Thursday, 3 September 2015

The Prisoner - Do Not Forsake Me, Oh My Darling

Episode 13 - Do Not Forsake Me, Oh My Darling



First ITV broadcast: Friday 22nd December 1967, 7.30pm [ATV Midlands/Grampian]
Estimated first run ratings: 7.3 million
First CBS broadcast: Saturday 3rd August 1968, 7.30pm

From the very beginning this episode is different as we have a pre-titles sequence, instead of going straight into the usual title sequence. Three men sit around looking at photos on a projector screen and they want to know where Seltzman is. We have no idea who any of these people are, nor who Seltzman is. When we eventually reach the title sequence, it lacks the Number Two/Number Six speech we normally get at the end; "We want information." "Well you won't get it!" etc. Instead of the usual BAM in the music when we see the episode's title, the music is rather gentle.

In the Village a man (Nigel Stock) comes to see Number Two (Clifford Evans) and their conversation reveals that Professor Seltzman has invented a way to transfer minds between bodies. But Seltzman has disappeared and the last person to see him was Number Six. Why would the Village be interested in mind-swapping? Well Number Two says that two enemies often swap prisoners. What if they could send the body of one prisoner back with the mind of one of their own? I don't know if it sounds rather obvious but I thought that was a brilliant idea of how to use body-swapping.

Nigel Stock takes some convincing that mind/body-swapping is possible

Number Six is dragged from his house by four men in green overalls and white helmets. Meanwhile Number Two is showing the other man their brand spanking new mind-swapping equipment. It's becoming increasingly clear why this man is here. Later Number Two watches Number Six on a screen, hooked up to equipment. "Tomorrow you will wake up a new man."

Number Six wakes up in bed. We see everything from his POV and we can hear his internal monologue. He is at home, not in the Village. He looks at the photo of a woman (Zena Walker) by his bed and thinks about getting Janet's birthday present. Soon he catches a look of himself in the mirror and - AH! He has the body of the other man. A woman, Janet, turns up, demanding to know where "he" is. She's the woman in the photo. Number Six wants to try and explain, mentioning a dress fitting for her birthday but then Janet reveals that this was a year ago and she hasn't seen him since. This is, I think, the first time we have had a specific indication of how long Number Six has been in the Village. Previously there have been mentions of a few weeks or months, but nothing specific and it has been increasingly difficult to work out what sort of period the episodes are meant to be spread over.

Number Six isn't wild about going grey overnight.

He has forgotten an entire year. Worst. Hangover. Ever.

Janet goes to see her father (John Wentworth), who is one of the men in the pre-titles sequence. From their conversation, we work out that Number Six works for this man, 'Sir Charles', as Janet asks her father if he sent Number Six away on a mission. He maintains that he didn't. The scene is an interesting one as it begins to seem quite forced on the part of the writer to avoid having to use Number Six's real name. I'm not sure it feels natural to have someone referred to as 'he' for an entire conversation. Though there is one moment where he isn't. When Janet begins to conversation - without naming the person - Sir Charles replies, "I presume you're talking about your fiance?"

WOAH! Hold back there. I could maybe, perhaps, just possibly accept that Number Six had some sort of girl he was seeing, but a fiance? It just doesn't add up. I wouldn't say Number Six is asexual but in the Village he has certainly never let women, nor men, distract him sexually. He really hasn't shown any romantic inclinations whatsoever and actually, if I was in the Village, there is only so much time you can spend playing chess at the Retirement Home. Number Six though is happy to spend his time working out, drinking coffee at the cafe, and chatting to former admirals. He does not flirt with pretty boys and girls. He needs to concentrate any other energies on escaping. Now it could be argued that Number Six has been saving himself for his fiance back home, but personally I really cannot buy that. That means he's gone without any action for a year when he could have shagged his way round half the Village's 'Guardians' in order to find out how to escape.

Although the above is a large part in my doubting the verisimilitude of this plot angle, a greater element is that I do not believe that the people behind the Village wouldn't have exploited Janet. It is the easiest and one of the oldest blackmail plots there is: if you don't care about yourself, tell me all you know or we'll hurt someone you love. The Village have played a lot of dirty tricks over the past year and some have been quite inventive, so I can't for one moment believe they wouldn't have tried to use Number Six's fiance against him. Sadly, no matter how absurd it is, this plot element still exists.

