Balladeer’s Blog continues its examination of the 1967 science fiction/ existential drama The Prisoner. For Part One, in which I examined the themes and concepts at play in the series click HERE
DO NOT FORSAKE ME, OH MY DARLING – This is the third and final of the 3 episodes I would drop from this 17 episode series because they either do not serve the premise or don’t serve it well. I will synopsize the storyline, point out why I would drop it and add how I would change it.
NOTE: This episode’s title is so associated with the song of the same name from the western film High Noon that many people confuse this installment with Living in Harmony. Because of the storyline it is also frequently confused with the episode titled A Change of Mind.
At a meeting of co-conspirators of the Villagekeepers it is decided to have one of their agents out in the real world try to track down a missing scientist named Dr Seltzman. They reach this decision when they fail to crack a code which would lead them to their latest would-be captive.
The Villagekeepers demonstrate for this agent the Colonel (yes, a third “colonel” appears in the series) Dr Seltzman’s device for switching minds between two human subjects. They do not fully understand the process nor do they understand how to switch the minds back to their respective bodies afterward.
Our villains want to use the process to further their plans. It is decided that the Prisoner is the most qualified man to track down Seltzman due to his previous association with the man. But how to release him from the Village to undertake this mission without him contriving to give them the slip and go on the run again?
The Villagekeepers transfer Number Six’s mind into the body of the visiting Colonel (Nigel Stock) and vice versa. They then release our hero in Europe in this new body. Naturally McGoohan wants his mind put back into his own body and since Dr Seltzman is the only one who knows how to do that, Number Six MUST track him down.
While hunting for Seltzman and trying to catch him before the agents of other nations beat him to it the Prisoner encounters his heretofore unknown fiancée Janet (Zena Walker). She has been waiting for him even though she did not know if he was even still alive following his disappearance.
Our protagonist proves his identity to her with his handwriting, which is supposedly the same even though he is in a new body. Amid some “tormented love” moments the search for Seltzman continues. Number Six locates the doctor and must fight off enemy agents trying to bring in the scientist.
The Prisoner wins, but then Village thugs who have been trailing him step in and abduct him AND Seltzman to the Village. The doctor tells the Villagekeepers that in order to switch the minds of Number Six and the Colonel back into their proper bodies he must also wire up his own head to manage the procedure.
The process is employed, amid much faux scientific activity and is a success. This episode’s Number Two thanks the Colonel for his cooperation and lets him depart in a helicopter. Doctor Seltzman’s elderly body takes a bit longer to shrug off the effects of the procedure, but when he does it becomes clear that the Colonel’s mind is now in Seltzman’s body, not his own.
Number Six mockingly puts it all in perspective – Dr Seltzman could and did transfer THREE minds at once. He put McGoohan’s mind back in his proper body but put his mind in the Colonel’s body and the Colonel’s mind in his (Seltzman’s) body.
We viewers are told that the Colonel who flew off in the helicopter is really Seltzman and that he has successfully escaped the Village for good. Which disregards everything we’ve ever learned about the Villagekeepers and their global conspiracy, but what can ya do? This brings the episode to a close.
WHY I WOULD DROP IT – This is just a filler episode and its back-story is as well-known as the back-story to another filler episode, The Girl Who Was Death. In the case of Do Not Forsake Me, Oh My Darling Patrick McGoohan appears in very little of the actual episode. That’s because he was off making the film Ice Station Zebra at the time.
That is why 95% of the episode features our protagonist in the Colonel’s body, since Nigel Stock basically “stood in” for McGoohan in this installment. The lack of McGoohan is just ONE reason I would drop this episode. There’s also the tormented bits with his fiancé, which may give us our title but seem like just unnecessary, sadistic piling-on of heartaches for our hero … Especially after Many Happy Returns.
This episode neither serves the series’ main metaphorical purpose NOR does it offer other relevant themes beyond the show’s already overworked “science can be perverted” message. Also, the notion of a successful, permanent escape from the Village by an old man in a strange new body and with no espionage skills makes our hero look pretty inept. Another reason for dropping this mish-mash of a story.
The overall tone of DNFMOMD is more like a standard, run of the mill television series than like what we’re used to on The Prisoner.
HOW I WOULD CHANGE IT – Any hypothetical change would involve having McGoohan in the whole episode, which was not an option in real life just then.
Rather than have the episode’s title apply to the Prisoner and his unnecessary fiancé I would have it apply to Dr Seltzman, in this version ALREADY a captive in the Village. In the Villagekeepers’ usual sadistic way they would be making Seltzman watch footage of his wife out in the real world beginning to move on with her life since he is missing and presumed dead.
This would be one of the Head Games they are playing with Seltzman to break him and get him to cooperate and build his mind-switching device for them. The Prisoner, in his usual buttinsky way at this point in the series, would catch on to the cruel game the Villagekeepers are subjecting Seltzman to and try to help him.
One thing would lead to another and, in the end Dr Seltzman would break and agree to cooperate if the Villagekeepers promise to abduct his wife so they can be reunited in captivity in the Village. (We know The Powers That Be in the Village did this with the Professor and his wife back in The General.)
Number Six would be disgusted, assuming that Seltzman is sincere but it would turn out Seltzman would sabotage the procedure. Since the Colonel character would not be in my version of this episode the doctor would trap Number Two’s mind in his (Selzman’s) elderly, nearly-dead body. (Nigel Stock would play Number Two since the Colonel would not be around.)
Selzman himself would have fried his own consciousness in Number Two’s body, escaping the Village through suicide. +++ JUST FOUR EPISODES TO GO NOW THAT THESE REJECTS ARE DONE WITH.
I’LL EXAMINE ANOTHER EPISODE SOON. KEEP CHECKING BACK.
FOR MORE LOOKS AT NEGLECTED TELEVISION FROM THE PAST CLICK HERE
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