The Prisoner: episode 6 – The General – synopsis

Thunder crashes. The credit sequence runs. It is the same Number Two as in A, B or C but this time he says the traditional line, “The New Number Two”.
The daily helicopter flies over the Village, showing its lay-out below. Number Six is sat alone, outside a café, drinking coffee. All around him, people are talking animatedly. Number Six senses he is being watched and finds that a young, intense, dark-haired man, wearing Number Twelve, is staring at him intently.
The scene is interrupted by a tannoy announcement from ‘The General’s Department’ warning all students on the Three Part History course to return home as the next lecture from the Professor will be broadcast in thirty minutes. The crowd immediately get up and leave. The Prisoner asks the waiter for another coffee, but the café is closing, for the lecture.
Puzzled and suspicious, Number Six goes over to study a poster on a wall, showing the Professor. Under the heading  100% entry, 100% pass, it claims that Speedlearn provides a three year historical course in three minutes.
Number Twelve engages him in conversation about Speedlearn. Number Six’s only educational interest is in getting out of the Village. Number Twelve hints that he approves.
They are interrupted by the helicopter sweeping above in the direction of the beach. A man is running away with a crowd of Villagers chasing him. Number Twelve says that it is the Professor, and leaves. Intrigues, Number Six descends to the beach, intending to follow, but kicks something half-buried in the sand. It is a portable recorder and it is playing something recorded by the Professor.
Before Number Six can listen to it further, a Mini-Moke approaches. He conceals the recorder in the sand and allows the two men to give him a lift home. The Professor is caught and brought back.
In his cottage, the television is on and the lecture is about to start. The Professor is momentarily delayed and time is filled in by his wife, an anxious looking, elegantly dressed woman in her late thirties. Number Six pours himself a tomato juice and sits down to watch.
When the Professor comes on screen, he is avid with praise for the General, who has shown him the miracle of Speedlearn, a revolutionary education tool that makes teachers such as himself obsolete, and destroys the need for long, boring years of school, by impressing knowledge directly on the brain.
The ‘lecture’ is simply a close-up of a photo of the Professor, over which electronic music plays: the camera zooms in to show an intense, pin-point green light within the image.
Number Six finds he has dropped his glass, and that he feels half-hypnotised. He is then visited by Number Two (who is suave, self-confident, almost arrogant, in complete contrast to his previous appearance) and a man carrying a portable detector, who begins investigating the cottage. They are looking for the recorder: Number Two suggests that the Prisoner might be released in return for handing it over.
He then asks Number Six about the lecture, but Number Six says that history is not his subject. Number Two then fires a series of questions at him, all of which the Prisoner answers, word-perfectly, to the point where Number Two joins in and recites the answer along with him.
Number Six is shocked and disturbed. As soon as Number Two leaves, grinning smugly, he calls the operator, who answers the same questions in the exact same words.
Shortly before curfew that night, and after dark, Number Six slips out and returns to the beach. The recorder has gone, but Number Six finds Number Twelve in hiding, with the recorder. Number Twelve wants Speedlearn destroyed and wants to enlist Number Six’s assistance. Number Six makes it plain he doesn’t trust anyone but himself.
Number Twelve asks a variation on one of the standard questions, “What (not When) was the Treaty of Adrianopolis?”. Number Six answers with the date. Having made his point, Number Twelve leaves. The Prisoner plays the recorder. It has the Professor denouncing Speedlearn as an abomination.
The following morning, Number Two is found on the phone to his superior, reassuring him that all is well. As the Butler brings him a jug of milk, Number Two testily says they are conducting one of the greatest human experiments known to man, and it is being treated like a military exercise.
He is then joined by Number Twelve, reporting on the Professor’s progress. Number Twelve offers his opinion that ‘they’ are being too lenient with the Professor, that he is a crank and should be treated more sternly. Acidly, Number Two advises him to keep his opinions to himself.
