Thursday 7 May 2015

The Prisoner - Hammer Into Anvil

Episode 10: Hammer Into Anvil

First ITV broadcast: Friday 1st December 1967, 7.30pm [ATV Midlands/Grampian]
Estimated first run ratings: 9.1 million
First CBS broadcast: Saturday 31st August 1968, 7.30pm

This episode is a rare example of Number Six getting one over Number Two and the Village. I have written before about 'little victories', little acts of defiance that help keep Number Six sane, but this one seems like quite a big victory.

Number Two (Patrick Cargill) quotes Goethe to Number Six, translated as "You must be Anvil or Hammer." "And you see me as the anvil?" Number Six asks. "Precisely. I am going to hammer you." replies Number Two. As Number Six leaves, Number Two shouts after him "I'll break you, Number Six!" This is quite interesting as up until now several Number Two's have been quite clear about not wanting to 'break' Number Six. Leo McKern's Number Two in The Chimes of Big Ben says "I don't want a man of fragments!" and Mary Morris's Number Two in 'Dance of the Dead' interrupts an attempt to break Number Six, insisting she wants him intact. However, Anton Rodgers' Number Two in 'The Schizoid Man' says of Number Six "Once he begins to doubt his own identity, he'll crack." Apart from the events of 'The Schizoid Man' though, most Number Two's want a mentally sound Number Six who can coherently spill out all his secrets.This episode's Number Two makes it clear that he wants to smash Number Six and get his information any way possible. But it will be Number Two who ends up the wreck of a man.

Number Six's actions in this episode are arguably triggered by seeing Number 73 (Hilary Dwyer) throw herself out of the hospital window. It's just one thing too far for Number Six. We see him going about his way hereafter, doing some rather odd things. For Number Two, who is as usual watching Number Six's every move, these actions are downright suspicious. In the village shop, Number Six asks for the Tally Ho and a copy of Bizet's L'Arl├ęsienne. He then asks for all the copies. Number Six listens to the opening few seconds of all six before returning them to the counter. He leaves his Tally Ho behind with the word 'security' circled on the front page. After Number Six leaves, the shopkeeper (Victor Woolf) immediately calls Number Two and reports what happened.

There are numerous other things. Number Six writes a message containing code words on a piece of paper and Number Two sends Number 14 (Basil Hoskins) to get the imprint on the notepaper underneath. Upon seeing the message, Number Two comments "Number Six - a plant." Number Six takes an envelope to the stone boat. Number Two finds only blank pieces of paper inside and demands they be analysed. The results come back negative; they are just blank pieces of paper. Number Two is livid and turns on the lab assistant (Michael Segal) "Perhaps you're in with him." Number Two becomes jumpy and even more suspicious. Number Six puts an ad in the paper then rings the hospital, asking to speak to Psychiatric. "What's the verdict on our friend?" "Friend? Friend? Who is this?" asks the doctor, Number 249, (Norman Scace). "Your report on Number Two, Doctor?" "Number Two? What are you talking about? Who is this speaking?" "I understand. You'd rather not talk on the telephone. Probably very wise. Never mind. I'll be seeing you later on, hmm?" Later Number Two confronts Number 249 with a recording of  the conversation, who can't explain it. Number Two insists there must have been a reason for Number Six to ring. A band plays on the village green and Number Six speaks to the band master (Victor Maddern). Later Number Two interrogates the man, who says Number Six requested a tune. "What else?" demands Number Two "What else did he say?" The poor conductor cannot add anything. "Number Six just asked you to play a tune... and then walked away?" Number Two says, as if this is the most ludicrous thing he has ever heard. "You're lying, aren't you? There's something going on!"

Number Six's retrieved note imprint
These events take place over several days and Number Two's paranoia continues to mount as he gets increasingly frustrated, unable to discover any reasonable (to him) explanation for Number Six's actions. Number Six puts something in the post and then a message is read out, presumably over the Village's radio: "To Number Six from Number 113. Warmest greetings on your birthday. May the sun shine on you today and everyday." Number Two storms into the Control Room "What is going on here?" and everyone stops and stares at him. The supervisor (Peter Swanwick) bares the brunt of Number Two's anger as he shouts that it isn't Number Six's birthday and Number 113 died last month. "I'll break this conspiracy!" cries Number Two as he leaves.

