The Theories Page
in blazes are those four
guards doing around a glowing Rover?”
As was mentioned on The Prisoner main page, the following paragraphs are spoilers. Please, don't read any further if you haven't watched the series yet!
One of the greatest things about The Prisoner is that the series leaves so many questions unanswered, it becomes a floor for debate. No one person has the ‘perfect’ answer to all of the topics, but we'll hope to answer them as best we can. Namely, we'll discuss the answers that Patrick McGoohan himself gave whenever possible, but for those many topics that he intentionally left unanswered, we'll present what is either our own interpretation or is the consensus of many other Prisoner fans.
The topics are:
- The pennyfarthing bicycle
- Why the ‘pop’ was removed after “Alternate Chimes”
- The Butler's umbrella
- Inverted color pins
- Dance of the Dead
- Many Happy Returns
- Why No. 6 didn't escape at the end of HIA or COM
- The Girl Who was Death
- How No. 2 knew Curtis was really No. 6 in “The Schizoid Man”
- Why Rover killed Curtis
- What Rover represents
- The glowing Rover in “Free for All”
- The ‘exhilaration’ scene in “Fall Out”
- Where the Village is located
- Why Number 6 resigned
- Order of the series
Fall Out Theory.
Our greatest attempt at decrypting the final episode. It may not necessarily the best theory, but we think it is.
Here's the page where you can submit your own theories, as well as any comments about ours.
Our Episode Order Survey.
Very simply, you can find the results to the ‘Order of the series’ survey here, and submit your own! [work in progress]
Several instances back this claim: 1) He arrives home just one day before his birthday -- a little odd, but agreeable. 2) She graciously allows him into ‘her’ home, because it's part of the birthday present she's giving him. 3) When she refuses to let him leave the house in dirty clothes, you can clearly see she's trying to make an excuse . . . the real reason is that it's not a proper birthday present to see him walking around in shoddy clothes all day. 4) She bakes him a birthday cake.
So what we see is No. 2 being friendly enough to allow No. 6 to escape the Village for a brief time as a gift, and then return for a birthday cake back in the Village. The thing is, it ironically hurt No. 6 more than helped him! No. 6 doesn't care about the birthday cake . . . he's frustrated that he had spent a rigorous 30-day journey along the Atlantic to escape the Village, only to find that he had been recaptured so easily. He's frustrated to see that he can never truly escape the Village! No. 2 played things pretty smart in this episode!
Another part is the beginning (and actually, throughout the story), when “Death” is trying to kill Number 6 by simple methods. This is very similar to the beginning episodes of The Prisoner, where authority tries to ‘crack’ Number 6 with simple, done-before methods.
Throughout the episode, Number 6's trying to come face-to-face with Schnipps is similar to No. 6 trying to come face-to-face with No. 1 in the series. On this note, the lighthouse/rocket sequence should be remarkably close to the rocket sequence in “Fall Out.” Number 6 thwarts Schnipps' plans to send No. 6 up in the rocket. In “Fallout,” Number 6 thwarts No. 1's plans to send No. 6 up in ‘orbit.’
In “The Schizoid Man,” How Did Number 2 Know That Curtis Was Number 6 Before the Helicopter Sequence?
A more abstract explanation is this: Originally, No. 6 was separated into two parts, one physical (McGoohan), and one mental (Curtis). Rover cannot kill either one of the two parts, because they both resemble No. 6 in some way. Later, McGoohan pulls the mental image back inside of himself, making Curtis vulnerable to Rover.
I also like the lava lamp and its reminder to anyone that views it that Rover will always be around to prevent any escaping!
This is a theories page, however, so, we must try to answer as many of the questions as possible. I feel he resigned as ‘A matter of conscience’ [from “Arrival”]. No. 6 (McGoohan?) began to feel alienated from the powers-that-be. He felt that the government was beginning to call on him like some picture out of a file cabinet (à la opening credits). He didn't want to become some number; so, he resigned. Then, he gets sent to the Village. He already resented being a number in the first place . . . then he's forced to become a number! No wonder he hates the Village so much!
In “Chimes,” when the Colonel is discussing the Village with No. 6, No. 6 says, “I came back because I thought things would be different . . . it is, isn't it?” Something about the Colonel's attitude toward No. 6 in that very sequence is the very reason why No. 6 resigned!
First, it's obvious that any episodes where No. 6 says, “I'm new here,” should be put near the beginning. The same goes for any episodes where No. 6 is getting acquainted with Village life, or where the Village is only undertaking simple attempts to ‘crack’ him. (It makes sense that the Village would try the simple, run-of-the-mill methods at ‘cracking’ him first, and finding these to fail, try more-and-more elaborate -- and dangerous -- techniques as time goes on and the Village gets more desperate.) The episodes which satisfy the above criteria are: “Free For All” (FFA), “Dance of the Dead” (DOTD), “Checkmate,” and “The Chimes of Big Ben” (COBB).
