Lost in the Movies (formerly The Dancing Image): The Prisoner: conversation w/ James Cooray Smith

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

The Prisoner: conversation w/ James Cooray Smith


As I'm sure you've noted, things have been pretty quiet around here lately. Since I announced that I was slowing down my pace back in April, I've published just three video essays (all created within a few weeks of that announcement), two podcast appearance, and an interview. Several items have continued to linger in my backlog all this time, while other projects remained unfinished. But nothing else has lingered as unjustifiably as this interview, and no project has been left hanging more egregiously than my Prisoner series of which this is a part. In April, James Cooray Smith took the time to chat with me about the TV series and unfortunately the conversation fell by the wayside...until now. I'm thrilled to finally publish our talk here, full of fascinating history about The Prisoner, exchanges about its meaning and effectiveness, and the recounting of James' own experience with the show.

James is a prolific writer of both fiction and nonfiction, with a particular focus on both cinema and television (he has published critical biographies of film directors like Tim Burton, Quentin Tarantino, and George Lucas). He is also a columnist for the New Statesman, which is how I first came across his work: last December, he authored the provocatively-titled (albeit not by him) "There is no way Star Wars: The Force Awakens will be as good as the prequels", which mentioned my video series Journey Through Twin Peaks. We struck up a Twitter acquaintance, and as I began covering The Prisoner - one of his all-time favorite TV shows - he dropped by regularly to comment, often leaving long, thoughtful addenda to my own instant reactions. I eagerly looked forward to discussing the series with him (among other things, I knew he was a passionate defender of "The Girl Who Was Death"), but since then I've been rather selfish, keeping the conversation to myself. No longer.

Great thanks to James for his generosity and patience, and apologies for making him - and you - wait so long for his lucid insights. On with the show...

me: First off, thanks for all your feedback while I watched. Some of it I couldn't respond to at the time - I wanted to wait to dig in deeper for a later conversation.

James: Yeah, it was really interesting watching you watch the series, because for me it's something I've known well for, what, twenty five years?

me: How did you get into the series, and what's been your experience with it?

James: It was all repeated in the UK in 1992, for the series 25th anniversary. It was on Channel 4, which is one of our then four (now five) 'terrestrial' channels - sort of what you'd call 'network tv', but not quite - at about 11pm every Wednesday night. I was about 14, so I just sat up and watched it, after my parents had gone to bed. I knew more about it than you did going in, and I'd already seen 'The Girl Who Was Death', because it had been shown about 18 months earlier as part of a season of programmes called 'TV Heaven', where Channel 4 repeated individual episodes of classic TV series (with commentary and interviews and so on). They showed Avengers and stuff you've probably not heard of, like Callan. There was nothing like syndication on UK TV in those days, very few repeats of programmes more than two years old. So this sort of blast from the past thing was a big deal. I watched them in a very different order to you. Aside from 'Girl', which I'd seen as above, I saw them in UK transmission order, which I think is pretty much the order they were finished in, apart from 'Once Upon A Time'.

me: Yes, that in itself is interesting. There was sort of a "special"-ness to catching a TV show in those days. Much like seeing a classic film in the cinema in the days before home video.

James: Channel 4, in those days, used to make a point of being sort of educational. Not in a didactic way, but they would show seasons of things like 'Banned Films' or 'Palme D'Or Winners' they'd organise programming around themes, so it's where I saw a lot of great films, and oddities and so on. I mean, I remember them showing the Monty Python films for the first time on UK TV, Life of Brian and Meaning of Life, but also things like a Ken Russell season, seeing The Devils and Tommy and Women In Love. It's where I first saw Citizen Kane and White Heat and a lot of the smarter end of classic Hollywood. Now I'm getting nostalgic for early 90s Channel 4 schedules. Great stuff to encounter when you 14 though. The Wicker Man, that's another thing I saw on late night channel 4. And Eraserhead!

me: Wow! You may not have had syndication, but that's a pretty good tradeoff. Regarding The Prisoner - which of your initial reactions, to individual episodes and the show as a whole, have shifted over time?

