I have been watching my seven favourite episodes of ‘the Prisoner. Why seven, why not four, six, or eight? Because 7 was the original number Patrick McGoohan had in mind for a mini-series, also I was inspired to do so having watched THEPRIS6NER-09 with its six episodes. So which seven did I choose, and why?
‘Arrival’ obviously, because that’s where it all begins on a long
deserted airstrip, with a clash of thunder and a Lotus Seven looming out of the
distance. A man for reasons of his own, resigns his job. We don’t know who he
is or why he resigned, what’s more it doesn’t seem very likely that we ever
will! So as far as you and I are concerned, the Prisoner could be anyone, and
the reason he resigned could be simply that he had become sick of the kind of
work he was doing!
‘The Chimes of Big Ben,’ because of the intricate plot that
almost worked, and would have worked had Post 5, or his Supervisor, been more
on the ball time-wise! But I suppose it not to be known that Number 6 would ask
Nadia’s contact for his wristwatch. Besides, had his watch been waterproof,
there would have been no need. But at what time was Number 6’s wristwatch set
in the first place?
Sorry, there’s no room for ‘A B and C’ in this seven, despite my
liking of Colin Gordon as Number 2.
‘Free For All,’ for the cleverness of Number 2 and his
administration, because they are clever, damned clever! They knew that Number 6
couldn’t resist running the first chance he got, so why not take his mind off
that for a while, and offer him the possibility of attaining a position of
power in The Village. After all, had not Number 2 in Arrival suggested that the
Prisoner might be given a position of authority? But of course Number 2 knew
exactly what Number 6 would do just as soon as he settled himself down in his
new sanctum of the Green Dome. What’s more it was all done without damaging the
We skipped passed both ‘The Schizoid Man,’ which the wife said she
could well do without seeing, and I don‘t get to see Colin Gordon for a second
time in ‘The General.’
And so we arrive at ‘Many Happy Returns,’ in which the Prisoner
wakes up in what is apparently a deserted village! Where is everyone? Why did
they desert The Village and leave Number 6 to his own devices? This is no time
for questions, only for action! The Prisoner makes good his own escape, only to
find himself back where he started…..in The Village! The trouble with Number 6
is, he’s never satisfied. In having escaped The Village he couldn’t wait to get
back there. In fact he couldn’t seem to get back there quick enough!
And so it arrived, an invitation to the ‘Dance of the Dead.’ A female
orientated episode, in which Number 6 encounters The Village cat once more, the
cat belonging to Number 2. But just a minute, animals are not allowed, it’s a
rule according to the maid Number 56, rules to which Number 6 is not subject.
And it would seem neither is Number 2. At the end of the previous episode ‘Many
Happy Returns’ scriptwriter Anthony Skene had Number 6 having died in an
accident at sea. The original idea being that in the final scene Mrs.
Butterworth-Number 2 was to have given Number 6 a copy of The Tally Ho the
headline of which read ‘Plane Lost Over Sea.
No Hope of Survivors.’ But that part of the final scene was cut. Anthony Skene
re-worked the idea for this episode, so that when the amended dead body, along
with the wallet in his pocket is picked up at sea, it’s Number 6 who has died
in an accident at sea. And to the rest of the world he’ll be dead. But this
part of the plot in the episode seems to have been forgotten by the time of ‘Do
Not Forsake Me Oh My Darling!’ Death is at the heart of this episode. The final
scene at the Ball in the evening could have been much more grim, had the original
frenzied dance scene, in which everyone except Number 6 dies, not been cut from
the end. Thereby Number 6 possibly becoming death itself!
Next up is ‘Checkmate,’ Number 6 once said he was going to
discover who the prisoners and who the warders. Number 14, an ex-Count and
chess champion explains to Number 6 just how to do that. It’s the same as it is
in life, you judge by attitudes, you soon find out who’s for or against you.
But it didn’t do Number 6 any good, but unlike some, such as the shopkeeper and
the white Queen-Number 8, he’ll be back on the chessboard tomorrow.
And finally ‘Hammer Into Anvil.’ Poor old Number 2, he sees enemies
of The Village everywhere. What’s more everyone is conspiring against him, and
there is no-one he can trust! The trouble is, all of this is inside Number 2’s
head. He is paranoid, afraid of failure, of his masters, and Number 6 plays on
this weakness, as he sets about avenging the death of Number 73. He even leaves
a bunch of daffodils on 73’s grave! Well who else in The Village would do that?
So what makes these 7 episodes more special for me than any of the
remaining ten? I selected these seven episodes because they all have something
in common, action, adventure, intrigue, and as a matter of fact three of them are
in my top five favourite episodes. But the plain and simple reason is, they all
contain the greatest amount of film footage of Portmeirion. Oh not as the
Italianate Village is today, but how it used to be, how I like to think back
and remember The Village as it was. Not that I had been to Portmeirion in the
1960’s because I hadn’t. My first visit to the Italianate village wasn’t until
1988, but Portmeirion was more like The Village back then, than it is today.
But that is purely a personal choice. So you see ‘the Prisoner’ is more to me
than simply a piece of exceptional television escapist drama. A complicated
action adventure series which plays with the mind the more one thinks about it.
For me it’s a time portal, a way of seeing Portmeirion in bygone days of the
1960‘s, that is my reason for selecting the seven episodes I have. And I
suppose in a way, for devotees of Portmeirion, ‘the Prisoner’ provides serious
archive film footage of Portmeirion.
Be seeing you