The Prisoner Episode Survey: Category Definitions
For each category, each episode is rated on a scale of 1 (worst) to 10 (best). There isn't any ‘curve’ or ‘quota’ to follow for these ratings; i.e., there doesn't necessarily have to be any 1's or 10's for any particular category.
- Visual effects in general. In particular, the panoramic countryside shots if outside the Village; the colorful buildings and costumes if within the Village; and fancy ‘high-tech’ props, high-tech especially for the 1960s.
- Background music in an episode which only appears rarely (if at all) in other episodes in the series. Or, if it is common background music, music which adds a particularly powerful accent to a scene in the episode.
- General quality of acting in the episode, with the exception of Patrick McGoohan (No. 6). The reasons for excluding McGoohan are pretty obvious; his acting quality throughout the series is fairly constant anyway. Note that this category will generally depend heavily on the performance of No. 2, as No. 2 usually is by far the dominant role in the episode with the exception of No. 6. In “Fall Out,” the “President” plays the role most analogous to No. 2.
- This pretty much means the same thing as ‘editing’ in the movie industry, i.e., continuity. How well were the various scenes in the episode spliced together? For good continuity (editing), the transitions between key scenes must be smooth enough that the viewer can usually follow what's going on without seeing the episode more than once. So, the scenes must not be cut too short, and the transitions between them must not be too choppy, or the viewer will find the story difficult to follow. The other extreme to editing is that scenes and transitions can be so drawn out as to make the episode seem boring, but usually The Prisoner doesn't suffer from this.
- Plot Cohesiveness
- Essentially, how well does the plot ‘hold together?’ Too many holes in the plot should make the episode deserve a low rating in this category. ‘Holes in the plot’ are usually situations where a character could (and should) have acted differently, but didn't because the situation was clearly contrived to fit the rest of the story. In other words, the story was not edited well enough. Note the difference between plot editing (which occurs during or soon after screenplay writing -- the beginning of work on an episode) and the previous category of ‘editing’ (which usually occurs during post-production -- the end of work on an episode). Editing is more visual and concerned with splicing film together; plot cohesiveness is more conceptual and concerned with getting the story right.
- Plot Originality
- The usual thing people mean when they talk about ‘how good of a plot’ something has. Literally, how ‘new’ or ‘different’ are some of the ideas in the story, as compared to earlier television shows and movies? If the basic idea is old, are there some new twists to make it interesting? Is the ending unexpected? Usually an interesting story is a complex one, i.e., full of ‘plot complications.’
- “Prison” theme
- How well the episode treats the overlying theme of an individualist trapped in an Orwellian ‘prison’ who is dealt severe psychological blows yet still manages to preserve his integrity. This includes, but is not limited to, the concepts of No. 6 trying, and failing, to flee the Village; and trying to ‘crack’ No. 6 to make him reveal his secret of why he resigned.
- Thinking About Society
- The episode's potential to make the viewer think about some aspect of society, especially a particularly complex and ‘timeless’ problem which may not be easy to solve but which deserves attention. Examples include the behavior of a democracy or the construction of a machine which implants information subliminally in the brain. The Orwellian nature of the Village itself might make the viewer think about parallels in modern society.
- A general word for a topic which is impossible to summarize in one or two English words. Basically, to what degree the episode can be interpreted on multiple levels of understanding. A big portion of ‘deepness’ is whether the episode seems to raise more questions than it answers -- how much does the viewer feel ‘cheated’ at the end of the episode? How much of the episode is left ‘open-ended,’ with the ability to interpret various events in the story multiple ways? Essentially, how much does the episode make the viewer ‘think’ after everything is done (although not just thinking about problems with society -- that has a category of its own above). Some might find ‘deepness’ almost synonymous with ‘weirdness.’ Note that a ‘10’ rating means ‘most deep.’
- OVERALL SCORE
- As the title implies, the general rating of the episode on a scale of 1 to 10. Note that this is not any kind of average of the previous categories; this is a completely independent category which allows The Prisoner enthusiast to rate each episode based simply on overall enjoyment. Allowing The Prisoner fan the chance to rate episodes based on a ‘general feeling’ about each episode is much better than trying to construct an average of the nine previous categories.
The Prisoner episode survey and survey definitions © 1996 Reed D. Meyer and Kirby J. Meyer.