Letters archived from 1996:
- Jason W. Moulder, June 30, 1996
- Julian Yap, July 1, 1996
- K.A. Bray, July 9, 1996
- Rylan Bachman, September 11, 1996
- Carmel Morris, October 4, 1996
- William C. Francis, November 12, 1996
- Kevin McCorry, December 17, 1996
- `Number 0', December 23, 1996
- Darren M. Reid, December 23, 1996
- From Jason W. Moulder, June 30, 1996:
I am a long-standing Prisoner pundit, and I want to make a comment about the ``episode order'' question.
First of all I would like to say that I agree (basically) with your views on the correct viewing order of the episodes. However, I am of the VERY STRONG opinion that not all of the episodes should be included for viewing at all! For instance, ``Do Not Forsake Me Oh My Darling'' was such a crappy excuse for an episode. Let's face it, Patrick McGoohan's interest in the series at that point was waining, and he was more interested in doing ``Ice Station Zebra.'' So the producers had to write around his absence. I say GET RID OF IT! (Shocking to hear that from the no. 1 Prisoner fan of all time, isn't it?)
Another example of ``filler'' episodes would be ``It's Your Funeral'' and, possibly, ``The Schizoid Man.'' I am just not comfortable with what the writers did with these episodes (The rover incident in ``Schizoid Man'' really infuriated me to no end! It just didn't jive no matter how you try to explain it away.)
Here is my idea of the best program (not necessarily in order):
- CHIMES OF BIG BEN
- A, B, & C
- FREE FOR ALL
- MANY HAPPY RETURNS
- DANCE OF THE DEAD
- CHECKMATE! (questionable)
- LIVING IN HARMONY
- CHANGE OF MIND
- HAMMER INTO ANVIL
- THE GIRL WHO WAS DEATH
- ONCE UPON A TIME
Nothing else really satisfies my criteria. I do own the entire set of the ITC videos, and have watched them many times. I must say without a doubt that the VERY BEST of this incredible series (many, many years ahead of its time) are ARRIVAL, CHIMES OF BIG BEN, FREE FOR ALL, LIVING IN HARMONY, HAMMER INTO ANVIL, THE GIRL WHO WAS DEATH, ONCE UPON A TIME, and FALLOUT! If these were all I could have, I would be contented.
Perhaps it would have been better to have let Patrick McGoohan just do his original seven episodes.
Once again, commercialistic traditions and love of the almighty dollar almost ruined one of the GREATEST WORKS OF BRILLIANT ART this century has seen.
Do you find any truth in that?
Jason W. Moulder
Response from Kirby:
Yes, certain episodes don't need to be viewed in order to get a full understanding of the series. One could argue that ``all you need to watch are the McGoohan Seven.'' For us, many of the non-essential ``ten'' do have elements of ``The Prisoner'' in them. The four episodes which we'd say, don't have anything in them, and can be totally disregarded, would be: ``The General,'' ``Do Not Forsake Me, Oh My Darling,'' ``It's Your Funeral,'' and ``The Girl Who Was Death.'' These particular episodes don't have enough of a focus on Number Six's struggle to cope in the Village, which is the general theme of the series. All seventeen episodes should be watched, but if one wanted to narrow it down due to time constraints, these four, in our opinion, should be eliminated. (Note we are not eliminating ``BAD episodes''; this is because we have different tastes as to what are the worst episodes of the series. If you want to voice an opinion on ``bad episodes,'' the Survey is the place!)
- From Julian Yap, July 1, 1996:
I just stumbled upon your prisoner homepage today, and here I was despairing to ever find any prisoner fans in the US. Anyways, I'd just like to say that it is an excellent web page. Also, the bit about the Village being anywhere that you bring up under the question ``Where is the Village'' reminded me of a quote from Moby Dick about the island of Kokovoko. The quote goes something like ``It is not on any map, true places never are.'' Just a thought.
