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Showing posts from January, 2014

The Prisoner: Fall Out

Fortunately I've found a single disc with this episode, so can now finish my blog posts on this viewing through The Prisoner, which are based on examining the thesis that Number 6 is John Drake of Danger Man. The thesis is of course that he invented The Village himself, as a security of home for agents who were a risk themselves or presented a risk to security, was horrified at what he heard of it, & resigned so that he would be taken there & could investigate. It has been some time since I have watched The Prisoner, & I was expecting that this episode would provide no support for this theory, which was created jointly by McGoohan & George Markstein, & the received wisdom is that McGoohan changed the series markedly in a different direction - some change was also imposed by changes in episode numbers & the lack of the projected second series - after his conflict with Markstein became such that Markstein left the programme. There are two huge problems wi

Sapphire and Steel: Assignment 2 Episode 1

I like to say that the repeats of The Avengers on Channel 4 in the eighties started my interest for sixties TV, & it's true. But this is the Sapphire & Steel assignment that started my interest in cult TV, & quite probably my interest in all sorts of weird things. As a child I was both terrified & fascinated by this assignment. I'd already got an interest in ghosts from somewhere & the 'scientific' methods Tully used in this fascinated me. How atmospheric can you make the beginning of a TV programme? There's simply everything here, the railway station itself, the wind-swept platform, the fact that it's twilight if not dark. The fact that Tully approaches from the platform implies that he's there without the owner's permission. In fact I've just realised that this assignment begins with classic magical omniscience: there is no attempt made to delineate why Tully is at the station or what its reputation is among the ghost hunti

The Champions: The Fanatics

It's difficult to see how you could fail, when you open a show with an external of the house used for The Avengers' episode The House That Jack Built! On the other hand, this one shows how truly incestuous 1960s TV was by using Gerald Harper as a totally convincing & chillingly calm villain, who nonetheless makes me wonder what Adam Adamant is doing in The Champions! It's not really a TV star as such, but Steed's library turns up here with some good shots, sadly not good enough to be able to read the titles on the books. I like the plot of this Champions very much: this may be because it is essentially a straightforward detective story (with a supernormal twist of course, in terms of knowing who the fanatics' next victim is. I feel this makes it much more believable: the swap of an agent for a convicted criminal is a simple espionage trick that would be believable in the real world, which contrasts favourably with the sheer fantasy of some Champions scr

The Champions: Nutcracker

I've neglected to comment so far on how much I love the very obviously hand-dran maps that announce the location of each adventure. You wouldn't catch that happening nowadays! Shades of The Man from UNCLE in this episode, with a tailor's shop (admittedly not a cleaner's) providing a cover for a secret vault, accessed through the changing room. I feel the sheer complexity & quaintness of the security system suggests the consultant who devised it was a very elderly lady! There are also shades of The Avengers episodes The Mauritius Penny & The Hour that Never Was in the use of a dentist, which is bound to cause a sensation of at least discomfort if not fear, in any number of people. I feel this Champions episode is unusual in its all-out use of technology, which is needless to say trumped by the Champions' super powers. It is unusual to find such technology in this show. If the language of props is to be understood, Steed's books are displayed to bes

The Champions: Project Zero

Another great favourite Champions episode of mine, this one, & once again one that gets very close to The Avengers' formula of diabolical masterminds infiltrating the Establishment. It also draws on the feel of the real history underlying The Prisoner. The reason the research establishment feels so real is that we know there were secret government establishments based in Scotland after World War II, & the inmates were often there because they were a risk or were at risk, so could not leave. The pre-titles prologue is strongly Prisoner-influenced. It must be possible to think of a village post-Prisoner without The Village's influence, but this sequence clearly draws on & parodies it, since the man wants to ring the authorities urgently. The fact he goes into the village shop is a Prisoner reference, & the fact the shopkeeper is a law unto himself is, too. The Prisoner is further drawn on in the sequences where a sound torture technique is used to get informa

The Champions: The Mission

I think this may be one of my favourite episodes of The Champions, not least because of the feat of speed displayed at the beginning catching up with a van. There is some seriously strong acting ability here - I wonder whether 'alcoholic homeless person' is a stock character at drama school, but some actors get the feeling of fragility just right, as Harry Towb does here. There are some of the sixties recurring faces here as well, unfortunately I did find it distracting here, working out just which episodes of which shows I've seen them in. Anthony Bate is superb as the doctor, just chilling enough. It would be dangerously easy to spoil the role by giving even the slightest hint that it is not serious, but Bate plays it completely straight. I just wonder whether Steed resents him going off with his books from Stable Mews. I feel the role of the nurse doesn't suite Patricia Haine as well as the role she played in The Avengers' Who's Who - she seemed to relis

