On Writing: The Tempus Trilogy – part 1

With three complete books under my belt, I decided I was ready for fiction, and so I moved on to what was then still going under the working title of The Infernal Device, but which, many years later, would be renamed Tempus Fugitive, when the series of which it was the first was re-named The Tempus Trilogy.
I maintained the same approach: a longhand First Draft, a Second Draft transcription, a Third Draft revision, part red pen, part Apple Mac, and then the Fourth Draft process of sharpening sections that didn’t really work.
It took me – guess what? – about six months, but at long last an idea that had first come to me over fifteen years earlier was on paper.
Up to a point, it was all true.
I did go to the August Bank Holiday weekend Old Trafford Roses Match in 1980, and I did meet an attractive young woman from Oldham, with whom I spent two scorching days watching a fantastically narrow Lancashire win, and I did ask her out and she agreed. Exactly as happens in Tempus Fugitive.
In real life, she was going away on holiday in a couple of days and gave me her telephone number so I could ring her when she was back, but when I did, she was much less enthusiastic, so the rest of the book was made up (including the Time Machine. Sorry).
(Oddly, I met her again several years later. I’d gone to see Billy Bragg at the Apollo on a bitterly cold New Year’s Day evening, with my mate Dave. Coming out, we bumped into a work colleague of his, and her boyfriend. They were parked in the same street as I so we walked back together. The next time I saw Dave he said that Diane had asked him to send her apologies for ‘standing me up’ that time. As I’d only actually been stood up once, and this more recently, I wondered what the heck he was talking about, until the penny dropped. I’d never have recognised her, and that had nothing to do with the fact that she was dressed very differently for Ancoats in January than Old Trafford in August!)
Quite why I decided to use my experiences of that weekend, I no longer remember, but something was born between with the conjunction of this (sadly) out of the ordinary experience, and an old in-joke between a couple of old school-mates.
What would you do if you have access to a Time Machine? Where (or I suppose it should be when) would you go first?
I’d always said that if they ever invented the Time Machine, the first place I’d want to go would be Old Trafford in 1956, to see Jim Laker become the (then) only bowler ever to take all ten wickets in an innings. So I applied that to my adopted scenario.
The idea developed very slowly, over a couple of years, but in retrospect there’s an analysable logic behind it. For one thing, the use of Time Travel to visit a cricket match, however famous, obviously militated against any kind of official, scientific or authorised setting, which in turn led to the need for a back-street inventor (with a level of scientific knowledge that could correspond to my general ignorance). This would, in due course, lead to Roland, my ‘hero’s superior older brother.
Then there was the question of what should happen once I got Jack to 1956. Getting there and watching the match might please a few cricket die-hards, but as a story it did not go any further. Almost by default, the only way to progress this notion was to find that, once back in time, things didn’t happen as the history books had it.
Accepting that premise, the next question was obviously why would history change? Was it an accident, brought on by inadvertent interference by the hero that altered the timeline, or was it deliberate, an act of sabotage? Having read little but SF (and comedy) for the whole of the Seventies, I was well aware of the trope against changing the past, though Chaos Theory had not yet been invented to justify the improbably widespread effects on history of treading on an insect. Ans, as Roland would put it, if not in such specific terms, what possible effect on history could it have if Laker took only nine wickets instead of ten?
There seemed to be considerably more mileage in having someone deliberately changing the past, and having determined on that, if the history being changed was a sporting feat (not even, you may notice, the result of the game), however famous, the story pretty much had to be a comedy.
What it then needed was an ending. Who was behind all this, and more importantly why? Somewhere along the line I conceived of my ending, with its villain and the indelible ties to my opening scene, creating a colossal choice for Jack to have to make to bring the story to its anticipated conclusion.
And no, I am not going to be any more specific than that. Only a very small number of you have actually bought the book (Shame! Boo! Hiss!) and given that it’s a pretty clever and unique ending, if I say so myself, I’m not giving it away for free.
It took a long time to get this structure fixed in my mind and, as it happened, even longer to write it, but I eventually managed to draw together a clever and unusual plot, which making good use of my experiences that weekend with Diane as a springboard that, eventually, controlled the whole story in a way impossible to foresee when I first decided to cannibalise them.
As I stated above, my scientific knowledge is minimal. I cobbled together my theory about Time Travel from the real life phenomena that I’ve experienced countless times: losing something on my desk that is absolutely not where you put it when you look for it, but which, half an hour later, is exactly where you looked and did not find it. My explanation that it had slipped into the future via a wormhole was fanciful, but it fitted exactly the story as it was growing.
The main problem was, not long after I had actually completed a First Draft, which a friend of mine with a more scientific bent had read and enjoyed, I discovered by accident that scientists were investigating wormholes as a possible source for Time Travel.
It was sheer coincidence, and one that I found obscurely disappointing. It was one thing to come up with a completely implausible and utterly ridiculous explanation for Time Travel, whose complete unlikelihood was in keeping with the book’s general air of improbability, but to be overtaken by serious scientific investigation actually diminished the book slightly for me. If anyone ever read it, I would appear to be grounded in fact.
At this stage, The Infernal Device (which I had taken from my old mate Steve Callaghan’s description of the Subbuteo accessory that enabled you to elevate free-kicks and corners) was a one-off, though I had long since had the first line of a sequel (“Hey Roland, can I borrow the keys to the Time Machine?”). It was a great first line, but that was the entirety of it. No story, and not a glimpse of a concept.

Rick Geary – new Kickstarter

I don’t know if any of you followed my urging to support Rick Geary’s previous Kickstarter project, The Elwell Enigma. Those of you who did will be shortly getting your book, as will I (and I shall be reviewing it on receipt).

With that project safely delivered, Geary has moved on to his next book, a 56pp full colour hardback entitled A is for Antichrist: Obama’s Conspiracy Alphabet, the cover of which you can see above.

It’s a book illustrating some of the outrageous and unrealistic accusations levelled at Barack Obama by his enemies, so I don’t expect any members of the Republican Party to be buying this, but then given some of the truly ridiculous suggestions being bandied forth, someone of Geary’s experience and perspective is going to be having a field day with this.

Unlike The Elwell Enigma, we’re assured that the art and the book is complete, with the Kickstarter funds going only to fund pribting and delivery costs. The Kickstarter’s target is $10,000 by Thursday 17 October, and it’s already reached just under 25% (I’m in, of course). So click on the following, http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1744289925/a-is-for-antichrist-obamas-conspiracy-alphabet, for more details and to pledge at whatever level is comfortable with you, and this time there won’t be the same delay waiting for your book.

