The Theories Page

``What in blazes are those four guards doing around a glowing Rover?''
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:
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!
Website Sub-links: Fall Out Theory. Our greatest attempt at decrypting the final episode. It may not necessarily the best theory, but we think it is. The Gallery. 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]

Theory About “Many Happy Returns”

[Kirby]: I think what No. 2 does to No. 6 is ironic. 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! Several instances back this claim: 1) He arrives home just one day before his birthday; 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!

Why Didn't No. 6 Escape At the End of “Hammer Into Anvil” or “Change of Mind”?

[ Kent]: At the end of “Change of Mind,” No. 6 appears to actually be making an escape attempt -- he's watching all the Villagers chase No. 2, and looks ready to run in the opposite direction. Suddenly, though, he makes his mind up to follow the Villagers! Why? Well, if you look carefully in the background amidst the multiple camera changes, you'll notice that Rover is just about to block off the direction opposite the Villagers. So, it seems that someone other than No. 2 is making sure No. 6 can't escape. This argument can also carry over to “Hammer Into Anvil,” that is, Number 6 doesn't bother to try to escape because someone else will activate Rover or control security. Besides,“Many Happy Returns” has passed already, so he knows he can't escape the Village anyway! Number 6 is now much more content to destroy the Village from within .

The Symbolism in “Girl Who Was Death”

[Kent]: 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). 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,&rdquol; Number 6 thwarts No. 1's plans to send No. 6 up in ‘orbit.’ [Kirby]: Whereas I can see the allusions to the Village throughout this episode, I disagree with the idea that Schnipps is No. 1, and ‘Death’ is No. 2. This episode ends with Griffith as Schnipps as No. 2 , and ‘Death’ as a number below that. Frankly, I believe No. 6 is just hinting to the children that No. 2 is the ‘bad guy’ who likes to blow up towns and so forth. Do you think No. 6 is trying to allude to No. 1 in a bedtime story to children ?

In “The Schizoid Man,” How Did Number 2 Know That Curtis Was Number 6 Before the Helicopter


[Kent]: In the mini-moke on the way to the helicopter pad, Number 2 ( Anton Rodgers ) asks ‘Curtis’: “I remember Susan saying a month ago . . . to which ‘Curtis’ replies without any concern over Number 2's flub-of-the-tongue (Remember, at the end we learn that Susan died a year ago)! This made Number 2 even more concerned about who he was talking to. So, the question really is: Why did Number 2 bring up Susan in the mini-moke? Clearly, the answer is simply an additional method of distinguishing Number 6 from Curtis.

Why Did Rover Kill Curtis in “The Schizoid Man”?

[Kent]: The classic theory is that Rover didn't know who was the right person who should be inhabiting ‘6 Private.’ Naturally, when Number 6 said ‘Schizoid Man’ first, Rover thought Curtis was the intruder. Then, Curtis said, ‘Schizoid Man.’ Rover then proceeded to attack Curtis because it thought Curtis was the intruder and also tried to fake the password to get in. The only explanation for why Curtis died was due to plot continuity; Curtis had to die, for the rest of the story to take place. [Kirby]: Recall that No. 6 was valuable to the Village to the point that they can't kill him. This means Rover could not be programmed to kill the real No. 6 in any scenario. In “Schizoid Man,” No. 2 probably told Rover to kill anyone who enters No. 6's residence except for No. 6, in which case, it would render him unconscious. So, initially, Rover is not programmed to kill ‘No. 12’ (real No. 6) due to orders, and Curtis (because Rover thinks he's No. 6 at this time). When the real No. 6 lures Rover away from ‘6 Private,’ Rover was simply going to knock him unconscious. When Rover returns, however, ‘No. 12’ convinces Rover that he's the real No. 6, so Rover continues on to chase Curtis, who is now unmistakably the real No. 12 . Since he's programmed to kill anyone but No. 6, he kills Curtis! 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.

What Does Rover Represent?

