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Monday 20 December 2010

Prismatic Reflection

    Over the years there has often been the question of 'continuity' within and between episodes of the Prisoner, and looking as though there isn't any. I mean one moment during Free For All No.6 is wearing a piped blazer with continuous piping around the lapels, and the next it's broken piping. Or in Hammer Into Anvil No.6's copy of The Tally Ho newspaper is folded long ways in one scene, and in another its folded squarely! And it's no better between the episodes, and here is a prime example. Both episodes of Many Happy Returns and Dance of the Dead were written by the same scriptwriter Anthony Skene, so at least there should be some continuity here. At the end of Many Happy Returns a scene at the end of the episode was changed after No.6 had been so unceremoniously returned to the village. When No.2-Mrs Butterworth comes into No.6's cottage bearing a birthday cake, instead she gives him a copy of The Tally Ho, the headline reads Plane Lost At Sea. No Hope Of Survivors. "Give in and enjoy being dead" No.2 tells him. No.6 screws up the newspaper and replys "I'll die first!"
    The fact that No.6 was ejected out of the Gloster Meteor jet, demonstrates his untimely return to the village. However, what of the plane and the pilot? Originally the plane would have been ditched in the sea, becasue the pilot was quite obviously an agent working for the village. And so being he could hardly return to England without the navigator, hence No.6 having died in an accident at sea. But then why was this reported in the village newspaper, why didn't No.2 show No.6 a copy of The Times, or Daily Mirror, a newspaper from the outside world?
    But seeing as how that part of the final scene of Many Happy Returns was altered, Anthony Scene was able to fit it into a scene in Dance of the Dead. A scene between No.2 and No.6 in the mortuary in the Town Hall whilst discussing the body in one of the long drawers.
No.6 "In his pocket."
No.2 "The wallet? It's still there, amended slightly. We'll amend him slightly. It's you who's dead, in an accident at sea."
"So to the outside world....."
"Which you only dream about."
"I'll be dead" No.6 condedes.
"A small confirmation of a known fact" No.2 concludes.
    This is by some way making up for the altered final scene of the previous episode Many Happy Returns, or confirming that which was written in the script, but didn't happen in the episode! But either way, because of a different scriptwriter for the episode Do Not Forsake Me Oh My Darling, the fact that the Prisoner's reported death to the outside world, in an earlier episode appears to have been forgotten! Certainly Sir Chales Portland and his daughter Janet in Do Not Forsake Me Oh My Darling were completely unaware of such a reported death. After all the Prisoner was Janet Portland's fiance, and an ex-colleague of Sir Charles Portland.
I'll be seeing you


  1. Hi David,
    Another WOW moment, as I had never seen that the ending of Many Happy Returns was different than what we see.
    The original ending would have been awesome if she had brought both the birthday cake AND the news article about the plane going it was quite jarring to see her stroll in with the birthday cake....but for her to give him a newspaper and say those lines....WOW!!!
    However, without the newspaper and the explanation about the plane going down ...we are left with the mystery of what REALLY happened with the pilot....did he really knock out or kill the original pilot? OR was HE the original pilot and able to go back and land?


    1. Dear Karen,
      I think the plane was either ditched in the sea, the pilot having been picked up by the crew of M. S. Polotska {The Village vessel} or it landed somewhere. Certainly it could not have returned to R.A.F Gibraltar, not without the navigator {Number 6} and it wouldn’t have had enough fuel to return to England without refuelling first.
      As for Number 6 being presented with a copy of The Tally Ho bearing the headline “Plane Lost Over Sea. No Hope of Survivors,” should have been presented to him on the front page of a newspaper to be distributed in the outside world. Because what did it matter to the citizens about a plane lost at sea, with no hope of survivors? They could see for themselves that Number 6 wasn’t dead!

      Best regards
      Be seeing you

  2. Hi David . .
    Yes..the villagers wouldn't have cared a wit about seeing a newspaper article on the "death" of Number 6.
    However , I think it would have been a great psychological bit to show how the NEWS can be manipulated too....what we read may have been adulterated.
    However , Patrick McGoohan may have thought that it would have been TOO explanatory...that the mystery of what happened to the pilot was a better idea .
    Also...since the "trade" of the pilots was not can we be sure that it was not a pre-planned event?
    The newspaper article would have answered the questions about the pilots...and if the pilot was on a SUICIDE mission !