This has been a Shameless Plug, and it’ll be well worth it.

The Prisoner: episode 12 – A Change of Mind – synopsis

Thunder crashes.
Number Six is exercising in his private gym – a high bar and a swinging punchbag – in a clearing in the woods, going through his fitness regime. Two men approach him,doing a cross talk, evidently spoiling for trouble, asking why he doesn’t use the Village gym, suggesting he’s anti-social. They refer to the ‘Committee’ not liking that.
They force a fight, which Number Six wins, but as they run away, the two men threaten that the Committee will hear about this.
Number Six is duly summoned. He waits in an annexe amongst others. Number Forty Two, a dark haired young woman, is crying incessantly. A broadcast from the Committee Chamber finds signs of disharmony in Number Ninety Three, who is sent out to make a public confession, repeating words the Committee choose for him. He breaks down, applauded by everyone but Number Six.
It is his turn next. He descends into a circular room where the Committee – all anonymous in appearance – sit in a circle around a green baize table. He sits in the centre. The Chairman advises him that a serious complaint has been filed. Number Six is his usual, sarcastic, dismissive self, refusing to take the Committee seriously, questioning its authority. He is warned that the matter is serious, but his case is suspended as the Committee adjourn for tea.
Outside, the news that he is under investigation is already in the Tally Ho, and Number Six is surprised to find fellow Villagers already starting to shun him: refusing to respond to his greeting, turning and walking away as he approaches.
Returning to his cottage, he is not surprised to find Number Two – a rotund, slow-moving man with an effete voice – waiting for him. He warns Number Six that the situation is serious. He disavows any relationship to the Committee: it is the Villagers, insisting upon social co-operation and if Number Six is found guilty, Number Two will be powerless to intervene.
Number Eighty Six – an attractive blonde woman in Village garb, with her hair up – enters the cottage. She has an earnest, almost formal air. She is there to assist Number Six: she has been before the Committee herself. She will help him through the Social Group.
Number Two leaves them together, but continues to survey developments. He is waspish, almost caustic about Number Eighty Six, hissing ‘Females!’. One mistake for her and they could lose Number Six. He taps the side of his forehead, to emphasise this.
The Social Group meets and argues earnestly about social responsibility and the obligation to interact. Number Forty Two is part of it. Number Six simply cannot take it seriously and draws the wrath of the Group,  Number Forty Two included, down on his head. They denounce him, calling him Unmutual.
He is then taken to the Hospital to undergo a medical, which demonstrates he is physically fine. In a room marked ‘Aversion Therapy’, he sees a man being fed images of Rover and Number Two, receiving electric shocks to reinforce his responses. He tries to intervene, in disgust, but the door is locked. A man with a shy smile and a hesitant manner gently reproofs him for getting so worked up. The man has a small scar on the right side of his forehead.
At the next meeting of the Committee, Number Six is declared Unmutual. He emerges to find it the headline of the Tally Ho. He is shunned by everyone.
The Appeals Committee visits him at his cottage, though they refuse to enter. They consist of three overweight Mothers Institute type of women, and Number Forty Two, who is still accusative. His resistance causes them to abandon him for now, but the growing isolation soon begins to get to him. Again, Number Two, watching, hints at the possible consequences by tapping his head.
Number Six visits the café by the Old People’s Home but the waiter ignores his request for tea and everyone gets up and gathers at the further end, glaring at him. He returns to his cottage, dishevelled and sweaty, where the Appeals Committee are waiting. They tell him that this is not a game and that the Villagers are socially conscious people, to whom the presence of an Unmutual is loathsome. When he calls the Villager sheep, they leave, warning him that there is only one course open.
Number Two rings to warn him that it has gone too far, that he will now undergo Instant Social Conversion. It is not drugs but something long lasting, after which Number Six simply will not care. The Prisoner realises that Number Two is talking about lobotomy.
The loudspeaker announces that the Social Conversion of Number Six is about to take place and all those interested in witnessing this should go to the Hospital. Outside the cottage, a crowd has gathered, headed by the Appeals Committee. With a glow of self-satisfaction, they beat Number Six with their umbrellas. The crowd seizes his and drags him to the Hospital, where he is anaesthetised and strapped to a trolley in an operating theatre.
Number Eighty Six, dressed in a white doctor’s coat, conducts the operation, explaining in detail what they are doing and the effect it will have. A laser will focus on the connective tissue in Number Six’s brain and an ultrasound generator will sever this, removing forever his aggressive tendencies. Number Six listens helplessly. The procedure starts, but at the last minute, Number Eighty Six reduces the ultrasound back to zero, indicating that the operation is a bluff.
Number Six wakes in the Hospital, a strip of plaster across his right forehead. He is relaxed and tranquil, and the Doctor advises him to avoid excitement. Number Eighty Six, now dressed in a non-Village pale blue sleeveless dress, with her hair let down, takes charge of Number Six and leads him home through crowds of welcoming Villagers.
Number Two is waiting in the cottage, happy to talk about unimportant matters such as Number Six’s resignation, but abandons this in the latter’s confused state. Number Six, though ‘converted’ is still aggressive enough to shout odd words angrily. Number Eighty Six makes him a cup of tea, into which she drops a fast dissolving pill. Suspicious, Number Six sees this, and sends her to feth him a blanket, allowing him to pour the tea away into a plant pot.
Numbers Two and Eighty Six watch Number Sis on screen. Number Eighty Six is concerned. The Prisoner is restless, frustrated. Though she has sedated him with Nytol, he already suspects. Number Two sends her back to give him another dose.
She makes him another cup of tea, doses it with Nytol. But Number Six, in hearty manner, overrules her, claiming that if there’s one thing he can’t stand, it’s a woman who doesn’t know how to make a decent cup of tea. He determinedly makes another pot, pours out two cups and, after she has again dropped in the pill, switches them so that Number Eighty Six gets the drug.
She is quickly lethargic, drowsy, a little trippy. A furious Number Two, again railing at her as a ‘Stupid woman!’, and orders her to his office. Number Eighty Six leaves, and Number Six goes for a walk.
He winds up at his gym, still inhibited from using them equipment. However, the same two taunting men find is there. They intend to give him a beating, but he quickly reverts to his usual self and defeats them easily.
Returning to the Village, he encounters the still-dreamy Number Eighty Six, who is picking flowers for Number Two, to make him happy. In her suggestible state, Number Six uses his watch to hypnotise her. She reveals the entire plan, including the fake lobotomy. He then gives her instructions.
Number Six then goes to the Green Dome, where Number Two greets his in a welcoming manner. Number Six is happy to talk about that silly matter of his resignation, but he wants to do it in public. Slightly wary, Number Two agrees, and calls the Villagers to the Square.
Speaking from the Balcony, Number Six praises Number Two, but it is soon clear that he is spinning out time until the Clocktower strikes. Number Two is growing nervous and his suspicions are confirmed when at four o’clock, Number Eighty Six steps out of the crowd and denounces Number Two as Unmutual.
Number Six takes the chance to urge the Villagers to overthrow Number Two and his world of control. Nervously, the man slips out of the back of the balcony, to return to the Green Dome, the Villagers following en masse in silence. His nerve breaks, and he runs, with them on his heels.
Silently, with a black and white umbrella raised, the Butler follows behind.
The Prisoner’s face races towards the screen. A pair of iron-barred doors slide across in front of it, slamming shut.

