10: Hammer Into Anvil

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The Prisoner Episode by Episode

E10 Hammer Into Anvil

1 December 1967

Written by Roger Woddis

Directed by Pat Jackson

Story: Following the suicide of Number 73, a young woman, Number Six launches a psychological war against the new ‘hard man’ Number Two.

Who is Number Two? Patrick Cargill

Guest Cast: Victor Maddern, Basil Hoskins, Victor Woolf, Hilary Dwyer

Information: After a couple of arguably slightly lesser episodes, The Prisoner came back firing on all cylinders with Hammer Into Anvil, one of the series’ all-time greats. When he witnesses the suicide of Number 73, seemingly induced by the harsh approach of the new Number Two to interrogation, Number Six quietly resolves to take on this new ‘hard man’ figure at his own game.

Hammer06Number Six enacts a series of seemingly random scenarios, inducing in Number Two a crisis of confidence. He begins by listening to six identical copies of a Bizet recording, seemingly timing them and apparently noting down some information in code. Meaningless messages and random actions follow, all of which Number Two ascribes some kind of hidden purpose—Number Six would never do anything to no end, after all…

It’s a brilliant scenario by writer Roger Woddis that effectively turns the tables at last, with Number Six going on the offensive against those who run The Village. He’s not trying to escape, he’s simply trying to frustrate his authoritarian controllers by using their own paranoid nature against them. This is also one of the few episodes across the series run where the main character self-identifies as Number Six (once more part of a ruse to upset Number Two), something he usually steadfastly refuses to do as a matter of principle.

In their early meeting, Number Two explains to Number Six that their relationship is like the hammer and the anvil, with Number Six asking if he is seen as the anvil in this scenario. Patrick Cargill’s new Number Two takes a different approach to running The Village. He increases the surveillance and sense of paranoia among the residents (‘New Number Two Calls For Increased Vigilance’ reads the headline in The Village newspaper, the Tally Ho), while representing himself as a new ‘strong man’ on the scene, a dictator essentially running a totalitarian regime.

Hammer03It is this that spurs Number Six into his campaign of subtle resistance and overt confusion. By sowing the seeds of doubt and conspiracy in the mind of Number Two he sets out to overthrow the regime (albeit of one man, nothing fundamentally changes) without violence (except of the psychological kind). It’s an inspired plot line, and McGoohan rises to the challenge giving an especially cheeky and edgy performance as this newly motivated Number Six. Overall, he must know that his actions will not really change much, but causing the collapse of this particular Number Two serves as effective revenge for the untimely death of Number 73.

Woddis was a writer new to The Prisoner who had no experience working for any other ITC/Lew Grade shows, unlike several of the regular writers on the series. He was a leftist political writer and one time member of the Communist Party of Great Britain who was later known to audiences as the poet-in-residence for the listings magazine Radio Times and in Punch magazine. Before tackling The Prisoner, Woddis co-wrote an episode of now missing 1967 ABC paranormal series Haunted, as well as for Armchair Theatre (1968) and Churchill’s People (1975).

His most influential work was his poem ‘Ethics for Everyman’ (note the name of McGoohan’s production company, Everyman Films), that bears some relation to what McGoohan was trying to achieve with The Prisoner. Significant lines that no doubt resonated with the creator of the series include: ‘Terror, no need to add/Depends on who’s wearing the hood’ and ‘Social morality/Has a duality/One for each side of the tracks’. Of particular importance to the episode Hammer Into Anvil is the line: ‘Discipline by the strong/Is fair, if your collar is white’. Another of his political poems was entitled ‘Down With Fanatics’, a sentiment that no doubt had McGoohan nodding in agreement. Woddis died in 1993, aged 76.

Hammer05Number Six weaves an imaginary conspiracy, in a mirror of his efforts to organise a mass breakout in the preceding episode Checkmate, by co-opting Number Two’s lieutenants—including Number 14 and the Controller—in apparent organised opposition to Number Two. They are unwilling ‘conspirators’, implicated by Number Six’s suspicious contacts with them or put in a position by Number Six’s actions to become functionaries that Number Two begins to suspect are acting against him.

Hammer Into Anvil is a great episode in its depiction of Number Six’s campaign against Number Two, driven by two great performances by McGoohan and Cargill, but it is also a highly amusing episode (especially the repeated ‘cuckoo’ motif as Number Six enters the shop!) as we watch Number Two unravelling, becoming ever more bamboozled by Number Six’s bizarre machinations.

Hammer02It’s a fine performance by Cargill, later better known for comedy, like other past The Prisoner guest stars (some of them fellow Number Twos) such as Peter Bowles, Paul Eddington, Christopher Benjamin, Anton Rogers, and, arguably, Peter Wingarde. Cargill had previously appeared as Thorpe, one of Number Six’s real-world contacts in Many Happy Returns. Does his casting here confirm that the people who Number Six worked with in the outside world in whatever espionage he was involved with are the same people running The Village?

What’s it All Mean? In one way, Number Six is drawing upon history by attacking Totalitarianism with Surrealism. Throughout history, repressive regimes have faced resistance from writers and artists who adopted the modes of expression of surrealism to encode their opposition to the ruling hegemony. The movement has its roots in 1920s Europe, but in terms of The Prisoner was perhaps more relevant to Patrick McGoohan and his interests through events in Czechoslovakia in the 1960s. Emerging filmmakers in particular (including Milos Foreman, Jiri Menzel, and, later, Jan Svankmajer) expressed their resistance to Soviet ideas through their films, using metaphor and nonsense to escape the attention of the state censor.

Hammer07Each of Number Six’s moves is designed to sow confusion, from the Bizet recordings to hiding blank sheets of paper in the stone boat (as if dead-dropping a message), and so implicating the scientist who studies them, to the cuckoo clock ‘bomb’, the nonsense numerical message he sends out via pigeon, and the morse code transmitted from the beach to a non-existent recipient at sea. Convinced his own people are plotting against him, Number Two also comes to believe that Number Six may be a plant operating on behalf of those above him (Number One?), sent to evaluate his performance. McGoohan, in the form of one of The Prisoner’s most downright entertaining episodes, easily makes the point that those who build worlds based upon paranoia will live or die by their own paranoid natures. The final scene makes the theme clear: it was Number Two’s own fears that brought about his mental collapse.

