By Jonathan Morris
Hey, man, you know, it doesn't matter who you vote for, right, because, yeah, the government still gets in. Do you see? And, like, the government aren't even in control, they just want us to think they are. They're just like puppets, like the rest of us. The people we think are in charge aren't even the people in charge, right? So who are the puppet masters? Who pulls the strings, the puppet strings, the strings of the puppets? It's all explained in, like, No Logo, or one of Michael "I have a great idea for sorting out Northern Ireland" Moore's polemic-for-the-intellectually-disenfranchised books and films, or The Mark Thomas Self-Promotion Product -
- or, if you have just bought a colour television and wish to test the colour contrast, the Prisoner episode Free For All.
Yes, it's more adolescent politics. The sort of manipulating-the-public stuff you thought long and hard about at the age of 12 before you got interested in manipulating-the-privates.
Number 6 elects to stand in an election in The Village as the new Number 2. Aside from the devastating unsubtle political subtext - which, surely, must have been as crushingly na´ve in the 60's as it is now, people weren't idiots back then - this episode does have some charming, neat moments.
I particularly enjoyed the moment where Number 6 is being interviewed and keeps on saying "No comment" so the journalists make up suitable quotes, until he gives a proper answer and they write down "No comment". I'm not sure what point it's trying to make - it's unfocussed Pythonesquery masquerading as meaningful satire - but it was fun nonetheless. And I love the Tally Ho!'s instant print run, and when the garishly-garbed populace of The Village materialise with placards of Dangerman (you know, the photo that gets 'x'd out in the opening titles). It's fun, and when it isn't pretending to be clever-clever, it's genuinely clever.
Number 6 wins the election - because he's SO DAMN HARD - which means he gets to go to green dome Bond villain lair and park his bot in the spherical chair. He presses all the buttons on the desk to see what they do. It's rather like that episode of Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em where Frank Spencer goes into a hi-tech flat and runs amok with Hilarious Consequences. Note: This is not the last time The Prisoner will remind me of Frank Spencer.
And then he tells the people of The Village - Number 6, I mean, not Frank Spencer - that they are free to leave. But they don't want to leave. Because they've all been conditioned. Insititutionalised. Like lambs. They are not prisoners physically - they are prisoners in their minds. Aaaah.
Yes, this is an episode with a moral, and the moral is this:
Women who you think can't speak English might actually be able to speak English after all so you had better be careful what you say.
That's an important moral, and one we should all remember. The Hungarian stripper sitting on your lap may only understand one word out of every ten you say, but when that word is "nipples", things can still get embarrassing.
I hope I'm not being too negative about this episode, I absolutely enjoyed it. I particularly like the way McGoohan says all his dialogue incredibly punchily. It's almost as though it means something! And it does the whole Doctor Who And The Mindwarp thing of us not knowing whether our hero has been brainwashed, or is pretending to have been brainwashed. Or has he?
Or HAS HE?
Oddly, in a cave under the Bond Villain lair sit four men in sunglasses looking at a big, wobbly white balloon. Probably seemed like a good idea at the time.
Observation: The Cat & Mouse of the eponymous bar in The Village are Itchy & Scratchy of Simpsons fame, if you look closely.(No they aren't. Ed)
Repeated on BBC Four on 18th June 2004 at 11.50pm.