The Prisoner: episode 16 – Once Upon a Time – discursion


Once Upon a Time was the sixteenth episode of The Prisoner to be broadcast and the sixth to go into production. It was written and directed by Patrick McGoohan, although the shooting scripts used on set bore the name Archibald Schwarz, McGoohan being nervous of the reaction of everybody to such a bizarre episode.
After the last half-dozen episodes, the intensity, the underlying seriousness of Once Upon a Time comes as a shock: a welcome shock, a dose of cold, clear water after a series of sweet carbonated drinks. This is unsurprising, given that the episode was one of McGoohan’s original seven, the mini-series he wanted, the episodes he stood behind. It is one of the episodes filmed on the first run of shooting, although it uses only a tiny handful of location shots.
It followed on from The Chimes of Big Ben, hence the re-appearance of Leo McKern as Number Two. Despite their differences in the previous episode, the two actors respected each other and McGoohan invited McKern to remain, and it is all to the good for the episode.
Not only was McKern one of the best Number Two’s, not only did his scenes with McGoohan demonstrate a genuine, mutual respect between the characters, but the mere fact of a return, of a superior Number Two being recalled after a string of inferior men and schemes, leant the episode an immediate gravitas. McKern’s performance nails it instantly: he doesn’t want to be back, but if it is so important that he is needed, then it will be done, once and for all.
And it is. In a way, Once Upon a Time is the true conclusion to The Prisoner, and its final episode is accurately depicted by the title Fall Out. If the episode had been what it was long supposed to be, a cliff-hanger conclusion to series One, then we don’t need the evidence of supposed series Two episodes like Do Not Forsake Me Oh My Darling to tell us that a second series would have been an artistic disaster that would have pulled the roof down on the series forever.
That wasn’t the opinion of everyone. George Markstein held the script in contempt, called it utter gibberish, and a cold, hard look at it on the page, with its lengthy sequences of McGoohan and McKern shouting “Five!”, “Six!”, or “Pop,” “Pop,” “Pop pop,” at each other, makes it hard to justify.
But it is not just the two leads’ performances that turn this episode into an intense, psychological battle that envelops the viewer on levels beyond the rational.
The episode overall breaks down into two sections. There is Number Two’s return, the sanctioning of the mysterious Degree Absolute and the secrecy with which the preparation is made. The episode is at its most coldly rational in this long introduction, even down to the singing of nursery rhymes to the drugged and brainwashed Number Six in his bed.
And there is the sequence in the Embryo Room, one long, extended scene, on a minimalist set, where props are obviously props and the real is abandoned, as the process of Degree Absolute – the episode’s working title, incidentally – takes the fight into Number Six’s own mind.
The episode wears its roots lightly, in Shakespeare’s Seven Ages of Man, which are to be recapitulated in the week of the ordeal, recapitulated but manipulated to turn the roots of the character McGoohan plays into a creature amenable to the requirements of the Village, whilst retaining those elements that make him so valuable to that organisation.
Indeed, McGoohan throws in a couple of autobiographical notes as part of this cascade of impressionistic moments: his own boxing training, his first job as a Bank Clerk, before he became involved in acting. We can even see John Drake, through this prism, being recruited to the Service via an ancient and traditional organisation whose bases align with the security of the country.
It’s a tight, claustrophobic sequence, for all its refusal to confine itself to grounded reality. McGoohan faces McKern, with Angelo Muscat – promoted in the opening credits to ‘Featuring’ status – as a silent, grave presence, unassuming, solid, and in the final act shifting his loyalty to naturally, so airily, to Number Six, as control of the process slips into the latter’s hands and the countdown starts to the inevitability of Number Two’s death, a death that comes from no cause save only dramatic requirement and the demands of a process that has taken on an inevitability far beyond anything the players can do to halt it.
Number Two made the risk plain at the beginning. The processes’s title reinforces it. It really is an Absolute. One or the other. Six or Two. We may not see what we hoped to see in the charming Number Two of so very long ago, of the second broadcast episode, as near to the beginning as this is to the end: there is no battle of wits, not with a Number Six deprived of them until an end whose own reality may not be what we want it to be. But we see a man who does believe in what he does and who, to further the cause for which he works, goes willingly to what he knows, if he succeeds, is his own death: corporeal or mental.
And then the promise. Enter the Supervisor: cold, unsentimental, indeed a little contemptuous of his fallen colleague, even though he has expressed a sadness at what was then, in his mind, only a possibility: sorry to lose you.
Number Two is sealed away, out of sight. Number Six may have what he wants, and what he wants is what he’s wanted from the very beginning, what we who have watched this series have wanted, and that is answers. The answer is Number One, and there are no more obstacles, no more frustrations, no prevarications, just: I’ll take you.
Only the most forensic of minds, and how many are there in that moment, would recognise that that promise is not a promise to reveal anything, just a commitment to transport the once and former Number Six to something.
Of course, such prescience is easy when it’s no longer prescience.
I have a theory about Once Upon a Time, but not one that I can speak of here, because there is still an episode to come. My theory – not my theory in its origins but I find it impossible to run away from – explains too much that should not be spoken of until we have reached the end. I will say here only the word Brazil.
McGoohan, McKern, Muscat, and Peter Swanwick (whose steely glaze concealed serious frailties that brought about his death later in 1968): these are the players. John Cazabon (as the man with the Umbrella) and John Maxim (as Number 86 though his scene and his two lines were edited out after the credits were produced) are the only other actors, save for the unknowns who populated the Control Room.
It’s getting very late now.