[Kirby]: Many people suggest that there is nothing the faceless sphere called ‘Rover’ represents, simply because the white balloon was a substitute for the real Rover at the very last second! I disagree with that; just because it was originally a substitute for the real thing doesn't necessarily mean it can't grow on you during the series production. What I'm saying is that McGoohan may have attached a symbolic message to Rover towards the end of the series after he got used to it. I don't know specifically what the message is . . . I like one person's suggestion to what Rover meant (please leave me a note if that person is you . . . I'll be happy to place your name here!). Rover can be a well-known symbol of fear -- the Moon. Before the 1970s, we were always afraid that there may be ‘Lunans’ landing on Earth and so forth. This gets manifested in “Fall Out,” where No. 6 may actually be sending No. 1 ‘to the Moon!’ I believe the lava lamp is a reminder to anyone that Rover will always be around to prevent any escaping! [Kent]: It could also explain that scene in “Arrival” where you see a little ‘Rover’ in the water fountain (turning into a big ‘Rover’ thereafter). When you look in the sky at night, one can easily realize that the little Rover was about the same size as the Moon!

What are those guards doing around that glowing Rover in “Free for All”?

Worshipping? Yes, that seems a general opinion among many. Presumably, the guards are ‘idolizing’ a higher guardian! Is he ‘glowing’ his thought to his students? By the way, Rover doesn't attack No. 6 in this scene because it would probably render him unconscious and unsuitable for talking to. [Reed]: A more allegorical explanation is that the Village guardians themselves have to be guarded, i.e., under surveillance. Rover, being the ultimate Village guardian, embodies all Village security personnel in general; the fact that it itself is surrounded, ‘under surveillance’ implies that there's an even higher level of Village Security (directly controlled by No. 1?) making sure that everyone else in the Village, up to and including No. 2, ‘stays in line’ themselves. Assuming this is McGoohan's intent, Free For All” is the perfect episode to stick this ‘Rover Under Surveillance’ scene into: “Free For All” is about an election for a (new) No. 2. No. 2's job is really ‘chief warden’ of the Village; he is head of Village security, but not master of the Village (that's No. 1's job). On a ship, No. 1 would be the captain (the boss) and No. 2 would be the executive officer (not the boss, but nevertheless handles much of the everyday executive decisions). Anyway, in “Free For All,” No. 6 has just been “elected” the new No. 2, but he quickly reveals his rebellious nature and unwillingness to perform No. 2's job (viz., to maintain Village security); remember, he gets on the PA system and shouts to the Villagers, “You are free to go!” The true Village authority swiftly reacts by sending thugs to apprehend him, and as No. 6 attempts to flee No. 1's minions, he is confronted with the bizarre image of a Rover surrounded by guardians. Note that these guardians (symbolizing No. 1 and his power to control all the Village, including the warders) get up to attack No. 6, but Rover (like No. 2, a warder) stays put. This strange scene, coupled with the events just prior to it, shows the viewer that, though No. 6 might actually get ‘elected’ to the spot of No. 2, he nevertheless could never have any real power; No. 2 is a puppet, and No. 1 controls the strings. [Kirby]: I believe guards are surrounding Rover to put it in some form of ‘stasis’ until No. 6 is subdued. This is because for this tiny moment No. 6 has full authority as No. 2. He has the ability to push the ‘Rover’ button, which could spell doom for the real No. 2 unless there was some contingency in- place.

The ‘Exhilaration’ Scene in “Fall Out”

[Kirby]: Many people assumed that No. 6 is just ‘jumping for joy’ in the background after Leo McKern walks into the Parliament Building at the end. But, what about the policeman standing there? Nah . . . No. 6 isn't ‘jumping around’; he's trying to tell the policeman how they got back in London, and why they came back in an unlicensed truck. At the end of the conversation, you can see that No. 6 is pointing to the Parliament Building; in other words, he's saying to the cop, “Look, if you have any problems, just contact [Leo McKern]. He's a government official and your boss !”

Where is the Village located?

