Letters archived from 1997 to 2005:
- Wink, January 3, 1997
- William Hiorns, January 6, 1997
- Graeme Cree, March 13, 1997
- Graeme Cree, March 19, 1997
- Jason L. Smith, March 24, 1997
- Unknown, July 13, 1997
- Melvin J. Burmaster, July 16, 1997
- Kevin J. White, July 18, 1997
- Sam West, July 23, 1997
- Andrew Dimond, August 25, 1997
- Mark Brassington, August 26, 1997
- From Wink, January 3, 1997:
At the beginning of each episode, Number 6's ID card is shown being dropped into a file cabinet. For a short period of time, the camera focuses on the card and there is a hollerith code (key punches) to the left of his picture. Has anyone ever deciphered these to see if they says anything (like J. Drake).
Response from Kirby:
- From William Hiorns, January 6, 1997:
Regarding the penny farthing, a friend of mine suggested that it was a symbol of the Village's isolation from the Real World. The Village is the little wheel, the Real World the big. But they're not really that different from one another, are they?
At the least, it's a pleasing observation, wouldn't you say? (theory by Nigel Whitton; credit where due, etc.)
Response from Kirby:
Yes, at least, this is the `old' theory of the bicycle, for the ending credits of the ``Alternate Chimes of Big Ben'' . Apparently, either this symbolic message was too complex, or too vague, because these ending credits were never used again.
- From Graeme Cree, March 13, 1997:
I have some comments regarding your explanation of FALL OUT. My primary difficulty is that reading your theory, you make it sound as though The Prisoner were intended to be some sort of long-running incisive commentary into social life, but when the public reacted badly to it, that McGoohan changed gears, ended the series prematurely, and killed characters such as Rover that the public had reacted incorrectly to. In fact, we all know that The Prisoner was about 10 episodes longer than McGoohan desired, not shorter.
I do not see Fall Out as either a response to the critics, nor a major changing of direction. Rather, it was a reasonable conclusion to what the series had been building to ever since the beginning.
At some points you seem to be saying that the whole message is that people just need to think for themselves more. At other points, the message is that people did not listen to what McGoohan was telling them. You need to be careful how you formulate this, since these two ideas are a bit at variance. The statement "Don't listen to what I tell you, do what you think is right" borders on contradiction. We see the same syndrome in Monty Python's Life of Brian, where Brian keeps trying to tell his followers to think for themselves rather than trying to follow him. What neither Brian nor the writers seemed to notice is that the crowds were in fact doing exactly what they wanted to do, and were also in fact ignoring what Brian was telling them, just as he said he wanted. In this light, one wonders what the problem was.
Another problem I had (and this applies to every commentary on Fall Out I've ever read, not just yours), is that there is absolutely no attempt to explain what LITERALLY was going on. Allegory is multi-layered, with a literal interpretation on the surface, and a deeper symbolic meaning underneath. People speak about Fall Out as there there were no literal level at all. If it's a true allegory, there must be one, even if the literal interpretation is nothing more than claiming that it was all a dream.
My view of the literal meaning of Fall Out is that the Village was employing a more sophisticated version of the ploy they tried in Free For All, i.e. enslaving Number 6 through giving him a nominal (but meaningless) position of authority. Get Number 6 involved with the Village and its way of doing things, under the guise of letting him think that he was pulling strings, when in fact they were pulling his. It was believed that after the ordeal of Degree Absolute that Number 6 would be more susceptible to these tactics than he was during the election. The person Number 6 saw in the tower was not the real Number 1 (assuming there is a real one), but merely another Curtis-style clone who was on the scene to disorient Number 6. (Number 6 and Number 1 are not LITERALLY the same person; we saw two separate people in the room, not one). The Village really was in Southeastern England, though I believe that there are two or more Villages in the world, all identical to each other. This would be necessary in order to separate people who would otherwise work together, when you don't want to permanently harm either one.
For example, after the little misunderstanding in ``Checkmate'', Number 6 and Number 58 (the rook) would have known that they could trust each other in future escape attempts, but they never got the chance, since we never saw the Rook again. Most likely, he was merely moved to one of the other Villages to keep him and Number 6 apart. The same goes for #50 (Monique, the watchmaker's daughter), another trustworthy confidant who just disappeared. Allegorically, there is no problem with multiple physical Villages, since allegorically, the Village is inside Number 6, with himself (in his guise as Number 1) as his chief oppressor. He takes the Village with him wherever he goes, even into the outside world, as we see at the end of Fall Out (i.e. the Village automatic door on his London flat, and the fact that he is still referred to as "Prisoner" at the end).
As for the automatic door, this is a good example of the two levels of meaning. Literally, the reason the door opened that way is because Village personnel had been making modifications to his flat, and used equipment that they had on hand. Allegorically, it tells us that for Number 6 the outside world is still the Village.
While I say that Number 6 and Number 1 are not literally the same, I am well aware that allegorically they are. That's the whole point of the show. That's what distinguishes The Prisoner from your average run-of-the-mill anti-utopian the-baddies-are- out-to-get-us show. The concept that the ultimate enemies can be inside ones head rather than outside. Take ``The Schizoid Man'' (which I consider to be the quintessential Prisoner episode). Number 6 does have external enemies in that episode, but what makes it special is that his own mind, body, reactions, and even taste have been co-opted into fighting against him.
Just as it is vital to the show's concept that Number 6 and Number 1 are the same, I also consider it vital that Britain and/or NATO be the ones that run the Village. The show's "enemy within" concept demands that Number 6 be a victim of his own people, not a group of outsiders like the Soviets, or even worse, aliens, as some have suggested.
As for the idea that the West runs the Village, this makes sense on both an allegorical and a literal level. Allegorically for the reason I just cited. Literally, because we see Number 6 drive out of the Village and be in Southern England minutes later. There are several other clues. In ``A. B. and C.'', Colin Gordon says that he thinks that Number 6 was selling out and wants to see what would have happened "if we had not got to him first." This seems very plain. In ``Do Not Forsake Me Oh My Darling'', Number 2 asks "If I had told you 10 years ago that WE [my italics] could have flown a rocket round the moon would you have believed me?" (Admittedly this is less clear than the Colin Gordon example, since we don't have a precise date for the series).
Reactions to specific comments:
Patrick McGoohan hated what he perceived as the public watching him instead of his ``ideals.''The belief that society can have a deleterious effect on individuality is not exactly an ideal (i.e. something to be striven for). It's more like an observation, and something that should be opposed.
Not only was his philosophy not working, but, in fact, people were conforming to him more than ever!What do you mean by "working"? He made statements about the effects of society, but he offered no precise solution or workaround for the problem. The fact that Number 6 is still a Prisoner at the end even suggests that McGoohan thinks there is no solution, apart from the obvious one of exiting society.
So, who's Number One? As McGoohan would say, ``He's exactly what the people wanted!''And what does this mean? The public wanted another `Goldfinger', as you said yourself.
He made No.1 his physical self, the identity everyone had conformed to in the past sixteen episodes of The Prisoner.No, no, and no! Even if it's true that the public idolized him, they certainly did not "conform" to him. Quite the reverse. You said that the whole reason McGoohan was upset was because the public did NOT conform to him (i.e. listen to what he had to say and think about the issues the show raised).
He ``rocketed'' this image of him out of this planet forever! Then, he leaves the ``Village'' and The Prisoner series, to be FREE again, free from the bonds of conforming to others, and from the bonds of people conforming to him.But Number 6 is NOT free at the end, he is still called "Prisoner" onscreen, despite the fact that he has escaped from the Village. McGoohan himself has said that Number 6 does not ultimately escape and that he believes that true freedom is an illusion.