Hammer04That’s Weird! About two-thirds into the episode, Number Six takes on Number 14 in a bizarre Rollerball-style imaginary sport that seems to involve participants bouncing on trampolines over a pool of water while wearing red robes and motorcycles helmets. Called ‘kosho’, it was invented by Patrick McGoohan, and it will turn up again before the end of the series. Here, it’s a short scene, intended to show Number Six’s mastery over Number 14, but it disrupts the mood of the episode where the psychological pressure is relentlessly built up on a fractious Number Two. The scene is unnecessary, but very weird in the middle of the other, more psychological, action.

Punch-Ups! Almost immediately, Number Six gets into a tussle with three goons sent out to ensure his attendance for an audience with the latest Number Two. Towards the end of the episode, Number Six gets into a knockdown, drag-out fight with Number 14 in his own cottage, wrecking the place in the process.

Trivia: This was perhaps the most literary-minded or ‘high culture’ episode of The Prisoner, largely thanks to writer Roger Woddis. His script, from the title on through, incorporated references drawn from Goethe, Bizet, Cervantes, and Vivaldi. They are used to structure the story and to propel Number Six’s campaign of psychological warfare against Number Two. A planned closing scene, in which an exiting Number Six meets the new incoming Number Two (replacing the disgraced Cargill), would have reinforced the point that despite his efforts (and his victory), nothing about the bigger picture of The Village will really change. By cutting the scene, the episode leaves it to the viewers to draw that conclusion for themselves.

Verdict: A fantastic episode, and a fine example of McGoohan’s show at its very best, from the writing, the location filming and the performances right through to the inevitable conclusion.

Score (Out of Six): Six

Brian J. Robb

Want more Prisoner? Like our Facebook Page and check out The Unmutual web site. If you want a great book on the series, start with Robert Fairclough’s The Prisoner: The Official Companion.

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9: Checkmate

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The Prisoner Episode by Episode

E09 Checkmate

24 November 1967

Written by Gerald Kelsey

Directed by Don Chaffey

Story: A life-size human chess game inspires Number Six to pursue a group effort to escape The Village…

Who is Number Two? Peter Wyngarde

Guest Cast: Ronald Radd, George Coulouris, Rosalie Crutchley

Information: Unwillingly roped in to a life-size human chess game (played on a board built over the lawns by the Gothic Pavillion at Portmeirion), Number Six begins to explore the possibilities of utilizing others in an effort to effect a group escape from The Village. The game of chess functions as a metaphor throughout for the battle between Number Six and the new Number Two (the charismatic Peter Wyngarde), with many involved functioning as mere pawns in their ‘game’. The only thing Number Six needs to do successfully is to be able to tell the jailers from the prisoners.

Check01

The third episode filmed, back-to-back with the previous week’s Dance of the Dead, Checkmate makes for an intriguing examination of the character of Number Six and the wider question of who can be trusted. ‘Everybody wants to help me,’ says McGoohan’s prisoner, faced with the solicitations of the Queen (Rosalie Crutchley) on the chessboard. The episode, as with so many others, would seem to fit better earlier in transmission, as Number Six still seems to be sizing up his fellow prisoners as to who are warders and who are captives, while the notion of recruiting a group to attempt an escape would seem an obvious early gambit (especially after the failure of his solo escape attempts in either The Chimes of Big Ben or Many Happy Returns).

Check09There are recurring elements in Checkmate we have seen before, such as a female operative of The Village tasked with getting in with Number Six, an escape that features a fight on a boat (almost inevitable, really, given the apparent geographical aspects of The Village), and an apparent ally who eventually turns on Number Six. Frequent television guest star Roland Radd makes an effective ‘Rook’, whose nervous manner gives way to a determined professionalism as he helps Number Six prepare his escape. That he sides with the captive Number Two at the end due to Number Six’s confident manner (which he believes implies he is, in fact, a jailer not a prisoner) is laden with irony.

Check03Checkmate scriptwriter Gerald Kelsey (an ITC regular) had planned to write something featuring life-size human chess long before he was aware of the chessboard at The Prisoner’s location of Portmeiron. He’d seen another one while on holiday with friends at a castle in Germany and had felt it had potential as the underlying element in a drama. Of course, the other best known life-size chess game from literature is that in Lewis Carroll’s Alice Through the Looking-Glass (1871), which given the surreal directions that The Prisoner was increasingly to head in may have been at the back of McGoohan or Markstein’s mind when they commissioned this episode. Indeed, Markstein’s wider experience of the world of espionage in the wake of the Second World War probably played as much into the machinations of Number Six and his co-conspirators as anything else. The script was written and produced early enough that many of the plans for the series had not been fully developed. Between the mid-1950s and the mid-1970s Kelsey contributed many episodes to the BBC police series Dixon of Dock Green.

Check05The latest Number Two was a well-known ITC face. As well as guest-starring in a variety of television shows (including The Saint and The Avengers), the eccentric Peter Wyngarde won fame as Jason King, the debonair spy in Department S (1969), before playing the lead in his own eponymously titled series in the early-1970s. He later played General Klytus, henchman to Ming the Merciless, in the 1980 Flash Gordon movie, as well as appearing in the Peter Davison Doctor Who serial Planet of Fire in 1984.

Check07There is some mystery about Wyngarde’s biography, with his birth date (anywhere between 1924 and 1933 is suggested!) and accounts of his early years disputed, not least by Wyngarde who claims not to know what age he actually is (best guesses puts him in his 80s). In 1975, Wyngarde had a spot of bother with the law at a Bus Station and later admitted to battling alcoholism during his most productive period as an actor. Wyngarde once claimed that Patrick McGoohan was planning on having a more permanent Number Two and that he was selected for the role, before McGoohan decided that changing the Number Two actor would add ‘an extra air of mystery’ to the series. Wyngarde was a guest at the recent celebration of the 50th anniversary of the broadcast of The Prisoner that took place at Portmeirion at the end of September.

Check11Also featuring in the episode (as the ‘man with a stick’) is British actor George Coulouris, once part of Orson Welles’ Mercury Theatre troupe who featured in Citizen Kane (1941) as Kane’s guardian, Thatcher. Coulouris also appeared in various American movies, including For Whom the Bells Toll (1943), Mr. Skeffington (1944), and Joan of Arc (1948) with Ingrid Bergman as the title character. Returning to the UK in the 1950s Coulouris appeared in a host of movies and in ABC television’s Pathfinders series, as well as in the first episode of the 1964 Doctor Who serial The Keys of Marinus. He died in 1989, aged 85.

