Tag Archives: cult television

THE PRISONER: A CHANGE OF MIND

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

A Change of MindA CHANGE OF MIND

As I mentioned last time around there are three episodes of this show that I feel could be eliminated completely because they either don’t serve the overall premise or don’t serve it well. Here is the second of those three.

On the surface this episode has so much potential and could have been a genuine classic. A Change of Mind deals with political witch hunts, social ostracism and the way that totalitarian governments like the former Soviet Union diagnosed dissidents as insane for questioning the prevailing political dogma of the moment. To me it all falls apart with the clownish, cartoonish finale.

Like I did with the previous installment I will detail my reasons for dismissing this episode plus offer my take on how I think it could have been changed. 

THE STORY: 

McGoohan in blueThe Prisoner is exercising on some makeshift gymnasium equipment that he has constructed for himself in the woods just outside the prison city called the Village. Some Villagers who may or may not be thugs of the Villagekeepers gather around and taunt our protagonist for his antisocial, non-conformist ways. They also threaten to report him to “the Committee” for his dissident behavior. Continue reading

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THE PRISONER: THE GIRL WHO WAS DEATH

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

girl who was death with schnippsAs much as I love The Prisoner there is no denying that even at a mere 17 episodes the series had a few duds. In my opinion there are three installments that could be eliminated completely because they do not serve the overall premise or don’t serve it well.

Here is the first of those three with my reasons for disliking it PLUS my take on how I feel it could have been changed to fit in more with the series as a whole –

The Girl Who Was DeathTHE GIRL WHO WAS DEATH – Talk about burying the lede! This episode completely glosses over the horrifying revelation that there are children in the Village. That’s right, we learn that there are CHILDREN in the Village!

At best those children would be there as hostages to ensure that their parents cooperate with the sinister Villagekeepers. At worst they would be there as human guinea pigs in perverse child mind-control experiments run by those Villagekeepers. The presence of children in the nightmarish prison city called the Village carries with it ramifications that are in no way pleasant. Continue reading

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THE PRISONER: A. B. AND C.

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 

A. B. and C.Episode Title: A. B. AND C. … In the ongoing debate about the exact numbering of the 17 episodes of The Prisoner I place this as the 10th episode.

As this episode begins we are still in the period of days with the same Number Two (Colin Gordon) as last time serving his time as a rotating executive of the Village. 

The Story: A very nervous Number Two is in one of the Village’s concealed laboratories with Number 14, a blonde female scientist. (If you’ve seen the Simpsons episode parodying The Prisoner she’s the blonde lady to whom the bald Village Supervisor says “Tell me again why you thought a big balloon would stop people from escaping” and she replies “Shut up! THAT’S why!”)

Be Seeing YouThis Number Two is on very thin ice with the Board after the way he failed to stop the Prisoner and the traitorous Number Twelve from sabotaging two of the most crucial devices advancing the Villagekeepers’ conspiracy. Frequently chugging milk for his ulcer, he anxiously hopes to recover some favor and credibility by at last maneuvering Number Six into admitting why he resigned from British Intelligence. 

(For newbies to The Prisoner I’ll point out that if the Villagekeepers succeed at making Number Six admit why he resigned it will symbolize his surrender to them and recognition of their authority over him, like agreeing that “2+2=5” in Orwell’s 1984 symbolized surrender to The Powers That Be.) 

Number 14Dialogue makes it clear that Number Two is forcing Number Fourteen to proceed more quickly than she would like onto a human subject for her combined drug & electronic method of monitoring dreams of sleeping primates. As always on The Prisoner these reminders that humans are basically animals, too, serve like Rousseau’s “Noble Savage” metaphor for humanity.  Continue reading

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THE PRISONER: THE GENERAL

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 

The GeneralEpisode Title: THE GENERAL … In the ongoing debate about the exact numbering of the 17 episodes of The Prisoner I place this as the 9th episode.

This time around viewers learn the truth about the mysterious “General” that the Villagekeepers referred to back in The Schizoid Man.

As another sign of how The Prisoner is even more relevant here in the 21st Century this episode deals with totalitarian distortion of the educational system, “official” history and access to information via computers/ the internet. Today we see techno-fascists like Mark Zuckerberg plus his fellow Democrats at Google, Wikipedia, Twitter and other social media allying themselves with just one political party.

Number SixCentralizing and monopolizing the dissemination of information for ugly partisan purposes and in order to police the free exchange of ideas has become nightmarishly easy for those so inclined. Freedom of expression is becoming limited to those who mindlessly agree with the Democrat Party’s dogma. All other opinions are increasingly banned as “hatred” or “violations of community standards.”      

The Story:   Continue reading

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THE PRISONER: FREE FOR ALL

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 

Free For AllEpisode Title: FREE FOR ALL … In the ongoing debate about the exact numbering of the 17 episodes of The Prisoner I place this as the 8th episode.

