|Episode no.||Series 2
|Directed by||Mandie Fletcher|
|Written by||Ben Elton
|Original air date||9 January 1986|
"Bells" is the first episode of the BBC sitcom Blackadder II, the second series of Blackadder, which was set in Elizabethan England from 1558 to 1603. Although "Bells" was the first to be broadcast on BBC1, it was originally destined to be the second episode. It was the only episode of the series to feature location filming, at Wilton House in Wiltshire.
The episode also marks the first appearance of the Bob/Kate and Flashheart archetypes that appear again in Blackadder Goes Forth. Rik Mayall, who played Lord Flashheart, allegedly designed the character's costume himself. John Lloyd has said that Mayall virtually rewrote his part to feature "loads of jokes", which annoyed the writers, Curtis and Elton.
The plot of the episode, of a young woman disguising herself as a man to go into service and falling in love with her employer, is particularly based on a significant plot thread of William Shakespeare's Twelfth Night.
Kate, an attractive young woman, is attempting to comfort her father upon her mother's death – even though her mother is alive and has run off with Kate's uncle, leaving them destitute. He suggests that Kate become a prostitute to solve their money troubles. Kate refuses indignantly and decides to go to London to seek her fortune, over her father's objections ("Why walk all the way to London when you can make a fortune lying on your back?!")
Lord Blackadder is at home, target practising with his bow and arrow (his servant, Baldrick, is holding the target). Hanger-on Lord Percy enters and announces that he is in love with Jane Harrington. Blackadder remarks casually that he and Baldrick had both slept with her, which throws Percy's aim off and he shoots Baldrick in the groin with an arrow. Kate enters, disguised as a boy, introduces herself as "Bob," and asks to be accepted into Blackadder's service. Blackadder hires her on the spot, firing Baldrick in the process. However, Baldrick is allowed to stay and work for Blackadder, as long as he works a bit harder and lives in the gutter.
Over the next few weeks Lord Blackadder finds himself strangely attracted to his new servant and spends a great deal of time with "Bob". Lord Melchett and the Queen are concerned by this, and even Blackadder himself begins to worry after he nearly kisses "Bob" during a friendly tussle. He seeks advice from a doctor, who prescribes leeches to be dissolved in his mouth, and (on Baldrick's advice) consults the Wise Woman, who gives him three options: 1) kill Bob; 2) commit suicide; or 3) go ahead and sleep with Bob and, to ensure no one ever finds out, kill everyone in the entire world.
With no other options, Blackadder orders Bob out of his service, but the truth is revealed (along with "Bob's" breasts) and after a very brief sexual encounter Blackadder asks Bob/Kate to marry him. She accepts, and the Queen consents, after being reassured that Kate's nose isn't prettier than hers. Baldrick is chosen as Kate's bridesmaid, while Edmund's choice for best man is his school chum, Lord Flashheart, "the best sword, the best shot, the best sailor and the best kisser in the Kingdom".
The wedding does not go as smoothly as planned. Edmund bribes Kate's father to leave before anyone sees him, and Lord Flashheart doesn't show up. With no best man, Blackadder reluctantly asks Percy to fill in. At that moment Flashheart crashes through the roof, throws Percy out, and begins chatting up every woman in the room, including Nursie and Baldrick. He is quite taken with "Bob" and proceeds to steal her from Blackadder. The two of them swap clothes as Kate reveals she now prefers boys' clothing and Flashheart prefers dresses, announce they are running away together, set off a bomb, and disappear. Melchett reminds Edmund that in such circumstances, the groom marries the bridesmaid, a suggestion positively received by Baldrick.
Bob also appears in Ben Elton's 2016 sitcom, Upstart Crow. Gabrielle Glaister reprises the role, and once again plays a woman pretending to be a man, this time in order to be a judge in the episode "The Quality of Mercy". Using the full name "Robert Roberts", it's not been confirmed whether this is the same Bob from Blackadder II.
- Rowan Atkinson as Lord Edmund Blackadder
- Tim McInnerny as Lord Percy Percy
- Tony Robinson as Baldrick
- Miranda Richardson as Queen Elizabeth I
- Stephen Fry as Lord Melchett
- Patsy Byrne as Nursie
- Gabrielle Glaister as Kate
- Rik Mayall as Lord Flashheart
- John Grillo as Dr. Leech
- Edward Jewesbury as Kate's Father
- Barbara Miller as The Wisewoman
- Sadie Shimmin as The Young Crone
- Blackadder Hall.co.uk, URL accessed 12 December 2013
- Bells at the Internet Movie Database
- Britain's Best Sitcom – Blackadder, 2004 BBC Television documentary, presented by John Sergeant
- Blackadder: Bells at bbc.co.uk
- aph.gov Official Hansard section 9285 (pdf). Retrieved 29 November 2007
- "Comedy Recordings". 17 November 2007.
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