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Wednesday 11 January 2012

The Therapy Zone

The Prisoner - Actuality or Imagination?

    Upon a wet Tuesday afternoon I sat watching a video The Prisoner – In-Depth tape 2, a Steven Rick's production. It was very near to the end of an interview with camera operator Jack Lowen that my ears pricked up at something he said. I rewound the tape and listened again to what Jack Lowen had to say on one aspect of the Prisoner. That in turn, began to make me think and inevitably put pen to paper {well finger to keyboard as I do these days}. A question began going around and round inside my head: "Is the Prisoner really all in the mind?
   The Prisoner has often been described as "a prisoner of himself", "a Prisoner of his own mind, "a man fighting the evil side to his nature, his evil self, that being his evil side which manifests itself as No.1. A man who cannot escape his own "Id." But is that really the case? Is the Prisoner simply all in the mind? Well I suppose it all comes down to interpretation, one man's meat being another man's poison so to speak. Logic would dictate however, that this is not the case, nor could it be so, that it simply just isn't possible, not as a whole anyway.
   There is the question of "actuality" within the Prisoner series. No doubt there are many who would argue against this. However if we are to suppose that the Prisoner is all in the mind of No.6, actuality would dictate that you could only have things happen in the series/village which No.6 actually took part in, or is seen to be taking part in, or had prior knowledge of. For example, the Prisoner handing in his letter of resignation, No.6 and his escape with Nadia-No.8 during The Chimes of Big Ben, the fight scene between No.6 and No.14 of Hammer Into Anvil. And of the same episode, No.6 in the General Store, his Kosho practise with No.14. As the white Queens pawn in the human chess match of Checkmate. And such a list could go on, but on the other list might be scenes and sequences which No.6 could know nothing about. Scenes which do not contain No.6, such as various scenes in the control room. The meeting of the educational board in The General. No.2's interrogation of No.72 in Hammer Into Anvil, the conversation between the doctor-No.40 and No.2 in the Town Hall during Dance of the Dead. The discussion between No.2 and No.100 in the office of the Green Dome of It’s your Funeral, and again the list could be endless, but you get the general idea. These are scenes and sequences which do not have No.6's participation, which could not, and indeed should not exist in the mind of No.6. Oh, I suppose he could have imagined such scenes in his mind, but that then would not be "actuality."
   Allow me to demonstrate. Take a moment or two to think about the scenes that are happening in the flat or house next door, or in the office along the corridor. Think of the people acting out scenes therein, what they are doing, what they are saying to each other. You can't, can you, because you are not there. You are not taking an active part, nor as a witness, and therefore can only imagine what is taking place. You can try to imagine what is taking place, but in actuality those living next door, or working in that office along the corridor might have gone out, and so are not there at all. It's all in your imagination after all, and therefore didn't really happen at all!
   "Actuality" only allows us to see the things in which No.6 takes an active part in. It does not permit us to see the scenes in which he does not appear, for he cannot possibly know of them. For that reason we should only see the scenes in which No.6 took an active part, not the scenes he did not. That is what cameraman Jack Lowen had to say, and what my ears pricked up on hearing.

I'll be seeing you


  1. I recall watching that snippet with Mr.Lowin too. I can recall thinking to myself, "You've been talking to these fans too much Jack"..... :-D

    I wonder if people like Jack Lowin ever actually watched the show. I sometimes wonder if people who write books about The Prisoner have ever watched it either.... :-D

  2. Hello Moor,

    I sure that some people who write books about 'the Prisoner' have never watched the series, while others who have, do not have a tremendous grasp of the series. One of the worst books I've found to be written about 'the Prisoner' is called 'Fall Out' by Alan Stevens and Fiona Moore. I managed to get through about half the book, then put it back on the shelf and there it has remained since 2007!

    I cannot speak for Jack Lowen, but I know some members of the cast and crew never actually watched the series, whereas others did. In fact David Tomblin was in a public house when 'Fall Out' was either being shown, or had been shown, and he asked the customers in the public house what they thought of it. And they told him in no uncertain terms!


  3. It struck me last night that the other problem with *modern* Prisoner watching is that people often watch it in the wrong order and so come out with very different feelings. I think this is why you get comments about how it starts really well and then goes very flabby. By cramming in all the location-rich episodes at the beginning the viewers get a distorted sense of the show.

