Tuesday 19 May 2015

The Prisoner - It's Your Funeral

Episode 11 - It's Your Funeral

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

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

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

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

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

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

Number Six examines the radio

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Be seeing you.

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'Arlésienne. 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.