The Prisoner: episode 16 – Once Upon a Time – synopsis


Thunder crashes. The full title sequence runs. We hear Leo McKern’s voice again in the catechism.
We open on a shot of the Green Dome, rising above the Village. In Number Two’s office, the Butler is steering a breakfast trolley. The Chair is occupied by a pulsating Rover. The Butler carefully deposits his tray on a side table. He operates the controls to cause a chair to slide up out of the floor. A moment later, a man rises through the floor, head bowed. We recognise him as the charming Number Two of The Chimes of Big Ben.
Number Two looks around him, disgustedly. He orders the Butler to take the breakfast away. He snatches up the red phone and snarls at the person on the other end to get rid of that ‘thing’ (i.e., Rover): he is not an inmate. Irritably, he orders the Butler to leave the coffee, shouting at him when he doesn’t move quickly enough.
He logs onto surveillance of Number Six, who is having breakfast in his kitchen. Carrying his cup and chewing a piece of toast, Number Six gets up and starts pacing back and forth. Number Two steps up to the gantry beneath the screen, almost putting himself into the pictiure. Why do you care? he muses, repeating the question.
He grabs the yellow phone off the desk, asks for Number Six. We hear the latter’s phone beep, see him answering. Why do you care? Number Two asks. I know your voice, the Prisoner replies. Number Two confirms he has been here before, and repeats his question. You’ll never know, Number Six says, putting down the phone and leaving his cottage.
Number Two continues to watch him as he makes his way through the sparsely attended square. Number Six button-holes a man with an umbrella, who reacts fearfully to being spoken to, and implores him to go away.
Coming to a decision, he snatches up the red phone again. He argues with the person to whom he is speaking, insisting that they have been going about things the wrong way, that he told them so first time. If they want him, they must do it his way, and there is no alternative: he demands approval for Degree Absolute.
This is clearly a serious, and irrevocable step, and one that is risky for Number Two himself. He acknowledges this. He is a good man, was a good man, if they they can get Number Six, he will be better. Number Two is willing to sacrifice himself. Consent is given, to start tonight, but though Number Two objects, he is given only seven days, which he believes is too short.
We cut to the Control Room. Number Two bustles in, announcing Degree Absolute, and requiring all subsidiary personnel to be removed. The Supervisor challenges him, proposes to check, but Number Two overrules him. The staff are told to leave, to submit their time sheets on the most favourable rates, leaving Number two, the Controller, and one operative on the twin-arm device.
Number Two takes one of the screens and tunes into Number Six, asleep in bed. The Controller counts to six, and announces that the first waveform is clear. A second count is made. Onscreen, Number Six grows restless. Number Two orders a third count, diminished, holding on five. Number Six threshes about, but remains asleep. A sweating Number Two is satisfied. As he leaves, the Supervisor says he would be sorry to lose him.
In his bedroom, Number Six sleeps. The ceiling light descends towards his face on its cord. It starts to flash. Number Two, sounding very weary, starts to croon the nursery rhyme, Humpty Dumpty. Number Six remains undisturbed, with the lamp over his face, as Number Two wanders round singing other rhymes. No matter how loudly he sings, Number Six is not disturbed. Number Two lies down on a shaped couch.
In the morning, he raises the blinds and looks across the village, as did Number Six on his first appearance. He wakes Number Six, asking him if he wants to go walkies. Number Six grins vacuously and leaps out of bed.
After he dresses, Number Six is wheeled across the square and into Number Two’s Office by the Butler. Whilst Number Two talks to himself as much as Number Six, the Butler walks over to one of the floor-discs and is dropped through the floor. Number Two leads Number Six to another disc, before his Chair: they drop out of sight. They emerge in a dark corridor, along which they are carried on a moving causeway. This leads to a pair of thick metal doors, which Number Two unlocks,
Inside the room, it is dark, until Number Two switches on the light to reveal a strange large room. It features objects such as a playpen, which which the Butler, wearing snow-glasses, stands, shaking a rattle, a free-standing door, a mini-tractor, a seesaw, a kitchen unit contained behind bars. Excitedly, Number Six goes to the playpen, seizes the rattle and starts shaking it. Number Two dons an identical pair of snow-glasses, and sets the clock by the entrance. The doors slide shut. The week begins.
Number Two starts to recite Shakespeare’s ‘Seven Ages of Man’ speech as he chalks three objectives on a blackboard: A. Find Missing Link, something that has been in Number Six’s brain, even as a child, B. Put it together, refining it, tuning it, making Number Six theirs, and if he fails, C. BANG.
Number Six is taken for a walk in the park, to the seesaw,but as soon as Number Two brings up the word father, he is let down with a bump. From the park it is to school: the Butler fetches Number Two a cane and a mortar board, Number Six a straw boater. ‘Report to my study in the morning break,’ snaps Number Two.
He quizzes the schoolboy Number Six about an incident of talking in class, nine days ago. Number Six has been accused, wrongly. He knows the true culprit but will not give him away. For nine days he has refused. He accepts the term ‘fool’ but says he is not a rat. It is a matter of honour. For his refusal to conform, he is left with the Butler, who brandishes the cane.
He emerges a graduate. Headmaster Number Two praises his prize pupil for hos he has overcome his rebellious spirit, and learned to conform. He demands Number Six say why he resign. Number Six protests mildly that it is a secret. Number Two’s pressure leads to screams and a fight in which Number Six starts to choke the older man. Unhurriedly, the Butler replaces the cane in the cupboard, selects a truncheon and crashes it down on Number Six’s head.
When Number Two recovers his breath, the pair manhandle Number Six onto a table. A hairdryer like device is placed over his head. A still-gasping Number Two admits he is beginning to like Number Six.
Restored, Number Six sits on a rocking horse. Number Two prowls round him, verbally sparring. They get into long to-and-fros, counting letters, numbers. Number Six has a block on the word six and will not, cannot say it. They repeat various, nonsensical combinations of the word Pop at each other, during which Number Two explains, obliquely what it stands for: Protect Other People.
The sparring continues into real sparring: boxing training, protective headgear, Number Six as the Champ, Number Two as his trainer, needling, forever needling him over his resignation, until Number Six punches him down. Then they become fencers, Number Two contemptuous of his opponent until his foil is twisted away, out of his hands. Still he taunts Number Six, accusing him of cowardice, of being the one-man band, but unable to cross the threshold to kill. Number Six backs him against the door, strikes with the button foil, just missing. Number Two taunts and he strikes the door again, but now the button has come off. Undaunted, Number Two throws forward his contempt until Number Six shrieks and lunges – but only into Number Two’s left shoulder. ‘You missed, boy, you still can’t do it’. He mocks Number Six’s shocked apology.
The two clean themselves up, Number Two’s arm in a sling. Then another approach: Number Two as interviewer using the kitchen. Number Six seeks a job, but he has no concern for the traditions of the Bank: he just wants to work, to have a job. But it’s more than a stamp-licking job, he is important, he is being groomed for his true role in Intelligence, his future. He drive a motorised toy car to the interview where this is explained to him.
Surreally happy, Number Six drives the toycar around until he is halted by the Butler, in policeman’s helmet, blowing a whistle. He is tried for speeding before Number Six, the judge, tries to alibi it on his job his secret job, above the law. Over his protests, he is fines a sum he cannot pay, and is, literally, dragged off to jail, hand-cuffed inside the caged itchen.
Number Two hammers at him again, verbally, demanding the secret of his resignation. Number Six resists, begins to slur his voice, act drunkenly. Number Two’s mastery over him starts to dwindle as the Prisoner invites him to kill him, produces a carving knife from the kitchen drawer, lies down.
Instead, we go on to a war scene, artificial smoke, the sound of bombs, the two men straddling a mid-air plank, pilot and release-operator on a bomber. Number Six’s inability/resistance to the word six creates an overshoot, a second pass, a bailing out.
Number Two interrogates Number Six in German. Number Six is apologetic, almost hangdog, but as the harangue continues, his demeanour changes. He starts to count numbers. He says the word six, starts to relish it. Removing his jacket, he nonchalantly walks from the cage.
Number Six’s acceptance of the number six has changed the dynamic. Number Two is no longer in charge. The Butler massages his temples as Number Six starts to ask penetrating questions about the psychological procedure of Degree Absolute, it’s dependance upon complete trust and its risk to any doctor who has his own problems. Number Two is effusive in his answers, admitting that he has flaws. They still have time to work on this though, but when he draws back the velvet curtains, the clock shows that only five minutes remain.
He rushes over to the kitchen, opens and bottle and pours himself a whiskey. He is still gabbling about time as Number Six experimentally slides the door to and fro, until he slams it shut and locks it. Number Two grabs the bars, then laughs as the Butler comes forward and takes the key from Number Six: he thinks you’re in charge now, he shouts.
Number Six looms over him, threatening to enter. Number Six turns fearful, pleading with him to stay away. When the door is open, he stumbles out and falls. Number Six pursues him as the man begins to disintegrate. Number Six starts counting down the time, with Number Two still protesting it’s not too late. But the inexorable march of seconds is counted down. Number Two lurches back into the caged kitchen, takes another drink, as the seconds run out. On zero, he ceases breathing and falsl to the floor, dead.
Number Six looks as if he too has come out of a trance. The steel doors slide open to reveal the Supervisor, who congratulates Number Six. He walks over to the cage and looks at Number Two. We shall need the body for evidence, he state, an edge of contempt in his voice. Number Six smashes his glass violently on the floor.
A hinged metal door slams down from above, sealing the kitchen. The Supervisor asks Number Six what he desires, to which the Prisoner replies, ‘Number One’. ‘I’ll take you’, says the Supervisor. They walk towards the doors, leaving an empty Embryo Room, silent but for a nursery rhyme.

The Prisoner: Who was he, really?


Is it him?

According to one of his co-creators, he always was John Drake. The upright, moral agent, who believed in what he did. Who was committed to his job. Who devised the idea of a retirement home for aged spies, where they could live, safe and protected. Who resigned, from a job that he was the last you could imagine abandoning, because he learned that his proposal had been adopted, but perverted into an interrogation camp. Who resigned knowing that only by this route could he infiltrate this abomination and bring it down.
But his other co-creator had a diametrically opposite opinion: he was anybody in the world except John Drake. He was everyman, the ultimate individual, the one man setting himself against the overwhelming force of the establishment, a growing, cynical, authoritarian establishment requiring conformity to itself in all things. He had no name, because he needed no name, because he was symbol, not person.
Plus there was the legal position that if Number Six were John Drake, the royalty payments due to Drake’s creator, Ralph Smart, would have made the show impossible to produce.
I’ve already commented that, by deliberately blanking Number Six’s name and background, other than his being a spy, allowed Number Six to appear complete with an assumed history. As one who, however young, was there for the first broadcast, I can confirm that our entire family (with the exception of my six year old sister, whose bedtime fell before either programme started) watched the first episode believing The Prisoner to be an extension of Danger Man. To us, and to the vast majority of that first night audience, Number Six was John Drake, no question.
The lack of a ‘real name’ for Number Six created certain difficulties for the scripters, especially in those episodes in which the Prisoner succeeded in returning to London, or, in the case of The Chimes of Big Ben, met former trusted colleagues and friends in the belief that he had done so. Extraordinary contortions were required to get around the necessity that not one of these persons who had worked closely with Number Six in his previous life address him by his actual name.
Not even his fiancée, even when she is convinced that his mind has somehow been transferred into the stranger’s body of Nigel Stock, addresses him by name.
The closest any of these episodes comes to acknowledging this quandary is in Do Not Forsake Me Oh My Darling, when the Colonel has invaded Number Six’s old headquarters and is challenged to give his name: cleverly, ‘Number Six’ asks “code or real”, and is allowed to identify himself by his various code-names, “Duvall”, “Schmidt” and “ZM73”. Incidentally, none of these code-names have been identified as ones used by John Drake in Danger Man.
In every other scene, devices have to be resorted to, Number Six must be addressed as ‘my friend’, or ‘old man’. The most obvious moment comes in Many Happy Returns, when Number Six can call his old, old friend the Colonel, James, but the Colonel’s only personal reference to him is by the deliberately ironic ‘Number Six’.
It’s an interesting dichotomy: Number Six, the epitome of the individual, lacks that most individual of aspects: a name. Throughout the series, even to his ‘triumph’ in the final episode, when his designation is taken from him, he is nothing but Number Six, the name of a cypher. The man who asserts himself against the weight of all authority ultimately has no individual identity.
Or does he?
The Girl Who Was Death certainly sails very close to the wind of identifying Number Six as having been indeed John Drake. It’s an episode full of in-jokes, and by the very presence of these, we should treat any information in it as being tendentious, but the episode makes an immediate and strong link to McGoohan’s former role. The Agent’s first appearance sees him adopting the same cap and raincoat combination that was characteristic of John Drake.
And Christopher Benjamin, who played Drake’s self-satisfied liaison, Potter, in the two episodes of the aborted Series 4, returns playing what we are invited to assume is the same character.
It’s a very broad hint that Number Six is the former John Drake, though of course the name is never spoken. The hints, however, could not be clearer.
For many years, before the advent of video and DVD, a substantial number of viewers were insistent that Number Six was actually identified in Once Upon a Time as Drake: Leo McKern barks out a pre-advert line that sounded like “Meet me in the morning, Drake”, though the greater availability of the series has helped dispel that myth by allowing everyone to hear it correctly as “morning break”. And elsewhere in the same episode, the nursery rhyme, ‘See saw, Marjorie Daw’ is used in its oldest form, where the next line is ‘Jacky shall have a new master’ (the version I grew up on wasn’t ‘Jacky’, though I can’t tease out the memory of what it was): Jacky, or Jack, is a diminutive of John, a popular variant of the original: John who?
Like so many enigmas about this series, the answer lies in the viewer’s own mind, in what they read the runes as saying. We must, finally, come back to McGoohan’s insistence that Number Six was not Drake, and that originally, to emphasise that there was no actual connection between his former series and his new one, he wanted another actor entirely to play the part, but Grade insisted he wanted McGoohan himself. And who, in all the world, then or since, could have played Number Six in the manner that ensured the series would survive so long?
You pays your money and you takes your choice. I began by believing, in 1967, that The Prisoner was a direct, as opposed to thematic, sequel to Danger Man, and that Number Six was John Drake. No matter how much I know he isn’t, I prefer to believe in the continuity between the two, and that Number Six was always more than just a Number.

