Tuesday, 19 May 2015

The Prisoner - It's Your Funeral

Episode 11 - It's Your Funeral

First ITV broadcast: Friday 8th December 1967, 7.30pm [ATV Midlands/Grampian]
Estimated first run ratings: 9.3 million
First CBS broadcast: Saturday 10th August 1968, 7.30pm

The new Number Two looks like a Thunderbirds' character. He doesn't look like a real person. I spent the entire episode doubting his ability to actually exist. He's Alan Tracy. A slightly blonder Alan Tracy. He also has absolutely terrible teeth. Despite his resemblance to a puppet and teeth the colour of sandpaper, I liked this Number Two (Derren Nesbitt) a lot. He's a stark change to last week's fearful and paranoid Number Two. When he has a phone call with the mysterious 'Sir' he is clearly nervous but regains his composure quickly afterwards. He is confident and cheerful, certain that his plan will succeed.

But which one is the real puppet?
A young woman, Number 50 (Annette Andre), enters Number Six's house and wakes him, anxious to speak with him. "I'm a number, just like you. Does it matter which?" she says. Number Six is certain she is one of "them" and tells her to go back and report he wasn't interested. "What's the point? They know already." he adds and from then on mockingly raises his voice to make sure the microphones pick him up. Just as Number Six is going to chuck her out, she collapses and Number Two, watching the action from the Control Room, says she was given a drug yesterday. Number 50 comes round and tells Number Six that there is to be an assassination, but he doesn't take her seriously.

Number Six likes his beauty sleep undisturbed
Number Two requests an "activity prognosis" on Number Six. This is interesting as it gives us a chance to see a typical day for Number Six when he's not trying to escape or annoy Number Two. It is rather nicely dull; he goes for a walk, exercises, plays chess, and goes to the cafe. If you like a quiet life, the Village looks pleasant enough but on the other hand, you can see how someone like Number Six would get bored and remain keen to escape.

Number Six sits for a portrait and the painter tells him about 'Jammers', a term Number 50 mentioned. Jammers talk about fake plots to confuse the Observers. However the Observers keep a list of known Jammers so they don't pay attention to their fake discussions. This is supposedly why Number 50 has been ignored about the assassination plot and it is all about to go a bit Boy Who Cried Wolf. She claims everyone in the Village would be punished. The idea of the Jammers is fantastic because it's evidence of an ongoing rebellion against the Village from numerous people. Up until now it has seemed that Number Six was the only person to repeatedly act out. For me this gives the series more verisimilitude as it always seemed odd that every single one of the other prisoners could be so docile.

Whilst Number Six plays Kosho (the fighting sport on the trampolines we have seen previously), Number 100 (Mark Eden) goes into Six's locker and swops his watch for an identical one. When Number Six comes to put it on later he finds it has stopped so heads to the Watchmaker's shop. Number Six finds a small device there that the Watchmaker (Martin Miller) claims is "Just a toy." When Number Six leaves, Number 100 appears from the back of the shop. "Why is it necessary to expose our method?" the Watchmaker asks. He doesn't see what they gain from it. "We add to their confusion." Number 100 tells him.

Number Six examines the radio

Number 100, in a magnificently coloured jacket, with the Watchmaker
Number Six meets Number 50 outside, who reveals that the Watchmaker is her father. Number Six is now interested, especially as he recognised the device as one for detonating explosives. Number 50 tells him the victim is to be Number Two and they go back to see the Watchmaker, who says he is doing it out of principle; "We are prisoners here for life, all of us, and I have met no one here who has committed a crime." He feels he needs to "protest in a manner they cannot ignore." To kill Number Two does at first seem rather a futile gesture as Number Two is anything but irreplaceable. However I can understand the Watchmaker's feeling that it would be a suitable protest on a matter of principle. It would tell those that run the Village that they can be touched and are not as all-powerful as they believe. Sadly, the fact that Number Two is in on it is proof that they remain all-seeing and all-knowing.

