Wednesday, 29 July 2015

The Prisoner - A Change of Mind

There has been an unplanned extended break at Visual Mutterings. I was rather busy and then I got a new job so I have been even busier. But I was missing Number Six so I finally found the time to get back to the Village via a raft, a boat, a wooden box and a plane.

Episode 12 - A Change of Mind


First ITV broadcast: Friday 15th December, 7.30pm [ATV Midlands/Grampian]
Estimated first run rating: 7.5 million
First CBS broadcast: Saturday 24th August 1968, 7.30pm

Although each episode's opening titles feature the new Number Two, it does not always feature the voice of the new Number Two. This is completely random as it entirely came down to whether or not there was time and the actor was available to record the voice over dialogue for the titles. If not, Robert Rietty's voice was used and it seems his became the 'stock' voice for Number Two. Now most of the time I find this fine and his voice doesn't really stand out too much from whichever Number Two we see. However this week it just instantly felt wrong and my brain couldn't match Robert Rietty's voice to the new Number Two's (John Sharp) face at all. Also, this far into the series the voice has started to become very recognisable and it does seem a shame that they weren't able to record the voice over for more of the actors.

I am posing as the new Number Two

On with the actual episode and Number Six has constructed his own outdoor gym in the woods. A couple of the other villagers aren't happy that he is snubbing the communal gym and decide to pick a fight with Number Six. If you were going to beat someone up, after their exercise routine seems like a good time to do it. But sadly for them this is Number Six who promptly kicks both theirs arses in.

Number Six ends up in trouble for this and obviously that seems a bit unfair but if the Village is anything, unfair seems a good word to describe it. Number Six waits outside a court room for his turn. Over a loud speaker, everyone waiting can hear what is going on inside the court. Next to Number Six, a woman sobs. I was a bit surprised to see that the Village even bothers with the pretense of courts yet clearly they find one useful for some things. In this case, for potential 'Unmutuals'. After his trial Number 93 (Michael Miller) comes out of the court and on the edge of tears he makes a statement, repeating verbatim what the court says over the speakers. "I'm inadequate!" He has been a bad boy and must change his ways. "Believe me! Believe me!"

Number 93 declaring how awful he is

Unsurprisingly when Number Six gets in there we begin to see just how much of a mockery the 'trials' are. Number Six has been asked to fill out a "written questionnaire of  confession". He is told that he will be judged by the assembled "strictly impartial committee". They are so impartial in fact that there isn't a single woman on the committee, which mostly consists of older men. The Committee Chairman (Bartlett Mullins)  tells Number Six "You are not called before this committee to defend yourself" and a voice coming from a tape, adds "All we ask is for your complete confession." Number Six treats it like the farce it plainly is, ripping up the confession sheet and throwing it in the air. It falls to the ground like confetti, adding to the ludicrousness of the occasion. One of my favourite things about this scene is that every member of the committee is wearing one of the Village's now familiar striped jumpers. Some of them are even in black and white ones, meaning that they are almost all decked out in the traditional criminal garb!

There will be hearings to decide Number Six's fate. He finds Number Two at his house and asks if he is above investigation. "No one is above investigation" comes the reply. Thinking over episodes like 'Hammer Into Anvil', this has certainly become clear by now. Number Two goes on to say "If the hearings go against you I am powerless to help you." It is hard by now to decide whether or not Number Two could be making this up. Just what sort of power does Number Two have over the Village. We know by now that a Number Two's power is not infinite but surely he can still overrule many things in the Village?

Number 86 (Angela Browne) encourages Number Six to join a 'social group'. Number Six may be many things but he has never struck me as a 'people person' therefore it is of no great surprise when his meeting with the Social Group does not go well. Interestingly, it seems to mainly consist of fairly young people and one wonders just how it was they got mixed up in something that brought them to the Village. Some of them look like teenagers and I don't recall seeing anyone so young in the Village before. I recognised one of the members of the Social Group: one Joseph Cuby. He features in an early episode of The Saint and also has a credit in To Sir, with Love.

Number Six has a visit to the doctor's. Leaving, he finds two men in the waiting room, smiling rather oddly. Number Six spots a door marked 'aversion therapy' and peering through the window he spots a man being forced to watch a film. One of the men (Thomas Heathcote) sat outside has a scar on the side of his forehead and he seems rather content with life, smiling often. "Relax, fellow! Relax" he tells Number Six. Number Six's stress levels must be constantly through the roof. Relaxing is exactly the right thing to suggest to him. The man tells Number Six "I'm one of the lucky ones, the happy ones. I was..." "Yes?" "I was Unmutual."

"Please - not odd. Just different..."

