Kirby J. Meyer's Personal Comments on the episodes of The Prisoner

Episodes are ranked from best to worst in Kirby's opinion

1. Chimes of Big Ben

Brillantly thought out plot. As one of the few ‘big escapes’ No. 6 tries to make (the other two prime examples are “Checkmate” and “Many Happy Returns”), this episode differs in one respect. McGoohan, as producer, was able to conceal No. 2 [Leo McKern]'s plan until the end. Hence, a very interesting twist occurs (something that is not quite so evident with the other two episodes), making this an extremely good episode to watch. Brillant quotes and humor also enhance the story.

Overall Score: 10/10

2. The Schizoid Man
Also a beautifully mastered episode. Not much in quality separates this one from “Chimes of Big Ben.” Another plot twist livens up the ending of this story, which centers around No. 2 trying to psychologically ‘crack’ No. 6. The spotlight of this episode is originality. Perhaps the only reason I rate this episode lower (NOTE: Reed and Kent voted this episode on top of “Chimes”) is due to some of the holes in the plot. For instance, there's the fact that Rover kills No.12 although it's supposed to protect him.
Overall Score: 10

3. Many Happy Returns
A few may not like this episode, but I particularly enjoyed it since it focused on this: ‘No one can escape the Village.’ The 20-odd minutes of verbal silence in the beginning of this episode captured me the most. Somehow, I feel that this is the only episode I really understand. (Perhaps better than other people? The theory of MHR is discussed in the Theories Page.)
Overall Score: 9

4. Checkmate
Another ‘big escape attempt’ episode. The important thing I learned from this story is how No. 6 had adapted to the Village. He no longer assumes everyone is on his side; he has to search for the ‘whites’ himself. I enjoyed the Rover sequence at the end.
Overall Score: 8

5. A.B. and C.
The ending to this episode was probably the best of all 17, with the exception of “The Schizoid Man.” The acting job was done superbly on all sides. One of the only problems that I couldn't cope with in this episode, however, was the lack of surveillance cameras surrounding the ‘laboratory,’ the place where No.2 and No.14 ‘break into’ No.6's mind.
Overall Score: 8

6. Arrival
This is the first episode of “The Prisoner,” a good attempt in trying to focus on every aspect of the Village (it was important to introduce two No. 2s into the story). The only thing that didn't capture this episode was the rushed plot at the end. It seemed that the escape attempt was ‘crammed into’ the final ten minutes.
Overall Score: 7

7. Once Upon A Time
An excellent attempt at ‘cracking’ No.6--Leo McKern at his best as No.2 in this episode. Hence, the acting was great all-around. The main problem with the episode (and it was hard to avoid while writing the script for this story) was the lack of scenery, so it got pretty boring staring at a solid black background for a good 45 minutes!
Overall Score: 7

8. Dance of the Dead
This episode caught me off-guard a little, and I still can't figure out a few of the allegorical messages brought out from the story. Basically, the plot revolves around No.6 trying to instill life in a ‘Village’ which is hopelessly ‘dead.’ Mary Morris's performance as No. 2 was quite good, and I enjoyed the surreal ending (albeit somewhat confused).
Overall Score: 6

9. The Girl Who Was Death
This was an ‘Anything Goes’ type of episode, so I can't comment on any discontinuities in the plot. However, I was amused at some of the absurdities and humor in this generally good story, although the story didn't have much in connection with the function of “The Village.” (It may be argued that there were actually a lot of loose connections or an allegory for the Village, but I took this story at face value (see the Theories Page).
Overall Score: 6

10. Fall Out
There were good points and bad points to this final episode of “The Prisoner.” The strange thing is that the good and bad points are paradoxical. I didn't particularly like McGoohan's deliberate attempt at NOT explaining what was happening in the episode, but I did like the unexplained ending ‘that wasn't an ending.’ Nonetheless, a little too much allegory in this episode, I'm afraid ...
Overall Score: 6

11. The General
Although I enjoy plot twists, the twist at the end of this episode was somewhat obvious as compared to other episodes. A little off-beat in the prisoner ‘cracking/escaping’ department, it was still an enjoyable story about an attempt by No.2 to create “knowledgable cabbages.” But there is one more thing to be said about this episode: the plot does not revolve around No.6 like most of the other sixteen episodes.
Overall Score: 5

12. Free For All
This story was written by McGoohan, who also wrote “Fall Out.” This episode is akin to “Fall Out” in the fact that it was very complex, but not as complicated as “Fall Out” was. Sound simple? :) However, this episode lacks the kind of importance I find in many other episodes of “The Prisoner.” It's more of a ‘day in the life’-type episode, whereas most of the other sixteen episodes are on the verge of ‘cataclysmic!’
Overall Score: 4

13. Living in Harmony
I liked the ‘Western’ analogy to “The Prisoner” in this episode, but what really didn't hit me quite right was the rushed ending. I personally wanted to see the ending stretched out longer.
Overall Score: 4

14. A Change of Mind

This would have been a very good episode if it wasn't for the numerous holes in the plot. The lack of surveillance cameras, the fact that no one other than No. 2 or No. 86 checked on No. 6's progress, and other specific errors kept me from ‘absorbing’ the story. (I mean, would you enjoy the story if every five minutes no.6 dumps coffee in a nearby fern while No.2 was supposedly watching him during those 15-odd seconds?)

Plus, why WAS no. 86 so “STTTYYUUPIDD?” Any ‘doctor’ trying to drug no. 6 secretly would definitely do a good job of hiding it (heck, they did it good in “A.B. and C.” right before the last dream sequence; why not do it just as well here?). What I did particularly like was the importance of the “Village community” in this episode.

Overall Score: 3

15. Do Not Forsake Me, Oh My Darling
Some regard this as the worst episode of “The Prisoner,” particularly because it has little to do with the focus on No.6. As for me, I didn't declare it as such because I got to see a little bit about the function of the Village when it's not busy trying to ‘crack’ No. 6 or preventing his escape. Though agreed, there was little importance to this story.
Overall Score: 3

16. It's Your Funeral
This was one of the rare times where the acting was not quite up to par. Some of the actors performed mechanically at times, so it was difficult trying to distinguish the personality of each character. McGoohan was okay, but he didn't impress me. Also, the plot was a little too boring, and doesn't focus around No.6 quite like many of the other episodes do.
Overall Score: 2

17. Hammer Into Anvil
I like thought-provoking episodes, so this one's my least favorite. Only the acting of No.2 (Patrick Cargill) and McGoohan is what I felt saved the episode from utter waste. Why? The episode was too obvious and repetitive, and I felt shocked that I knew what was going on more than No. 2! The plot stinked.
Overall Score: 1


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Kirby J. Meyer, kirbym@cybermesa.com. Last modified: Oct. 25, 2005.