Location work on this episode took place at Portmeirion in September 1966, with cast members later reporting that the shooting of the chessboard sequence was especially challenging thanks to difficulties in maintaining adequate continuity between shots. Studio filming began at the end of October, with work taking place on a recreation of the boat for the fight scenes. Many sets were repurposed from other episodes, with the one major addition being the bell tower, where another fight scene takes place. Patrick McGoohan substituted for director Don Chaffey for the studio filming, with Chaffey having only completed the location footage.

What’s it All Mean? Perhaps building upon the chess scene between Number Six and the Admiral in Arrival, Checkmate takes chess and the strategies it employs as its central metaphor for an attempt at a mass breakout from The Village. Believing he can tell the prisoners from the guards, Number Six goes against what we have seen as his natural solitary nature in recruiting a gang to facilitate his most co-ordinated breakout attempt yet.

Check04Just as pawns are willingly sacrificed in the interest of winning the overall game, both Number Six and Number Two prove ruthless in their ability to use others in order to achieve their opposing aims. Number Six, in particular, is needlessly cruel to the Queen. When she is brainwashed to be ‘in love’ with him, he rejects her advances but finds a way to use the technology contained in her tracker locket to his own advantage.

One of McGoohan’s favourite themes is the ability of the individual to battle against the overall diktats of society. Again, chess proves a great stand in for this theme, where the game needs all the constituent parts (the pawns, the Bishops, the Knights, and so on) to play their unique parts in order that the whole may succeed. McGoohan temporarily abandons his ‘one man band’ approach to put together a team made up of unique contributors who all must play their part to facilitate the escape attempt.

In many ways this episode encapsulates much that is classic about The Prisoner as a whole. The entire series is played out as a series of games, much like chess, usually between Number Six and Number Two, but a variety of other players get drawn in and used up along the way, including Leo McKern’s Number Two. The final shot of this episode, where the silent butler (Angelo Muscat, who features in just about every episode), positions a pawn representing Number Six back on the board effectively captures the entire escape-recapture narrative of the show in one shorthand image.

Check10That’s Weird! At one point, Peter Wyngarde’s Number Two is seen to be meditating in his office, which then turns into an unexpected karate session as he suddenly chops some wood planks in two. Oddly, Number Two makes no attempted use of these evident martial arts skills during his capture by Number Six and his gang of escapees. Was there more to this depiction of karate than simple anticipation of the 1970s fad for all things Bruce Lee and kung fu…?

Punch Ups! Another dramatic pair of fisticuffs for Number Six as he tackles miscreants in the tower to extinguish the searchlight, and later (once more) on the boat when his escape plan falls apart.

Trivia: One of the most common badge numbers to pop up throughout the run of The Prisoner is Number 23—in this episode it is the nurse who treats Number 53/the Rook. There are two different people with the Number 23 identifier in first episode Arrival and Free For All, both managers of the Labour Exchange (suggesting that number identification may go with the role, rather than the individual?). Number 23 is also used (again for different individuals) in The Chimes of Big Ben and Free For All. Of course, 23 is itself considered to be an ‘occult’ number. Author William Burroughs kept a scrapbook recounting the frequent appearances of the number 23 in his life, while Robert Anton Wilson (possibly inspired by Burroughs) uses the number throughout his Illuminatus! trilogy. Occultist Aleister Crowley was convinced of the mystical significance of the number 23, and it formed the basis of the 2007 Jim Carey movie The Number 23, Joel Schumacher’s 23rd film as director. The DVD is divided into 23 chapters, naturally…

Verdict: A straight-forward but enjoyable episode, offering the irresistible metaphor of the chess game as a symbol of the series as a whole…

Score (Out of Six): Four

Brian J. Robb

Want more Prisoner? Like our Facebook Page and check out The Unmutual web site. If you want a great book on the series, start with Robert Fairclough’s The Prisoner: The Official Companion.

 

8: Dance of the Dead

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The Prisoner Episode by Episode

E08 Dance of the Dead

17 November 1967

Written by Anthony Skene

Directed by Don Chaffey

Story: Number Six is induced to take part in The Village’s annual carnival, but uses the opportunity to investigate the Town Hall.

Who is Number Two? Mary Morris

Guest Cast: Duncan MacRae, Norma West, Aubrey Morris, Alan White

Information: Dance of the Dead, disappointingly, seems to be lacking in any single overall theme (as in education, media, or drugs) other than total surveillance, something already established in many of the proceeding episodes almost as a background truth. For that reason, several alternative viewing orders for The Prisoner suggest that Dance of the Dead should fall much earlier in the run than eighth. There is, however, a certain elegance of following Many Happy Returns where a female Number One is introduced as a surprise. Here, it is simply accepted that Number One is Mary Morris.

Dance 09It’s a disappointing episode, enlivened largely by the presence of Morris. She’s a pixie-like Number Two (even more so when dressed as Peter Pan for the carnival), who brings a steely authority to her role, but also an affability that might lull Number Six into a false sense of security. She is, in reality, just as ruthless and determined as any other Number One to successfully discover why Number Six resigned (while not harming him in the process).

Dance 05It is the fear of harm that causes Number Two to interrupt the Doctor’s latest attempt to manipulate Number Six into revealing his motivations. Wired up to a machine, he is connected via phone to a former colleague, Dutton, who is being told what to say. Number Six is clearly resisting offering up any information, but the Doctor believes he was just on the verge of cracking when Number Two calls the whole thing off. Dutton is the latest in a handful of former colleagues who have appeared in The Village, or are contacted following his escape attempts, who seem to be part of the plot against him.

Dance 06Number Six becomes aware of The Village’s ‘observers’ who carefully watch certain residents; his is Number 240 (Norma West), a young woman he attempts to connect with. Attempting to explore the Town Hall, Number Six finds an invisible barrier prevents him, and a passer-by tells him the Hall itself is choosy about who it allows to enter. It’s a weird fantasy or science fiction touch in an otherwise straight forward episode. By the end, when he thinks he’s uncovering Number One, Number Six discovers a Telex machine that simply relays Number One’s instructions. A sub-plot sees a body washed up on the beach sent back out into the world reshaped to represent Number Six, with Number Two suggesting that as a result he will be perceived as dead by the wider world.