Back with the committee, Number Six is classed as 'Unumutual'. Any more complaints from the rest of the Village and he will be up for "instant social conversion." We have no idea what that is but it doesn't sounds particularly pleasant. Number Six is his usual self in that he is rather laid back about events, not taking the Village's absurdities seriously. However, we will soon see the reality of being an Unmutual. An announcement is put out over the loudspeakers "any unsocial interaction with Number Six should be reported immediately." The Village has a group mentality. At the Social Group Six was told to "join in with the group spirit!" and now we see how, common in historical dictatorships, villagers are encouraged to turn on their fellow prisoners. They are all encouraged to act the same, join in group activities and eschew any individuality, right down to their clothes. Yet at the same time, the way the Villagers are told to turn each other in would logically encourage some individuality. If you can trust no one but yourself, then you must surely act for your own self interests. In some, possibly many cases, even group social activities may be a form of individuality, with villagers only joining in to avoid the attention of their overseers.

"Let's see how our loner withstands real loneliness." says Number Two, watching on his screens. Number Six wanders alone in the woods. He doesn't look angry; for once he looks a bit sad. It occurs to me that it must be exhausting constantly defying the Village, constantly looking for ways to escape. Back in the main village, he goes to sit outside the cafe and asks for a coffee. The waiter ignores him and everyone sitting nearby stands up and moves away. They all stand together, watching Number Six.

Hard as nails

At home, Number Six is visited by a help group but he does not want their help. He later goes to sit outside but a sudden baying and viscous mob descend and drag Number Six to the hospital where he is injected with something and wheeled away. He is taken to an operating theatre. He is fully conscious but drugged. As the doctor begins to talk through what she plans to do, I remember that Number Two earlier threatened a more permanent conversion. As lotion is applied to Number Six's head, the grinning man outside the doctor's office pops into my mind. Number Six wakes up in a hospital bed, smiling.

When old ladies are beating you with brollies, you know it's gotten bad
Off his face

He seems very relaxed and stress-free, which must be something of a relief for him by this point. A taxi takes him home and the streets are lined with waving people whilst a brass band can be heard. At home, Number 86 tells Number Six to lie down on a chair, but Six watches her making tea in the kitchen and sees her put a tablet in his cup. After she brings it over, he asks her to go his room to fetch a blanket. Whilst she is gone, he pours the tea into a plant pot. Some of the old Number Six is still in there.

Number Two appears and very quickly the topic of Number Six's resignation comes up. It seems like it has actually been quite a while since Number Six was properly asked about why he resigned. This has been good as it has allowed the series to have some different episodes plots, but it is nice to see this continuity and we realise that they haven't completely forgotten why they brought Number Six there in the first place. Number Six claims his memory is a bit foggy at the moment so Number Two leaves him for now.

Numbers Two and 86 watch Number Six on the screens in Number Two's office, where it emerges that there has been no operation at all. Number Six is simply drugged and despite making yet more tea, Number 86 still can't seem to slip it in Number Six's drink. In fact, Number Six swaps the cups and soon Number 86 is off her face instead.

Number Six goes out alone, returning to his makeshift gym. He brings fist back to hit a punchbag but something stops him. Once again the two thugs turn up and a timid Number Six takes a couple of punches before finding himself again and knocking them both to the ground. HE'S BACK.

He finds Number Six still off her face and picking flowers, repeatedly saying she wants to make Number Two happy. "I have to report" she insists. Number Six hypnotises Number 86, making her think she is with Number Two and so gives her report, spilling the beans about the fake operation. He also gives her some new instructions...

Number Six wears a Tissot watch fact fans

Number Six goes to see Number Six "to continue that little chat". He wants to speak in front of a crowd so he can "inspire" others. On the now-familiar balcony overlooking the village square, Number Six begins to make his speech. He pauses as the clock strikes four o'clock a voice calls out "Number Two is unmutual!" It is Number 86. She keeps shouting. "Social conversion for Number Two!" Number Six changes the tone of his speech; "You still have a choice! You can still salvage your right to be individuals!" "Reject this false world of Number Two! Reject it, now!" The crowd have joined in with Number 86, chanting "Unmutual!" and Number Two is chased from the town square, leaving Number Six the opportunity to quietly slip away.

I found this episode's ending a tad weak but otherwise I enjoyed this episode. It didn't feel particularly revolutionary in that it bears similar ideas to several episodes that have come before. Right back to 'A, B, and C' The Prisoner has looked at mind-control through drugs. There is barely an episode that has gone by that does not focus on Number Six defying the system and the stamping out of individuality in the Village. I forever bear in mind the problem of episode order in The Prisoner but despite my enjoyment of much of 'A Change of Mind', it did feel a bit 'samey'. Here's hoping for something a bit different as we start to approach the end of the series.

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