Number Six tells Number Two of the assassination plan but Number Two says he doesn't believe him. Perhaps if Number Six could find out where and when it will happen as "the laugh would do me an awful lot of good." So Number Six heads to the shop that night with Number 50 and discovers a replica of the Great Seal of Office with explosives inside. Interestingly, we see Number Two's billed as 'Chief Administrator' on the seal, finally giving us some hint as to what his authority in the Village actually is. Although really, Chief Administrator is a pretty open ended job title!

Number Six goes to warn Number Two again but finds a different Number Two (AndrĂ© Van Gyseghem) who doesn't believe him either.  "Every interim Number Two who has served here whilst I've been on leave has been cautioned by you about some improbable conspiracy to murder him." We then see a video of Number Six warning different people, with Number Six's bits all taken from the one warning he gave before. Number Two sees no reason why anyone who fake the footage. "Tomorrow I hand over to my successor. I retire." "Perhaps they're trying to save a pension." Number Six adds, hitting the nail on the head.

The retiring Number Two
It's Appreciation Day. The loudspeaker announcer (Fenella Fielding) describes it's purpose as being to "Honour those who govern us!" This is mad. Utterly absurd. It's taking the piss actually. A day for the prisoners to honour their captors. It's a fantastic idea.

Chatting with Number 50 outside the cafe, Number Six says that the reason for the fake video was "to discredit me" because "I was the only one he might have believed."

The retiring Number Two is having doubts and has started to believe Number Six. Number Six goes to see him again and encouragingly tells Number Two that the assassination could be prevented. Number Two looks despondent and responds "You never understood us, Number Six - we never fail!" This seems a bold statement to make! A. B. and C., The General and Hammer Into Anvil all show Number Twos' plans failing and/or Number Six getting one over them.

Between scenes we have seen new blonde Number Two on the phone to 'Sir', positive that all is going to plan. He and the retiring Number Two appear on a balcony together for the handing-over ceremony. Number Six has told the retiring Number Two where the explosives are and as the Great Seal will feature in the ceremony, he is looking understandably glum.

Throughout the episode, blonde Number Two has never been quite sure whether or not he wants to keep his glasses on. He has had them with him all the time, whipping them on and off but whether he's short or long sighted is anyone's guess. Now we see that they contain a radio and he uses it to communicate with Number 100, just to make sure that everything is going to plan.

Number Six spots the Watchmaker in a tower and rushes over. Meanwhile the seal has been placed on the retiring Number Two, who is clearly absolutely bricking it. As he makes his departing speech, Number Six gets hold of the remote but when he leaves the tower is confronted by Number 100. They have a fight and Number Six tries to talk to blonde Number Two, who has just had the seal placed on his shoulders. He starts to rush through his speech, knowing that Number Six could and might blow him up any moment. Behind him the outgoing Number Two has been visibly sweating and still looks very worried, not daring to believe he may have escaped.

To quote Gene Hunt: As nervous as a very small nun in a penguin shooting contest.

The sexual tension here is immense.
Number Six runs there with the remote and whilst the new Number Two is shaking hands with various people, hands it to the retiring Number Two, telling him "It's your passport." There's a helicopter waiting. "They'll get me eventually." "Fly now, pay later." "They'll find me, wherever I go." "So long as it's not here." The new Number Two notices them and his face falls. The retiring Two goes to leave and the new Two takes a couple of steps towards him, but retiring Two's finger hovers over the remote and the new Two stops. A huge smile fills the retiring Two's face and he runs. The new Two goes to remove the Great Seal but Number Six steps in, grabs his hand and shakes it, saying how well the day went; "Better than planned." Finally, he adds "and now you can look forward to your own retirement and I'm sure they'll plan something equally suitable for you when the day comes." They look up and see the helicopter flying away. "Be seeing you...won't I?"

