The Prisoner Episodes Paired as Films: Conclusion
The introduction to this series of posts can be found here.
This is the conclusion of my series of posts about the paired episodes of The Prisoner released edited together as films by Precision Video in the 1980s, and David Fakrikian's ideas about them (article and video linked below).
The fact that these pairs of episodes were released in the way they were (rather than being released as pairs of episodes on one video cassette) raises the curiosity of Prisoner fans because of Andrew Pixley's statement that The Prisoner was intended to be a series of full length TV movies rather than the series of individual episodes it was actually broadcast as. To the best of ny knowledge there is no evidence of which episodes Patrick McGoohan would have paired together and the only statement we have about this from him was that the show could have been done in seven single episodes. My personal conclusion about this is that while this is a fascinating possibility, having now watched the episodes released in this way by Precision I would doubt that they were intended to be films originally and cut up to make individual episodes. The reason I say this is that none of the four pairs of episodes show evidence of a single plot line, but instead all show a structure suggestive that they started off as two episodes and have been edited together. I have also watched some of the other possible pairings suggested in a comment on David Stimpson's blog (again linked below) and they also have the same structure of two episodes with repeat elements suggesting they were intended to be separate episodes. I would conclude then, that while the idea of a series of films may well have existed, what we have as The Prisoner is not them, and I think the episodes were written as individual episodes and edited together by Precision Video for some other reason.
A further indication that the episodes Precision paired together were not intended to go together is that the pairing of The General and The Chimes of Big Ben is particularly poor, creating a major plot confusion by the use the 'The General' to mean a man in the Village and a computer at different times. The fact that this confusion can exist across the whole series may result from the somewhat piecemeal, conflictual way the series was written and produced, but would certainly not indicate these two episodes were once a whole film.
David Fakrikian thinks that when each pair of episodes are put together it gives the whole the same structure as Arrival, since that episode features two Number 2s, the actor being changed towards the end. I disagree with this, because rather than creating the first story - change of number two - second related story structure, when you pair Arrival with any other episode you end up with three Number 2s across the whole. So the episodes can't have been paired to give them the same structure as Arrival, because the plot of Arrival itself messes this plan up.
This is also apparent when you watch the episodes Koroshi and Shinda Shima of Danger Man together: it is clear that they were two separate episodes with the possibility of being edited together as a film (as was frequently done with episodes of 1960s TV shows) built in because of the use of the cult and its symbol, which fits far better in Koroshi but for which there is no apparent need in the second half. Clearly there were two separate criminal gangs here, but they've been given a makeover to try to provide some cohesion, but structurally the whole film is clearly two episodes.
As I watched them a certain rationale in the pairings of Prisoner episodes did become apparent, which was that the first episode was always about the key plot of the series (No 6, resignation, the Village, etc) and the second was always one of the ones which is less about key plot development and more reflective of our society. I particularly appreciated this in the case of The Schizoid Man being placed in this secondary position. I have always tended to see this episode as being rather pointless in terms of information or commentary and could only serve the function of embedding Number 6 in the Village, which is rather against the point of the whole show. However as an episode commenting on compliance, identity, the masks we wear, straight after Arrival which is chock full of conflict and sets the scene, it becomes an interesting reflection on the world Number 6 had been plucked from and his role in it, with the scene already set in Arrival. Incidentally, I think this is another clear case where these two episodes can't have been intended to go together because it means going straight from Arrival to Number 6 suddenly insisting that he is Number 6 and then resisting the idea again for the rest of the show.
David Farkrikian has done a lot of hard work in editing the whole of the Prisoner together into a single film which is available in two parts on his youtube. I haven't yet watched it, although intend to and may post about it although it seems somewhat out of the reach of these posts. As far as I know the edit of the show into a long film which McGoohan is said to have done isn't known to survive so this is the closest we will get.
So my conclusion is that while this is a fascinating idea, I think it unlikely that the episodes of The Prisoner as we have them were written intended to be films, nor that the pairings released by Precision Video were necessarily intended to be paired originally. While there may well have been an intention to release the show as a series of films I think it likely that it was written as individual episodes. I do, however, think that this is an interesting way to watch the show and produces new insights by shows being paired which wouldn't normally be.
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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