The Prisoner: episode 10 – Hammer Into Anvil – discursion

Hammer into Anvil was the tenth broadcast episode of The Prisoner and the twelfth to go into production. It was written by Roger Woddis and was directed by Pat Jackson. Coming late in filming, when budgetary concerns were high, location footage (shot during a March 1967 return to Portmeirion) was minimised, with McGoohan’s stuntman and (uncredited) double, Frank Maher, covering most of the new work.
The rest of the episode confines itself to library footage and studio mock-ups, including the re-use of the café set featured in The General.
Hammer into Anvil is the simplest and most straightforward of the entire run, consisting of a single story that, despite its many elements, never deviates from its clinical path. A young woman is bullied to her death by a sadistic Number Two: Number Six avenges her by driving the man into madness.
Not Escape, not Resistance, not even Revolt. This is simply a tale of chivalry, or pure heroism, if you like. A parfait gentil knight restores Milady’s honour, albeit that she be dead. Hammer into Anvil is about as far away from the central conceit of The Prisoner as any story gets, even the three ‘filler’ episodes.
Which is not to denigrate it, not at all. It’s sharp, intelligent, pacey and a delight to watch as Number Six’s woven web gradually winds its way around a Number Two who, even beneath the superficial charm with which he is momentarily introduced, is simply the most unpleasant holder of that job.
The role was played by Patrick Cargill who, for most of his career, was a comedy actor (he plays the Doctor in the Tony Hancock classic, The Blood Donor: he sets up that most famous of lines, “A pint? Have you gone mad? That’s nearly an armful!”) but who was a very creditable hand in dramatic roles in the Sixties. He’s very good in his role, his bluster never quite real enough, even when he is, briefly, in command.
But no matter how perfectly he suits the role, he is an enormous pain, and so too is Hammer into Anvil. Yes, its the running order game again, and this time it’s inescapably fatal to the continuity of the series.
Because we recognise Number Two the moment we see him. Because he’s been in an earlier episode, in Many Happy Returns, where he was Thorpe, of British Intelligence. Where Number Six met him, under circumstances in which the most ordinary of people, let alone a highly-trained and very good secret agent, would have remembered clearly.
And Number Six doesn’t recognise him.
Short of giving way to the every-episode-is-a-different-prisoner theory, there is no logical construction that can bridge these facts.
The most plausible explanation would be to posit that, after the Prisoner was returned from London, having suffered his biggest defeat and been given the most crushing example of the totality of the control the Village has over him, he is at some offstage point brainwashed to forget the entire incident. It was clear from Many Happy Returns that he and Thorpe had never met before, which would mitigate against any of those accidental linkages that break conditioning in all forms of drama, and ensure that he could accept Thorpe as a previously unknown Number Two.
Of course, to have done so would have completely eradicated Number Six’s knowledge of the Village’s most comprehensive demonstration of control over him,which makes absolutely no psychological sense in relation to a prisoner that they hope to break.
It would also confirm, definitively, that the Village is a creation of British Intelligence, a point that the series wishes to play with, to hint at but leave unexplained.
What happened in practice was that, after his performance as Number Two, Cargill was asked to stay on for Many Happy Returns, with no thought for the consequences, any more than the series addresses the consequences of several contacts with British Intelligence.
This is the one. The point at which even the most eager-to-synthesize fan must concede is insuperable, that makes The Prisoner into what it truly is, and always was: bloody good TV, and not the Holy Grail.
Two other elements of this episode also give rise to running order issues, both involving the same episode, It’s Your Funeral, the next to be broadcast. The first, and greater of these concerns Number Six’s tactics which, as we have seen, consist of ‘creating’ a non-existent plot against Number Two, causing the Village leader to waste time and energy investigating a gigantic bluff.
Yet in the following episode, Number Six will make a temporary ally of a young woman who is part of a group that call themselves ‘Jammers’, who make life difficult for the Village by inventing non-existent plots and schemes: unable to escape, they distract and confuse and tie up resources. The Prisoner listens to all this as a new idea,one that had not occurred to him, but in the broadcast running order it is one that he has already performed with great skill.
