Showing posts with label Prisoner. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Prisoner. Show all posts

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

TV Ratings: The Prisoner (ITV1) & Doctor Who (BBC1)


The Prisoner remake got off to a disappointing start on Saturday for ITV1, despite a lead-in from the premiere of Britain's Got Talent. Airing at 9.30pm, the AMC/ITV co-production attracted just 3.209 million viewers, losing 7 million of BGT's peak audience. This is perhaps understandable, as the majority of BGT's fanbase aren't going to be interested in a sci-fi remake of a '60s cult classic, and it's debatable that the average ITV viewer would find The Prisoner appealing. I guess the 3m who did watch were strictly sci-fi/Prisoner fans? It'll be interesting to see how many of the 3m tune in for episode 2.

Earlier that same evening over on BBC1, Doctor Who's "Victory Of The Daleks" attracted 6.227 million viewers, although that overnight figure's likely to rise when HD, PVR, VOD, and iPlayer stats are taken into account. For example, last week's "The Beast Below" had 7.93m BBC1 viewers, but the total figure was adjusted by BARB to 8.42m when they factored in other viewing methods throughout the week.

Also, if you're interested in comparing Steven Moffat's era to Russell T. Davies', the overnight figures for series 4's third episode, "Planet Of The Ood", were 7.5m. David Tennant's third ever episode, "School Reunion", attracted 8.3m viewers back in 2006.

Sunday, 18 April 2010

The Prisoner (2009)


"Arrival" "Harmony" "Anvil"
"Darling" "Schizoid" "Checkmate"

The original series is a classic that continues to influence modern film and TV since it arrived on British screens at the tail-end of the '60s. Its fingerprints are evident on countless projects that likewise tackle themes of identity, memory, imprisonment and individualism; from the satirical drama of The Truman Show, through the sci-fi noir of Dark City, to the cyberpunk thrills of The Matrix, all have borrowed from Patrick McGoohan's revolutionary slice of pop art paranoia...

A remake of McGoohan's seminal 17-part opus has been oft-rumoured (both as a movie adaptation and TV sequel), but only now have the planets aligned for a six-part miniseries updating the core ideas of The Prisoner for the 21st-century. The show was always a bedfellow of the Orwellian surveillance nightmare of 1984, so it seems only fitting that its cautionary tale is being revoiced now we're living in a "Global Village" of our own creation; a world of closed-circuit cameras, terrorism, biometrics and genetic cloning. As a concept, The Prisoner is actually less fanciful than it perhaps appeared 40 years ago.

I'm not even against remakes per se, provided they're done respectfully and bring something new to the table, so I went into AMC/ITV's remake of The Prisoner with an open mind. I came out believing the thunderstorm that hailed the original's opening titles were a warning from history: you can't catch lightning in the same bottle twice...

The Prisoner '09 isn't a mindless travesty of pseudophilosphy and fan-servicing (be glad), but it's just a victory of style over substance that lacks the original's drum-tight plotting and slick characterisation. To set the scene; a man known only as "Number Six" (Jim Caviezel) wakes up in a desert with no memory of how he got there. Immediately, he rushes to the aide of an elderly man called "93"1, helping him elude those chasing him with barking dogs, before the old geezer dies of exhaustion in a nearby cave -- but not before telling Six to "go to 554"...

Six progresses to the "The Village" (here envisioned as a beatific pastel-coloured resort in the middle of said desert) in search of answers, discovering that every inhabitant is identified only by number and nobody has knowledge, or can even conceive, of anywhere beyond their idyllic community. The Village's "mayor" is an elderly English gent with a penchant for white suits, referred to as "Number Two" (Sir Ian McKellen), who in this remake isn't replaced by a different actor every episode, and has been given a family to humanize him: estranged, rebellious teenage son "11-12" (Jamie Campbell Bower) and a wife he keeps bedridden and catatonic with pills.

The setup is largely the same as the original, although Caviezel's Six has an immediate mystery to unravel regarding the old man's alleged escape from the Village, which leads him to realize a few of the villagers are so-called "Dreamers" (people who wake up and sketch famous landmarks), which gives him fresh impetus to prove that the population have been brainwashed and to lead a breakout. We're also given flashbacks to Six's life in New York shortly after he resigned from his job as a surveillance expert for his "Summakor" employers, which is in stark contrast to the original's dedication to keeping Six's name, career and reason for resigning a closely-guarded secret for both the audience and Village agents alike. In this remake, Six is never really questioned about the reasons for his resignation to any notable extent.

The new series certainly gets a few things right, or at least adds some interesting wrinkles to the core concept. The new-look Village is a striking location of quirky colonial architecture amidst a barren landscape reminiscent of Dali, but it loses the sense of theatricality and claustrophobia that quaint Portmeirion had in the original. This Village is a tonal crossbreed of The Truman Show's Seahaven and Pleasantville (tinged with a colonial African feel), in that it's a seemingly pleasant '50s-esque resort that feels peculiar, but isn't overtly bizarre. The villagers don't walk around dressed like comic-strip seafarers in marching bands, for one thing.

For what it's worth, I liked this sand swept Village a fair bit, and I could well imagine McGoohan choosing to film in a desert if that possibility had been available to him, too. The endless sands are a more credible barrier to escape and offer a melancholic sensibility that fits The Prisoner like a glove, with its unseen but heard ocean and mirage of two crystal towers on the horizon. The climate evokes a sense of fevered heat stroke, too, which subconsciously adds stress to all the mind-fiddling. It's just a shame that The Village itself is a relatively normal and pleasant construct, whereas Portmeirion was a bizarre confluence of styles old, new and prescient.

The casting of Ian McKellen is, as expected, paradoxically perfect and very predictable. He proves to be the prime reason for watching this reinvention through to the end, though. It's a character well within McKellen's comfort-zone, and he slips so effortlessly into the role of playful antagonist that it's hard not to be charmed by his devious Number Two, but still a very risk-free performance. Unfortunately, it's in the casting of the all-important Number Six that this miniseries truly flounders, as Jim Caviezel is a poor substitution for McGoohan and something of a charisma vacuum even without the comparison.

Forget the clash of crazy aesthetic and highbrow ideas that are rightly celebrated about the original -- it's remained popular for nearly half-a-century because of McGoohan's edgy, fastidious, angry, intelligent performance. With his lilting smirk and curt mannerisms, McGoohan was a compelling antagonist who had your support and attention every step of the way. On the flipside, Caviezel's just a handsome Yank thrown into the deep end and forced to keep his head above water. More peevish survivalist than shrewd rebel. In the few moments when he's required to act like a defiant hero, his performance lands all the impact of a dry sponge. It doesn't help that Six does very little throughout the series to actually escape, and his small victories over Two are fleeting and of no real significance anyway. At least in the original you had a sense that Six was a tenacious man of great intellect who presented The Village with a worthy opponent, but the remake's Six is a largely helpless inmate cursed with knowledge of the outside world and kept at arm's length like a child having a tantrum.