Number Six's ad appears in the paper "There is more harm in the Village than is dreamt of."  Number Six turns up at Number Two's house, saying he rang him. When Number Two denies it, Number Six says "Someone in the Village is impersonating you." Number Six buys a cookoo clock from the shop. "He seemed to be searching for a specific box" the shopkeeper tells Number Two. Number Six puts the clock outside Number Two's house. Number Two watches from the Control Room and cries "It must be a bomb!" but when the clock is taken apart there is nothing inside. Meanwhile, Number Six uses the box the clock came in to trap a pigeon, attaches a piece of paper to its leg and lets it go. Number Two has the pigeon brought down (No idea how. They shoot at it but when we see the pigeon later it is very much alive.) and the numbers on the paper deciphered. They read "Vital message tomorrow, 6am, by visual signal." So next morning all eyes are on Number Six who goes to the beach and uses a mirror reflecting the sun to send out a Morse code message. The area is scanned but there are no ships, aircraft or submarines. "He must be signalling to someone!" says Number Two. The message is decoded "Patter cake, patter cake, baker's man, bake me a cake as fast you can."
Number Two watches Number Six plant the 'bomb'.
Now if you haven't figured it out, Number Six has spent the entire episode messing with Number Two. Considering how little we know about Number Six, there is the chance he could have been signalling to someone. But really, we know Number Six is not a plant and we haven't seen him in contact with anyone. He's done little things in the past to annoy Number Two, to defy the Village and show that he refuses to obey their rules, but never before has he gone so out of his way like this. It's impossible to know just how much of these things were planned, and how many were spur of the moment ideas. Number Six's actions early on, like speaking to the bandmaster, could well have been a sudden idea but the later ones, like the Morse code on the beach, clearly included some planning.

Whilst I admire all of the things Number Six does to deceive Number Two this episode, sending codes to no one and placing fake messages are rather basic espionage tricks I feel. It is Number Six's final deception that I think is the most inspired. Up until this point Number 14's part in this episode has felt rather unnecessary. He is just another of Number Two's goons. He takes the note imprint from Number Six's house and goes with Number Two to retrieve the envelope from the stone boat. At one point he offers to kill Number Six, but Number Two says "Our masters would know something", believing Six is working for them. Number 14 later challenges Number Six to a fight, an element of the episode that feels utterly pointless really. They knock each other around on trampolines for a bit, a sport last seen in 'The Schizoid Man', but end it before anything significant happens as two other people appear for their turn. I suppose it might have been an attempt to increase Number 14's role in the episode and the tension between he and Number Six. But to me this tension doesn't seem necessary for what Number Six does later. It just feels like the writer has attempted to shoe in a fight sequence for this week.

Number Six's final action occurs afters he spots Number 14 outside the cafe. Number Six goes over and speaks to him in a conspiratorial tone, about how he slept and about going to the beach. Number 14 is dumbfounded. The waiter sees this and later Number Two confronts Number 14 "You're working with Number Six! I thought you were the one man I could trust!" "But you can! I'm loyal!" Number Two slaps him and screams "Traitor! Traitor! Traitor!" Number 14 leaves and Number Two goes after him, angrily shouting "You've lost, you and you're friends! I'll break the lot of you!" He spots the butler (Angelo Muscat). "You too! You're in this plot, aren't you?" I find Number Six's actions so inspired because it produces this reaction. Unlike the phone call where the doctor can be heard denying any knowledge of the caller, Number Two cannot hear the conversation with Number 14. Number Six chooses someone incredibly close to Number Two and having built up Number Two's paranoia sufficiently, needs no specific response or action from Number 14; their witnessed conversation will be enough.

The waiter watches as Number Six goes over to Number 14.
Number Two is not happy.
Angry at having lost his boss, Number 14 goes round to Number Six's to pick a fight with him. It ends rather dramatically and rather brilliantly with Number 14 going through the front window. I enjoyed the fight but as with the earlier one on the trampolines, it felt unnecessary.