James: Good question. I like the whole series. I don't think there is an episode I would call bad television. I don't think there is one that doesn't justify its existence. I think and always thought that the weakest are 'It's Your Funeral' and 'Do Not Forsake'. 'Do Not Forsake' is objectively the worst piece of television. I think it's incoherent and contrived and unfocused and a lot of what it adds to the series is really prosaic - Janet and so on - but on its own it sort of gets away with it. Somehow, I think because it looks good, because Stock is so good, because Sixties London is always a great place to visit on film... On original viewing, I wasn't all that on 'Schizoid Man', which I know is widely loved. I sort of objected, in 'Schizoid', in my adolescent way, to the Prisoner shouting that he was Number 6, not Number 12. That seemed to betray "I am not a number!" somehow. I thought - and still think, actually - that beginning with Jane Merrow's character is a mistake. It should start with the Prisoner waking up with a moustache, and leave unsure which is which until the second act at least.

me: I feel similarly about 'Do Not Forsake'. I find in retrospect, I have an odd affection for the more out-there episodes, almost more than some of the early, much more solid ones.

James: I think the out-there-ness is core the series' appeal. Something like 'Hammer Into Anvil' isn't wholly unimaginable as an episode of another ITC series, nor is 'Checkmate', whereas no other series would have made 'Free for All' or 'Girl Who' or 'Fall Out'. They're what makes the series special, rather than just good.

me: With that in mind, what is your take on the George Markstein/Patrick McGoohan controversy? Since my conversation with Chris, I've been researching the show a lot and it seems like there's really two camps there. Both in terms of who people give credit to but also maybe what they value in the series.

James: Markstein and McGoohan have accounts of the series' creation that are irreconcilable. That Tomblin largely sides with McGoohan doesn't help, because Tomblin and McGoohan were close and Tomblin fell out with Markstein when McGoohan did. Markstein was, by all accounts, someone with a background in Intelligence work during WW2, and certainly his other work is interested in espionage and in a dirty, dry way, not in an aggrandising, florid sort of way. I think it's a Mankieweicz/Welles situation. Neither is lying but neither is telling the whole story, not because they don't want to but because they can't see it themselves. The project is so personal to them, and they put so much into it, they probably genuinely think it's all their work. Everyman was a private company, and no longer exists, so we can't even look at the paperwork. In the UK, because the BBC is a quasi-govt body, as a member of the public you can look at any BBC paperwork more than thirty years old, if you book into their archive in Reading. As a researcher, that's amazing because you can just go in and paw over the memos and budget sheets and shooting schedules for, well, anything. If The Prisoner had been a BBC series, we'd know! Because someone would have looked it up! I mean, you can find out, say about Doctor Who, what hour of a day something was shot and how much everyone there was being paid by asking for a folder.

me: On another end of the Markstein-McGoohan controversy, supposedly McGoohan was the one who pushed for a more avant-garde and allegorical approach, right?

James: I think that's a given, yeah. Although Markstein is not to be underestimated. Markstein really liked 'Many Happy Returns', which was the last episode he worked on. He thought it was terrific so he was clearly okay with boundaries being pushed. I think it was more as turf war over responsibility than a creative dispute as such. There are only four episodes without Markstein: 'Do Not', 'Harmony', 'Girl' and 'Fall Out'. And one of those is without McGoohan, so they're both there for almost all of the series. Markstein is a bit forgotten, because he died young, but he had a much better post Prisoner career than McGoohan in a lot of ways. He worked on a lot of good UK television as a Script Editor, which is a job that in US terms is certainly a kind of producer. And he won a Writers Guild of Britain Award the year of The Prisoner, but for something else. So he was no slouch. He was on Callan, which I mentioned before, which was a series about a man who kills people for the British government, which is obviously not going to be an easy series, either to make or sell or watch!

me: One of your earliest comments was about how there are basically four "number twos" - in this case, I mean four second episodes (that's a funny coincidence though, come to think of it). In other words four writers were shown the pilot and told "write a follow-up" independently of each other. How unusual was that for a British series of that period? Or does it just seem unusual because of The Prisoner's unique narrative (I mean, that sort of approach for, say, a domestic sitcom wouldn't seem strange at all; each episode is so isolated from the others).

James: I think the process, whereby you show the people you want to write for a series the one script you've got and they write effectively a second episode (because there is only a first episode), is pretty normal.

me: What's the best resource for Prisoner background in your opinion? I've heard the blu-ray doc is good, though I haven't watched it yet. I know you said you have a fair amount of documentation of your own that you were able to acquire, right?