Our previous episode wallowed in grim, depressing realism. Free For All takes us back into the realm of allegory and metaphor. It plays like Kafka, Ionesco and Pirandello blended with science fiction.

The Story: Eric Portman plays this episode’s Number Two, the rotating series of Village executives who manage the prison-city for varying periods, sort of like Officer of the Day duty in the military but stretched out for weeks at least.

This Number Two pretends to be calling the Prisoner’s bluff, implying that if he doesn’t like the way things are done in the totalitarian atmosphere of the Village he should run for office and try to enact some changes. Nobody has come forward as a candidate in a long time, so Number Two encourages Number Six to run against him. 

Free For All 2Needless to say our protagonist figures this election nonsense is just another experimental Head Game of the Villagekeepers. His suspicion increases when he sees that the Villagekeepers had already printed up campaign posters for him and distributed them to all the other Villagers. Despite our main character’s misgivings he gets swept along in this new cerebral duel with his captors.

NOTE: This is why I place Free For All AFTER Many Happy Returns. That episode made it clear that the Villagekeepers have too many co-conspirators in the outside world for any escape to be permanent. With that being the case the Prisoner can justifiably feel he has nothing to lose by playing along with the obviously phony “election.” If he gets lucky he might be able to at least strike some sort of defiant blow against the people who run the Village. Continue reading

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THE PRISONER (1967): ARRIVAL

Balladeer’s Blog continues its examination of the science fiction/ existential drama The Prisoner. For Part One, in which I examined the themes and concepts at play in the series click HERE  

ArrivalEpisode Title: ARRIVAL 

Fans of The Prisoner know that the exact order of the 17 episodes is up in the air since not even Patrick McGoohan, the show’s creator, star and prime creative force, was certain. However, there is no doubt that Arrival is the very first episode of the show (for obvious reasons).

The opening credits sequence is repeated for each episode (except for variations for Living in Harmony and for the very last episode, titled Fallout). That sequence presents our protagonist, the Prisoner (real name never revealed), disgustedly resigning from the Intelligence Service. Back at his home he is gassed into unconsciousness and awakens in an isolated, high-tech and dystopian prison-city that is called the Village.    

The program’s nature as a Kafkaesque tale with science fiction trappings is established in this debut episode. The Prisoner is taken aback by the seemingly cheerful and storybook surface nature of the Village and the way that surface is at odds with the underlying air of fear and paranoia.

Prisoner psych wardAll inhabitants/ captives of the Village are either former Intelligence Operatives like himself, or scientists or figures from the government or military. And from all around the world, too, not just the West.

In the Cold War attitude of the time the Prisoner is obsessed with finding out “which side” the Villagekeepers are on, but as the series progresses it becomes clear that the Free World vs Communist World paradigm is merely part of the deception being played on the Village’s prisoners. And possibly the world at large, intriguingly enough.    Continue reading

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THE PRISONER (1967): MORE RELEVANT THAN EVER BEFORE

Prisoner 1Regular readers of Balladeer’s Blog are very familiar with my high regard for Patrick McGoohan’s 1967 science-fiction/ existential drama The Prisoner. Over the many times I’ve referred to this 17-episode program I’ve heard back from a few readers here and there saying they have heard of the show but never saw any episodes and don’t understand its appeal.

I’ve decided to do an in-depth look at The Prisoner, episode by episode, for the benefit of readers who’ve never seen the show and in the hope of reigniting interest among Prisoner fans who mistakenly feel the program’s relevance ended with the Cold War. Actually, The Prisoner is more relevant than ever, in my view, what with its brilliant blend of Orwell and Kafka plus its foreshadowing of shows like Twin Peaks and Lost.

Prisoner 2The premise of The Prisoner reflects Patrick McGoohan’s disillusionment and disgust with the way pop fiction romanticized Intelligence Agents, who are actually just government thugs, not heroes. From interviews McGoohan did over the years he seemed to feel a certain sense of personal guilt over his own contribution to that romanticized image, especially from his successful run as Intelligence Operative John Drake on Danger Man and Secret Agent. (His acclaim from those programs was such that Patrick was supposedly approached to play James Bond in Dr No. He declined.)

LET’S GET THIS OUT OF THE WAY: Many Prisoner fans still engage in a fairly pointless argument over whether or not Patrick McGoohan’s never-named character on The Prisoner is supposed to be John Drake from his earlier series. IT. DOES. NOT. MATTER.  (And in one oft-cited episode another character rather clearly says “break” not “Drake,” but there’s no convincing the pro-Drake crowd.)

Prisoner 3Either way, John Drake or not John Drake, the point is that McGoohan portrays a Secret Agent who resigns from the Intelligence Services in disgust. Soon after, he is gassed into unconsciousness and abducted.

He comes to in an isolated, high-tech but dystopian community known only as The Village (or “The Island” if you’re a fan of The Simpsons episode that parodied The Prisoner.)  Continue reading

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