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18 June 2014
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Picture

By Jonathan Morris

There are only three different pieces of incidental music in The Prisoner. I say 'incidental' when of course I mean, 'distracting'. There's the oompah-pah theme, there's Pop Goes The Weasel, and there's the climbing-bass 'mysterious happenings' theme.

I mention the music because after a while it becomes impossible to watch The Prisoner without joining in. You have to drum air bongos during the opening titles. You have to pluck air bass during 'mysterious happenings'.

This episode begins, as usual, with three title sequences. Daddy title sequence, with the bongos, where Number 6 drives around London in KAR120C. Mummy title sequence, where Number 6 looks through the square window to find out the name of this week's episode is called. And baby title sequence, where we meet the new Number 2, where rover glubbles and where Number 6 has a tizzy on the beach.

Combined, these titles go on for about a quarter of an hour. It's becomes rather frustrating. Daddy title sequence is fine - it's exciting, flashy and sets up the situation. Mummy title sequence is relatively limp and cursory. But it's baby which gets on my puppies - each time Number 6 shouts 'I am not a number, I am a free man', Number 2 gives a hysterical laugh. Now, come on. It's not that funny, is it?

This episode's cast features Mark Eden, who would later find fame as tram-fodder Alan Bradley, and Derren Nesbitt, who would later not find fame. The little Scottish voice who watches these episodes with me tells me that both these actors appeared in the Doctor Who adventure Marco Polo, broadcast during the mid-Pleistocene. However, his really interesting Prisoner fact is this episode features an actress from the 'other' Prisoner, Prisoner Cell Block H. I forget her name, but that is an exciting fact, isn't it?

Derren Nesbitt is one of those actors who is compelling without ever being believable. He has an odd, off-handsome face, with Spike from Buffy's hair and Brains from Thunderbirds' spectacles. He gives a performance which is a plaintive request to be offered less television work in future.

Derren is merely the acting Number 2, and I use the word 'acting' in the entirely inappropriate sense of the word. He's even dubbed at certain points, to such an extent that I suspect the dialogue was re-recorded during post-production to match the expressions he was pulling.

I am a myopiaist myself, and people who need to wear spectacles do not remove them and replace them every three seconds. But Derren does. It's hypnotic. Every scene, in every single shot, he is either putting them on or taking them off. If I'm a bit vague about this week's plot it's because I was distracted by the constant business with the spectacles.

Anyway- plot! This episode is about 'jammers', which are people who make up pointless plots. Yes, they're the writers of The Prisoner! No, but seriously, they are people who make up plots to distract Them from the real plots. Which sometimes means that even if They know about the real plots, they think they are made up plots.

I must say, there's full employment in The Village this week. Not only do we have a Number 2, and an 'acting' Number 2, we also have Number 2's helper and Number 2's secretary, who is played by the gorgeous Wanda Ventham. What other actors express in fifty minutes she expresses with a lifting of her right eyebrow. She raises her right eyebrow, and says, 'I'm intelligent, I'm a scientist, and I am also a woman with a woman's needs.'

All with one eyebrow.

The Village is a strange place. It's now almost entirely filmed in the studio. Oh - another Prisoner fact for you. Did you know that Fenella Fielding of Carry On Screaming, Dougal And The Blue Cat and what-has-she-done-to-her-face fame does the tannoy announcements?

'Acting' Number 2 is seen on the phone to number 1 - is this the first time this happens? Who is Number 1?

If Duncan 'chase me' Norvelle were ever to invent a Japanese martial art that utilised two trampettes and a paddling pool, the end result would be 'Kosho', the martial art practised by Number 6. It's not exactly butch, is it? Two men in red pyjamas playing 'tig' whilst trying to get each other wet.

This episode does have a great plot, though. The 'acting' Number 2 - remove spectacles, put spectacles back on - is planning to blow up the real Number 2 rather than to permit him to leave The Village. Because no-one is allowed to leave the village alive, except Paul Eddington. 'Acting' Number 2 - put spectacles on, take them off, wave them round a bit, put them on again - is conspiring with Monique's dad, the watchmaker, and so the reason he pretends to believe that the blow-up-the-number-2 plan is just 'jamming' is because he is the one behind it!

Oh, and by some sort of staggering coincidence, the actor who plays the watchmaker was also in the mid-Pleistocene Doctor Who adventure Marco Polo. This episode must've been a bit of a reunion.

Number 6 tries to persuade the watchmaker not to make a bomb but fails. The bomb is concealed within a medallion worn by Number 2 and is detonated via remote control. The remote control is held by the mad watchmaker who is hiding in the bell tower, who is in contact with the acting 2 via - and this is my favourite thing - a secret radio concealed within the spectacles!

So there was a reason for all the business with the glasses after all!

Anyway, Number 6 scuppers the plan of the 'acting' Number 2 and the old Number 2 is allowed to leave The Village unharmed! This is the first in a new type of Prisoner story - Number 6 is no longer trying to escape, but instead concentrates on small but significant victories against the status quo...

Shown on BBC Four on 16th July 2004.

 
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