There was the hidden message that he wanted to leave The Prisoner because people were conforming to him rather than conforming to their own ideals.No. As we all know, McGoohan only wanted to do 7 episodes in the first place. He was talked into doing more than he wanted, not less. He ended the show because he intended from the beginning that it should have a very short run. He did not decide this later after seeing the public's reaction.
McGoohan didn't want this kind of conforming at all! He was trying to tell them not to do this!An example of the point I raised earlier. McGoohan was telling the public NOT to do something. They ignored him and did what they wanted to instead. You call that conforming?
Rover ``dies'' for the same reason No.1 gets ejected into space -- everyone saw Rover as an icon of The Prisoner, which made PMcG feel it distracted the people from understanding his ideals, so he ``destroys'' it at the end. (He wants this icon ``out of his life'' as well.) The song ``I-I-I ... I like you very much'' makes a lot of sense here, if you were a viewer who likes Rover a lot!I considered that the destruction of Rover symbolized the breaking of the power of the Village, by the end of their faceless enforcer, not an attempt to annoy any possible members of a Rover Fan Club. Again I maintain that Fall Out is a logical continuation of what The Prisoner was ALWAYS intended to be, not an abrupt change of pace brought about by a reaction to the fans.
PMcG, McKern, and Kanner throw all those objects out of the truck at the end for an important reason: people viewed him, as well as The Prisoner, ``materialistically,'' so he destroys this idea.Huh? I saw no rejection of materialism in Fall Out. If the show was anti-materialistic they would certainly have destroyed that beautiful car of his before a bunch of old bedsheets.
PMcG takes in the Butler, McKern, and Kanner, because they are the only ones who don't conform to his ideals. The Butler, in particular, doesn't care about PMcG's ideals; he just does his job.I thought it was because they were the only ones who did conform to his ideals, specifically his ideal that the Village was a rotten place that should be hastily departed from, preferably leaving smoldering wreckage behind. The others may have made a pretense of conforming to him, but their way still had the Village pulling Number 6's strings, rather than the other way around. You saw what happened when he tried to reject their offer of leadership and try to leave. You're right about the Butler though. He recognizes authority and follows it without question.
Everyone yells ``I'' in No.6's final speech because everyone only cares about ``Him.''Why should they care about him? They don't even know him. They haven't even seen him on TV like we have. My impression of the "I"'s was that it was to show the viewer that the Village's offer of leadership was not genuine. They may say that he's in charge, but in reality he isn't. In fact, no one is truly listening to him at all.
He takes the checks and petty cash because he rebels against anything that ``the public'' wants (he's trying to show the viewer that he won't stand for anything the public wants him to have).Huh? By offering him the checks and petty cash, shouldn't we assume that they wanted him to take them? So by taking them, he is in fact doing what they want, not rebelling against what they want. And certainly not making a statement against materialism as you said earlier. From the look on his face when he took them, my impression was that he was thinking "You want to give me this money? Sure, I'll take it, but don't think that I'm now obligated to you. I'm still my own man."
He's simply saying [to Kanner] that we can rebel against society, but it doesn't have to be to the point that we destroy society.Considering that they left the Village in ruins when they departed, it's unlikely that this is what he was telling Kanner. Besides, Kanner seemed a rather non-violent and harmless rebel. He was after all the rebel without a cause who has no clear idea what he is rebelling against. Remember how he first hitchhiked one way, then the other?
The glass orb (which No.1 holds out to No.6) is a symbol of No.1's power. It seems to be an allegory of God holding ``the whole world in His hands,''Not God, but rather temporal, corrupting earthly-style political power.
No.1 (the image of PMcG which PMcG is trying to reject) is holding the ``world'' of worshipping TV viewers who want to conform to him.Again, I maintain that the episode is neither a direct statement to fans, nor a change of direction, but a continuation of what the series was always about. The globe represents not the world of television, but the power over the lives of others that they were nominally offering him. The idea was to use Number 6's dislike of the Village against him. "You think the Village is so bad? Well okay, you run it and show us how it should really be done." That might or might not be a good thing if he were truly in charge, but as it were, the "authority" they were offering him was a trap and he knew it.
When No.6 takes this orb and smashes it, it represents PMcG's desire to ``free'' the public of conforming to his ideals and his hope that they become independent thinkers.No, it represents Number 6's understanding that the offer of authority that the Village was making was not genuine, but merely another means of enslavement. The orb does represent the world, or power, as you say, but when he looked inside all he saw were the prison bars slamming shut.
``Once Upon a Time'' was filmed before McGoohan envisioned who No.1 was going to be (he stated this himself in the Troyer Interview),I haven't read that interview, but I thought that McGoohan had publicly stated that Number 6 was always intended to eventually be Number 1, and that there was really no other reasonable way to wrap up the show. You're right though that OUAT was filmed long before Fall Out, and kept on the shelf to eventually be used as the penultimate episode.
Thus, No.1 may have killed No.2 because PMcG thought everyone wanted to see No.2 die...'' Of course, No.6/PMcG never wants to kill anyone off,Wait a minute. McGoohan killed Number 2 because he thought that's what the public wanted, even though he himself didn't want it? Isn't that conforming? Incidentally, what makes you so sure that he was really dead? I wouldn't believe everything that the Village tells you. While I suppose it's possible that they have some means of bringing people back from the dead, it seems much more likely that he was in some kind of catatonic coma, intended to shake Number 6 up, by making him think that Number 2 was dead. "See that? We just killed our own guy! We really mean business this time!" That sort of thing. Remember that we were told that Cobb was dead also, but that turned out to be a lie.
Response requested. Since I've disagreed with you on so many points I would naturally be willing to listen to any rebuttals you may have.
Response from Kirby:
The most confusing part raised is the issue of ``conformity.'' What is it that the society called ``The Village'' wants to follow under No.6? What is it that Patrick McGoohan does not want the public to conform to in real life? This is, I think, one of the reasons why ``Fall Out'' is such a morally challenging story.
Obviously ``mannerisms'' and ``ideals'' are the two issues at play here. We know that No. 6 despises society imitating his behavior and his personality (The President discusses this at great lengths. Even if what he says is a con game or not, Number Six rejects whatever he asks for.) So, with mannerisms out of the way, we come to ``ideals.'' This, we believe, is the problem PMcG had with the episode. He knew that he wants everyone to think for themselves (he knows his ideals aren't the best in the world!), but the only way to promote this is by preaching this. Talk about a paradox! ``Fall Out'' was a way to illustrate this ideal without preaching it . . . this is about the only solution that exists. We have to solve it for ourselves, otherwise we would blame PMcG with blatant hypocrisy (those who solve the riddle would understand why he would conceal such a thing). To sum up what we have to say concerning conformity, we say, ``He desires independent minds working for a collective whole.'' He despises all forms of conformity, and conceals the ``paradox of individualism'' because of its implications. We don't truthfully know if this is what he preaches in this episode, because PMcG won't (and shouldn't) tell us. He wants people to listen to him, but he does't want to preach anything.
This should resolve most of the comments regarding individualism. I agree that the prospect that ``society has a deleterious effect on individuality'' is not an ideal, but more of an observation. However, most cases we end up alluding to ``individualism,'' which is an ideal, so this is a subtle point. Also, we agree that he never actually enforced his philosophy concerning individuality prior to this episode, but we are sure that he had his mind set on addressing this issue in ``Fall Out'' due to all the media hype concerning who No.1 should be. Again, this really doesn't affect much of the material presented in the ``Fall Out Theory,'' since most of it regarded that particular episode only.