Moving on, Number Six jumps in his Lotus and we get a sort of reverse of the opening titles as Number Six returns to his former office building, shoves his way in and demands to see someone. The music over this is the same as when the title sequence normally plays, except a few lower notes have been added in. It's a nice touch and I think it works really well. When someone eventually comes to see Number Six he finds it hard to convince them that he is who he says he is. Despite listing his various code names - including the inventive ZM73 - (another and much better avoidance of his real name!) it is pointed out that anything he tells them could have been extracted from the real person whom he is claiming to be. Nonetheless, he is lead upstairs to meet Sir Charles.

We rather boringly follow them up and out of a lift, then see them head down an office corridor. I never think of The Prisoner as looking dated. The Village is very timeless because it is so confined. Even the shots in London from various episode work very well as the roads are filled with red buses and black cabs. The old buildings were there long before The Prisoner and are still there so the outline of London has not changed much in forty-odd years. I am not very familiar with London so perhaps for those that are some of these shots do look different to modern London. But overall I feel that bar some of the cars on the road, The Prisoner can still look fairly modern. Apart from this corridor.

Crappy corridor

Further crappy corridor

It stands out immensely to me compared to everything else. It looks old-fashioned. That's all it is. But because nothing else does, it's starkly obvious. It certainly doesn't seem to fit in with the grand room that is Sir Charles' office. I imagine the ceilings to be nicotine-stained. It's ugly. I don't like it. Or maybe I'm overreacting a tad...

ZM73 identifies himself to Sir Charles who points out like we heard before, that there is no way to know for sure that he is who he says he is. ZM73 tells how he asked Sir Charles' permission to marry his daughter and goes into great detail about the day. It was at this point that it began to hit me what my problem with this episode was. One of my problems anyway. Nigel Stock is a good actor and he is clearly doing his best to play the lead character for a series that has already filmed most of its episodes. However, he just isn't Patrick McGoohan and I find myself missing him immensely throughout this episode. Nigel Stock's Number Six is nothing like Patrick McGoohan's Number Six to the extent that if it had not been for that internal monologue, I would have presumed that the "body-swapping" had never happened and this was some sort of brain-washing designed to break Number Six. This episode is not like 'The Schizoid Man' where even the audience are supposed to begin to doubt who the real Number Six is. That isn't part of the plot of this episode. Nigel Stock needed to be shown an episode of The Prisoner and the director should have been helping him act more McGoohan-y. Either that or it should have been like Quantum Leap where McGoohan could still have played Number Six but when he looked in a mirror he could see the body everyone else in the episode was seeing.

Unable to convince anyone of his true identity, Number Six heads home where his internal monologue wonders whether his handwriting is still the same (it is) and how he's going to get any money, as he could now potentially be done for fraud for using his own chequebook. I had to go and do a tad bit of internet research on this. The very first cash machine was installed in London in June 1967 and it worked using cheques, not cards, so that's out. I presume the only other option was to physically go into a bank and sign something, so there's still the chance of him getting done for fraud by showing that face around. Number Six decides to check his safe and seems really pleased to find a wadge of money in there. Except, er, it looks like US dollars.

Number Six goes to Janet's birthday party. A waiter who resembles Lurch from The Addam's Family serves him a glass of champagne, whilst some odd music plays and the guests all dance out of time to it. Number Six goes and dances with Janet, telling her he left a slip of paper with her. He needs it. Bring it to him outside. She finds him in the gardens (it seems rather similar to 'A. B. and C.') and hands him a receipt. He still needs to convince her that it's really him. So he kisses her and then they snog and it's horrific. But it would have been worse if McGoohan had done it. Number Six definitely does not snog. If he does, Nigel Stock's snog definitely wouldn't have been anything like McGoohan's so god knows how she recognised him just from that.

Number Six does not snog.

Number Six takes his receipt to a camera shop. Lurch lurks outside. The receipt is for some film and he also wants a passport photograph taken. The shopkeeper (Lockwood West) is only in this one scene but he's unforgettable purely because he acts rather oddly and it made me suspicious of him, though this came to nothing. All this business with the photographer being away but he can certainly take the photo himself, in the back room. Hmm.

