Friday 27 March 2015

The Prisoner - Many Happy Returns

Episode 7: Many Happy Returns

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!
In previous episodes we have already seen that Number Six can shoot, fence, box, create impressive woodwork, as well as several other things. Here we see his woodwork skills again as he uses trees, rope and empty oil barrels to build his vessel. Once he sets off he uses parts from a radio to make a compass. This guy has survival skills down to a tee and was probably a scout.

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?
Number Six walks to his house, 1 Buckingham Place, as seen in the opening credits. He knocks and a maid (Grace Arnold) answers the door, something I found very odd! She's dressed in an old-fashioned black and white maid's uniform. I am aware that people did, and do, still have housekeepers, but I didn't think any domestic help would still be wearing such an old-style of clothes. Shortly afterwards the house's new owner, Ms Butterworth (Georgina Cookson), arrives in Number Six's old car. She looks Number Six up and down: "Terribly interesting." He is not happy to see someone else driving his Lotus 7 and tells her "I know every nut and bolt and cog; I built it with my own hands." "Then you're just the man I want to see." She says the car has been overheating in traffic and invites him in.

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.
Number Six meets with two men who are either his former employers or colleagues. He shows them the photographs he took and a diary he wrote on the back of the Tally Ho during his voyage. "The evidence is there." Thorpe (Patrick Cargill) is not convinced. "A set of photographs from ground level of a holiday resort. And a schoolboy navigational log on the back of what you call the village newspaper." His objections are not unreasonable. He later adds "You resign. You disappear. You return. You spin a yarn that Hans Christian Anderson would reject for a fairy tale." The Colonel (Donald Sinden) feels the same and his comments reflect the political situation at the time. "And we must be sure. People defect. An unhappy thought but a fact of life. They defect from one side to the other." Then Number Six adds his thoughts "I also have a problem; I'm not sure which side runs this village."

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?
In the rest of the episode, Number Six works with some officials who attempt to locate where the Village is. They conclude it must be south west of Spain and Portugal and north west of Morocco. It is possibly on an island. They get a plane to sweep the area and as Number Six heads out his pilot hangs back. A milkman switches places with the pilot and when the plane reaches the Village, the new pilot says "Be seeing you!" and Number Six is shot out of an ejector seat with a parachute. The Village is still empty and Number Six walks back to his house. Mrs Butterworth enters with a cake. "Many happy returns." She is wearing the Number Two badge. Number Six looks outside and music starts up as the Village is suddenly full of people again.

Happy Birthday Number Six!
It is a magnificent twist. Similarly to 'The Chimes of Big Ben', Number Six thought he had escaped but the Village was really still in control all along. This episode has several similarities to 'The Chimes of Big Ben'. In particular, Number Six's meeting with the Colonel and Thorpe echoes his meeting with the Colonel in episode 2. In both meetings the men question the legitimacy of Number Six's story about the Village. Both remark on him resigning, disappearing, then suddenly reappearing. Both bring up the possibility of defection. In both meetings Number Six gives a description of the Village. ('Many Happy Returns' - "Numbers in a village that is a complete unit of our society. A place to put people who can't be left around; people who know too much or too little. A place with many means of breaking a man.") Number Six meets a colonel who he believed he could trust but who turns out to be on the side of the Village. You could argue that the colonel in 'Many Happy Returns' might not have known about the plan to drop Number Six back in the Village. We don't even see the milkman and pilot swop places, so the milkman may well have knocked out the pilot and taken his place by force. Unlike in 'The Chimes of Big Ben' there is no clear indication that Number Six's colleagues are working with the Village.

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.

Thursday 19 March 2015

The Prisoner - The General

So far I have not discussed what episode order The Prisoner should be viewed in. The most important thing to say about this is that it seems no one can agree on it. It should not be viewed in production order and it should not be viewed in broadcast order, apart from the first episode and the last two. I have had a few people tell me I am watching in the wrong order. To be clear, I am following the order of my Network DVDs, which I believe is the original order broadcast in the UK. It is not the wrong order because there is no right order. When I have re-watched all the episodes I will try to put together my own opinion of an ideal episode order for all 17 episodes. But that is all it can ever be; an opinion.

