"A secret agent resigns, then wakes up to find himself imprisoned in "The Village"... a bizarre community with a cheery veneer, but an underbelly of mystery and threat. All occupants of the Village have numbers instead of names, with our secret agent forced to accept the mantle of Number Six."

I was first introduced to this series by one of my college roommates, back in the days when we not only had to rent the tapes but the player, too. I did not make it though the entire series at that time, but I did complete a subscription through Columbia House some years later. The first thing I learned was that the order in which the episodes were presented was not necessarily the best order in which to watch them. In fact, "episode order debate" is a popular topic of discussion among aficionados of the show. There is production order and original broadcast order as well as several others as listed here

Back when we were first married, Tracy bought "Set 1" of the A&E collection, which took pains to explain the order which they chose. I was impressed, but I told her I already owned the entire series on VHS. (Back then I was still buying an equal number of VHS as I was DVDs, just as, decades earlier, I was still buying an equal number of records on vinyl as I was on CD.) That was a mistake, but luckily that site I linked above reproduces the "A&E" order, which is also endorsed by 6 of 1, The Prisoner Appreciation Society. That's the order I'm going to go with and see if I agree.

EDIT: I have now determined my own viewing order, which is slightly different from A&E and AVC, the two main lists I had been consulting. The discussion follows the A&E order, but the list directly below reflects my personal favorite viewing order. 

More recently, Big Finish has brought The Prisoner to audio with a series of adaptations as well as original episodes released in three sets. When set two was released I listened to set one a second time, but I have yet to listen to set three. Like the TV series before it, the audio series brings the story to a definite conclusion, but I've been reluctant to listen to it because I so like the ending I've thought of myself. After I re-familiarize myself with the television episodes, I plan to listen to the first audio set a third time, the second for a second, and the third for a first. Here is the order I plan to follow...


1. Arrival

2. Checkmate

3. Dance of the Dead

4. Free For All

5. The Chimes of Big Ben

6. A, B & C

7. The Schizoid Man

8. The General

9. Many Happy Returns

10. It's Your Funeral

11. A Change of Mind

12. Hammer Into Anvil

13. Do Not Forsake Me Oh My Darling

14. Living in Harmony

15. The Girl Who Was Death

16. Once Upon a Time

17. Fall Out


1.1. Departure & Arrival

1.2. The Schizoid Man

1.3. Your Beautiful Village

1.4. The Chimes of Big Ben

2.1. I Met a Man Today

2.2. Project Six

2.3. Hammer Into Anvil

2.4. Living in Harmony

3.1. Free for All

3.2. The Girl Who Was Death

3.3. The Seltzman Connection

3.4 No One Will Know

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That is an interesting question.


"When a young female villager commits suicide after an interrogation by #2, #6 is determined to avenge her death."

COMMENTARY: The particularly sadistic #2 of this episode (he carries a sword/cane) drives #73 to suicide with #6 as witness.He then sets about a series mind games (too numerous to mention here) designed to turn #2 into a raving paranoid. 

After watching this episode for the first time I memorized the phrase "Du musst ambose oder hammer sein," but in 35 years I've never been able to work it into everyday conversation. Much more useful was that this episode introduced me to Bizet's L'Arlesienne. Other cultural touchstones: there is a fight scene while Vivaldi is playing in the background used to great effect (as Kubrik did in A Clockwork Orange) and also phrase in Spanish (meaning "There is more harm in the Village than is dreamt of"). 

EPISODE ORDER: Whereas #6 certainly scored his share of minor victories against the Village prior to "Many Happy Returns," I see that episode as a turning point. both A&E and AVC place it dead center on their respective lists. I have even heard that "Many Happy Returns" was at one point being considered for the opening episode of a potential season two. In any case, in "Hammer Into Anvil" #6 is in control throughout the entire episode. 

CONTINUITY: The game "Kosho" is shown for the second time; the red phone is again used to communicate with #2's superior and the yellow with the supervisor; as in previous episodes, #2's superiors are refered to as "our masters" (plural). 

VILLAGE: The general store is prominently featured in this episode for the first time in a while. In the actual Portmerion Village, that building is an art shop. (We bought a watercolor of Portmerion there.) #6's place is the gift shop, otherwise virtually everyone who vacationed at Portmerion would want to stay there. Patrick McGoohan and his family stayed at one particular cottage, and for that reason that one is in high demand. the "Town Hall"  is a restaurant and "The Old Folks Home" is the hotel. the gift shop sold "Village" jackets, but they didn't have one in my size. the one thing I regret not buying is a pair of those wooden sunglasses with the slits in them. (I could probably pick up a pair online.) 