So which episode comes first? In production order, it was certainly It’s Your Funeral.
The same question arises over the other thing which links the two programmes: kosho.
Now I don’t propose to say much here about this utterly bizarre sport/game, an invention of McGoohan’s. It appears at greater length in It’s Your Funeral, which demonstrates more of its ‘qualities’ so I’ll go into it then.
On the surface, it’s odd that kosho only appeared in two episodes, with different writers/directors each time, and which were separated in production order by three intervening episodes. However, when watching kosho in action, it’s easy to see that by its nature it’s not a game/sport that lends itself to the kind of variation that makes a sport interesting to watch.
It’s the sheer brevity of the kosho bout in Hammer into Anvil that intrigues me. Something like thirty seconds, and then ended, is not the way to introduce such a spectacle, and that is another indicator that this episode should go after It’s Your Funeral. Only the fact that it is clearly Basil Hoskins (Number Fourteen) as McGoohan’s opponent convinces me that this is not a case of having some unused footage left over from kosho’s introduction, and writing the bout into the story just to flesh it out.
Incidentally, after the last episode’s profusion of Guest Stars, this episode swings to the opposite extreme with only Cargill accorded that status, which seems a little unfair to Hoskins, given how much screen time he gets. On that subject, the episode also features a cameo by character actor Victor Maddern (a television stalwart, who also appears in The Beatles’ A Hard Day’s Night), who took the role because he was eager to work on The Prisoner.)

The Prisoner: episode 10 – Hammer into Anvil – synopsis

Thunder crashes.
Number Two appears, looking determined, in the Chair, but does not speak the responses.
We open with a shot of a Village street, then cut to the Hospital. Inside, Number Seventy Three, an attractive young woman with bandaged wrists, is lying in bed, being questioned by a sympathetic but somewhat creepy voice that we soon learn belongs to Number Two. He is a strong-faced but somehow weak man, his hair thinning on top and worn longer and brushed luxuriantly above his ears.
He questions Number Seventy-Three about the whereabouts of her husband, but she denies any knowing knowledge. The questioning disturbs her, even before Number Two suggests her husband is being unfaithful to her. She denies that violently, but he coldly produces a photo, showing her husband with a woman named Maryka. Though we do not see it ourselves, it is clearly compromising. Number Seventy Three shrinks away, screwing her eyes up against seeing it.
Suddenly, he rounds on her, shouting brutally about her wasting his time. She begins to scream.
Number Six, out walking, hears the scream. He runs towards the Hospital, races upstairs and, despite the attempts of two orderlies to stop him, forces his way into the room. Number Seventy-Three is still shrinking away, screaming, with Number Two bending over her. Number Six’s appearance distracts him, and the woman takes the opportunity to jump out of bed, cross the room and throw herself through the open window. When Number Six looks down, she is sprawled full-length, dead.
Coldly, Number Two tells Number Six that he should not have interfered, and he will pay for this. No, replies Number Six with cold anger, you will.
Number Six is pacing backwards and forwards at home when Number Two telephones, summoning him. Number Six replies that he has nothing to say to the man, puts the phone down and goes out for a walk.
He is on a country lane when a jeep, driven by Number Two’s assistant, Number Fourteen, catches him up. Three Guardians are dropped off, and although Number Six gives a good account of himself, he is overpowered, dragged into the jeep and taken to Number Two’s office.
Number Two is angry at the disregard of his orders. He intends to break Number Six, and is contemptuous of his predecessors’ failure to do so. They were amateurs: he is a professional. Number Six is quietly mocking. In response, Number Two shrugs the end from his shooting stick, revealing a sword blade. Number Six sits unconcerned as Number Two holds the blade close to his eyes, and then presses it against his forehead. He states that he feels disgust, looking at Number two.
Number Two resheathes his shooting stick, saying “Du musst Amboss oder Hammer sein”. Number Six recognises this as a quote from Goethe, “You must anvil or hammer be”. Number Two sees him as the anvil, to be hammered.
