Recently, I have been rewatching the 1960′s British cult classic, The Prisoner. The show, created by and starring Patrick McGoohan, is about a British secret agent who resigns for reasons we aren’t told. (at least at first…or possibly ever. Do we ever learn? That would be telling). He is then gassed in his flat by a sinister man in a top hat. He later wakes up in “The Village” where he is given the new identity of Number Six. Each week the leader of the village, Number Two (usually someone different each week), attempts to get Number Six to say why he resigned. In between, Number Six tries to escape and is menaced by a weather balloon.
The show asks a lot of questions. Who runs the Village? What does everything represent? Are we numbers or are we free people?
When I first watched it in high school, I thought it was deep stuff. Now, primarily due to McGoohan’s hand in the process, it comes across as self important nonsense. Stylistic, mind you. And still interesting. But utter nonsense nonetheless.
The Prisoner has a devoted following and is still being analyzed to this day. So,what I am about to reveal is huge news to Prisoner aficionados. I was recently at a garage sale for a former BBC producer. Don’t worry about who it was or how I got there. Just accept it. I bought a trunk full of random items. Among the contents were a Monty Python bird feeder, a copy of No Exit inexplicably signed by Benny Hill, and a full set of Are You Being Served action figures (still in the box!). But, buried among these treasures were some scripts for The Prisoner written by McGoohan. To my delight, these were scripts to unproduced episodes!
Without delay, following is a synopsis of the lost Prisoner episodes:
1. The Plant
While playing a game of backgammon with a ridiculously mustachioed older prisoner who everyone calls “The Bullywog,” Number Six overhears someone indicate that they have managed to put a plant in Number Two’s office. Six wonders who the plant is, but he dare not ask as this could be a trap! Immediately thereafter, Number Two invites Six to participate in Costume Day, one of the 48 annual masquerade events hosted in The Village each year. Six dresses as an obstetrician, and manages to sneak into Two’s office during the Costume Day celebration, based on information that the plant will be there at that time. When he arrives, he see the plant….an avocado in a pot. Two walks up behind him and says “I hope you enjoy my plant! You see, it’s an actual plant, and not a spy as you were led to believe.” Two laughs maniacally. Closing credits.
2. A Fine Day For An Escape
Six joins the Village Committee on Resources at the invitation of Number Two. The committee is filled people in badger costumes who wear bowlers and say nothing. Using his position as the only speaking member of the Committee, Six requisitions a bunch of logs, a canvas, and some rope, claiming he is going to use it to create a crafts exchange. Shockingly, he actually uses it to build a raft. Six launches the raft under cover of darkness, and gets about a mile off shore when he spots a ship. It is a ship called The Badger. Six boards the boat, only to find it is manned by the Resources Committee. The leader of the Committee removes his badger costume, and reveals herself to be Number Two. As a weather balloon pops out of the sea and attacks Six, she laughs maniacally. Closing credits.
3. The Price Of Information
Number Two summons Six to his office and offers him tea and some eggs, which the wee butler silently wheels in. For the next half hour, Two repeatedly says “I’ll give you three pounds if you tell me why you resigned.” Six refuses. Finally Two gives up and is forced to leave his post in disgrace. The butler gives Two a knowing look. Six says to Two “Be seeing you” as Two dejectedly walks away. Two laughs maniacally for no readily apparent reason. Closing Credits.
4. Shock Therapy
Two is sent to the hospital for supposed routine testing. Upon arrival, the doctor asks him to play a xylophone and build a model of a dairy farm using Tinker Toys. Six refuses. The doctor then gives him a pad of paper and a pen and asks him to write down responses to various sentences, such as “My favorite dinner is______” “I find _____ peaceful,” and “I resigned because________” It is revealed after all the questions are asked, Six has simply drawn obscene doodles on the pad along with a drawing of an ugly goat with the words “Number Two” written beside it. Outraged, the doctor smashes a weird glass thing that appears to have no function. Two gets us to leave. As the door opens, Two enters with a goat. He then laughs maniacally. End credits.
5. He Who Laughs Last
In this episode, Two enters Six’s quarters and just laughs maniacally at him, whatever he does. End credits.
6. London Calling
Six wakes up in his flat in London. He assumes it is a trick. He wanders the streets of London, and talks to people he knows. It appears to be legitimate! Finally Six believes he has escaped. The script was unfinished, but a handwritten note on the last page (presumably by McGoohan) says “And then it all turns out to be a dream or something. Just make sure it is quite symbolic. In any case, it MUST end with Two laughing maniacally before the closing credits. Steven owes me for lunch yesterday.” The last bit is presumed to not be related to the episode.
Maybe, someday, these treasures will be made. Until then, be seeing you! <maniacal laughter>