Monday, 16 December 2013

The Prisoner: The Schizoid Man

One thing has become blatantly clear from Drake's investigation of The Village - their attempt to get the reason for his resignation from Drake has seriously derailed. The technique used in this episode seems almost designed to persuade him to identify as Number 6, which plainly is not going to happen with genuine feeling anytime soon, & is anyway not what they really want.
Nonethless it is an interesting conceit, to make someone else be him & thus force him into the character they want. The whole question of identity & self here covers up the simple fact of the institutionalisation of The Village's authority leading them down this blind alley. Because they are conditioned to behave in a particular way, they focus on bringing Number 2 into line: in fact they are so lackadaisical Drake is able to sneak out of his cottage at night & go missing. In this, this episode references the very behavioural psychology fashionable in the sixties.
Another sixties fashion reflected in this episode is the fashion for all things 'alternative', including extra-sensory perception, demonstrated for the credulous by the flawed experiments with Zener cards conducted by botanist J.B. Rhine. It is interesting that the scene with Number 24 & Drake using Zener cards, shows the classic set-up that is so open to fraud it isn't true. I find it interesting that Drake is doing this, since I feel it indicates a new aspect to his personality, since I would have thought he would have little patience for Zener card experiments. It's also amazing, since the results they get are statistically impossible, way over the 20% norm. I can only assume that Drake goes along on this pseudo-scientific experiment with Number 24, knowing it can only be a fake, to see why it is being done. The inversion motif comes in when he turns this against the system by using it as proof that he is the person who has the 'mental link' with Number 24. The fact that they can't possibly have a mental link - even Number 24 describes it as a mind-reading act - shows his captors up for having fallen down on their research. Of course logic is also the way in which Drake remains orientated to time: his bruised finger nail growing out cannot be disguised, so there is an underlying theme of logic as anchor & source of safety in a confusing & dangerous world.
On a pure trivia note, in the setup of Number 12's cottage I spotted both a curved bookcase that appears in many an Avengers episode & many ITC series, & also the leather-bound books that feature a lot in The Avengers, including in 3 Stable Mews. Here, as seen in the second picture, they are mixed among other leather-bound books, but the distinctive red & black bands on their spines are visible. Leather-bound books all look alike, you may say, but it would be difficult to see two such similar & distinctive sets of volumes in two theatrical prop agencies! Also I feel Rover looks less convincing at times in this one, the angles must be slightly wrong but it looks like a weather balloon rather than the strange entity it normally does.
Once again this episode can be seen as a whacking great spoiler: it references the fact that what is behind The Village, ones captor, ones enemy, is oneself. True to form Drake manages to turn this on its head in this episode: the image of him is his competitor but ultimately what allows him to pull the wool over Number 2's eyes, only to fail at the final hurdle. Of course the denial theme operates here: what is really keeping Drake in The Village is himself, his knowledge, his life, but he seeks to investigate what happens in The Village, his brainchild, but is not ready to see that what he investigating is therefore himself.
This is one of my favourite episodes, but I have one major gripe about it, that it would have been better if McGoohan hadn't also played the person pretending to be Number 6/Drake. It is unnecessary for the plot, since Number 24 is in on it, it is unconvincing visually & factually. The reality is The Village authorities would have been able to find a man who looked only very like Drake, even assuming they could find such a man who could be persuaded, bribed, or threatened into playing the role convincingly. In fact it is unnecessary: the pretend Number 6 actually would only have to pretend to be him, since all that is necessary is the pretence that he is Drake. Divergences from the real one could be explained by pointing out that since the imposter is Number 6, obviously the real one is a fake. Similarly, the idea of aversion therapy artifically to make Drake left-handed is overly complex, & can only be to make him conform to the 'prototype' of the false Number 6. Once again, 'But I am Number 6, & I am left-handed because Number 6 is left-handed,' said by the false one, would be enough to deal with this. It is this kind of thing that makes me think The Village authorities have become derailed: the plot is frankly ridiculous, & a simple plot would have been better to try to unhinge Drake.
I like Anton Rodgers as Number 2 a lot: a much more avuncular, headmasterly character than I think any of the others.
In conclusion, despite the flawed plot, I like this episode a lot. As to whether it helps Drake's investigation of his brainchild village at all, well that's doubtful. The Village authorities, while being derailed from their own aim, are presenting Drake with challenge after challenge. I think also this episode loses its effect seen with the knowledge of how the series continues. (Sigh). Oh! To have seen The Prisoner when it was first broadcast!
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