  'The General' got me thinking about the episode order because there are some things that have not made sense. Colin Gordon returns as Number Two for this episode but whilst he looked on the edge of a nervous breakdown in 'A. B. and C.', under pressure to get information out of Number Six, he seems quite at ease here. Also, whilst 'The General' has the usual opening titles, in which Number Six asks "Who are you?" and the answer is "The new Number Two", the opening for 'A. B. and C.' has Number Two answering "I am Number Two". These episodes would seem to fit better coming one after the other, with 'The General' coming first. Another point is that Number 12 was Number Six's double in 'The Schizoid Man' and was killed. In 'The General' we have a different Number 12. Number Two asks "How long have you been with us, Number 12?" "Me, sir? Quite a long time, sir" is the reply. There are several possibilities here: 'The General' takes place a long time after 'The Schizoid Man'; 'The General' should come before 'The Schizoid Man'; or Number 12 has been with the organisation who runs the Village for a long time but has not actually been in the Village for very long, only being given the Number 12 badge quite recently. The General is mentioned by Number Two in 'The Schizoid Man' (near the end, on the way to the helicopter) and as the General is destroyed at the end of episode 6, 'The Schizoid Man' must come before 'The General'. For me, a better episode order for these three episodes would be 'The Schizoid Man', 'The General', 'A. B. and C.', with perhaps several other episodes placed in between 'The Schizoid Man' and 'The General' to make sense of Number 12 having been in the Village for a long time.

Episode 6: The General

First ITV broadcast: Friday 3rd November 1967, 7.30pm (ATV Midlands/Grampain)
Estimated first run ratings: 9.8 million
First CBS broadcast: Saturday 13th July 1968, 7.30pm

The episode starts with the view of a helicopter moving over the Village. It can see everything. We cut to the helicopter and then to Number Six sat outside a café, looking up at the helicopter. This gave a reminder of the all-seeing ability of those in charge of the Village, as well as perhaps their god-like power over the inhabitants. The villagers look tiny from the helicopter and every aspect of their lives is controlled by those above them.

There is an announcement. All students taking the History course with the Professor should return home. They are promised "a university degree in three minutes". Number Six is skeptical and whilst looking at a poster ("one hundred per cent entry/ one hundred per cent pass") he talks with Number 12 (John Castle), who urges him to enroll. "The only subject I'm interested in is, um, getting away from this place." "Exactly" comes the reply. Number 12 seems to want to help but we have been here before and it has always ended badly.

On the beach Number Six finds what looks like a small radio playing. It is the Professor speaking to his students. Number Six turns it off and re-buries it. Two men pull over in a car and approach him. They ask him why he isn't taking part in the course. "Are you prefects?" Number Six asks and when they ask what he's doing, he replies "Playing truant". I always like Number Six's quips and there are several in this episode. It is a pleasant reminder that the Village is not getting to him in the way many of the Number Twos would like. He retains his personality and as we know so little about Number Six, this is a nice thing have. One of the men, Number 256, repeats the poster's phrase "100% entry, 100% pass" and urges "Come on. You don't want to start the term with a black mark."

Number Six goes home, gets himself a drink and sits down to watch the Professor's broadcast. The Professor is late. The presenter (Al Mancini) is American and his manner reminds me of Professor Joe Butcher, the TV evangelist in the James Bond movie, Licence to Kill. It's his enthusiasm and approach to the whole thing. During this episode he really tries to sell the 'speed learn' idea and goes on about how wonderful it is. It must also be pointed out that his accent makes him stand out from everyone else in the Village too. So far, I believe I am correct in stating that we have only heard European accents in the Village. The presenter explains "The subject of tonight's lecture is 'Europe Since Napoleon'. A hard, complicated six month's study. Ladies and gentlemen: sit back, relax, watch the screen. We're going to cover it in fifteen seconds flat." The Professor (Peter Howell) appears for a bit and talks about speed learning. Next, a black and white image of a man appears. The camera zooms in on his eyes (very Big Brother/Orwellian), then one eye and then a green light. Number Six stares at the screen. He drops his glass. Then comes out of it and glances round. Number Two (Colin Gordon) and Number 12 arrives. Whilst Number 12 scans the place with some machine, Number Two says that the Professor has lost his recorder. Does Number Six know anything? Of course not... Number Two mentions the lecture and Number Six replies "History's not my subject." Number Two throws some History questions at Number Six and he knows all the answers. Number Two joins in with Number Six's final answer and they both follow each other word for word. When Number Two and Number 12 leave, Number Six picks up the phone and asks the operator the same questions. The operator answers them, exactly the same, word for word like Number Six did.

Those eyes. Big Brother is watching you.
Number Six goes back to get the recorder. It's gone but he hears a branch snap and finds Number 12 behind a bush, who says "You want to get out of this place, don't you?" and offers him the recorder, "Here's your passport." Understandably, Number Six is skeptical. As an audience we are aware that everyone who has ever offered to help him in the past has turned out to be on Number Two's side. "I don't trust Number Two. I don't trust you. And I don't trust your tape, Professor." After Number 12 has gone, Number Six plays the tape. It is the Professor's notes for speaking to his students. He says "Speed learn is an abomination", he calls it "slavery" and they must "destroy the General" in order to be free. Will they be though? Can anyone really be free whilst they remain in the Village?