Now, hand picking some of the lesser comments. ``Fall Out'' was a reasonable conclusion to the series. Nothing was said to indicate that McGoohan ended the series prematurely with ``Fall Out.'' I stipulate, though, that he had to change gears a bit in order to accommodate the conformity issue. Note that this ``changing gears'' caused George Markstein's resignation.
We also know that PMcG's desire was to be ``FREE'' at the end of ``Fall Out'', with his attempt to rocket No.1 off the globe. We also know that was a vain attempt, but it was McGoohan's intent to try to be free. The statement regarding the orb is correct . . . it should extend to more than just ``TV viewers'' (this phrase was edited in by mistake). Number One is an archenemy of Number Six; the difference is that he has the appearance of Number Six instead of a fresh face. Yes, No.6 isn't LITERALLY No.1, because No.6 is standing opposite him in ``Fall Out.'' But in all other aspects, they are the same. If things were done less like a ``criminal-revealing'' scene out of a murder mystery, PMcG might have made No.1 realize that he himself was controlling everything in ``The Village'' (a tragic discovery that he was LITERALLY No.1). But since he wanted the protagonist to win, he had to create a separate individual to rocket into space.
Regarding the comment concerning ``I'': Oh, the committee in ``Fall Out'' knew No.6 all right. They have Number Two to tell them these things. We also agree about the fact that they are ignoring him; there has to be reason for them to say ``I'' though. He also took the money instead of the position in ``Fall Out'' because he assumed that the public wanted him to take the leadership position. Also, in ``Once Upon a Time,'' Number One killed Number 2 because that's what the public wanted. Note the subtle difference between ``No.1'' and ``No.6''; No.1 is everything that No.6 despises, so anything that No.1 does, PMcG hates. He despised the fact that No.1 killed No.2 so he threw down the drink.
There was a comment made concerning No.6 and the Rook in ``Checkmate.'' Actually, in lieu of ``Checkmate,'' we assume that the Rook never would make it in the Village as long as Number Six would. He simply underwent conversion roughly two episodes later, or roughly in two months' time. He just probably ``gave in'' rather than be transferred to another Village (if another exists). As for No.50, she, like Allison in ``Schizoid Man,'' probably already ``gave in.'' After all, there is no evidence to show she has an independent mind like No.6.
Lastly, the literal meaning of ``Fall Out'' has less weight than the allegorical meaning. After all, McGoohan wanted the viewers to ``read into it'' much more than simply ``face value.'' However, for completeness sake, there should indeed be a literal meaning.
Our literal translation of the episode is this: Since Number Six had proved himself to be a powerful asset for the Village (see OUAT), the heads of the Village request him to be a leader of the Village. They bring in two other ``prisoners'' who failed the supreme test to become a ``leader''; one of these was a Number Two, who ran affairs of the Village, but was never truly a ``head'' of the Village; indeed, even he was given a number. They allowed No.6 to make the ultimate decision concerning their fates, trying to give No.6 some authoriative experience.
Nevertheless, Number Six rejects this position of authority; he was against the Village from the beginning. The leaders concede to this, but since they still consider him to be an asset, they ``ask'' Number One to force him to become a member; that is, they want Number One to use his hypnotic powers on Number Six. What they failed to realize was that Number Six knew what was about to happen; he drops the orb before being influenced by it, and locks Number One up. Since the present leaders expect him to either come out 1) hynotized, or 2) not at all, Number Six had to plan his escape. He seeks the aid of the two rejected prisoners and the butler, and ultimately, kills everyone who was in their way. They make their escape, but he realizes that it's only the beginning: the rest of his life, much like in real life, will be a struggle to avoid the Village.
- Also from Graeme Cree, March 19, 1997:
Answers to many questions posted: 1. The Pennyfarthing Bicycle
Everyone repeats McGoohan's statement about the Pennyfarthing being an ironic symbol of progress, and why not? Considering how few definite answers he's given about the series, we shouldn't ignore the ones he does give.
However, the real question about the bicycle is not what it means to Patrick McGoohan, but what does it mean to the Village that they should choose it as their emblem? Certainly they don't have any qualms about the speed of progress. I think it goes back to Leo McKern's idea of "the whole earth as the village". Most likely this was not a private fantasy of his own, but a generally hoped for objective of the Village hierarchy in general. The important thing about the pennyfarthing is the wheels, both alike in everything except size. The small wheel represents the Village, and the large one the world. They are intended to eventually be alike, and in some respects already are.
As far as what the bicycle forming during the credits means, this is merely reminiscent of progress, i.e. construction. The construction of the bicycle "progresses" throughout the credits, but the end result of this progress is the sinister emblem of the Village.
Why the ``POP'' Was Removed From Alternate Chimes
This isn't really clear, since it was a behind-the-scenes production decision. Perhaps they didn't want to make it too obvious from the beginning that the Village was meant to represent the world. Maybe POP was too cryptic, and so the reference to it was moved to Leo McKern's single comment in Once Upon a Time.
The Butler's Umbrella
It may not mean anything necessarily. It would be a mistake to think that absolutely everything in The Prisoner is a coded message. For example nobody asks what it means that the Dome is green rather than blue, or what it means that the Mini-Mokes are coloured brown and white, or what special signifigance the Radetzky March has. If the umbrella means anything at all, it is probably nothing more than that the Butler who always recognizes authority, but never questions it, sees things in black and white.
Inverted Colour Pins
This was probably never intended to show us who were the prisoners and who were the warders. Disguising the warders was done as early as Arrival, and the only Number 2 we EVER saw wearing a black badge was Georgina Cookson, and that was almost halfway through the series.
One possiblity is that the badges mean nothing. They are merely something that prisoners like Number 6 are supposed to wonder about, and become more paranoid as they wonder. Another possibility is that since most people in the Village seem to have some sort of job or other duties, the badges might represent nothing more than showing who works night shifts and who works day shifts. A third possibility is that they could represent a mocking attempt of the Village to claim that they were a free and open society. "What do you mean repressive? You can wear a black badge or a white one. The bicycle can point to the right, or to the left. We aren't telling you how you have to do things. See how much freedom of choice and expression you have?" All within limits set down by the Village of course. The badges could be kind of like the "Walk on the grass" signs; an attempt to show the illusion of freedom, by granting unimportant freedoms.
What Is the Underlying Message of Dance of the Dead
I don't believe that DoTD is nearly as early as some people do. There are references to Number 6's being new, but there are also clues that he has been there for a while. Number 6 says "The maids come and they go," and Number 2 says "That he has broken rule after rule cannot be denied." I like to leave this episode where it was originally broadcast, right after Many Happy Returns.
For one thing, the cat from Many Happy Returns appears in DoTD and Number 6 says "Oh, you've turned up again, have you?" Also it makes more sense if the dead body is used to explain Number 6's disappearance at the end of MHR, rather than his original disappearance. If he had resigned his job in London and turned up dead at sea shortly thereafter, this would have looked very suspicious. On the other hand, if the jet from MHR had disappeared, and Number 6's body had then turned up in the sea, this would have looked very natural. And after all, some way had to be found to explain to the rest of the world what had happened to Number 6 at the end of MHR. Even if we presume that both Thorpe and James were working for the Village, the original pilot of the aircraft certainly wasn't.
What about Number 6's statement that "I'm new here."? Well, since he was only in the Village for about a year, he was always "new", compared to many of them. Besides, if Number 6 had been gone for about a month, and had just been forcibly brought back, it would be just like him to claim that he was new AGAIN, and therefore couldn't be expected to obey or know any of the rules.
