...a blog by Richard Flowers

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Day 2937: BCNU


Nevermore an Orange Alert; Mr Patrick McGoohan has finally left the Village.

Mr McGoohan was one of those legendary iconic figures, like Sir Christopher Lee or Dame Patrick Macnee, someone you just expect to go on forever, and the World is a profoundly poorer place for no longer having him in it.

We celebrated his life by watching the Prisoner episode: "Dance of the Dead". It just seemed appropriate.

The Prisoner isn't really about the story. It's not for understanding; it's for THINKING ABOUT. And it asks some pretty difficult questions about the important things like DEMOCRACY and FREEDOM and RULES.

There are seventeen episodes of The Prisoner, ranging from fairly perplexing to downright dribbling, and from spy-a-rama to Western to Fairy Story, but there are FOUR of them that are the heart of it:

"Arrival", the series prospectus or possibly just the longest possible version of the famous title sequence; "Dance of the Dead"; "Free for All"; and "Once Upon a Time".

There IS a mundane explanation, an "answer" if you like to the question of The Prisoner: why did Agent John Drake resign? If you don't already know, it's… at the bottom of the page*

Or there's the semi-crass "psychological" view that it's all inside Mr McG's head. Not for nothing are the number "1" and the perpendicular pronoun "I" almost identical.

But that's not what is IMPORTANT.

So while this episode's story, as far as it goes, sees Carnival Time in The Village, with the Prisoner allowed to dress in his old suit to go to the ball, only to wind up on trial for breaking the rules and pursued by the mob, it's not ABOUT that. It's about the images along the way, and these are only a few of them:

The Prisoner thinks he can make friends with a cat, the cat who walks by herself, only to learn that she is Number Two's cat.

Slipping out of the Carnival that he has rejected, he borrows a scientific coat as disguise so he can explore the (previously off limits) Town Hall. He thinks he's being very clever but, ooh, he's "putting on a costume" after all.

Asked about the promised cabaret, Number Two replies bluntly: "you're it" (and later the Prisoner is "it" again in a LETHAL game of chase).

And in the trial, the three judges (French revolution style) are Good Queen Bess, Emperor Nero and Napoleon. Cleopatra is a witness. Wondering why only the sympathetic prosecutor, Bo Peep, is not dressed as a monarch, we realise that is fact she is: she's Marie Antoinette, and she's "dressing up".

And escaping from the murderous Villagers (who then merely lose interest in their "justice") the Prisoner thinks he's found the telex machine from Number One. He smashes the machinery to stop it… and then it starts working again. Because you can't smash the machinery of The Village.

"The Prisoner" was very much the signature piece of Mr Patrick McGoohan. It is almost unique, and sometimes very difficult. But, like the grit in the oyster, it makes for a more marvellous World.

Who was Number One?

You were, Number Six. You were.

*But then I would have to shoot you!


1 comment:

Joe Otten said...

John Drake eh? I always thought it a little odd that someone insisting that he wasn't a number, didn't make more effort to tell us his name.