"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...
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
Each of these episodes is about an hour long. I give Tracy a ride to work each morning, which takes about a half hour in each direction. Consequently, she has been listening to only the first half of each episode.
THE SELTZMAN CONNECTION:
#6 and Potter retrace Janet's steps on the mission in which she disappeared and eventually find Jacob Seltzman himself. He makes no attempt to hide his connection to The Village. Philosophically, he speaks of the "otherness" which all humans perceive in individuals, cultures, nations. Without this otherness, he maintains, there would be no war. If the bomber pilot, for example, could experience his opponents' pain, Seltzman maintains, he would be unwilling to drop his bombs.
To prove his point, Seltzman feeds the memories of a WW II bomber pilot into #6's mind (in a clear nod to one of the scenario's from TV's "Once Upon a Time"), then he feeds him the memories and experiences of a survivor of the Dresden bombing. #6 asks if this is another ploy to get him to tell them why he resigned, but Seltzman tells him they already know, but it is important to them that #6 says it aloud.
This conversation triggers a flashback to the meeting between #6 and Janet in Belgium (from the first episode) which we listeners never actually heard. We witness that conversation now for the first time. Seltzman concludes that #6 resigned from the service because of Janet's odd behavior during that meeting, because if the service could change her, the woman he loved, it could change anyone, it could change him. #6 will not admit that that is the reason, though.
The conversation continues, and Seltzman begins parroting Janet's side of the conversation, with #6 dutifully reciting his own side of the conversation. It soon becomes apparent that the woman #6 met with in Belgium was not "Janet" at all, but actually Seltzman. He is still reluctant to believe it, though, so Seltzman leads him into another room in which Kate Butterworth is strapped to some machinery. She tells of how, after he left, she caught a glimpse of a large, black hearse-like car on her street. She remembers being gassed, but after that is when she had her apparent "breakdown" and her memories get fuzzy.
Seltzman lets her speak long enough to convince #6 that this is the real Kate Butterworth, not a clone or something. He then flips a switch and #6 at first assumes she has been electrocuted, but she soon recovers. She recovers, but her personality has completely changed. She is now the sadistic #2 from "Project Six"! All this raises the question what happened to the real Janet?
Seltzman leads #6 into another room with a large tank. A "Rover" rises to the top. #6 notices that there are dozens, hundreds of Rovers in the tank! The one that rose to the top opens and reveals Janet. she is unharmed, but another Rover soon engulfs #6.
He comes to his senses with the sounds of The Village in the background, but the sounds are fuzzy and indistinct, as if far off in the background. He yawns, but hears a woman's voice. His goes to the mirror and sees the face of Kate Butterworth staring back at him. (Using a very effective technique, his thoughts are in the "voice" of #6, But his spoken words are those of Kate. He/she walks into the control room and is greeted by his/her assistant as "#2." It is apparently #2's last day in The Village and the skimmer has just arrived. He/she suspects this might be another trick to break him, but decides to go along with it.
Elsewhere, Seltzman and "#6" observe on a screen.
"He thinks he's escaping. Now is when the fun begins."
NO ONE WILL KNOW:
"From London, to Kandersfeld to the Village... Will an end to it all ever be possible?"
Seltzman has delivered a filmed threat to Control, but what he is threatening exactly is vague. We soon learn that when #6 and Potter went off to find Janet and confront Seltzman they were acting on their own. Control has kept Mrs. Butterworth's flat under surveillance, and he is informed that someone is there. the occupant is #6 in Kate Butterworth's body. Control sends someone by to pick "her" up, but "she" breaks free and escapes on a London bus. On that bus is Potter, who #6 thought had been electrocuted in Belgium. Potter is off the grid and figured the best way to keep an eye out for #6's return would be to ride a bus whose route would take him in front of #6's old flat. The bus is involved in an accident (ordered by Danvers) and #6 is taken into custody, but Potter gets away.
Control wants to know why Mrs. Butterworth disappeared and where she has been, but #6 is reluctant to tell him because he expects no one would believe him anyway. They question "Mrs. "Butterworth" while "her" mind is hooked up to a brain scan to determine the veracity of her responses. Her responses are truthful, but Control doesn't really believe until "her" brain scan is compared to one of ZM-73's from several years ago. they are identical. Control lets #6 return to Belgium to find Janet and capture Seltzman.
Potter again meets up with #6 on the plane. As they converse, Potter reveals that "he" is actually Janet! But for how long? On the bus? In The Village when, as #398 "he" assassinated #2? Janet tells him she has had her mind transferred into so many different bodies she has lost track. Eventually, #6 (in Kate Butterworth's body) and Janet (in Potter's body) confront Setlzman and #2 (in #6's body). [Has this #2 been all the "#2s?] Seltzman's grand scheme is to use his device to randomly transfer the minds of everyone on the planet, because if no one knows to whom he or she is speaking, that would force everyone to listen to each other rather than to fall back on preconceived notions. Suddenly, Control and Danvers burst in leading a team of special agents. (They had placed a tracker on #6/Kate without his/her knowledge.) After a brief skirmish, the whole warehouse is gassed.
Danvers wakes up in his own house... or so he thinks. The phone rings and a familiar voice refers to him as #13 and tells him to hold for #2. He recognizes the voice as Kate Butterworth's and realizes he is in The Village. They go through the whole "Who is #1?... You are #13... I am not a number... We want information... You won't get it") routine, but #2 begs off citing other duties she has to perform. Danvers does not react well to his situation and bolts from the house.
Another phone rings and Control answers... again, seemingly in his own house. This time #2 addresses him as #57 and suggests that he look out the window. #2 tells him that all of his special agents from the assault are in The Village somewhere. He is much more sanguine than Danvers, #13, had been, and decides to bide his time to see what happens next.
#6 and #62 (Janet) walk down the streets of The Village on their way to the beach. Apparently they are both quite content to be there. #13 accosts them, but how does he know they are who they appear to be? As he runs off, #2 appears. The three have a pleasant conversation before #2 has to excuse herself to call an "orange alert" and send a Rover after #13. After #2 leaves, #62 asks #6 if he really left the service for her and he responds, "That would be telling."
Then a familiar voice comes over the P.A. to deliver a warning: "Everything may soon change."
And that's it.
I can see how Big Finish might do another set of The Prisoner, but I don't need one. I like open endings, and I'm happy with this one. As Jack Kirby once said, "I'm a guy who lives with a lot of questions. If my life were to end tomorrow, I'd be satisfied in that manner. I'd say, 'The questions have been great.'" I know from the number of views each of my posts to this thread have received that this topic doesn't have many readers (and fewer still since I transitioned to the audio version), but it does have some. Now I have a question for you: What do you think of Nicholas Briggs' audio reinterpretation of The Prisoner (on its own and in comparison to the original)? Are you happy with the ending?
I didn't expect much in the way of discussion since I am the only one listening, but what about those of you who read along? Me, I've had fun thinking it through as I put my thoughts down in print. If I ever find my copy of Dean Motter's The Prisoner graphic novel I may well return to this discussion. Until then...
BE SEEING YOU.