The first season of The Prisoner was originally intended to be 13 episodes. After those episodes were completed, word came that they were granted another four to wrap things up but there would be no second season. For many years I thought that the original slate of episodes comprised those I have covered so far, plus "Do Not Forsake Me Oh My Darling." I have only recently come to realize that the first 13 included the penultimate episode, "Once Upon a Time,"  which was originally intended to be a cliffhanger for the first season. That makes "Do Not Forsake Me..." one of the last four. 


"#6's mind is placed inside the body of another man, and only Professor seltzman can change it back. But where is the professor, and will #6 find him before the Village or his former bosses do?"

COMMENTARY: The one thing I took from the Cecil Adams article that Kelvin linked last week is that Patrick McGoohan and George Markstein were vying for creative control. Adams asserted that Markstein pushed to make the episodes "fairly rational," whereas McGoohan leaned toward "two-bit" realism. That assertion is borne out in the final four episodes. 

EPISODE ORDER: After the shooting of the 13th episode wrapped, Patrick McGoohan left for the United States to film a movie (Ice Station Zebra, as any episode guide will tell you). It was at that point word came that four more episodes would be allowed and that that would be it. McGoohan was unavailable, so a story in which #6's mind was transferred to someone else's body was used. It is the Village's most ambitious and desperate ploy since "Many Happy returns," as incredible as "A, B & C" or "The Schizoid Man." As fantastic as "Do Not Forsake Me..." is, it is still fairly straightforward, which is why I had always assumed it was part of the original 13. From here on out, with McGoohan's return, the series gets increasingly trippy.

CONTINUITY: In another body, #6 is again "released" from the Village. This time he wakes up in his London flat... and promptly discovers he has a new face! We also learn that he has a hitherto unknown fiance, Janet Portland, the daughter of his former boss, Sit Charles Portland. Janet arrives at his flat, after he's been missing for a year, simply because she saw his Lotus parked outside, thereby raising the question why she didn't drop by when Mrs. Butterworth was living there ("Many Happy Returns"). 

#6 goes to see Sir Charles, but apparently mentions noting about Thorpe or the Colonel ("James") or Fotheringay or Colonel J. or anything. Why didn't the Colonel send out a second search plane when the first failed to return? The Village is obviously in control of #6's former flat. Mrs. Butterworth (one of the Village's #2's) lived there for a time, and #6 was just returned there in his new body. Why doesn't Sir Charles look into that? Those are just some of the many questions this series leaves unanswered. 

Looking ahead to the Big Finish audios, it looks as if they pplan to fleash out "The Seltzman Connection."

This episode does seem to indicate, I must admit, that there is a "#1" who is a man (or woman). 


#2 to his aide (referring to the mind transfer technique): "Imagine the power we would have if the spy we returned had the mind of our choosing. We could break the security of any nation.


"In a Wild West setting, #6 resigns his job as sheriff, but cannot escapr from the town of Harmony and learns that he needs to kill to survive."

TITLE: Another title with a double meaning. The original title was "Do Not Forsake Me Oh My Darling." "Living in Harmony" is a far better one, but the original title was then given to the previous episode which doesn't make much sense.

COMMENTARY: A unique episode in that it seems to take place in America's Old West; even the opening credit sequence was changed to reflect that. In reality, of course, it reflects a highly radical experimental procedure instituted by an increasingly desperate Village and played out in an elaborate fake town. this episode's #2 plays The Judge in the Old west scenario, and his assistant, #8, plays a mute, psychotic gunslinger called "The Kid." (He has a brief cameo in the next episode, and plays #48 in the series finale.)

EPISODE ORDER: For some reason, AVC slots "Living in Harmony" (#15 in production, #12 aired) before "Do Not Forsake..." (#14 in production, #9 aired).


"#6 is in disguise, hot on the heels of a mad scientist hell-bent on destroying London, but on his tail at every turn is a mysterious girl who wants him dead."

TITLE: A better title for this one would have been "Once Upon a Time" (or, better still, "The Shark Which Was Jumped").

COMMENTARY: Another unique episode which is actually a "fairy tale" told to the Village children by #6. this episode's #2 (who bears a striking resemblance to Napoleon) assigned #6 to childcare duty hoping he would make a slip in the Village's lamest ploy to date. #2's assistant (who bears a striking resemblance to Ivanka Trump) is the titular "Girl Who Was Death."