Suddenly, the big red phone rings. Number Two’s manner changes. He is tense in his exchanges with Number One, assuring him everything is under control, that he does not need assistance. Number Six notes this with a small smile.
After the call finishes, Number Two orders him out. As he leaves, Number Two roars at him that he will break him. He then orders special surveillance on Number Six.
Number Six’s first act is to go to the store. There is a sign in the window extolling music, and confirming new records are in. He buys a ‘Tally Ho’, showing the new Number Two in determined pose on the front, and asks to listen to Bizet’s L’Arlessienne Suite: there are six copies and he asks for all of them. The shopkeeper watches curiously as he plays a few seconds of the Farandole, checking his watch, before changing the disc. At the third copy, he lets the disc run longer and makes notes on a piece of paper. He then returns all the discs to the shopkeeper, giving his opinion that it is not a satisfactory recording. He leaves behind his ‘Tally Ho’, having circled the word security, and added a question mark.
The shopkeeper immediately takes all the discs and the paper to Number Two, with Number Six watching from around the corner in satisfaction.
No difference can be found between any of the discs or their sleeves. Number Two is puzzled.
Back at his cottage, Number Six writes a note, pockets it and leaves. He does not go far, watching as Number Fourteen enters his cottage. He takes the next sheet from the pad, Number Six having deliberately pressed hard enough to leave an impression. He delivers this to Number Two, and is surprised to be sent away before the note is deciphered. It reads, “To X.O.4 ref your query via Bizet record. No. 2’s instability confirmed. Detailed Report follows. D.6”. Number Two looks aghast: is Number Six a plant?
In the evening, he and Number Fourteen follow the Prisoner down to the stone boat, where he leaves an envelope. They retrieve this but it only contains three blank sheets of paper. When tested, they are nothing more. Number Two’s frustration leads him to suggest the technician is keeping things from him, that he is working with Number Six.
The Prisoner intensifies his campaign the following day. Firstly he places a personal ad in the ‘Tally Ho’, a Cervantes quote, from Don Quixote: “Hay mas aml en el aldea que se suena.” He then telephones the Head of Psychiatry, enquiring about progress on the report on Number Two. The Head is utterly baffled, which Number Six pretends to take as caution. Almost immediately, the Head is summonsed to Number Two’s office, where the latter is growing steadily enraged. He sarcastically assumes the Head knows nothing, is mystified. He is plainly disbelieving and showing signs of paranoia and loss of control. When the Head advises him to stay calm, Number Two rounds on him, demanding to know if the Head wants to sit in this (i.e. Number Two’s) Chair?
Next, Number Six pauses at the bandstand, making a request to the Bandmaster. As the band strike up the Farandole, he walks away. Naturally, the bandmaster is the next to be summoned to Number Two’s office and questioned about his suspicious behaviour and his part in this conspiracy.
Meanwhile, Number Six has gone to the Cemetery. Lilies have been placed on Number Seventy Three’s grave, her stone marked only by her Number. As he leaves, he notes the number of a nearby grave, 113. He writes a request card which, later on, is read by the Control Room Supervisor, DJ fashion, prior to resuming music broadcasts. It is a greeting to Number Six on his birthday from his friend Number 113. Number Two, reacting in fury, hastily consults two folders, before storming into the Control Room and confronting the shocked and fearful Supervisor. It is NOT Number Six’s birthday, and there is no 113. He accuses the Supervisor of working with Number Six, and dismisses him. As Number Fourteen leads the Supervisor away, Number Two promotes his assistant He warns the man, and the whole room, to avoid Number Six. Then, unable to control his temper, he bursts out shouting “I’ll break this conspiracy!”
Back in his Office, Number Fourteen shows him the ad in the ‘Tally Ho’, translating it as “There is more harm in the Village than is dreamt of.”
Number Fourteen is growing concerned for his boss. He wants to eliminate Number Six, end this campaign. Number Two demurs: the man has been sent by their masters. However, he is further provoked when Number Six turns up, pretending to have been summoned by phone by Number Two himself. Blandly, Number Six suggests Number Two is being impersonated. As Number Two leaves, he tells Number Fourteen he doesn’t need him, with a sidelong glance at Number Six.
