First ITV broadcast: Friday 10th November 1967, 7.30pm [ATV Midlands/Grampian]
Estimated first run ratings: 10.3 million
First CBS broadcast: Saturday 20th July 1968, 7.30pm
This episode goes for over 20 minutes without a single English word being spoken on screen. The episode is over half way through before we get a conversation in English. You would think that this could make some of the episode seem dull but it doesn't at all. The writing (Anthony Skene) and the directing (Patrick McGoohan under the pseudonym Joseph Serf) are both fantastic for keeping the story interesting in a very different sort of episode. The ending is particularly wonderful.
Number Six wakes up to find the Village deserted. There is an eerie silence and the grey weather outside casts a darkness over the Village. This complete silence is very strange for a place where usually the speakers and radios are continually blaring out a happy voice or upbeat music. Number Six takes an abandoned taxi to Number Two's house, where the door is open and no one is home. He drives to the edge of the Village and looks out at miles of mountains. Number Six can leave! But it is going to have to be by sea. He begins preparations for his voyage, which includes photographing the Village and building a boat/raft. There is a boat in the harbour but presumably it is no good for sailing else villagers could have taken off in it at any time.
|Number Six - The Sailor!|
During his journey Number Six gets in a fight with some gunrunners before eventually swimming ashore and waking up on a beach. He finds some gypsies who, despite speaking no word of English, manage to point him in the direction of a road. We see a British policeman at the edge of the road and then a roadblock. Number Six climbs in the back of what looks like a horse van and later, upon hearing sirens, leaps up and dives out the back into the middle of a London road. In reality, he would probably have been immediately hit by a black cab. We know it's London because a double decker red bus goes past, with an advert for Typhoo tea on the side. An Odeon cinema can be seen in the background. We also see Wellington Arch. These are rather odd choices to indicate Number Six's arrival in London. I did recognise Wellington Arch, but I had to look up the name. Personally I would have liked a shot of the Clock Tower and Big Ben, a black cab and a telephone box. If they are trying to say he is in London, why not just go all out? Wellington Arch is hardly the most recognisable of landmarks and certainly wouldn't have been for viewers overseas.
|Wellington Arch. A recognisable London landmark?|
He asks her the date. "Saturday March 18th." "Tomorrow's my birthday." Number Six then proceeds to scoff Ms Butterworth's sandwiches and a fruit cake. He finds nothing to tell him anything at the house and leaves. Ms Butterworth insists he can change into some of her husband's old clothes and lets him borrow the car. "Don't forget to come back!" "I'll be back!" "I might even bake you a birthday cake!"
|Rather dapper in his borrowed suit.|
I also have a problem. As far as I was concerned, the question of who runs the Village was made more or less clear in 'The Chimes of Big Ben'. If Number Six's superiors do not run the Village then they are at least happy to have him there. So why does he go to them in 'Many Happy Returns'?
|Number Six, the Colonel, Thorpe. Can Number Six trust them?|
|Happy Birthday Number Six!|
If 'The Chimes of Big Ben' came after 'Many Happy Returns' and Number Six believed it might only be the milkman who was working with the Village, then it would make sense for him to contact colleagues again in the future. However, I don't think this works with 'The Chimes of Big Ben' coming first as it seemed pretty clear that his colleagues and therefore presumably Number Six's side were on the side of the Village. The West and/or the British were running the Village.
However there is another way of looking at this. In an interview in 1978, Patrick Cargill (Thorpe) said of the episode "I do not think that this was meant to imply that British security were running the Village, but rather that whoever was behind the Village had contacts everywhere." If we apply this to 'The Chimes of Big Ben' as well and Number Six assumed this, it would make sense that in 'Many Happy Returns' he again gets in touch with his colleagues, but chooses completely different ones to previously.
One final note: Number Six's birthday is the same as Patrick McGoohan's so I wonder how much that tells us about the leading man?
Be seeing you.