Later Number Six is in a garden. The Professor's wife (Betty McDowall) was on television before and is around in the garden. Number Six has drawn her in a military uniform, a general's uniform? "So art's your subject too?" she asks. "No. Military history. Generals and that sort of thing..." He shows her the drawing and she tears it up.

Number Six sneaks inside a building nearby. A room is filled with plinths, covered in white sheets. The Professor's wife appears and says "This is a private room." Number Six begins to remove the sheets, revealing busts underneath. One of them is of a Number Two, previously seen at the arts and crafts fair in 'The Chimes of Big Ben', another is of the current Number Two and of Number Six. Suddenly Number Two appears, as does a doctor (Conrad Phillips), who earlier we saw leading the Professor away from his typewriter in an office-type room. The doctor says the Professor is not be disturbed and we see him lying in a bed in the next room. Number Six has picked up a club and bashes the Professor's face in, which is fine, because it isn't really the Professor. It's just a hollow sculpture. I feel like I am missing something as the reason for this is never explained, nor for any of the other sculptures.

Number Six is chuffed with is likeness
Number 12 stages a power-cut so he can come and talk to Number Six without being overheard. He gives him a pen and a couple of chips with the Village's penny farthing design on, asking Number Six to come see him the next day.

There a lot of men in black suits, top hats and black shades. If it wasn't for the shades they would look like undertakers and if it wasn't for the top hats they could be Men in Black. They are all asking to enter a Lecture Approval Session and putting one of the chips into a machine. Think 'Thing' from the Addam's Family because this is what it was inspired by. A little hand reaches out and takes the chips, allowing them through. Number Six is also dressed up, wearing the Number 56 badge, and hangs around before doing the same with one of his own chips. He heads to the projection room, taking out a couple of guards on the way, who are dressed up like US military policy. Whilst taking out the projectionist (Peter Bourne) Number Six gets a cut to his hand. There's a machine with thin tubes and Number Six removes a metal rod from the pen Number 12 gave him, then inserts it into one of the tubes.

We are the Men in Black!
Number Two and the other men in black have had a chat and decided to broadcast the lecture. Images of the different broadcast rooms appear as they check that everyone is ready. Number Two is drawn to the cut on his hand, recognising Number Six sat in the projection room and it's no wonder. He's removed his suit and put on the projectionist's white t-shirt. If he had at least kept his shades on he might have got away with it. Some guards sneak up and knock Number Six out.

Number Six has his arm in a sling and is being interrogated by Number Two and Number 12 ("Who's the head man?" "Santa Claus.") but Two knows it's useless. They take him off to meet the General. They enter the office where the Professor is typing away. Number Two explains "The general can answer anything, given the basic facts." The Professor has just finished typing a piece of paper and puts it into a machine. Out of another section a metal strip with holes in comes out. Number Two says "Allow me to introduce the General." The Professor pulls back a curtain to reveal a huge machine, a great big computer. If you have never seen a 1960s' computer before, imagine the biggest computer you can think of and then make it ten times bigger.

Number Two thinks it is brilliant. They can subliminally deliver huge amounts of knowledge and "no more tedious learning by rote." For now only history, but soon they plan to move onto other things. Number Six is not impressed, commenting that they will get "A row of cabbages", to which Number Two replies "Knowledgeable cabbages."

Number Two wants to demonstrate it's brilliance to Number Six and asks the Professor to note down some information. "Point one: a traitor in the Village. Point two: security pass discs were issued to Number Six. Point three: access to these is through [he looks at Number 12] where? Through where?" "Administration, sir." "Exactly. Put that down. Also that Number 12 is an official in administration. Now ask the General-" Number Six interrupts. "A question that can't be answered." It is clear that Number Two has worked out that Number 12 has been helping Number Six. More on that later...

Number Six says "There is a question that the General cannot answer." "Impossible." Number Two replies. "Allow me to ask it." "No." "You afraid?" "...Go ahead." So Number Six types out the question and puts the paper in the machine. The metal strip comes out and the Professor takes it over to the General. A dial swings to 'DANGER', smoke starts appearing and then there are explosions. Number 12 goes over to help the Professor but they both end up dead on the floor. "What was the question?" Number Two demands. "It's insoluble of man or machine." Number Six answers. "What was it?" "W. H. Y. Question mark." "Why?" "Why."

I can't help but wonder why Number Six did not choose to ask the machine who Number One is. Or where the Village is. Perhaps he thought the machine would not know. Perhaps he knew that the answers didn't matter. They would certainly have been no help to him, only resulting in him knowing a bit more about where he was stuck.