    Claims are often made that the original broadcast order was entirely arbitrary. It has always seemed weird to me that the same people who spy the most arcane details that the producers inserted into individual episodes will then claim that those same producers who went to such care, would also have allowed the episodes to be broadcast seemingly at random. I know of course that this notion tends to stem from the slight changes enforced very near the end of the UK run, but these were pretty minor. The final position of Do Not Forsake Me Oh My Darling when the show was first put together for the USA has intrigued me since I first noticed it however.

    It is a curious fact that McGoohan never seems to have commented on the ordering, considering it seems a big issue for many fans of the show. Before the show was made however, he did comment that apart from the first one, he wanted to make every episode able to be watched in isolation, so in that sense maybe he would think he'd been proved right I suppose.... ;-D

  4. Hello Moor,

    There was once, going way back into the late 1980's, a great debate between fans of 'the Prisoner' as to what the correct screening order is. I think that several fans came up with several different screening orders, which appeared to be a simple matter of personal choice.
    For myself, I have always accepted ATV's screening order, the order as released later on both video and DVD. Of course 'Arrival' has to be first, with 'Once Upon A Time' the penultimate episode and lastly but not leastly 'Fall Out.' After that the episodes in between can fit in any order the viewer wishes, except for 'Many Happy Returns,' which has to be an earlier episode because of the Prisoner's bithday being March 19th, and of course both episodes of 'A B and C' and 'The Schizoid Man' have The Tally Ho as being dated Feb10th. In the latter it is the date that is important placing the episode firmly in the month of February, and in the former it is the headline of the newspaper 'Is No.2 Fit For Further Term?' which questions No.2's health, not his ability as No.2. But apart from that..... It is curious that McGoohan never made comment regarding the screening order of the series. I suppose that was the last thing on his mind at the time, and not so important to him. But yes, McGoohan is right when he stated that the viewer is able to watch each episode as an isolated episode, in the way each has a self contained story. All the viewer needs is to watch 'Arrival' first so as to have the series set out.

    I think both episodes 'It's Your Funeral' and 'A Change of Mind' do suffer a little from the over use of back-drops of the village, instead of the real thing. The back-drops of Portmeirion used in the episodes have become far more noticable since 'the Prisoner' has undergone at least three remastering processes.

    My wife has just read this comment, and commented herself that she first saw the series on video and watched them according to how she was able to purchase the tapes. So she watched 'Arrival' and The Chimes of Big Ben,' followed by Do Not forsake Me oh My Darling' and 'Living In Harmony' and it didn't matter at all not having seen the episodes in between. So that is a fine example.

    As ever

  5. Hello Moor,

    Re: how my wife first watched 'the Prisoner,' here is the full screening list, and is in accordance with how she was able to purchase the video tapes back in the late 1980's.

    The Chimes of Big Ben
    Do Not Forsake Me Oh My Darling
    Living In Harmony
    It's Your Funeral
    A Change of Mind
    Hammer Into Anvil
    Many Happy Returns
    Dance of the Dead
    A B and C
    Free For All
    The Girl Who Was Death
    Once Upon A Time
    Fall Out
    The Schizoid Man
    The General

    And even seeing 'Fall Out' as an earlier episode didn't seem to matter. So how about that?.....Any comments?

    {Credit goes to Simon Morris for the above screening list}

    Be viewing you.....despite the order.

  6. One that has interested me was the German order. Because of the delays required for dubbing, they had all 17 episodes available, but elected to only use 13, and seem to have ended up with this:

    c. German episode order

    They seem to have made the links between the actors playing the Number Two's. It would be interesting to know who made those choices. They certainly must have been very familiar with the show, in order to dub it first.

    The German website is my favourite one, and seems to have the most [useful and accurate] information too.... ;-D

  7. Hello Moor,

    Thank you for the link, all very interesting information, and a very good German website.
    Of course the screening order of 'the Prisoner' is not the most imprtant thing about the series. But even so, there are facets of this that cannot be denied. What's more why should not 'A B and C' be followed by 'The General.' Furthermore 'the Chimes of Big Ben' followed by 'Once Upon A Time,' which might even be logical to the village Administration. Because why bother to send a particular No.2 from the village, only to have him brought back for a second term......ah, I notice that you have found the flaw in that particular idea, that fact that when No.2 in 'Once Upon A Time' utters the words on the telephone "You brought me back here." Words which No.2 would not utter if he had not been able to leave the village after his term of office during 'The Chimes of Big Ben!' You see, it's fascinating.

    Be seeing you