The second completed but unproduced Prisoner script, Don’t Get Yourself Killed, was, coincidentally, written by Gerald Kelsey, the writer of Checkmate. Like The Outsider, it is an early commission, on the Escape theme, and still refers to Number Two’s home as the Georgian House of the early intention.
Don’t Get Yourself Killed is, however, a much poorer script, and would have been an out-of-character disaster for the series if it had been allowed to go ahead. Though apparently, the verbal reason given for its rejection was that the action was spread around too many characters.
The script suffers from a basic inability to reconcile the two contrasting strands that go to make it up, strands that are, to be honest, too far apart to ever be properly resolved in a single story.
At first, the story seems prepared to offer a serious social comment of the kind designed to appeal to McGoohan: announcements are made as to a forthcoming lecture, to which all inhabitants of the Village are expected to listen, using a 1967 pre-vision of Walkmen and iPods! Number Six, naturally, refuses to participate, but we cannot but help hearing snippets of the lecture, which is a heavily weighted insistence upon conformity, unanimity and the evil and destructiveness of individuality.
So far, so The General (indeed, it is possible that this theme may have been extracted and suggested as a subject for the later, more successful script). Naturally, Number Six becomes an object of fixation for the studious, quasi-fanatical Head of Faculty, to the point where he’s prepared to operate outside Number Two’s standing instructions.
But really, that’s about as far as the educational theme goes, as it is destined to be fatally subsumed by the second and more problematical element of the script.
This aspect is quickly introduced when Number Six, avoiding the lecture, heads off to the cliff-tops, as in The Outsider. Note, in passing, that these cliff-tops only appear in the two rejected scripts. And I refuse to treat this new element as a credible plot.
Because this is where Number Six meets his fellow would-be escapers, and learns that there is an Escape Committee, which he is expected to join, so that escape attempts can be co-ordinated to prevent them interfering with one another. Needless to say, he won’t play. And given the deliberately eccentric, foolish and highly improbable nature of the bunch of cranks set up as escapers, neither would you if you had a moment’s sense.
One throws bottles into the sea with messages in them (they wash up on shore a mile and a half down the coast). One catches migratory birds and ties messages to their legs (Number Two has a hunting falcon). One has built a da Vinci-style pedalcopter (it crashes, the moment he tries to fly it).
In short, they’re all idiots: obsessive, impossible-to-take-seriously, pathetic cranks who should never be allowed within sight of a drama series. Of course, the Escape Committee is known to Number Two, and tolerated as a means of channelling the energy of these misfits into a harmless pursuit. That’s definitely a Village perspective, and it would have been of benefit to the series to have explored the concept of resistance and desire to escape on the part of a small number of other citizens.
But this is a joke, and a demeaning one at that.
There’s one other member of the Committee, known in the script as The Miner, who doesn’t get introduced until later. As you’ve probably guessed, he plans to escape by digging a tunnel.
At least, that’s his cover story: the big secret is that he has discovered gold and is mining that, building up enough of a fortune to bribe his (and Number Six’s) way out of the Village, and live in luxury ever after.
This is where the two strands merge, as it is the Head of Faculty who is to be bribed. Unfortunately, the Miner has been bitten by the ‘gold bug’. He keeps wanting to delay escape to dig up more, is suspicious that his ‘partners’ are trying to steal from him, kills the Head of Faculty and blows the escape.
And the twist in the tail is that it isn’t gold, but iron pyrites.
It’s true that there are weak scripts amongst those actually filmed. The three ‘filler’ episodes hastily assembled when the series was unexpectedly extended are evidence of that fact, but they have a damned good excuse for it, as we’ll see when we get that far.
But even the least of these, with the least connection to the theme of the series, is far superior to this half-assed effort, and it’s executed with rather more brio and intelligence than Don’t Get Yourself Killed has to offer.