The Prisoner: episode 15 – The Girl Who Was Death – discursion


The Girl Who Was Death was the fifteenth episode of The Prisoner to be broadcast and the sixteenth to go into production. It was written by Terence Feely, based on a story by David Tomblin and was directed by Tomblin himself.
I’ve probably seen The Girl Who Was Death more often than any other episode of The Prisoner, not out of any intrinsic fascination with the episode, but because it’s been on television the most over the years. And that’s not a reflection of any massive popularity on this episode’s part, either.
No, it’s the same reason that, down the decades, the Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads?  episode No Hiding Place (the one where Bob and Terry try to avoid learning the result of an England game) has always been the random episode selected to exemplify the show: because it has the absolute least to do with the series.
The Girl Who Was Death can be shown at any time, to any audience, because they can watch it without thinking, without wondering what’s going on, and having to understand anything. It can be pulled out of the series in a way that no other episode can because it exists free of context, free of overtones and undertones, free of any of the deeper themes of The Prisoner.
No, let’s be frank: not even the very short coda in which Kenneth Griffiths and Justine Lord stand revealed as the most hapless and pathetic Number Two and Assistant of them all has anything to do with ANY of the show’s themes.
If there are those who are offended at me describing Do Not Forsake Me Oh My Darling or Living in Harmony as a ‘filler’, they can’t possibly argue about this one.
I’ve heard different stories about The Girl Who Was Death‘s provenance: that it was an unused, or rejected Avengers script, that it was a leftover Danger Man script that was adapted to fit the rush to get four more episodes into production. The overall tone of the story, which is a spy spoof from start to finish, and arch as all get out, supports the former, but lacks anything that might be intuited as an Emma Peel role, whilst the structure reflects something of the old Danger Man style – McGoohan’s light cap and raincoat is the most obvious nod to John Drake, whilst Potter was Drake’s contact in the two colour series 4 episodes, and played by Christopher Benjamin again: Ralph Smart must have really been tempted to call for his copyright lawyer here – but has had to have been gone over with a bludgeon to produce this eccentric affort.
It’s not that I don’t like The Girl Who Was Death, don’t get me wrong. It’s great fun: McGoohan’s deadpan approach fits the level of the parody perfectly, the ideas are well-judged and the show doesn’t sag until Kenneth Griffith appears, though his OTT performance takes a lot of the wind out of its sails thereafter.
But whilst the individual bits are very good, the overall effect is too one-note. It’s a send-up, we get it, but is that ALL you’ve got? And, sadly, that is indeed all it’s got, and it barely gets to the end with us still on its side: another five minutes and it would have tripped over its own silliness and gone totally flat.
It’s an episode chocked with in-jokes, which always raises the risk of the show becoming too clever and looking to raise the bar for those in on it instead of those watching from without, And it doesn’t have an ending either: the explosion that blows up the lighthouse/rocket – which is taken from a Gerry Anderson Thunderbirds shot – works well to end the spoof, but leaves a very awkward segue into the real ending, the link that brings The Girl Who Was Death back to the ‘reality’ of the Village and the hopelessly perfunctory explanation of just why this is an episode of The Prisoner.
I’ll say this much for Number Two’s ‘cunning plan’: it doesn’t half serve to justify the radical upturn in tension and threat in the long-filmed Once Upon A Time.
But this simply isn’t an episode of The Prisoner. It’s a joke, a time-filler, a giggle with a stapled on half-hearted link to the overall story that can’t possibly have been meant to have been taken seriously. It lacks even the claims of formal experimentation that can, legitimately, be attached to Living in Harmony.
It’s a filler. Full stop.
Praise should, of course, be given to the guests, or at least two of them. Griffith, a highly-regarded actor/writer/director who would go on to specialise in documentaries in the Seventies (much satirised by Clive James) overdoes his role as the mad scientist with a decidedly Napoleonic complex, upsetting the balance that has been maintained to that point, but Justine Lord, a veteran at working with McGoohan having guested in more episodes of Danger Man than any other, pitches her performance, seductive, exotic, physically and, later, mentally dangerous, to perfection.
She also gets to wear the shortest skirts of anyone in the entire series, which is another aspect that links these three ‘filler’ episodes, in that they introduce feminine glamour in a manner that is rigidly excluded from the Village, and the ‘purer’ episodes made for ‘series 1’.
And mention must be made of the uncredited Alexis Kanner, who makes a splendid cameo as the verbally aggressive, hip, fashion photographer in the fairground, though he’s only onscreen for a matter of seconds throughout.
Otherwise, it’s nice to report that the sloppiness of the past few episodes filming is not present here, apart from some very bad back-projection shots in the funfair sequence. In part that’s just the limitations of the technology, combined with McGoohan’s recall to location filming on Ice Station Zebra, which severely limited his participation in location filming: Frank Maher went to the fair and did the actual running around and McGoohan, dressed in his spoof Sherlock Holmes outfit, and heavily bewhiskered, has to do a series of absurd reaction shots, and darting off in all directions against stock footage of the fair.
Comparing the televised story to the original script, courtesy yet again of Robert Fairclough’s splendid and invaluable books, points up no significant changes during the filming process, save for one immeasurably important one: Schnipps’ fixation was not originally Napoleon, but Hitler.
The change saves the episode. Napoleon fixations are funny, not merely because they’re a cliché, but because Napoleon is 200+ years old. Hitler and Nazi Germany isn’t funny. It’s not funny now and it was even less so in 1967, when the end of the War was only twenty-two years earlier, and people remembered going through it. My Dad was only 38 when The Prisoner was first broadcast: too young to have done more than peace-time conscription in the Navy, but his elder brother had seen service, and battle, in the Far East. For them, and millions like them, a comic-Hitler would have been something like blasphemy.
But this is the low point of the series. There are only two episodes left, two episodes that, in their starkly contrasting manners, will take The Prisoner into television history. The transition from nonsense like The Girl Who Was Death to Once Upon a Time, is from the ridiculous to the sublime. As simple as that.