[Kent]: One doesn't really know where the Village is located. “The Chimes of Big Ben” places the Village in Lithuania; “Many Happy Returns” places the Village near Morocco; “Fall Out” places the Village just up the A20 in England! It is my opinion that McGoohan wanted the Village to have a ‘universal’ location. It could be found anywhere . It has no place value on any map; it just exists , and it exists wherever No. 6 thinks it exists. For example, No. 6 believes in “Many Happy Returns” due to hard evidence that it's near Morocco. Sure enough, there it is! In “Fall Out,” he feels the Village is ‘close to home.’ And, because the Village is universal, this reaffirms the belief that you can never really escape the Village. [Kirby]: This is probably a continuity error arising from a dispute between Markstein and McGoohan! Either Patrick McGoohan forgot or didn't care that the Village was already somewhat located in “Many Happy Returns” while he was writing up the script to “Fall Out.” In truth, the location in “Many Happy Returns” doesn't have to be bona fide, either. For instance, the airplane pilot, since he was a member of the Village, could have ‘zigged’ when No. 6 told him to ‘zag.’ Nonetheless, since “Fall Out” takes precedence, the Village should hence be down the A20. This is explained a little further in the Fall Out Theory .

Why Did Number 6 Really Resign?

[Kent]: Clearly, McGoohan intended to leave this question unanswered. The reason for this is simple: he wanted to leave subtle clues to why No. 6 resigned. Those who watch the series in its entirety and understand the message should be able to piece together the evidence. 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 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! [Reed]: You know that, in “Once Upon a Time,” No. 6 says to No. 2 that he resigned “for peace of mind.” Perhaps No. 6 resigned because he was getting tired of the secret agent life; he may have felt that too many bad guys have been putting him on their hit lists, and it was time for him to quit the spy business while the going was good. [Kirby]: I'm sticking to the “Because too many people know too much” motif. The reason why he resigned was possibly because the government was depending on him to do stuff; furthermore, whatever he did was scrutinized heavily by the government. We sense this strongly in “Chimes” and “Many Happy Returns,” where they insist on knowing what he did and why. The government prying in on his private motivations was strong enough of a reason to quit, so he did. Then, the Village comes, abducts him, and asks him, ‘Why?’

Is There a True Order for Viewing the Series?

[ Reed]: We all know that “Arrival” is the first episode, and “Once Upon a Time” (OUAT) and “Fall Out” are the penultimate and last episodes, respectively. But there is insufficient evidence in the series to conclusively put the remaining fourteen episodes in order. What follows is my best attempt at ordering the episodes given what little evidence the episodes provide, but by no means is it the only possible ordering. 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: 1. Arrival 2. Dance of the Dead 3. Free For All 4. Chimes of Big Ben 5. Checkmate 6. The General 7. A. B. and C. 8. The Schizoid Man 9. Many Happy Returns 10. Living in Harmony 11. A Change of Mind 12. Hammer Into Anvil 13. Do Not Forsake Me, Oh My Darling 14. It's Your Funeral 15. The Girl Who Was Death 16. Once Upon a Time 17. Fall Out [Kent]: For the most part, I agree. Except for one thing. In “The Schizoid Man,” Number 6 makes a reference to the General at the end of the episode. When one watches the episode, there is a clear implication that the General has not been discovered yet. So, unless this is a different ‘General’ other than the one we know, clearly “The Schizoid Man” should be placed in front of “The General.” Many feel that indeed this is a different General. I wholeheartedly disagree. I'd rather have the time order of episodes (see Reed's theory) be broken once rather than having “The General” first. If a first-time viewer were to watch the General, he or she will obviously think that No. 6 will know all about it later. So, the viewer'll be very confused when he or she sees later that No. 2 is talking about some new General that No. 6 doesn't know about! So, instead of General, ABC and Schizoid, my preferred order of the three would be Schizoid, General, and ABC...and ignore the fact that 3 episodes take place in less than a month-and-a-half! Besides, Schizoid really only needs 1-2 weeks tops to experiment on No.6 (the Village could have had a precursor to Rogaine to speed up No.6's facial hair growth), General needs less than a week, and ABC needs a couple of days. Add that to the time No.6 is adrift in MHR. It's tight, but it could add up under 5 weeks! There are many possible orderings for this series, though. [Kirby]: Another element that follows the order above is the writing order of Anthony Skene, who wrote three episodes, “Dance of the Dead”, “A.B. and C.” and “Many Happy Returns”, in that order. His order may alleviate some concerns over whether or not ABC follows MHR.

What Does the Pennyfarthing Bicycle Represent?