Writer and self-proclaimed Prisoner fan Bill Gallagher (Lark Rise To Candleford) opts to layout the miniseries in six hours, which is a blessed relief. "Arrival" handles the setup to give the audience their bearings as Number Six wakes up in The Village; the Truman Show-esque "Harmony" gives Six a bogus brother who claims he's a humble tour bus driver with mental problems; "Anvil" delves into issues of surveillance and paranoia, as Six is partnered with "909" (Vincent Regan, very good) to spy on villagers, many of whom also moonlight as spies; the terrible "Darling" finds Six's emotions being manipulated by drugs to make him fall in love with someone resembling a woman he knew in the "other world"; "Schizoid" involves twisted doppelgangers of Six and Two being released into The Village to stir up trouble for their progenitors; and "Checkmate" gave us relatively firm answers to the Village's "Plato's Cave" nature, with a tinge of resulting confusion and dissatisfaction at how empty everything feels in retrospect. In 1968, bamboozled viewers descended on McGoohan's home demanding answers after his joyously weird finale; in 2009, fed-up viewers will raise a collective eyebrow, change the channel, and barely give it another thought.

Overall, The Prisoner '09 can be viewed as a well-meaning flop with a modicum of strong ideas, some clever updates (love the giant "Rover" balloon), reputable performances from McKellen and Bower, gorgeous production design, a few witty in-jokes (Penny Farthing bicycles hang from the ceiling of a nightclub), and a half-decent explanation for all the weirdness (albeit one that still doesn't really hang together that well, by its own logic.)

But it falls down in too many key areas: the lifeless reinterpretation of Six (dull, hardly instrumental in solving the mystery), the lack of cohesion between episodes to give a sense of cumulative buildup (ideas like Six's bogus family are just dropped2), and a palpable malaise that polluted every storyline. The original felt elliptical at times, sure, but it always had a strong narrative undertow and a sense of pace and action to pull you through the strangeness. The remake is a more soporific art-house piece, intending to draw viewers into a mesmeric experience, but proving unable to charm us into taking the trip. It's a failure with ambition, constructed with care and attention, but a failure nonetheless.

The Prisoner really did feel like a jail sentence for long stretches, and Number Six wasn't the only one who wanted to escape this Village.

17 APRIL 2010: ITV1/HD, 9.30PM (cont'd Saturdays)

1 - Am I alone in thinking the character of 93 was written as the perfect Patrick McGoohan cameo? This must have been intentional -- the actor even looks slightly like McGoohan in later life, and he wears the iconic black blazer with white piping and buff trousers. The idea to have seen McGoohan one last time before his death gives me a real fanboy ache, but unfortunately McGoohan was on the record as saying he wanted nothing to do with this production shortly before his death.

2 - I assume this is because it's inferred that Six loses his memories after being taken to The Clinic after each episode, but is that removal of memory selective? He doesn't exactly start from square one every episode.

The show proved to be a crushing disappointment for AMC last year, ratings-wise. It premiered with a decent 0.8 million (equaling the viewers for Mad Men's third season finale), but dropped sharply to 0.3 million for the next two nights. I wonder how the show will fare on ITV, where it's not being stripped across three consecutive days, but will instead air one episode every week for six weeks. The Prisoner has a larger fanbase and name-recognition on home turf, but I haven't seen much promotion.

Sunday, 15 November 2009

The Prisoner gets a hard time



I'm disappointed to hear that AMC's The Prisoner has been getting mostly negative reviews, because this remake looked very promising and I love the casting of Sir Ian McKellen. However, the six-part mini-series currently has a Metacritic score of 45/100 (based on 21 reviews), and here's a cross-section of press quotes to chew on:

The great:

"Its a clever and engaging reinterpretation by Bill Gallagher, who shaped the script to contemporary tastes and sensibilities--notably, a postmodern fatigue with ideology and big thoughts." – The New York Times

The average:

"This Prisoner is visually stunning and risk-taking but not a satisfying rethinking." – Time Magazine

The bad:

"This Prisoner remake contains some striking visuals and intermittently effective performances, especially from the typically magnetic McKellan, but it’s also frequently too choppy and elliptical to build up much suspense or dramatic impact." -– Chicago Tribune

It doesn't sound too good, does it? But I'm still very keen to see how they've updated the classic '60s series, and I'm hoping that British eyes will see something our American cousins aren't. I guess I'll find out for myself when I get around to watching all six-parts, which are airing in double-bills tonight, tomorrow and Tuesday in the US.

Consequently, I may be a little slow getting around to some of my usual reviews this week (Dexter, FlashForward, Heroes) as The Prisoner '09 is going to take priority. I won't be reviewing each day's episodes, though, so expect a conjoined review sometime Thursday or Friday.

Wednesday, 29 July 2009

THE PRISONER 1.9 - "Checkmate"


[SPOILERS] My reviews of The Prisoner fell by the wayside last summer (for one reason or another), but talk of AMC's remake has inspired me to squeeze out another review. I'm not sure I'll have time to continue reviewing The Prisoner properly, but never say never...

"Checkmate" is one of The Prisoner's most iconic and revered episodes, originally intended to be the second episode following "The Arrival". If you especially enjoy The Prisoner's surrealism and allegorical sensibilities, this is one of its finest hours. Number Six (Patrick McGoohan) wakes up to find various Villagers participating in a life-size game of chess, assuming the roles of various pieces, to be ordered about by two players with megaphones perched on high chairs...

During the game, a rebellious Rook (Ronald Radd) is taken away to be evaluated at the Village hospital after he makes a move of his own, and the official Chess Master confides in Six about how you can tell which Villager is a "prisoner" and which is a "guardian" by noting "the moves they make". Later, Number Two (Peter Wyngarde) takes Six to observe the "rehabilitation" of Rook, who is being reprogrammed to conform to orders by being dehydrated, then given electric shocks if he reaches for water without permission. Afterwards, Six forms an alliance with the Rook and together they start amassing a resistance against Number One by recruiting insubordinate Villagers.