As far as the overall message of the show, it revolves around the Village's claim that society is more important than the invididual. Number 6 is told that he exists or doesn't exist only at the pleasure of the community, and has no existence outside of it. The Village believes that society makes the individual, not the other way around, and that society has the right to mold or reshape the individuals as they see fit. Case in point: Dutton. Number 6 of course regards this theory as bollocks.
Theory About Many Happy Returns
Kirby suggests: "Perhaps this episode should be considered nothing more than an elaborate birthday present! Let's suppose No. 2 was a kind, elderly woman, who wants to see her prisoners a little bit happier. In No. 6's case, she gives him a "birthday gift" of having him return home and find out where the Village is!"
I have to strongly disagree with this. After all that we heard about how vitally important Number 6 is, it is impossible to believe that they would take such large chances with him on a mere whim. Suppose that the gun-runners had killed him, for example?
You cannot tell me that MHR was an attempt to make Number 6 happy. Rather, it was an attempt to drive him completely over the edge through the trauma of bringing him back to the Village just when he had finally begun to believe that he was rid of it. Also to reduce his desire to escape by showing him that he can never be secure even if does manage to get away.
The most interesting thing about Many Happy Returns is that it shows just how much the Village really does know about him. They know that he was serious when he threatened to try to return and destroy the Village if he escaped. In fact, they made him eat his words that he was going to "escape and come back." Thanks to Colin Gordon's efforts in A. B. and C. they knew that he was not selling out, and was still loyal to his old superiors, even though he didn't wish to work for them any more. The plan could never have been tried if they didn't know this. They knew that Number 6 would not be carrying a gun with him on the jet (can you say John Drake?). They knew that Number 6 would not break Georgina Cookson's neck out of sheer rage at the end, like a good many secret agents would (can you say James Bond?). Number 6 is in fact a very predictable fellow, and the Village knows quite a lot about him, which only makes them angrier that they can't figure out why he resigned.
The most intriguing question about Many Happy Returns is what would have happened if Number 6 had actually tried to get his old job back. Perhaps they wanted to see if he would have done this, and would not have returned him to the Village if he had. Perhaps they never believed that he would do this and just wanted to teach him a lesson.
Why Number 6 Didn't Escape at the End of HIA or COM
Or It's Your Funeral, for that matter. Change of Mind is easy to explain. Just because Number 2 is being chased by an angry mob doesn't mean that someone is going to give Number 6 a helicoptor, nor does it mean that everyone guarding the copters, (not to mention everyone in control), is going to abandon their post to go help Number 2.
Hammer Into Anvil is a bit more difficult to explain, but not too much. Number 6 triumphs over Number 2 at the end. If he then "debases" himself by asking Number 2 for something, such as a pass to leave, he would spoil the moment, and more importantly raise Number 2's suspicions so much that he may decide not to turn himself in. Also, since Number 2 is himself under observation, Number 6 probably knew that he was being watched, and that they may not prevent him from breaking this weak link in their chain, that somewhere the alarm was being given to make sure that he didn't take advantage of the situation to leave.
As for It's Your Funeral, this is the really difficult one to explain. He could have easily tried to use the bomb to try to get both himself AND the retiring Number 2 out of the Village. Probably, he believed that they would both be stopped, which would force them to kill the new Number 2, but would not get either of them out of the Village. After all, very few people knew about the assasination attempt. The rank- and-file would not see anything unusual in the retiring Number 2 getting into the helicopter and leaving as he was supposed to do, and would therefore not stop him. But if the most important prisoner in the Village tried to leave with him, somebody would have delayed things enough to prevent either from escaping. True, Number 2 would probably have died, but this would not have helped Number 6. In fact he would then have helped them to carry out the public death of A Number 2, as they had desired.
It's also possible, as some have suggested, that the experience of Many Happy Returns had convinced Number 6 that escape was not possible and that the Village must be destroyed from within, however this seems doubtful.
It would be much easier to destroy the Village from without, if he could escape knowing it's location. And it wasn't until Hammer Into Anvil that he found an effective means of attacking the Village from within.
The Girl Who Was Death
Kent says: "Most of the story is an allegory of the Village. For example, the scene in which Number 6 is in the Butcher, Baker, and Candlestick Maker shops. These scenes reflect Number 6's trying to escape the Village. And, when he does, he gets shot at (he won fair and square, but authority doesn't even want to give him the satisfaction of winning)."
I really don't think there is much allegorical or symbolic about TGWWD at all, beyond the obvious casting of #2 in the role of the classic bad guy. Most of the story is not about escaping from any place, but in defeating the enemy. If the show has any larger meaning, it may be merely that Number 6 has decided to try to bring the Village down rather than merely get away from it. There's nothing in particular about the Butcher, Baker, and Candlestick Maker that makes them represent the Village. In fact they're all very unlike the Village because Number 6 escapes from each relatively easy.
Number 6 is always opposed to Number 2, but this story does make you wonder what experience he had with "Sonia" (if that really is her name), that would cause him to tell a story about her. Maybe she stuck very close to Number 2 (like Frank Burns and Margaret Hoolihan) and Number 6 found it amusing.
There are actually some vague similarities between the rocket in TGWWD and the rocket in Fall Out (they both used the same set for one thing), but Number 6 could not have been alluding to Fall Out, as it had not happened yet.
How Number 2 Knew Curtis Was Really Number 6 in "The Schizoid Man"
This one is very easy to answer. He knew that Curtis was a fake because he didn't know that Susan had been dead a year. How did he know to ask about Susan? For one thing, only moments before, Number 6 did not appear to know that the General was a "what" instead of a "who." But Number 2's suspicions had been aroused even before this point. In the office, "Curtis" 6 had said that Number 2 should have known that Number 6 would go berserk because the whole plan had been his idea. Number 2 replied "That's an odd thing to say. You know it wasn't." Number 6 had tried to talk his way out of this, but was not entirely successful, as evidenced by the strange look that Number 2 gave him when he was leaving the room.
Why Rover Killed Curtis
Kirby says that this was because Rover was programmed to kill anyone BUT the real Number 6, but this cannot be. The Village knew that Curtis was staying in the house, and the password "Schizoid Man" was meant to identify Curtis, NOT Number 6. Rover had been guarding Curtis, while the real Number 6 was supposed to be in Number 12's house.
So, why did it happen? The show doesn't tell us, so any explanation is going to seem contrived. However, I think that the signifigant point is that Number 2 doesn't know why it happened, even after the fact. Therefore, it seems that it must have happened because of some factor that Number 2 was not aware of. In this light, my best guess would be that Rover had been driven to a higher level of alert by the fact that TWO people both knew a secret password that only one person was supposed to know. This higher alert level represented a serious security breach that permitted Rover to use lethal force. Number 2 might have known that Rover inexplicably went from Orange Alert to Red Alert (for example) just before it killed "Number 6", but he would have no idea why that happened, since nobody else knew that Curtis had revealed the proper password before being killed.
This is all a guess of course. There's nothing in the episode to suggest that this was the case. But it seems to make sense when nothing else does.
What Rover Represents
There's nothing terribly cryptic about Rover. He doesn't represent the Moon or anything like that. He's simply one of society's enforcers, faceless because to us it's not important who he is, only what he does. (Kind of like Imperial Storm Troopers in Star Wars, except that they are at least humanoid.) The fact that Rover is round probably doesn't mean anything, other than the fact that being amorphous makes it more frightening.
I agree with Kirby that the lava lamp is meant to subliminally remind the Villagers of Rover and what may happen to them if they try to escape (or even defy the rules).