Be seeing you,
- From Mr K A Bray, July 9, 1996:
A matter of interest -- who do you think the best number 2 was? And, where do you think the Village was?
Response from Reed:
I don't want to sound like I'm ``jumping on the bandwagon,'' but I think that without question Leo McKern portrayed the best No.2. His acting in ``Once Upon a Time'' has no equal and he was also quite good in ``Chimes of Big Ben'' as well as his role in ``Fall Out.'' Aside from McKern, my favorite No.2 performances in the series have to be Kenneth Griffith in ``The Girl who was Death'' and as the President (similar role to No.2) in ``Fall Out,'' Mary Morris in ``Dance of the Dead,'' and the guy who did both ``The General'' and ``A, B, and C.'' Honorable mentions go to the guys who did ``Arrival'' and ``The Schizoid Man.''
The second question is more difficult to answer, and in a sense I think should have no answer. It is clear, throughout the series, that the Village is meant to represent the whole world, or, to be more specific, what the whole world might be turning into. PMcG tries very hard to emphasize the fact that the Village can be anywhere (and, simultaneously, is everywhere), e.g., the Village is a hodgepodge of architectural styles and hardly anyone refers to specific place names outside of the Village. (About the only geographically limiting aspects of the Village are that everyone speaks English there and the forecast is always for light, intermittent showers!) Further evidence of attempts to make the Village ubiquitous is that the script editors didn't seem to try very hard to reconcile the discrepancy between the location hinted at in ``Chimes of Big Ben'' and the hints given in ``Many Happy Returns.'' If we go strictly by COBB, the Village lies in the time zone one hour east of Greenwich, yet if we go by MHR, the Village lies somewhere in the Atlantic to the southwest of England, which is obviously west of England's time zone (or at least the same time zone as England). Additionally, if we look at ``Fall Out,'' the Village probably lies somewhere on Britain since the truck suddenly ends up on a highway outside of London and we never see a ferry scene (and this was long before the Chunnel was built, too)! If I had to pick one particular place to put the Village, I'd say it's somewhere on the southwest coast of Britain (i.e., a semi-mountainous coastal area in Cornwall) to account for the language/weather, MHR ``boat journey'' (hey, he could've overestimated the wind speed!), and ``Fall Out,'' and give up on trying to account for the evidence in COBB.
- From Rylan Bachman, Sept. 11, 1996:
I consider it very possible that No. 6 was in fact in control of the village throughout the entire series. Look at the evidence. They do not wish to damage him. He fits the warden profile. On the map of the village only he has a private residence. The village wants him to work for them in ``Fall Out'' and ``Life in Harmony'' when it was obvious that he would refuse. The most I will give No. 6 is that maybe he was a warden that was programed to think he was a prisoner. No. 1 is No. 6. I am not saying that I believe this entirely but I think it is a valid argument. Feel free to respond to this.
Be seeing you
Response from Kirby:
We believe that the Village existed only for McGoohan. . . . The others couldn't ``survive'' because it wasn't their Village. (The ``cabbages'' were probably introduced into the story because they would make No.6 discover his own self.) In lieu of this, he is special to the Village, so they don't damage him . . . they want him to ``give in'' like peer pressure in our society (which is the function of the ``Village'' for No.6). No.1 is No.6 because, ironically, the opposite occurred -- people gave in to him. This irony manifested itself in the identity of No.1.
We wouldn't say he was ``programmed'' because we believe the story is an allegory . . . so, everything that No.6 does in the series should be naturalistic. We're not saying anything that it isn't, though.
- From Carmel Morris, Oct. 4, 1996:
I have been a Prisoner fan for years and was lucky to have stayed in The Village in Wales just over two weeks ago for several days.
When I was younger I always thought The Village was a social experiment in human behaviour conducted by aliens i.e., Rovers, to see how we can be manipulated into comformity as a prelude to possible invasion.
