared in series one and two as Blackadder's dimwitted right-hand man Lord Percy Percy, but he had declined to reprise the role in the third series, fearing he would become typecast (making only a single guest appearance); McInnerny never plays Percy in the series again after the series two finale, playing Darlings from Goes Forth onwards.
Kevin Darling, whose surname is a constant embarrassment to him, is a captain in the British Army in World War I. He is a pencil-pushing staff officer (hence the red tabs on his collar and the red band around his cap, both of which were later only worn by officers of the rank of Colonel or above) and aide to General Melchett. As revealed in "General Hospital", he was born in Croydon and educated in the Ipplethorpe Primary School, and even has a girlfriend called Doris. In "Private Plane", when pushed by Blackadder, Darling lets slip that he attempted to transfer to the Women's Auxiliary Balloon Corps (although he says there is nothing "cushy" about this). Given the context of this conversation (Blackadder is attempting to get transferred into the Royal Flying Corps), and Darling's character in general, he has presumably pulled some strings to allow him to remain in the army without having to serve in battle. Nevertheless, among Darling's handful of medals worn on his uniform, he appears to have been awarded a Military Cross, the circumstances of which are never explained.
Despite (or perhaps because of) his constant toadying, Melchett views Darling with a great deal of contempt, and although claiming to regard him as a son, takes pains to point out that he's certainly not a favorite, but rather a "sort of spotty, illegitimate sprog that no one really likes". Darling's main duties at GHQ include unloading and assigning truck loads of paper clips, sending orders to charge and helping Melchett with his dickie-bows and his dicky bladder.
Unlike most characters (who are usually comic foils), Darling is portrayed as a rival and intellectual equal to Blackadder, with whom he is always in conflict, and one who usually triumphs. However, Blackadder often gets some sort of revenge, for example feeding Darling, along with Melchett, with one of Baldrick's banquets (each dish consisting of unsavory ingredients), getting him to eat Baldrick's "Charlie Chaplin" moustache (in reality a dead slug) by telling him it's liquorice, watching as Lord Flashheart headbutts him out cold, interrogating him until he bursts into tears and protests that he's not a German spy, or serving Darling some of Baldrick's "coffee"—made from mud, using dandruff as sugar and saliva as cream (Blackadder did not take up Baldrick's offer of 'chocolate sprinkles').
Blackadder Goes Forth
Darling and Captain Blackadder share a mutual enmity, and are constantly embroiled in a game of one-upmanship. The two men finally achieve a form of empathy in the finale episode "Goodbyeee", when Darling is sent to join Blackadder and his men at the front line for the 'final push' (Darling is given his orders by General Melchett, who believes it to be something of a treat rather than a death sentence). In the final scene both captains reluctantly go forward, side by side, into the machine gun fire that will almost certainly kill them.
At home in England, Darling worked for Pratt and Sons (Pratts was a real department store in Streatham, South London), kept wicket for the Croydon Gentlemen and intended to marry his girlfriend Doris. He keeps a diary, the final entry in which, written shortly after being ordered to the front line, simply reads "Bugger".
He is constantly tortured by his embarrassing surname, a trait that manifests itself in the nervous twitching of his left eye (a trait which McInnerny claims it took two months to shake off after completing the series).
Blackadder: Back & Forth
Three other Darlings appear in the millennium special Blackadder: Back & Forth. In the modern-day setting McInnerny plays Archdeacon Darling, the assistant of Bishop Flavius Melchett. When Blackadder visits the Napoleonic Wars, we learn that the Duke of Wellington (played, as in Blackadder the Third by Stephen Fry) was aided by the Duke of Darling, whereas Napoleon's aide was the Duc de Darling.
When Blackadder asks them whether they've known him to play practical jokes, Darling remarks that Blackadder had at one point pretended to be dying of kidney failure. Darling had donated one of his kidneys to save his life, at which he revealed it to be an April Fool and they had to throw the kidney away, at which point the other characters burst out laughing at the memory.