This episode extols the "chess = life" metaphor that's long been a cliché, but buoys it with many other interesting elements, such as issues of conformity and the power of peer pressure. "Checkmate" has parallels with famous real-world psychological experiments, too -- such as the Milgram experiment (where subjects were willing to administer fatal levels of electric shocks if they were assured someone else had responsibility for their actions), the Stanford prison experiment (where people assumed fictional roles of "prisoner" and "convict" and the expectations of those roles came to dominate their attitudes and behaviour), and the Asch conformity experiment (that showed how people will agree to a blatantly wrong statement, if only to fit in with a group that shares a different opinion -- referred to as "normative influence.") Number Six is subjected to similar techniques throughout this story, which makes it possibly the best episode for anyone who enjoys how The Prisoner cleverly reflects societal issues and demonstrates how a person's free will can be subverted from within that rigid structure.

Overall, it's easy to see why this is a favoured story of most fans; it's a story that rattles along as a thrilling "prison escape" everyone can enjoy on a basic level, but shows hidden depths of subtext and psychological trickery for people of an intellectual persuasion. "Checkmate" is everything people like about The Prisoner distilled into one neat hour-long package: Number Six finds an apparent ally (who is inevitably proven to be an instrument of Number Two), a smitten cohort in a hypnotized Number 8, and we come to appreciate why escape from this Village is so damned difficult. The prisoners may outnumber their jailors, but the Village is so rife with paranoia, suspicion and mistrust that a collaborative effort to escape is always doomed from the start.


written by: Gerald Kelsey directed by: Don Chaffey starring: Patrick McGoohan (Number Six), Peter Wyngarde (Number Two), Angelo Muscat (The Butler), Romo Gorrara (Second Tower Guard), Rosalie Crutchley (The Queen), Patricia Jessel (First Psychiatrist), Ronald Radd (Rook), George Coulouris (Man With The Stick), Bee Duffell (Second Psychiatrist), Joe Dunne (First Tower Guard), Terence Donovan (Sailor), Geoffrey Reed (Skipper), Shivaun O'Casey (Nurse), Victor Platt (Asst. Supervisor), Denis Shaw (Shopkeeper), Danvers Walker (Painter) & Basil Dignam (Supervisor) / original airdate: 3 December 1967

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

The Prisoner: Comic-Con '09 Panel



Above is the San Diego Comic-Con '09 panel for The Prisoner remake, with writer Bill Gallagher, AMC's Vice-President of Production Vlad Wolynetz, and stars Jim Caviezel, Lenny James and Jamie Campbell Bower. A very interesting watch for everyone eager to know more about this "reinvention" of the '60s classic, particularly after seeing the excellent nine-minute promo.

Saturday, 25 July 2009

The Prisoner: The Trailer



Number Six: "I am not a number. I am a free man."
Number Two: "You only think you're free. Be seeing you."

AMC have released a nine-minute trailer for their upcoming six-part remake of The Prisoner, starring Jim Caviezel and Sir Ian McKellen. It looks very good, actually. I'm certain this is going to be an interesting production and a worthy reinvention of the '60s classic, although it appears to lack the idioscyncratic surrealism of Patrick McGoohan's original in favour of something a tad straighter and palatable for the mainstream. The Village looks suitably peculiar, but essentially more like a holiday resort than Portmeirion, while they've wisely kept the design of the "Rovers" (but inflated them to three times the size.) I don't get a sense that Caviezel will equal McGoohan's performance for pure stubborn intelligence, but McKellen is absolute perfection in his white suit and panama hat. What do you think? Does this meet with your approval? Will the series manage to surprise us, in an age where similar tales are regularly told (The Truman Show, Dark City, The Matrix)?

The Prisoner premieres on AMC this November and ITV early next year.

Thursday, 4 June 2009

The Prisoner: Promo


The embedded video above is a brief peek at The Prisoner remake, courtesy of co-producers AMC. Abiding thoughts? I'm positive Sir Ian McKellen's going to be fantastic as Number Two, and a desert is clearly going to be a tougher barrier to crack than the original's mountain range and ocean. I'd have liked to see more of Jim Caviezel in this (considering he'll be playing the lead), and it doesn't give anything away regarding the premise. I know The Prisoner fanbase don't need telling, but there's a whole new generation (or four!) that have no idea what it's about, so hopefully we won't have to wait long for a proper, full-length trailer.

The promo says The Prisoner will debut in November (so much for the speculative summer launch), but there's no news about the UK premiere on ITV. Considering this is a remake of a cherished British classic, half-financed with British money, starring a lot of British actors, and made with a lot of British crew... well, a simultaneously transmission would be appreciated! But, knowing ITV, what... April 2010? May?

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

Patrick McGoohan RIP (1928-2009)

Be seeing you...

Emmy-award winning Irish actor Patrick McGoohan, best known for his role as Number Six in cult '60s television series The Prisoner, has died in his Los Angeles home after a short illness. He was 80 years old. McGoohan's long career began in the mid-'50s, starring in TV shows like Danger Man and Columbo (where he won two Emmy's), and in movies such as Ice Station Zebra, Escape From Alcatraz, The Man In The Iron Mask, Scanners, A Time To Kill and Braveheart.

His death coincides with the filming of a Prisoner remake, starring Jim Caviezel and Sir Ian McKellen, which is scheduled for broadcast this summer. The original series was undoubtedly McGoohan's crowning achievement; a surreal sci-fi allegorical masterpiece that has confused and entertained audiences for over 40 years, influencing countless works since. He co-created The Prisoner with George Markstein, played the lead role (Number Six, a secret agent who finds himself trapped in a mysterious Village), and wrote/directed many episodes (under the pseudonyms Paddy Fitz and Joseph Serf).

McGoohan is survived by his wife of 57 years, Joan Drummond McGoohan, three daughters, five grand-daughters, and a great-granddaughter.

Wednesday, 20 August 2008

THE PRISONER: Script Read-through



The new-look Prisoner's finally on its way. Photos of the new Village set in South Africa were released yesterday, and now here's footage of the first script read-through in London, with Sir Ian McKellen and Jim Caviezel in attendance. It's great to see the cast and crew meeting each other for the first time, Caviezel admitting he's nervous, confirmation there'll be references to the original series, and McKellen stating Bill Gallagher's scripts are amongst the best he's ever read for television. Let's hope that's true!

I know purists may call into question the idea of remaking The Prisoner (which still stands up to scrutiny 40 years after it was made), but I'm personally excited to see the idea returned to with fresh eyes. Everything I've seen so far has been very good, and I particularly like the casting of McKellen and those African sets. I'm sure this AMC/ITV co-production will cast a spell over a whole new generation.

Keep an eye on how the production develops here.

Tuesday, 19 August 2008

THE PRISONER: The New Village Revealed


Yes, that's the new Village. More precisely, The Prisoner remake is filming in Swakopmund, a coastal town in South Africa with German-colonial architecture. To my eye, it resembles a cross between the original show's Portmeiron and Seahaven from The Truman Show (itself inspired by the '60s series). There are a few more photos at Den Of Geek. I think fans will be very pleased with the location scout's work. What do you think?