Number Six goes to see Number Two. "I've come to keep you company." The butler has packed his suitcase and left. "It's odd. All this power at your disposal and yet you're alone. You do feel alone, don't you?" Number Six's tone here is part patronising and part authoritarian, reminding me a little of last week. He is in control and Number Two sits there, a husk of the man he was. "Where's the strong man? The Hammer?" Number Six taunts him. "You have to be Hammer or Anvil, remember?" The Anvil sits there, weak. "You destroyed yourself. Character flaw. You were afraid of your masters."

A broken man.
The scene is played magnificently by Patrick Cargill as Number Two begs Number Six not to report him. "You are going to report yourself" Number Six tells him, leaving Number Two to turn himself in to his masters.

Watching Number Two crumble this week was magnificent. Although the Number Twos constantly change and sometimes this is due to their failures with Number Six, never before has Number Six set out to get rid of a Number Two. Ending it all by convincing Number Two that it was all his own fault is an extra stroke of brilliance.

We also get a small amount of information about the 'masters', although we have had odd bits earlier in the series. In 'Arrival' Number Six asks "Who is Number One?" and Number Two answers "As far as you are concerned, I am in charge" but we have come to see that this is not entirely true. There are people over Number Two. At the end of the episode as he goes to leave, Cobb tells Number Two "Musn't keep my new masters waiting." I discussed this line in detail in the 'Arrival' article. What I do think we can draw from that line is that the Village does have 'masters'. The next insight we get is in 'A. B. and C.' when a nervous Number Two speaks to a 'Sir' on the phone, as does 'Hammer Into Anvil''s Number Two at one point. In 'The Schizoid Man' Number Two tells Number Six (who is pretending to be Number 12) "You're to return immediately to report your failure." Number Six goes off in the helicopter and is of course brought back, having been found out. But where was he supposed to return to to report? More importantly, report to who? Number Six says the plan (see 'The Schizoid Man') was Number Two's, who replies "You know it wasn't." Number Six  says "Well you certainly didn't resist" to which Number Two answers "Bearing in mind its origin, no I didn't." All this alludes to some higher power and reinforces the idea that Number Two is not the sole person in charge of the Village. He's a middle manager, with guardians working under him. Whilst many Number Twos are confident and authoritarian, in 'A. B. and C.' and 'Hammer Into Anvil' the respective Number Twos are both depicted as nervous men, who seem to carry out their actions due to fear alone. Both these Number Twos leave or are implied to leave immediately at the end of the episode. Their fear was their downfall, as it caused them to behave irrationally. As Number Six says, "You destroyed yourself. Character flaw. You were afraid of your masters." An intriguing question is: why are they afraid of their masters? We don't know what happens to a former Number Two when they have to leave the Village.

Be seeing you.

Thursday 23 April 2015

The Prisoner - Checkmate

Episode 9: Checkmate

First ITV broadcast: Friday 24th November 1967, 7.30pm [ATV Midlands/Granada]
Estimated first run ratings: 9.1 million
First CBS broadcast: Saturday 17th August 1968, 7.30pm

The episode begins with an aggressive roar from Rover as it rolls through the Village. Everyone stops completely still, apart from one man (George Coulouris). Number Six notices this man and follows him. The man is known as 'the Champion' and is playing a game of chess with people as the pieces. Number Six joins in, playing a pawn. At one point, the white queen's rook (Ronald Radd) moves without orders. This is seen as catastrophic. "Not allowed. Cult of the individual" we are told. The rook is taken to hospital.

The next day Number Two (Peter Wyngarde) takes Number Six to see Rook in hospital. Rook is undergoing a "rehabilitation". Number Two says the technique is "based on Pavlov". If you aren't familiar with Pavlov, he rang a bell before he fed his dog. Eventually the dog began to associate the sound of the bell with food and would salivate at the sound of the bell, regardless of whether the dog had seen any food. Rook has been dehydrated and awakes in a room with water containers of different colours. Three are empty and one, the blue one, gives him a shock but when told to go back to it he, cautiously, does. This time it gives him water.