The two men size each other up. Number Fourteen is free in his hatred for Number Six and his desire to take him down a peg or two. Number Six suggests kosho. This is an unusual combat game, involving two trampolines bracketing a waterbath, with a three-sided angled walkway. The two men have a short fight, in which it is clear both are eager to attack the other, but the game is interrupted by the next combatants before anything can happen.
On his way back, Number Six observes some pigeons. At the shop, he buys a small notebook and a cuckoo clock. He uses the box from the clock to construct a makeshift pigeon trap, using a half-eaten sandwich, which duly catches a bird. meanwhile, he delivers the clock itself to Number Two’s door. The latter panics, assuming it is a bomb. The Bomb Squad gingerly retrieve and dismantle it: it is a cuckoo clock. They too are looking askance at Number Two.
Meanwhile, Number Six gently carries the bird up into the woods. He tapes a message to its leg and releases it. The Control Room, on edge, tracks the bird and prepares to shoot it down, but Number Two intervenes to have the bird intercepted. The message it carries reads, “Vital message tomorrow 06.00 hours by visual signal.”
The next morning, the Prisoner gets up early and goes out on the beach. He uses a handmirror to flash a message in Morse. Much to the consternation of Number Two, the Control Room cannot detect a receiver: no-one in the hills, at sea, in the air – not even any submarines. The operator who records the message is reluctant to read it out: it is the nursery rhyme, “Pat-a-cake, pat-a-cake, bakers man”.
Number Two sends the message to the cypher experts. It translates as Pat-a-Cake.
Returning via the café, Number Six sees Number Fourteen having coffee. He approaches the assistant, starts whispering to him about how badly he has been sleeping. Number Fourteen is mystified. Then Number Six tells him the waiter is watching them, and, speaking out loud, says how glad he is that Number Fourteen agrees. He walks away.
By the time Number Fourteen reaches Number Two’s office, the latter knows of the meeting. Number Fourteen professes his innocence, but Number Two’s paranoia has reached his height. He strikes Number Fourteen, accuses him of betrayal, dismisses him. In his ranting, he also accuses the silent Butler of being in on it and dismisses him too.
At this cottage, Number Six is listening to L’Arlessienne in full. Number Fourteen enters and starts a fight. The two have a dragged out fight that overturns everything but the record player, ending with Number Six throwing Number Fourteen through the window, just as Number Seventy Three ended her own life.
Sensing this is the time to apply the coup de gr?ce, Number Six goes to Number Two’s office. He finds him alone, cowering behind the Penny Farthing, but still initially defiant. He claims to know who Number Six is, to have seen through him since the start. Humouring him, Number Six accepts the premise that he is D.6, sent to test Village security. If that were so, what should a loyal agent have done. Number Two sees the final element of the trap he has dug for himself. Who are you working for? demands the Prisoner.
Number Two begins to whimper, claiming Number Six has destroyed him. But he has destroyed himself, through his fear of his superiors. Number Two pleads with Number Six not to report him. Number Six will not do so. Instead, Number Two will report himself.
Pulling himself together into a semblance of calm, Number Two picks up the big red phone. He reports a breakdown in command, Number Two needing to be replaced. Yes, he admits, this is Number Two.
Number Six leaves quietly as the broken man subsides into weeping.

The Prisoner: episode 7 – Many Happy Returns – synopsis

Thunder crashes.
The opening credits do not show the new Number Two, and instead an additional shot of Rover. The voice of ‘Number Two’ is spoken by Robert Reilty, who supplied voiceovers throughout the series.
Number Six awakes in his bed, looking somewhat muzzy-headed. He checks the coffee percolator in the kitchen and switches it on. He turns on the shower in the bathroom, but no water comes out, nor from the handbasin tap. The coffee percolator has not started, nor does a lamp light up when he clicks the switch.
Looking through the window, Number Six discovers that the square is deserted: there are no villagers in sight.