In ``Free For All'' my thoughts were confirmed as I saw three guards surrounding the Rover as if they were being instructed/educated/EMndoctrinated or whatever. Something sinister always lay behind the due processes of the village as run by Number 2 and I see the glowing orbs as holding the key to the purpose of The Village.
Anyway just thoughts. (Good to watch the series with hash cookies).
and . . .
Almost forgot. My theory on why he resigned?
Of course it's a continuation of Danger Man in a way. He resigned from acting in Danger Man before the contract ran out (so I'm led to believe) as he became bored with the series. So as a kind of joke the Question in ``The Prisoner'' should be: ``Why did you resign from acting as Danger Man?'' The answer of course is that he was just plain bored!
Carmel (Gee, now where's that last hash cookie?)
Response from Kirby:
The first idea stated is very good . . . ``Very good, indeed.'' We wouldn't go so far as to say the Village is run by ``Rovers,'' but a theory which we have comes close to this! Let's say that the Village is run by orderlies, which may control the prisoner through a ``medium'' . . . that medium is Rover. So, in ``Free for All,'' Rover may be conditioning those prisoners at that moment. (Kind of strange that No.6 simply opens a door, and BOOM! There they are!)
- From William C. Francis, Nov. 12, 1996:
One simple basic comment:
There is more than one Village. There is more than enough information to convince me beyond any reasonable doubt that there are multiple villages, all appearing the same to anyone, prisoner or warder, on the inside. Number 6 is moved around from one to another during enforced periods of unconsciousness. The village of ``The Chimes of Big Ben'' is in one location (the so-called ``lost episode'' version shows 6 taking a star sight which nails it down very strongly.) The village of ``Many Happy Returns'' is off the coast of the Iberian peninsula and the village of ``Fallout'' is on England's sceptred Isle. Any questions?
Response from Kent:
If the Village is to be regarded as a "prison for oneself," then it should only seem fair to assume there is only one true Village, because multiple Villages controlling just one Prisoner doesn't make a whole lot of sense. The various episodes where No.6 tries pinpointing the location of the Village only tell us that it's impossible to determine where the actual location is. It could be anywhere! Saying that Villages exist in different geographical locations is only an attempt to rationalize something that can't be rationally answered -- namely, does the Village even physically exist??
- From Kevin McCorry, December 17, 1996:
[Merge of 2 messages]
Hello. I am a relative newcomer to "The Prisoner", having had it recommended to me again and again from friends and fellow fans of other ITC series.
Having viewed all the episodes, supposedly in their entirety, on our Canadian arts channel, Bravo!, I believe the following is the best possible order for episodes. I agree with your theories to a large extent but do diverge from you on some points:
- Arrival (June, 1967)
- Dance of the Dead (June-July, 1967)
- Free for All (July, 1967)
- Checkmate (August, 1967)
- Chimes of Big Ben (Sept.-Oct., 1967)
- Many Happy Returns (February-March, 1968)
- The General (April, 1968)
- A, B, and C (May, 1968)
- Do Not Forsake Me, Oh My Darling (June, 1968)
- It's Your Funeral (Aug.-Sept. 1968)
- Living in Harmony (Sept. 1968)
- A Change of Mind (Oct. 1968)
- The Schizoid Man (Feb. 1969)
- Hammer into Anvil (April, 1969)
- The Girl Who Was Death (May, 1969)
- Once Upon a Time/Fallout (June, 1969)
As for my explanations:
1) The Prisoner still has the mole on his left wrist when he ``falls dead'' in ``Living in Harmony''; so, this episode should become before ``The Schizoid Man''.
2) ``The Schizoid Man'', dated at February 10, if it comes later in the series, must come after ``Many Happy Returns'' and ``Do Not Forsake Me...''. Because if it doesn't, then ``Living in Harmony'' would have to come earlier, and that's unlikely given the use of hallucinogenic drugs, signifying a more desperate attempt to make No. 6 ``crack'', which positions this episode later; the desperation behind the attempt to make 6 crack in ``Schizoid...'' would also seem to place it later on also.
