"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...

VIDEO EPISODES:

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

AUDIO EPISODES:

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

I hadn't thought of that, but there is definitely cloning going on in The Village. (I'll have more to say about that when I get to the first audio episode, "Departure and Arrival.") Honestly, the comic book organization I think most resembles my Village backstory is Marvel's "Advanced Idea Mechanics" (AIM). 

I still think a case can be made that The Village is a construct of the British Government. After all Number Six must have held a tremendous amount of information in his head and his former employers, before allowing him to re-enter normal society, needed to make sure he wouldn't crack under any circumstances. The Village could have also been used to test the mental resilience of new agents prior to sending them into the field.

I invite further ideas concerning "Who runs The village?" but I am going to move on to the audio series at this point. I'm going to go into a bit more detail here than I did with the television episodes, concentrating on differences between the TV and audio versions in the case of adaptations.

DEPARTURE AND ARRIVAL:

The first thing one notices, even before listening, is that the title has been changed from "Arrival" to "Departure and Arrival." [The first thing one notices after beginning to listen is that the theme music is different. the rights aren't available, but Big Finishe commissioned a score remarkably similar to the original yet different enough to avoid legal issues.] This is because the first episode, in addition to being an adaptation of the first TV episode, goes back a bit to show some of ZM-73's life before he was abducted. The Prisoner was a huge influence on producer Nicholas Briggs, although not as big as Doctor Who. (With only 17 episodes, how could it be?) But you can rest assured that the kind of "haphazard" plotting of the TV series will not be in evidence here. As I have mentioned before, this will be my third time listening to the first set (the first four episodes).

The story is set in 1967 and begins with "Control" discussing agent ZM-73's current mission (referred to as "that Seltzman business") with Danvers. [Incidentally, "Danvers" is the man in the opening credits of the TV show to whom the soon-to-be #6 delivers his letter of resignation. He turns up again in "Many Happy Returns" and is played (on TV) by story editor George Markstein.] ZM-73 is in Belgium working with Cobb. On his way home, he meets with his fiance, Janet. We skip ahead a bit to 3:00AM when Danvers delivers the news to Control that ZM-73 has resigned. 

The first indication fans have that ZM-73 has been abducted is a musical cue very similar to the one in the opening credit sequence when he wakes up. Otherwise, if one is not a fan, the listener experiences the revelation from the POV of the Prisoner himself. 

The technology in The Village has always been state of the art, but the audio series has the advantage of 50 years of hindsight. For example, one fixture on display on the TV was cordless phones (which didn't exist in 1967). [When Gil Kane drew the comic book adaptation, he added cords!] When #6's phone rings he asks, "What have you done to my phone? It has a screen!" Later, when #2 points out the "screen" in #6's room, the Prisoner replies, "A television. So what?" during #6's first visit to the Green Dome, the inside of the Dome itself is similar to an IMAX theater screen. When #2 pulls out a device to control it, #6 asks, "What's that?"

"A tablet."

"You're going to swallow it?"

The television show featured a centrally located interactive map of the village. When a button indicating a particular destination was pressed, the map would light up showing its location. On audio, the map has been replaced with VIPS, the "Village... oh, $#!t... the "Village Individual Point system" or something like that. It is programmed with something called "interactive software" and projects a three-dimensional hologram of The Village. When the Prisoner visits the general store, he is not asked "cash or credit" but instead the shopkeeper refers to "online billing." 

The TV show hinted at cloning in several episodes, most notably the first. In it, #6 destroys the ever-present speaker in his room (in the audio version, he has no idea where the sound is coming from). the electrician, a tall bald man, immediately comes in to repair it. #6 storms out an immediately bumps into the "same" man, a gardener already hard at work planting flowers just outside. On audio, the voice on the PA system is identical to that of the telephone operator and the the voice of the VIPS. A woman with the same voice appears as the taxi driver (local service only!) and later as a nurse in the infirmary. 

Speaking of the taxi driver, the Prisoner tries to take the cab from her. It doesn't have keys, just a started button. When he presses it, it doesn't work. He guesses that it must be required her fingerprints, but she tells him it's keyed to her DNA. 

