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Sunday 12 March 2017

Prismatic Reflection

   50 years of ‘the Prisoner.’ The series has worn well, even better since the re-mastering of the original 35mm film, not to mention Blu-ray and High-Definition. I have only one out of those three, and yet I still prefer to watch ‘the Prisoner’ via good old fashioned video tape. The series has managed to endure the passing of the last fifty years, where some 1960’s television series have long since fallen by the wayside. But perhaps ‘the Prisoner’ might not have endured so well had the series been filmed in monochrome. Its repeats on television would have been less frequent, and in more recent years hardly, if ever, re-screened by television channels. As mostly they do not like screening old back and white television series!
   So what of ‘the Prisoner?’ I was instantly captivated by ‘the Prisoner,’ at that time, the series was made simple being viewed through the eyes of a 12 year old boy. I was completely unaware of the complexities of the series which I would explore as an adult. It was an adventure, a man resigned his job, abducted to The Village from which he tried, tried, and tried again to escape. During ‘The Chimes of Big Ben’ like Number 6 I was captivated by Nadia’s story, and swallowed it hook line and sinker. I really thought Number 6 had managed to escape. I felt his pain at being betrayed, not by Number 2, nor by Nadia who was just doing her job. No, by both the Colonel and Fotheringay. Then later in the series again Number 6 managed to escape the confines of The Village. He appeared to be free, I trusted he had escaped. But no, his freedom was an illusion. It was as Number 2 once said in ‘Dance of The Dead,’ he’ll eventually go back to his room, it’s the only place he can ever go!
   To me as a 12 year old boy ‘the Prisoner’ was an adventure. Oh there were questions, who is the Prisoner, why did he resign? Who is Number 1, who is Number 2? Where is The Village? What on earth is that white Guardian? I didn’t find it frightening, I had watched the
BBC series ‘Quatermass And The Pit’ and that didn’t scare me, so an over-sized white balloon wasn’t going to! As for the conclusion to the series, ‘Fall Out,’ I thought that the questions I had going around inside my head would be answered, they were not. And with that the series had gone. It wouldn’t be for another 8 years when I would be able to watch ‘the Prisoner’ again. When I did it would be about two and a half times, being able to receive Anglia, Central, and Yorkshire all part of ITV’s television network. Although Yorkshire television cut the screening of the series about halfway through, such were the low viewing figures apparently. After that it wouldn’t be until the 1984 screening of ‘the Prisoner’ that I would hear that opening clap of thunder, the car zooming out of the distance to the sound effect of a jet aircraft, and then the powerful theme music which runs through my mind as I type these words.
    In the barren years without being able to watch ‘the Prisoner’ it never left me. I don’t think I thought about it everyday, but it was there somewhere in the back of my mind and so easy to begin thinking about. I don’t remember exactly how much I remembered from the 1967-68 screening, all I can say was the series never left me, it was easy to call to mind even if not in any great detail, but especially the theme music. That’s the thing about ‘the Prisoner’ its not just the action that makes the series, the incidental music also has its part to play. The careful selection of the music helps create the mood, at times it sets the scene. And one episode, ‘Do Not Forsake Me

Oh My Darling,’ its sole redeeming quality is its music. I’m with Eric Mival when he wrote in his book ‘Cutting Edge My Life In Film And Television’ that ‘Do Not Forsake Me Oh My Darling’ is musically, a unique episode. And again I find myself in accord with Eric Mival, in preferring its original title ‘Face Unknown.’

    For years ‘the Prisoner’ was a very private affair for me. My father hated the series, he thought me to be wasting my time watching it. My mother never understood it. And my classmates never watched it, and the few that did said it was rubbish! In later years my friends couldn’t understand my obsession with ‘the Prisoner,’ and it wasn’t until after 1986, when I first subscribed to Six of One: The Prisoner Appreciation Society that I could make friends with like-minded enthusiasts, and begin to discuss and write about the series in-depth! What is so remarkable about ‘the Prisoner’ is that even after 50 years of appreciation, I’m still finding something I had not noticed before, like the way No.8 {Rosalie Crutchley} appears in a scene during ‘The Chimes of Big Ben,’ and the Butler strangling to death a man in a white robe in ‘Fall Out!’   

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