Little Gems – Troutbeck Tongue

Windermere from Troutbeck Tongue

Troutbeck Tongue (or The Tongue, Troutbeck Park, to give it its formal title) is not really thought of among the Lakeland Fells. Geographically, it is a long, grassy, tongue of land, situated in the middle of the Troutbeck valley, surrounded on three sides by higher fells that do not present especially exciting aspects, and which offers only a pleasing prospect of middle and lower Windermere, highlighting the islands, as a view. Nor is the Troutbeck valley high on attractions in itself. It’s one of a trio of south-eastern valleys, primarily rural, narrow, remote from the hills except by walking, and relatively quiet. Troutbeck, though very beautiful in its lower stages, is notable mostly for the main road climbing up the western flank of the valley before crossing the ridge and rising to Kirkstone Pass. The Tongue occupies the middle valley, defined by narrow becks, and concealing a wide, desolate upper valley that rises to Threshthwaite (Threshet) Mouth. But though it doesn’t sound the most enticing of experiences, what makes Troutbeck Tongue a little gem is it’s sharp-nosed, rocky prow, offering walkers a simple, danger-free but still exhilarating miniature scramble. For older walkers, who can no longer summon the stamina, for families with young children bursting with excess energy, this is a walk to remind or to introduce to hand and foot scrambling in a safe environment. Indeed, the biggest obstacle on this walk is man-made. Drive through the Troutbeck valley on the Kirkstone road, signposted at a mini-roundabout on the Ambleside – Windermere road about a mile north of Windermere Village. The road itself is one of the gentlest approaches to a road pass in the Lakes, and its early stages, through the sylvan delights of the lower valley should be taken slowly. Car parking will be noted near the bridge by the Church and this is an ideal stopping place for a relaxing hour, before or after the walk. Beyond this area, car parking is difficult. The walk starts near the Mortal Man pub, left, whose car park is the only feasible stopping place. A placatory drink is suggested, ideally before setting out. Walk back about 100 yards and take an unsignposted road, Ings Lane, descending steeply into the valley. This drops 100′ or so rapidly, before levelling out into a long walk through the fields, tedious but inescapable. Use the time to study the prow of the Tongue as it rises steadily before you, filling the valley bottom. The road leads to Troutbeck Park Farm and veers off to the right. Cross it and take a narrow path leading steeply uphill along the edge of encroaching gorse. A way may need to be forced to make progress alongside a wall, When the wall ends, bear right onto the grassy prow of the fell. There is no path, but the ridge is narrow enough for there to be no concerns about route-finding, whilst broad enough to offer no concerns about falling. From here, just start uphill, at whatever pace is comfortable to you, taking a direct line over the rocks embedded in the surface. The rocks are not continuous but outcrop succeeds outcrop, and the kids will love scrambling over them and always more delights to follow. The only obstacle is about halfway up, when the way is blocked by a wire fence, topped by a strand of barbed wire. Kids can be lifted over with no trouble, but should be told to keep their heels up. Adults will need to be a little more circumspect, but the fence is easily passable if an anorak has been stuffed into a rucksack, irrespective of how sunny and calm the weather may be. Simply fold the anorak across the evil top strand and straddle across the fence using the anorak as padding for the sensitive areas thus brought into contact with the wire. From here, the ridge continues until it tops out about a hundred yards from the highest point. Stay to admire the fell-length view of the Troutbeck valley, including sparkling Windermere at its foot, before completing the ascent. The upper valley comes as something of a surprise from here. The Tongue’s top is at the best height to enhance the perspective, giving the impression of a vast, lonely, wild place beyond, trackless and empty, with Threshthwaite Mouth at its furthest end. This, the impression suggests, is not country for amateurs. Apart from that, there’s little spectacular to be seen around, nor much to detain visitors on the ground. A return by the ridge seems favourite, especially given the view of Windermere ahead – indeed, there are many who will recommend reversing the walk and saving the ridge for descent for that very reason. Normally, I would sympathise, but the scramble is always more fun uphill, and as the primary attraction of the walk, I think it should be given its proper prominence. Make a leisurely return by walking forward into that vast, empty bowl, until the wire fence is met on the other half of its route round the fell. Cross it by the same means, after which the faint path quickly peters out, so bear down on the right, towards the high wall of the Ill Bell range, until steepening slopes deliver you down to the beck. A good path accompanies this back, through narrow, woody confines, until you return to the farm at the foot of the ridge. Walk back to the main road and the car. Another drink at the Mortal Man will probably be very welcome on both sides.

What will they start with?