James: I have notes and things, rather than documentation; The BFI has a library with a lot of interesting stuff that people have deposited there. The Telos book by Alan Stevens and Fiona Moore has a lot of good information. But there are still lacuane.

me: In your first comment, using this production history as a jumping point you mentioned that you prefer to see each episode as starting from scratch, almost like a parallel universe or dream state (my words, not yours). Can you expand on that, especially now that I've seen all the episodes and can consider that full context?

James: Firstly, I don't think there is a 'correct' order to watch this series. It's not a serial, and how the Village works, and so on, changes between episodes. The set up of 'Free for All' isn't really reconcilable with that of 'It's Your Funeral', no matter how hard you squint. There are four second episodes! The Village is in at least three places at once, and so on. Whichever order one imposes creates problems, it's just a matter of priorities. There will always be grit in the oyster. The writers don't seem to have had much contact with each other, and seem to have been working off slightly different interpretations of the series, which were allowed to fly by McGoohan and Markstein. Tony Skene's three ['A, B, and C', 'Many Happy Returns', 'Dance of the Dead'] have more in common with each other than they do with the rest of the series, ditto Vincent Tilsley's two ['The Chimes of Big Ben' & 'Do Not Forsake Me Oh My Darling'] and Terence Feely's two ['The Girl Who Was Death' & 'The Schizoid Man']. I think 'dream state' is good. As an audience we always come to the Village fresh, each episode, we see the Prisoner captured every single week. We run through a shortened version of 'Arrival' in literally every episode except 'Fall Out', even 'Living In Harmony'. The impression we get in 'Chimes' is that Leo McKern has always been No 2, and that he was in 'Arrival'. And the next week, it's the same but with Colin Gordon or Mary Morris or whoever. Most the time No 2 has always been there and always been that person, except when not because it's more convenient! I mean, the last shot of the series is McGoohan on the road again, right? Driving to resign? Are we going back to the beginning? Again? I mean, you said 're-watch' so we are, right?

me: Aside from the issue of attempting to fit the real-world square peg into an in-world circle, do you think there are orders which make more sense from a structural/narrative/aesthetic standpoint? Like in the sense of ordering songs on a playlist?

James: Ironically, I think we have to make our own choices, but we can only do that once we've seen it all already. Someone else has to choose our first viewing order for us, unless we go into it genuinely randomly. I'm currently rewatching it in 'I fancy that one now' order. I will watch them all again in this run through, but based on what I want to see. I think I saw 'Arrival' sixth this time. No guarantee I'll keep 'Once Upon A Time'/'Fall Out' together or watch 'Fall Out' last. When my wife and I watched The Prisoner a few years ago, we watched it based on how interesting the titles seemed to her, starting with 'Arrival', but after that, it was just 'This title interests me today', that was quite fun, though I didn't keep a note of the order she chose (it was her first viewing).

me: I think one thing that I liked about the order Chris chose was that it was, to a certain extent, like that. Not necessarily worst-to-best but, in some ways, sanest-to-craziest which is an approach I have a massive instinctive affinity for in narratives of all sorts. So I sort of struck lucky there. Actually, my biggest variance from the order would probably be shifting some like 'Hammer' & 'Change' back a bit further and leaving the string of "WTF" undiluted at the end (which I think the UK order does to an extent, right?).

James: Alphabetical order is curiously effective, if you peg 1 and 16/17 to the beginning/end and watch the rest.

me: I'm really glad I didn't see 'Chimes' second.

James: Interesting. Why? Because it's quite ordinary?

me: No, more the opposite, at least until the end. I was genuinely thrown off by the fact that he seemed to be escaping the Village and I don't think it would have felt so shocking - and the twist so effective - if it hadn't followed 3 or 4 episodes where he seemed so firmly entrenched in the Village.

James: Yes, I can see that.

me: I think 'Checkmate', 'Dance of the Dead', etc. would have felt more...anticlimactic in a way if I watched them after 'Chimes'. Do you feel you could rank the episodes comfortably? Or at least in groupings? In terms of personal preference I mean, with the caveat that you obviously enjoy and value them all.

James: Not now, but I'd be happy to do it on a whim later and email it to you.
(Later, James emailed the following list)
Fall Out
The Girl Who Was Death
Many Happy Returns
Dance of the Dead
A, B & C
Once Upon A Time
Living In Harmony
Free for All
The Chimes of Big Ben
Hammer Into Anvil
The Schizoid Man
A Change of Mind
Checkmate
Arrival
The General
It's Your Funeral
Do Not Forsake Me Oh My Darling

me: What is an aspect of the show you feel may be is undervalued? And what if, anything, gets too much focus?