In the cafe, #6 shares a coffee with a woman with a Jamaican accent, #9. She later turns up as his maid, and her dialogue is identical to that of her TV counterpart: she wants information. Perhaps the Village will let her go if she does as they ask. the Prisoner doesn't trust her. 

When #2 gives #6 an aerial tour of the Village, listeners know from the sound and the Prisoner's reaction to it that the helicopter is not a standard one, it's more of a drone. #2 refers to it as a "skimmer copter." On TV, #6 learns about Rover when a random prisoner attempts to escape. On audio, during this skimmer ride, it is Cobb, who has apparently been abducted, too. Unlike the TV version, the audio Rover is a brilliant white, so bright it hurts one's eyes to look directly at it. It is being captured by Rover which lands Cobb in the infirmary. (It is while visiting Cobb that #6 sees the taxi driver as a nurse.)

Cobb's arc follows the TV show (suicide and funeral), although he is not revealed to be a double agent at the end. On TV, Cobb had a single mourner. On audio, that part is played by #9, who gives #6 the device which will neutralize Rover, as on TV. Unlike TV, #6 tries to force her to come along (he still doesn't trust her) but she refuses, saying, "Some of use can never go back." The meaning behind the cryptic announcement is left unexplained. By this time, there is a new #2, a female one who sounds very much like the one from TV's "Dance of the Dead." It is clear that #2 and the Village aren't behind this escape attempt, so the listener, at least, begins to trust in #9's sincerity. 

Mark Elstob doesn't look much like Patrick McGoohan, but he sounds just like him.



Jeff of Earth-J said:

      On audio, the map has been replaced with VIPS, the "Village... oh, $#!t... the "Village Individual Point system" or something like that.

VIP stands for Village Information Point. 

Thanks, Tracy! Yes, the "Village Information Point System."

NOTE: It is a true acronym, not an initialism, and the "S" is part of it: VIPS.

"I still think a case can be made that The Village is a construct of the British Government."

I didn't see this post yesterday, Kevin, or I would have responded to it then. The reason I don't see The Village as a construct of the British Government is that certain people high up in #6's former organization [the Colonel ("James"), Janet's father] seem genuinely unaware of it. I do think certain others from within the British Government [Colonel J., Fotheringay, Thorpe, Cobb] hired the village to break #6. 

It's a matter of degree, but I don't think your explanation accounts for lines such as "au revoir," "auf weidesehen" and "my new masters." Cobb was a British spy, and the phrase "my new masters" indicates that he has recently switched sides. 

THE SCHIZOID MAN:

"Six finds himself fascinated by a strange bond which has suddenly developed between himself and Number Nine. But the next morning, Six wakes to find himself changed. A moustache, different hair, and… a new name. Number Twelve."

There is much stronger episode-to-episode continuity on audio than there ever was on television. For example, "The Schizoid Man" picks up exactly where "Departure and Arrival" left off. On TV, #2 returned #6 to The Village by remote control at the end of "Arrival," she doesn't do so until the beginning of "The Schizoid Man" in the audio version. Also, Cobb's status as a double agent is likewise revealed at the beginning of this episode.

In the televised version of "The Schizoid Man," The Village attempts to break #6 by pretending he is another agent, and using a mix of drugs, aversion therapy, classical conditioning and brainwashing to convince him. But #2 doesn't know (apparently) that #6 has developed a friendship with another prisoner, a young woman (who is referred to by her name, Allison, rather than a number) with whom he has developed a psychic rapport. 

The "psychic" angle is mostly on her part, presumably. #6 is simpatico, but the rapport seems to be genuine. Originally, Allison was to differentiate between the two #6s with a kiss, but Patrick McGoohan famously refused to kiss anyone but his own wife so the psychic angle was developed. In the end, it was revealed that Allison betrayed his confidence by purposefully identifying the imposter as the real #6.