EPISODE ORDER: There is no longer any dispute from here on out.


"#6 is regressed back into his childhood and must face the ultimate test of Degree Absolute against a familiar #2, with freedom for the winner and death for the loser."

TITLE: The episode's original title, "Degree Absolute," would have been much better than the one chosen.

COMMENTARY: This episode is based loosely (some would say very loosely) on Shakespeare's "Seven Ages of Man" from As You Like It. It is difficult to believe that this was one of the first sixe episodes filmed (beacuse it is so different from the other five), but, after the failures of the two previous #2s, it makes sense that they would try something so radical and desperate. The extremely dangerous psychological experiment will take an entire week, and will end with the death of either #2 or #6. 

At the end, #2 does, in fact, die (but don't worry; he's resuscitated next episode). Then the supervisor appears and ushers #6 to the presence of #1. I could see this being a season finale (as it was originally intended to be), and it's interesting to consider what a second season might have been like.

NOTABLE DIALOGUE: #2: I am a good man... I was a good man. But if you get him, he will be better.


"#6 has earned the right to be an individual and to come face to face with #1, but with freedom within his grasp, is all as it seems?"

When my college roommate first introduced me to The Prisoner, he explained that, because they knew in advance the show was coming to an end, they had the opportunity to write a proper last episode with a true ending. That remains to be seen but, after spending years wondering whether that group of castaways were ever rescued from that island or that group of space castaways ever made to to Alpha Centauri, the very idea of an ending appealed to me. 


I take my interpretation from "Shattered Visage," the graphic novel by dean Motter: "The man who would not bend simply broke." That's right, he was driven insane, and "Fall Out" is an hallucination that takes place entirely in #6's own broken mind. This idea hearkens back to the following but of dialogue from "The Chimes of Big Ben" (the first appearance of this particular #2, BTW)"

"He doesn't even bend."

"That's why he'll break."

Incidentally, I watched this episode immediately after the impeachment hearings comcluded, and I'm still trying to decide which was more surreal.

NEXT: "WHO IS NUMBER ONE?" - I'll give you my answer. 

When I posted that back on February 13, I was jazzed to put forth my theory of who runs the village. I wanted to get it down before I listened to Big Finish's version. I had planned to use "Who Is Number One?" as a sort of break between the television and the audio series. But then I lost my internet for over a week and my purpose cooled. Now I am jazzed to begin listening to the audio series for the third/second/first time. In the meantime, I took my break by re-reading The Prisoner by Thomas M. Disch (about half of it so far, anyway).

In 1967, Disch wrote an original novel based on the the TV series. It was re-released in 2001, and that's when I read it for the first time. I had been expecting an adaptation of the TV series, but it wasn't that. I thought at the time that it was the author's own "take" on the 17 episodes, "translated" into novel form. But it wasn't that. there are several key differences between the TV and the novel. First, is isn't gassed in his London flat to awaken in the Village; rather, he arrives by train. He is gassed on an empty public train and awakens as the train he has been transferred to is pulling into the Village. Rather than waking up in what he thinks is his flat, he sees a small house identical to one he had been thinking of buying. Also, there is a church. Because of these differences, I'm not even sure this is the same Village as shown on television.

Several years later, I saw "another" Prisoner novel in the bookstore, which I bought out of curiosity. I took it home and began reading, only to discover that it was a new printing of the same novel I had read a few years before but in a different trade dress. I returned the duplicate but decided to read it again, anyway. the second time through I was aware that it was not, in fact, an adaptation, but a sequel, a continuation. The Prisoner had been returned to his former life with all memories of his time in the Village wiped from his memory. 

Now he's back (or perhaps in another Village). This story begins in London with his fiance (Liora) and shows more of his life before he is abducted (for a second time). At one point, he finds a secret room beneath the Village church and discovers 17 film canisters all with his number. These films are, more of less, the episodes of the TV series! I must admit, I am enjoying this book more the third time through than I did the first two, now that I have a better idea of what to expect. I do remember who #1 is revealed to be (it's not #6 himself), but not the specific circumstances. 

Now that my internet is back up, I hope to start listening to the Big Finish version tomorrow. So far, I haven't been providing much in the way of episode summaries because I was assuming anyone reading this thread would have a t least a passing familiarity with the TV series. But i suspect no one reading this is familiar with the audios, so I will be providing more in the way of episode descriptions. (Even the adaptations are somewhat different from their televised counterparts, IIRC.) I'll continue working my way through the novel, too, and by the time I get to the end of this discussion I will reveal my thoughts as to who runs the Village. 