Number Two was about to ask the machine a question that would have exposed Number 12, who was certainly looking very nervous. As in 'A. B. and C.' this episode ends with Number Six getting one over Number Two and the Village. There is no evidence that Number 12 was luring Number Six into a trap and Number Two's suspicion of him appeared genuine. This episode then, is the only time so far that someone else in the Village has genuinely tried to help Number Six, without having an ulterior motive. It wasn't another prisoner either - it was one of the warders. During this episode Number 12 is depicted as Number Two's right-hand man. It confirms that there are people who do want to help Number Six but nonetheless, it still really is impossible to tell who.

Be seeing you.

Tuesday 10 March 2015

The Prisoner - The Schizoid Man

Episode 5: The Schizoid Man

First ITV broadcast: Friday 27th October 1967, 7.30pm (ATV Midlands/Grampian)
Estimated first run ratings: 11.7 million
First CBS broadcast: Saturday 6th July 1968, 7.30pm

Pay attention. It's going to get complicated. There have been many Number Twos but there is only one Number Six. "I am a person" Number Six proclaimed last week. The Prisoner is very much a programme that emphasises individuality. It is in part about the importance of holding on to one's identity, even when up against a world that wants you to conform. But in 'The Schizoid Man' Number Six becomes more than one person and there's nothing he can do about it. The Prisoner has a double, Number 12, who becomes Number Six, whilst Number Six is meant to be Number 12. The real Number Six is drugged and brainwashed. When he wakes he is in the Number 12 house and everyone calls him Number 12 now. But Number Two wants him to pretend to be Number Six, even though he really is Number Six, in order to confuse Number Six, who is really Number 12, pretending to be Number Six in order to confuse the real Number Six. Still with me? I hope so.

I was incredibly impressed by the scenes in which both Number Sixes appear on screen at the same time. This episode in particular demonstrates what a fantastic actor Patrick McGoohan was. He has a fine repartee with himself and it's interesting watching this change slightly. As the real Number Six begins to doubt himself, he becomes less and less like the Number Six we know (or think we know at least) and starts to turn into a cowering, retreating wreck. The scenes with both Number Sixes were all filmed twice, giving Patrick McGoohan's stunt double, Frank Maher, more work that usual this week. Despite this, he isn't credited.

The episode gives us enough information to know more than the real Number Six does. A light pulsates over his bed before he is taken away on a stretcher by two men in white coats. They also pick up his calendar and his watch. We see that the calendar says 'February 10th'. Next he is sat up in a bed and he is approached with a metal pole. He puts up his right hand but gets a shock. "Left handed, Number 12" he is told. Number Six wakes up in a different bed and as he rubs his face he finds a moustache there. In the wardrobe he finds his black jacket with a '12' badge attached.

Number Six is terrified of moustaches
 Thereafter there are several things to notice. Number Six goes to meet Number Two (Anton Rodgers) and opens the breakfast tins with his left hand. He settles for flapjacks. At least that's what Number Two calls them, but they aren't the flapjack I think of when I hear flapjack. They look like omelettes or pancakes and they are served with lemon wedges. Odd. Number Two tells Number Six (who he's calling Number 12) the plan to impersonate Number Six. "Once he begins to doubt his own identity, he'll crack." This is the whole point of the plan. Get Number Six to crack and he will tell them everything. Number Two attaches a Number Six badge to Six's lapel but Six removes it, telling him "I shan't need this to remind me that am your Number Six." Should we ever doubt the real Number Six during this episode, this is one way to help spot the real one. Number Six has never worn his badge and still refuses to.

Number Six is a gentleman and so when the real Number Six meets the fake Number Six it's all very polite. The real one (wearing his usual black jacket with the white trim) offers the fake one (wearing a white jacket with black trim) a drink and they head to the drinks cabinet. White-Jacket takes ice with his whiskey. Black-Jacket uses matches, not a lighter, to light his cigars. Black-Jacket says "I have a very strong sense of identity." White-Jacket "You? Oh! Oh oh oh yes! I was forgetting - you're supposed to be me. You are the goodie, Number Six, and I am the baddie who's supposed to be proving you wrong, is that it?" "That's right - except there's no supposed about it." In the years before The Prisoner was broadcast cowboy films had been popular. Tradition held that the goodies wore white hats whilst the baddies wore black hats. Kids would always know who they should be cheering for. The Prisoner doesn't usually have such strict goodies and baddies; rather, it is them and us. Or Them and Number Six. This episode there is a definite baddie but interestingly enough, he is wearing the white jacket.
Who is the real Number Six?
The two Number Sixes do some shooting and fencing to try and prove who is better. The fake Number Six gets the better of the real one every time. After some bare-knuckle boxing is started outside the real Number Six is beginning to look like a shadow of his former self. Rover appears and escorts them to Number Two where various tests are done to try and prove who the real Number Six is. At the start of the episode we saw the real Number Six with Number 24, Alison. They have a mental link and she was practicing a mind-reading trick with some magic cards. The real Number Six calls her to Number Two's place and attempts the same thing. But this time she gets almost every card he picks wrong and all of the fake Number Six's right. Alison says she would have known anyway as the real Number Six has a mole on his left wrist. The real one checks and he doesn't, but the fake one does.

