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
Episode Title: CHECKMATE … In the ongoing debate about the exact numbering of the 17 episodes of The Prisoner I place this as the 4th in the series.
Peter Wyngarde portrays this episode’s Number Two, the rotating series of executive figures running the futuristic prison city called the Village. Balladeer’s Blog’s readers may remember him from my reviews of his shows Department S and Jason King. X-Men fans will recognize him as the obvious model used by Chris Claremont and John Byrne for Mastermind’s “Jason Wyngarde” persona in The Dark Phoenix Saga.
The episode begins with the Prisoner witnessing yet another sudden unleashing of “Rover” the bioelectrical synthetic creation which the Villagekeepers use to subdue outbreaks of disobedient behavior among the Villagers. As usual everyone freezes in their tracks, knowing Rover will attack anyone perceived as resisting.
For once, one of the residents shows no fear of Rover. An elderly man with a walking stick (George Coulouris from Citizen Kane) continues strolling along, ignoring Rover, who shows unprecedented deference to the man before moving on to subdue whichever Villager has raised the ire of the Villagekeepers.
Our protagonist is intrigued by this and follows the Man With A Walking Stick. The two share a casual conversation in which each man is wary of the other, given that nobody can ever be sure if a fellow Villager is secretly working for the conspirators behind the Village.
Walking Stick Man invites McGoohan’s character to a game of chess he is heading to. The Prisoner goes along and finds that the game is played with human chess pieces in one of the least subtle of the program’s metaphors.
Walking Stick Man is one of the two “players” who sit above the game shouting their moves through bullhorns. The Villagers serving as chess pieces move accordingly. Continue reading