The Prisoner Preferred: Arrival
You might think that choosing one favourite episode from seventeen would be a relatively easy thing to do. Not when fifteen of the episodes of the Prisoner are all particular favourite ones, it isn't, but there comes a time when you have to put your hand on your heart and chose just one, saying "that's the one, my absolute favourite episode."
For me that just has to be "Arrival," not simply because it is the first chapter, well that is one of the reasons, but mainly because it is the story which captivated me so long ago now, way back in 1967. The clash of thunder, dark clouds in the sky and a green, yellow nosed Lotus Seven racing along that deserted road, or runway, depending on how you look at it. Little did I know then as I watched, riveted by the opening sequence, that I too had become a Prisoner!
"Arrival" has that special air of mystery about it. A man resigns from his job, what that job is could be anyone’s guess, well we didn't know at the time did we, or even why he resigned. But certainly he felt very strongly about the decision he made, slamming down his letter of resignation along with his fist, upsetting the cup and saucer, not to mention the tea plate, a definite show of anger if ever there was one! And he was angry, he certainly gave the man sitting behind the desk and ear full!
Whoever the Prisoner is, because he could be anyone, including John Drake, he is a man of great determination who is not afraid to speak his mind. He arrives home, having been followed through
by a black hearse, he rushes into his home of London
No.1 Buckingham Place, Westminster
and collects two previously packed suitcases. He collects his travel documents and a couple of colour photographs and places then in one of the suitcases. By this time one of the two undertakers has entered the Prisoners house, nerve gas is pumped into the study, the prisoner collapses onto a couch. He awakens in what he assumes to be his own home, but upon opening the blinds, a look out of the window confirms that he is not in at all! Gone are the towering skyscrapers, to be replaced by some picturesque village! London
The Prisoner then takes his first tentative steps out into the village, he looks up to see a figure up in the Bell Tower, but when he climbs to the very top of the Bell Tower the figure is gone, if he was ever there in the first place!
It is the look upon the Prisoners face which makes me wonder how I would feel if I were abducted from my wife and home. Everything I had known taken away from me and put in an alien environment, not knowing where I am or why I have been brought here, and certainly no contact with the outside world. Confused, angry, frightened, wanting to know why and by whom?
the Prisoner sees a woman setting up tables on the other side of the village. Quickly he descends the Bell Tower , makes his way along the cobbled path, across the lawn and Piazza, through an arch and across the street to the cafe. He questions the waitress still setting out the table and chairs, the gardener takes no heed of the man, but gets no adequate answers to his questions, they haven't even got a telephone, but there's a call box round the corner! Bell Tower
The Prisoner tries to make a call, asks what exchange this is, but without a number, which the Prisoner does not have, he can make no such call. He tries to leave the village by taxi, asking the Oriental driver to take him to the nearest town. But they are only the local service, and so the Prisoner arrives back where he started. The fare is 2 work units, work units? Well seeing as he has no work units he can pay her later!
Then upon trying to ascertain where he is at the General Store, he studies two 'Maps Of Your Village' one Colour, the other balck and white, the colour one being much larger but still depicting the same area of the village, the sea and the Mountains beyond. Other maps of a larger area are not called for!
At this point one could imagine oneself as No.2 sat in his office of the green dome watching the Prisoners every move as he amuses himself with the Prisoners impossible situation.
The first meeting with No.2 in the green dome proves to both the Prisoner and viewer alike that the village authorities don't always know everything about one. They didn't know the Prisoners date and time of birth for example....
19th March 1928. Was this something just to get the Prisoner to confirm something about himself? I cannot for the life of me see the village having a file on the Prisoner and missing such mundane information as his date and time of birth.
As for the Prisoners reason of why he resigned, surely that letter of resignation would answer that one, as long as they have access to it of course, or perhaps they do and don't quite believe it.
The helicopter lands upon the triangular lawn, from which it is just a step or two to the old peoples home where they will look after you..... for as long as you live! Short taxi ride takes the Prisoner and No. 2 up the hill into the village. Through a speaker of the public address system comes a warning of intermittent showers later in the day, and that ice cream is now on sale, the flavour of the day is strawberry.
At this point the village seems idyllic, enjoying an almost holiday camp atmosphere. The villagers dress in brightly coloured clothes, piped balzers and straw boaters and colourful striped cloaks. Enjoying both the beach and swimming pool, all be it unheated! The Prisoner is shown how peaceful and picturesque the village is, he finds it charming, No.2 tells the Prisoner "it will grow on you."
After showing the Prisoner all of this, a demonstration of power is almost inevitable. A man in the Piazza suddenly starts running around in circles "be still" No.2 orders, but the man still charges around in circles. Then the white membranic mass of the village guardian puts in an appearance, from the spout of water of the fountain, to the top of the Gloriette and finally suffocating the citizen who refused to be still!
"What was that?" asks the Prisoner.
"That would be telling!" says No.2
In "Arrival" there is a demonstration of how subtle the village authorities can be. The Prisoner is undergoing an interview with the manager of the Labour Exchange, he is asked to carry out an aptitude test. A round peg to fit in a square hole in the top of a table. As the Prisoner lowers the round peg, the square hole in the table adjusts itself, now becoming a round hole so that the round peg now fits. Thus demonstrating that the village and its community is prepared to change or adjust in order that the Prisoner fits in!
I like the notice in the Labour Exchange;
'A STILL TONGUE MAKES A HAPPY LIFE'
Have you ever had one of those days when it would have been better to have kept your mouth shut? I know I have!
There are tins of 'Village Food' in a wall unit in his kitchen, food in the fridge. He has been given a card of employment, health and welfare card, credit card and card of Identity. Music plays like piped supermarket music in his cottage '6 private' in which the Prisoner, still without a number, paces up and down like a caged animal. Then a most powerful scene as he takes the loudspeaker playing the music, holds it above his head for a moment then hurls it to the floor and tramples it to pieces under foot. Yet still the music plays on, there is no way of switching it off, despite the loudspeaker lying smashed to pieces on the carpet!
Number 6 makes two escape attempts, one by village taxi, the other by helicopter. After the latter he is herded away by the village guardian, just as a sheep dog would herd a stray sheep back into the flock, and judging by the look upon his face the Prisoner is well pissed off!
In Arrival the Prisoner is learning about the village, I could go on about the banter between himself and that of No.2;
"We even have our own little newspaper you know., the Tally Ho."
"You must send me a copy!" quips the Prisoner.
No.2 laughs "You'll be the death of me!"
But that is all part and parcel of Arrival as is the betrayal by old and new friends, Cobb who mustn't keep his new masters waiting. Betrayal by No.9 who never intended to leave without Cobb, but was used by everyone else, from Cobb, the helicopter pilot, No.2 and yes even No.6!
Yes it’s the air of mystery about Arrival;
Where is the village?
Who runs this place?
What is the village guardian?
Who's side is No.6 on?
Who is No.1?
Watching the Prisoner take his first steps in the village, not knowing where he is or why he has been brought there.
The questions go on and on, well they used to, not so much these days, I have most of the answers now and enjoy Arrival as I do the rest of the Prisoner as good honest escapism.
Arrival sets the scene perfectly for that which is to follow.
Be Seeing you