Friday, 13 December 2013

The Prisoner: The Chimes of Big Ben

I'm watching the episodes through in the order they come in on my boxed set - I'm sure I shall return to The Prisoner & consider other possible orders in the future, but for the moment I'm purely considering the series in the light of George Markstein's envisioning of the reason for Drake's resignation & the existence of the village.
I have only just wondered whether the lengthy title sequence repeated ineach episode is like that deliberately to disorientate the viewer: up to over 3 minutes into the programme you actually don't know which episode you are seeing.
The new Number 2's comment that Drake can make even putting on a dressing gown seem like an act of defiance, points attention to Drake's actions rather than their effect on his captors, which is surely to see what they will do, his continued investigation of how his creation has worked out. If this is so it inverts the whole way the plot is portrayed: Drake is trying to get information out of The Village authorities, by holding his resignation as a carrot in front of them & observing their responses. He even at one point tells Number 2 that he is as much of a prisoner as Drake is - Number 2 is unconcerned by this, he hopes for a day when the whole earth will be The Village.
Of course everything he does is aimed at doing this: he is in a total institution & subverts institutional behaviours to his own ends, once again appearing to make some efforts to settle in in this episode, all of which are aimed at making his captors react & seeing what happens. I particularly love the interaction with Number 2 - who almost tries to jolly him along - over coffee.
He is surprisingly open about his intent to escape, come back & wipe The Village off the face of the earth. He certainly wipes the jolliness off Number 2's face, although not as effectively in Hammer or Anvil. Number 2 even tries to take him onto the 'other side of the counter' by showing him the newly-arrived Number 8 waking up in her cottage. He then tries to do a deal, which Drake is unresponsive to, to Number 2's frustration, which he turns into a joke. Drake already has this Number 2 eating out of his hand.
Drake's experiment continues when he speaks to Number 8 just as any other Villager would. Of course he's right to be suspicious of a person whom Number 2 has even brought to his attention, speaking to her as if she knows who Number 1 is, & refusing to answer her questions. Ultimately Number 8 tells him her name.
Number 2 treats Drake as a trusted member of the community, after the capture of Number 8 after an escape attempt. From Drake's point of view this must be an excellent opportunity to observe the psychological techniques used in The Village at first hand. Drake is clearly disgusted by what he sees, tells Number 2 to let her go & says he will then collaborate. He defines this as joining in, not telling him anything. Here the impression is that the tables are turned on Drake, because actually Number 2 has instead made him behave in a particular way, however Number 2 is naïve to be taken in : he comments that things couldn't be going better.
Drake's purpose for his alliance is clear: he thinks she knows where The Village is - he hasn't lost sight of his initial aim. She tells him The Village is in Lithuania, & she has friends in a nearby village, & Drake is already making escape plans.
Of course the fact that all the images in the art exhibition are of Number 2 except that by Drake, is one of the inversions. It's actually completely obvious that Drake is the only one seeing outside of The Village. The others - blinded by tunnel vision focus only on Number 2, Drake focuses on the outside. Of course this is once again inverted later in the series, since they are *all* missing the point!
I suppose the - frankly terrifying - point of this episode is that while Drake thinks he can investigate what is going on in The Village, in reality the organisation he is investigating is so far entrenched in society that it is virtually inevitable. What I think is really clever is that it is not apparent (until the end)  exactly who are friends & enemies, or at exactly what point they are being double-crossed. He tried to investigate this organisation but in reality it is still investigating him, & will not hesitate to trick him to do so.
In this the programme also tricks us. On our first sight of Richard Wattis (as Fotheringay) we get the impression that he has received the message & is looking forward to seeing Drake, giving no indication of what will happen. Wattis was such an archetypal 'civil servant' type of actor, that his casting here was an excellent choice to make us think of solid Establishment figures - in this case not actually on Drake's side!
I feel Drake comes across as quite naïve in this one - he thinks that he can know who is who. 'It is, isn't it - isn't it different?' It's not different - figures he thinks he can trust are still interrogating him. Drake's aim here, of investigating what is happening at his brainchild Village, goes horribly wrong. Perhaps he is actually too arrogant, to think that he can keep control of his brainchild. It's out there, & is no longer his.

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