That night Number Six looks like he's cracking. As he twitches in his sleep, we hear the voices going through his head and then see him remembering bits and pieces. He remembers when Alison visited she knocked over his soda-siphon and left a bruise on his fingernail. He checks the photograph she gave him afterwards and spots the bruise in the photo. He checks the finger to see that the bruise has moved as the fingernail has grown. Number Six tries to remember and it all comes back to him. The shocks, hypnosis, having his hair cut and dyed. We see him with headphones on, muttering "I am Number 12... I do not smoke cigars... I smoke black cigarettes... Flapjacks are my favourite dish..."

"Left hand only, Number 12."
In the present he takes a white cigarette out and breaks it open. There's a wire inside. Then he does the same with one of his cigars and finds a wire inside it again. The black cigarettes are normal. Reaching for a black cigarette with his left hand, there is a voice over. "Don't forget Number 12 - you're now left handed." The lights flicker in the room and it's clear there is something wrong with the lamp. Number Six picks up the lamp with his left hand and with his right he reaches over for a metal pipe on the wall. He gets a shock and is thrown. Getting up he knocks a box off a table and quickly catches it with his right hand. He is himself again.

After confronting the fake Number Six and getting a password out of him, they both head outside and confronted by Rover, the real Number Six gives the password "Schizoid man". The fake Number Six tries to but Rover edges towards him. He runs and is attacked. This is the only instance that Rover definitely kills someone. Number Six takes the white jacket.

The next day Number Six, now pretending to be Number 12, goes to see Number Two. Speaking of the operation, Number Six tells Number Two "It was your idea." "That's a strange thing to say. You know it wasn't." Number Six collects Number 12's things. He picks up a wallet that contains a photo of a woman. As he and Number Two take a taxi to the helicopter, Number Two remarks "I remember Susan saying only a month ago that you're generally quite unflappable." As Number Six gets into the helicopter, Number Two says "You won't forget to give Susan my regards, will you?" "I won't." Number Six is blindfolded. The helicopter takes off. It lands and Number Six gets out, removing the blindfold. Number Two is standing there. "Susan died a year ago, Number Six."

Like last week's episode, 'The Schizoid Man' ends with some frustration. Number Six had won, he had beaten them and he was going to escape in a rather brilliant way. Yet it was all taken away at the last moment. It was something he couldn't have known and couldn't have predicted. All the episodes show Number Six striving to maintain his individuality and sense of self, but none more than this one show to what lengths the Village's controllers will do in order to take it away.

One final point. The Village is described early on as 'an international community' yet I believe this is the first episode in which we have seen any inhabitants who aren't white. One of Number Two's assistants, Number 106, is played by a black man, Earl Cameron, and has a few appearances during the episode. There is also an Indian man wearing a turban who greets Number Six as he comes out of the Number 12 house, "Good morning, Number 12." The in-story explanation I have come up for this is that the Village has been created by the British and most of its inhabitants are there, it seems, as a result of knowing Cold War secrets. As the Iron Curtain fell across Europe, it would make sense that the majority of those involved are white, although you would still expect to see a few more non-white faces there. The real-world explanation is far more simple: The Prisoner was filmed in Portmeirion, a small place in North Wales, where there isn't very much apart from the beautiful scenery. There would not be many reasons for immigrants to move there and so the population stays white. This is reflected in The Prisoner as many of the locals were used as extras.

Be seeing you.

Sunday 8 March 2015

James Bond Really Likes Boats - and he hasn't actually owned many cars.

Q: "What do you see?" Bond: "A bloody big ship." - Skyfall

With ITV currently repeating the James Bond films every Sunday afternoon, I've found myself chatting with people on Twitter about various Bond-related things. Several weeks ago when ITV were mid-way through the Roger Moore era, it was noted that Bond is seen on a boat in every one of Moore's Bond films.

Before he was 007, Bond was Commander James Bond of the Royal Navy. He wears his naval uniform in several films including You Only Lice Twice, The Spy Who Loved Me and Tomorrow Never Dies. Bond is rarely seen on naval boats but he does venture onto the water in some form or another an awful lot.

Today, with Twitter's help, I worked out that 007 can be seen on a boat in every single Bond film except for Goldfinger and On Her Majesty's Secret Service. If you don't believe me, here it is:

Dr. No - Quarrel's boat whilst using the Geiger counter, then travelling to Dr. No's island, then escaping the island at the end of the film.

From Russia with Love - Bond and Tania are chased in a speedboat, using the spare fuel barrels to blow up their pursuers. Bond and Tania on a canal at the end of the film.