The answer to this one was given by Patrick McGoohan himself (thank goodness, because this one would've been very difficult to propose a solution to, otherwise!) In the Troyer   Interview , McGoohan describes the bicycle as an ‘ironic symbol of progress.’ To put it colloquially: The bicycle represents something of the industrial age (beyond the Horse-and-Buggy Era). Beginning with the industrial age, McGoohan muses that we've been technologically progressing far faster than we've been learning how to cope with our new inventions. Thus, the pennyfarthing bicycle is the icon of the Village, an Aldous Huxley “Brave New World” notion that society has become too mechanized . This aspect of the Village is evident in practically all the episodes, but is more noticeable in “The General,” “Free For All,” and “A Change of Mind.” [Kirby]: As a side note, what does the bicycle forming during the credits mean? It's probably symbolizing who has ‘made’ The Prisoner !

Why the ‘Pop’ Was Removed From the Credits of “Alternate Chimes”

[Kent]: Personally, I think McGoohan didn't like the fact that there were words in the credits (other than the people). Also, viewers watching the credits would be completely baffled as to what it meant. Last, I feel that the ‘Pop’ labelled the credits as a '60s series, and McGoohan didn't want it to be as such. [Kirby]: Also note the changes brought about when the Grainer title music replaced the Josephs title music. It wouldn't be very palatable to hear the climatic end to the Grainer music fall on a spinning globe (if you have seen “Alternate Chimes”) with the word ‘POP’ coming out of it!

What does the Butler's Umbrella Represent?

[Kent]: The butler's umbrella, a familiar pattern of black and white, is clearly understood in light of the episode “Checkmate.” Think of the prisoners as the ‘whites’ and the warders as the ‘blacks.’ The umbrella can be seen as a symbol of a ‘mixing’ of the two. I.e., the Butler is not a ‘warder’ or a ‘prisoner’; rather, he is in the middle. [Kirby]: Yes, the butler represents a ‘medium’ between the two opposing forces. But, there's probably more to the umbrella than simply justifying that claim. In “Arrival,” he struts out towards the audience at the end with a raised umbrella after No. 6 fails his escape attempt. In “Many Happy Returns,” he stands outside No. 6's balcony again with the open umbrella, once more signalling No. 6's defeat. In “A Change of Mind,” we see the Butler walking by himself, somehow symbolizing a victory over No. 2 that has just taken place. All these events have one thing in common: a major prisoner/warder sequence has occurred. Hence, when you see the Butler walk by with an umbrella, he's indicating that something is going to, or is already happening between the prisoners and the warders.

What's the Deal With the Black-Colored Pins (instead of white ones)?

[Kirby]: On first glance, it would seem that it was a measure to distinguish the prisoners from the warders (the ‘whites’ from the ‘blacks’). However, we later notice that not all warders wear the black pin. So, what gives? This may be traced to a production problem. Earlier episodes had the black pins. They probably were used to color- coordinate with certain outfits. Then, owing themselves to confusion, the black pins were abandoned.

What is the Underlying Message of “Dance of the Dead”?

[Kent]: I don't know. Some say the ultimate message to this episode was that No. 6 will have a long, arduous task in front of him if he wants to retain his individuality. Another possible message is that once you give in (i.e., conform to society), you become just another ‘rotten cabbage.’ [Kirby]: In the beginning, No. 2 ( Mary Morris ) tells the chief psychiatrist that he needs to be won over , not damaged . (This should indicate that this episode should be early, because ‘winning someone over’ is not as advanced as a technique that they normally perform in later episodes.) Probably most of the episode has an oblique similarity to “Free For All,” where the whole episode is based upon trying to convince No. 6 to give in. In DotD, however, No. 2 doesn't hide anything from No. 6, except maybe for the moral at the end. That is, she frankly mentions to No.6 that he's ‘dead’ in the real world (which is what the spiel with the dead body is all about). The costumes, seen many times both early and late in this episode, also inform No. 6 of his status, as well as of the Villagers around him. They're all ‘dead’ too, so he should might as well give in and be comfortable since he's also ‘dead.’
1996 Reed, Kent, and Kirby Meyer. Last Modified: 21 February 2022.