The six-part remake of the classic series, starring Jim Caviezel (as Number Six) and Ian McKellen (as Number Two) has now started filming. It will be broadcast next year on AMC and ITV. Be seeing you!

Monday, 28 July 2008

Seek The Six

Welcome to The Prisoner viral marketing campaign. Be seeing you.

Saturday, 26 July 2008

The Prisoner: meet the Villagers

The Prisoner remake from ITV/AMC is rounding out its cast. Jim Caviezel (Passion Of The Christ) and Sir Ian McKellen are the big stars, as Number 6 and Number 2 respectively, but there's also:

Lennie James (Jericho) as Number 147.

Jamie Campbell Bower (Sweeney Todd) as Number 11-12.

Hayley Atwell (Brideshead Revisited) as Number 41-5.

Ruth Wilson (Jayne Eyre) will be playing Number 313. She recently spoke about the series, which starts filming soon:

"It's [about] this guy who gets taken into this village and everyone's got a number, not a name. And it’s about how he finds his way back, and what the village is. It's very ambiguous but completely different. I don't wear a corset in it, finally, in my career."

"[The miniseries is set] now, but kind of timeless. It’s like a parallel universe. It's a bit weird and sci-fi-ish, but it's kind of now. It's a six-part television series. [My character] is the love interest, but it also is someone who is working for a very important corporation. And she's not what she seems... she turns up in the village blind, and with a number. And you don't know whether it's a joke, or if she’s in a parallel world."

"She's in a parallel world, and it’s actually a different part of her. It’s very ambiguous, very interesting. I’ve got an American accent to do."

Monday, 30 June 2008

ITV confirm Prisoner remake details

Six Of One recently leaked information about the upcoming ITV/AMC remake of classic sci-fi series The Prisoner, and ITV have officially confirmed them. Jim Caviezel (Passion Of The Christ) will be Number Six, and Sir Ian McKellen will play Number Two.

John Whiston, director of ITV productions, commented:

"For those of us who were watching grown up TV in the '60s The Prisoner was dangerous, exciting and challenging TV. For those of us who were too young to stay up to watch the series, it casts a long shadow. You don't embark on something this iconic without the best team around to do it justice for a whole new era."

The 6-part remake will be written by Bill Gallagher (Clocking Off):

"I was haunted by The Prisoner when I saw it as a boy on its first broadcast. Here was something that was more than television, something I couldn't quite grasp but couldn't let go of. It's a unique opportunity for a writer to be able to go back to The Village and tell some new stories about that strange place and its surreal menace. We have a terrific cast and a wonderful director [Cold Feet's Jon Jones], so we hope to serve up something as beguiling and disturbing as the original was."

Tuesday, 10 June 2008

The Prisoner: Back To The Village in 2009?


There's some movement on The Prisoner remake; a project that gained momentum last year as a Sky/AMC co-production, but fell apart when the American cable network began making demands Sky weren't happy with. The remake is now in the hands of ITV/AMC, and seems to be progressing better...

The Prisoner fan-site Six Of One claim to have exclusive details of the new series:

Jim Caviezel (Passion Of The Christ) takes the role of Number Six.
Ian McKellen (Lord Of The Rings) will play Number Two.
Jon Jones (Cold Feet) will direct the 6-part series.
Filming begins in August, shooting in Namibia and South Africa.
The remake will be broadcast in 2009.

This information isn't official, but it has the ring of truth about it. My immediate thoughts are that Caviezel's an okay choice (was having an American lead a sticking point with Sky?), but will he play Number Six as an Englishman or American? Expect a backlash if Six is a Yank, folks!

Ian McKellen is absolutely perfect casting, and I assume they'll be using him in all 6 episodes, and ditching the original's idea of having different actors play new Number Two's. It would make sense -- as you don't waste McKellen with a one episode appearance, and who could better him?

Namibia and South Africa? Interesting. No mention of Portmeirion, but I hope they shoot something there as a link to the '60s show. Are they going to be building The Village as a massive set in Africa, or is the landscape itself going to be the new "prison"?

All very exciting. No word on CGI Rovers yet, though. Incidentally, apologies for dropping way behind with my Prisoner reviews of the ITV4 repeats. I don’t think I'm going to be able to get back up to speed any time soon, so sorry about that. What do you think about this remake news, though? Excited, disappointed, indifferent?

Tuesday, 20 May 2008

THE PRISONER 1.8 – "Dance Of The Dead"

Writer: Anthony Skene
Director: Don Chaffey

Cast: Patrick McGoohan (Number Six), Mary Morris (Number Two), Duncan Macrae (Doctor), Norma West (The Observer), Aubrey Morris (Town Crier), Bee Duffell (Psychiatrist), Camilla Hasse (Day Supervisor), Alan White (Dutton), Michael Nightingale (Night Supervisor), Patsy Smart (Night Maid), Denise Buckley (Maid), George Merritt (Postman), John Frawley (Flower Man), Lucy Griffiths (Lady In Corridor), Angelo Muscat (The Butler) & William Lyon Brown (Second Doctor)

Number Six discovers a dead man washed up on the beach and later receives an invitation to attend the Village carnival...

"Questions are a burden to others. Answers a prison for oneself."
-- The Observer (Norma West)

There's a lot going on in Dance Of The Dead, an episode that rewards those who investigate its symbolism and finer points afterwards, but will likely infuriate most people because of its wilfully bizarre nature. It doesn't help that this episode was designed to be the second episode and had its ending (the basis for the title) rewritten at the behest of co-creator/star Patrick McGoohan...

I'm not a fan of this episode, but it's certainly intriguing at times. It starts with Number Six (McGoohan) discovering a drowned man washed up on the beach with a wallet and radio in his jacket. He drags the body to a nearby cave and later fastens a life-belt around the corpse, together with a rescue note, and pushes it back out to sea.

But Six has been spotted by Dutton (Alan White), an old work colleague, who is also captive in the Village and being used by the new Number Two (Mary Morris) to retrieve information on Six, whilst being mentally broken by the regime. Six is also followed by The Observer (Norma West), a woman who begins to have feelings for him; despite the fact her mission is to betray him.

Eventually, Six is invited to the annual Village Carnival in the Town Hall by Number Two, and therefore given a "fancy dress" costume of his regular tuxedo. In stark contrast, Two dresses as Pete Pan (alluding to the Village as a kind of Never-Never-Land), Observer goes as Little Bo Beep, and everyone in attendance dresses in bright attire. The Carnival quickly turns into a makeshift court, as Number Six finds himself charged with stealing a radio (from the dead body washed ashore) and must fight his corner. He eventually calls Dutton to the stand, only to find his one-time friend has been subjected to mental tortures and is now a pale shadow of his former self, made to dress as a jester.