I love those final lines of Number Six's. He gleefully points out to the new Number Two that his own time will come and he will be treated just as badly as the man he plotted to have killed. The "...won't I?" at the end is also magnificent. Number Two has failed before he has even properly begun. Whilst "we never fail" wasn't quite true, they certainly don't accept failure. For me this episode implies that no Number Two ever gets to leave the Village in a good way. This one has made it to retirement but like any other he knows too much.  This harks back to a conversation in The Chimes of Big Ben. Number Six asks Number Two "Has it ever occurred to you that you're just as much a prisoner as I am?" "Of course," Two calmly replies. "I know too much. We're both lifers." It seems not all the Number Twos have accepted this.

My big issue with this episode is that I have a problem with Number Two's (or Sir's or whoever's) plan. I find it hard to justify Number Six's involvement in the plan. Why does Number Two bother making the effort to include Number Six? With the help of Number 100 , Number Two ensures that Number Six knows exactly what is going to happen on Appreciation Day. He knows where the bomb is and he knows about the remote. All Number Six has to do is find out where the Watchmaker is on the day and he is able to stop the plan. The only reason for Number Six's involvement is so that he warns Nesbitt's Number Two, who can then make the fake video to pass on to André Van Gyseghem's retiring Number Two. This ensures that when Number Six visits again to insist Number Two is going to be assassinated, Van Gyseghem's Number Two doesn't believe him. The one reason I can deduce for all this is if they had not involved Number Six, there was the chance of him discovering the plan himself and coming forward at an unpredictable time. Yet I feel I am stretching this. It is doubtful that Number Six would have found out about the plan. It was Number Two who sent the Watchmaker's daughter, Number 50, to see Number Six. Number 100's switching of the watches prompted Number Six's visit to the Watchmaker's, ensuring he saw the bomb remote. Number Two asked Number Six to find out exactly how they planned to kill him, meaning Six and Number 50 went to the Watchmaker's shop and found the replica of the Great Seal of Office.

Number Two's plan fails completely. The retiring Number Two begins to believe Number Six about the assassination and even if he hadn't, Number Six just about knows enough to be able to stop the bomb going off.

To turn to some more positive aspects... I very much enjoyed Mark Eden as Number 100 and would have liked the part to have been a bit bigger. There are a couple of scenes with Number Two's various assistants that probably could have been replaced with Number 100. Also, his pink jacket is awesome.

I tend to overlook the technical aspects of the series most of the time, being far too busy looking at the plot. I was impressed with the lighting in Number Two's office. The screens are filled with what look like close ups of lava lamps, so when Number Six visits he is either in a green or purple light and I think it looks great.

We have had a couple of excellent episodes and Number Six hasn't tried to escape in either of them! After A. B. and C., The General and Hammer Into Anvil this marks the fourth episode in which Number Six can be said to have gained a "little victory" against a Number Two. There are only six episodes of Number Six left. My memory of the whole series was quite hazy before this re-watch, more hazy than I thought actually. I know one of the upcoming episodes has a Western setting but apart from that, I remember very little from now on. It's exciting.

Be seeing you.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting commentary. This episode raises one very confusing point for me ... all those interim Number 2's. They probably couldn't use bits of earlier actual Number 2's because they'd have to pay them higher rates than the bit-players they have here, but now we have to wonder how many of the Number 2's so far were "real" Number 2's and how many were interims. If all the previous ones were real, that indicates a fairly large gap in time between those Number 2's and this one. In my own episode order, this one comes in seventh, which means it's fairly early in the process, and so THIS Number 2 being away and all of the Number 2s so far being interims is entirely possible. I'm tempted to place this episode even earlier than 7th in my personal viewing order, because of that, but I'm not sure how early. Maybe even 4th, after only Arrival, Free for All, and Checkmate. This episode reveals many aspects of Village life quite well, as you pointed out, and so do those others, so placing it early makes sense to set up the rest of the series.
    But that's an argument for another time.
    Another fine review.
    Be seeing you.