Saturday, 14 December 2013

The Prisoner: A, B, and C

I ended my post on The Chimes of Big Ben by saying that Drake came across as naïve to think he could walk into The Village, investigate, & leave. Here The Village turns the attention on him, & ups its play in finding out what it wants from him, the creation - or rather brainchild - turning its attention on its creator.
There is however also a sense of desperation in using an untried 'treatment', & Number 2 (Colin Gordon, one of my favourites) comments on the phone on the importance of getting the information from Drake.
Despite an effective Number 2, I don't really like this episode. Couldn't they find a better name for the hostess than Madam Engadine? - she sounds like a fortune - teller. I also don't really take to the plot - no real criticism, it just doesn't do anything for me.
In terms of reading The Prisoner through the eyes of George Markstein's conceptualisation of the reason for The Village & Drake's role in this, even though Markstein was script editor on this one, it doesn't really contribute that much. However in terms of Drake's personality there are hints: it is plain that the personality seen in the dreams can only be Drake's heavily honourable personality, so that this episode does confirm the identification between Drake & Number 6 in that way. It is interesting also to see Drake in a slightly different milieu than in either Danger Man or The Prisoner, where he was very much the lone wolf. This episode feels more like other 60s spy genre programmes such as The Saint. Also the fact that Drake gains - I can't avoid the use of this hackneyed phrase - the high moral ground over Number 2 indicates the sort of moral person Drake is.
Drake's understanding of the workings of The Village has already developed: his previous experiences have clearly taught him that there are captors masquerading among the prisoners in The Village. He refers to Number 14 as 'one of them'.
This episode doesn't work for me in two ways: the instant Madame Engadine starts asking Drake questions she is suspicious in the roles played out in The Prisoner - the inversion motif that a still tongue may make a quiet life, yet the authority figures expect you to talk, & asking questions is suspicious. This is to my mind merely a plot weakness.
The other, which I think is a larger failing, although perhaps unavoidable given the era when The Prisoner was made, is a plot failure in the use of drugs & inserting narrative into his dreams. Many of the science fiction things in The Prisoner have by now come to be possible, such as cordless phones. The reason they continue to work in The Prisoner - if you observe them, rather than just let them happen without questioning - is that they look very sixties but were actually still in the future *at that time*. The drugs plot doesn't work so well now because it was something that was - more or less - actually happening at that time. The sixties were a time of experimentation in medicine, & such things as abreaction & LSD therapy were tried on the still largely captive populations in psychiatric hospitals. The notion that a doctor could chemically get into your head & wander around was not completely alien then. For me, this fails because instead of the relative unreality of The Prisoner, it anchors this episode in the series's actual time too much.
Less major plot failures for me are that I can't believe the laxness of security on the clinic, & Drake ought really to have been observed on CCTV there & when he pours his cocoa down the drain.
Not to be totally negative, a plot strength is the repetition of the reversal motif, since Drake gains the upper hand over Number 2 again. I also like very much that the third contact turns out to be Number 2 himself: an early appearance of the final solution to The Prisoner. Ironic that Number 2 is being ordered by Number 1 (& we all know who that is) to find out whom Drake is meeting & it turns out to be himself!
So actually I have to reverse the hasty statements I've made above slightly: the solution to The Village in Markstein's eyes is that it is actually what is in the resigned agent that keeps him a prisoner, the kind of things they know & have done leave them marked for life. So in fact this episode is a whacking great spoiler that Drake's captor is within: this is the entire point & completely fits with Markstein's conception.

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