The Glowing "Rover" in Free For All
I have no idea. Everyone seems to refer to the "Rover Worshippers" who beat Number 6 up at the end of Free For All (although, to be fair, they did not attack Number 6 at all. They merely held him still so that the two people who came out of the holes in the floor could attack him.)
As I said in the comments about the Butler's umbrella, it is probably a mistake to think that EVERYTHING in The Prisoner has a specific meaning. Much of it is not a message per se, but an attempt to create atmosphere. Specifically, to create in the viewer's mind the same sense of surrealism and confusion that Number 6 is experiencing. And seeing something incredibly bizarre looking that seems to make sense to everyone else around you is one way of doing that.
In a place as complex as the Village, it would seem silly if everything were to be tied up in a neat knot. To give the show the illusion of more depth there would have to be things that Number 6 simply never finds out about, and this is one of them. Those people could have been doing almost anything: testing Speedlearn, keeping warm, practicing working around Rover without running away in fear, or any one of a hundred other things. There are simply not enough facts available to attach either a literal or a symbolic meaning to the event.
The "Exhilaration" Scene in "Fall Out"
I agree with Kirby's literal interpretation. He is explaining to the Policeman what he's doing in London, parking an unlicensed truck in front of Parliament. Number 6 is obviously giving him some cock and bull story, and the point towards Parliament is almost certainly inviting the Bobby to go and confirm the story with the influential Leo McKern.
As far as what it meant symbolically, I haven't a clue. Perhaps it meant nothing more than an attempt to add surrealism. Perhaps something specific which McGoohan didn't make clear. Perhaps something that was merely intended to strike certain chords in the viewer, and remind them of things in their own mind.
For me, what strikes me the most is not Number 6 gesticulating to the policeman, but rather the Butler standing in the foreground watching the whole proceeding dispassionately. This vaguely suggests the idea that human problems that look very serious and important to those involved may actually seem rather silly and unimportant when viewed objectively or from a distance. Whether that was what McGoohan had in mind, I couldn't say. If so, it's a random observation that isn't important to the message of the story as a whole.
Where the Village is Located
I have always believed that there are multiple Villages. This would be necessary to separate prisoners who would otherwise work together in escape attempts and/or provide moral support against the Village's psychological ploys. For example, if Number 6 had been incarcerated at the same time as Cobb, they would undoubtedly have worked together, and with Number 6's support, Cobb may never have been broken at all. The same would apply if Maxwell Smart and 99 were both taken to the Village they would also need to be kept apart, although Smart would probably destroy the Village anyway, offering nothing more than a "Sorry about that," as an apology.
Besides, don't discount the immense psychological potential of multiple Villages. No two places are going to be completely identical. Imagine if a prisoner were drugged and moved from one Village to another. The buildings might look the same, but he would sense differences that he couldn't explain. "Those trees look different than they did the other day. Didn't there used to be a big scratch in that pavement? What happened to the paint drippings that were on that wall the other day?" This kind of thing could drive some prisoners buggy with no more effort on the warders part. Remember Scotty telling Mr. Spock "the ship FEELS wrong" in That Which Survives? This would be much more disturbing. We see very vague hints to this effect in that the door knocker on Number 2's door is sometimes above the number and sometimes below. They could have just changed the door of course, to be disorienting, but multiple Villages would be much more effective.
Allegorically, there is no problem with multiple Villages, since symbolically the Village and Number 1 are something internal, rather than external and Number 6 takes them with him wherever he goes, even into the outside world, as we see in Fall Out.
Why Number 6 Resigned
I separately submitted a long piece that attempts to explain that question by postulating that Number 6, John Drake, and "Jones" (from Ice Station Zebra) are all the same person, so I don't need to go into that again.
[Editor's Note: This piece involves the theory that Number Six, a.k.a. John Drake, left his job because he was becoming a "faceless member" in the view from himself and superior officers. His job, as quoted, ``changed him'' so much, that he risked becoming a mechanized person if he continued on that path. He realized this problem, and quit before it progressed to the point that he really would become a ``number.'' The article was not posted in the Gallery due to sake of brevity.]
Response from Kirby:
No problems regarding the ``Pennyfarthing bicycle.'' About the ``POP!'': One thing that doesn't seem right, though, is to have philosophical words appear at the end of the credits. Names and titles are fine, but trying to address an argument by simplying saying ``POP!'' doesn't jive. We're sure the ``POP'' was put in, in the beginning, but was taken out because ITC grew out of it.
Concerning the ``pins'': Some of these arguments may be true; however, there is no evidence to support the ``freedom of choice'' motif. Number Six doesn't go into any philosophical discussions when he sees a black pin. In fact, he seems to be very nonchalent about them. The fact that an observer wears one in ``Dance of the Dead,'' though, cannot be denied.
Speaking of DOtD, one thing I don't agree with concerns the dead body scenario. I think there is just as much impact (even more) to bring in the ``death-in-real-world'' idea before a semi-late episode such as ``Many Happy Returns,'' because the episode becomes somewhat senseless as time goes on. The whole story is about trying to get No.6 to give in because of what they have done to his real-life identity. Why would this be introduced really late, when Number Six becomes so resistent to joining the Village that they have to use drugs on him like in ``A.B. and C.''? Mary Morris still felt that there was enough motive to crack him through non-physical ways. By the end of ``Schizoid Man,'' they had given up on that philosophy.
Lastly, let me rephrase my Theories Page discussion on ``Many Happy Returns.'' Yes, this episode was an attempt at breaking No.6. The best part was stripping away from Number Six the one thing he desired most . . . freedom. The excuse to give No.6 a bit of freedom was to consider it a ``birthday gift.'' They use Georgina Cookson because her warm personality is an irony of what the Village is actually doing. Thus, they intended to break No.6 with this birthday scenario.
Response from Kent:
Let me respond to the discussion about TGWWD (actually, I am the only one here that thinks of the story as an allegory of the Village). It may not seem that the Butcher, Baker, and Candlestick Maker is symbolic of the Village, especially since he escapes from them so easily . . . but, isn't that a common theme between the two . . . ``escape'' ? Here's Sonia holing No. 6 in these traps, and he has to escape to survive. The fact that he figures out so easily how to get past them shows that petty traps don't stop him. We can't get much more allegorical than that and keep the episode revolving around a superspy chase (it would be kind of stupid to have Sonia push him into those three buildings, trap him, and try to hypnotize him or some other cracking technique . . . after all, she's supposed to be Death). Sonia with the machine gun reminds me of ``Degree Absolute'' . . . sort of an idea that ``well, my little tricks didn't work, guess I'll have to outright kill (crack) him by myself. And, I better do it quickly while he isn't too smug in his ingenuity.'' Makes perfect sense to me.
Now, about the Lighthouse: what if in fact it WAS an allusion, or, even more likely, a prediction of ``Fall Out''? Granted, we know that PMcG didn't come up with the final plot for the final episode until much later than when TGWWD was completed. He still may have had an idea to the end of the series in mind when TGWWD was filmed, though. In any case, there's no reason PMcG could not take situations from earlier episodes and put it (in disguised form) into a later episode, especially if he thought it fitting.
Lastly, the concept of the Multiple Villages: don't get me wrong when I say that the idea of having more than one village is an attempt to rationalize something that is far too abstract. I never said that the idea of having many of them to confuse prisoners is totally wrong. Actually, it would be kind of neat if this were true! But, you've got to admit, that if PMcG and crew wanted people to believe there really were more than one Village, then they should have played it out more. For example, they could've invented an entire story about PMcG using the (in)famous Triquetrum to determine his position, then make an escape, but they put him in a new Village at the last moment so that he sails inadvertently toward the old Village. Or, a story (sort of like Alice Through the Looking Glass) where he walks into, say, the cemetery, gets mixed up in direction by all the heads looking at him, and follows the wrong path to an alternate Village. The possibilities are endless . . . in fact, so good that I (personally) would have expected to see such an episode, if PMcG ever thought of the idea of more than one Village. But, he never made one, so I am led to believe that the concept never existed in PMcG's mind, and therefore is not followed by myself.