3) The milk-drinking No. 2 says in ``A, B, and C'' that he hasn't been checking up on No. 6 very much; but in ``The General'', he is constantly checking. Plus the fact in ``The General'' that this No. 2 says he and No. 6 are ``old friends'' suggests that ``A, B, and C'' is their first encounter, followed by ``The General''.
[Editor's note: These four explanations pertained to episode rankings in the first message, which were slightly modified in the second message. This particular explanation is defunct.]
4) All other episode placements were made by looking at foliage to give an idea of the season. ``Arrival'' seems late summer as does ``Dance of the Dead'', ``Free for All'', and ``Checkmate''. In ``Chimes...'', it looks fall-like in the Village, while winter-like heavy rain, with lightning, is falling in ``A, B, and C'', suggesting Medierranean winter. The Village in ``Many Happy Returns'' looks winter-like, while in ``Do Not Forsake...'', flowers seem to be in bloom, and there is full foliage in ``It's Your Funeral''.
My impression on the symbolism in the series, though still nascent, is that the Village is a block to the transcendent freedom of the spirit or soul; hence, the closing shot in each episode of No. 6's face ascending up from the village and being barred from further upward progress (to Heaven?!). Thus, I think the Village is a purgatory, depending on how one looks at it; and freedom could either mean ascent to the world above or below depending on what a prisoner would do with his freedom. I agree that the urge to be top dog or to dominate society politically is an inferior one, on both ``sides'' of the Iron Curtain, that must be resisted, and that freedom to ascend to a higher level of spiritual being is in no way synonymous with the inherent inferior wish to dominate the Earthly world in a Napoleonic fashion. The frequent depiction of No. 2 as Napoleonic, most evidently in ``Do not Forsake...'' and ``The Girl Who Was Death'' suggests No. 2 is an inferior projection of the universal human urge, and which No. 6 is valiantly resisting though not with complete success, to rule the world, or the Village, or the Western town in ``Living in Harmony''.
I'm also slightly modifying my view on the symbolism of Rover; it can either represent the Earth and its hold on the human spirit, pulling it back each time it tries to escape; or it can represent that part of the human psyche that is problematically bound with the Earth and the associated desires to conform to a group, or to dominate a group, or to dominate the world itself. This way, the watery origin of Rover signifies that watery place of origin of life on planet Earth, and the roar of Rover denotes the wildness of the id when bound to Earth by such regressive desires as the wish to conform or dominate, or to take risks for sheer thrill or to test one's fortune with ``lady luck'', or to ``make it'' with any woman, or the whole mother Earth itself. The id must be broken free of the bond of its worldly or Earthly fixations for the whole human spirit to be truly free. The rocket motif would seem to fit with this mode of interpretation. Along similar lines, I have a theory of the Prisoner being an aggressive Alpha Male which the others in the village want be led by and conform to. His aggression could take him in either direction, upward to real liberation, or back down to ``imprisonment'' in Earthly fixations, depending on whether or not he gives in to the urge to be a part of or rule a society of complacent, conforming ``cabbages'' on Earth. If he resists this and all the inferior bodily temptations, he is spiritually truly free and deserving to be "the first man on the Moon" in the heavenly firmament. So long as one is willing at assign a celestial versus terrestrial quality to the spiritual conflicts in the Prisoner's mind, such an interpretation, as airy as it may seem, does to my mind have quite an elegance.
Finally, I do think ``Do Not Forsake...'' is a very imaginative episode; transmigration of souls using technology being a very daring premise. The only shortcoming of the episode as far as I can see is the bad editing. Nigel Stock's greying hair is not evident in any wide shots in No. 2's residence or in McGoohan's car.
All for this time.
Response from Kirby:
(Concerning point 1:) Acute observation! Here's our counterpoint: After PMcG beats up Curtis near the end of ``The Schzoid Man'', he asks Curtis for the left mole on Curtis' arm. Then, we clearly see that PMcG takes the ``fake mole'' and applies it to his own arm. This leaves the possibility that the mole stays on Number Six's arm the rest of the series (and clearing up any potential plot holes!)
