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Saturday 25 April 2015

Once Upon A Time

   Number 2 said he is a good man, that he was a good man {Up until The Chimes of Big Ben perhaps} however it may be supposed that he was, in all probability, the best of all the Number 2’s. Perhaps the reason why he was brought back to The Village, much to the man’s disapproval. In fact this man feels much aggrieved at having been brought back to The Village, and shows it openly in the way he stands up to the voice on the other end of the telephone. He speaks out against the authority of Number 1 where others feared to tread.
    “And you can remove that thing too” Number 2 snarls “I’m not an inmate. You can say what you like. You brought me back here. I told you the last time you were using the wrong approach. I do it my way or you find someone else.” Number 2 is not afraid of giving Number 1 his opinion, and it would appear, judging by his words that this was not the first time he had spoken out.
    It could be supposed that if we set ‘Fall Out’ to one side for the time being, that ‘Once Upon A time’ is the true conclusion to ‘the Prisoner.’  After all Number 6 had beaten Number 2, even if he didn’t have the stomach for it. And as well as also, this episode was originally intended to have been the climax of series 1 of ‘the Prisoner.’ The two episodes ‘Do Not Forsake Me Oh My Darling,’ and ‘The Girl Who Was Death,’ could be said to belong to ‘the Prisoner’ second series, seeing as much of the action takes place in the outside World. The idea being that Number 6 would operate outside The Village, in the World beyond.
    ‘Once upon A Time’ is a psychological battle in a one on one situation. It has to be one or the other of them. If they get Number 6 then he will be a better man than Number 2.
   Number 6’s mind has been regressed back to the Prisoner’s childhood, to the age of five. This is achieved by the conditioning of the mind, and compounded by the use of nursery rhymes. Degree Absolute,’ the original tile of the episode, has its roots set firmly in Shakespeare’s ‘Seven Ages of Man.’ And in the time Number 2 plays many parts, the Prisoner’s father, a school Head Master, fencing instructor, boxing coach, Bank Manager, and Judge.
   Number 2 has been given a week in which to achieve the required result, presumably the reason behind the Prisoner’s resignation. Although this does seem a rather extreme measure in order to extract that one piece of information.
   The episode also contains autobiographical content referring to Patrick McGoohan’s earlier life. Number 6 is undoubtedly too young to have taken part in WWII, so perhaps the “bombing” scene refers to the RAF Station {No.6} which was situated right next to McGoohan’s school of Ratcliffe. Having left school he worked in a bank for a time. Having been recruited into the British Military Intelligence by the Bank Manager, could be symbolic of McGoohan taking on the role of John Drake in ‘Danger Man.’ As next we see the Prisoner enacting the role of an agent on secret and confidential business.
    The acting is tight, the mood is intense, because at the point when the pupil and Head Master are struggling on the floor, Leo McKern at one point actually thought McGoohan was going to kill him. And you can see that in the intense struggle between the two men. McKern isn’t acting, that’s real, he’s actually frightened or terrified!
   But the two men are hardly alone. There’s the Butler, who aids and serves, lingering in the background until called upon. And at times acting independently, as the time he subdues the Prisoner with a truncheon! The Butler is also the first in the Embryo Room, so he knows what is about to take place. But who switched the lights off? Because when Number 2 enters the Embryo Room, he has to switch on the lights, the Butler standing in the baby’s playpen toying with a baby’s rattle!
    ‘Degree Absolute’ does seem the better title for the episode, because it is absolute. It has to be either one of them, and it turns out to be Number 6, with Number 2 apparently dying. Poisoned by the drink, or a heart attack brought on the intensity of the physical and psychological struggle with the Prisoner? If it was the drink, then the Butler did it!
    Number 2 was a man who believed in the cause, the whole earth as The Village was his hope, and is prepared to give his life in order to further the cause. We may not wish to see the death of this once charming man, who had a rapport with Number 6.
   Eventually the week is up, the time-lock releases the door……enter the Supervisor, an indifferent, dispassionate man, perhaps somewhat disdainful or contemptuous of his fallen colleague. Although previously the Supervisor had expressed sadness at the possibility of losing his superior, “It’s a risk…..I’d hate to see you go.”
   The cage is sealed with the body in what has now effectively become an airtight container! As for Number 6, he wants what he has wanted from the very outset….Number 1. The supervisor will take him, just like that. No repercussions at the death of Number 2, no frustrations, no prevarications, he simply leads Number 6 out of the Embryo Room to a final falling out!

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