I read that series -- it originally was a four-issue prestige format book -- but not being familiar with the show, it didn't mean anything to me. I guess expecting a book to still be accessible to the uninitiated was too much to ask.

"I read that series... but not being familiar with the show, it didn't mean anything to me."

I'm sorry. I would never recommend that series to anyone not familiar with the TV show. (You might want to steer clear of the four-issue mini-series published by titan comics in 2018 as well.) Also, before moving on to the audio series, I have changed my mind about discussing...


First, I think the question is irrelevant. I don't think even Patrick McGoohan knew (or cared) what "Number One" was. Back at the beginning of this discussion, I quoted him describing The Prisoner as "an allegorical conundrum for people to interpret for themselves" and I see no reason to disbelieve him. But I, along with many other fans of the show, like my fiction to make sense, to be built upon its own consistent frame of logic. I think a much more pertinent question is "Who runs The Village?"

I see the secret organization which would become The Village as arising from a loose affiliation of scientists and espionage agents of many nations after world War II. Whereas their original goal was the betterment of mankind, their methods have become increasingly unethical and amoral over time until the cliche "the end justifies the means" came to apply. Their motto would be something along the lines of "Science in Pursuit of Excellence"... not Truth, not Justice, not Knowledge... just Excellence. They will conduct research on behalf of any nation, and provide their services to any nation... providing the price is right. the population of The Village comprises former spies, heads of state, scientists conducting research, agents in training and menial workers... some there voluntarily, others not. 

Those elected or appointed to "The Council" (the inner circle of The Village) are immediately granted the rank of "Number Two," signifying at once that all are equal and no one individual is in charge... at least not permanently. They rotate through the leadership position at a rate set forth in their bylaws. The "leader" is temporarily granted the ranks of "Number One"; the administrator publicly retains his rank of "Number Two"; there may even be as many as three other rotating positions as we have never seen Numbers Three through Five. "Village Administrator" may have at one time been a permanent position (which would account from the premise behind "It's Your Funeral"). The bylaws would also set forth provisions under which certain Number Twos may return to the position "out of order" (as in "The General" and "Once Upon a Time/Fall Out"). It is the international make-up of The Village which accounts for why #2 said "au revoir" and Cobb said "auf weidersehen" at the end of "Arrival."

But which side authorized The village to abduct the former agent ZM-73? I believe it was his own organization... or at least someone within his own organization. Obviously, Cobb and Fotheringay and Colonel J. and (AFAIAC) Thorpe ("Many Happy Returns" and "Hammer Into Anvil") have been suborned by The Village and are playing both ends against the middle. [Incidentally, both Thomas Disch (The Prisoner novel) and Nicholas Briggs (Big Finish) agree with me on that point.] Furthermore, I believe that Mrs. Butterworth ("Many Happy Returns") is the same woman from Madame Engadine's party ("A, B & C"). The Chessmaster ("Checkmate") says, "In time, most of us join the enemy--against ourselves." Even one of the #2s admits (in "Fall Out") that he himself was abducted an taken to The Village in much the same manner as #6.

The main thrust of The Village, so far as Number Six is concerned, is to find out why he resigned. This is not a ruse as multiple #2s and their assistants discuss that specific goal away from #6s presence. If a foreign government had authorized the abduction of former agent ZM-73, they would be much more interested in what he knew rather than why he resigned

In "Fall Out," #6 confronts the robed, hooded masked figure of #1 face-to-face and rips off his mask only to reveal... his own face underneath. Some have taken this to mean that #6 himself is #1, but I don't buy it. In the first place, that is far too literal of an interpretation for such a trippy episode. also, from what we have learned of #6, he just doesn't have the skill-set (or the personality or temperament) to be #1. But this theory was brought up in discussion on the previous version of this board and I promised I would watch the series with this theory in mind the next time I watched it start to finish.

As best I remember, the idea goes something like this (please correct me if I'm wrong): ZM-73 had already been suborned by The village before the series began (if not as #1, then at least as an ally). In order to test The Village's security, he faked his resignation and had all knowledge of The village wiped from his memory. (Given the nature of the show, this idea is not all that far-fetched.) But I don't think that's that case. for one thing, his Observer (from "Dance of the Dead") tells him that The village has been arounf for "a long time." I would think The Village's security would have been tested long since, but even more telling is the private dialogue between many of the #2s and their respective assistants in multiple episodes. As I have already indicated, they really are trying to find out why he resigned. but if it's evidence I'm looking for, I need go back no further than "Once Upon a time" in which #2 says: "I am a good man... I was a good man. But if you get him, he will be better." The phrase "IF you get him" clearly indicates that they don't "have" him yet. 