Shot fourth in production, Dance of the Dead was another Portmeirion light episode, not relying upon location filming. As a result, Number Six describes himself as being relatively new to The Village (even though we’ve seen two significant escape attempts). His attempts to evade induced sleep, which leads him to spend the night on the beach and so discover the washed up body, also suggest this takes place early in Number Six’s residency in The Village. He’s still aggressively resisting the attempts by those who run The Village to ‘normalise’ life for him there. Anthony Skene wrote the screenplay for this instalment before the previous episode, Many Happy Returns. He claimed to have been offered a blank slate to develop his own story, which might explain why this seemed somewhat divorced from the other episodes in the series run.

Dance 07Brief Portmeirion filming took place at the end of September 1966 for this episode, with actor Trevor Howard supposedly originally cast as Number Two (which was written as a default male character, and not altered for Mary Morris). Some reports suggest that Howard was actually intended for a different role, but he ended up playing neither part. Morris had form as Peter Pan having played the role in a radical interpretation of the text 20 years before in 1946.

What’s it All Mean? Not much, really. The surveillance in The Village is not simply electronic, via cameras and microphones, but involves human intelligence in the form of the anonymous ‘observers’ who are attached to a single subject to keep tabs on. The theme appears to be that simple: Number Six is being watched. We already know this from almost each of the previous episodes, so to build an entire episode around that idea is a little redundant at this stage (almost the halfway point) in the life of the series.

Dance 03Despite claims by Anthony Skene to have been inspired by Jean Cocteau and Franz Kafka, little of this really comes across in the episode. The masquerade during the carnival is interesting in offering the inhabitants of The Village a chance to adopt different identities. While Number Six’s quest to discover the secrets of the Town Hall and to uncover what he thinks is the location of Number Two is a bit of a runaround in the style of Kafka, that could apply to almost any episode of the series.

Dance 08The Cocteau elements largely seem to be incorporated in Number Six’s discovery of a working radio on the body of the man washed ashore. It only seems to receive static or incoherent voices, much as depicted in Cocteau’s Orphée. It’s a nice touch, but in terms of resonance or symbolism, it doesn’t really seem to add up to much or add anything really to the wider world of The Prisoner. We shouldn’t expect every narrative experiment carried out by a show that was trying to figure out what it was during production to work perfectly. Even The Prisoner, with just 17 episodes, was going to produce the odd instalment that—relatively speaking—can be judged to be somewhat of a failure.

That’s Weird! The mental coercion of Number Six is more or less thrown away as a gag during the opening sequence, when something like this could stand up as almost an episode in itself (as in A. B. and C.). It might have been interesting for the show to have explored this kind of mental manipulation in conjunction with the use and abuse of Number Six’s former colleagues (as in Dutton) to help force a confession from him.

Punch Ups! Amazingly enough, none! Although Number Six is chased by a Village mob towards the end following his mock trial…

Trivia: The episode was likely delayed in transmission order as Patrick McGoohan appears to have fallen out of love with it by its completion. It was under-running, and a scripted finale in which Number Six destroys the Telex machine was not shot. It was film editor John S. Smith who reconstructed the episode with the available filmed material to achieve the proper running time. The end result is somewhat dream-like, with Smith claiming ‘That atmosphere was the essence of the series’.

Verdict: One of the most slight episodes in the entire 17 episode run; this is only scored lower in comparison to the great episodes that surround it.

Score (Out of Six): Two

Brian J. Robb

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7: Many Happy Returns

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The Prisoner Episode by Episode

E07 Many Happy Returns

10 November 1967

Written by Anthony Skene

Directed by “Joseph Serf” (Patrick McGoohan)

Story: Number Six awakens to find The Village deserted, so he naturally plans his escape…

Who is Number Two? Georgina Cookson

Guest Cast: Donald Sinden, Patrick Cargill, Dennis Chinnery

Information: This is an odd one. At its most basic, Many Happy Returns is simply The Chimes of Big Ben redux. We have an elaborate escape plan, which we watch unfold in extreme detail, that is then undone and concludes with Number Six deposited back in The Village. Like The General in the previous week, the subtext is all but missing here. At least that episode had concerns about education and technology that came across clearly. Many Happy Returns simply appears to be a cruel trick played on Number Six at elaborate length.

Happy 02It’s not a bad episode (with The Prisoner, such a thing doesn’t really exist), it just lacks ambition in comparison to some of the better instalments. What Many Happy Returns does have going for it is some wonderful location footage, both in Portmeirion and in London. We get a panoramic tour of the seemingly abandoned village that makes for a great showcase of Clough Ellis’s architectural work (some of the aerial footage, in fact, appears to be that used in the Shinda Shima late colour episode of Danger Man). When Number Six eventually makes his way to London, we get some great footage of Marble Arch and of his original home in Buckingham Place (take careful not of the number of his address).

Happy 05It is also notable that the entire first act unfolds with virtually no dialogue. As Number Six discovers he is alone in The Village and then begins to construct his raft, the only sounds we hear are those naturally surrounding him and from the work he is engaged in. There’s no one to talk to, so why would a naturally taciturn man as Number Six talk to himself (as might have been conventional in other TV dramas of the time if they featured a character alone for such a long period). The London location work was carried out in mid-April 1967. Script Editor George Markstein was whipped out once more to play the man behind the desk where Number Six resigned (does that guy just sit there doing his crossword all day, day in, day out?) This was the last episode for which Markstein served as Script Editor, having had one falling out too many with the demanding McGoohan over the tone and approach of the series.

The main problem with this episode may be its positioning in the original transmission order. Broadcast seventh, it was actually made as the 13th episode shot and was originally planned as the final episode in what might be thought of as the ‘first season’, or at least the first filming block. Anthony Skene did, apparently, write this episode to function as a possible ending (different from a conclusion) to the series, saying ‘Number Six gets out, but has to be recaptured, in case the show continues.’ What harms it is that we’d seen this very storyline only a few episodes ago.

The location work took place in March 1967 under director Michael Truman, but he dropped out after several days citing illness. That meant that McGoohan had to step in to save the shoot, wheeling out his ‘Joseph Serf’ pseudonym once more. As he is the solo cast member for much of the shoot, it must’ve made for an easier director-star process.

Happy 01Many Happy Returns features the series’ first female Number Two in the form of Georgina Cookson’s Mrs. Butterworth. The opening titles feature the usual male voice (most often Robert Rietti) in dialogue with Number Six and omits the usual shot of the ‘new Number Two’ actor in order to preserve the surprise. Cookson had previously appeared in the Danger Man episode ‘The Trap’, and featured in John Schlesinger’s Darling (1965).

