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Monday 30 May 2016

The Pri50ner

    Well that’s another piece of history gone linked to ‘the Prisoner,’ that of the Coliseum cinema at Porthmadog. I was wondering what happened to the plaque which was on the wall indicating that the daily film rushes of ‘the Prisoner’ were screened at the cinema? It either ended up amongst the rubble, in a skip, or maybe someone saw the value in the plaque, saved it, and one day it will appear for sale somewhere like ebay. Mind you I can think of a few fellow enthusiasts of ‘the Prisoner’ who might have gone to Porthmadog and asked someone if they could have the plaque. But the memories of queuing outside the Coliseum on a Saturday night waiting for the evening feature film to end at ten o’clock, this in order the we Conventioneers should go inside and watch 2 episodes of ‘the Prisoner’ on the big screen. That was during Prisoner Conventions of the 1990’s.         So ‘the Prisoner’ is 50 years of age. I don’t know of any other television series whose anniversary spans three years, 1966-68. Mind you I do know that even after 50 years, there are aspects of the series which can never be resolved, and will forever remain a mystery to us. I have been assessing my likes and dislikes about ‘the Prisoner.’ My four favourite episodes are ‘Arrival,’ ‘Free For All,’ Dance of the Dead,’ and ‘Checkmate.’ Why? Well because they each contain the most film footage of Portmeirion I suppose. Although I’m a fan of the series as a whole, I’m less keen on the episodes which rely on film stock footage, sets, and large painted back-drops of Portmeirion. My favourite No.2 is still Leo Mckern, followed by Colin Gordon. Favourite actress Nadia Gray of course. Favourite character the Supervisor-No.26, because he’s a capable man who runs the Control Room like clockwork. What’s more he appears to be in a more secure position than No. 2. Yes he was once removed from his position as Supervisor, but that was a mistake on the part of No.2, and No.26 was soon reinstated to his position.
   And then there’s the question of No.1. Yes I know what McGoohan said about No.1 being the alter ego of No.6 who he was trying to beat, but that was after the event. I was not aware of that at the time, when I first watched the series at the tender age of nine. What was it Cobb said as he was about to leave The Village, “Mustn’t keep my new masters waiting!” That doesn’t sound like No.1 to me. And in ‘The Schizoid Man’ No.2 told No.6, who was as No.12 at the time, “Our prize prisoner, the one we call Number Six. Toughest case I’ve ever handled, I could crack him of course, but I can’t use the normal techniques. He’s too valuable, mustn’t damage him permanently say our masters.” That “Our masters” doesn’t sound like No.1 to me, does it to you? There has to be a No.1 of course, but in The Village, these “masters” sound as if they are beyond The Village, back in London presumably.
    There are a number of characters I feel sorry for. No.2 of both ‘A B and C’ and ‘The General.’ Twice he underestimated No.6, you’d have expected him to have learned his lesson the first time! Madam Professor, she was left a widow, living out the rest of her life in grief and in The Village, alone and without friends. No doubt in time she would carry on with her art seminars, what else had she got left? Then there’s No.2 of ‘Hammer Into Anvil,’ not a strong character at all, who is left a broken man forced to report himself as a breakdown in control. I imagine his sad end as being a patient on the psychiatric ward of the hospital! Then there’s No.36 who cannot go a day without her sweets. Originally it was to have been cigarettes 36 couldn’t go a day without, the nicotine you see being addictive. But as it is No.36 is now addicted to sugar, unless of course she has recently given up smoking, and uses the sweets as a substitute for cigarettes To pacify the craving for nicotine!
   I suppose my least favourite episode is ‘Do Not Forsake Me Oh My Darling,’ because there’s so much in the episode which doesn’t really make any sense. I can see the reason for Sir Charles Portland, because this time No.6 is effectively the Colonel, and he has to go running back to someone from the department he once worked for. As for Janet Portland, she seems to be quite superfluous to the episode! And even after 50 years I still cannot make my mind up if there is just Sir Charles Portland and British Intelligence who want to know where Seltzman is, or The Village as well, or if both are one and the same! As for The Village, No.2 might not know where doctor Seltzman is, but that didn’t stop them from acquiring the Seltzman machine! I mean where did they get that from, if they didn’t know where Seltzman was? I suppose if they had been looking for Seltzman, they might have got close on his heels, so close in fact that at one point he may have been forced to abandoned his experiments, and his machine in order to evade capture. At the end of ‘Do Not Forsake Me Oh My Darling,’ No.6 said “the good doctor’s mind now inhabits a body perhaps not to his liking, the Colonel’s. Doctor Seltzman had progressed more than any of us had anticipated, he can, and did, change three  minds at the same time. He’s now free to continue his experiments in peace.” Experiments, does that mean doctor Seltzman has previously left a trail of subjects, or victims, with their minds wrongly housed in other people’s bodies, and now he’s free to continue that trail? After all, he’ll need at least one subject if he’s to change the Colonel’s body for that of someone else!
   Another anomaly is referenced by Piet Hein in his column in regard to the fault in the dates used in ‘The Schizoid man,’ which I shall not repeat here, as he has gone into it in-depth already.
    However despite its faults ‘the Prisoner’ is a remarkable television series which has held me captive for the past 50 years, and looks most likely to do so for many years to come. It has a powerful opening sequence which held me spellbound when I first saw it back in 1967. As a boy I was excited by the series, it captured my imagination. It was action and adventure, the undertones of the political commentaries about education, politics, surveillance, the question of information etcetera didn’t bother me at the time. In fact I didn’t think too deeply about ‘the Prisoner’ until several years later. Oh I had questions of course, as for ‘Fall Out,’ that left me totally bemused at the time. It might have been better if I could have watched the episode again, but that was an option not open to me of course, not until the mid 1970’s in fact!
    I’ve collected ‘the Prisoner’ on video and DVD. I’ve read the books, worn the badge and blazer, collected the memorabilia, and merchandise produced over the years. Been a member of Six of One, attended Prisoner Conventions at Portmeirion. Have I got Patrick McGoohan’s signature? I think I have, on a photograph, but I’m not sure if McGoohan actually signed it himself or not! But I do have other signatures of actors and actresses who appeared in the series, as well as one or two members of the production crew which I’ve been lucky enough to collect. Many of them written in my presence so I know they are genuine.

    What next for me? Well I’m going to have a nice cup of tea with lemon, and nibble on a short cake biscuit! I’m suddenly feeling a little nostalgic, and have the desire to go through my collection, perhaps to take time to read some fanzines about ‘the Prisoner’ produced as far back as the late 1970’s, some of which I have been fortunate enough to have collected. I think also to play ‘the Prisoner’ LP record produced in the mid 1980’s by BAMCARUSCO for Six of One: The Prisoner Appreciation Society. Larry Hall of the society at that time was involved in that as I recall.         

Be seeing you

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