Goldfinger - n/a

Thunderball - Bond takes a boat with Paula to go diving, he goes back to shore on Domino's boat, he goes on Emilio Largo's boat the Disco Volante.

You Only Live Twice - Bond is knocked out and wakes up tied to a chair on board a ship where he is interrogated by Helga Brandt

On Her Majesty's Secret Service -  n/a

Diamonds Are Forever - Tiffany and Bond take a ship home, where they are attacked by Mr Wint and Mr Kidd.

Live and Let Die - There is an absolutely amazing speedboat chase after Bond escapes from the crocodile farm. Sheriff JW Pepper shows up for the first time.

The Man With the Golden Gun - Bond escapes from the karate school by nicking a boat and a little boy tries to sell him "a real live elephant".

The Spy Who Love Me - lots of boats. A boat to get to Karl Stromberg's home of Atlantis, a U.S. Navy ship, a big fight onboard Atlantis at the end.

Moonraker - Bond uses a speedboat to get to Hugo Drax's lair in the middle of the Amazon. He is attacked by armed goons, including Jaws, on the way. It ends over a waterfall.

For Your Eyes Only - Bond boards the Havelock's boat with Melina Havelock. They use it to travel out and look at the wreck where they recover the ATAC. When they return from diving, Kristatos and his men are waiting for them on the boat.

Octopussy - after Bond escapes from Kamal Khan, narrowly avoiding being eaten by a tiger ("Siiiiiit!), he is pulled aboard a boat full of American tourists.

A View to a Kill - when chasing Mayday through Paris, Bond jumps from a bridge onto a boat and falls through the roof, destroying a wedding cake. A furious chef can be seen.

The Living Daylights - at the end of the pre-titles sequence Bond parachutes onto a boat and borrows a woman's mobile phone.

Licence to Kill - Bond sneaks aboard Sanchez's boat on several occasions.

Goldeneye - a new helicopter is being revealed aboard a boat in Monaco and Bond gets on board. He finds the dead pilots and is stopped by security as the helicopter gets stolen.

Tomorrow Never Dies - Bond and Wai Lin fight their way aboard Elliot Carver's stealth ship.

The World is Not Enough - near the start of the film Bond takes Q's new boat and goes on a speedboat chase after Cigar Girl.

Die Another Day - after being traded for another prisoner and getting to leave North Korea, Bond is put on the medical wing of a boat. He swims ashore to Hong Kong, arriving in the lobby of a hotel in soaking wet pyjamas and bare feet.

Casino Royale - he takes a boat out with Vesper near the end and we see him writing his resignation email to MI6.

Quantum of Solace - Bond steals a wooden speedboat to rescue the leading lady.

Skyfall - Bond travels with Séverine to the abandoned island where he meets Raoul Silva for the first time.

We tend to think of Bond's cars more than his boats but this proves that the man loves a boat too.

Actually, Bond uses an MI6-issued car in less than half of his films.

Goldfinger - Aston Martin DB5 makes its first appearance. Guns, oil slick, tyre cutter, revolving number plates, and of course - "Ejector seat? You're joking!"

Thunderball - the DB5 is seen briefly in the pre-titles sequence.

The Spy Who Loved Me - Lotus Esprit S1. Remembered mainly as the car that can go underwater.

For Your Eyes Only - Lotus Esprit Turbo. A goon sets off the self-destruct feature.

The Living Daylights - Aston Martin V8 Vantage. It has tyre traction so Bond can drive on ice, as well as its own skis.

Goldeneye - the DB5 is seen near the start and Bond also takes a BMW Z3 to Cuba that Q showed him earlier. He tells Jack Wade, "Don't push any of the buttons in that car." "I'm just going to go bombing around in it." "Exactly."

Tomorrow Never Dies - the BMW 750iL is rather cool. Bond can drive it from his mobile phone.

The World is Not Enough - before it can do anything the BMW Z8 is sadly cut in half by a chainsaw attached to a helicopter.

Die Another Day - the Aston Martin Vanquish "we call it 'the Vanish'". Some people hate the Bond car because it can turn invisible. There is a very cool moment where the car gets flipped on its roof and Bond uses the ejector seat to flip back over.

Casino Royale - the Aston Martin DBS V12 has a medical kit that saves Bond's life.

Quantum of Solace - a DBS V12 is featured again.

Skyfall - the DB5 returns for Bond's 50th anniversary.

In the rest of the Bond films Bond either steals cars or uses hire cars. Having a specialist car from MI6 for every film is really only a tradition that began with the Pierce Brosnan Bond films. This means that altogether there are only 9 different cars that Bond has from MI6, including 3 - the Lotus Esprit Turbo, BMW Z3 and BMW Z8 - that only appear briefly. That is quite something for a man who is known for women, gadgets and cars.

