Thursday, January 08, 2004

Prisonerama

The complete Prisoner series on DVD. Received it for my birthday (at my request), and wanted to have a marathon viewing session of all 17 episodes. (Since my grade 12 English teacher introduced me to the series some 17 years ago, I've only seen a handful of episodes.)

Well, almost two months later, we've watched almost half the series, squeezing in episodes when we can.

Since its original airing in 1967, the show has had a cult following (with an Internet presence including fan clubs) and has had more influence on pop culture than one might realize, including being referenced in The Simpsons.

What a beautiful program. The opening credits are a masterpiece, providing the viewer with all the necessary backstory. I can think of no other show that sets up its episodes in this way.

Interestingly, though it's assumed Patrick McGoohan's character (Number 6) worked as an agent with access to top-secret information and not without influence in the sphere of politics, his occupation is never made explicit. Perhaps a weapons engineer... No, his behaviour is clearly consistent with spyhood, but it's a point worth considering — assume nothing.

The set is visually rich, interiors and exteriors both, and unique, with an array of recurring symbols. Incredible art direction.

The bicycle. A penny-farthing bicycle, said by McGoohan to be a symbol of progress.

The council chamber in a couple of episodes features a chair awash in illuminati symbols. Membership to the council belongs to the elite, and Number 2 (the political head of the Village) wields no influence.

Numbers are assigned to "inmates" according to the value of the information they possess, Number 6 being fairly high up on this scale. Oddly, many people seem to hold positions of "power" who have large numbers, such as various doctors. One is reminded that though they are of great service, their brand of information does not serve the primary interest of the Village.

The order of episodes is widely disputed as they were aired in different sequences in different countries (The Prisoner premiered in Canada!) and not necessarily in the order in which they were planned or produced. The DVD box set liner notes outline the arguments for the order A&E established, but in my opinion they erred on at least one crucial sequence.

"A, B, and C" and "The General" are shown sixth and seventh respectively. It's obvious to me this order should be reversed. They feature the same Number 2: in the opening sequence of "The General" he introduces himself, "I am the new Number 2," whereas in "A, B, and C" he announces merely, "I am Number 2."

Why is this Number 2 allowed a second crack at breaking Number 6?

I assume Number 2's job is to dig for information not just from Number 6 but from the other citizens of the Village as well. Or is it?

Be seeing you.
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