In the Control Room, Number Two requires surveillance. This shows the Professor at work, typing notes that are fed into some form of duplicating machine that converts them into long metallic punch card strips. He is interrupted by a Doctor and Nurse, who sedate him so he can rest. Meanwhile, his Wife is conducting an art seminar on the garden terrace of their surprisingly a home. Number Six is present, completing a rather good, if unflattering coloured crayon portrait of the Wife, in military uniform. He challenges her about various odd activities that she interprets as creative acts. Presented with his sketch, she tears it up.
Leaving, the Prisoner sneaks into the house, whose curtains are all fully drawn. He finds it well-appointed, full of art, including a room of busts, covered by dust sheets. The Wife finds him there and orders him to leave, but Number Six ignores her and starts removing the dust covers, whilst questioning her about their position here and the Professor’s health. The busts include that of Number Two from The Chimes of Big Ben, another of the current Number Two, and, as Number Six talks about wanting to meet the General, a prominent one of himself. It is implied that the Wife is the sculptor.
Number Two, still urbane and smiling, emerges from an inner room, where the Professor is asleep in bed, under the charge of the Doctor and Nurse. Number Six is unconvinced: he uses a walking stick to smash the Professor’s skull, showing it to be a wax effigy.
Number Two advises that the offer of release is no longer available. Number Six tosses him the recorder.
That night, when he returns to his cottage, the electricity shorts out. An electrician is dispatched to fix this and finds a deliberate short-circuit. A member of Administration – Number Twelve – also arrives, threatening him with action over sabotage. It is, however, a ruse to enable him to speak to Number Six without surveillance. He asks if Number Six wants the Professor’s lecture from the recorder broadcast. Warily, the Prisoner agrees. Number Twelve gives him a biro pen concealing a micro-spore recording, and tells him to go to Administration tomorrow.
The next morning, the Education Committee gathers at the Administration building. All wear black overcoats and top hats, with dark glasses. Number Six is among them. He uses the pass given him by Number Twelve to enter the building but avoids the Boardroom, where Number Two is outlining the importance of Speedlearn. He finds his way to the Projection Room, where the operator has just loaded the official micro-spore into a gyroscope-like piece of equipment called the Simulator. Number Six knocks out the operator, who stabs him in the arm, and replaces the micro-spore.
Final checks are being carried out from the Boardroom. The blood on Number Six’s arm gives him away and Number Two recognises him. He is knocked out, and the original broadcast goes out.
Number Six is interrogated by Number Twelve over who he is working with, but Number Two knows he will not reveal anything. Instead, he proposes to find the truth via the General. Given the facts, the General can answer any question.
They march to the General’s office. Inside, the Professor is silently typing notes. At Number Two’s request, he types out various points, including the facts that passes are issued by the Administration Department and Number Twelve works in Administration.
The sheet of paper is fed into the duplicator, which disgorges a punch card strip. The Professor takes this and crosses the room. A curtain slides back to reveal the General.
The General is a massive computer, taking up one whole wall of the office.
Number Six interrupts, saying he has a question the General cannot answer. Number Two is suspicious, but allows it to go ahead. Number Six types four characters onto a sheet of paper. This is turned into a punch card and fed into the computer by the Professor.
Immediately, the computer starts to overheat. The Professor anxiously adjusts dials and switches, but to no avail. Number Two orders him to shut it down, but he cannot. Suddenly, he is paralysed by an electric charge. Number Twelve rushes forward to help him, but is similarly electrocuted. When the computer explodes, both are thrown clear, dead.
An aghast Number Two demands to know Number Six’s question. It is the unanswerable question, “Why?”
The final scene is on the garden terrace. The Professor’s Wife is waiting, anxiously. She reacts fearfully when she sees Number Six approach, and sits down. We are too far away to hear what he says. She lowers her head and he leaves.

2 thoughts on “The Prisoner: episode 6 – The General – synopsis

    1. Hi Victoria

      Thanks for visiting my blog and spreading the word.

      I assume you’ll have realised you’ve come in partway through a series. I home you enjoy the rest, and those to follow.


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