In summary, I believe that The Village is run by an international conglomerate of super-scientists. In "Free for All," #2 says "If you win, #1 will no longer be a mystery to you... if you know what I mean," which indicates (to me, anyway) that there's something hinky about the whole concept. There are several other examples, but clearly several #2s are shown speaking directly to a superior over the telephone, though. My explanation accounts for a scenario in which there is no single individual who serves as "Number One."

My assumption had always been that The Village was set up by the British government to handle especially challenging situations involving members of the military and/or secret service. At a certain point a decision would then be made whether those brought into The Village would be allowed to re-enter society or simply disappear. Your interpretation of an international group operating outside of any sanctioning government makes a lot of sense. The X Files had a  similar set up with The Syndicate which was assembled following World War ll to deal with the alien presence on Earth.

And by the way welcome back, Jeff !

 In 1967, I returned home after 3 years of electronic intel-gathering of the USSR. I jumped on PRISONER, and needless to say, identified with #6.

 The intel "community" is a mindset forever. If you were not a member, you don't understand.

  But PRISONER helped.


My thought was that scientists and other thinkers don't have the power structure or dual nature to manage (run) an operation like the Village. In the episodes, they clearly take orders, often over their scientific objections. I agree with the multiple opinions of people within governments, or even one government running things. There are always people who think they should have more power, would organize better, know more than their superiors, who pull the strings behind the scenes. The example of the X-Files was great. The Cigarette Smoking Man is a perfect example of this kind of shadow power. 

"Your interpretation of an international group operating outside of any sanctioning government makes a lot of sense."

Thenk yew.

"And by the way welcome back, Jeff !"

It's good to be back! 

By the way, I don't often mention when things like this happen but, as I was typing up that post yesterday I got most of the way, then accidentally deleted it. I immediately proceeded to write the whole thing again. I was actually more pleased with my second draft but, when I got to the very last sentence, I made the same mistake and deleted the entire thing before posting. It was at exactly that time I would have normally left for my weekly trek to my LCS, but I wanted to get it posted so I wrote the entire thing for a third time! I'm not sure how long I had been working on that post before that, but it took me an hour and 10 minutes to re-write it again. I'm not nearly as happy with my third draft as I was with my second, but I decided to let it stand. I'm not really pleased with the fourth paragraph. I started to write about who was behind the abduction of #6, and ended up conflating it with another paragraph from the previous draft about his former colleges we know to have switched sides. Ugh.

"My thought was that scientists and other thinkers don't have the power structure or dual nature to manage (run) an operation like the Village."

I don't disagree. That's why I wrote that the village arose "from a loose affiliation of scientists and espionage agents."  The way I see it, the scientists were dismayed by the development of the atomic bomb and were fearful of scientific progress running amok (as symbolized on the show by the pennyfarthing bicycle). The scientists would have originally worked with the secret service agents they would have met during the war, but over the years they would have lost control. By 1967, the scientists were obviously subservient to the spies. Perhaps a better motto for the group, rather than "Science in Pursuit of Excellence" would be "Science in Pursuit of Control" or "Science in Pursuit of Power" (whatever the Latin translation would be). 

This is the kind of discussion I am hoping for. I invite anyone reading this to poke holes in my theory. It helps me to focus and refine it.

This sounds a bit like the back-story of that Manhunter comic you sent me.

Jeff of Earth-J said:

"My thought was that scientists and other thinkers don't have the power structure or dual nature to manage (run) an operation like the Village."

I don't disagree. That's why I wrote that the village arose "from a loose affiliation of scientists and espionage agents."  The way I see it, the scientists were dismayed by the development of the atomic bomb and were fearful of scientific progress running amok (as symbolized on the show by the pennyfarthing bicycle). The scientists would have originally worked with the secret service agents they would have met during the war, but over the years they would have lost control. By 1967, the scientists were obviously subservient to the spies. Perhaps a better motto for the group, rather than "Science in Pursuit of Excellence" would be "Science in Pursuit of Control" or "Science in Pursuit of Power" (whatever the Latin translation would be). 

This is the kind of discussion I am hoping for. I invite anyone reading this to poke holes in my theory. It helps me to focus and refine it.

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