He explores the Village thoroughly. The café is locked and deserted, the shops shut. The bell pull does not ring at the Green Dome and, when he forces entry to Number Two’s office, the Chair is empty except for Number Two’s umbrella.
Number Six finds a working mini-moke and tries to drive away, only to find the Village surrounded by impenetrable mountains. He returns to the Village and constructs a raft, using cut down trees and oil drums for buoyancy. He takes copious photos of the Village, together with plentiful food from the store, and an issue of the Tally Ho on which to write his log.
As he is about to push off, he hears a crash behind him. Steeling himself to look round, he finds that it is only the Village cat, knocking over a plate on the terrace.
The Prisoner poles out into the bay and begins his journey. He cannibalises a loudspeaker and magnetises a nail to serve as a primitive compass. Days pass, He keeps himself shaved for some time, but by Day 18 he is growing weaker and dehydrated, and collapses.
He wakes to find two men on his raft. They ignore him, stealing his food, breaking his compass and dropping his oar into the sea. Before powering away in their motor vessel, they dump him in the ocean, but unseen by them he swims to the stern of the boat and gets on board.
The two men, who speak German, cook themselves some of the Prisoner’s food. Whilst they eat in the wheelhouse, he explores their boat. One cabin contains a box which, when prized open, contains guns.
The Prisoner creates a distraction by burning cloths in cooking oil in the galley, and waiting for the crew to investigate. He subdues both of them individually, and ties them up in a cabin, which he locks using a chain wrapped around the handles of the sliding doors.
He takes over the craft and pushes it on. Some time later, he sees a lighthouse and turns the boat directly towards it. By now the crew are awake. They release each other and escape from the cabin by kicking through the back of the locker, into an unchained cabin. Splitting up, they plan to attack the Prisoner simultaneously, one from each side of the wheelhouse. Their attack is mistimed: the Prisoner is able to beat off one before the other joins in. But the first man gets a gun from a drawer and the prisoner is forced to leap overboard and swim towards shore.
He comes to on an empty beach beneath chalk cliffs. Unable to find a way off the beach in either direction, he is forced to climb the cliffs, emerging on green downs. A man passes by, dressed as a Romany, leading a greyhound on a lead and using a rough stick. The Prisoner asks him what land this is (after 22 minutes, this is the first English dialogue in the episode). The man ignores him and hurries away.
The Prisoner follows him to a small Romany camp, where a woman and an old man are sat around a cookpot. The woman berates the man in Romany, ignoring his attempt to defend himself. She offers the Prisoner a cup of something from the cookpot, which he finds sustaining. None of the Romany speak English but the woman recognises the word ‘road’ and points his way.
When the Prisoner reaches the road, English bobbies have set up a road block and are quizzing every driver. He circles round to beyond the road block, and manages to get into the back of a lorry, concealing himself above the cab and going to sleep. He is woken by sirens and automatically leaps from the lorry, to find himself in London.
Overwhelmed to some extent by having gotten back to freedom, the Prisoner wanders, eventually ending up at his old home at 1 Buckingham Place. He knocks on the door, which is opened by a middle-aged maid, who clearly disapproves of his scruffy, unshaven, dishevelled appearance. Initially, he is rude and demanding, and by the time he recovers his manners and asked to speak to her master, she closes the door on him, saying that her mistress is not at home.
Her mistress returns almost immediately, driving the Prisoner’s Lotus. He is equally ungraceful with her, Mrs Butterworth, a middle-aged widow with a flirtatious air, clearly amused by the ragged man asking her questions he can answer about her car. She invites him in for tea and cake. Inside, his old flat seems to be unchanged.
Mrs Butterworth brings cake and sandwiches, which he devours hungrily. She shows him her lease – 10 years, prepared by a firm who had not dealt with the Prisoner. It is March 18th: the Prisoner, almost shamefacedly, says that it is his birthday tomorrow (McGoohan’s birth date), and Mrs Butterworth promises to bake him a cake.
It’s clear that all signs of his previous existence in London have been efficiently obliterated.