James: I think the UK order is pretty good, despite it being 'the order they're finished in', it's only in the middle it goes wrong. 'Dance of the Dead' after 'Many Happy Returns' is just bizarre. It's a kind of sequel! By the same writer! Written a year later! I think Markstein is undervalued as you might have guessed. I love McGoohan: a great actor, a fine director, and by all accounts a good man, but because he's the star he's become the focus of the whole thing. I'm a great believer in collaborative, communal effort. What I call 'third brain theory': McGoohan didn't make The Prisoner, neither did Markstein. A gestalt did, and they were key parts of it.

me: I also don't like 'General' after 'A B C'.

James: 'General'/'ABC' is fascinating, because there's literally no way to do it that makes sense.

me: Why doesn't 'General'/'A B C' work in either order?

James: At the beginning of 'The General' No 2 says "Oh! Number 6 and I are old friends" and they talk familiarly. Whereas at the beginning of 'A, B & C' No 2 says "I haven't seen much of you, since I arrived." They obviously decided that 'A, B & C' was the second of the two, after it was made, with the different v/o, but the only reason that Colin Gordon is in 'A, B & C' is because another actor fell through. Everyone liked Gordon and he was going to be free after finishing 'The General', so they just asked him to stay. But the No 2 of 'A, B & C' seems written as a different man to the one in 'The General'. It's almost like there are two different Colin Gordon No 2s!

me: That said, the whole my-job's-on-the-line aspect works like a charm fresh off 'The General'. So it's a very happy coincidence...

James: Yes, and I'm sure they knew that, but it doesn't *quite* work, because it's not written for that, which I think is part of the oddness of the series. The casting is interesting in lots of ways. 'Many Happy Returns' was made after 'Hammer Into Anvil' so Patrick Cargill plays this minor part without reference to his previously being Number 2. I can see why in the mad scramble of the last three made, Alexis Kanner and Kenneth Griffith, two good friends of McGoohan's and both very good actors, are suddenly in it every week,

me: One thing Chris mentioned as being undervalued is the humor. I think that's an interesting point - people seem to have fun with The Prisoner but almost in an affectionate, maybe slightly condescending way due to its age and the way McGoohan plays it so straight. But I definitely felt there was a lot of quite conscious, arch humor in there - I mean how could I not?

James: Oh, I think it's very funny, yes.

me: To me, one of the show's most redeeming qualities is its droll sense of humor. I think it takes a bit of the edge of the earnest allegorical aspect which at times felt a bit on-the-nose to me.

James: It's playful, I think. It belongs in the months after Sgt Pepper being released. It sits in a framework of slightly acid-tinged nostalgia for the aesthetic of the nineteenth century while kicking its morals to death with alacrity (despite McGoohan's own very straight, pious nature).

me: The fact that McGoohan is neither winking at the audience nor, one suspects, taking himself TOO seriously, or at least it plays that way, strikes the perfect balance. It is not campy. But also not pompous.

James: He is as happy and at home in 'Girl Who Was Death' as he is in 'Free for All'. I love, in 'Girl', you know when the woman in the fairground slaps him? And he just doffs his hat, nods and walks off? With this comedy music behind him? I mean, that's brilliant. Pure physical comedy, almost slapstick. And his delivery of 'Good Night Children everywhere' is brilliant. Oh, do you know what that's a reference to?

me: I don't think so.

James: BBC Radio, back in the 40s/50s, had a programme called 'Listen With Mother', a stories for young children broadcast when you'd be putting very young children to bed. That always ended with the presenter saying "Goodnight Children Everywhere". Every adult in the UK would have known this when 'Girl' went out.

me: McGoohan is an interesting figure in the context of the times. And the present too, I suppose. Obviously extremely far from a libertine, culturally. But at a time when when social & political revolution were deeply intertwined, his political sympathies appear to have been pretty radical. I've only seen a few quotes from him on the subject, on May '68 in Paris and 20 years later on Reagan, but in both cases clearly not a man of the right.