Six is found guilty by the carnival court and sentences to death. He is chased through the Town Hall by all the revellers and manages to give them the slip, meeting Number Two – who tells him he's "dead", in the sense that all the Villagers are "dead" to the world, so he might as well accept his situation. Originally, the episode would have ended with Six and Observer dancing with the other "dead" carnival-goers, but McGoohan was against Six having intimate scenes with women in the Village, so the ending was rewritten entirely.

Ultimately, this episode is more interesting if it sparks some discussion afterwards, as the actual episode itself left me quite cold. I appreciated some of its symbolism and quirks (like Six not being given a fancy dress costume – or was his tuxedo the costume?) and Mary Morris is one of the more intriguing Number Twos in her portrayal. But, while many episodes of The Prisoner are rather bizarre and open to interpretation, I just felt like this story kept the viewer adrift and disinterested. I'm aware Dance Of The Dead is considered one of the core episodes of the show, but it's also one of the most exasperating and isn't an easy watch.

Trivia

-- The opening dialogue between Number Two and Number Six is different, in that the word "information" is repeated only once and Number Two chuckles before saying "you are Number Six."

-- Duncan Macrae sadly died shortly after filming this episode on 23 March 1967. This episode aired 8 months later.

-- Free for All, Many Happy Returns and It's Your Funeral also feature female Number Twos, this is the only episode in which a female Number Two plays a pivotal part.

-- Along with Leo McKern, Colin Gordon and Peter Wyngarde, Mary Morris is one of only four Number Twos to have their voices added to the interrogation scene in the opening credits.


First Aired: 26 November 1967

Tuesday, 6 May 2008

THE PRISONER 1.7 – "Many Happy Returns"

Writer: Anthony Skene
Director: Patrick McGoohan

Cast: Patrick McGoohan (Number Six), Donald Sinden (The Colonel), Patrick Cargill (Thorpe), Georgina Cookson (Mrs. Butterworth), Brian Worth (Group Captain), Richard Caldicot (Commander), Dennis Chinnery (Gunther), Jon Laurimore (Ernst), Nike Arrighi (Gypsy Girl), Grace Arnold (Maid) & Larry Taylor (Gypsy Man)

Number Six wakes up to find the Village has been deserted, allowing him to make his escape...

"You resign. You disappear. You return. You spin a yarn
that Hans Christian Andersen would reject as a fairy tale."
-- Thorpe (Patrick Cargill)

It's perhaps wrong to have Number Six (Patrick McGoohan) escape the Village twice in the first 7 episodes, even if each escape does prove to be a cruel trick. What's strange is that Six continually falls for these elaborate schemes. I mean, really, if you wake up to find the Village deserted, you should guess something's wrong, surely. That said, Many Happy Returns is a great episode, primarily because it allows us to witness Six's ingenuity as a (probable) secret agent...

So yes, Number Six wakes up to find the Village has been abandoned. After roaming around trying to find any signs of life, he eventually comes to believe he's alone. Consequently, he fashions himself a yacht (Six is very good at building makeshift vessels out of tree trunks), and sets sail across the ocean with a homemade compass.

Days pass in Six's journal, as he grows increasingly weak and weather-beaten through exposure to the elements, until he loses consciousness and is boarded by two "pirates" – who steal his provisions and push him overboard to drown. Fortunately, Six isn't quite as weak as he's led them to believe, and clambers aboard their boat unseen. Now with the element of surprise, Six commandeers their vessel and locks them in a cabin. Six reaches the coast, as the pirates escape and a struggle ensues – eventually leading to Six abandoning ship and making a swim for the shore...

Arriving on dry land, Six wanders across the desolate country landscape, eventually coming across a small group of gypsies who don't speak English, but who offer him a drink. Eventually, Six sneaks aboard a vehicle bound for London and arrives in the capital city – still suspicious that even the panorama of a bustling metropolis might somehow be a deception, and paranoid about ordinary passers-by.

Six goes to his London apartment, where he discovers a Mrs Butterworth (Georgina Cookson) now lives. She even has custody of his pride-and-joy; his self-made yellow Lotus. Six later heads to his workplace, where he tries to convince his superiors of his tall story about a mysterious Village where he was held captive all this time. They eventually allow Six to spend some time figuring out where the Village might be located (narrowing down its likely location as somewhere between southern Spain and northern Africa.)

A fighter jet is dispatched with Six in the back, hoping to find the Village during systematic sweeps of the area by air. After hours of work, Six finally notices the familiar Village nestled on the coastline below and signals to the pilot – who turns around saying "be seeing you", before pulling Six's ejector seat. Six parachutes down to the beach and traipses back to his cottage, dejected. The Village is still deserted, but Mrs Butterworth arrives with a birthday cake for him, revealing herself to be the new Number Two. The Village suddenly explodes to life outside, filled with the usual brightly-dressed bandsmen and villagers.

Anthony Skene's script is one of the best, as the story gradually unfolds at an enjoyable pace and almost manages to trick you into thinking Six really has made it home. If it wasn't for the fact I know there are 10 more episodes left, that is. But seeing this episode back in 1967 must have made the late surprise even more devastating.

Directed by co-creator/star Patrick McGoohan, it's also a very slick episode with plenty to recommend as Six's escape gets underway. Amazingly, there isn't a line of spoken dialogue for the first 20-minutes, making the whole episode twice as compelling as it would have been otherwise. These days, there are quite a few examples of TV shows with minimal dialogue (most memorably Millennium's Halloween episode The Curse Of Frank Black), but it must have been quite extraordinary back in the late-60s. It's actually a shame the episode gets so talky towards the end, as those opening near-silent 20-minutes are TV gold.

It stretched credibility that the Village superiors would allow Six to escape (as he might not have been so predictable in going back home, especially with his track record of fooling them), but it works well as a crushing blow to his resolve. And it was great to be reminded of how focused, determined, inventive and skilled Six is. But what's really unsettling is how deep the Village's roots go, as all of Six's superiors are clearly involved in the plot to get answers about why he resigned. That answer must be terribly important if they were willing to empty the Village to instigate his escape – as we've been led to believe that many people in the Village are there to be "interrogated", too. But it never really feels that way. The whole place seems designed to expose Six's secrets, specifically.

Overall, this is a favourite episode of mine. It's well-paced, exciting and tense, with an inevitable rug-pulling end that's still great fun. The script and direction are excellent, while there's a nod to the Village's whereabouts and the whole episode makes Six's situation look hopeless. Even if he does escape, everyone he's worked for will only orchestrate his return, so if he ever does get out – he'll have to disappear.


