The Prisoner Episodes Paired as Films: Introduction
I have had it in mind for a long time to do a series of posts about the different suggested viewing orders for the episodes of The Prisoner. That I have not so far done so is purely because I can't work out how to and feel that a single blog post about a single viewing order for the seventeen episodes would be unwieldy, and if they were split up it would become confusing.
However there's another issue on the periphery of this subject. Actually, as is always tha case with The Prisoner, there are several.
We all have heard that McGoohan had his seven favoured episodes and felt the others were merely padding. You can see quite an extensive discussion of this here but the usual list given is Arrival, Free for All, Dance of the Dead, Checkmate, The Chimes of Big Ben, Once Upon a Time, The Conclusion.
That's one issue: that the show's creator didn't mean it to look like it does.
But then it gets more interesting. On this web page (by David Fakrikian) you will see several interesting things (and I would also direct you in the direction of this video for a fuller treatment of this). It has been stated by TV historian Andrew Pixley that McGoohan intended The Prisoner to be a series of 90 minute films, each made up of two of the episodes as they are now. In fact the first UK video release (by Precision Video) of The Prisoner in the eighties actually did this and published four pairs of episodes edited together without titles in the middle to make 90 minute films. They were paired thus:
'The Arrival' (July 1982): Arrival and The Schizoid Man.
'Many Happy Returns' (July 1982): Many Happy Returns and A, B and C.
'Checkmate' (October 1983): Checkmate and Free for All.
'The General' (October 1983): The Chimes of Big Ben and The General.
We are all familiar with episodes of sixties TV series edited into full length films, so this idea wouldn't be that unusual. Most familiar to me is The Man from UNCLE and whenever I see a double episode story on TV of this vintage I always suspect that a film was intended. It's also familiar from the final episodes of Danger Man, made just before The Prisoner, and as we know it is considered possible that The Prisoner is a continuation of Danger Man. Gulp. So that would mean it is continuing the adventures of John Drake and also continuing the dual episode/film format of the final episodes. But that's not all.
In the video linked above the author describes that Koroshi, the final episodes of Danger Man edited into a full length film and also the eight episodes of The Prisoner edited into films and released by Precision, have a similar format. This is possibly biblical levels of textual criticism and if anyone mentions where the story of Noah comes from I will be forced to start off on what the exact significance of Joseph's coat is and why no reputable translation translates it with long sleeves, instead rushing to the Septuagint version for a multicoloured coat.
Anyway, Koroshi has the format:
Story A with 1st bad guy; Story B related to story A with 2nd bad guy.
You may say that of course the stories have to change over in the middle if they are two episodes edited together, but the important thing to note here is the connection between the two stories and the changeover of baddie, because.... He gives this structure for the joined up episodes of The Prisoner:
Story A which introduces Number 2; Change of Number 2; Story B (related to Story A) with the new Number 2.
Freaky, eh? He also says that this makes all of the doubled up episodes follow the structure of Arrival.
But is gets even more freaky than that, because an anonymous comment on David Stimpson's blog page linked above gives futher suggested connected episodes and joining themes:
Arrival/Dance of the Dead (Death - the only way to enter or leave The Village/triumph of the Machine); The Chimes of Big Ben/Checkmate (There is no escape); AB&C/The General (manipulation of technology and science); Free for All/It's Your Funeral (politics of The Village); The Schizoid Man/A Change of Mind (manipulation of medicine and psychology); Many Happy Returns/Hammer into Anvil (where the number 2s come from ie our own society); One Upon a Time/Fall Out (who is number 1).
Now this gets even more freaky when you know that if you put those episodes together and throw out the ones that McGoohan called fillers, you are left with...seven pairs of joined up episodes as films. As in exactly what McGoohan said you would need to tell the story.
I'm not saying that this is necessarily how it was intended to be and I usually take the view with The Prisoner that we the viewers are intended to draw conclusions and aren't spoon fed answers, but this is certainly striking.
So what I intend to do is start a series of posts watching these paired episodes of The Prisoner. I will start off with Koroshi, and then do the pairs released by Precision Video because I have a handy crib to them. This of course means that I am blogging about something which I haven't actually seen because I don't have the actual videos so I will just watch them back to back and draw conclusions. I have no idea at all how this will work but if I do an introductory post that will force me to at least have a go at it and see what happens.
There is a further complication that Fakrikian also refers to McGoohan referring to having edited the whole of the series into a four hour film. McGoohan's edit isn't known to exist any more but there is a suggested four hour film edit (linked on the article by Fakrikian) so I may also blog about that as well.
So to summarise we have several different edits of the show here: a) McGoohan's essential seven episodes, b) the pairs of episodes released by Precision Video in the eighties, c) other pairings suggested on an anonymous comment on David Stimpson's blog and c) a four hour edit of the whole show done by McGoohan himself which no longer exists but oculd be guessed at. To start off with I'm going to blog about the final two episodes of Danger Man and then just the eight Prisoner episodes in edit b) above.
Does this post adequately demonstrate why I've shied away from writing about Prisoner viewing orders so far?
Sources: I will be making extensive use of the page from David Stimpson's blog with its anonymous comment and the essay and video by David Farkrikian for these posts:
Image credit: https://david-stimpson.blogspot.com/2011/11/prisoner-in-series-of-90-minute-films.html?m=1
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