The Prisoner Episodes Paired as Films: Checkmate and Free for All. Part 2 - Structure and Lewis Carroll References

The introduction to this series of posts can be found here.

This post is a continuation of the discussion I started in my last post about the episodes Checkmate and Free for All, as they were released joined together to make a film. In my last post I talked about the theme of these episodes and the whole film, and this post is about the structure of the two episodes put together.

A Chess game
B Talk about black/white and escaping
C Psychiatric assessment
D1 Given Number 8 as his monitor, who is also tricked
E Rejects her, takes her pendant and gets ready an escape attempt with others
Attempts escape
F Brought back to the village
A Introduces the theme of the election which is just as Alice in Wonderland as the chess game
B Number 2 says he wants to distinguish the guards from the prisoners
D2 Given Number 58 for the election period, but she is in on the deception
Dissolution of outgoing council
Spins round and goes down through the floor into a corridor
C Tested in the labour exchange by the man from the civil service
E Attempts to escape
The therapy zone: drugged
Wins the election
E He tries to tell people they are free to go and tries to escape
F Number 58 is revealed to be the new Number 2

It is difficult to establish a clear structural equivalence although key features of the two episodes obviously mirror each other: the attachment of Number 8 and Number 58 to Number 6; the election equates to the chess game and the psychiatric assessment in Checkmates equates to the testing in the labour exchange in Free for All. As I go through these posts I am coming to a conclusion about the structure that while it is clear there was a plan for the episodes of The Prisoner to be full length films, it is clear that as written they are written as individual episodes which when put back to back, have certain overarching themes which give a repeat of the structure because it will naturally repeat the key themes of the show.

To put it bluntly, these episodes were clearly not written as a film and cut up, because you would then have a single structure across the whole film rather than the repetition I have found in every pair so far.

In the case of Checkmate and Free for All I think there is another possible reference to Lewis Carroll's books about Alice and her adventures in wonderland, namely the way Number 6 falls down from the Village council and lands in a tunnel, which is very reminiscent of Alice falling down a long hole and landing in a corridor after going down the rabbit hole, in this passage:

'The rabbit-hole went straight on like a tunnel for some way and then dipped suddenly down, so suddenly that Alice had not a moment to think about stopping herself before she found herself falling down what seemed to be a very deep well.

'Either the well was very deep, or she fell very slowly, for she had plenty of time, as she went down, to look about her. First, she tried to make out what she was coming to, but it was too dark to see anything; then she looked at the sides of the well and noticed that they were filled with cupboards and book-shelves; here and there she saw maps and pictures hung upon pegs. She took down a jar from one of the shelves as she passed. It was labeled "ORANGE MARMALADE," but, to her great disappointment, it was empty; she did not like to drop the jar, so managed to put it into one of the cupboards as she fell past it.

'Down, down, down! Would the fall never come to an end? There was nothing else to do, so Alice soon began talking to herself. "Dinah'll miss me very much to-night, I should think!" (Dinah was the cat.) "I hope they'll remember her saucer of milk at tea-time. Dinah, my dear, I wish you were down here with me!" Alice felt that she was dozing off, when suddenly, thump! thump! down she came upon a heap of sticks and dry leaves, and the fall was over.

'Alice was not a bit hurt, and she jumped up in a moment. She looked up,but it was all dark overhead; before her was another long passage and the White Rabbit was still in sight, hurrying down it. There was not a moment to be lost. Away went Alice like the wind and was just in time to hear it say, as it turned a corner, "Oh, my ears and whiskers, how late it's getting!"' (Lewis Carroll: Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, Chapter 1, Down the Rabbit Hole)

Perhaps it is more accurate to say that the reference is reminiscent since Number 6's fall is a hugely truncated version of Alice's, but I've given the whole passage to get in the cat and surely nobody reading this will need reminding that the cat in The Prisoner also tends to appear at moments of particular weirdness or significance?

There is another possible suggested connection between the two episodes and Through the Looking Glass in that if Checkmate echoes the chess game, Number 6 being elected could be taken to echo the way Alice becomes a queen at the end of the book.

I might revisit the question of The Prisoner and Alice at some point, because there may be other possible points of reference. After all the Village officisls wear top hats and when the Mad Hatter is a Prisoner he gets to keep his top hat!

So to summarise: the two episodes put together show a repeated structure just like two separate episodes rather than one single film script, and the reference to Alice in Wonderland/Through the Looking Glass in the chess scene is possibly reflected in other references even in these two episodes and also in the rest of the series.

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:

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