Trivia

-- The actor playing Number Two is not shown in the opening credits. The only other time this happens is in Arrival.

-- This is the only episode where co-creator George Markstein (who plays the man behind the desk in The Prisoner's opening credits) appears in the show. He makes an uncredited appearance as the man Number Six confronts at a desk after leaving Mrs. Butterworth's.

-- This is the only episode directed by Patrick McGoohan which he didn't also write.

-- Georgina Cookson (Mrs. Butterworth/Number Two) previously played Blond Lady in A. B. And C. She is also the only Number Two to wear a black badge with a white penny farthing symbol.

-- Number Six returned to London on 18 March, approximately 30 days after leaving The Village. This means he escaped around 23 February.


First Aired: 12 November 1967

Tuesday, 29 April 2008

THE PRISONER 1.6 – "The General"

Writer: Joshua Adam
Director: Peter Graham Scott

Cast: Patrick McGoohan (Number Six), Colin Gordon (Number Two), John Castle (Number Twelve), Angelo Muscat (The Butler), Peter Swanwick (Supervisor), Peter Howell (The Professor), Betty McDowall (Professor's Wife), Conrad Phillips (Doctor), Michael Miller (Man In Buggy), Keith Pyott (Waiter), Norman Mitchell (Mechanic), Peter Bourne (Projection Operator), George Leech (First Corridor Guard) & Jackie Cooper (Second Corridor Guard)

Number Six tries to stop a subliminal teaching device that could be used to brainwash people...

"Speedlearn is an abomination! It is slavery! If you
wish to be free, there is only one way: destroy the General!"
-- Number Six (Patrick McGoohan)

The General is the mysterious threat occupying Number Six (Patrick McGoohan) this week, as the Village is suddenly put under the spell of a miraculous new teaching tool called "Speedlearn", created by an ageing academic known only as The Professor (Peter Howell), which demonstrably imparts knowledge to users subliminally...

Of course, such a tool might also be used for malicious purposes – such as the mass brainwashing of a population via television. Number Six is quick to realize how Speedlearn could be used as a weapon by Number Two (a returning Colin Gordon), and becomes convinced the will be exploited when The Professor attempts to escape from the Village. It transpires that he's merely the figurehead of the scheme, and the real brains behind Speedlearn is someone known only as "The General"...

For once, Number Six manages to secure legitimate insider help, in the shape of an administrator called Number Twelve (John Castle), who enables him to infiltrate the "education board members" by disguising himself in hat, tuxedo and dark glasses, carrying some secret token coins Twelve has passed him. Inside, Six's plan is to get to the projection room and change the planned history lesson into a lesson on democracy, with the hope that it'll encourage the Villagers to revolt against the regime.

The plan is foiled however, when Six manages to get inside the projection room and replace one of the technicians, only for Number Two to notice Six's presence on a viewscreen. Six is arrested and Number Two reveals the true identity of The General – a supercomputer that The Professor created, which Number Two insists in infallible. To test his theory, Six enquires about asking it a simple question. Number Two accepts, but after Six inserts a question into the machine, The General very quickly starts hissing steam before finally exploding – killing Number Twelve and The Professor. An outraged Number Two demands to know what question Number Six asked. The answer is a simple epistemological puzzle: "Why?" Simple, but insoluble...

The General is quite an interesting slice of sci-fi, although the idea at its core have been better explored in other works. The Professor and The General are clear symbols for education and militarism, respectively – and the danger comes from when those two branches collude for the detriment of mankind. Back in the 60s, the idea of computers was very different from what it is today. These days, computers are everywhere (in your home, in your car, in your washing machine, in your mobile phone), but the home computer boom was still about 15 years away in 1967. The notion of supercomputers was quite a scary thing (and it still is today, in some ways), but I think we've become accustomed to their ubiquity and see them as more beneficial than people did during the Cold War.

When watching The General today, the silliness of the supercomputer dates this episode more than any other, but the underlying message remains quite potent. This episode was particularly good with the background elements, such as the rather helpful Number Twelve and "normal" residents like The Professor and his wife (Betty McDowall) – as I do find The Prisoner's usually-mute, oddly-dressed populous a bit tiring. Also great to see Colin Gordon back as Number Two, as he's one of the better actors to take on the role – indeed, he's one of the few who play Number Two more than once.

Overall, this is a decent episode but nothing special. Age hasn't been too kind on the aesthetics and wobbly science, but its central idea is still relevant -- and the brainwashing aspect still fuels a great deal of sci-fi stories some 40 years later.

Trivia

-- This episode places the location of the Village as possibly being an island in the Mediterranean, as shown in the map scene.

-- Number Six does not visit Number Two's office in this episode.

-- The Council Chamber is a redress of the Number Two's office set.

-- Along with It's Your Funeral, this is one of only two episodes to feature two related inhabitants of the Village: the Professor and his wife.

-- The exterior of the Professor's house was also used as the exterior of Madame Engadine's in A. B. and C. It was also seen, in archive footage from that episode, in Do Not Forsake Me Oh My Darling.


First Aired: 5 November 1967

Thursday, 17 April 2008

THE PRISONER 1.5 – "The Schizoid Man"

Writer: Terence Feely
Director: Pat Jackson

Cast: Patrick McGoohan (Number Six/Number Twelve), Anton Rodgers (Number Two), Angelo Muscat (The Butler), Jane Merrow (Alison), Earl Cameron (Supervisor), Gay Cameron (Number Thirty Six), David Nettheim (Doctor), Pat Keen (Nurse), Gerry Crampton (First Guardian) & Dinney Powell (Second Guardian)

Number Six is alarmed to find a doppelgänger has arrived in the Village, and he's being referred to as Number Twelve now...

"You are the goodie Number Six and I am the baddie
who is supposed to be proving you wrong, is that it?"
-- Number Twelve (Patrick McGoohan)

The Schizoid Man is the first episode (in broadcast order) that actually feels at home, as episodes 2-4 suffered from being shuffled out of narrative order. It's a question of personal identity for Number Six (Patrick McGoohan) this week, as Number Two (Anton Rodgers) tries to convince him he's a double-agent (known as Number Twelve; six doubled, see?) and has an operative installed as "the real" Number Six...

It's a mind-bending episode that finds McGoohan playing two versions of his character, with each one insistent he's the real Number Six. Our hero must try to hold onto his sense of self-identity, despite the fake-Six proving his own identity in a variety of challenges: shooting, fencing and... telepathy?