Bond's gadget-filled cars are not essential and are certainly not a major part of every one of the films. However, Bond really likes his boats.

My thanks to @Roll_VT (Goldeneye) and @Simon_Pegg (Diamonds Are Forever, Die Another Day and Quantum of Solace) for their boat help.

Monday 2 March 2015

The Prisoner - Free For All

Episode 4: Free For All

First ITV broadcast: Friday 20th October 1967, 7.30pm (ATV Midlands/Grampian)
Estimated first run ratings: 11.1 million
First CBS broadcast: Saturday 29th June 1968, 7.30pm

There is an election on and Number Six is one of the candidates.We have got to know a bit about the Village now and it seems ridiculous that they should hold elections. The residents have been brought there by force and every aspect of their lives is monitored and controlled. The idea of there being something as free and democratic as an election is absurd. Number Two (Eric Portman) says that there are elections once a year. Of course not all elections are fair. Number Six says "Everyone votes for a dictator" but Number Two argues "Not at all. It's just that their resistance is low."

  Number Two encourages Number Six to stand against him in the election. Number Two has a large group of supporters following him around. They wear their most multi-coloured of clothes and cheer or blast horns whilst the Village's typical brass band music blares loudly. They wear ribbons with '2' on them and carry large posters of Number Two's face. Like the arts and crafts fair in The Chimes of Big Ben, it shows how devoted the population are to Number Two. Unlike Number Six, most of the Village appear to have given in and are determined to settle down and live a life as well as is possible in the Village. They conform. When Number Six is invited to follow Number Two and give a speech, he begins by saying "I am not a number. I am a person." Everyone falls about laughing. What a mad idea! No one in the Village is a person. But Number Six continues "I intend to discover who are the prisoners and who are the warders", giving us the reminder, as seen in the previous episodes, that not everyone in the Village has been brought there by force. Number Two announces to the crowd that Number Six will be running for office and suddenly the crowd move into action. All the posters of Number Two have been replaced by posters of Number Six - the photo is the same as his file photo seen in the opening credits. The crowd cheer and shower Number Six in confetti. But they have only done so because Number Two has announced it and so it would seem that they are really still under his control.

"I am not a number! Unless it is convenient for election campaigns."
  This episode marks the first time in the series that Number Six chooses to wear his number. He has only once been seen wearing his number badge and that was back in Arrival when he was leaving the hospital. He immediately tore it off, implying that someone else had pinned it to his jacket. Here he wears an election ribbon with a '6' on, just like the '2' ones. I think he only wears it because of his determination to win the election, having realised that no one else will ever stand against Number Two.

  Number Six is bundled onto a taxi and a photographer, Number 113b (Dene Cooper), leaps on the bonnet, trying to take pictures of Number Six. A reporter, Number 113 (Harold Berens), also gets on the taxi and says they are from the Tally Ho, the Village's local (and only) paper. Number Six answers "no comment" to all of the reporter's questions so the reporter makes up all the answers. It is a blatant ridicule of the press, compounded when the taxi stops next to a news stand and a copy of the paper is rolled off immediately with a headline saying "No. 6 Speaks His Mind". Clearly the article had been written before the interview.

Number Six gets papped!
  Number Six is required to attend a council meeting. Number Two is present and the council members stand in a circle. Their numbers are '2c' '2d' '2e' etc. and none of them speak. Everything is done through Number Two. The council is only for show. Number Two is still in charge really. Number Six calls them "brainwashed imbeciles". He asks "Can you laugh? Can you cry?" and shouts "In your hearts must still be the desire to be a human being again!" I find 'brainwashed' to be the perfect word for the Village. Like Number Two's supporters there are those in the Village who have given in and find it easier to conform to the rules. They do as they are told, chant and cheer at the right moments, trying above everything not to stand out or make a fuss. They have lost what it means to be human; to be an individual person.

  Number Six is spun round then plunged through a hole in the floor. He staggers down a corridor lit with a red light and loud tense music plays on the soundtrack. He falls through a door and is invited to have tea with the Labour Exchange manager, Number 28. There really has been a lot of tea in this programme. When Number Six tries to get up Number 28 presses a button. "This is merely the truth test. And there's no need to be alarmed. Why did you wish to run for electoral office?" Number Six cannot get up. He cannot speak. "Everything you think here is in the strictest confidence." Now this begs the question: if they have a way of reading thoughts, why do they not ask Number Six why he resigned? Presumably the machine can only read some thoughts and cannot get too deep if there is enough resistance. Number 28 discovers that Number Six thought he could organise break outs if he won the election. Number Six shakes in the chair until suddenly it all stops. Number Six seems different. He slowly stands up and smiles. "Thanks for the tea. You'll be voting for me of course?" He acts as though he has no memory of the truth test and from now on seems a little odd, as though he has been brainwashed in some way. It's always so hard with Number Six that it's difficult to tell whether he is putting it on or not.