Donald Sinden is best remembered for his later, mannered performances in sitcoms such as Two’s Company and Never the Twain, but he started out as a highly-rated Shakespearian actor who signed a contract with the Rank Organisation and appeared in films such as The Cruel Sea (1957). Patrick Cargill was generally a comic actor best known for sitcom Father, Dear Father (1968-73), while his film appearances took in two Carry On… movies, The Magic Christian (1969), and the final film directed by Charlie Chaplin, A Countess From Hong Kong (1967).

Happy 04What’s it All Mean? As with The Chimes of Big Ben, the people that Number Six meets outside of The Village seem implicated in his imprisonment, or at the very least in his recapture. Here both the Colonel (Sinden) and Thorpe (Cargill) are wary of their former charge’s return, suspecting defection or his role as a double agent. Only when he is thoroughly checked out and his story stands up do they soften somewhat towards him. Prior to that, he has had the sympathy of Mrs. Butterworth (who is occupying what was once his home; that should’ve been suspicion enough) to draw upon, which at least got him refreshed and back on his feet before going to the authorities.

Both the Colonel and Thorpe give off mixed signals as to their involvement. Sinden’s Colonel (and exactly when did he turn into a caricature of himself, as he’s quite good here?) even uses the identifier ‘Number Six’, but it is excused as a joke. Thorpe is altogether more shifty—and his allegiance is brought further into question by the fact that Patrick Cargill reappears as Number Two in Hammer Into Anvil (confusingly, an episode shot before this one but transmitted after it). The only person we can be sure about is Mrs. Butterworth, who reveals herself to be Number Two in the show’s closing moments, when she delivers a birthday cake for Number Six to his cottage back in The Village.

Happy 06So, what are they all playing at? What is the point of the charade? Perhaps it is to indicate to Number Six that no matter how hard he tries, even with the co-operation of those who run The Village, there is no point escaping as he has nothing to return to. His former life in the civilian world has gone, and even if he did get back, he would never be trusted by his superiors. That’s a possible explanation, but there is also an edge of unabashed cruelty to the entire deception, as if the upper echelons of The Village have tired of trying to break Number Six and (like the cat in the episode) have decided just to play with him instead.

That’s Weird! When Number Six returns to The Village, it initially appears to still be deserted. It is only with the arrival of Number Two and his looking out the window that life seems to return to The Village. It almost suggests that the entire place is there just to cater to him. Perhaps the others are no more prisoners nor warders than simply actors engaged in roles aimed at forcing Number Six to finally admit why he resigned.

Punch Ups!: All the physical altercations this episode are confined to the sequence on the boat, a brilliant James Bond-like series of scenes in which Number Six gets the better of a pair of gunrunners, takes their boat, only for them to turn the tables on him.

Trivia: Storyboards and production art depict scenes dropped from Anthony Skene’s initial script for this episode. These lost sequences included Number Six’s exploration of the empty hospital in the abandoned Village and an attempt to escape The Village using a helicopter. A couple of dreams—which might have served to up the weirdness factor of this episode—were also dropped, as was a suggestion that The Village might have been located on a volcanic island that has erupted since Number Six escaped.

Verdict: Not a bad episode, but lacking in depth and overly familiar, as we’d already seen The Chimes of Big Ben.

Score (Out of Six): Three

Brian J. Robb

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6: The General

General 00

The Prisoner Episode by Episode

E06 The General

3 November 1967

Written by Joshua Adam

Directed by Peter Graham Scott

Story: Number Six is caught up in the ‘Speed Learn’ process, an attempt to provide instant education…

Who is Number Two? Colin Gordon

Guest Cast: Peter Howell, John Castle

Information: Again, the tricky question of viewing order raises its ugly head with The General. Here we have the return of Colin Gordon’s rather nervous Number Two, and elements of the narrative suggest that this appearance should have preceded A. B. and C. His character in that episode broadcast earlier is even more nervous than here, fearing retribution from (presumably) Number One if he should fail to break Number Six. In The General, this appears to be their first encounter, and it is the first episode that seems to offer Number Six an unequivocal victory over those who run The Village.

General 01Number Two is fully behind the project developed by the Professor (Peter Howell). Speed Learn is a subliminal education programme transmitted through television in short bursts that appears to transfer a host of facts (names, dates, battles) to the trance-like recipient. What it doesn’t offer is much in the way of interpretation of, say, history (as that is largely what the episode deals with). Instead, it simply offers a regurgitation of Kings and Queens, dates of their reign, and some geographical particulars.

The real power behind the throne of Speed Learn is the anonymous ‘General’, never seen and never heard from directly. As Number Six investigates the process, he discovers that even the Professor himself might be less enthusiastic about Speed Learn and the General than he initially appeared. Number Six witnesses the Professor making a run for it just before he is due to deliver a lecture, only to be retrieved by some loyal residents of The Village. In the process he loses a recorder full of his lecture notes that is recovered by Number Six. The message on the recording is clear: the General must be destroyed.

General 02Production on The General began in late-February 1967, with director Peter Graham Scott taking on the assignment rather late in the day. Graham Scott started in the business as a film editor, working on the Boulting Brothers film Brighton Rock (1947). He and McGoohan were old friends, with Graham Scott directing several episodes in the early seasons of Danger Man. He reckoned he was hired for The General because ‘I was quick and I was cheap!’ Graham Scott was also responsible for the casting of Diana Rigg in The Avengers as Emma Peel and would go on to work on other shows, such a Mogul/The Troubleshooters and The Onedin Line.

Various familiar sets were reused, with very little location footage of Portmeirion used (shot during March 1967 and including some lovely aerial footage). The town square, gardens, and beach all make a reappearance as the studio recreation of parts of Portmeirion became more useful to the production. While the themes and concerns of this episode are still relevant today [see What’s It All Mean?], it is unfortunate that the design of the General super-computer itself lets the show down. Unusually for The Prisoner little imagination appears to have been applied to the grand learning machine, presenting it instead as any bog standard mid-1960s big computer that could fill a room.

General 04What’s it All Mean? In this episode, McGoohan displays an interest in education. Who is in charge of what people are learning? How are the curriculums of schools, colleges, and universities devised? Who controls the information? This is ideal material for an episode of The Prisoner, even if the result is one of the most straight forward episodes of the show’s entire 17 episode run. In the terms of The Prisoner, Speed Learn is reinterpreted as yet another form of mind control—whoever controls the facts, the information, controls the population. There is also an inherent criticism of television itself. Media control of information is crucial to politics and propaganda, and McGoohan may also have had the then recently established Open University in mind.