Yes, in the episode's one misstep, a Villager called Alison (Jane Merrow) is earlier seen socializing with Number Six in his cottage, proving she's psychically attuned to Six's mind by correctly guessing symbols on hidden cards he looks at (wavy lines, squares, circles, etc.) It's an element of the script that's shoehorned into the story rather badly, serving only to distress real-Six when Alison later fails to reproduce her mind-reading abilities with him in front of Number Two – until imposter-Six tries his hand, and passes with flying colours.

But forgiving that storytelling lapse, The Schizoid Man is great fun and the mind-games being played on Six (he's "brainwashed" to use his left hand, and change his eating habits) are more insidious than usual. Unlike many schemes concocted by Number Two, even as a viewer you begin to doubt who the real Number Six is – particularly when watching the show 40 years later, where a big twist would be typically employed by modern TV shows. But, rather than suckering viewers into believing the hero was actually the villain all along, Schizoid Man takes the easier option. The man protesting to be Six is always telling the truth.

Production-wise, the tricks used to have McGoohan act opposite himself are generally good, with only the occasional use of McGoohan-double noticeable for some fight sequences. The standard trick of overlaying two performances into the same frame (still the easiest, fastest way of doing it) isn't distracting and works very well. The silhouette shooting range and zap-guns might inspire giggles these days, but The Prisoner is actually very accurate in its depiction of weapons training. It's not a million miles away from light-guns on a Playstation either, is it?

I enjoyed Anton Rodgers' performance as a more youthful, charming, "friendlier" Number Two, and almost forgot this was the same actor who became a household name as the star of 80s sitcom Fresh Fields (and who sadly passed away just last December.) Rodgers' Number Two (or the scheme he was controlling) is certainly one of the more successful, and only really failed because Number Twelve let it all slip when confronted by a violent Six at home.

Overall, The Schizoid Man is the best-paced episode so far, and one of The Prisoner's most intriguing ideas. The notion of the Village finding a duplicate-Six requires some suspension of disbelief (a remake would include cloning, no doubt), and I found the telepathy sideline with Alison rather idiotic, but the central dilemma and nightmarish unease of the situation really captures the imagination. In the dying moments, when Number Six seizes his chance to escape the Village (by impersonating his impersonator, then hitching a ride aboard a helicopter), the cruel way Number Two scuppers his plan was particularly delightful...

Trivia

-- This is the only episode in which Patrick McGoohan plays a dual role.

-- The name of the guardian sphere, Rover, is revealed in this episode – but never mentioned again.

-- Alison is unusual, in that she's a Villager referred to by name by Number Six and Number Two. She is also one of the only female characters to have any sort of relationship with Number Six, in which Six reciprocates (although the episode stops short of suggesting anything romantic.)


First Aired: 29 October 1967

Friday, 11 April 2008

THE PRISONER 1.4 – "Free For All"

Writer: Paddy Fitz
Director: Patrick McGoohan

Cast: Patrick McGoohan (Number Six), Eric Portman (Number Two), Rachel Herbert (Number Fifty Eight), Peter Swanwick (Supervisor), George Benson (Labour Exchange Manager), Harold Berens (Reporter), John Cazabon (Man In Cave), Dene Cooper (Photographer), Kenneth Benda (Supervisor), Holly Doone (Waitress), Angelo Muscat (The Butler), Peter Brace (First Mechanic) & Alf Joint (Second Mechanic)

Number Six decides to participate in a Village election to find a new Number Two...

"Unlike me, many of you have accepted the situation of your
imprisonment, and will die here like rotten cabbages."
-- Number Six (Patrick McGoohan)

It's a classic episode of The Prisoner this week, as Patrick McGoohan directs and writes (under a pseudonym) a politically-themed story about mishandled democratic processes. In Free For All, Number Six (McGoohan) learns that elections are being held in the Village to choose a new Number Two (here played by Eric Portman) – who encourages Six to run for office against him. After some consideration, Six agrees; hoping to win, take control of the Village, and orchestrate a breakout...

Of course, as Six has already seen numerous changes to Number Two (all made without any "elections"), Free For All doesn't work as the fourth episode. Prisoner fans agree it should actually be viewed second, but these ITV4 repeats are following the original ITC transmission schedule. This must have added another, avoidable, layer of oddness when audiences first watched the show in '67!

I really like the sense of alienation in the Village, as everyone around Six walks around like actors in non-speaking roles, wearing bright clothes, carrying vibrant umbrellas, and (in this episode) providing a soundtrack of brass band music wherever Six goes. Those that do talk engage in quick mind-games -- such as the reporters who clamber aboard Six's mini-moke taxi, and brazenly misquote him for local newspaper the Tally Ho, signifying the media's all-important role in modern democracy.

It's frustrating to be the only sane man in a village of fools, and Free For All certainly delivers that feeling beautifully. For the first time, I could well imagine someone "cracking" under the pressure of such resolute insanity. It's a vibe The Wicker Man would use 6 years later – albeit with a quieter, sinister application. And more animal face-masks.

McGoohan's script is full to bursting and the scope is wider than we've seen; taking in more of the Village's surroundings, utilizing the Rover to great effect (just love that roar it makes when it appears), and there are plenty of throwaway sights to fire the imagination (like a creepy moment when Six spots a group of men, sat in a circle underground, watching a stationery glowing Rover). Were they technicians? Worshippers?

I particularly liked the use of Number Fifty Eight (Rachel Herbert), a foreign woman who becomes Six's campaign assistant but proves near-impossible to communicate with. She's another obstacle for Six to deal with in pursuit of success at the Village election, and his campaigning is hardly a success – as the brainwashed villagers don't even react to Six's rallying call for freedom over a loudhailer.

It shouldn't be a surprise that Free For All is one of the best Prisoner episodes; it's one of the seven stories originally conceived by McGoohan to tell the whole story of Number Six's incarceration. But in 1967, ITV chairman Lew Grade couldn't sell a seven-episode run to the North American syndication market, so McGoohan and the writers hammered out another 10 stories. Grade wanted a total of 26, but he had to settle for 17.

Of all the subjects The Prisoner tackles in its 17 episodes, I think democratic elections is the one that reverberates most strongly today: in a world where many suspect George W. Bush cheated his way to the presidency in 2000, before embarking on a quest to bring that same flawed democracy to Iraq's dictatorship. Interesting to note that American-style democracy is the form most critized for being misleading – as a winner of a popular vote might not win the election, as it really comes down to who delegates vote for. And a sham election is what Free For All deals with.

I didn't like the later development of Six being drugged to believe he's part of the Village system, although the episode's twist – with Number Fifty Eight viciously slapping Six into submission inside the Green Dome, before revealing herself as an undercover Number Two – is one of the show's best climaxes and genuinely unsettling and unexpected.