The Prisoner’s next step is to contact his former employers. Over his protestations, Mrs Butterworth insists on helping him further, forcing on him a bath, clothes belonging to her late husband, and the loan of the Lotus, on condition he fixes its problem with overheating in traffic. The Prisoner repeats his journey of the credits, to the underground garage, and the office occupied by the civil servant played by Markstein.
He is referred to two senior officials, who meet him at an old country home. The Prisoner has told his story, shown his photos,produced his Tally Ho log. The Colonel is blandly neutral, putting it to his subordinate Thorpe to point out the fantastic elements of the account. They openly state that they are concerned that the Prisoner defected, and is now trying to come back on behalf of the other side.
The Prisoner, in a much more relaxed frame of mind, still intoxicated to some extent by having gotten away from the Village, reasserts that he intends to find and destroy the Village, and to uncover its masters.
After checking out the Prisoner’s story as much as possible, the Colonel brings in senior Royal Navy and Royal Air Force officers to plot his course as best as possible from his rough log. They conclude that the Village ought to be somewhere on the south west Portugal/Spain coast or north west Morocco, or an island in that area.
Early the next morning, the Prisoner and the RAF officer meet at an airfield. It is so early, the milk is being delivered. They are to do a reconnaissance flight to locate the Village. The Colonel and the Prisoner go outside as the pilot finishes suiting up. Playfully, the Colonel calls the Prisoner Number Six. Calling the Colonel James, the Prisoner threatens him with hospitalisation if he uses that term again.
As the plane flies off, Thorpe describes the Prisoner as an “Interesting fellow.” “He’s and old, old friend,” the Colonel replies, “who never gives up.” They drive away.
The flight progresses steadily, in calculated sweeps over coasts and islands until the Prisoner sees the Village, on a peninsula, tucked up against its forested hillside. He instructs the Pilot to go closer. Instead, the pilot removes his oxygen mask and reaches for a yellow lever. He turns towards the Prisoner, showing that it is not the pilot, but instead the Milkman. He calls out, “Be Seeing you,” and ejects the Prisoner.
Stiff with mute fury, the Prisoner controls his descent until he lands on the beach. The Village is still deserted, the cat still by the broken plate. Weary and frustrated, he walks back to his cottage, clearly intent on starting again.
Suddenly the shower comes on, the percolator starts to bubble and the table light lights. The cat mews. Looking up, he sees Mrs Butterworth approaching him. She is carrying a cake, covered with birthday candles which she holds out to him. On the shoulder of her dress is a reversed Village badge, white-on-black, with the Number 2. “Many Happy Returns,” she says.
The sound of the Village band playing is heard. Number Six crosses to the window, The Square is filled with Villagers, playing and parading.
We cut to the stock shot of the Village. Number Six’s face races towards the centre of the screen. Iron bars slam across it with a prison clang.

The Prisoner: In Order

So we come to the issue concerning The Prisoner that has probably had more words expended upon it than any other aspect of the series over the past four decades: the running order.
For this series of posts, I’ve elected to stick entirely to the original broadcast order, as used in 1967/8, in the Granada repeats of 1976/7, in all but the first of the three series of Channel 4 repeats throughout the Eighties, and in the “Ultimate Collection” DVD Boxset that I own. Which, as we’ve already seen, veers wildly from the production order of the first thirteen filmed episodes.
This, by itself, is no indication. Some series – indeed, nearly every non-serialised drama series in the modern era – are written with a defined sequence. Lost was a serial, as was The Wire. On the other hand, to choose another favourite, Homicide – Life on the Street, though filmed during and for a period that still regarded episodes as detachable, was made with a running order built on developing sub-plots and arcs that continued from episode to episode.
Which didn’t prevent NBC chopping up the planned order and pushing episodes back and forth as it suited their immediate purposes.
However, with no exceptions that I can presently think of, the thriller series’ of the Sixties had no episode to episode continuity. Series could be shown in any order the television companies wanted, because it didn’t matter. Serials were serials, but series’ permitted viewers to miss a week or two, here and there, with no fears that when they returned, they would not understand what was going on.