I’ve never been one for nostalgia concerts: singers and bands whose day has come and gone, but who go out on the road to play their old hits, usually in versions no way comparable to the recordings you love.
The first band I ever saw live who had split up and reformed was Pere Ubu, and they’re a different case entirely, because they were re-starting their career with new material (and everything post Modern Dance was off the menu anyway).
But the first time Madness got back together in the mid-Nineties, touring before Christmas, I was quick to buy myself a ticket. Indeed, I saw them twice on these annual Christmas tours, and had a whale of time on both outings.
I’d been a Madness fan almost from the beginning, from The Prince and I’d seen them on stage three times, touring each of the last three albums in their turn, so I had experience of the Nutty Boys, even if it was when they were shading towards the more serious.
The gig was taking place on the Sunday evening before Christmas, in G-Mex, the Greater Manchester Exhibition Hall, that had been created by conversion from the former Manchester Central Railway Station (a single platform used to run from London Road station – now Piccadilly – to Central that was reputedly the longest platform in Europe). As a concert hall, it was a massive venue, with temporary seats along both sides and at the back, but masses of floorspace, room for thousands to stand, mill about, dance and have fun.
I warmed up for the gig by driving to the far side of Nottingham for the day.
I’d lived and worked in Nottingham for two years and made quite a few friends there, but fifteen years later, the only one with whom I was still in contact was Julia, who, with suitable irony, was the one friend I’d known for the least time. For years, I’d drive down to where she lived, with her husband and two kids, on the east of Nottingham, for lunch and an afternoon’s chatter and catch-up. This year, it turned out the only time they were free was the day of my Madness gig.
So, 150 miles of driving and straight into the City Centre to park, and debating what to do about clothing. I mean, this was the Sunday before Christmas, which meant that it was bloody cold out there in the streets, but inside G-Mex, with thousands of us on the floor, it was going to be bloody hot. I debated with myself and made the wrong decision, to leave my pullover etc. in the car and walk through with my coat – which I then had to cling to throughout the entire gig.
And I was supposed to be meeting a mate from work who, despite his being a good fifteen years younger than me, was equally a Madness enthusiast. We were supposed to meet beforehand at an Irish pub, and go on together, with his other mates, but the pub was shut, so that was that.
So I took myself into the hall, where the crush was greatest the nearer you got to the front. I wasn’t too keen on getting crushed, or getting into anything remotely resembling a mosh pit, so I manoeuvred around until I was about halfway back from the stage, over to the (audience) right, with enough room to move whenever I wanted to, and with nobody especially tall in my immediate eye-line towards the stage.
The support band had just begun their set, Carter the Unstoppable Sex Machine, starring that duo Jim-Bob and Fruitbat (how can you not respect a musician who calls himself Fruitbat?).
Their music was high energy and pounding, with a high speed bassline that vibrated the soles of my feet every time I lifted one or other up from the ground. They were a decent support, fun enough to enjoy whilst waiting for the real thing, but unlikely to draw you into buying a CD of their stuff (this concert was taking place in the pre-Download days, where sampling was a more serious commitment).
And whilst they played, I wondered: it was well over a decade since I had last heard Madness in concert. I was looking forward to all the old favourites being pounded out with verve and enthusiasm. But what song would they open with?
I mean, what a question, even if I never spoke it out loud. I kept going over the hits in my head, trying to decide what would be the most suitable one to kick things off with. Which Madness song would be exactly right? It felt like an important question.
And at long last they came bounding out on stage, all seven of them, like they used to, Kix dressed up in something outlandish, Suggs as little changed as it was possible for a human being to be (don’t look in his attic). We cheered and howled and roared and revelled in their presence and Chas Smash came up to the mike in readiness and bellowed, “Hey you, don’t watch that…” and the crowd erupted, even the one on the right hugging a bulky overcoat and thinking furiously to himself, “What the hell else would they possibly have started with?”
I was a fool. But I was there. And it was bloody good fun.