In the audio version, the psychic rapport is shared between #6 and #9, the Jamaican woman from "Departure and Arrival," but in this case, the "rapport" was somehow initiated and controlled by The Village all along. When the time came for #9 to "betray" #6, #2 simply ordered an additional layer of programming to "overwrite" the initial layer which established the link in the first place. A scene between #2 and #9 alone (in which #2 slaps #9 around just to "set the tone") clues listeners in that #9 is, in fact, sincere, even though she has yet to gain the trust of #2 (or vice versa). 

On TV, #6 and #12 (#6's "double," get it?) are differentiate by the color of their jackets (#6 wears black, #12 white), whereas on audio, it's left entirely to the actor (Mark Elstob places both parts, as McGoohan did on TV) and the director. Whereas on TV #12 was simply a secret agent who bore a strong resemblance to #6 in the first place, in the audio version he is most definitely revealed to be a clone. Also, on TV there were some holes (in logic) in the plot. Not only have the holes been plugged (I've listened to it three times and the original TV episode is still fresh in my mind), but the thing that trips up #6's escape is neither his own fault nor #9's. I think anyone familiar with both episodes would approve of the changes. 

    When the James Bond job sprung open, "Patty Mac' was offered $1M per 007 movie.

    #6 turned it down. "Too much sex and violence",

     Agree or not, that took guts.

YOUR BEAUTIFUL VILLAGE

"Something is very wrong, as Six experiences the most disturbing sense deprivation. Almost complete darkness, filled with haunting sounds, fragments of conversations, and a desperate call from Nine start to test his reason."

This is my favorite episode of the first set, not only because it is original rather than an adaptation, but because it is so uniquely suited to audio. #6 wakes up to total darkness... not even sunlight. There is no sound, either... not the sound of the villagers or the ever-present radio, but also no sound of the ocean, no seagulls. the silence is punctuated by sudden and inexplicable cacophonous sounds. He can hear on the phone, though. the operator tells him, "It is dark and it will remain dark." He goes to the door and shouts for #9, whose bungalow is nearby. 

The phone rings and it is #9. She is in the same state he is in, although she did hear him shout. #9's voice breaks in and tells them that "Something has gone wrong" before he is cut off. the sound keeps dropping in and out; sometimes it is almost indiscernible, other times unintelligible. #6 thinks he can find his way to #9 and takes his phone with him. Suddenly, she doesn't know where she is. When she awoke, she was in her house. She could feel things and would bump into furniture as she tried to make her way around the room, but now there's nothing. #6 can no longer hear his own footsteps. then he can no longer hear his own voice; it is as if muffled.

#2 contacts #9 and asks for her help. He admits that what they are experiencing is their work, but something has gone wrong and, because #6 was the focus of the experiment, he is the key to resolving the problem. #2 is very persuasive and convinces #9 to help. Meanwhile, #6 is experiencing distortions in time as well: he has become extremely hungry and tired, as if the experiment had been going on for several days. 

#2 is lying, of course, about the experiment going out of control. He has been in control of every auditory and visual phenomena #6 has experienced. When #9 realizes that #6 is about to break, she shoots him... in the arm (with a gun she wrested from her observer)... to snap him out of it. #2 sends a Rover to the scenes and it kills her. After that, the Rover goes to the Green Dome for #2 with the message (relayed by the supervisor), "You have gone too far." 

This story would be difficult to portray as effectively on television as on audio. 

THE CHIMES OF BIG BEN

"A new prisoner arrives in The Village. The woman is strong-minded, independent, and refuses to accept her new number - Eight. She is not a number, she is Nadia. And Six is convinced that she is his ticket out of The Village."

First, a clarification: #9 did not necessarily die at the end of "Your Beautiful Village," because #6 spends the first part of this episode trying to find her. He is told that "No one by that number exists in The Village." what does that mean? That she's dead? That she's escaped? That she's been assigned a new number? When he asks to speak to #2 he is told, "No #2s are currently available." I find that phrasing (plural) interesting.

He does, of course, soon meet the new #2. Unlike the one from the TV episode of this name, a large robust man, this #2 is old and somewhat frail. One thing the audio #2 does have in common with his television counterpart, however, is his hearty laugh. He does have a certain cruel streak, however, which surfaces from time to time.