Number Two and the head psychiatrist (Patricia Jessel) observe Rook.
Upon his release from hospital, Number Six makes contact with Rook and pretending to be a guardian, gets information from Rook about who he is and why he was brought to the Village. Number Six reveals that he is really a prisoner and tells Rook that he has found a way to tell the difference between the prisoners and the guardians. This has been an ongoing problem for Number Six as he can never know who to trust. He has discovered that if he acts authoritatively, the prisoners will assume him to be a guardian and obey him. However the guardians are more likely to defy him. Number Six asks to speak to a man doing some gardening and the man tells him he'll have to wait. Guardian. Number Six starts to get people together ready for an escape.

Meanwhile, Number Six met Number Eight (Rosalie Crutchley) (I think we're onto our third or fourth Number Eight in the series) whilst in the chess game. She was playing the queen. She is hypnotised to believe she and Number Six are in love. She gets given a locket to wear that sends back her pulse rate and therefore Number Two and the doctors know when she is near Number Six. Arguably, they could just track him through the cameras in the Village, but he has been shown to be getting good at finding blind spots.

Number Eight comes to Number Six's house one evening and makes him a hot chocolate. She's told him how she feels and he keeps asking who put her up to it. She is desperate for his attention and his approval. "May I see you again?" she asks. "Yes, I'm here all the time" he replies. I rather like that gag. It doesn't feel shoehorned in and nine weeks into the show it's a joke the viewers can get now.

"If only you'd care a little, I'd be happy."
The next day Number Six denies that he loves Number Eight and she inadvertently reveals what has happened when she says "if not then why did you give me this locket". Number Six looks at it and finds the electronics inside. He takes it to Rook, who is building a radio and says he can use the parts. When it's finished, Number Six sends out a Mayday call and manages to get in touch with a nearby ship. He says they are a plane going down. Rook goes out to sea in a dingy with the radio to try and draw the ship in with a distress signal.

Number Six goes with a group of prisoners to tie up Number Two, whose console is picking up the distress signal. It suddenly stops and Number Six runs down to the beach to find the dingy on shore with no sign of Rook. Number Six gets in the dingy and heads out himself, eventually getting picked up by a boat. But upon getting inside he sees Number Two on a television screen. The boat is the Village's. Then Rook appears. He turned Number Six's own logic on himself, believing the authoritative Six was a guardian; "You deliberately tried to trap me!". Rook thought his loyalty was being tested so turned Number Six in to Number Two.

Number Six fights with the small crew of the boat but Rover appears and pushes the boat back towards the shore.

The episode itself is supposed to be a game of chess but I don't really have anything to say on that. I find it a slightly stretched metaphor. However, something that interested me and I quite like is that Number Six comes undone through his own theory. Throughout the series he has been depicted as confident and self-assured. He has done most things alone but when planning escapes and other things, he does look in control and feels he knows what he is doing. This may not have been the case, but he has certainly acted that way. He is not a meek subordinate. So really, it makes perfect sense that Rook should believe Number Six to be a guardian. He has never acted like the other prisoners. During their escape preparations, Number Six is in charge. He oversees things and when the time comes, passes the coded message round to everyone to let them know they are ready. "You only have yourself to blame." Number Two tells Number Six. "I gather you avoided selecting guardians by detecting their subconscious arrogance. There was one thing you overlooked." "What was that?" "Rook applied to you your own tests. When you took command of this little venture, your air of authority convinced him you were one of us." Number Six himself is evidence that his own theory cannot be one hundred per cent accurate. The line between guardians and prisoners remains blurred.

My final say is that I really enjoyed Peter Wyngarde as Number Two and would have liked to see him feature more heavily in the episode. I would certainly have preferred to see more face-to-face scenes with Number Two and Number Six. I don't think I have ever seen Wyngarde in anything before. Interestingly, according to an interview with Wyndarde, McGoohan personally asked him to be in the series. His karate chop was an addition to the script, with Wyndarde practicing every morning.

Next week, Number Six can't even be bothered to try and escape. Pfft.

Be seeing you.