It turns out the film was slides and Number Six sets up his projector screen in order to see them. He uses the name Seltzman and the letters' position in the alphabet to work out which slides to use. For any readers unfamiliar with slides, photographs could be put onto them, then placed into a projector so you could project a larger version of them and even make little 'slide shows'. They were ideal for boring friends and family with holiday photos long before Facebook. As a child I remember us having a projector screen and I thought seeing ourselves projected enormously was tremendous.


Slides! A great source of excitement.
Number Six layers his slides on top of one another then puts on some special glasses and a secret message is revealed: 'KANDERSFELD, AUSTRIA'. Don't bother opening up your atlases as there's no such place. Number Six consented to being followed so he has been ever since he left Sir Charles Portland's office all the way until he now reaches Dover port. He is followed all the way to Austria and we get some terrible but probably unavoidable back projection. Yet it wasn't this that pushed the boundaries of my suspension of disbelief so much as the fact that I am supposed to believe that Number Six would drive from London to Austria in an open-top Lotus Seven. I'm not even sure it has a boot.



A nice little touch is that when Number Six reaches Kandersfeld, he is greeted by a cafe waiter (Gertan Klauber) who says, "Welcome to the village."

He finds Professor Seltzman (Hugo Schuster), who is going by the name Herr Helland, hiding out as a barber. Things are beginning to feel a bit repetitive as it is again said that any attempt to prove his identity could have been extracted from the real person. Number Six asks whether Seltzman regards handwriting as as unique as a fingerprint. Seltzman believes it is so compares some fresh writing with an old envelope that Number Six had previously sent him. Seltzman is apparently a brilliant scientist but quite clearly does not have even the most basic grasp of fraudulent techniques. Never mind. The handwriting matches. Number Six's followers have caught up with him though and we finally see some action his episode as there is a bit of a scuffle with Patrick Jordan before Lurch (dressed as a bus conductor for some inexplicable reason) appears with a sort of ray gun and they're gassed.

Probably the most poorly directed fight in history.

Lurch came straight from the set of On the Buses

Number Six and Seltzman are taken back to the Village where Number Two needs Seltzman to reverse the mind-swap. Oddly, although the Village have worked out how to swap minds, they do not know how to swap them back. Seltzman says he will do it but insists on doing it alone and apparently needs a third person. The process appears to work but something goes wrong and the Professor dies. The Colonel (Nigel Stock) is taken to his waiting helicopter to leave the Village. Only when he is safely away does Number Six - back in his own body - tell Number Two what the Professor really did. If you haven't guessed it then Number Six spells out that the Professor did a three-swap and transferred his mind into the Colonel's body.


As I have made clear I have a number of problems with this episode. Overall it just isn't very good. There has been so much brainwashing in the series by this point that this episode feels utterly unnecessary. The plot has some large holes too in that we are never shown when Number Six got his memories of the Village back. It's very unclear. Also, Number Six's conversation with Janet indicates that his memory has gone back to the day he resigned, so why didn't he wake up still intending to resign? Why could he only think about Janet's bloody birthday present? Even if we could find various solutions and explanations to the plot holes, 'Do Not Forsake Me, Oh My Darling' is still obscenely dull. McGoohan's absence is a contribution to that as Nigel Stock just cannot lead this series as well, but the writing is also quite tedious. Things happen, there is a plot (sort of) but at the same time nothing really happens. We have to wait until the final act for this week's fight and it's too little too late. McGoohan's Number Six, bar voice-overs, only has one set of lines in this episode and when we hear them right at the end it feels like a thumping reminder of what we've been missing this week.

Having heard bad things I tried to go into this episode with an open mind but the reputation is well-deserved. Curiously, the ratings have dropped off. 'The Schizoid Man' was top with 11.7 million and the series had leveled off comfortably at around the 9 million mark. However 'A Change of Mind' has slumped to 7.5 million and dropped still further this week down to 7.3 million. Maybe (hopefully) everyone was off at Christmas parties on Friday nights through December because after trawling through BBC Genome it looks like there was little worth watching on the other channels.

Next time I believe we have cowboys coming so let's hope things pick up as we head towards the finale.

Be seeing you.

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