Response from Reed:
Not only that, but let's think about the idea of multiple Villages from a practical point of view. The Village sure damn looks the same from episode to episode! Therefore, if there are multiple Villages, they would have to mimic each other to the most minute detail . . . imagine the amount of money it would cost them to bear this out! Hillsides would have to be reshaped to fit the same standards as the other Villages; mountains would have to be plonked down to imitate that mountain range we see behind the Village; and don't forget the shoreline would have to look exactly the same (imagine the difficulties of restructuring the shoreline and tidal patterns to match other Villages!). Oh yes, and don't forget the weather would have to be modified too (``light intermittent showers'' every afternoon, you know). I don't know of many terraformers who've figured out how to manipulate the weather yet. No, it's just one Village -- at least, literally speaking.
- From Jason L. Smith, March 24, 1997
My theory of the final two episodes of "The Prisoner" (please note, they are highly colored by DC Comics sequel, which I actually read BEFORE seeing the show):
In "Once Upon A Time", Number 2 is only given one week to perform the Degree Absolute with Number 6. Therefore, it's very rushed. There is an air of impatience and irritability to both Number 6 and Number 2 in the beginning of the episode. Number 6 goes up to another villager and provokes him in a particularly nonsensical way. This seems to imply that Number 6 is no longer mentally stable, and the sudden rush (since conventional wisdom seems to suggest that the village had him for over two years), may have been because because of his deteriorating mental state. Whatever the reason, Degree Absolute is begun. Overtly, it is a method of trying to "turn" number 6. Before this, it has always been done by trying to get him to reveal why he resigned. Think about it, though, Number 6's resignation was never a secret to them. We in the audience know that he resigned for moral reasons. The leaders of the Village could not be so dense as to miss that. Therefore, it's not so much the reason why he resigned which is important, but the fact that the Village wants to make him do something which he is unwilling to do. It comes out in Degree Absolute that another thing which Number 6 won't do is kill. McGoohan states that he was adamant about his characters never using guns; he didn't feel it was morally correct. However, by the end of Degree Absolute, Number 2 has escalated the battle of wills to a point where there was no choice but for 6 to kill 2. Presented in that context, it seems as if Number 6 has won the fight; however, the whole goal was to erode just enough of 6's belief system that he violates his own moral code, and kills. Number 6 has been broken. Game, set, and match to the Village. (this next part is supposition) However, it was done in too short of a time. The strain was too much and Number 6 undergoes a complete mental collapse.
"Fall Out" is the product of Number 6's collapse. It is a surreal and nonsensical figment of Number 6's imagination (whether staged by the Village, or just a delusion). The senate of Harlequin masks praise Number 6 as having met all of the Villages challenges, and finally ascending to the point of a Free Man. Number 6 is bemused by the proceedings, and watches as they bring out the hippie, and revive Number 2. Then they give Number 6 a choice, "Lead us, or go." They give him some money, and other things, all of which Number 6 accepts before beginning to make a speech. Number 6 treats this casually, almost as a joke, until he tries to make a speech, and the Harlequins won't let him finish one sentence. This jars him enough to realize what a farce the whole thing is. 6's conflict was not some ivory-towered debate about freedom, he was fighting for his life. The conflicts may have been viewed as a game, but they were not. To accept either choice would be to compromise his already compromised morals. So he runs away. In the rocket tube room, he meets Number 1, pulls away his Harlequin mask and sees a monkeys face. He pulls that away and sees his own face. I view that as follows: Number 6, even though he never cooperated, played along with all the games of the Village. They phrased the whole thing as a game, so that he would lose track, beneath all the witty dialogue, and bizarre costumes, that their only purpose was to destroy him. He finally did this, and lost sight of his goal of escape. More and more of his confrontations with the Number 2's seemed to be about 6 defeating 2, not about 6 escaping. Throughout the episodes, there were many ways in which 6 could have escaped, and yet he didn't.
So, in the final analysis, who was responsible for keeping him in the Village? He was. Therefore HE was Number 1. The village had made a monkey out of him. With this realization, he becomes completely broken, abandons all hint of morals and slaughters everyone in the Village, except for Number 2, and the hippie. They then escape with the butler. This scene is something akin to an idle daydream of escape. However, when he returns to his old house, the Butler goes in to serve him, and the door opens automatically, just as in the Village. Nothing has changed; he is still a prisoner. To drive the point home, he then begins his recurring dream of resignation from his position.
Anyhow, that's my take on it.
Jason L. Smith
Response from Kirby:
I agree with most of what you say up to the ``mental collapse'' in ``Once Upon a Time.'' I am one of those who firmly believe that the setting in ``Fall Out'' is as concrete as the episodes before it (i.e., not a dream). Two things are important to consider: First, I don't believe he suffered from a ``breakdown'' in ``Fall Out'' because Number Six's personality was constant throughout the episode. Sure, he ends up killing everyone, but he was just as straight-faced about it as he was when he saw the words ``Well Come.'' In fact, it seemed like it was destined what he was supposed to do. Second, behind all the garish costumes and props, the setting looks rather typical, but I don't think the costumes would indicate that this is a dream instead of reality. There is no instance between OUAT and ``Fall Out'' where he actually falls unconscious.
The President set up a trap in which to snare No.6. Since No.6's behavior is so obvious, he knew that No.6 would reject whatever he offered No.6., so all he had to do was ``lead a path'' into No.1's lair. We also think that Number Six knew exactly what was going to happen to him (get hypnotized or drugged with the orb), so he was just playing along until the end. What does this have to do with the comment above? Well, it shows that there probably exists an ``independent mind'' other than No.6. It also supports what was hypothesized in the previous paragraph.
- From Unknown, July 13, 1997:
This is a good prisoner site, Yalies. I admit to not having viewed all of the episodes, but I think that you need to do some more thinking about the last episode. I don't have any answers but I always wondered what #48 was all about and why #1 was represented by both a clone of Pmgh and a rocket.
I also didn't see an answer to one of the more important prisoner questions -- Was the Village run by Nato (MI6, the CIA, or the DDI) or by the Eastern Bloc (KGB or the Stasi)?
Response from Kirby:
Thanks for the compliment. Again, the ``Fall Out Theory'' is clearly unperfected, and probably will remain that way due to lack of solid evidence (unless PMcG can fill in some of the details for us!) We suppose Number One represents a clone of PMcG, although that is being sort of blunt. One question that needs to be resolved is why Number One lives in a rocketship . . . all we can say for now is that it somewhat indicates that the Village has a temporal existence, that is, only after Number One arrived.
The Village was clearly NOT run by the Eastern Bloc because of the events surrounding ``Many Happy Returns'' and even ``Do Not Forsake Me, Oh My Darling.'' Only the events in COBB support the Eastern Bloc, but these are tainted with the fact that Nadia was a traitor to Number Six. More evidence supports a Nato occupation of the Village, but the committee in ``Fall Out'' doesn't really follow that notion. So, we believe what actually ran the Village were followers of Number One (the public perhaps, those of his own kind).
- From Melvin J. Burmaster, July 16, 1997:
From a viewer of The Prisoner who was fortunate enough to see it when it first appeared state-side (and .... I am not that old!)