The Champions: Shadow of the Panther

I was all prepared not to like this Champions, since it draws heavily on the (usually misunderstood) African diasporic tradition of Vodou. In fact - to get this out of the way - it's not really about it at all, it's all a cover. The only thing it gets really wrong is to refer to the Spirits as gods - they're not, it's actually monotheistic. Rant over. Actually the vodou thing is handled with an incredible sureness, that means it isn't overdone in an attempt to instil fear. I think it's the fact that the lift is involved, that you see people going into the lift & emerging apparently zombies, gives it a lightness it wouldn't otherwise have. I suppose technically the whole vodou element is a red herring, because even that's a front. Everything is a front in this one, & vodou makes a good one because people will either dismiss it or be frightened of it. The effect on the people is caused by plain hypnotism: in most series this would seem a bit e

The Champions: The Night People

Some may disagree with me about this (I wouldn't go to the stake for this opinion) but I would like to call this a Champions show set in Avengerland. I don't literally mean the countryside round the Borhamwood studios, but even though its location is Cornwall it's actually set in an England of decayed gentry, frightening locals & megalomaniac plans hidden under the - naturally completely unconvincing - cover of Cornish witchcraft. This is exactly the sort of cast found in later Avengers episodes! There are even shades of the Avengers in the false replacement for Sharron McReady. Several 60s regular actors in this episode: my favourite is Trennick, played by Terence Alexander. It isn't so overdone here, but I love him in ex-RAF mode in the Avengers episode The Town of No Return. I previously associated him too much with Charlie Hungerford in Bergerac, a character with whom I had no naturally affinity. I had no idea the poor man died of Parkinsons's Disease

The Champions: The Body Snatchers

The great & glad news is that I've ordered a single disc of the last episode of The Prisoner so will soon be able properly to finish my survey with an eye to whether John Drake is Number 6. Since my last post I've been watching mainly The Professionals, I think as a natural antidote to the weirdness of The Prisoner, but it's back without a pause into weird shit territory with this episode of The Champions. In fact, a friend originally recommended The Champions to me, saying I would like it because it's weird! On the surface the plot of this one is fairly typical of 60s eccentric TV shows - megalomaniac wants to sell us out to 'the opposition' - but here with the added touch of General Patterson's body in suspended animation being held hostage. Definite shades of The Avengers episode Split! This was a definite 60s preoccupation, the process being new & famously used at the time to preserve Walt Disney. Another visual reminiscent of other 60s seri

The Prisoner: Once Upon A Time

This is another of my favourite episodes of The Prisoner: I love the long-drawn-out interrogation of Drake, which he turns on its head. Unfortunately it does little to confirm the identification of Number 6 with John Drake which is what I am (trying to) concentrate on in this run through The Prisoner, except in one aspect. During Drake's long conversation with Number 2 he says that he knows too much about Number 2. The point is that he is actually behind bars as he says it, indicating that he knows too much to be let out. This confirms to my mind tge principle that The Village was created to contain people who knew too much. Significantly when Drake shuts Number 2 in a cage, the butler immediately switches sides. This is immediately preceded by an exchange where Drake tells Number 2 that he is not the boss, Number 1 is the boss. That he then locks up Number 2 & the butler defers to him indicates that he is himself Number 1. Yes, we all know this, but from a point of view o

The Prisoner: The Girl Who Was Death

I commented in my last post on The Prisoner that from here on I thought the series would be less capable of being understood in terms of Number 6 as John Drake, the agent who resigned to investigate his brainchild Village. I especially thought that of this episode, but I've been obliged radically to reconsider that view; I knew blogging about TV would get me thinking about it. I've always thought that late 60s weirdness infiltrated The Prisoner towards the end of the series, & to be frank I think I've always assumed - as a result of not paying enough attention - that the production team got more & more off their heads as it went on, smoked too much weed, & set out to find themselves, resulting in the discovery of who Number 1 is. How relieved, then, I am to find that this episode can be understood in terms of Number 6 = Drake. The bedtime story he is telling the children is plainly the story of some of his exploits on active service as Danger Man. In fact t

The Prisoner: Living in Harmony

This is going to be a brief post for two reasons. Firstly, this episode doesn't add anything at all to the debate whether Number 6 is John Drake or not. Secondly, I'm afraid I don't really have much of a take on this one that hasn't already been said endlessly by everyone. Except for this one thing - is it not obvious to everyone else, as it is to me, that The Kid is actually The Butler? The silence & the top hat convince me of this. Another reason for passing over this one so fast is I want to rush on to the next, which happens to be one of my all-time favourites. This episode can be read as a commentary on the Vietnam war, of course. Kanner is absolutely superb, no really, superb as The Kid, chilling beyond belief. Sadly for my conviction that Number 6 is John Drake, I feel for the rest of the series the identification will become unsupportable. With George Markstein gone, the series goes in the direction McGoohan wanted it to. ------------------