General 03The episode was scripted by Lewis Griefer (under the ‘Joshua Adam’ pseudonym that used the names of his two sons), and had been instigated by his own concerns about education. With children attending school, he was concerned about the lack of imagination or critical thinking in what they were learning and the way they were learning it. Rote learning—the acquisition of simple facts—was in vogue, but it tended to produce students incapable of actually analysing and interpreting the information they were learning. It was easy—as with Speed Learn—to rehash the facts, but the meaning was all but missing.

With the revelation that the ‘General’ is a super-computer (at least for the state of the art as it was in the mid-1960s), questions of new technology in education and learning and in wider society are inevitably raised. Of course, other shows featured episodes of this type with both Star Trek and Doctor Who running similarly themed episodes in the years before The General; it was also a staple of other ITC shows and such series as The Avengers and Out of the Unknown (specifically the episode ‘The Machine Stops’). McGoohan and Greifer, however, were able to dress this perhaps standard plot in the specific approach of The Prisoner to such questions.

General 06Propaganda raises its ugly head once more. The Village has always been big on slogans, from Arrival onwards. However, throughout The General we see and hear a specific set of slogans that have been devised by the General, many of them dealing with issues such as efficiency and success. This was drawing upon the age that Harold Wilson’s ‘white heat of technology’ speech in 1963 had ushered in—a technologically driven society, in which success was defined by efficiency.

Of course, this is one episode where Number Six has an unequivocal victory. As Number Two hopes to display the superiority of the General, he asks Number Six to ask it a question, any question, confident that the super-computer will have the answer. Unable to resist such a challenge, Number Six rises to the occasion and asks the General the most fundamental question of all (and one no-one can answer): WHY? In response, the General self-destructs, killing the Professor in the process.

General 09That’s Weird! What’s with the odd gadget that allows access to the Town Hall broadcast centre? This was a widely available toy from the time in which a skeleton hand emerged from a box to grab a coin. It was a tie-in to The Addams Family TV series and was known as The Thing Money box. In The Prisoner it is used to accept the key tokens used to allow entrance to the carefully guarded Town Hall. Apparently, it was incorporated into the show at the specific request of Patrick McGoohan—what could it mean?

Punch Ups! After finding the Professor’s dropped recorder on the beach, Number Six has a run in with a couple of guards who return the ‘truant’ student to his cottage. Later, as he prepares to broadcast the Professor’s warning about the General, Number Six is identified and a couple of guards are dispatched to stop him. 

Trivia: The man in the café in The General (who also reappears at the first board meeting) is played by an actor named Ian Fleming. This is not, of course, the same Ian Fleming who created James Bond (and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang), who died in 1964 before this episode was made, but the co-incidence in names no doubt gave Patrick McGoohan a quiet chuckle as he had twice turned down the opportunity to play the role of James Bond in the successful film series.

Verdict: Perhaps one of The Prisoner’s most straight forward episodes, The General is let down by some elements of its design and the fact that the topic was widely covered by other 1960s telefantasy shows (some of them better than this one).

Score (Out of Six): Four

Brian J. Robb

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5: The Schizoid Man

Man 01

The Prisoner Episode by Episode

E05 The Schizoid Man

27 October 1967

Written by Terence Feely

Directed by Pat Jackson

Story: Number Six is confronted by his doppelganger, Number 12, as part of Number Two’s latest attempt to break him. A psychological battle over identity ensues.

Who is Number Two? Anton Rodgers

Guest Cast: Jane Merrow, Earl Cameron

Information: This episode—produced seventh, but broadcast in the fifth slot—provides an excuse for a powerhouse performance from Patrick McGoohan. Through drugs and conditioning (incuding electro-shock therapy), the new Number Two attempts to co-opt Number Six in a scheme to make him doubt his own identity and so confess his reason for resigning. Playing both the befuddled Number Six and his double, Number 12 (2 x 6), McGoohan is in his element.

Man 02Not only does the actor extend the range of Number Six, he very subtly makes Number 12 both a dead ringer yet distinctly his own man. It’s a truly astonishing achievement, both in terms of performance and technically, given that all the filmmakers had at their disposal was standard split-screen techniques (and limited, but very clever use of doubles, notable Frank Maher as McGoohan’s stand-in) to put the two McGoohans together.

The scheme by the latest Number Two (Anton Rodgers) employs an agent of The Village who bears an uncanny resemblance to Number Six in an attempt to break him. As both Number Two and Number 12 know, Number Six cannot be damaged as he is ‘too important’, so seemingly on orders from Number One, the pair have to devise a more psychological approach to gaining the information they want from their captive.

Man 04This involves drugging Number Six, and over a period of days (if not weeks) using electro-shock therapy to change him from right handed to left handed, and other conditioning and drugs to change his tastes in food, drink, and cigarettes. They dye and change the style of his hair and have him grow a genuine moustache. All this is done so that he can awaken, believing it to be the next morning, in the character and cottage of Number 12.

Number Two then engages this fake Number 12 (really Number Six: hope you’re following this…) to impersonate Number Six. The hope appears to be that this case of crazy mixed-up identities will put such mental and psychological pressure on Number Six that he’ll simply crack up (a notion Number Six himself voices disparagingly). Naturally, Number Six is stronger than The Village administrators believe and is able to resist their conditioning. Or at least, he is almost entirely able to resist. Intriguingly, McGoohan does give Number Six the odd psychological wobble when he seems to begin to get lost in this maze of identities Number Two and Number 12 have fabricated for him.

Man 07It’s a great conceit, and the get out that restores Number Six’s faith in his own identity is all set up in a charming opening scene. The episode begins with Number Six socialising (suggesting he has settled in to life in The Village, at least to some degree) with Number 24 (2 x 12), whom he knows more casually as Alison (Jane Merrow). Practicing her ‘mind reading’ act for The Village festival, Alison is being tested via a set of Zener cards, usually used in ESP tests (also seen at the beginning of 1984’s Ghostbusters). She appears sympatico with Number Six and the pair share some kind of psychic link, or at least a mental connection.

During Alison’s attempts to photograph Number Six (also for the festival), she accidentally bruises his fingernail. It is this, the growing out of the bruised nail (a detail missed by Number Two and Number 12 in their elaborate deception), in conjunction with the genuine 10 February photo, that shows Number Six he is the same man he always was, despite the cosmetic changes enforced upon him.

