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Melchett is the name given to a series of fictional characters appearing in the British television sitcom series Blackadder, played by Stephen Fry. There were two main Melchetts: Lord Melchett and General Melchett.
Blackadder II (Lord Melchett)
The first Melchett appeared in series two of Blackadder. He was Lord Chamberlain to Queen Elizabeth I. Melchett was usually seen standing to the right of Queenie's throne, with Nursie on the left. As one of the Queen's favourites, he often came into conflict with Lord Blackadder. Affectionately known to the Queen as "Melchy", the earnest Lord Melchett has set himself up as her closest personal advisor. An enquiry by Lord Flashheart as to whether or not Melchett was still worshipping God, and the fact that Melchett is authorised to perform marriage ceremonies, suggests that he is a member of the clergy (probably a bishop, as in the 16th century it was not uncommon for bishops to hold high court offices), as does the fact that he attends the "Annual Communion wine-tasting". He guards his position jealously.
Lord Melchett's rivalry with Lord Blackadder was illustrated by such devious deeds as an ill-considered drinking competition (an interesting conflict as the two were complete lightweights when it came to inebriation), and Melchett's recommendation to the Queen that Blackadder be made Lord High Executioner, a job at which, apparently, no one ever lasted more than a week without being murdered.
Melchett also pressured Blackadder to sail around the deadly Cape of Good Hope. Blackadder agreed, intending to cheat and merely "camp down in the Dordogne for a week" and get a good suntan, but somehow managed to end up in a cannibal-filled Australia instead. He got the last laugh, however, by eventually returning to a hero's welcome and gave Melchett (and Sir Walter Raleigh) a "fine wine from the Far East" as a souvenir - which turned out to be a bottle of Baldrick's urine.
Blackadder Goes Forth (General Sir Anthony Cecil Hogmanay Melchett VC DSO KCB)
Although the character Melchett did not appear in the third series of Blackadder, Stephen Fry had a show-stealing role in the final episode as The Duke of Wellington, portrayed as a loud, bellowing and bellicose warmonger with a tendency towards casual violence aimed at the serving classes (in particular the incompetent and buffoonish Prince Regent, who was then disguised as his own butler).
The role seemed to fit the larger-than-life Fry like a glove, and this was reflected in changes to Melchett's characterization in the fourth and final series of Blackadder. No longer the highly intelligent sycophant his Elizabethan ancestor had been in Blackadder II, Melchett was now a vainglorious, bellowing army General, much in the mould of Fry's Wellington.
The General Melchett character was something of a popular caricature of World War I generals like Field Marshal Douglas Haig, who have been controversially portrayed by authors such as Alan Clark and John Laffin as sending men to a senseless death, with seemingly no tactics at all. This is parodied in a scene where Haig himself (played by Geoffrey Palmer) is talking to Captain Blackadder on the phone. In front of him is a model of a trench with rows of men on either side. He places all the models on top of the trench, then knocks them over with a stick and casually sweeps them into a waste paper bin.
The character also resembles (at least in personality) General Edmund Allenby, though Allenby at least was a competent commander. The physical appearance of Melchett very closely resembles Lord Kitchener, especially the iconic moustache. The General's obsession with his moustache (in the final episode he is seen wearing a moustache net), as well as his insane military exploits, were often used in episodes to represent the havoc wrought by incompetent generals during the war, and Fry's portrayal was widely praised both by critics and his colleagues (in a 2007 interview, Hugh Laurie referred to his performance as the signal success of the Blackadder series).
The General is constantly trying to lift the morale of the men, completely ignorant of the fact that they are too afraid of their impending deaths to have their spirits lifted by a Charlie Chaplin film or a drag act. He has no concept of soldiers' fear, and cannot understand why Blackadder and Captain Darling are reluctant to fight (and presumably die), much like Lieutenant George. He also attempted to have Captain Blackadder shot for eating his (Melchett's) pet carrier pigeon (called Speckled Jim), tried to marry Lieutenant George (who was in character as drag queen 'Gorgeous Georgina'), and shot Captain Kevin Darling in the foot to provide a believable alibi for undercover hospital work.
It appears the General is a family friend of Lieutenant George's and both make frequent references to traditional upper class life in England. This mostly involves heavy overuse of Public School slang and metaphors as well as references to stereotypical upper class values. There seems to be a hint that Melchett attended Winchester College as he makes a few references to them facing Harrow in various sports. This may be a reference to series creator Richard Curtis who himself attended Harrow. Melchett then went to Cambridge University (as did George himself) with one of George's relatives. As such, he regards Oxford to be "a complete dump." This is an in-joke, since Fry and Laurie both attended Cambridge and the comment was directed at Rowan Atkinson, who attended Oxford. Atkinson returns the joke in the final episode of Blackadder Goes Forth by asking Baldrick if his final plan is "as cunning as a fox, who's just been appointed professor of cunning at Oxford University."
General Melchett displays twelve medals on his tunic - in order (with associated post nominal in parenthesis) the Victoria Cross (VC), Distinguished Service Order (DSO), Territorial Force War Medal, Afghanistan Medal 1878-1880, General Service Medal 1918, Egypt Medal 1882-1889, India Medal 1896, Queens South Africa Medal 1899, Kings South Africa Medal, India General Service Medal and finally the 1914-15 Star. He has also been made a Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath (KCB) and henceforth is awarded the title 'Sir'.
In series four, the role of the snivelling sycophant and Blackadder's rival was filled by Captain Darling, who acted as General Melchett's aide and who was always by his side, right up until Melchett sent him to the front line.
Melchett shared the trademark bellow "Baaah!" with Fry's earlier portrayal of Wellington, which would be delivered at random intervals for no apparent reason. Fry has put it down to smoker's asthma, but it frequently seems to serve as a signal of the character's insanity, or a reference to his possible ancestor Flossie the sheep.
In a BBC Four interview broadcast on 17 August 2007 and uploaded by the BBC to YouTube, Fry goes into some depth on the "odd history" of Melchett's "Baaah!", explaining that it began as early as his work in student productions of Shakespeare at Queens' College, Cambridge, where he would produce strange noises in order to amuse the audience. He also notes that Melchett's "Baaah!" can be found in his other acting work (although in a more subtle form), such as Peter's Friends.
Blackadder's Christmas Carol shows Blackadder getting the last laugh, as he plays a Christmas joke on both Melchett and the Queen, tricking them into "autographing" a death warrant that condemns Melchett to be executed, and leaves Blackadder with all his property. In the same episode, Stephen Fry plays a futuristic character named Lord Frondo, who advises Queen Asphyxia XIX, who is played by Miranda Richardson, allowing one to infer that he is descended from the Melchetts.
In the millennium special, Blackadder Back and Forth, Fry reprised the roles of The Duke of Wellington and Lord Melchett, and also played the Roman General Melchicus (a character very similar to General Melchett) and the modern-day Bishop Flavius Melchett (a character with slight similarities to both Lord Melchett and General Melchett).
|This page uses content from the English Wikipedia. The original article was at Melchett. The list of authors can be seen in the page history.|