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Saturday, 26 January 2013

Spotlight on The Prisoner



    "The Prisoner" is renowned for its ambiguity, its enigmatic and allegorical content, according to Patrick McGoohan, a television series having continually tried to fathom its depths over the past 4 decades, arriving at untold ideas and theories as to what "the Prisoner" is all about, as they busy themselves searching for those so termed "hidden meanings." Well they have been on a long and fruitless search, because there are no such "hidden meanings" within any of the 17 episodes of "the Prisoner," I know because I've looked and found "the Prisoner" devoid of any such hidden meanings. Are fans of "the Prisoner" really so gullible to think that there was any such time to spare in which the script writers write hidden meanings into the scripts, I hardly think so. There would be enough to do without all that fuss of additional work of "hidden meanings," they'll be suggesting "subliminal cuts" next!
Do fans make more out of "the Prisoner" than there really is, or was ever supposed to be? After all at the end of the day does it matter who No.1 was, which side runs the village, certainly its run by one side or the other, but both sides are beginning to look the same, at least they did at the time of "the prisoner" when the cold war was still going on between the Americans, the Soviet Union with Great Britain there somewhere. But there is the danger of making more out of "the Prisoner" than is there to begin with. Oh there is certainly depth to the series, and questions to be asked, but then there is always the danger of reading something into something else which at the end of the day is misinterpretation of an everyday occurrence. Take the opening sequence of "the Prisoner," at one point the Prisoner having arrived in London, parks his Lotus 7 in an underground car park in Abingdon Street, which is only a step or two away form the Houses of Parliament.
Then the Prisoner goes through double doors marked "Way Out." This has been described as an act of rebellion on the part of the Prisoner, in his demonstration of entering a building via the "way out." See what I mean about misinterpretation, reading a more complicated action into something which is everyday and quite mundane, its no wonder people find it difficult to understand "the Prisoner" series if this is the kind of thing fans are reading into such mundane actions. If one watches the opening sequence to "the Prisoner" carefully the Prisoner is not demonstrating an act of rebellion, nor is he entering a building via the way out. He has just parked his lotus 7 in the underground car park, and is LEAVING the said car park via way out. If it was the case that the Prisoner was entering a building by the "way out" the words "way out" would then be on the other side of the double doors and back to front, which they are most definitely not.
Another example of reading too much into everyday actions contained within "the Prisoner" series can be found again during an opening sequence, this time of the episode "Living In Harmony." A Sheriff has handed in both his gun and badge, and by the looks of it his horse went with the job of Sheriff as well, because the man with no name, for the Prisoner has no name that we hear of, is walking the plains carrying his saddle on his back. This simple little scene has in the past been seen as being representative of Christ carrying his cross to his crucifixion. When the actual truth of the matter is, that during the time of the Wild West, if a riders horse went lame, was stolen, or had to be shot because of a broken leg for example, the rider would carry his saddle until he came by another horse, either by fair means of foul. This because a man's saddle was the most expensive possession a cowboy, Sheriff, Marshal, rancher, farmer etc would own. A horse was cheap enough, but not so his saddle.
   So perhaps too much can be read into "the Prisoner," but why complicate it so when there is no need. After all sometimes the simplest answers are the best answers, although in the past I have found that for certain fans simple answers are not the best answers, they like to over egg the pudding so to speak. Which is fine if that is what they want, but which doesn't help to understand the series. And
there must come a time when you have to arrive at some understanding of "the Prisoner," after all one cannot spend a life time searching "the Prisoner" for answers which are not good enough, or by reading things into the series which are simply not there and were never once intended to be there in the first place.
For myself I have reached an understanding of "the prisoner" which I personally am happy with, but which may not suit everyone. Oh there are certain aspects of "the prisoner" series which may never have answers put to, not even after 40
years of Prisoner appreciation. But that is something one has to live with, those inexplicable aspects of "the Prisoner" which even Patrick McGoohan would be hard pressed to figure out and explain, if he was so inclined to do. What do I mean, well for example; Why in the episode "Do Not Forsake Me Oh My Darling" does the village need Doctor Seltzman's reversal process for the village's Seltzman mind swapping, machine when all they had to do was to place the two subjects who have undergone the mind change back in the Seltzman machine and do what they did the first time around. And in the episode of "Many Happy Returns" why did the Prisoner go running back to his ex-colleagues when he had already been betrayed by them, Fotheringay and the Colonel during "The Chimes of Big Ben." I suppose he needed to start somewhere, but he trusted them. Had he forgotten about Fotheringay and the Colonel who either worked for, or were seconded to the village in his betrayal? That The Tally Ho uses only pictures depicting No.6 wearing his suit, and never in village attire of his piped blazer. That "the Prisoner" was produced and filmed as a film and not a television series, so much detail was gone into, detail which could easily be picked up on, on the big screen, but which was lost on the television screen.
Yet I suppose if all aspects of "the prisoner" series was explained away, then there would be no mystery, would there? Remember that for the majority of "the Prisoner" there are answers to be discovered, and they are discovered easier than you might imagine. And in such answers comes enlightenment and understanding of a series which has stood the test of time, a series which is as relevant today as it was back in the late 1960's, perhaps MORE so now than back then. Especially when it comes to the question of the individual, ones identity, surveillance and the state of the International European Community of today, that was at the time of "the prisoner the "Common Market" that the village is a prediction for the European Community of today.
"What has been created , is an International Community, a perfect blueprint for world order. When both sides facing each other suddenly realise that they are looking into a mirror, they will see that this is the pattern for the future."
    So it's really a question of interpretation, arriving at an understanding which suits yourself. But in attaining such an understanding one must fathom the depths of "the Prisoner" but at the same time accepting its simplicity when it slaps you in the face. Over complication, misinterpretation, and reading things into "the Prisoner" which are simply not there and were never intended to be in the first place is not the way. And as for the allegorical, well that's better left in its box, as Pandora would have had it.

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