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Plan B: Corporal Punishment
Corporal Punishment
Episode 2
Written by Ben Elton & Richard Curtis
Directed by Richard Boden
Guest stars Stephen Frost, Lee Cornes, Paul Mark Elliott, Jeremy Gittins Jeremy Hardy
Original airdate 5 October 1989
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"Corporal Punishment" is the second episode of Blackadder Goes Forth, the fourth series of the BBC sitcom Blackadder.


Orders for Operation Insanity arrive and Blackadder breaches regulations by eating the messenger. Can the "Flanders Pigeon Murderer" avoid the firing squad?


Captain Blackadder receives numerous calls to the wrong number before finally having a call with orders to advance. He avoids going over the top by pretending the line is breaking up. He then throws away a telegram ordering him to advance on the grounds that it is wrongly addressed to "Catpain Blackudder" and also shoots a carrier pigeon relaying a message to go over the top. Upon inspection of the pigeon's partly charred message, however, it turns out that shooting carrier pigeons has become an offense punishable by court-martial, and Blackadder simply decides to eat the evidence for lunch. When General Melchett arrives at the trenches, demanding an explanation as to why the group hasn't advanced, Blackadder nearly gets away with it by blaming the communication breakdown. Unfortunately Private Baldrick and Lieutenant George unintentionally reveal what Blackadder has done (as having been told not to answer any questions on the incident, when asked unrelated questions, they reply, "We didn't receive any messages, and Captain Blackadder definitely did not shoot this delicious plump-breasted pigeon!"). Finally, there are pigeon feathers on the floor, to which Captain Darling and Melchett believe them to be white. But after Baldrick points out that the feathers are "speckly," Melchett is enraged, as it was his beloved pet pigeon, Speckled Jim, and tries to kill Blackadder himself, forcing Darling to restrain him. Smugly, Darling then informs Blackadder that he's under arrest and, if found guilty at court-martial, he will be executed by firing squad.

Blackadder sends for Bob Massingbird, a brilliant lawyer sure to get him acquitted (Massingbird's previous cases included convincing a jury that a man who had a bloody knife in front of a dead man, who was seen stabbing the man in front of 13 people and said "I'm glad I killed the bastard" was innocent and that Oscar Wilde was a homosexual despite an incredible notoriety as a womanizer). However, the letters are mixed up thanks to Baldrick, and George turns up as Blackadder's defence. On the day of the court-martial, Blackadder is relieved to know that Darling is the prosecuting counsel, but is mortified to learn that Melchett is the judge. Melchett summarily fines George £50 for wasting the court's time by turning up, takes great pains to locate his Black cap, and refers to Blackadder as "the Flanders Pigeon Murderer". George puts paid to any remaining hopes with his poor choice of witnesses: Darling, who provides more evidence against Blackadder, and Baldrick, who takes Blackadder's order to deny everything literally and denies "everything", even his name. Darling's case for the prosecution involves calling Melchett to the witness stand and inciting him against Blackadder, which works perfectly; Melchett sentences Blackadder to death by firing squad.

In his cell Blackadder receives a visit from his friendly firing squad, with whom he trades vicious banter. Another mix-up results in Baldrick delivering a telegram for George's mother to Blackadder, but this provides Blackadder with a way out, when he discovers that George's uncle Rupert has just been made Minister of War, and can get Blackadder acquitted. When Baldrick eventually remembers to tell George this after confusion as to which person in the letter can help Blackadder, they decide to celebrate by drinking some Scotch that George's mother sent him and get so drunk that they pass out before remembering to send a telegram. Blackadder turns up to the execution grounds optimistic, but gets worried when he hears a telegram has not arrived. A telegram arrives and the jailor stops the squad just after the Corporal says 'Aim!' It turns out to be from one of the Firing squad saying 'Here's looking at you, love from all the boys in the firing squad.' The Squad then begin again. In the end, though, Rupert sends a telegram anyway after reading about Blackadder's case in the register, believing that Melchett made a mistake and knowing that Blackadder is a close friend of his nephew's. However, Blackadder reads another of George's telegrams and discovers that they did not send it themselves. Out of revenge, Blackadder volunteers Baldrick and George for the mission that Captain Darling calls him about - 'Operation Certain-Death', a mission into No-Man's Land.


  • A close review of the DVD edition reveals that all verbal references to "Massingbird" were in fact re-dubbed (Atkinson's mouth movements do not match the audio). This was because the original name used was that of a prominent commercial barrister in London (Robert Moxon Browne) and had to be re-dubbed in post-production to avoid legal proceedings. Hugh Massingbird was the name of the obituary writer for the Daily Telegraph.
  • In his autobiography Moab is My Washpot, Stephen Fry recalls an incident when a man shouted "The Flanders pigeon-murderer!" at him on the street. Fry had understood him wrongly, thinking he had said "Bastard pigging murderer!", and feared he was going to be attacked.
  • The names of Blackadder's firing squad are a reference by writer Ben Elton to the classic sitcom Dad's Army.
  • Stephen Fry had great difficulty getting through his lines in the courtroom scene without laughing, as off camera Hugh Laurie was pulling faces at him. After breaking into laughter in several takes, he eventually jokingly ordered Laurie out of the room, at which point he managed to get through his lines.


  • General Melchett mentions the Duke of York. However, that title did not exist in 1917. The title had merged with the crown in 1910, when the then current Duke of York became King George V. The title was created again in 1920 for Prince Albert (the future King George VI).