The Prisoner: episode 15 – The Girl Who Was Death – synopsis


Thunder crashes. The normal credits sequence runs.
We open upon a painted scene of an Edwardian cricket match, spread across two pages of a book held open by a pair of hands.
A succession of scenes establish a contemporary village cricket match. Colonel Hawke-Englishe, an old-fashioned man in multi-coloured cap, with well-brushed grey moustache, is batting. He bats left-handed, and swipes the bowler for a boundary.
By the scoreboard, his assistant Potter changes the Colonel’s score to 93. He takes a pair of binoculars from a cricket bad, covering up a high-powered rifle with telescopic sights with a pair of pads. Potter scans the crowd, lingering on the legs of an attractive woman with short blonde hair, who is wearing a white mini-dress. Reprimanding himself, he turns the binoculars to the Colonel, who acknowledges his scrutiny with a wink. Potter misses the girl getting elegantly out of her deck-chair and walking away.
The Colonel smashes the next ball into the undergrowth for six, advancing his score to 99. As a fielder runs from the field to retrieve it, a feminine hand, extending from a white sleeve, replaces it with a seemingly identical ball.
The fielder throws the new ball in from the boundary. The bowler catches it, and marches back almost to the sightscreen, intent on delivering his fastest ball. He races in and delivers, grinning maniacally. The Colonel plays a defensive block: the ball explodes on contact with his bat. His death, one short of his century, is announced on a newspaper board.
Enter a fellow Agent, played by McGoohan, wearing the white cap and coat favoured by John Drake in later series of Danger Man. He walks down the High Street and pauses outside a ladies clothes shop whose windows are filled with mannequins wearing the latest fashions. A scruffy, unshaven, unhappy Potter is working as a shoe-shiner outside.
Whilst the Agent pretends to have his Hush Puppies (suede shoes) cleaned, Potter explains that the Colonel was pursuing the mad scientist, Dr Schnipps (a slip: he is Professor Schnipps throughout the rest of the episode) who has been building a rocket with which to destroy London. Unfortunately, the Colonel had not found out where the rocket is: the Agent is to go collect a message from the Chief at a nearby record shop. As he leaves, we see the girl has replaced one of the shop mannequins and has been listening in.
In the record shop, the Agent signals with his tie and is given a disc to take into a listening booth. The Chief’s message is for him to take over from the Colonel.
Back to the cricket match. The Agent, wearing the same cap plus Edwardian mutton chop whiskers and moustache, is batting (right handed) against the same bowler, and scoring freely. The white dressed blonde (who is actually Sonia Schnipps, daughter of the Professor, though her first name is never mentioned in the episode) is again watching.
As before, the Agent hits a four and a six to take his score to 99. The same feminine hand replaces the ball in the undergrowth. It is thrown in from the boundary, caught by the bowler, who marches a long way back before running in and delivering it with a maniacal grin. This time, the Agent catches the ball and hurls it back into the undergrowth, where it explodes harmlessly. Following it, he finds a lace hankie on which a lipsticked message says Sonia will meet him at his local.
Restored to cap and coat, the Agent attends his local and orders the usual. As he drains his drink, the word ‘You’ (in Village font) appears on the base of the glass. Only after he has drained his drink can he read the full message: ‘You have just been poisoned’.
Turning back to the bar, the Agent quickly orders, and downs, a succession of shorts, spirits and liqueurs, until the barmaid protests that he’ll make himself sick. As he heads for the Gents, Sonja emerges from it. Inside, a message on the roller towel sends him to a nearby Steam bath.
Next, we see the Agent in a steam cupboard, enjoying the treatment. He has re-donned his moustache and whiskers. Another steam cupboard opens, revealing a girl’s legs. She slides a broomstick through the handles of the Agent’s cupboard and places a large goldfish bowl over his head. As the trapped steam threatens to overcome him, the Agent struggles, finally breaking the broom and striding free. He is fully dressed, in Edwardian Sherlockian clothing. A message on the inside of Sonia’s steam cupboard directs him to a boxing booth at the nearby funfair.
In the booth, the Agent sits alone in the front row. Sonia is present, disguised as an elderly woman in a black shawl. The MC announces a three round fight between the ugly and vicious Killer Kominsky and the challenger – Mr X! He points at the agent and the crowd force him into the ring.
We cut to the picture book, still held open, but now showing a painting of an Edwardian boxing match. This appears before and after the commercials.
He spars with Kominsky, each showing their abilities. Kominsky tells him to go to the Tunnel of Love, and when the Agent presses him on who has given his that message, he angrily says he doesn’t know, and knocks the Agent out.
The Tunnel of Love is quiet and deserted. Unseen by the Agent. Sonia is there, among the scary exhibits. After he passes her, she begins to talk to him, caressingly, telling him that she is beginning to fall in love with him. She warns him not to turn round: when he does he finds a small radio broadcasting her words. When he throws it into the water, it explodes.
A hunt follows all across the funfair grounds. The Agent keeps seeing Sonia in her white dress, but losing her on various rides. He pursues a woman dressed in white to the top of the Big Dipper, only to discover that she is a different woman, model for a photographer (an uncredited Alexis Kanner) who berates him violently.
The chase continues. The Agent sees a white dressed woman posing before a roundabout, but as he approaches, the photographer gets off the roundabout and looks at him. The Agent tips his deerstalker and retreats, but this time the woman is Sonia, who kisses the photographer, then runs to her white E-type Jag and drives away. The Agent strips off his whiskers and follows in his Lotus.
The pair carry out a high speed chase, down dual-carriageways and country lanes. Sonia continues to talk to the Agent, via a mike in her car, to his car radio. She continues to discuss love with him: he is perfect for her, a born survivor where she is a born killer. She points behind her, at him, and then waves her finger from side to side, causing the road to appear to sway with her movements, even to loop the loop. A sudden turn down a side road, signposted Wychwood 1 mile, gains her a lead. The camera cuts to the book, this time showing an idyllic English Village scene, before and after the adverts
The Agent finds himself in an abandoned Village. Sonia’s e-type is parked but there is no sign of the woman. Suddenly, her voice addresses him out of the ether. She is going to give him a glorious death, but before that it is only fair that she gives him her name: her name is Death.
The Agent traces her voice to a loudspeaker whose wires lead inside the boarded up shop of the Butcher. Bursting in, he comes under fire from a Bren gun, set up on a tripod, whilst Sonia continues to address him lovingly. Wriggling under the line of fire, the Agent disarms the electric eye and takes the gun for his own use.
He follows the voice into the next abandoned shop, the Baker. Suddenly, a trapdoor opens under his feet and he falls into a pit filled with needle sharp electrified points. By swinging the gun across the opening, he is able to save himself, but the spikes start to rise. Desperately, he manages to drag a baker’s tray to the opening, and pull this down so he can stand on this as the spikes arise.
However, the floor is filled with small but powerful anti-personnel mines, which will go off in 90 seconds only. His only escape is to grasp the heating pipe running along the roof, and swing along this, despite the burning heat, to get into the third shop, the Candlestick Maker.
This shop is filled with candles of all sizes, in all manner of arrays. The Agent begins to cough. Sonia explains that the candles are wax mixed with a cyanide derivative, which is pouring poison into the air. Before the Agent can escape, she triggers steel shutters everywhere. Nor can he blow the candles out: if he does, they will explode, which he quickly demonstrates with a long-handled candle-snuffer.
Suddenly, the Agents begins gathering candles, piling them in front of the door. Sonia tells him that they used to toll the death knell in this Village when a great man was dying: when she starts up the bell, the Agent realises where she is. She thinks his antics are irrational, but when he has enough candles, he shelters behind a sturdy table and uses a bellows to blow them out all at once, blowing the shutters open.
Outside, in the street, Sonia starts firing at him from the Bell Tower. He takes refuge in the Blacksmiths, where he finds an abandoned but still working bulldozer. Using its scoop as a shield, he goes out into the street. Sonia, enjoying herself enormously, switches from machine guns to German stick grenades, hurling these with a ‘wheee!’. The third of these immobilises the bulldozer, giving her the chance to load and take up a bazooka, which destroys the bulldozer.
Descending to the street, she surveys the blazing wreckage with satisfaction, before turning away down a side street. The Agent climbs out of a manhole and follows her into the fields, where she makes for a helicopter. As it takes off, he jumps aboard, clinging to its skies.
The scene changes to the picture book, now showing an old-fashioned Wright Brothers era plane flying over the ocean, which is repeated after the adverts.
The helicopter flies on, eventually landing in a similar field. The Agent jumps off and conceals himself as the unheeding Sonia walks away. He follows her towards some rocks, where she disappears. A few steps further on is a cliff edge, overlooking a lighthouse. Returning to the rocks, the Agent finds a secret entrance.
A passage leads down into an armoury complex, underneath the lighthouse. A man wearing a Napoleonic era French uniform arrives, quietly singing ‘A Londonderry Air’: the Agent knocks him out, takes his top coat and, continuing the song, starts to work on the rifles and grenades.
Meanwhile, above, in the control room, Sonia, changing into a ball-gown from the period, has rejoined her father, Professor Schnipps. The Professor is dressed as Napoleon, complete with hand inside waistcoat. His henchmen, all dressed as French Marshals, also have their hands in their waistcoats: angrily, he drags them out.
Schnipps’ plan is nearing fruition: the rocket is about to be launched to destroy London. He renames several landmarks – Napoleon Square, Napoleon’s Column – after himself, whilst his ‘little girl’ can have Bond Street and his ‘merry lads’ Chelsea Barracks. This does not go down well.
The Irish Marshall, O’Rourke is missing (he too has gone downstairs and been knocked out by the Agent) so Schnipps sends the Marshals downstairs. They get into a fight with the Agent, during which he downs several of them, before escaping outside to the base of the lighthouse. The Marshals grab rifles and line up to shoot him, but the Agent has gimmicked these to fire backwards, killing all the Marshals. He starts up the stairs only to be halted by Sonia, carrying a gun that will not backfire.
The Agent is tied to a chair whilst Schnipps taunts him with the knowledge that the lighthouse IS the rocket, something the Agent has already worked out for himself, to Schnipps’s consternation. But he will be left in the control room when Schnipps and Sonia evacuate.
The countdown started, they rush down one level and start frantically packing files into various cases. The Agent struggles against his bonds before freeing himself by the simple expedient of lifting the chair-back off its support. He then wrecks the rocket by fiddling with all its controls, until it starts to overheat. Using the rope, he abseils down the side of the lighthouse and takes the Schnipps’s boat.
Aghast, the Schnipps’s grab stick grenades and hurl these at the Agent. But these too have been gimmicked: the explosive attaches to the stick: they and the lighthouse are blown to smithereens!
The pair of hands closes the book. It has the Penny Farthing on its cover and a title: The Village Storybook.
Three children in pyjamas, two boys and a girl, eagerly clamour for another story from Number Six, but he puts them to bed, promising to come back the next night.
In his office, Number two and his girl assistant watch the scene onscreen: they are Schnipps and his daughter. Number Two seethes: the idea of putting Number Six with the Village children in the hope he will let something slip has failed: he has told them a fairy story. His assistant sympathises.
On the screen, Number Six says ‘Goodnight Children’, before pausing, turning to the surveillance camera and concluding ‘Everywhere.”
The Prisoner’s face races towards the screen. A pair of iron-barred doors slide across in front of it, slamming shut.