  Outside there is a madly cheering crowd. The reporter and photographer appear. There's a film camera and a microphone shoved in Number Six's face. He waves to the crowd and happily answers all the questions.

The truth test.
 Back at his house, Number Six is with his new maid, Number 58 (Rachel Herbert), who Number Two introduced to Six at the start of the episode. She speaks no English and gabbles away in some Slavic language. The television is on and we see Number Six giving a speech. He gets frustrated with Number 58's inability to learn an English phrase and then seems to have a moment of sudden clarity. He runs out the house, gets in a taxi, and drives down to the harbour. Behind him we can hear a crowd chanting "Six! Six! Six!" Number Six gets in a speedboat and drives off. He grapples with some men, fighting several off before falling in the water and being brought back to shore by Rover. As he glides across the water, he mutters the words of the election broadcast.

  We see Number Six in hospital but not long afterwards he's back on a boat in the harbour making a rousing speech. He tells the citizens that if they give up information they will get access to more activities in the Village. We cut to Number Two on the village green. There's hardly anyone there and only a few listening. He says that Number Six has a good record "but he has no experience whatsoever of the manipulation of a community such as ours". Number Six himself is clearly being manipulated in some way. He drives past Number Two shouting "the word is: freedom!" It is a false freedom he is promoting though.

  Later Number Six is in a bar with Number 58 and gets angry when he can't get a real alcoholic drink. The waitress (Holly Doone) says that it "looks the same, tastes the same" and Number Six adds "but you can't get tiddly". This explains why in The Chimes of Big Ben when the Colonel serves Number Six a whisky, Number Six does not immediately realise they are still in the Village. Number 58 takes Number Six to a cave where he finds a drunken Number Two drinking illegal alcohol. "This is the therapy zone" he says and Number Six is given a drink. But as Number Six finishes his drink and keels over, Number Two is suddenly sober. The barman (John Cazabon) says "The portions are just right to take him through the election" and so it is confirmed that Number Six has been controlled in some way.

  Election day. Ballot boxes. Number Six's box is overflowing. There are cheers from outside "We want Number Two!" Defeated, Number Two hands his ribbon over to Number Six. Outside the old Number Two raises Number Six's arm in front of the crowd but they are silent. Miserable looking even. A taxi takes them both to the green dome with Number 58, who then encourages Number Six inside and Number Two leaves. Number 58 enthusiastically plays with all the dials and switches and then Number Six also joins in. The large screen shows lights whizzing by and Number Six is transfixed by it. Number 58 takes his '2' ribbon off, clicks her fingers, slaps him repeatedly, saying "tic tic tic" over and over. Number Six comes out of the daze and grabs one of the phones. "This is our chance! Take it! Now! I will mobilise all electronic controls. Listen to me - you are free to go! You are free! Free! Free!"

Hair tied back now she's in charge
  Two men appear and try to grab Number Six. He runs back out the door and fights with several men. They are all wearing sunglasses inside, reminding me of Presidential bodyguards in numerous films. Number Six takes quite a beating. He is dragged back into Number Two's control room to find Number 58 standing there, wearing the '2' ribbon. In perfect English she says "Will you never learn? This is only the beginning. We have many ways but we don't wish to damage you permanently. Are you ready to talk?" He is not. Number Six is taken away on a bed and carried back to his house.

  Like several of the episodes, 'Free For All' is one where I cannot help but feel sorry for Number Six. He is allowed to get so far, allowed to think he has won, that he can escape, but then it is all snatched away right at the end. It is the Village proving that it cannot be beaten, that even when you think you have control they still know exactly what they are doing and will get their own way in the end. This episode ridicules elections, campaigning and the press. In the Village, Number Six's 'chance' to become the new leader is really just an excuse for them to bring someone else in. Someone new takes over but the regime is going to remain almost exactly the same.

  We get some hints about Number One in this episode. At the beginning of the episode Number Two calls Number Six, wanting to meet with him. "The mountain can come to Muhammad." The front door opens, with Number Two standing there. "Muhammad?" he asks. "Everest, I presume?" Number Six answers. "Where's Number One?" "At the summit." At the top, in a higher place, he's worked his way up? That can be taken to mean a lot of things. Shortly afterwards they discuss the election. "What physically happens if I win?" "You're the boss." "Number One's the boss." "If you win, Number One may no longer be a mystery to you, if you know what I mean." No I don't know what he means and I'm sure Number Six doesn't either. Number Two doesn't expand on this. When he says "If you win" is he really referring to the election? Perhaps what Number Two really means is if Number Six beats the Village, wins against the system, finally finds a way to escape. We'll see.

Be seeing you.