James: It's incredibly hard to make out, but I think that's again part of the pleasure of it. I think he's asking questions, not offering answers. Both in character and not. I mean, I think that's in part of the series isn't it? Six says in 'Arrival' "Ask on! Ask yourself!" when he's already bored of being interrogated, and yet it turns out that he's his own jailer. No one really had any idea he had The Prisoner in him before it was screened. He was liked and admired as an actor but something like 'Free For All' was a big shock to the audience. I mean, it was on mid evening on Sundays in the UK the first time, it was literally 8pm Sunday night. Instead of a detective series or whatever. It wasn't on at midnight. It was meant to be mainstream.

me: Regarding the Beatles, biggest comparison that leaps to mind is the Yellow Submarine film. Tonally, visually, everything. Rover seems straight out of that same universe. I love Rover.

James: Also Magical Mystery Tour. Which would have gone out between 'Do Not Forsake Me Oh My Darling' and 'Living in Harmony'. I think, if you see it as being on between those two episodes on British TV, it shows how absolutely of that time it is. I mean, can you imagine that, you've got 'Do Not' one weekend, Magical Mystery Tour midweek and 'Living in Harmony' the next, over Xmas? That's a movement, almost, from people who aren't connected with each other, but who are tapping into the same things. 'Girl' is the most like Tour, I think.

me: I had heard the Beatles allowed The Prisoner to use 'All You Need is Love' for free, or a pittance at least, because they were fans. But is that possible - the show hadn't aired when the finale was shot, right? Were they fans of Secret Agent or is that whole story probably apocryphal?

James: I am 99.9% that Apple were paid a standard in perpetuity fee for the use of the song. I think the myth arose because a) McCartney particularly has a habit of waiving fees if he thinks something is worthwhile and b) people didn't quite understand how this famous bit of music was in this tv series, when you get so many music substitutions in re-releases of UK material (UK copyright law is very, very, very, very different to US copyright law.)

me: As far as McGoohan goes, reading the interviews from Secret Agent era, etc, there's just nothing to predict The Prisoner. Or even, near as I can tell, anything afterwards to really recall it. And the way his persona, both on the show & off, plays into it kind of adds to the mystique.

James: Some of the Colombos McGoohan directed reference The Prisoner. Falk was a big fan.

me: And The Simpsons too, I believe.

James: Yes, he literally plays No 6 in The Simpsons. Not Patrick McGoohan, he plays No 6. Homer is taken to the Village.

me: Let's address 'Fall Out'. How do you see it in relation to the series? I wasn't sure what to expect so I think on first viewing, I liked it but also felt, somewhat surprisingly, well this isn't head-or-shoulders above the rest of the series. It definitely feels like an appropriate ending but felt more of a piece with everything than expected. Since then, though, it's been looming large in my memory. Especially certain moments.

James: I think it's an interrogation of what's gone before, which you touch on. I think that it aggrandises the Prisoner ("gloriously vindicated the right of the individual to be individual... yours is the only true rebellion") and then cuts it from under him by showing him he's his own jailer. It's sort of saying that our hero has feet of clay. I think that the traits that Prisoner has, that we admire, could make him a dictator or at least a bully, which is explored in 'Checkmate' a bit, and reference in 'Free for All'.

me: Yes, I liked that aspect. There's a kind of wary feeling to the grand triumph. Very much undercutting itself. And that final shot is so good, in its way, a bit like the end of The Sopranos.

James: The series has been seen as a kind of death-dream, a Jacob's ladder or Pilgrim's Progress. McGoohan was a Catholic, he believed in purgatory, and it's a hearse that pursues the Prisoner to his home and then takes him to the Village. Maybe he crashes the car on the way to resigning and everything else is unreal. I do think that trying to make any definitive reading of The Prisoner is a mistake. There's a comment form McGoohan, after 'Fall Out', where he says something like "Look, its like cubism, the point is you have your own interpretation. Stop asking me pat questions."

me: NGE/TP/Prisoner blow the doors of their universe wide open. Which is exactly what a bold, edgy show should do in my opinion. But there's a general fear of "going too far" I sometimes think, even in a more adventurous TV age.

James: Do you get the gag in the opening narration now?

me: Narration?

James: "Where am I?"
etc.
"Who is Number One?"
"You are, Number Six."
Number Two is answering the question, not ignoring it.
"Exchange" is a better word than "narration".

me: Oh yeah, I read that somewhere! It's a good catch, it went over my head. Although it would probably be another lucky coincidence right? (Didn't he come up with the 6-is-1 idea much later?)

James: It's very hard to know!

me: Looking back over the series and my take on it was there anything that struck you/you wanted to comment at the time but held back on until the big picture was in view?