The Prisoner: Do Not Forsake Me, Oh My Darling

There is loads of meat on the bones of this episode, no wonder it it so extensively chewed over by the fans. In fact there might be more than I can deal with, so I'm forcing myself to stick to my intention in this run through The Prisoner, so shall try to at least cover whether Number 6 can be identified with John Drake in Danger Man. Of course I'll be wanting to talk about anything else that takes my fancy in this episode, but I think I shall try to avoid the substantial changes from the original script. Suffice to say this episode was originally intended to be placed in the aborted second series of The Prisoner, & is said to be a fairly good example of what the series would have been like. Hypothetically Drake/Number 6 would have been sent on missions outside The Village. I can't make up my mind whether this would make the whole premise of the show fall apart. Whoever he is Number 6 is not kindly disposed towards The Village authorities, & is not open to bein

The Avengers: Split!

This is the second Avengers episode I'm looking at in preparation for the next episode of The Prisoner, since it reminded me that Split uses the personality/mind swap technique, although in a quite different way to Who's Who. I'm sure I remember seeing this episode on VHS with the standard Series 6 titles, but instead on my DVDs it has some alternative titles, very sixties. Apparently, according to the commentary, made for the American market. This is also apparently a Mrs Peel script reused, although rumour has it it was filmed while the Mrs Peel series was still being filmed. I think this is the first Linda Thorson Avengers I've written about. She seems to divide critics & fans very deeply. It's nothing to me, personally if I had to pick a favourite Avengers girl, Mrs Gale would be my choice. The irony is, of course that this series best exemplifies the Avengers 'thing': when you think of what the Avengers is, it's often a Linda Thorson ep

The Avengers: Who's Who?

Can you detect a pattern emerging here, that before I do another episode of The Prisoner I do some other things that are related, at least in the strange way my brain relates things, to the next Prisoner episode? In this case my brain isn't half as strange as the ones in this Avengers episode, where personalities are swapped so that agents of a foreign power can kill their way through our security network, with nobody suspecting them, since they look like Steed & Mrs Peel. Reading around this Avengers episode I realise that I've never fully appreciated it, probably because it is definitely one of the more light-hearted ones. But I'll have to add it to my list of episodes that reference feature films, in this case The Ipcress File (1965). I didn't spot this because I haven't watched it (derp), but it references visuals & plot elements: 'A top scientist called Radcliffe is kidnapped and his security escort killed. Harry Palmer, a British Army serg

Columbo: Dagger of the Mind

I bought two series of Columbo (from a charity shop, they didn't cost much), wanting to see the episodes in which Patrick McGoohan plays the baddie, in the certain knowledge that the episodes in question were in the first & second series. Of course they're not but I've been watching them anyway. I am perhaps unfairly biased against Columbo, having been forced to watch it as a child because my mother had a pash for Peter Falk. Friends were forbidden to watch Tiswas but I had to because my father had a thing for Sally James, & similarly the Dukes of Hazzard because of Daisy Dukes in the quicksand. I liked Grange Hill, myself, & to this date associate a London accent with everything sophisticated, rebellious & grown up. All of this is by the by, of course. I've been watching the Columbo episodes though, & on the whole I don't really take to them, but this one catches my eye for two reasons: the first is it has my beloved Honor Blackman playing

The Prisoner: A Change of Mind

This episode comes as a welcome relief to me after It's Your Funeral. Things actually happen in this one to develop our understanding of The Village & Drake: it's just a pity very little happens (at least superficially) a propos the Drake/Number 6 identification that is the main point of this run-through of The Prisoner. For me the first point of this episode remains (perhaps as a hangover from It's Your Funeral) that nothing in The Village is real. The course of 'unmutualism' treatment to which Drake is subjected, then the 'social conversion' to which he is supposed to be subjected, is plainly set up & Drake knows it. His demeanour throughout is one of a man who knows that the threatened action is not actually going to happen. The only real dangers he faces - & acts as if he is facing real dangers - are the three occasions in this episode where Villagers subject him to physical violence. Since the ultimate threat (lobotomy) is not real, the

The Prisoner: It's Your Funeral

It may seem as if I've taken a lengthy break from this run-through of The Prisoner, which is based on the approach that Number 2 is actually John Drake, the star of Danger Man. I examined a couple of episodes of Danger Man, because they featured the actor Martin Miller, who also features in this episode of The Prisoner. My thesis was that his use & reuse was deliberate (as was that of Peter Bowles in A, B, & C), since The Prisoner is not one of those 1960s series where the same actors keep reappearing in different roles, & his reuse was intended to signify the same person, appearing in different guises. My theory is that he could well be an agent of possibly another Nato power, who also ends up in The Village. My pet theory aside, The Village authorities have clearly decided they've got to get the information out of Drake, so set him up big time. Time scales are mentioned, & the powers behind The Village are clearly impatient for his information, as part of