The next batch of episodes consists of more detailed ‘cracking’ schemes and more elaborate escape attempts by No. 6. In these episodes, No. 6 acquires the most knowledge about the Village which he will use to his advantage later on in his attempts to defeat his captors. These episodes include “The Schizoid Man” (TSM), “Many Happy Returns” (MHR), “A. B. and C.” (ABC), and “The General.”
The last batch of episodes to be ordered share a few common themes. (1) No. 6, having been in the Village for some time now, is a ‘veteran’ in some sense -- he is well aware of the Village's methods and power and therefore has ‘come to terms’ with his fate somewhat; he has grown accustomed to the Village although he still maintains a highly rebellious, individualistic nature. (2) As a result, and especially after the devastating blow of MHR where he discovers that it is practically impossible to escape the Village, he decides to ‘play the game’ of being a Villager and rather than seeking every possible opportunity to pull off an escape attempt, he decides to undermine the Village from within. If he can't escape, he can at least throw a monkey wrench into the Village's big plans and maybe if he's clever enough, he can succeed in destroying the Village to the point where he can make good an escape. (3) The Village's attitude toward No. 6 has likewise shifted. They have pretty much exhausted all their ‘safe’ methods of trying to extract information from No. 6, so they take a much more passive role towards him; they still hope to ‘crack’ him somehow, occasionally pulling something new out of their bag of tricks, but they dare not raise the stakes lest they damage him permanently. By ‘passive’ I mean that they keep watch over him, and see if they can't catch him accidentally giving away tidbits of information as he gets more accustomed to Village life. In this phase they are patient, willing to wait rather than trying to wrench all the information out of him with brute force methods. Besides, they have plenty of other prisoners to worry about, and No. 6 isn't going anywhere. (4) Since the focus shifts away from the Village trying to crack No. 6 or No. 6 trying to escape all the time, we see more of what the Village does in its ‘daily routine’ when it isn't so concerned about No. 6. The six episodes which meet these criteria to various degrees are: “The Girl Who Was Death” (GWWD), “Hammer Into Anvil” (HIA), “It's Your Funeral” (IYF), “Do Not Forsake Me, Oh My Darling” (DNForsake), “Living in Harmony” (LIH), and “A Change of Mind” (COM).
Now to sort each batch. For the first set, DOTD is, in my opinion, the second episode; No. 6 asks “early” questions like, “Where does the food come from?” and the like. Next should come FFA, because it's similar in plot scope, and No. 6 still doesn't know the ins and outs of the Village. It's clear that between the remaining episodes in this batch, COBB and “Checkmate,” COBB should come first because here he learns that he should trust no one (in the beginning, he trusts Nadia, much to his later dismay) and he quickly puts this newly-learned lesson in practice in “Checkmate” where he develops a scheme to determine which people are likely to be trustworthy and nearly gets away with it.
On to the second batch. Since I'm trying to use information from the episodes (i.e., ‘raw data’, as opposed to pure speculation) to develop this episode ordering scheme, I'm not going to reject any item of information unless it's in strong contrast to the rest of the evidence (i.e., unless it's a major continuity error). Actual dates mentioned in the episodes are obviously especially useful for pinning down episode order, but unfortunately they are very hard to come by, and I see no reason to reject the few dates which are mentioned. In particular, I'm positive that there's no error in the MHR date reference (that the end of the episode takes place on March 19), because Mar. 19 is supposed to be McGoohan's = No. 6's birthday! Also, his sea voyage has lasted for almost a month (you can tell by the number of days he keeps track of). In TSM, there was a calendar in there which gave Feb. 10 as the date when they first started ‘experimenting’ on No. 6. Now, allowing a couple weeks for TSM to take place, and assuming that MHR happens right after TSM (there's no good reason for it not to . . . they could've vacated the Village any time they desired), it makes perfect sense to unite TSM with MHR and stick these two together (TSM being first) even if we don't know exactly where the other two episodes in this second batch fit in. The only argument against this is if an entire year (or more) passes between TSM and MHR, and I find that doubtful, especially when we learn that No. 6 has been in the Village only one year by the time of DNForsake. (As you'll see below, I put DNForsake at Episode #13 and it seems quite reasonable from both the story and episode production point of views that, on average, episodes occur at the rate of about once a month.) Okay, we've nailed together two of the four episodes in this batch but what about their relation to the two others, ABC and “The General”? Well, we know that ABC must follow “The General” (because the same No. 2 appears in both episodes, and in ABC he simply says “I am No. 2,” specifically leaving out the word new -- an obvious reference to the fact that he and No. 6 met before, viz., in “The General”). So we are definitely limited to one of the following three combinations for the four episodes (because TSM and MHR are tied together): General / ABC / TSM / MHR ; General / TSM / MHR / ABC ; or TSM / MHR / General / ABC. At this point it becomes more speculative, but I would like to see General and ABC tied together because they have the same No. 2 and it doesn't make much sense for No. 2 to disappear and come back later (although this did happen for Leo McKern's No. 2). So we should choose between the first or third possibilities. Let's look at where these episodes fit into the framework of The Prisoner as a whole. To me [and to Kent and Kirby], MHR seems to be, in a sense, the ‘climax’ of the ‘cracking/escaping’ episodes. No. 6 is shown in a most convincing way that escape attempts are futile; after this episode I believe No. 6 is so convinced of the impregnable nature of the ‘prison walls’ that he turns to undermining the Village from within, i.e., MHR is a true ‘turning point‘ in the series. As such, it should lie closer to the middle of the series (and certainly near the end of the second ‘batch’ of episodes, as I defined above), so I prefer putting MHR last in this batch and #9 (out of 17) overall in the series. So the order then is General / ABC / TSM / MHR, and at the end of this batch we are left with a ‘turning point’ which conveniently serves as a bridge to the third batch of episodes, those marked by No. 6's attempts to ‘destroy the Village from within’ rather than by escape.