What this whole sequence with the mole means is that the Village probably used laser surgery to burn off No.6's mole during the ``reconditioning'' sequence and put a fake mole on Curtis' arm. Since McGoohan really does have a mole (knowing PMcG, he probably would not have the mole permanently removed), the producers had to stage a reapplication somewhere in the episode.
(Concerning point 2:) Most of this point ties in with point 1, with one exception: Note that ``The Prisoner'' was taped in roughly one year's time (if we exclude ``Fall Out''). Not that it completely foils this episode theory, but we wouldn't expect the producers to ``leap'' years during filming. What this implies is that `Schzoid' and `Returns' should be as close to each other as possible, due to the datings in the episodes.
About the symbolism of ``the Prisoner'', it's fine! We tend, however, to broaden the symbol as far as it can go. In other words, we simply treat ``The Prisoner'' as a struggle against conformity, which is, in our books, ``good versus evil''. Of course, the theory of Rover ties-in with the symbolism of the series, so the theory of Rover can also be broadened if need be.
We don't believe that Patrick McGoohan wanted a religious focus in ``the Prisoner''; however, we do feel that its universal messages can be viewed differently, depending on the religion of the viewer.
- From `No. 0', December 23, 1996:
I'm a relatively new fan to the series. I only began to watch two years ago after reading an episode guide in Starlog. The EG itself sparked an interest in what I was told was an enlightening and thought-provoking series, so when the series was aired on television. I jumped at the chance to see it. I was not hooked immediately. After watching 3 or 4 episodes, I was ready to throw in the towel until I watched The Chimes of Big Ben. Why did this particular episode change my mind about the series? It was simple. The story was straightforward with a charismatic antagonist as well as a fair deal of interesting plot twists. This is what I want from a series. Maybe this makes be a conformist who wants to be pandered too like all the other cabbages but I aspired to be more I looked at the more surreal episodes such as Dance of the Dead, or Fallout for enlightenment but I found none (yet). I read articles that explained the meaning of the series, but isn't that sort of missing the point?
I wonder if perhaps the series is praised a little too much. Certainly the plot of an individual man trying to escape a forcefully social world is an interesting one but... Oh hell! I've lost my train of thought. I'm not trying to criticize the series' symbolism or meaning and I'm not trying to paint myself as an unintelligent James Bond junkie. The Prisoner is intriguing if not totally coherent and I would rather be challenged by an intelligent series than insulted by a silly one.
Response from Kirby:
That's the problem with thought-provoking series: They become cult classics instead of ``Star Wars'' classics. It goes with the old saying, ``The harder you work for something, the more you appreciate it.'' And here, the difficulty in learning this series probably helped us deal with personal situations better than any old ``All in the Family'' episodes ever had!
- From Darren M. Reid, December 23, 1996:
Is it not possible that there simply is no No. 1? When the prisoner meets No. 2, he automatically assumes that there is a superior No. 1. This sounds to me like conforming. Why must there be a No. 1? Maybe the man in charge is really No. 248 or maybe he has no number at all. During my initial viewing of the series I was sure that No. 1 would turn out to be the Butler. I don't believe there is or ever was a real No. 1. It was a mistake on the part of No. 6, his belief that there must be a No. 1 shows that he is not the individual that he thinks he is. Why would No. 6 refuse to use his real name if he does not wish to be identified as a number?
Response from Kirby:
Ah, but that's the point! The public was itching for a No. 1. Since PMcG was forced to answer their pleas, he made No. 1 exactly what the public didn't want, a manifest of their idolization for him! So, don't down McGoohan for having a No.1 . . . he had the guts to reject what the public wanted, another ``Goldfinger''.
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© 1996 Reed, Kent, and Kirby Meyer. Last modified: Mar. 12, 2006.