The Prisoner: Other Media

A Graphic Novel

Though the canon of The Prisoner lies solely in its seventeen, much-repeated episodes, there were attempts, both contemporaneous and afterwards, to expand the concept into other media. I am not referring to the 2010 re-make by American TV, which I neither have nor will watch. But there were spin-off novels, in the tradition of the American market for popular shows, and several attempts to translate the series into comics.
The most prominent examples of trying to cash-in on the appeal of the series were the three novelisations written in America between 1968 and 1969: The Prisoner by Thomas M Disch, Who is Number Two? by David McDaniel and A  Day in the Life by Hank Stine (a mini-pseudonym for JeanMarie Stine).
I bought these in the Eighties when they were re-published in the UK through New English Library, though I’d read the first and third as library books in the late Seventies, whilst living in Nottingham. I sold them on again, years ago, and my memories of them are faint and patchy.
The three books are very different in style and approach, although the three authors wrote them to be continuous, with the succeeding novels having some vague reference to their predecessor, as if that adventure had been half-obliterated by brainwashing or drugs.
Disch was a major SF writer of repute, whose work centred upon helpless, passive individuals in situations they are unable to control, so not the obvious writer to continue the story of Number Six. His story was set after the end of the series and Number Six’s ultimate ‘escape’, and involved his recapture and return to the Village, in an oddly prosaic fashion.
However, he has been brainwashed to forget completely his previous incarceration and everything to do with the Village (he only discovers this in the form of videotapes – several years before these became available – consisting of the seventeen episodes of The Prisoner).
I remember little else of the story, save that the book as a whole was downbeat and generally dull. It completely lacked the surreality of the series, save for that in-joke, and the device of effectively restarting the whole thing, treating The Prisoner as something done and dusted, seems to me to be, in retrospect, a device to allow Disch to write as Disch, and not in McGoohan’s model.
McDaniel, in contrast, was a prolific writer of licensed properties – The Man from U.N.C.L.E and Star Trek being two of his regular berths – and a very good exponent of the field according to those who collect such books. His Who is Number Two? was chronologically second, but not released until last, for some unfathomable reason.
It’s the most conventional of the trio, and the one most anchored to the format of the series. McDaniel’s Number Two plots to undermine Number Six’s resistance, to gradually overcome his desire to escape by allowing him to have his /lotus in the Village, and by gradually providing supplies that enable the Prisoner to lavish attention on cleaning, re-tuning and eventually racing his beloved car on a self-built track near the beach.
The more Number Six has a stake in life in the Village, the less determined he will be to resist. But Number Six is very slowly constructing an escape plan, as his new, customised, fibreglass streamlining is actually intended as a boat hull, with the Lotus to motor an escape. Which fails,of course, but which enables Number Two to get away in Number Six’s stead.
Stine’s A Day in the Life, though the furthest removed from the series, was always the most interesting book. It’s a subjective, sollipsistic, impressionistic account of life in the Village as a mixture of good and bad times. The Prisoner ends up getting away to London, absolutely free and clear, only for the whole experience to be revealed as some kind of hallucination which, as he has expected all along, cracks in one go.
Incidentally, both McDaniel and Stine specifically identify Number Six as John Drake.
All three are worth reading as curios, and several different editions are available through Amazon and eBay, but they bear the usual relationship spin-offs have to a series: they are neither canon nor able to evoke more than an impression of the original.
Since then, there have been two other attempts to invoke The Prisoner in print. Roger Langley, founder of Six of One, wrote three Prisoner novellas in the Eighties, all privately printed and collected in a single Volume that can be bought in the Six of One shop in Portmeirion. I have read none of these, but the internet accounts are dismissive.
More recently, the LA-based Powys Media, who specialise in Space: 1999 novelisations, have branched out into Prisoner spin-offs as well, with two to date and a third due in 2013. Again, I have read none of these, but the on-line reviews available for The Prisoner’s Dilemma do praise its capture of the mood of the series and its sheer energy of invention.
The world of comics has not ignored The Prisoner either, with both Marvel and DC taking their turn at trying to adapt the series. Marvel licensed the show for adaptation in the mid-Seventies, at the behest of writer Steve Engelhart, who was in tune with its anti-establishment theme. Working with veteran artist Gil Kane, he produced an eighteen page adaptation of Arrival which, in a later interview, he described as following the episode faithfully, but adding thought bubbles.
The result, to the best of my knowledge, has never been seen, as Stan Lee decided it wasn’t visual enough, and gave the project to Jack Kirby instead. Kirby had already demonstrated his enthusiasm for the series in 1968, plotting and drawing a four part Fantastic Four story, set in a similarly mysterious Village in Latveria, operated by Doctor Doom.
With the standard page-count having been adjusted yet again, Kirby got seventeen pages now, and he duly wrote and pencilled an adaptation of the first half of Arrival. A total of six and a half pages were inker by his regular inker, Mike Royer, before the plug was again pulled, and Marvel concluded that they couldn’t turn The Prisoner into a Marvel Comic, for which I am grateful.
Nevertheless, many of Kirby’s pages have appeared, and can indeed be seen on-line: enough to make you wish he’d been given more latitude. He does a sterling job of interpreting McGoohan and Portmeirion into his style, whilst working within his own futuristic design, and the work intrigues.
It would be left to DC, a decade later, to actually succeed in getting a Prisoner comic into print, as a four part Prestige format series later collected as the Graphic Novel, Shattered Visage (the title being taken from the Shelley poem, Ozymandias).
The comic, co-written by Dean Motter and Mark Askwith and drawn by Motter, was fully approved, with both McGoohan and Leo McKern agreeing the use of their faces. It departed from the series in being set contemporaneously, twenty years on (and dismissing the series’ own finale as a drug-induced hallucination).
The story centre on a divorced couple named Drake, Thomas and Alice (the latter a nod to Lewis Carroll), who both come from a British Intelligence background. Alice, who has resigned, plans to sail the world in a computer-controlled yacht. Thomas, who is still in the system, rigs her boat to run aground and strand her on the island where stands the decaying ruin of the Village.
Twenty years on, the man who was Number Two, after a long prison sentence, has published an autobiography exposing the Village. Thomas has been responsible for vetting it and has blurred many details as to the programmes running at the time (as well as contemporary, real-life security issues). But what Thomas knows is that, when the Village was closed down, the man known as Number Six stayed on, renumbering himself Number One. And the former Number Two is on his way to the Village.
Hence, Alice is sent on ahead, whilst Thomas, working alongside a seemingly rogue American agent, follows later. By now, Alice has been named as Number Six by the ageing, heavily bearded familiar figure, who speaks mainly in shallow platitudes, and whose decision to stay when he could leave makes him look like a mere contrarian, as opposed to a principled man.
When Number Two turns up, intent on ‘freeing’ his erstwhile enemy from the Village, instead of the subtle psychological battle of Once upon a Time, we get a fist-fight. Though it is interesting to have the ex-Number Two claim that the Prisoner was defeated: unable to bend, he broke, shattered, and when he took a Number, any number, even Number One, he accepted the Village’s valuesand lost.
This pertinent point is, however, undercut when Thomas and his American pal arrive, find the underground control rooms that were the scene for Fall-Out and discover several more active nuclear weapons. These get set off, destroying the Village once and for all, and killing Thomas with it.
Alice and Number Six sail back to London, where he shaves off his beard and delivers one final platitude that undermines the precepts of the series: “Does the presence of Number Two require the existence of Number One?”, and assures her that his secrets are still completely safe and that the World would have been destroyed by now if they weren’t.
All this takes place against a background of sub-Le Carre intrigue, culminating in a new set of masters taking over British Intelligence. Thomas’s boss is ordered to resign, is gassed and take away mysteriously, implying that the cycle is beginning again.
What might have been moderately interesting in its own right, turns out to be confused, confusing and over-eager to stuff itself with unexplained hints, nods and winks, and it falls a long way short of living up to McGoohan’s original ideas, even if it was approved by him (“he didn’t hate it,” Motter said).
So, when all is said and done, we only have the seventeen true stories, and nothing else to lend itself to expanding our visions.