With minor adjustments, this was the approach taken by The Prisoner, exactly as it had been for Danger Man. Certain episodes – Arrival as the opening episode, to set everything up, Once upon a Time as the series 1 curtain-closer, to set up the never-filmed second series – had a set position: the others might be shuffled as necessity demanded.
It simply wasn’t seen as important, as things are now. Guest stars (with a few exceptions, not foreseen in advance) only appeared in single episodes. Recurring cast were limited to supporting roles: the silent, dwarf butler played by Angelo Muscat was the most prominent, and most prolific, the Shopkeeper recurs a handful of times.
To a large extent, broadcast order was dictated by the order in which episodes finished in production: what was ready first was shown first, though a more contemplative decision was taken to postpone Dance of the Dead: it is clear from internal indications that this should be an early episode – one source suggested that this was one of three commissions issued to writers who were told this was to be the second episode – but its downbeat tone, and its dark and difficult story was thought to be unsuitable so soon into a new series that still needed to establish itself with its audience.
As we’ll see, in due course, its actual placement in the running order was ingenious, to make logical use of its contents.
But despite all this, there are episodes that contain indications that they were intended to show Number Six’s early reactions to the Village, and these are not all shown early in the series. For instance, I commented on the degree of credibility in Free For All behind Number Six’s acceptance of the supposed election: many people believe this indicates the episode should be placed second, when the Prisoner is still unfamiliar with the Village.
And there’s the Colin Gordon issue, as demonstrated by The General.
Given the contrast in his two performances, it’s only logical to place The General before A, B and C: they were filmed in that order, Gordon is the ‘new’ Number Two in the first and ‘is’ Number Two in the second, and he is calm, confident, almost arrogant in the first, but nervy, edgy and hyper-afraid of failure in the second. There is no emotional or psychological credibility in the performances taking place in broadcast order.
Yet in The General Number Two is experienced with Number Six, hints at a pre-episode meeting, already aware of what can and cannot be done with his Prisoner. Nowhere in any episode but this is there a suggestion that Number Six and the new Number Two have had any significant contact before their first onscreen encounter.
No such issues apply to Leo McKern’s episodes as Number Two: though filmed back-to-back, they were always intended to appear at different points in the series, and on McKern’s second appearance in Once Upon a Time, both he and Number Six identify him as having returned.
But there are two other instances where the same actor appears in two separate episodes.  Georgina Cookson, appears in a minor speaking role at Engadine’s party in A, B and C and then returns in a major role, as Mrs Butterworth, in Many Happy Returns. There’s not necessarily a dislocation in this: her first part is as a character in Number Six’s dream, after all, but there are more serious issues surrounding the two appearances of Patrick Cargill, first as a British Intelligence senior official in Many Happy Returns and then, of all things, as Number Two in Hammer into Anvil.
There are alternate running orders available, that try to make more logical sense of the relationships between episodes, and try to encompass the best design in light of the clues that may be discerned. Several versions are detailed in Wikipedia
For instance, Six of One, the Prisoner Appreciation Society have endorsed a running order that is employed on the 40th Anniversary DVD box set. To give you a flavour of it, as it pertains to episodes I’ve already covered, it promotes Free for All to second, followed by Dance of the Dead and Checkmate. The Chimes of Big Ben and A, B and C drop two places but The General still follows that, despite all the indications to the contrary.
Channel 4, in their first repeat in 1983, decided in their wisdom to place Many Happy Returns second, a decision whose inanity you will understand when we move on to that next.
Me, I express no opinions. There is no achievable definitive running order, nothing that is not open to objection on some ground or other. There never was any consistent intention for there to be one. As I’ll be coming to after we’ve looked at Many Happy Returns, there is a second, insuperable bar to the application of strict natural chronology to The Prisoner. And that’s before we even think of Fall-Out.
Some or many of you may find that these contradictions are a bar to your enjoyment, or at any rate your acceptance, of The Prisoner. I have decided to accept them and to exclude appreciation of the story from such demands. It is, and from the beginning was, a thing of surreality, and I’m more than willing to play to its strengths and ignore its weaknesses.
You see, it’s not  real.