The third batch has six episodes and no really good dating references, so this batch is definitely the hardest to put into order and is much more speculative. Nevertheless, I'll try my best. Since both LIH and COM involve ‘cracking,’ I put them first for reasons alluded to above (that is, the Village's final attempts at aggressively extracting information from No. 6 -- final before the literally ultimate attempt in OUAT, anyway). LIH goes first for a rather weak reason: I don't want to crowd together all three non-Village episodes (GWWD, LIH, and DNForsake) if possible, and we know that DNForsake has to go late in the series (see above) and it also seems reasonable to put GWWD late. Furthermore, COM is the ‘cracking’ episode where No. 6 wins the MOST . . . he actually succeeds in getting the Village angry at No. 2! (It's not only a preservation of his own mind, but another victory as well.) So COM should be the last time the Village authorities try to crack him (except for OUAT) because they give up once they find he's so strong it actually leads to the authorities getting in trouble. (In LIH they lost, but it's no reason to give up trying to ‘crack’ him.)
Okay, now we're down to HIA, IYF, GWWD, and DNForsake. In IYF, Kosho seems to be something old, ‘run of the mill,’ like a part of No. 6's daily routine (in fact, this is the context in which it is mentioned), whereas in HIA the concept of Kosho seems to be new and introduced for the first time. Furthermore, in HIA No. 6 goes up against a talented opponent while in IYF he faces more of a weakling; given No. 6's personality, he probably figures he can handle anyone in any sport but after he nearly gets his butt kicked in his first game of Kosho (in HIA), he discovers how tough the game really is and decides on a more manageable opponent for his subsequent games (like in IYF). Based on these arguments, and the fact that I swear that IYF uses ‘stock’ Kosho footage taken from HIA, I place HIA ahead of IYF, although there are reasons to argue the other way. I can think of no other good reasons to put HIA ahead of IYF except that it makes sense to keep HIA near COM since these two episodes are the ‘closest No. 6 gets to total victory’ episodes. For this reason, then, not only would I put HIA ahead of IYF but in fact I would put HIA right after COM. This latter argument is bolstered by considering where DNForsake should be placed: as mentioned above, DNForsake should be placed a year after Arrival (or more), which places DNForsake no earlier than episode #13 if we assume one month per episode on average as we did above. Using the same argument used for putting LIH first above (i.e., keeping the three non-Village episodes spaced apart), it would be nice to space DNForsake at least one episode away from GWWD, and GWWD looks like it would fall in the #15 slot. We already have LIH at #10 and COM at #11, so let's put HIA at #12 (satisfying the wish to keep it close together with COM) and DNForsake at #13 (satisfying the timing and GWWD arguments). IYF falls in at #14 because it has to happen after HIA (putting it at #13 at the earliest) and because of the desire to split DNForsake and GWWD. Note also that DNForsake (#13) and IYF (#14) seem to go together because they are both ‘what happens in the Village when they aren't dealing with No. 6’ episodes. Finally, I place GWWD at #15 primarily because everyone else puts GWWD at #15, so why change?
The arguments for making #13 DNForsake, #14 IYF, and #15 GWWD are the most hand-waving of all the arguments I've made for which episodes should go where, and I have no strong preference for which of these episodes fills which slot but I am reasonably convinced that these three episodes should not sit in slots higher than #13. So maybe the ordering #13 DNForsake, #14 IYF, and #15 GWWD isn't definitive, but to me it's just a matter of juggling around these three episodes, i.e., it's unlikely that any other episode could take the place of #13, #14, or #15.
So, here are the final standings:
- Dance of the Dead
- Free For All
- Chimes of Big Ben
- The General
- A. B. and C.
- The Schizoid Man
- Many Happy Returns
- Living in Harmony
- A Change of Mind
- Hammer Into Anvil
- Do Not Forsake Me, Oh My Darling
- It's Your Funeral
- The Girl Who Was Death
- Once Upon a Time
- Fall Out
There are many other possible orderings for this series, though.
©1996 Reed, Kent, and Kirby Meyer. Last modified: Oct. 25, 2005.