All the discussion about "who is Number One", at the time and now, generally misses one point which McGoohan most likely, given his libertarian impulses, wanted direly to communicate. The reflection in the mirror revealing "Number One" (the onlooker) being PGM, is precisely because of PGM's philosophy, "I am number one!" This the masses didn't appreciate as your comments have indicated as long before the term "PC" was available. It was bred to varying degrees into the collective consciousness of the peoples of the world.
Melvin J. Burmaster
Response from Kirby:
(I don't think the term ``PC'' necessary applies now or then, whether he was ``egotistical'' or simply being ``philosophical'' when he said, ``I am Number One!'')
Now, was he being ``egotistical''? We'd say ``no,'' simply because he wasn't so brazen about it. He simply thought, ``I am making No.1 who I think he should represent. If you don't like it, tough.'' We think he was defending himself by only showing 50 frames of Number One's identity. Of course, you're right in one respect: The public still thought he was being egotistical. And yes, certain people downplayed it more than others.
- From Kevin J. White, July 18, 1997:
The Butler's Umbrella
The umbrella and bowler hat are synonymous with the British Civil Service (This is what Leo Mckern is wearing when he enters the Houses Of Parliament in Fall Out) and this reinforces the idea of the butler representing the quiet machinery of government which works almost undetected to keep everything going. He appears in the open air with umbrella and hat usually after a crisis, often a failed escape attempt, and so I take the Butlers appearance at these time to indicate that business as usual has immediately been resumed, and that the Village as a whole has not been affected by whatever has just happened even if the immediate prospects of the current Number Two have been.
Where The Village is located
The A20 is the main road from London to Dover. Dover is the busiest port for trucks coming into the United Kingdom, hundreds of them cross into England from the continent there every day. I believe by showing them on this road we are being led to believe that Number Six and Co. have driven over from Europe, and that the Village is located somewhere on the continent. Leo McKern says in Once Upon A Time that the truck is fully self contained, can go anywhere and has food supplies for six months, which indicates that it would have been possible for them to have made quite a long journey before reaching Dover. It would be very difficult to hide the village in as densely populated a county as Kent near the A20 which further indicates they were using the road to get from the port to London. In addition the mountains that surround the Village, often shown on maps and as far as I can remember only once shown on camera preclude locating the village anywhere in England although do not stop it being located in Scotland or Wales.
Why Number Six Resigned
Number Six resigned, 'Because for a very long time...', this response implies he suffered a growing disillusionment with his job in the secret service. I think he joined the service full of idealism to fight for freedom, especially after have just beaten the oppressive Nazi regime in the Second World War. Unfortunately as time went on he found his masters fell far short of his standards and ideals and he realised he was not helping the cause of freedom by doing their dirty work for them. This of course would leave such a highly principled and independent man as Number Six no option but to resign.
Order of the Series
Congratulations, viewing the series in the order shown on your page is a great help in understanding the development of Number Six's relationship with his captors.
Fall Out on the surface at least is a study of different types of rebellion against society, society being represented by all the cloaked, masked and labelled people sitting behind the 'President'. What is shown is how society deals with these three types of rebellion. Number Forty Eight's rebellion is portrayed as being merely the inviable consequence of his youth, 'he rebels because he must', but then must be 'brought to book with a smack on his backside'. The masked men sing along with him and begin to stir from their places momentarily but then are quite content to settle down once he is recaptured. His rebellion is done for fun, it causes no one to question the status quo. The rebellion of the 'late Number Two' cannot be dismissed as lightly as he was a figure that commanded respect and is still treated with such; the President gives way to him to speak from his podium and the masked men become silent and attentive when he raises his finger. However this playing along encourages him and after making his statesman-like speech he then decides to try and out-stare Number One, this to the assembled populous is clearly going too far, the once trusted man is now out of control and the President can now treat him as a rebel without alarming the masked men. When it comes to Number Six's rebellion the President knows he has got a problem. Number Six has taken everything the Village can throw at him and survived intact, clearly his rebellion is a source of strength and must be taken seriously and he cannot be shown to be a turncoat who has 'turned upon and bitten the hand that feeds him'. The solution is to say, Right you win, you were right all along, show us the way. The masked men are then happy as their Hero is being treated with the respect that he deserves, indeed they are so encouraged to adulate Number Six that they fail to actually listen to a single word that he says. The fact that this is a trick is revealed when Number Six is taken below as another transparent plastic 'orbit' tube is being prepared for him.
Response from Kirby:
This is one of the best ``Fall Out'' translations I've seen. The only thing missing is Number Six (PMcG)'s involvement with society (why is ``Number One'' No.6?) that gets him ``into the thick of things.'' If you include that, chances are it would become similar to the ``Fall Out Theory'' we expressed on another page. Definitely more concise though; the best literal translation as well. Maybe it's time to update the ``Fall Out Theory'' to include a literal translation.
The theory of the Butler's umbrella makes some sense. Instead of us suggesting that ``Something major is going down!'', you instead suggest a subtle opposite that ``Everything's okay.'' Very intriguing. The idea about the A20 also gives some weight to the idea that the Village is located on an island/peninsula described in ``Many Happy Returns,'' but doesn't rule out an omnipresent Village. Of course, something to ponder is, ``If Number Six travelled from Gibraltar all the way to England, how come no one asked for his passport?'' To which someone would reply, ``Remember, he got a passport from The President!''
- From Sam West, July 23, 1997:
Greetings from North England, Prisoner fans.
I am a relative amateur with the Net, but it seems to me from the Prisoner sites I have visited that their is a massive interest in the series in America, which totally dwarfs the passion most Brits (excluding myself) have for the series! Don't ask me why -- as in my opinion it is by far the best piece of sustained TV entertainment of all time.
A few snippets of information for you which you may not be aware of: Recent reports which have come to light in the UK (due to the lifting of the official secrets act on some archived British Intelligence files) indicate that there may well have been a real 'Village' based in a remote area of Scotland. It was actually used as a kind of discreet prison for British Intelligence agents who were perceived by their superiors as being disaffected, or possibly already double agents passing secrets to the Russians. During their time at the village the agents would (it is rumoured) be subject to a wide range of prototypical psychological interrogation techniques in an attempt to find out where their true sympathies lay. I suppose it is possible news of this leaked to McGoohan and inspired the series.
I have always held the opinion that Portmeirion itself was as much the star of the series as McGoohan, and the Italianate village in a remote area of North Wales has its own little Prisoner shop selling merchandise and souvenirs. I have visited the village recently and found it still in truly awe-inspiring condition -- better than I ever imagined it!
If any US citizens are interested in visiting the village and cannot afford/cannot get a booking in the Hotel, I could accomodate free at my home in Manchester (60 miles from Portmeirion) which is a large city with its own international airport and transport network for the rest of the UK. Naturally I would like to visit the States/your country in return if possible.
If interested, please send me e-mail at the address below.
Response from Kirby:
Somehow, I think I know the reason why American fans such as ourselves value ``The Prisoner'' so highly. We miss the ``high-quality'' programs which are now absent from American TV, but still found on English television. (If the networks can hear me, stop feeding the American populace mindless drivel such as sitcoms!)
Also, thanks for the additional information regarding the Village. I do recall George Markstein mentioned to Patrick McGoohan the fact that a ``Village" really did exist before the start of the series . . . I don't know if it was that village, however.
Response from Reed:
Yes, rumors about a real-life Village have shown up in literature relating to The Prisoner well before this year. However, thanks for informing us a Village seems to have really existed, and is not just rumors.