While many series tackle the double (Star Trek did it early, in The Enemy Within, in which Kirk was split into good and bad halves thanks to a transporter accident, and it turns up in just about every series at some point), few go so far as McGoohan did with the subtlety of his performance. The Schizoid Man is a showcase for what McGoohan could do, but was rarely afforded the opportunity.

Man 03The episode was shot either side of Christmas 1966 and into January 1967, the first of four episodes directed by Pat Jackson (What a Carve Up!, 1962), who’d worked with McGoohan on Danger Man. Once more, location shooting at Portmeirion is forgone, mainly due to the weather at that time of year. A few streets of The Village are recreated on the MGM studio lot, and the ‘Exhibition Hall’ from The Chimes of Big Ben is repurposed as the ‘Recreation Hall’ in this episode.

Writer Terence Feely was an experienced television hand, contributing episodes to such series as The Avengers, sequel series The New Avengers, and ITC show The Persuaders. He’d worked with The Prisoner script editor George Markstein on Armchair Theatre, and would go on to become associate producer of Callan in 1967.

This is the first (and the last) episode in which the white balloon security device is identified as Rover. To stop the use of the device, Number Two orders ‘Deactivate Rover’, while later in the episode he is informed of the demise of Curtis/Number 12 with the announcement that ‘Rover got him’. Although Rover appears repeatedly throughout the series, the show itself felt little need to either name or explain exactly what it was or how it functioned, adding just one more mystery to The Prisoner.

What’s it All Mean? The Schizoid Man raises questions of identity and tackles the 1960s battle over whether nature or nurture was most important in forming character and personality in people. McGoohan’s Number Six is presented from the beginning of the series as a man who is grounded in his own identity: he knows who he is and is clearly a man of strong convictions—these are what apparently led to his resignation over ‘a matter of conscience’. It makes sense for Number Two to attempt to use this sense of identity against him in an attempt to break him.

The episode’s great conceit is to make Number Six believe he is the imposter, while maintaining that his doppelganger Number 12 is in fact the genuine Number Six. It is an unsettling concept, but one that is kept clear and straight forward on screen, thanks in large part to McGoohan’s carefully calibrated differences between the characters and to the choice (made late in the day) to put Curtis/Number 12 in a negative image blazer (black piping on white) to Number Six’s usual outfit.

This is also an attempt to remove one area of Number Six’s resistance. He refuses to wear the ‘No. 6’ badge, and in most episodes to this point has refused to respond to the Number Six moniker. Each episode opens with his denial of this identity: ‘I am not a number, I am a free man!’ Yet, in The Schizoid Man, if he is to hold on to his mental integrity, he has no choice but to actively embrace the identity of ‘Number Six’ in opposition to the fake ‘Number Six’ and the wiles of Number Two.

Man 08That’s Weird! Is the opening scene between Number Six and Alison supposed to suggest that telepathy, mind reading and ESP are commonplace in the world of The Prisoner? Neither is sceptical of this apparent mental link between them, and when Number Six attempts to use it to prove his identity (only to be betrayed by Number 24), neither Number Two nor Curtis/Number 12 poo-poo the idea or dismiss it as hogwash. Such topics were in vogue in the late 1960s and into the 1970s, so perhaps this is simply an artefact of the time the show was made, or perhaps it is a hint at the more fantastical side of The Prisoner?

Punch Ups! Two: Number Six gets to fight the usual regulation duo of thugs as he comes to his senses and attempts to escape Rover, followed by one of the series’ highlights: a fist fight with himself! McGoohan and his director very cleverly use a double/stunt man in this sequence, but unlike in many of the ITC shows, great care is taken not to make this too obvious.

Man 11Trivia: Earl Cameron, who features in this episode as the Supervisor, is still alive (as of this writing), now aged 100. He was one of the first wave of successful black actors in British film, with a leading role in 1951’s film noir Pool of London. He appeared in a host of 1960s classic TV besides The Prisoner, including roles in Doctor Who (The Tenth Planet, 1966) and The Andromeda Breakthrough, as well as four previous appearances with McGoohan in episodes of Danger Man. His most recent movie credit was in Christopher Nolan’s Inception (2010).

Verdict: One of the show’s earliest highlights, bolstered by a truly great performance by Patrick McGoohan. 

Score (Out of Six): Six

 

Brian J. Robb

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4: Free For All

Free 01

The Prisoner Episode by Episode

E04 Free For All

20 October 1967

Written by ‘Paddy Fitz’ (Patrick McGoohan)

Directed by Patrick McGoohan

Story: It’s election season in The Village: can the Prisoner be persuaded to stand for the position of Number Two?

Who is Number Two? Eric Portman

Guest Cast: Rachel Herbert

Information: Written and directed by Patrick McGoohan (with the teleplay credited to the pseudonymous ‘Paddy Fitz’, with ‘Fitz’ coming from his mother’s maiden name of ‘Fitzpatrick’), Free For All is an early indication of what the creator of the show hoped to achieve with The Prisoner. McGoohan, however, may not have intended to have such direct input at this early stage—he’d written the script and intended to use a fake name, but Don Chaffey was originally set to direct Free For All. McGoohan only took over himself after he and Chaffey had a huge disagreement about how to go about the filming of the episode.

Central to this instalment are questions of democracy, and especially the electoral process in mature Western democracies like the US and the UK. Filmed second in production (but broadcast fourth), Free For All was shot during an election year in Britain, so the subject may have been on McGoohan’s mind as an immediate concern.

Free 05Essentially, Free For All depicts democracy and voting (even in a ‘twentieth century Bastille that pretends to be a pocket democracy’) as a fruitless pursuit—after all, no matter which party you vote for, the politicians always win.

Jokes aside, what McGoohan seems to be suggesting with this episode is that no matter whatever dissention is tolerated, the ‘establishment’ (however you want to define that, but any embedded power structure will do) always ensures it comes out on top. Occasionally, the situation may be that social unrest means that opposing forces will be given a chance at government, but even then they usually operate within restrictions and confines established by those who ‘really run things’. Through The Prisoner, and especially in Free For All, McGoohan sets out to deconstruct such power structures, or at least attempts to make them visible.