  3. Happy New Year 2021, David,

    I just disoovered your blog after my most recent re-watching of the series, I don't know how many times since 1969 (in the USA). I'm interested in your thoughts on continuity. Over the years I've learned to accept that strict continuity isn't a priority with most screenwriters. I'd think this would be especially the case when McGoohan and a raft of writers were improvising even as they were shooting. I'd never thought about the fate of the pilot on Many Happy Returns. I'm not sure he would have had to ditch the plane. Wherever the Village was, transportation in and out was via helicopter, and they have a limited range. There had to be a landing zone in close proximity to the Village, which may have included a runway, so the jet could have landed there.
    I've always been more troubled by about the location problem of the Village in Many Happy Returns v Fall Out. In MHR the prisoner locates the Village by his own navigation as somewhere WNW of the African coast--and on an island. Very unlikely to be a short tunnel drive from there to the UK. Maybe you've written about this elsewhere. I'd be interested in your thoughts.

  4. I've also never known about the alternate ending with the Tally Ho on Many Happy Returns. If nothing else, substituting that for the birthday cake scene would have definitely killed the excruciating irony of the pun of finding himself back in the Village on his birthday. Mrs Butterworth also managed to skedaddle from London to the Village before P got there managing to wear the same dress!
    Personally, Dance of the Dead is my favorite episode, even though the first time I saw it (I was 13-14) I completely failed to understand the significance of the teletype, nor why No 2 was laughing -- . I'm glad they saved this ending for this episode.

    1. A very happy New Year to you Clancy,
      I was most interested to read your comments. There were four ladies who worked on ‘the Prisoner’ who were responsible for continuity on it, and there are times when I wondered whether or not they were taking any notice of what was going on. Because its not just the change of blazer in the same scene in ‘Free For All,’ they didn’t seem to notice that the shopkeeper in ‘Arrival,’ when the Prisoner goes to buy a map of the area, actually wore two different numbered badges.
      Originally in the final scene in ‘Many happy Returns’ Mrs. Butterworth was to have given No.6 a birthday present which was wrapped in a copy of The Tally Ho. When No.6 unwrapped the present he read the headline of the broadsheet “Plane Lost Over Sea. No Hope of Survivors.” To me that suggests the plane would have had to ditch in the sea, the pilot probably picked up by the crew of M. S. Polotska. But as it is the plane probably landed at the airstrip near to the landing stage, as you suggest.
      Ah yes the location of the village, there are those who are of the opinion that the village is located at the end of the A20 somewhere near Dover. While others believe it’s near the town of Deal in Kent because that’s where Drax had his rocket base in Ian Flemings book ‘Moonraker.’ Having calculated and researched the possible location of the village, there is really only one location and that’s on the south west coast of Portugal, because the village has to be located on an estuary of a river. Most people think the village is on an island because the RAF Group Captain suggests it might be an island. If it was then the tunnel would be a very long one in order to reach the mainland. There is also another factor about the type of plane chosen for the reconnaissance mission, because it has been calculated that the Gloster Meteor jet wouldn’t have reached RAF Gibraltar because of lack of fuel, the jet doesn’t have external fuel tanks for a prolonged flight. In this regard, and many others, you will find my book ‘The Prisoner Dusted Down’ of interest. Its available direct from my publisher at
      Quoit Media Limited - The Prisoner Dusted Down - Book DVD CD Media Publishing

      Or from Amazon
      The Prisoner Dusted Down: A Personal Examination of The Prisoner TV Series: David Stimpson: 9781911537090: Books


    2. Hello again Clancy,
      I have always imagined that tunnel in ‘Fall Out’ to be rather short, and emerging from that tunnel was but the start of the journey home, which may well have taken two or three days, depending on the speed of the vehicle, whether they drove all day and night, and the route they took.
      As for Mrs. Butterworth, I should think she had only arrived in the village shortly before the Prisoner, and only had time to pin on the badge and not enough to change her dress. Either that or she was showing individual tendencies by wearing that dress, like No.86 did in ‘A Change of Mind.’ But really Mrs. Butterworth would have changed that dress before travelling.
      And when it comes to both ‘Many Happy Returns’ and ‘Dance of the Dead’ there is the question of the cat. Can we really believe it was the cat who smashed that cup and saucer? And in ‘Dance of The Dead’ No.2 claims the cat to belong to her, and yet the cat appears first in ‘Many Happy Returns’ an episode which precedes ‘Dance of the Dead’ in the screening order, and yet not in the production order when ‘Dance of the Dead’ is the second episode in the series. If we go by that order No.2 must have left the village leaving her cat behind, thereby it becomes the village cat!
      Poor old No.6, how very uncomfortable for him! My favourite episode is ‘Arrival,’ and I was 12 when I first watched it. ‘Fall Out’ I didn’t get it all, and it was almost 10 years before I was able to watch it again in 1976.
      Should you wish to talk further and more directly, here is my email address but please do not feel pressured into doing so. I always enjoy talking to fellow Prisoner fans.
      I have enjoyed out little chat.

      Take care and stay safe
      Best regards