Prison Is A State Of
I was reminded by a line in the 1955 film The Sea Chase starring John Wayne as Captain Karl Ehrlich and Lana Turner as Elsa Keller, a German Intelligence agent. When Elsa Keller tells Captain Ehrlich "Prison is a state of mind."
Well I wonder sometimes just what state of mind No.6 is in, or Patrick McGoohan for that matter, if the village is as it is said to be. "Not a materialistic place, but symbolises the prison that is man's own mind." I think I much prefer the materialistic form of the village!
And in mentioning the village, the place does suffer in quality in the latter episodes where the village is featured, Hammer Into Anvil, Its Your Funeral, A Change of mind. Too many designed village "backdrops" used in the MGM studios to help create scenes in the village away from Portmeirion. They are easy enough to spot, when in A Change of Mind we see No.6 and the "Lobo man" together. As you look down the hedge lined cobbled path towards the Town Hall, that is a painted backdrop, as it is when No.2 is pursued by the citizens for being unmutual. And the speech balcony in Its Your Funeral is a set on an MGM sound stage, and not at Portmeirion. However although one knows that the back episodes had the least share of funds spent on them, it does not depreciate either the episodes themselves or their enjoyment.
And that is what I like to do these days, sit back and watch episodes of the Prisoner for their enjoyment alone, and not always in the accepted order. Three and a half years of research into the Prisoner helps you enjoy the episodes for what they are, pure entertainment and escapism.
The Individual Against Society
"You are a member of the village.
You are a unit of society." - No.2 to No.6 Once Upon A Time
"No!" the Prisoner shouts in response.
Well isn't that what No.6 is, what he stands for, an individual against society? No.2 of the Chimes of Big Ben sees No.6 as being a model, but who doesn't run on clockwork as No.6 is quick to inform him. No.2 of Dance of the Dead sees individuals as trying, but that they must not spoil him!
If the village is a complete unit of our own society, then No.6's revolt against and unacceptance of the village is that of our own society. No.6 refuses to conform to the ways of the village and apparently society, which demands conformity of its citizens. If No.6 is the ultimate individual, then in turn the village must be the ultimate society, but society must live, so too must the individual. If No.6 were to rid the world of the society he is supposed to be rebelling against, what then? Perhaps No.6 has a better system of society to replace that which he seems so willing to destroy, somehow I rather doubt it. And after destroying the society he struggles against so much and with so much vigour, would not he himself cease to exist? During the Dance of the Dead No.6 is put on trial for breaching the Rules, rules without which society would be reduced to anarchy, the idea of which seems to appeal to the Prisoner "Here, here" he responds.
There are those who see No.6 as a hero, a role model, an individual against society and the system, someone to emulate. But is there not a danger with putting No.6 on a pedestal, to see him as a "superman", a man who, as the President during Fall Out puts it "A man magnificently equipped to lead us". But they fail to get the message, No.6 makes his final rejection, the offer of ultimate power and so the struggle goes on. Because a true rebel cannot ever accept or settle for anything. His rebellion must go on eternally.
Whilst on the other side of the coin there are those who see No.6 as being nothing more than an agitator, "A trouble maker" as No.14 of Hammer Into Anvil once described him. Someone who is always poking his nose in where it does not belong, stopping this, causing that. Himself sometimes deciding what is good for the citizens of the community and what is not, a dictator in fact!
But the Prisoner was never a rebel against society, only against the village in which he had been confined. Well who would not rebel given his situation? But he never rebelled against the society in which he lived, he accepted. He had a high level, secret and confidential job, he had a fine Georgian house, and was engaged to Janet Portland, daughter of Sir Charles Portland in Do Not Forsake Me Oh My Darling. All the Prisoner did was to resign from his job, "If people cannot give up a job things have come to a pretty pass" as No.2 once put it. But then it all depends on the kind of job in the first place as we have witnessed with the Prisoner. and that is all the Prisoner did, resign, no rebellion against society outside of the village. The Prisoner was part of society, he accepted it, was settled, only in the kind of work he did, did the Prisoner finally become unsettled, and how many of us can say that? I once resigned, but was never gassed and abducted to any village, nor was I rebelling against society, just against the kind of work I was doing. Now I'm sat here writing this, amongst other things.
I'll be seeing you.