Free 09The latest Number Two (played by an avuncular Eric Portman) goads Number Six into standing for election as Number Two, essentially creating and manipulating his own opposition. In this way, he validates the electoral process in The Village, giving the appearance of alternatives and opposition to those running things, while all the while ensuring that Number Six is really a sham candidate, and the status quo will always be restored at the end of the process. The election posters announcing Number Six as a candidate are already prepared; the Tally Ho newspaper ‘interview’ has already been written; even the outcome is decided in advance. The entire choreographed affair is designed to break Number Six, and if that doesn’t happen, at the very least to demoralise him and prevent further escape attempts.

Free 06

As with the drug therapy of A. B. and C., there are questions here about how successful Number Two is in brainwashing Number Six. There is a lengthy digression from the hoopla of the election in which we follow the process of breaking down Number Six to make him a more compliant opposition candidate. Some view the conditioning as wholly successful, with Number Six succumbing to the control of Number Two, with occasional lapses. Towards the end, having won the contest, is he awoken from a waking dream, a trance state?

An alternative view posits that, as in A. B. and C., he is actually playing along, able to almost entirely resist the attempts at controlling his mind and setting out to play Number Two at his own game. How much Number Six’s participation in the election is of his free will is important in the question of whether or not he has truly been seduced into thinking he actually has a chance to change anything.

Is McGoohan suggesting the electorate themselves are foolish for allowing themselves to be so manipulated every four years or so? Those who vote are as much a part of the machine as the politicians who stand for office. The candidates on Free For All don’t have names and real policies, just anonymous numbers (‘Six for Two! Six for Two!’) offering equally meaningless platitudes.

Free 03The ultimate reveal that Portman is not Number Two at all plays into the theme of the hidden forces that control society, the unelected bodies and people behind the scenes who run elections as fronts. The reveal that Rachel Herbert’s nonsense-spouting Number 58 is actually the real Number Two and Portman’s character simply a stooge is a nice rug pull and a great thematic compliment to the rest of the episode.

McGoohan helmed the Portmeirion shooting for this episode in mid-September 1966, coping with Portman’s seeming inability to remember his dialogue by providing large ‘idiot boards’ out of shot for him to read from. Much of the work focused on the speedboat chase, using doubles and filmed from the ubiquitous helicopter. About a month later, the studio filming took place once more reutilising the big dome set as a number of locations, and adding an all-new set for the cave where Number Six finds an apparently drunken Number Two.

What’s it All Mean? Free For All is one of the more easily understood episodes of The Prisoner, perhaps a consequence of it falling so early in the initial production cycle. The election focus is clear enough, as is the implication that democracy and voting is merely a charade, with there being no real danger to those who really wield power over society. Made in 1966, when Britain was going to the polls, McGoohan was tapping into a widespread counter-culture movement that was beginning to question the legitimacy of British democracy, overthrowing the complacency of the 1950s.

The democratic process had already been the subject of such television plays as Denis Potter’s early work Vote, Vote, Vote for Nigel Barton (1965, one of a pair of plays starring Keith Barron as a prospective Labour MP), and William Greatorex’s The Power Game (1965-69, and featuring Number 58, Rachel Herbert, in a regular role) starring Patrick Wymark as an establishment power broker where power struggles within a company reflect those of the wider political world.

Elections reflect the ultimate conflict between the individual and the society of which he is a part—sometimes your ‘team’ wins power, while at other times you have to put up with living under the rule of the ‘other side’. Either way, not much radically changes—and even if it does, when the next lot get in they can roll things back again.

Free 07There is something ironic in Number Six’s triumphant cry of ‘You are free to go! Obey me and be free!’ His insistence on making the Villagers ‘free’ (regardless of their own wishes—he hasn’t consulted them), and his resort to the phrase of the dictator (‘Obey me!’) perhaps depict how ultimate power reshapes those who aspire to it in the manner of the establishment. The only way to properly wield such power is to force your will upon the masses. As a victim of such coercion under Number Two and unable to leave The Village, it would have been thought that Number Six would be aware of such dangers, but perhaps it was a side effect of his conditioning.

Free 08McGoohan also has a pop at the media in Free For All, one of his favourite subjects. The interview conducted with Number Six in the mini moke is met with ‘No comment’ from him to every question, but the journalist simply makes up pablum answers that actually have no content. They don’t record what Number Six actually says, but simply write down what either they, their controllers, or what they think the people at large, want to hear. Clearly, McGoohan has little time for a media (in the 1960s largely newspapers—as depicted here—but increasingly through the decade, television) that he sees as being a tool of the powerful or of those in power. The lovely final touch sees the one question he does answer turned into ‘No comment’ by the journalist, as it doesn’t suit his (or his proprietors’) agenda.

Free 10There are several deceptions beyond just the electoral process, the role of the real Number Two, and the role of the media. For example, Number Six interrogates the ‘Village council’, asking a series of questions to which there comes no replies. Instead, the very act of asking the questions is deemed ‘a serious breach of etiquette’. Additionally, the cave refuge is depicted as a kind of underground alternative society to The Village, where alcohol is freely available (a commentary on the ‘pastimes’ of the powerful, perhaps?) and it is possible to speak your mind. This is, of course, yet another sham, with McGoohan making the point that even the seeming ‘alternative’ to the ‘mainstream’ plays by its own rules and hierarchies and can ultimately be co-opted by the establishment (if it doesn’t run it already). There is also something of an attack on the population or the electorate itself, depicted as being mindlessly enthusiastic and willing to follow any candidate, no matter the policies. Maybe none of it really matters as it is merely a game, like a card game ‘according to Hoyle’.

That’s Weird! As Number Six makes his escape from Number Two’s office after having won the election, he runs into a cave-like space where four men (all wearing sunglasses) are apparently sitting staring at a creature that looks like Rover (or is it the actual Rover?). What’s all that about, then?

Punch Ups!: As Number Six makes his escape by speedboat, he fights a couple of thugs and is soon corralled by Rover. Having won the election, Number Six attempts an escape, only to fall foul of the Village guardians (who pop up out of the floor of Number Two’s office).

Trivia: The photo used in the election posters of Number Six is actually a publicity photo of Patrick McGoohan as his Danger Man character John Drake, re-enforcing the theory that Number Six and Drake are one and the same. The same image is used in the Tally Ho, under the newspaper interview with Number Six and can be seen every episode in the series titles, with a line of ‘X’s scored through it (oddly, by the ‘H’ key on the typewriter!).

Verdict: As is clearly evident, Free For All is as relevant today as in the period it was made and first screened.

Score (Out of Six): Six

Brian J. Robb