The Prisoner: Angelo Muscat


After Patrick McGoohan, the actor with the best track record in The Prisoner is Angelo Muscat, who played Number Two’s butler in fourteen of the seventeen episodes, and, despite never saying a single word, is as big an icon of the series as Portmeirion itself.
Muscat, who was born in Malta in 1930, was a short man in a family of tall people: both his parents and all three brothers were six foot or more, but Angelo only grew to the height of four feet three inches: stocky, rotund and balding. And sadly, very lonely.
His size restricted his employment opportunities on Malta, though he developed a love of the theatre there. He moved to England after the death of his parents, in quick succession, and worked in a zipper factory until, in 1961, he responded to an ad for casting of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves.
This began an acting career which included appearances in a lost William Hartnell Doctor Who adventure and in the twice weekly medical soap opera, Emergency Ward 10, but his career highlight was being selected for The Prisoner.
The early scripts make it plain that McGoohan and co envisaged a completely different figure for the Butler: a conventional, six foot strong-arm man, who would have (albeit banal) dialogue. According to ITC publicity, Muscat was personally selected for the part by McGoohan, after reviewing hundreds of photos.
The casting gave Muscat particular pride, both in the responsibility it gave him as virtually the only other series regular, and because he was a great Danger Man fan, and would be working with Patrick McGoohan.
Like so many aspects of the series, his casting was an act of genius.
I’ve already mentioned his immediate impact in our household on first viewing in 1967: I may have been somewhat idiosyncratic in my anticipation of a quasi-Lurch, but Muscat’s appearance – short, round, immaculately clad, deeply serious, silent, unfailingly grave – was 180% away from anything that might have been expected.
His performances throughout the series maintained that initial impression. In the episodes we have reviewed so far, he has opened doors, brought and removed breakfast trolleys, carried and held the prototypical Village umbrella. To the extent of his participation in the story is concerned, he has been a cypher, as much as the Village symbol of the Penny Farthing.
Only in A Change of Mind does the Butler engage in a minor interaction with Number Six, when the latter makes his second and condemnatory appearance before the Social Affairs Committee: Number Six finds that the Committee members have vanished and he is alone, at the centre of a ring of tables, with the Butler solemnly contemplating him. Without a muscle moving, facially, Muscat contributes a suggestion of amusement as he waits Number Six out. And when the latter leaps to his feet, intent on challenging the encircling, Muscat is equally fast, if not faster, to pull the requisite table aside and create egress.
In Hammer into Anvil, when the paranoid Number Two dismisses him and threatens to strike him, Muscat is still silent and immobile, yet in his stance and the slightest of expressions around his eyes, creates the powerful expression that he is deeply hurt at having his loyalty questioned, though equally he shows no sign of fear at the physical threat of a much taller man.
And as I’ve already mentioned, when discussing that episode, Muscat is used to conclude A Change of Mind in vivid fashion, unfurling the Village umbrella and briskly walking up the rosepath in the wake of his latest broken master. Similarly, an earlier episode, lacking an adequate closing moment, finishes with a shot of the butler, dressed in his coat and bowler, holding the umbrella and looking down on the Village.
Naturally enough, with Muscat seemingly ever-present, unspeaking but observant, and with the series still emphasising its espionage roots, many were led to speculate that the butler was, in fact, Number One. That is a popular trope by now, the mastermind whose disguise is ordinariness and lowliness, but in 1967 in would have been fresh for television. If the series had been more concerned with concrete drama, it might even have been a possibility for the ending, though we know that George Markstein’s thoughts led in a different direction.
The Butler would play a larger, more direct role in the final two episodes of the series: indeed, he would feature in The Prisoner‘s penultimate shot. But his significance in the majority of the show was symbolic, from his very first, reality-breaking appearance. The Village was elsewhere, beyond and outside Number Six’s old (= real) life. Its combination of scientific advance and surface whimsy rendered it a fantasy in which the former Agent was suspended, a dream from which he was not allowed to wake. Angelo Muscat’s unusual appearance was another, vital component of the suspension/perversion of reality that enabled the programme to work to the degree it did.
Sadly, The Prisoner was the highlight of Angelo Muscat’s life and career. Markstein recalled him being a pleasure to work with, always with a smile on set, no matter the hour, forever cheerful. In some ways he was the programme’s mascot, a role of which he was proud.
He would go on to more film and TV offers, including the Beatles’ Magical Mystery Tour, but would quickly be forgotten. He died of natural causes in 1977, having spent the last few years of his life living alone, almost penniless, in a basement flat in London, supplementing his income by making ornate bird cages.
Angelo Muscat deserved better

The Prisoner: episode 14 – Living in Harmony – discursion


The Kid

Living in Harmony was the fourteenth episode of The Prisoner to be broadcast and the fifteenth to go into production. It was written and directed by McGoohan’s Everyman Films partner, David Tomblin, and was based on a story by Tomblin and Ian L Rakoff, assistant film editor on the series.
With the exception of Fall Out, this is probably the most controversial episode of the series, in many respects.
First amongst these must be the subject of the episode itself. As we’ve seen from the synopsis, it’s essentially a re-interpretation of the Prisoner set-up in a Western, but instead of framing the idea within the format of the series, for fully three-quarters of the length of the episode, the programme is rejected in every aspect: no theme music, no opening credits, a completely inexplicable alternate scenario and not even the name of the programme on screen! (On first broadcast, a number of the ITV companies superimposed the words The Prisoner over the intro, to McGoohan’s fury).
Whilst the idea of taking a series outside its normal parameters is now accepted, if not common, it was completely unheard of in the Sixties, and completely against the accepted, and comfortable ethos of television and television viewing. And even a near half-century later, I cannot recall another series which took the idea to the extent in Living in Harmony.
The episode is also the most overtly violent of the series, between the lynching (seen from the victim’s viewpoint up to the moment of the noose being slipped over his head), McGoohan being beaten viciously twice and guest star Valerie French getting strangled twice, once in each of her two characters! The level of violence was unusual for British television as a whole, and whilst three ITV companies moved the episode to 10.00pm, after the ‘watershed’, several others reacted by editing down, and in once case out, the violence to make it acceptable to them (the second strangulation was cut out, making Number Six appear to race into the saloon and punch Number Eight for no apparent reason).
On the other hand, the violence is an integral part of the story, as the explanation behind the experiment explicitly makes clear.
There is also a dispute over the credit for the idea of a Western, and the writing credits officially registered. In the blog on Unused Outlines, I mentioned Ian Rakoff responding to the request for ideas with the notion of a Western (initially under the title Do Not Forsake Me Oh My Darling). Rakoff, a western comics enthusiast, claimed to have worked on the story for a long time, and to have written the full episode, except for the lynching (which he found distasteful) which was added by Tomblin. Instead, his role was reduced to the second of two collaborators on a plot, and he was cut out of all residual payments. Rakoff stated that he tried to complain to McGoohan, but the star refused to meet him, and he never saw him again thereafter.
But the biggest controversy that surrounded the episode was its treatment in America, where it was dropped for the first two broadcast runs.
Many theories about this have been advanced. One suggests the episode was dropped because of its depiction of hallucinogenic drugs, and is usually accompanied by a sneer at the inconsistency of American television, given that several previous episodes featured Number Six being drugged. It has been pointed out that there is a substantial qualitative difference: in previous episodes, the viewer is forewarned that the Prisoner is or is going to be drugged, and the scenes play out in that knowledge: there is no such warning in Living in Harmony, and the viewer doesn’t learn that they’ve been watching a drug-induced hallucination until very close to the end. It’s a fair distinction.
It’s also been claimed that the episode was too uncomfortable for American television in 1968: with the Vietnam war in full spate, with American facing the first inklings that they might not automatically win it, with protest about the War rising daily and young men refusing to be drafted into the Army. Into this political melee comes a foreign television programme using a classic American form to deliver an anti-violence, anti-War, anti-authority message: the case is obvious, surely.
Whilst I’m certain that there were more than a few figures who thought exactly that, the reason for the episode’s exclusion was apparently rather more prosaic, although still tied in with the political issues of the day.
In the early summer of 1968, Robert Kennedy was assassinated whilst running for President. The reaction including a rash of claims that television was inciting violence, and led to hasty regulations in relation to the depiction of violence. Shootings were still permitted, but the shooter and the victim had to be shot separately. In Living in Harmony, McGoohan and Alexis Kanner appear in the same shot for their shoot-out: the episode could not be broadcast until that regulation had been rescinded.
As usual, there’s a difference between the original script and the broadcast episode, though on this occasion the story is barely affected. To reflect the Western setting, the script was pared down, and in the case of the Kid, his dialogue was completely removed, making the character mute. A read of the Original Scripts shows that the Kid’s dialogue was nothing more than stereotypical tough guy talk, and the decision is brilliant: Kanner plays the part entirely in gesture and expression, conveying an frightening psychopathy from his introduction. It’s a superb, beautifully stylised performance that outshines everyone in the episode.
Kanner, a French-Canadian actor, was making his first of three appearances (one uncredited), in the last four episodes of the series, each time playing different characters. At the time of his appearance, he was probably best known in British television for his short-lived portrayal of DI Matt Stone in nine episodes of the first series of BBC’s Softly, Softly. This was a Police drama, a spin-off from Z-Cars featuring the latter’s Barlow and Watt. Kanner claimed to have left the series early because he did not want to become typecast, and that his performances (recorded live) were controversial to the point of questions being asked in Parliament. Others on the series claim that his antics during performance were unwelcome and he was sacked. The BBC wiped most of the series, and only one episode with Kanner remains, and that is non-committal either way.
For some, never explained reason, on each of his credited appearances, Kanner’s names is surrounded on screen by a white box, a distinction granted to no-one else in the series. It’s been speculated that McGoohan saw in Kanner a reflection of himself – the actor’s level of intensity here demonstrates the force he could bring to a part, and he is the only actor to challenge McGoohan in that respect – and wished to indicate a kind of mentorship.
The two remained firm friends and later co-starred in Kanner’s film Kings and Desperate Men, which he co-wrote and directed in Toronto.
Kanner’s fellow guest, Valerie French, a Fifties starlet here making her best known television appearance, is equally interesting in a different way. From the moment of her first appearance as Cathy, French is the most overtly sexy character in the whole series. She is wearing a shoulderless Western saloon girl’s costume, tightly fitted, pushing upwards and outwards and instantly displaying far more female flesh than every other woman in the series collectively.
And though this particular version soon disappears, her main costume demonstrates a considerable amount of cleavage. And, in keeping with her Fifties starlet origins, Ms French was a buxom lass. At the time of shooting, she was 39, and in her outfit would have been uncharitably called “mutton dressed up as lamb” (just as Ena Sharples stigmatised Elsie Tanner in Coronation Street).
But she’s still very good-looking and the suggestion of beginning lines in her face fit her to the part she’s (doubly) playing like a second skin: it’s interesting that she actually looks older as Number Twenty Two.
It’s interesting to see the change of direction that comes with these hasty, potentially second series episodes. In Do Not Forsake Me Oh My Darling, Number Six suddenly is possessed of a fiancée:  the next episode, he has won and lost love. Is this really the self-contained, anti-romantic Number Six and his possible earlier incarnation as John Drake?
Well, no, not really. Though the Village wants to involve him with a sexy woman, and Number Twenty Two really does fall for the notion (poor, weak-willed woman that she is), there’s no evidence in the episode of Number Six acting towards Cathy with anything other than his ordinarily chivalrous instincts. Still, it surprises to see the rigidly moralistic McGoohan allowing so (comparatively) risqué a show of flesh.
But the sexy lady theme is (over)played again in the next episode, as we shall see.
But in amongst all these disparate concerns, what about Living in Harmony in itself? Is it actually any good?
Several have lauded it as a brilliant subversion, both of the series and of television itself, by translating its central theme into a completely different genre, and it is. The justification for this radical departure is ingenious, and that’s without any overt reference to another brilliant conception: Number Six is aware of his importance to the Village from the outset, which provides him with a subconscious reassurance that he can take any risk, go to any length in defending himself, without ultimate consequence, because he’s too important to be harmed. Transferring him into a primitive re-enactment of his struggle, is a less-sophisticated, more violent setting removes that surety, and demonstrates Number Six’s ferocity even more when we see that, rather than succumb, he is willing to provoke his own death.
And, taken together with the third ‘filler’ episode, the farfetchedness of this notion is a demonstration of just how desperate the Village is getting, and in the context of the series as a whole, it supports the necessity for a once and for all, extremely dangerous plan in the forthcoming Once Upon a Time.
Living in Harmony can be, and is praised for many aspects, bit each time I look at it, no matter how much I enjoy it, I cannot help but think one thought. It’s a Western. The Prisoner is a contemporary espionage drama, concerned with deep philosophical and sociological issues affecting life, authority and identity in the 20th Century, and it’s a bloody Western. It’s a story composed out of Western clichés, neither subverted nor illuminated, from first to last, that was made because they couldn’t think of any better ideas and besides, they wanted to play a kids game of Westerns (McGoohan and Kanner practised incessantly to try to beat each other in the shoot-out).
I don’t remember what my Dad said about this when it was first broadcast, but I have inherited enough of his thinking to be incapable of watching this episode without thinking of it as a cheap gimmick by people indulging themselves in an extended game. I mean, it’s a fucking Western!
So I stick by what I said and, just as much as the succeeding The Girl Who Was Death, which was even more an eking out of the series by any means possible, and weaker yet that this, Living in Harmony is a Filler episode.

