Another episode which would have fitted in nicely after ‘Many Happy Returns’ is ‘The General. There’s Number 6 sitting quietly at a table at the café drinking a cup of coffee. A helicopter is flying overhead. Suddenly there’s a public information announcement from the General’s department and concerning the students who are taking the three year history course. The café is to close, and Number 6 doesn’t appear to know about the Professor as he’s not one of his students. Nor does he seem to know about the General! Why? Perhaps because he’s recently returned from a long sea voyage! The educational experiment of Speedlearn having commenced during the time Number 6 was away from The Village! Its all circumstantial evidence, guess work, and most likely misinterpretation! But nevertheless Number 6 returned home 50 years ago today!
All that time and effort spent escaping The Village. Putting himself in a life threatening situation. To find out that someone else is living in want he thought to be his home, the lease of the house still having 6 months to run. What’s more the car he built with his own hands is no longer his! Having to allay his suspicions about his whereabouts in establishing that he really was where he thought himself to be. Then having to prove himself, and his report to ex-colleagues, only to be unceremoniously returned to The Village! Number 6 let his guard down you see, he was under the impression that he was amongst friends, and even if he was………. what marvels me is the way Number 6 takes it all in his stride. All that time and effort made, and he ends up where he began. It seems as though they will let you go as far as you like, just as long as you end up back in The Village in the end!
But did the events of ‘Many Happy Returns really happen, might they not simply have been all a dream? There are a number of devotees of ‘the Prisoner’ who will tell you it was. Number 6 waking up to find The Village deserted, his building a sea-going raft, spending 25 days at sea, sleeping only 4 out of each 24 hours. Fighting off gun runners, jumping ship and swimming for it, being washed up at
Beachy Head on the south coast of , arriving back in England to his home in London Buckingham Place, and being made to feel at home by Mrs
Butterworth, who then kindly lends him his own car! He then makes two calls,
one in town, the other in the country, and is assisted by his ex-colleagues in
proving his report, and is then unceremoniously returned back where he
started….in The Village! Some enthusiasts for ‘the Prisoner’ are under the
impression that it was all a dream.
Unlike ‘Living In Harmony’ for example, when Number 6 finds himself in an American frontier town in the 1880’s, the situation is induced, fabricated by use of hallucinogenic drugs, and is spoken to, and communicates by way of microphones. The whole thing is simulated, role played, a form of early virtual reality. In the case of ‘Many Happy Returns’ there is no visible signs of fabrication as it was during ‘The Chimes of Big Ben.’ No indication that any hallucinogenic drug has been administered as the water supply had been turned off. I think we have to take it that the events of ‘Many Happy Returns,’ however remarkable they are, have to be real to life for Number 6. And not something dreamt up in his subconscious!
Be seeing you