- From Andrew Dimond, August 25, 1997:
I just watched the entire (except LIH) Prisoner series last week and it's already my favorite show. However, the one thing I can find to complain about was the way the series switched from allegorical (e.g. Free for All, Fall Out) to literal (e.g. Hammer Into Anvil, DNForsake) in the episodes. I thought it was brilliant both as a parable and as a spy series, but to mix them caused a problem once Fall Out rolled around. In my opinion, Number Six clearly isn't Number One of a prison for spies, the literal village. PMcG definitely made the right decision as to who No.1 should be, but it only works on a symbolic level. Speaking of Fall Out, what do you make of the music selected for the episode. any significance to Dem' Bones? And does anyone know how I can acquire Living in Harmony? Please...
Response from Kirby:
The ``allegory'' and ``pragmatism'' dilemma is simply that . . . a dilemma. We personally don't want to see a series full of concrete episodes (like the ``A-Team,'' etc.), but we don't want an overdose on those eerie ones (I believe ``Twin Peaks'' was like that, was it not?) And somehow, having the first 8 episodes concrete and the last 9 allegorical doesn't seem right. A mixture of both seems like the only solution.
The best thing to wonder is ``How many allegorical episodes should there be?'' Now here we can safely say that, yes, there were quite a few heavy-duty allegorical episodes in the series (DotD, FFA, CheckMate, and FallOut), plus lesser ones like ``Arrival'' and ``Many Happy Returns.'' I think an allegorical one needs to end the series in order to make it a ``cult favorite,'' and I am glad that Arrival wasn't too terribly allegorical. . . . I think that there shouldn't be more than two near the beginning, and only two at the extreme end. If there were any more episodes produced, we would've hoped for more of those concrete, ``Schizoid Man'' episodes. ``Too many cooks spoil the broth.''
Your other question regarded music for ``Fall Out.'' I think we mentioned an idea about ``I-I-I-Yi (I like you very much)'' in the ``Fall Out Theory.'' I think ``Dem Bones'' was used probably to show that No.48 was a human, not a prisoner. ``September Ballad'' which you hear a few times (notably when No.2 is pulled out of the trailer to be ``resuscitated'') is my personal favorite of the series.
Any ideas of how to obtain/purchase a single copy of ``Living in Harmony'' out there?
- From Mark Brassington, August 26, 1997:
Most interpretations of The Prisoner concentrate on the obvious political and moral aspects of the series. I'd like to offer a metaphysical reading. (Don't read the following if you haven't seen the final episode.)
The central focus of Number 6's interrogation is the question "Why did you resign?" Obviously his was no run of the mill resignation -- he has committed the ultimate resignation of suicide. Number 2, the intermediary Inquisitor between Number 6 and Number 1 (who is either Number 6 or Mankind or the Self depending on how you read the final episode) wants to know why The Prisoner rejected Life. The recurrent question directed at the protagonist is basically: "why did you kill yourself?" The French Existentialist Albert Camus thought that the only real question of philosophy was "why not commit suicide?", given that all human activity is ultimately futile. The Prisoner's attempts to escape the Village are fittingly Sisyphean.
During the series we learn that Number 6 was successful, loyal and dedicated in his professional capacity and about to be married to a beautiful woman in his personal life. The fact that he "resigned" from this evident happiness is the source of the pathos of the central figure -- he is strong, intelligent and affluent and yet he still could not answer the question "why?" (the unanswerable question he feeds into "The General" to destroy the computer).
There is inferred evidence for this interpretation e.g. the fact that he is gassed (a popular means of suicide before coal gas was replaced by less lethal stuff piped in from the North Sea) by a man dressed as an undertaker; the "resignation" of the new Number 8 he so strongly identifies with in "The Chimes of Big Ben" is strongly associated with her suicidal tendency (she suggestively says at one point "I didn't think it would be like this" and like Kafka's Josef K., she has committed no crime.); in "Do not Forsake me..." one of the photos in Number 6's codified sequence is of Beachy Head, England's most popular suicide spot. When the Prisoner finally "escapes", moreover, he returns to London in a cage and no living person responds to or acknowledges any of the "escapees" - the Prisoner dances with frustration before an oblivious policeman, the youth fails to hitch a lift. Evidently, when the door opens to the Butler in the same way that the doors open in the village, they have not escaped at all. The Hell which is the Village is, as in Dante, circular and eternal. The pattern of repetition is about to reassert itself. The plot and central concept of the series recall Flann O'Brien's "The Third Policeman", which is similarly concerned with Purgatory and figures of metaphysical authority. The central character of the book is, as in The Prisoner, dead all along, although we don't discover this until the end. Setting his political allegory in the afterlife enabled McGoohan, like O'Brien, to dispense with the usual laws of physics to achieve the surrealism which is central to the appeal of the programme, for example, the frozen citizens in "The Arrival"; the near-absurdity of "Rover".
The ambiguous location of the Village -- it is variously positioned in Lithuania, Morrocco and just down the A20 from London. Clearly, Number 6 is an Everyman in a universal Village of the mind. You can extend this line of reasoning as far as you like e.g. the black/white of the on-going chess game is the fight for 6's soul in a classical catholic Purgatory (confess your sins to escape); the two sides (tantalisingly represented by Leo McKern's Number 2 as "mirror images") are God and the Great Adversary (Whose side are you on?). Number 1 is neither of these figures, of course, because in the post-Nietschean Existentialist phlosophy which underpins the series, "God is Dead" and existence precedes essence, therefore the ultimate responsibility for the World of Mankind rests with Mankind: "They had a choice", says Number 2 in The Arrival. Perhaps the rocket ship in Fall Out, as suggested in the title is not a Saturn 5 blasting Number 6/1 off to become the Man-in-the-Moon but the intercontinental harbinger of nuclear war (don't forget the Cold War!) -- thus Number 6's resignation is not just his own suicide but the ultimate obscenity of Mutually Assured Destruction -- the suicide of the human race. Number 6, a political pawn, could no longer think of a reason to live as power-games and subterfuge fogged his understanding of life. Similarly, in the 60s we nearly lost the plot as a species. As I said, you could extend this line of thinking further, but I wouldn't bother -- watch some back-episodes on video instead and enjoy the interplay of meanings.
Response from Kirby:
Interesting, but there are several sections to debate here. The idea that No.6 commits mental suicide is almost antithetical of what happens. He is clearly gassed and kidnapped from an ``outside source'' against his will. I think No.6 is too strong-willed to accept suicide. I think that a more ``allegorical'' interpretation of ``Why did you resign?'' should be ``Why do you reject society?'' . . . if the answer to the question that has been eluding No.2 throughout the series was ``I was becoming an expendable asset rather than a human being'' while he was working for the secret service, then this allegorical interpretation would certainly hold true.
Some of the examples you use come from ``Do Not Forsake Me...'' and ``The General.'' Personally, we thought that these episodes broke most of the norms established from the other episodes of the series (except ``The Girl Who was Death''). Neither of these have a very Prisoner-esque feel to it; we don't like borrowing snippets from these two episodes for support. I do think the perfect floor of debate is ``Dance of the Dead,'' but somehow you didn't mention it!
In ``Dance of the Dead,'' No.6 is inflicted with the fact that he is now considered ``dead'' in the real world. This holds true with what you say; however, he doesn't accept this. He continues to escape the Village regardless of what No.2 tells him. Now, ``Beachy Head'' is an analogy at this point, because at an external viewpoint, everyone is dead in the Village, but internally, No. 6 is very much alive.
Return to Top
© 1996 Reed, Kent, and Kirby Meyer. Last modified: Mar. 12, 2006.