The plot proceeds much as it did on TV until the very end. On TV, #6 and Nadia's escape was a hoax, faked by The Village, and Nadia is revealed to be complicit. On audio, however, they do really escape to  London... apparently. "Control" is away in Geneva, but they are greeted by Danvers, who escorts them to an unnamed individual who at least sounds just like the TV episode's Colonel J. As on TV, it is the chimes being an hour off which clues #6 in that something is hinky. When he points out that the chimes struck seven then looks at the clock again, the hands now indicate six o'clock. But a moment ago they read seven, he was sure of it! Rather than playing out on a soundstage, the whole thing is on some sort of "holodeck," like those on Star Trek.

It is at this point that the elderly #2 takes off his badge and hands it to the new #2, "Nadia."

Moving into the second set of four now. Just to reiterate, this is my second time listening to this set of episodes. Episode-to-episode continuity was tight in set one, but what I remember most about this set is that each episode leads directly into the next, making one big four-part adventure. (Those of you familiar with the original show will be quite surprised by the time I get to "Living in Harmony," I guarantee.)

I MET A MAN TODAY:

"Exhausted after a daring escape from the Village, Six returns to London to find a woman living in his home. Despite being fearful that this could be yet another trick by those who run the Village, he dares to take the risk and starts to get to know her… Meanwhile, those running British Intelligence have their own agenda."

This episode begins from the point of view of Mrs. Kate Butterworth and her maid, Brenda. Yes, "I Met a Man Today" is Nicholas Brigg's version of "Many Happy Returns"... or is it. The silent first half of the televised version is told via flashback, #6 relating his experiences to Mrs. Butterworth or to Control, but there's a whole new story grafted atop the familiar one as well. 

First of all, Mrs. Butterworth... Kate... is so darned nice! If she is an operative of The Village, then Brenda certainly is not, because most of their conversations are about #6 while the two of them are alone. On TV, Mrs. Butterworth was kind of creepy, but the audio version is absolutely adorable. She's a writer, who's husband (a low level bureaucrat) has gone missing under mysterious circumstances. She dictates her thoughts into a tape recorder before actually sitting down at the typewriter. Her protagonist, who is much like herself, becomes attached to a robin in her garden and comes to fancy that her own missing husband's spirit is embodied in that bird. when the bird fails to came one day, the woman breaks down.

The story progresses much the same as its TV counterpart, except that "Kate" and "Peter" (#6) go to a local pub for a bite to eat and a pint of ale. Later, after #6 has gone, the barmaid shows up at Kate's house and starts to pump her for "information." when Kate eventually turns her away, the barmaid says, "Be seeing you!" Again, if Kate is affiliated with The Village, this scene is misleading because the two are alone together at the time.

Back at #6's former headquarters, he is greeted by Danvers, who he promptly punches in the nose... just to make sure he's real. (I had assumed the "Danvers" from "The Chimes of Big Ben" was real, but #6 apparently thinks he may have been part of the virtual reality scenario. Control is there this time, and their conversation plays out much as on TV. Then Control turns #6 over to Thorpe for a much more in depth interrogation, one more like we have come to expect from The Village. But in this case, the question is not "Why did you resign?" but "Where is This Village?"

After the interrogation, #6 asks to be taken to Westminster Bridge. they oblige and he quickly jumps into the Thames. He is convinced that he is actually in  London, not an elaborate fake, and is allowed to return to Mrs. Butterworth's. (He has borrowed her car, for one thing.) She is surprisingly forthcoming about what the British Secret Service have told her about him. Suddenly, Thorpe shows up and says they have determined the probably location of The Village (using the same methods as on TV). He is a qualified pilot, and he himself will fly #6 in search of The Village.

Then something quite odd happens. A sudden storm arises (apparently), and the plane flies through a thunderhead. As quickly as it appeared, it mysteriously vanishes, and the sky is sunny once more and tey immediately spot the island upon which The Village stands. From that point, events play out much as they did on TV, except Thorpe taunts #6 in the plane for a short while before firing the ejector seat. After he lands on the beach and makes his way back to his cottage, the new #2 is revealed to be... Kate Butterworth. That revelation does comes as a surprise because she has been so nice! She presents #6 with a birthday cake... symbolically in the shape of a robin redbreast. 