Overall, Free For All is a neat allegory that remains as prescient in '08 as it did in '67, and McGoohan's writing, directing and acting work together in sharp harmony. It's clear from this episode that McGoohan is the true architect of The Prisoner, and while there are 10 episodes of varying quality, the seven he intended are remarkable achievements for the time, and hold up well today.

Trivia

-- This is the first episode to feature Robert Rietty's voice in the introductory Number Two dialogue, instead of the actor playing him. This version of the introduction is also heard in The Schizoid Man, Many Happy Returns, A Change Of Mind, Hammer Into Anvil, It's Your Funeral and The Girl Who Was Death.

-- This is the only appearance of Village pub The Cat And Mouse.

-- At 64, Eric Portman was the oldest Number Two seen on the show.

-- Patrick McGoohan wrote this episode under the pseudonym "Paddy Fitz", taken from his mother's maiden name, Fitzgerald.

-- This is the first of 4 episodes to feature a female Number Two (Rachel Herbert). The other three are Many Happy Returns, Dance Of The Dead and It's Your Funeral.

-- The photograph of Number Six, used for his election campaign and seen during the opening titles of every episode, is a publicity shot of Patrick McGoohan from Danger Man. Some claim this is evidence that Six is John Drake, McGoohan's secret agent character in Danger Man.


First Aired: 22 October 1967

Wednesday, 9 April 2008

THE PRISONER 1.3 – "A. B. And C."

Writer: Anthony Skene
Director: Pat Jackson

Cast: Patrick McGoohan (Number Six), Colin Gordon (Number Two), Sheila Allen (Number Fourteen), Angelo Muscat (The Butler), Katherine Kath (Engadine), Peter Bowles (A), Georgina Cookson (Blonde Lady), Annette Carell (B), Lucille Soong (Flower Girl), Bettina Le Beau (Maid At Party), Terry Yorke (Thug), Peter Brayham (Thug) & Bill Cummings (Henchman)

Drugs are used to infiltrate Number Six's dreams, where Number Two hopes to discover which of three suspects Six "sold out" to before resigning...

Of the 17 episodes produced, less than half are actually essential to The Prisoner's overarching story. A. B And C is superfluous, but it has an entertaining idea (invading dreams) and there's a reason given for why Number Six (Patrick McGoohan) didn't resign from his job. Ultimately though, it's all rather irrelevant and the execution looks antiquated through modern eyes...

Things start quite creepily, with Number Two (the excellent Colin Gordon) under orders from his superior (Number One?) to get quick results from the situation with Number Six. He decides to use an experimental drug created by Number Fourteen (Sheila Allen), which has never been trialled on a human before. With an atmospheroc thunderstorm roaring outside, an unconscious Number Six is wheeled into Fourteen's lab and injected with her drug – allowing Two and Fourteen to spy on his dreams through a giant video-screen...

Number Two suspects the reason for Six's resignation involved selling secrets to the "other side", so as Six dreams of a posh party at Madame Engadine's (Katherine Kath) Paris home, three suspects (referred to as "A", "B" and "C") are injected into his experience, to see which one he would have sold-out to...

In the dream, where Six is a suave and assured presence, he's approached by "A" (a known defector), but coolly brushes "A" aside when he starts fishing for secrets, maintaining that he's going on holiday. "A" later kidnaps Six and transports him to a foreign country, only for Six to escape and defeat his kidnappers in a fight – effectively ruling out "A" as Six's employer.

At one point during the procedure, Six wakes up and sees Fourteen, before she returns him to an unconscious state. As the experiment is so dangerous, there are breaks between each session, giving Six time to realize what's happening to him each night. Six recognizes Fourteen in the Village from the first experiment, and is curious about a puncture wound on his wrist (where the drug is administered by hypodermic needle).

The episode eventually splits its time between Six's dream-world at Madame Engadine's party and the real-world of the Village, with Six trying to understand what's happening to him. In the second dream experiment, he's approached by a woman ("B"), who arouses Six's suspicions because Fourteen and Two find a way to speak their own words through this avatar, and can't give correct answers to questions he asks of her.

Now aware that his dreams are being manipulated every night, Six follows Fourteen into her lab and discovers her equipment and files on suspects "A", "B" and "C". Later, despite tipping away his drugged tea for tap water, Six finds that the water has been spiked too and falls unconscious. The third dream is instigated by Two and "C" is revealed as party host Madam Engadine herself...

The cumulative effects of the drugs means the experiment begins to crumble, with Six growing mentally stronger, and playing mindgames with Two and Fourteen – hinting that he's close to "selling out" to Engadine and her own superior (nicknamed "D".) After meeting with "D" (whose face is wrapped in black cloth), Number Two is impatient to have the man's identity revealed – but when Six unmasks "D", Number Two finds he's staring at himself. It's a trick, and Six was in total control of his tormentor's dream-world all along...

A. B And C. is more interesting on paper than in practice. While the premise from writer Anthony Skene is very interesting, the pacing is slothful, and we get little insight into Number Six before he arrived in the Village. The big question hanging over The Prisoner is why Six resigned, and the whole point of the show is Six's determination to keep his reason a secret from interrogators. But consequently, the audience is left as clueless and frustrated as Number Two.

That's not always the case, as there's fun to be had in watching Six getting one over The System every week, but in episodes that could have provided background information on Six – it was annoying.

The notion of manipulating dreams is exciting, but the possibilities aren't fully explored here. Today, audiences are au fait with the ideas presented here (see Vanilla Sky), so A. B. And C's mechanics look old-hat and occasionally silly. None of this is really a criticism, as I'm sure this was stimulating material for TV audiences in 1967, but time hasn't been kind.

If there's an example of an old Prisoner story that would be improved by modern techniques and present-day writing, this is it. It would have been more interesting to have the whole episode play as a genuine flashback to Engadine's party, with the manipulated fantasy only being revealed near the end. It's just too straight-forward for modern audiences. As easy as A, B, C.

Trivia

-- A scene involving Number Two and Number Fourteen discussing their experiment on Number Six in the former's office was filmed but cut.

-- Number Fourteen's laboratory is a redress of Number Two's office set.

-- This episode had two working titles: Play In 3 Acts and 1, 2 & 3.

-- Georgina Cookson (Blonde Lady) will later play Mrs. Butterworth/Number Two in Many Happy Returns.

-- Along with Leo McKern, Mary Morris and Peter Wyngarde, Colin Gordon is one of only four Number Twos to have their voices added to the interrogation scene in the opening credits. The standard voice of Number Two was provided by Robert Rietty.

-- This is the only episode where we see rain in the Village, although it occurs at night when none of the prisoners would see it.


First Aired: 15 Ocober 1967