The Prisoner: episode 14 – Living in Harmony – synopsis


A lone horseman gallops across the landscape, spurring on his horse. An acoustic guitar starts a quiet theme, with horns entering to overlay it.
A man sits behind a desk. He has a Marshall’s badge on his shirt. Suddenly, a Sheriff’s badge is dropped on his desk. He looks up to see a grim, silent stranger, the man we know as Number Six. The Stranger unstraps his gunbelt and leaves it on the Marshall’s desk.
He walks along the trail, his saddle slung across his shoulder. At the top of a hill, he is confronted by a gunslinger, who forces a fight on him. The Stranger beats him, only to find five other gunmen surrounding him. He wades into them but is beaten unconscious.
The title card Living in Harmony, in the Prisoner font, appears on screen, followed by a screen detailing guest stars.
The Stranger is taken to an isolated Western town. The name Harmony is displayed over the wooden arch on the road into town. He comes to, looking around at his setting. An offscreen voice, coming from a Mexican figure, welcomes him to Harmony and suggests he try the saloon.
The Stranger enters the Silver Dollar saloon, a traditional western saloon with tinkling piano, noise, whiskey and bar-girls, such as Cathy, a buxom woman in her late thirties, in an off-the-shoulder dress. The saloon falls silent as he enters. Cathy welcomes him and the bartender slides a shot glass of whiskey down the bar: the first one is free for regulars.
As the Stranger moves to pick up his glass, an offstage voice invites him to sit with him, followed by a gunshot that shatters the glass. Unmoved, the Stranger orders another whiskey, though he hesitates a moment before picking up the glass.
He takes it over to the Judge’s table. The Judge, who has iron grey hair, is dressed in the frilly shirt an dark suit of a riverboat gambler. Stood behind him is his bodyguard, the Kid, and only a look is needed to realise that the Kid is dangerous. He is tall and thin, with a pointed face, and he is wearing high-waisted trousers with braces over a pink, unbuttoned undershirt. He also wears an immaculate, shiny top hat.
The Judge wants the Stranger to work for him as Sheriff in Harmony, but the Stranger has no intention of staying. He leaves the saloon, pausing only to punch the Kid in the mouth, knocking him down.
He tries to buy a horse at the stables, but the owner asks $5,000. As he walks away, the Stranger is surrounded by townsfolk, telling him what a good place Harmony is to live, and how the Judge looks after them all. The Stranger is unconcerned, but the Mexican starts shouting angrily that he has insulted their town. The townsfolk are quickly incited into a lynch mob, and the Stranger has to be rescued by the Judge’s gunmen, who put him in jail in ‘protective custody’.
The Judge is waiting in the Sheriff’s office and repeats his offer. When the Stranger declines it again, he is put in a cell. The townsfolk are still baying outside, so the Judge cynically offers them a sacrifice: another prisoner, Johnson, is dragged from his cell and handed over to the mob, who quickly string him up. Cathy runs from the saloon, crying, but is prevented from interfering: Johnson is her brother.
The Stranger relaxes in his cell, under the watchful eye of the Kid, who is toying with his gun and making elaborate play of lining up a shot. Cathy brings him a bottle of whiskey from the saloon. Though she is clearly older than him, the Kid is equally obviously fixated on her. He prowls around her then clumsily grabs her, trying to kiss her, but she wriggles free and returns to the saloon. However, whilst he has been pouring their drinks, she has slipped the jail keys off their hook and she appears at the cell window, leaving these for the Stranger.
Once the Kid has finished his whiskey and fallen asleep, the Stranger unlocks his cell, steals a horse and sets out on the trail. However, the Pass is guarded and he is ambushed and dragged back to Harmony, and in front of the Judge in the saloon.
The Judge calls for a hearing and the saloon is quickly converted into a ‘courtroom’ When the Stranger asks what charge, the Judge says he faces none: he was in ‘protective custody’. The charge is levelled against Cathy, for helping a prisoner escape. She is found guilty, and goes to jail, but the Judge advises the Stranger that she will go free if the Stranger agrees to become Sheriff.
He goes to the saloon for a whiskey. A gun is slid along the bartop to him but he ignores it. It comes from the Kid, who wants him to fight. When the Stranger refuses to react, the Kid shoots twice, one shot grazing the Stranger’s right cheek-bone, the other the back of his left hand. The Judge breaks things up, ordering the Kid back to the jail. The Stranger slides the gun back along the bartop, telling the Kid he’ll need both to deal with a woman.
With the unstable Kid in the jail alone with Cathy, the Stranger decides to accept the role of Sheriff, but whilst he will accept the badge, he will not accept the gunbelt and gun that goes with it. Cathy apologises to him that she has got him into this but he gallantly brushes this aside.
The following morning, the Stranger goes out with his badge. He is confronted by Zeke, who challenges him over not carrying a gun. The Stranger beats Zeke but is set upon by his two friends, one of whom beats him heavily. But the Stranger hauls himself back to his feet, knocks the third man out and dumps him in the horsetrough.
The Kid arrives in the saloon which is busy. He is looking for trouble. Will, a drunken cowboy, puts his arm round Cathy. The Kid reacts by viciously stubbing out his cigar on Will’s neck. Everybody clears out of the way, leaving the hapless Will facing the kid. Hurriedly, he scrambles out his gun but stands there, holding it foolishly. The Kid draws his gun and shoots Will down. The shot brings the Stranger running, but the crowd confirm that Will drew first. The Kid leaves. When the Stranger follows him, the crowd start shouting at him, that he is the Sheriff, that he should be able to do something about this.
Back at his office, one of the townsfolk approaches the Sheriff offering his help in cleaning up the town. It is not something any of them can do alone. However, the Judge is aware of the visit, and sets his men on the townsman. They beat him to death and leave him in the Sheriff’s office. The Stranger angrily gets out the gunbelt the Judge gave him, but rejects it again.
In the saloon, the Stranger quietly tells Cathy to get her things together and meet him at the edge of town that night as they are leaving. The Judge suggests that someone ought to tell the Kid that the Sheriff is talking to his girl. At dusk, he rides out towards the Pass, where he ambushes the ambushers, leaving them tied up.
Meanwhile, the saloon empties. Cathy gathers her things and prepares to leave the saloon, but the Kid blocks her. She calls him crazy, then tries to run from him in fear. He intercepts her, crushes her in his arms and kisses her, but she bites his lower lip viciously. He wipes the blood from his mouth, advances on her and puts his hands around her throat, squeezing it.
Disturbed at Cathy not being at the meeting place, the Stranger carefully re-enters Harmony. He sees the Kid leave the saloon and goes inside. He finds Cathy’s dead body on the stairs. At dawn, he completes digging her grave and returns to his office, where he tests the gun and ties it on. He leaves the Sheriff’s badge on the desk.
Outside in the street, he is confronted by the Kid. They draw and fire simultaneously. The Kid spins his gun, restores it to his holster, then collapses dead.
The Stranger goes into the saloon and orders a whiskey, which he downs in one. The Judge and his men follow, enthusing about what they have seen. The Judge doesn’t care about losing the Kid since the Sheriff is faster, but the Stranger says that he is leaving. The Judge reminds him that he has Cathy but the Stranger says he doesn’t: she’d dead. This shocks the Judge but he is still not prepared to let the Stranger leave. He can’t work for another outfit: the Judge will kill him first.
He gives the Stranger a count of five, whilst his gunmen spread themselves around the Saloon. At the count of four, the Stranger rips into action. He kills all three gunmen quickly, but finds himself directly in front of the Judge, who has drawn a derringer. He shoots the Stranger twice at point-blank range. The Stranger presses his hands to his head, and collapses.
Number Six awakes to find himself lying on the floor of the saloon, in his Village clothing. He has on a pair of headphones and two other wires. Getting to his feet, he rips these off and looks round wildly. He sees the Judge, with the derringer and lurches at him, only to find he is a black and white cut-out. So too is the Kid’s body, on the ground outside.
Harmony is empty but for Number Six, but suddenly he hears a fragment of music on the wind. He follows a lane outside the entrance to Harmony. It leads him to a position overlooking the Village square, where the Villagers are circling.
Number Six makes his way directly to Number Two’s office. On the threshold he halts: Number two is the Judge and his assistant, Number Eight, is the Kid. By the Penny Farthing a woman, Number Twenty-Two, stands: it is Cathy. Number Six takes all this in and turns and leaves.
Number Two and Number Eight argue over the responsibility for failure. It is apparently Number Eight’s scheme – to dose Number Six with hallucinatory drugs, talk to him through microphones, create a primitive scenario where he faces danger, gets and loses love, and breaks. Number Eight blames the failure on Number Two’s impatience, forcing the crisis too soon, and getting too involved in the scenario.
They are distracted by sobs from Number Twenty-Two. When she realises they are staring at her, she runs from the Office, leaving Number Two to comment that he was not the only one to get too involved. Number Eight looks after her with hungry eyes.
At twilight, Number Twenty-Two returns to the Harmony set. She enters the saloon and lies down on the stairs, where ‘Cathy’ was found dead. A silent Number Eight appears, staring at her through the open slats of the stairs. In a harsh voice she berates him about it being over, and goes to leave. He says her name, and she stops, giving him chance to grab her around the throat.
Number Six has also returned to Harmony. He hears the scream and races into the saloon. It is Number Eight who is screaming. Number Six knocks him down and turns to the fallen Number Twenty-Two, who is dying. Her last words are that she wished it had been real.
The final player, Number Two, arrives by Mini-Moke. His appearance in the saloon triggers the final breakdown of Number Eight. Gabbling about not letting the Judge beat him again, he scuttles up the stairs, leans out over the balcony and throws himself to his death.
Number Two looks aghast at what has happened. Number Six gives him a look of utter contempt before walking away.
The Prisoner’s face races towards the screen. A pair of iron-barred doors slide across in front of it, slamming shut.