On Writing: A Cool Story

Anyone who’s been interested in comics for more than about fifteen minutes is aware of Alan Moore, the first superstar writer (with the exception of Stan Lee). Moore has long been one of the most innovative writers in comics, and it was his immense success in America at DC that opened up the door for British writers and artists to have careers in the US comics business.
Like so many people, I first became aware of Moore through Warrior magazine, an independent B&W comics magazine publish by Quality Comics (aka Editor and Entrepreneur Dez Skinn). Moore wrote Marvelman and V for Vendetta for Warrior, the sheer quality of which led me to his work for the short-lived Daredevil magazine from Marvel UK, in which he had transformed Captain Britain.
Those who only know the post-Moore comics field have no idea of the impact Northampton’s most famous writer had on comics. He had the ability to see characters and situations in considerably more dimensions than other writers and to bring out implications and interpretations that seemed obvious once Moore had written them, but which could not have been conceived by other writers.
To some extent it was the different perspective that Moore could bring from being British, from being removed from a culture that was instinctively ingrained within US fans, who were providing the majority of writers and artists. Mainly, it was his breadth of vision, his search for deeper meanings and understandings.
Alright, he was not the world’s greatest or most original plotter (Marv Wolfman was quoted as saying that if Moore could plot as well as he writes, the rest of them would have to kill him), but basically, who gave a damn?
I first met him, fan to writer, at the first Convention I attended, at the NEC in Birmingham. Moore had not long since started the surreal and very funny Bojeffries Saga in Warrior, one of which characters being Raoul, a werewolf wearing a red and white striped football scarf. The Bojeffries Saga was set in the Midlands so, whilst he was signing my copy, I asked him who the scarf was for: Stoke City or Nottingham Forest?
It was a joke, a throwaway question, but Moore immediately replied that it was neither, that it was actually a Manchester United scarf, because the thing about Raoul was that he wants desperately to be accepted as English, so he tries to surround himself with as many aspects of Englishness as possible, and he favours Manchester United because they’re the most famous English team (this when we were down in the dumps of the Eighties, being carried by the perpetually injured Bryan Robson).
I was stunned at the depth of detail Moore went into, the extent to which he’d thought about his character and the seriousness with which he took a joke figure, and his eagerness to go into such things with a total stranger.
It was not long after that he was asked to take over DC’s Swamp Thing, where he was given the freedom to do extraordinary, transformatory things, not just with Swampy, but even with Superman. Indeed, when the time came to wrap up the continuity of the original Superman, prior to his being revised for the first time after Crisis on Infinite Earths it was Moore who wrote the sweetest, most emotional and perceptive of stories to do so, a story that made me care enough to miss a character that had become out-moded and absurd.
If this sounds like an advanced case of hero-worship, I plead guilty, and bring into mitigation all the comics that Moore wrote to evidence the fact that he was just that good.
One of his best stories, in my eyes, was “Down Among the Dead Man” in Swamp Thing Annual 2. It was an immediate sequel to a three part story in the monthly series, in which the newly-transformed Swampy had, for the first time, stood against his old enemy Anton Arcane, itself a creepy, horrifying affair, during which Arcane had killed his niece, Abby Arcane, and sent her soul to Hell.
In the Annual, Swampy followed Abby to Hell, to rescue her and return her soul to her body. On his journey, he crossed the entirety of all of DC’s underworlds, meeting all their ‘dead’ characters. It was more than a travelogue, because the story wove these previously disparate and unconnected characters into a comprehensible system, in which everyone had a logical and appropriate place or level.
It was a brilliant story, and I said so in a long review in the next FA. The following issue featured a very long letter from Bernard Leak, a new name. It robustly attacked my opinion, before going on to make some trenchant observations about comics as a whole, which were reprinted in the most influential US magazine, The Comics Journal.
I responded in kind, next issue, heartily defending my opinions (and got a very lengthy rebuttal by private letter, written in one continuous flow on a roll of computer paper which, when unrolled, was longer than I was!)
Sadly, Bernard was a flash in the pan, dropping out of fandom almost as quickly as he’d arrived, which was a damned shame because he was very interesting, and a refreshing commentator.
This took place through the spring and early summer, and in September I was off to London for the main UK Comics Convention, at the Westminster Hall. There were guests galore, and I carefully packed the comics I wanted to get signed, among them Swamp Thing Annual 2. I was lucky to meet Alan Moore fairly early on the Saturday, after registering, and I immediately got out the issues I’d brought with me, which he duly autographed. As he wrote his name on the Annual, I commented that I had to bring that one, after all the controversy the review had caused.
At this point, I can only assume that we abruptly passed into Earth-2, or more likely Earth-3, a parallel world whose values were an inverted version of our own.
Because Moore looked up at me, his face lighting. “Are you Martin Crookall?” he asked. Surprised that he even knew my name, I admitted it. “Put her there!” he said, enthusiastically sticking out his hand and taking mine in an enveloping grip. “I’ve been wanting to meet you.”
Even now, almost thirty years later, I cannot really believe he said that. The Universe was upside down, there was something fundamentally wrong with the fabric of existence. The Alan Moores of this world were not eager to meet me, the proper order of things was the other way round. My then girlfriend wouldn’t hear a word of it: it was obvious to her that Moore should want to meet me, which was sweet of her, but it still didn’t change my conviction that there was something pretty fundamentally wrong with this.
But it tells you an awful lot about what kind of guy Alan Moore was in those days, and probably still is now, though I’ve not had the chance of speaking to him in over two decades.
No, really, it’s the fans like me who are glad to meet the creatives. Not the other way round.