Frankly, I did not remember all the apparent "misdirection" regarding Mrs. Butterworth's affiliation (her private conversations with Brenda and the barmaid), and I am hoping that will be cleared up in subsequent chapters. 



Jeff of Earth-J said:

Moving into the second set of four now. Just to reiterate, this is my second time listening to this set of episodes. Episode-to-episode continuity was tight in set one, but what I remember most about this set is that each episode leads directly into the next, making one big four-part adventure. (Those of you familiar with the original show will be quite surprised by the time I get to "Living in Harmony," I guarantee.)

I MET A MAN TODAY:

"Exhausted after a daring escape from the Village, Six returns to London to find a woman living in his home. Despite being fearful that this could be yet another trick by those who run the Village, he dares to take the risk and starts to get to know her… Meanwhile, those running British Intelligence have their own agenda."

This episode begins from the point of view of Mrs. Kate Butterworth and her maid, Brenda. Yes, "I Met a Man Today" is Nicholas Brigg's version of "Many Happy Returns"... or is it. The silent first half of the televised version is told via flashback, #6 relating his experiences to Mrs. Butterworth or to Control, but there's a whole new story grafted atop the familiar one as well. 

First of all, Mrs. Butterworth... Kate... is so darned nice! If she is an operative of The Village, then Brenda certainly is not, because most of their conversations are about #6 while the two of them are alone. On TV, Mrs. Butterworth was kind of creepy, but the audio version is absolutely adorable. She's a writer, who's husband (a low level bureaucrat) has gone missing under mysterious circumstances. She dictates her thoughts into a tape recorder before actually sitting down at the typewriter. Her protagonist, who is much like herself, becomes attached to a robin in her garden and comes to fancy that her own missing husband's spirit is embodied in that bird. when the bird fails to came one day, the woman breaks down.

The story progresses much the same as its TV counterpart, except that "Kate" and "Peter" (#6) go to a local pub for a bite to eat and a pint of ale. Later, after #6 has gone, the barmaid shows up at Kate's house and starts to pump her for "information." when Kate eventually turns her away, the barmaid says, "Be seeing you!" Again, if Kate is affiliated with The Village, this scene is misleading because the two are alone together at the time.

Back at #6's former headquarters, he is greeted by Danvers, who he promptly punches in the nose... just to make sure he's real. (I had assumed the "Danvers" from "The Chimes of Big Ben" was real, but #6 apparently thinks he may have been part of the virtual reality scenario. Control is there this time, and their conversation plays out much as on TV. Then Control turns #6 over to Thorpe for a much more in depth interrogation, one more like we have come to expect from The Village. But in this case, the question is not "Why did you resign?" but "Where is This Village?"

After the interrogation, #6 asks to be taken to Westminster Bridge. they oblige and he quickly jumps into the Thames. He is convinced that he is actually in  London, not an elaborate fake, and is allowed to return to Mrs. Butterworth's. (He has borrowed her car, for one thing.) She is surprisingly forthcoming about what the British Secret Service have told her about him. Suddenly, Thorpe shows up and says they have determined the probably location of The Village (using the same methods as on TV). He is a qualified pilot, and he himself will fly #6 in search of The Village.

Then something quite odd happens. A sudden storm arises (apparently), and the plane flies through a thunderhead. As quickly as it appeared, it mysteriously vanishes, and the sky is sunny once more and tey immediately spot the island upon which The Village stands. From that point, events play out much as they did on TV, except Thorpe taunts #6 in the plane for a short while before firing the ejector seat. After he lands on the beach and makes his way back to his cottage, the new #2 is revealed to be... Kate Butterworth. That revelation does comes as a surprise because she has been so nice! She presents #6 with a birthday cake... symbolically in the shape of a robin redbreast. 

Frankly, I did not remember all the apparent "misdirection" regarding Mrs. Butterworth's affiliation (her private conversations with Brenda and the barmaid), and I am hoping that will be cleared up in subsequent chapters. 

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