The Prisoner: Portmeirion


In addition to the personalities without whom The Prisoner could not have been the programme we still remember, almost half a century later, we must not ignore one other essential element in making the programme so distinctive an experience.
Portmeirion – properly, the Hotel Portmeirion and its grounds – was designed, built and owned by the noted architect Bertram Clough Williams-Ellis, later Sir Clough Williams-Ellis. Situated on the south side of the Lleyn Peninsula, in North Wales, Portmeirion is an Italianate folly village, commonly regarded as being inspired by the village of Portafino in Italy. Williams-Ellis consistently denied this, stating that his aim was to capture the atmosphere of the Mediterranean region, though he admitted to living Portafino.
Portmeirion’s site was originally an 18th century foundry and boatyard which was developed into a private estate under the name of Aber La, or in English, Ice estuary. Willams-Ellis, who was entirely self-taught as an architect, interpreted the site name as ‘frozen mouth’, and changed it to Portmeirion when he began to develop the area in accordance with his belief in architecture that was in tune with its surroundings. The name simply connected Port and Meirion, a reference to the Welsh County of Merioneth (the county name, being an English designation, was swept away in the Local Government reorganisation of 1974, when Welsh county names were restored throughout North and Mid-Wales, based on the former Welsh princedoms).
Beginning with the fragments of part-demolished buildings, Willams-Ellis began construction and development of Portmeirion in the early 1920s, first opening it to the public in 1926. Development continued until 1939, when it was interrupted by the War. It resumed in 1954 and continued in stages until 1975, with a final addition being made the following year, two years before Willams-Ellis’s death.
Even afterwards, development continued, under the ownership and direction of the Charitable Trust that maintains the site. Castell Deudraeth (the exterior of which was filmed as the Village Hospital) was bought by Williams-Ellis in 1931, from his uncle. It lies just outside the grounds of the Hotel itself, and it was his dream to incorporate this into the site. The Castell, a mansion house developed from the ruins of a castle dating back to at least 1188, was finally opened as a Hotel in 2001.
Though it’s by far his best known work, Portmeirion was not Willams-Ellis’s only noteable achievement. For instance, he designed the original Snowden mountain-top Cafe, and was Chairman of the Development Committee that designed Britain’s first New Town, Stevenage.
Portmeirion has been operated as a Hotel since it was first opened to the public, but it also operates as a tourist attraction, drawing visitors to North Wales. It incorporates a restaurant ans a cafe, not to mention a long-standing Prisoner souvenir shop, based in the building whose exterior was filmed for Number Six’s cottage. With the exception of the private grounds reserved for Hotel guests, Portmeirion can be explored at leisure for an admission charge, though no vehicles are allowed and you must walk in and out.
Portmeirion’s exotic appearance made it a popular place for location filming, giving British TV series a cheap opportunity to film ‘European’ scenes. The most famous use is The Prisoner, but Portmeirion has turned up in a wide variety of series: it is used in the very first episode of McGoohan’s Danger Man, as well as Dr Who, Citizen Smith and the final episode of Cold Feet.
It’s a fascinating place to visit. I’ve been there twice, and look forward to my next trip, though it’s a bit inaccessible if you haven’t got a car. Beware of one particularly potent piece of culture shock: when you enter the Souvenir Shop, which is close to the entrance, the whole building is only about ten feet deep.
Patrick McGoohan was introduced to Portmeirion in 1960 and loved the place immediately. He spoke on a number of occasions of setting a programme inside it, and when the concept of The Prisoner came up, the selection of Portmeirion as a setting must have been utterly irresistible. If the incarnation of the Village on Earth did not exist, how could it possibly have been created?
The advantages of Portmeirion were not limited to its other-worldly, chocolate box appearance, its strangeness and charm, but also included its virtual isolation. On Earth, it is technically part of Penrhyndeudraeth, from which it may be reached via a narrow, woods-lined road, and is only two miles from the coastal resort of Portmadoc (Porthmadog), but in itself it is a small, confined area, surrounded by woods, built onto the side of a small ridge paralleling the coast.
It looks out upon the Dwyryd estuary and Cardigan Bay, with the rolling hills of Mid-Wales as a background. It is in sight of no other community, and its position enables exterior and aerial shots to emphasise the sense of being very far away from anywhere else, a sense that is compounded once you walk through the arched entrance.
Once inside Portmeirion, even on a summer’s day with tourists milling, you feel as if you have left the world behind. Quarter that number of tourists, deck them all in the eccentric, vivid Village ‘uniform’, and the sense of otherness increases exponentially.
It is the ideal backdrop to the external, holiday camp image of the Village, and in it’s decorative appearance, fussy, delicate, ornate, the equally-ideal contrast to the cold, utilitarian, brutal interiors of the Village hierarchy: a perfect visual metaphor for the organisation of the Village in its entirety.
What could have replaced it if Portmeirion did not exist? In all the years since the series was broadcast I have never myself, nor through the material produced by others, discovered any real setting that could, in any way match Portmeirion. Had it not existed, could it have been created as a studio ‘reality’? Given the technical capabilities of the era, no. It’s very obvious in the series where studio-based exteriors are being used: the cafe with the tables on the grassy bank, the rose walk. They stand out too much.
Nor, under any kind of Sixties TV budget could a remotely convincing ‘Village’ have been built. It’s totality, the sense of a real geography connecting the various familiar settings – as demonstrated so fully in Checkmate – couldn’t have been conveyed so well from a series of studio sets. And it is precisely the atmosphere that having a real-life ‘Village’ to hand, an anchor in reality and an exercise in implausibility at one and the same time, that was crucial to the series’ success.
Throughout the initial broadcast, audiences were eager to know where the programme was filmed, but in accordance with the shooting agreement required by Williams-Ellis, Portmeirion was not disclosed on screen until the final episode, in a special caption of thanks. Portmeirion owes a great deal of its world-wide popularity to its association with The Prisoner, but not as much as The Prisoner owes to the ambitions and obsessions of Bertram Clough Williams-Ellis.