Robert Sheckley’s Options – The Unreviewable Book

A few years ago, I had to downsize from a substantial quasi-semi to a pokey little Council flat where space is at a premium. I had to cull things like my book collection, and a large part of it is still bagged up and stacked in unobtrusive corners, where it isn’t easily accessible. Periodically, I shift things around: looking for books I haven’t read in some time, reminding myself of things I have, checking to see if the length of time they’ve been put away without me missing them means I should get rid.
My most recent trawl has brought Robert Sheckley’s Options to light again, and I’ve re-read it with my usual enjoyment: that is not a book that’s ever in danger of being moved on.
Sheckley’s another one of those SF writers who used to be in every bookshop, represented by a title or two, but who’s slipped from sight, and publication and is now being forgotten. Yet he used to be known as one of the funniest SF writers, a master of absurdity, purveyor of slapstick and satire. Indeed, after the Hitch-Hikers Guide to the Galaxy, most SF fans assumed Douglas Adams was a fan of Sheck, though it turned out Adams had never heard of him (and when he did read Sheckley, was gracious enough to say that he had no idea the competition was so terrifyingly good).
I became a Sheckley fan in February 1977, with three books in the same day. I had a job interview in Cambridge which would involve three trains each way and over six hours travelling. To keep myself occupied, at Piccadilly I bought two cheap paperbacks (all paperbacks were cheap in those days). One was a novelisation of a recent series of The Good Life, and for the other I took a punt on Sheckley’s Dimension of Miracles, attracted by its blurb and the first few pages.
The book was about an ordinary, unassuming human, Thomas Carmody, who wins a prize in an inter-galactic lottery and is taken to Lottery Headquarters to collect it. It turns out the award is a mistake, the Prize – which is of no use to him – should have gone to another alien, but he stubbornly refuses to release it. And that by leaving his own sphere, he has caused the Universe to create a new predator, one whose prey is Carmodys. Then he finds it’s up to him to make his own way home…
I read, I enjoyed, I laughed. However, between them the two books only got me to Cambridge so, on the way back to the station, I went into a big bookshop, found the SF section and came out with two more Sheckley’s, for the return journey.
These were Mindswap, a similarly episodic comic quest, this time about a human who can only achieve his dream of visiting Mars by effectively babysitting the body of a Martian who needs to visit Earth, only for the Martian to run off, stranding him in a Martian body, and The Same to you, Doubled, a collection of short stories.
So I became a Sheckley fan, for at least the next decade, picking up whatever books I could, including a couple of new novels which showed an increasing willingness to breach the Fourth Wall (one such story featured a Royal Family whose regal power was to expel uppity characters who tried to force their way to the centre of the story…).
But, as with so many writers, time and tastes changed as I grew older, and I moved on my collection, except for Options.
It’s a book about which I have always found it difficult to find other opinions, and those I have come across have been universally negative, and negative in a manner that suggests to me that the writers have completely missed the point of the book, which is a deliberate, cosmic shambles, an explosion or disintegration of story logic, a comedy of clichés and crossed lines and a joke on the very act of story-telling. I think it’s brilliant, I think it works perfectly, I think it’s a great goof. Everybody else seems to take it seriously, at which it is an abject, confusing failure.
It’s also next to unreviewable, which is another part of its strange charm.
Let’s establish what the story is, ostensibly, about. In it’s beginnings, it’s apparently a Hard SF story, of spaceships, alien planets and robots. Tom Mishkin is a spaceship pilot, piloting a supplies rocket to a distant colony: in short, an interstellar truck-driver. When a small but vital engine part fails due to metal fatigue, the ship is threatened with destruction.
However, mankind has established caches of spare parts on various planets, against such instances, and Mishkin directs his ship to the nearest one, on Harmonia II. However, with typical bureaucratic logic, to avoid the disaster of a crippled ship landing on the (supermarket-like) stores cache and wiping everything out, the parts have been distributed in various decentralised locations. Mishkin’s part is twenty miles away.
To assist him in combating the dangers of an alien planet, Mishkin is equipped with an SPER, or Special Purpose Environmental Response robot, to guard him against local dangers. Mishkin and the robot set off. Unfortunately, the robot is programmed for the surface of Darbis IV, not Harmonia II. The two press on.
That’s about as far as it’s possible to go in describing Options as a sequential, logically constructed tale, because from this point on, any semblance of story logic breaks down, with increasingly wide effects. Characters and settings appear and disappear with no relation to the supposed story, reality changes over and over again. Things happen and don’t happen.
Sometimes, the ‘plot’ asserts itself again: Mishkin orders the missing part from a businessman who appears out of nowhere, complete with reviews in the Village Voice, and pays by credit card. An hour later, a motorcycle despatch rider comes weaving through the trees, carrying the engine part. Fifty yards from Mishkin, he drives over a land-mine and is blown up.
Others are just simply surreal. The Duke and Duchess of Melba both enter the story, but she says she doesn’t believe in him, and he disappears. He then reappears alongside Mishkin and the robot, complaining about the castrating effect of his wife’s actions. He then transforms himself physically, into a terribly handsome figure. She reappears, transforms herself into a sexpot, and the two go off together, never to be seen again.
Then there’s the bit with the magician, who is literally doing it with mirrors, very prominently placed mirrors. Mishkin is naively fascinated, the robot utterly sceptical, even though what the magician is doing is truly spectacularly – including sawing a woman in half with a chainsaw and a team of surgeons busily repairing her in the wake of each cut.
It’s not like Sheckley doesn’t warn us. Before the book even starts there is a notice that the rules of normalcy are being suspended and maybe the author can take the reader for a ride. And we’re given notice very early on as to what that may mean: the book is written in numbered sections of wildly varying lengths and whilst sections 1 and 3 are pretty straight SF, setting up the supposed story, in between is an hallucinatory, surreal section as reality breaks down, the controls talk to themselves and Mishkin goes off into what is evidently a drugs trip. It’s a warning.
As the logical structure of the story breaks down, the author tries ever more feverishly to negotiate Mishkin and the engine part together. The author appears in his own book, sacking Mishkin and replacing him with the New Hero, who isn’t interested in the story and doesn’t work out.
He evens brings ‘Part 1’ to an end, three-quarters of the way through the book, and starts again in a completely different place on Earth, with a brand new set of characters who have no seeming resemblance to anything that has gone before but who, eventually, turn out to be trying to organise the delivery of that damned engine part, except that the guy contracts cholera and loses interest..
This brings things to an end: exhausted and bereft of ideas, the author apologises to Mishkin and gives up, leaving him forever stranded.
If, that is, he actually ever existed.
I love this book. It’s impossible to properly describe, it can only be experienced by being read, but it needs to be read as what it is. Don’t go into this expecting a beginning, middle and end, in any order! Just go with the flow, accept the fun Sheckley is having, and don’t try to impose an order on it. What does it say about you that you so desperately want Mishkin to find that engine part? Shouldn’t you be more concerned with your own trip, whatever that is?

