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Saturday, 3 January 2015

The Therapy Zone

   How would you define the episode ‘Dance of the Dead?’ It doesn’t fit into any of the three main categories within ‘the Prisoner,’ those of Escape, Resistance or Revolt. Number 6 makes no attempt to escape, and there is no plan on the part of Number 2 to attempt to extract the reason behind the Prisoner’s resignation. However the doctor-Number 40 amply makes up for that particular deficiency. While Number 6, upon finding a radio in the trouser pocket of a dead man on the beach, sees the radio as receiving word from his world, somewhere beyond The Village.
    This episode is a kaleidoscope of life in The Village. We see Number 6’s breakfast being delivered, a breakfast which will be stone cold by the time it arrives at the door of 6 Private! And life is never dull in The Village, there is always something going on to either entertain the good citizens, or to keep them involved, and ‘Dance of the Dead’ with its Carnival is no different. If this episode had been screened in its library order second to ‘Arrival,’ it would have been a primer episode to show what life in The Village would be like for Number 6, as well as the television viewer.
   It would appear that there is no overall theme within ‘Dance of the Dead,’ as it appears to progress with a number of discreet scenes. And yet there is the underlying theme of Carnival, and surveillance. Number 240 is their best Observer, and yet she didn’t know that Number 34 had died. Well that is no aspersion on her ability, seeing as how Number 34 died sometime in the night, and 240 worked on the day shift.
    It should be wondered why the Ball in the evening was held in the Town Hall, when all other activities were undertaken in the Recreation hall. One can only imagine that to hold the Ball in the Town Hall would afford Number 6 the opportunity to explore the inner workings of The Village. In other words to “snoop” around the Town Hall. Also there was the question of the termination order, and Number 6 discovering the body of the man he set adrift in the sea with his message to someone in the outside wall, in a drawer in the Mortuary. None of this could have happened had the Ball been held in the Recreation Hall, which makes this a contrivance, which culminates with the Prisoner being put on trial for the possession of a radio. Yet the Prisoner’s trial could have been held in the Recreation Hall.
   The Prisoner’s trial is said to have been inspired by ‘The Devil and Daniel Webster’ a short story by Stephen Vincent Benet. The story revolves around a lawyer who disputes with the Devil before a Court of historical figures to overturn the contract by which a man has sold his soul. In the case of the Prisoner he is faced with the Maid as Queen Elizabeth, the Doctor as Napoleon Bonaparte, and the Town Crier as Julius Caesar. The trial is a Kafkaesque experience. Number-240 the Observer is the Prosecutor, Number 2 the Prisoner’s defender, and yet the defender is called as a witness for the prosecution! As for the Prosecutor, at first she acts as though the Prisoner’s crime, the possession of a radio is a personal affront to her, and has no greater desire than to see the Prisoner punished for his breaking of the rules. The Prisoner is a human being, with weaknesses and failings of his kind. That he had a radio, and has broken rule after rule cannot be denied. Then the defender pleads for clemency, he is new, and guilty of folly, no more, surely they can treat folly with kindness. The three Judges consider, and then the Prisoner is sentenced to death, the Prosecutor voices her protest. But it’s the rules my dear, as Number 2 reminds her.
    ‘Dance of the Dead’ is perhaps unquestioningly the most surreal episode of ‘the Prisoner’ series, both in events and in fashion. The good citizens of the community are allowed to dress in colourful and garish costumes. Well almost everyone, everyone except for Number 6 and the
Butler. And the death chase, when the Prisoner runs for his life, chased by a blood thirsty mob, who look as though they would tear him apart with their bare hands, so soon as they could lay hands upon him. But who are easily dispersed when they have lost sight of their quarry!
   The Prisoner finds his way into another room, an elaborately decorated room, which he might have taken for Number 1’s office. The final surreal moment, finding, and attempting to destroy the teleprinter he finds behind the screen, only to be out manoeuvred when the teleprinter bursts back into operation, continuing to print the text on the paper.
   What is the result of ‘Dance of the Dead?’ That is unclear as the story itself. It is difficult to perceive what Number 2 achieved, however one thing is clear, Number 6 remains as defiant as ever.
    “You’ll never win” Number 6 tells Number 2.
    “Then how very uncomfortable for you old chap!” is Number 2’s response, and laughs at the Prisoner as the teleprinter suddenly bursts back into operation.
    Number 2 mocks the Prisoner with her derisive laughter, and her final words give promise of some very rough times ahead, which would have worked better, had this episode taken its rightful place after ‘Arrival.’ 


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