The Prisoner: episode 13 – Do Not Forsake Me Oh My Darling – discursion


Number Six and his fiancee

Do Not Forsake Me Oh My Darling was the fourteenth episode of The Prisoner to be produced,the first to be made after the three month gap after the conclusion of filming on Many Happy Returns, and the thirteenth to be broadcast. It was written by Vincent Tilsley, and directed by Pat Jackson, although it was changed dramatically by McGoohan when he returned from his film commitments.
McGoohan was committed to location filming for his part in the film Ice Station Zebra, and his brief appearance in the episode was filmed in a single day upon his return. The plot was thus necessitated by his absence, and required the casting of Nigel Stock to take McGoohan’s place
When I gave an overview of the series at the beginning, I gave the account that I had always understood. That The Prisoner had opened to great ratings, but these had rapidly fallen away as the audience found itself confused and upset, so that it became clear that a second series would not be commercially viable. That McGoohan had confessed he had no stories for season 2, and Lew Grade therefore offered to release him from his contract on condition he produced four extra episodes – one of them a finale – to fill a scheduling gap. This required McGoohan and Everyman to write, film and produce four more episodes, with the series already in mid-run, with a new production team, without access to Portmeirion and without McGoohan himself for one episode.
By implication, Robert Fairclough in The Complete Scripts Volume 2 disputes that interpretation.
He points out, unavoidably, that Do Not Forsake Me Oh My Darling started filming in August 1967, three months after filming had ended for ‘series one’: this was a month before Arrival would receive its first broadcast in the ATV region of the ITV network.
Fairclough also suggests that the revised opening – the pre-credits teaser that was a staple of ITC’s thrillers but which had not previously been used on The Prisoner, the new music theme, the absence of the catechism – were all changes made to distinguish a second series that would follow George Markstein’s wish to see Number Six operating in ‘the real world’ (though Markstein was to have no further connection with the series). And there’s the original script, which goes out of its way in the opening scenes to establish that a year has passed since Number Six was originally brought to the Village, that in all that time he hasn’t told them a single thing, not even the trivial issue of why he resigned, and that the new Number Two intends to use Number Six by ‘sending him away’, which, in view of the contents of this episode, Fairclough sees as a pointer to a series of episodes in which Number Six would effectively, carry out missions for the Village.
Despite this evidence supporting the idea that a second series did start shooting, I remain unconvinced. The long-established story has it that Grade agreed to pull The Prisoner due to ratings failure, but it’s also accepted that filming had exceeded budget and taken longer than expected – unsurprising given McGoohan’s perfectionism about the series, which was increasingly becoming difficult to distinguish from obsession. But these are two resounding issues that make it impossible for me to believe that this episode was ever seriously intended for an opening episode ion a new series.
The first derives from the ending of the yet-to-be-discussed Once Upon a Time. This was always planned to end series one, and it does so on the cusp of a momentous moment. I don’t want to give anything away in advance of dealing with that episode directly, but it was a substantial cliff-hanger, and if Do Not Forsake Me Oh My Darling was genuinely the ‘next episode’, then it would represent a colossal betrayal – indeed, a complete shunning of – the set-up left at the end of Once Upon a Time.
Its been argued that the ending we know to Once Upon a Time must have been re-written and filmed when the episode was changed to serve as a lead-in to the new finale, Fall Out, but Fairclough’s Complete Scripts shows that the filmed ending of the episode was there from the very beginning.
The second issue is McGoohan himself. McGoohan is virtually absent from this episode, which  had to be written around his unavailability absence. An entire episode of a show geared around its star, its central character, its prime mover, but without having him in the flesh.
In what scenario is this setting more plausible? That the episode is required to be filmed immediately, for broadcast on a fixed and early schedule, to slot in with a series already running in which additional episodes have to be made under straitened circumstances?
Or that it is the planned in relative leisure opening episode – the first episode – of a returning as-yet-not-established series, with no agreed broadcast date, and with twelve further episodes to be filmed and scheduled after this episode?
I repeat, this is supposedly going to be the first episode of the series, setting everything up again for both returning and new viewers, and it’s intentionally made without its star? Not in my Universe. You might get something like that now, but this was the Sixties, and this was an ATV thriller series. Lew Grade might have accepted it as a matter of necessity, mid-series, but it would never have washed as the flagship episode of a new series.
Then there’s also the general air of sloppiness about this episode. I complained about this in relation to A Change of Mind but it’s even worse in this episode.
Nigel Stock was physically very different to Patrick McGoohan. He had fair hair, thinning in front and on top, which he wore brushed back, he was bulkier and squarer, both of face and upper body. When sitting in the Prisoner’s Lotus (a duplicate of the original car, which had been sold abroad when this episode came to be made), or when wearing his dark jacket and polo-shirt from the credits, he looks considerably larger than McGoohan. Yet the episode uses a lot of stock footage of the Lotus being driven around London in which it is obvious that it is McGoohan driving and, whilst that may have been dictated by budgetary concerns, even worse there is a close-up shot of Stock in the car, against a studio backdrop, in which he is wearing shirt and tie, instead of the polo shirt!
Then there is the curious case of the filming in Number Two’s office. The scenes are filmed in a mixture of long and close shots. Surveillance footage of Number Six plays (supposedly) non-stop on the big screen, but the close-ups are all shot from angles which preclude sight of the screen, and this is only seen in longshots. These are almost exclusively shot at a three-quarter angle, from a high point, and every single shot of Stock in them is of a stand-in in with considerably more hair, all of which is darker than Stock’s natural colouring.
Indeed, I’m not at all convinced that the Number Two in these long-shots is Clifford Evans, as the footage is determinedly distant and slightly blurred. Though it has to be conceded that Angelo Muscat, as the Butler, was present for these long shots.
What on earth is the story behind that? The only logical explanation is that the long shots were filmed at a later time, when Stock, and probably Evans, was not available, to replace scenes already recorded, but with different dialogue.
This is extremely plausible when the broadcast episode is compared to the original script.
The difference between the two is so radically wide that it seems only sensible to call the original script Face Unknown after its working title. Frankly, in many respects, it’s a better story.
The two stories have the same theme and same general sequence, but only a handful of lines from late on in Face Unknown make it into Do Not Forsake Me Oh My Darling. Indeed, I almost feel I should give a synopsis for the former.
Face Unknown, as I’ve already said, makes explicit that a year has passed since Number Six’s resignation, and he is to be sent back to the very night he wrote his resignation, having been assigned by find Professor Seltzman From there, the episode proceeds specifically in the light of the Prisoner being in the exact frame of mind that caused him to hand in his resignation, and indeed his visit to British Intelligence is to deliver that letter – of which they already have an identical copy, a year old.
Scenes showing Number Two talking to ‘Colonel Oscar’ in McGoohan’s body, in which the Colonel appears humourless and unpleasant, are deleted, as are earlier scenes in which Colonel Oscar expresses his concern about being ‘put’ into a healthy body with no organic damage – words that are echoed in ‘his’ final words in Seltzman’s body, referring back to a promise that only existed in Face Unknown.
In Face Unknown, the Prisoner never encounters Sir Charles, who is ostensibly out of the country, and a series of scenes in which Sir Charles discussed developments with an unseen third party were excised in full, apparently because the scenes would have hinted too strongly at a connection between British Intelligence and the Village (a connection envisaged by Markstein, as we have seen).
And the Face Unknown scene of the Prisoner’s fight with Potter included dialogue in which Potter made it plain that he saw the Prisoner as a traitor.
Vincent Tilsley was unhappy with what was done to his script, as any writer would have been, though he has long been disappointed with himself at failing to come up with a more original notion than that of mind-transference. But even beyond the excising of elements that were not wanted, the conversion of the script into Do Not Forsake Me Oh My Darling reduced the story into incoherence in many respects, especially the ending. As shot, Number Two realises that Seltzman has put himself into the Colonel’s body just as the helicopter is taking off (infeasibly quickly, given how short a time before that the Colonel’s body has left the operating theatre). Yet he’s apparently gone beyond recovery, in a Village helicopter that we know can be remotely flown from the Control Room.
We should also note the recurrence of the name The Colonel, for the third time in the series, and Number Six’s third return to London without any comment upon his two other escapes. It’s been argued, plausibly as far as I’m concerned, that when McGoohan left for filming, he left behind instructions about this episode which were misinterpreted, i.e. that ‘Sir Charles’ was to continue the tradition that the Prisoner’s boss in Intelligence should be named ‘The Colonel’, and McGoohan returned to a scenario which, having been filmed and subject to budget and deadline issues, could not be corrected.
As for third time round, this situation is easily distinguishable from the returns of The Chimes of Big Ben and Many Happy Returns. On Number Six’s side, remember that his memory has been extinguished with some precision, including knowledge of his two earlier escapades, and that on this occasion (unless they have the knowledge that the excised conspirator scenes imply) they are presented with a complete stranger who claims to be their ZM73, and to whom they would disclose no information whatsoever.
Of course, one of the most intriguing, and implausible, aspects of this episode is the introduction, indeed the existence, of Miss Janet Portland, long-hidden and long-suffering fiancée of the upright and very moral Number Six (and, without being too facetious we can definitely conclude that this engaged pair hadn’t anticipated their nuptials, Swinging Sixties or not!).
Fairclough, in suggesting this episode as being emblematic of the new direction, refers to the appearance as Janet as adding some glamour. We know every well that that would have not flown with McGoohan for an instant, and her inclusion – even as a fiancée! – actually has the feel of someone trying to pull a dodge off, behind the teacher’s back. Certainly, if this ‘development’ had been allowed to continue, it would have been part of taking the series off in a much more conventional direction, which would rapidly have diffused the achievements of the series to date.
No, I’m prepared to accept that this script may have been developed as an intended first episode of a second series that never materialised, but the overall haste in which it seems to have been prepared, and most importantly of all, McGoohan’s absence (not that it stopped him interfering!) marks this as something being prepared against a deadline.
As the series (rapidly) heads towards a conclusion, the quality of episodes, and their applicability to the theme of the series, begins to fall off dramatically.