The Prisoner: episode 11 – It’s Your Funeral – discursion


It’s Your Funeral was written by Michael Cramoy, to a brief from McGoohan, Markstein and Tomblin for the second ‘phase’ of episodes, episodes that, after the 1966 filming in Portmeirion, would have to rely heavily on studio sets. It is credited as being directed by Robert Asher, though the Director was sacked on set by McGoohan in what appears to have been an upsetting manner, after which McGoohan took over.
It was the seventh episode to be filmed, and the eleventh to be broadcast, and is unique in featuring a total of four Number Two’s, even if two of them only appear ‘onscreen’.
This episode, and the following A Change of Mind were both inspired by the influential 1962 film, The Manchurian Candidate, about an American soldier captured in Korea and sent back, brainwashed, to carry out assassinations. Unfortunately, the episode does not do much to live up to its inspirational source.
The plot involves the Village organising an assassination of a retiring senior official, in the guise of a killing by a rebel, which will lead to reprisals against the whole Village. the existence of the plot is leaked to Number Six in order to neutralise him as the only person who could warn the victim with any credibility, but instead his actions prevent the plot from going ahead.
Reduced to such simplicity, the plot can be seen to rely on two notions who logic can be said to be dubious.
The first is the notion that the outgoing Number Two must be disposed of in, and seemingly by, the Village. Whilst it’s certainly plausible that the authorities would want to conceal their hand in killing a loyal and senior operative about to retire from a successful career, this doesn’t take into account the number of people in charge in the Village alone who know of the plot, and who discuss it freely, in ‘public’ places like the Control Room and the Computer Room.
And I’m bound to question the logic, given the nature and purpose of the Village and the generally successful policy of confining its inmates with comfort, in creating a fake plot that requires the authorities to overturn this tranquil and cowed community by levying massive reprisals. Not when the Watchmaker himself, even through his brainwashing, says that just since an incident may wake the complacent and cowed Villagers into rebellion.
The second notion is that of exposing Number Six to the existence of the plot.
There’s certainly a basis of rationality, in that, given the existence of a wide network of Jammers, spreading misinformation and fomenting fictitious plots, if any Villager were to bring warning of an assassination attempt on Number Two, Number Six is certainly the one whose word would be taken most seriously. Neutralising him in advance is a sophisticated response.
Against that, there is the question of its necessity. The action of the story takes place over three successive days, and is the culmination of plans that have been in operation for some time already. We’re explicitly told that time has been lost by the Watchmaker’s Daughter dithering over involving him. We’re not told how much time, but the relief that she has finally jumped suggests that we are talking about more than just a couple of days.
At this point, it’s clear that Number Six knows nothing is going on, and the prodigious efforts required to get him to want to know cast substantial doubt upon the idea that he would ever have known about it before the bomb in the Great Seal goes off.
It seems a self-defeating exercise, especially when no-one has apparently considered, given Number Six’s track record, that he may well prevent the plot going ahead.
The story therefore begins with its underlying logic compromised, and it is sad to see that the show itself makes a poor job of handling the development of the story. There are several sequences – the montage of Number Six’s daily habits and the long kosho sequence being the two most prominent, that simply elongate the episode for no gain, shooting depends heavily on outdoor scenes shot on the Borehamwood set, mixed with stock and reused footage from previous (and in one case, future) episodes, and a surprising editorial sloppiness.
The first of these is the montage accompanying the Activity Prognosis, which is set to a timetable beginning at 6.30 am, and stretches into the mid-morning.
Almost immediately, the same details are given again (by the delightful Wanda Ventham, playing a cameo role), but this time to a timetable set at least two hours later than the one just announced. To compound the confusion, when the surveillance of Number Six is switched on, he is found to be leaving the coffee and buying a paper, using the identical footage that has already been used in the montage that has supposedly already taken place.
The second of these, and much worse from the point of the view of the plot, is the curious discrepancy between Number Six’s insistence that he is going to haul the defeated Number One Double Zero onto the balcony to make a public confession about the plot, and his appearance moments later, on his own, with Number One Double Zero disappearing unexplained.
This does at least have a reason, as the original script makes plain. As written, Number Two – who we are shown overhearing the entire conversation with Number Six – summons Rover. The globe’s appearance restores Number One Double Hundred’s confidence and he breaks free of Number Six. His confidence turns to fear when Rover pursues him instead, overtaking him and crushing him.
The scene was shot: Mark Eden (Number One Double Zero, who would later gain notoriety in Coronation Street by dying under the wheels of a Blackpool tram) confirms this and Fairclough believes that the footage was interpolated into Arrival in the scene where the anxious man in the pond is smothered: the clip doesn’t appear in the alternative, rough-cut Arrival and Fairclough points out that the distinctively pink jacket worn by Eden throughout this episode can be glimpsed through the membrane.
Fairclough suggests that the montage may have been filmed because the episode was under-running: if so, the excision of this scene is partly responsible, and it was apparently deleted because it was thought to be too horrific for evening viewing. It’s a pity that something could not have been found to explain Number Double Zero’s abrupt fade-out.
And when it comes to filling in time, there’s kosho. What is there to say about kosho? Despite its Japanese name, and the bowing ritual of the combatants after the session ends, the game is entirely McGoohan’s idea, and pretty bloody weird it is too! Two men in long red nightgowns and crash helmets, continually bouncing up and down on trampolines or running around the three-sided gantry, trying to tip each other into the water-trough: only in the Sixties.
It’s a surreal sport for a surreal programme, and the session lasts far longer than is necessary for its purpose, which is to allow Number One Double Zero to get at and switch Number Six’s watch.
But though McGoohan’s opponent was stuntman Gerry Crampton, there is a mid-bout close-up that shows him clearly battling Basil Hoskins, of Hammer into Anvil, who would not be filmed for another four episodes. This only adds to the atmosphere of a slapdash story being put together without proper attention to detail.
There is another aspect of the plot that raises considerably more questions than can be answered, and that is Andre van Gyseghem as the older Number Two. He’s portrayed as the Number Two, and Derren Nesbitt’s younger man as merely an ‘interim’ and ‘acting’ Number Two. What’s more, there’s the Annual Appreciation Day celebrations, in which Number Two will formally hand over to his successor.
First of all, just how long has the elder Number Two been on leave? Long enough for Number Six never to have seen him before, but does that mean that all the Number Two’s we’ve seen so far were merely ‘interim’? If we accept that interpretation, it overthrows a lot of assumptions established by the series from the outset.
Then there’s the question of the two mystery ‘interim’ Number Twos, who get about two seconds each. We’ve never seen them, before or since. Were they real Number Two’s or just fakes? But if they’re fakes, why didn’t Number Six denounce them as such: after all, it would be easy for the elderly Number Two to identify from the records if they ever took the Chair. The only logical explanation is that they were genuine Number Twos, but if so, why were there no stories featuring them? Surely they didn’t come and go without making some attempt to crack Number Six, that being a Number Two’s primary duty?
And supposedly there are more Number Twos spliced into Number Six’s obsessive warnings: are they more unknowns or as we supposed to think of McKern, Gordon, Morris etc?
It’s an inconsistency that I prefer to ignore, and to contain the contradiction by inserting an invisible period into the overall timescale of the series, during which the Village is taking no direct action against Number Six, and he, after the débâcle of Checkmate is not actively plotting. It’s awkward, but it allows van Gyseghem to arrive and depart, returning only for his retirement, without upsetting the absolute authority of the Number Two’s we have seen to date.
Then there’s the Jammers. An amorphous, unseen ‘army’ of frustrated Villagers doing their best to make things difficult for the Village, they not only contradict Number Six’s role as the lone voice of resistance (everyone else are just ‘rotted cabbages’), but they muddy the waters over the running order.
It’s made very clear that Number Six hasn’t the faintest idea what a Jammer is or does, and has to have it explained to him, but this is supposedly a man who has just undertaken a flawless Jamming campaign to bring down the previous Number Two.
Despite the episode’s manifest failings, it does at least have the usual high standards in acting. Annette Andre (the Watchmaker’s Daughter) was a stalwart of ATV thrillers, who was shortly to receive her first starring role in Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased) as Marty Hopkirk’s widow, Jeannie) is very good in the opening scene, especially in her angry and frustrated response to Number Six’s scepticism, but it’s noticeable that as soon as he becomes involved, her role is greatly diminished, to worrying sidekick. Between this, and the fourth and final female Number Two getting two seconds and four words, it’s more grist to the misogyny mill.
And I can’t leave this episode without mentioning one unfortunate visual element. Derren Nesbitt, like Annette Andre, was much in demand for ATV thriller series. Naturally dark-haired, he appears in The Prisoner with blonde hair, from the filmshoot he had just left. McGoohan asked him to retain it, and it makes for an effective visual appeal, especially when contrasted with the heavy black horn-rimmed glasses, but I’m unable to suppress the feeling that he looks like a Gerry Anderson puppet made life-size flesh!