James: Yes! One of the many reasons I love 'The Girl Who Was Death', is that I think it's the series in microcosm. It's a spy story which is also stuffed with strong images and big ideas, parody and politics, which ends with a rocket being launched, and which is just Patrick McGoohan making something up to tell the people at home to keep them entertained and provoke some thought. I think it's completely deliberate, it's kind of fractal.

me: Good point! That also reminds me of something about 'Fall Out' which 'The Girl' plays a big part in. One of the reasons 'Fall Out' is so effective as a finale is that, in a series that mostly doesn't reference other episodes (given the complexity of its creation), it is just chock full of stuff from other episodes.

James: It's made with 'Fall Out', they have exactly the same sets and largely the same cast, they're linked at the hip. I don't think 'Girl' is a standalone or a side-issue, its absolutely key. It's kind of amazing that the sets are built for 'Fall Out' but used in 'Girl' first, because there's no money, not redressed but pre-dressed.

me: I guess a cynic could just see it as recycling out of desperation/lack of inspiration but for me it felt like a really effective summation of the whole show, bringing it all together on an intuitive level rather than ticking off every box in a "the-old-man-chewed-gum-just-like-the-dancing-dwarf-in-my-dream" type of way.

James: Yes. I agree. I do wonder where the 'everywhere is the Village' approach of Many/Do Not/Living/Girl would have gone.

me: If the show had run longer you mean?

James: Yes. If you can get Robert Faircough's books second hand somewhere, he reprints at least three full unmade episode scripts.

me: Who's your favorite/least favorite No. 2?

James: Leo McKern is phenomenal as No 2 in 'Once Upon A Time'. It would be churlish to not name what might be the single best performance in the series. It's very mean, but I don't think Clifford Evans does anything at all with the No 2 role in 'Do Not'. There's not a lot on the page, but he does nothing with it. Compare with McKern again, in 'Chimes', where the character is quite flatly written, but McKern carves a real man out of it through sheer skill.

me: What are your thoughts on 'The General'? I'm not sure that episode really worked for me and I listed to a podcast recently where they aired some of my own doubts/irritations but I'd be interested in hearing an argument for the defense, if you have one.

James: Oooh, 'The General'. I think 'The General' is the most dated episode, in that it's an intervention in 1960s debates about the role of education, that are not so much out of date as alien to us now. It's not that we don't have answers, it's that we're no longer interested in the questions. The high concept conceits, definitely. 'The General' is now simply ordinary, it's a Kirk-kills-a-computer-god episode of Star Trek, it's 'Return of the Archons', without the proselytizing atheism.

me: Interesting point. I also had dramatic issues with a lot of stuff regarding the professor and his wife. Just didn't make sense to me. The parts of The Prisoner I had the most problems with were its attempts to tie its outlandish ideas together with a neat bow, which only made them seem more forced. This was pointed out in regard to 'It's Your Funeral' by a podcast I'm listening to: why in the world is Six given any information at all, aside from its need for the plot. There are a lot of convenient "insert this so we can use it fifteen minutes later" type moments. Probably another reason I prefer it when The Prisoner abandons reality altogether. I don't really feel logic is its strong suit.

James: I don't think it's interested in logic, which is probably why it seems to not be very good at it. It's dismissive of it in a way that looks inept.

me: Now having said how much I like the show to break free of its conventions and the confines of the Village, one thing I maybe could have used more of is Six exploring it as a real, almost video-game environment. Which I think is what I initially expected from the first episode. Looking into the nooks & crannies of the locale. Although I think it does just enough of that in the midst of other things to keep me satisfied.

James: Portmerion is much smaller than you think. They do a very, very good job of making it look like a world through camera angles and use of lenses.

me: The most unique thing about the show is how it can serve as a springboard for so many ideas. Some almost uncomplementary. That confusion is kind of a good thing, or at least a really enjoyable thing. Is The Prisoner a Twilight Zone-type show, going in wildly different directions with high-concept conceits? Is it defined by its location, worldbuilding this dystopian society and examining its rules and manners? Is it an escape show where Six tries new ways to get away each week and is defeated? There's not only variation within each of these formulas, there's variations between the formulas themselves. Very free in that sense. But always a tightrope walk.

James: Very free. Free for all.

Early next year: Final Conclusions

1 comment:

Adam said...

Just a quick comment to say that I watched that repeat on C4 in 1992 too! I was 16