Friday, 16 January 2009

No Longer Trapped in the Village

I've been wanting to post about the sad death of Patrick McGoohan. For a while I wasn't sure what to post. There are already a handful of decent obits out there (hopefully Charlie Brooker will comment soon). The other problem is that really, my thoughts and feelings on the man are limited to his work on Dangerman and The Prisoner, I've really not seen much else of his work and I'm not sure that I care too.

Ultimately I realised that this is hardly relevent. It is Dangerman and The Prisoner for which he will always be known and remembered anyway. More to the point they are the roles that mean something to me. In the same way that Leonard Nimoy will forever be Spock to me, so to will McGoohan always be Drake/No. 6 and this is no bad thing (Sidebar: Shatner finally broke out of forever being Kirk by the Indian Summer that was DENNY CRANE).

With these limitations in mind I decided to take a look at Fall Out, the final episode of The Prisoner. I would not presume to call this a review, I am not sure any human being is capable of reviewing such a work. This is more a recap, with pictures and occasional comments.

We are start out with a reprise from the previous episode (once Upon a Time) featuring Leo Mckern and No. 6 back at school.


There's something quiet macabre about these scenes, in particular N0. 6 literally talking Leo McKerns character into death.

Strange story about this, Leo Mckern was apparently genuinely traumatised by the filming of these scenes (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leo_McKern#Career).

No 6. meets a waxwork of himself.

The Beatles' All you need is love starts to play in the background. No.6 walks along dressed in black looking for all the world like he invented the concept of cool.

No 6 goes into a cavern and faces a court/parliament of what look like KKK members. They clap him for a full minute! We don't know why!



The Judge gives his opening speech.

No.6 takes the chair of honour.

No. 1 (which at this stage appears to be a column with an eye in it) brings Leo McKern back to life! There are still loads of episodes of Rumpole yet to be filmed!!

Leo is having shaving foam put on his face as part of the resurrection process!

We are meeting No 48 a previous revolutionary. He starts singing “dem bones dem bones".

The clan are in consternation!

“Give it to me baby, confess! Confess!”

“GUILTY!”


Leo faces down No. 1 and is secured in the deep freeze for his troubles (“Be Seeing You”)

No.6 is offered a choice between leadership and freedom



No.6 goes to meet No.1 and discovers: No.1 is... a Monkey!


... is himself!


No. 6 and his band are breaking out of the village with Machine Guns. All you need is Love plays in the Background again.
Free at last?



I first saw the Prisoner about 10 years ago. I watched them all in four sittings and I still remember the "what the fuck was that" reaction I had to the finale. For me it was WTF in a good way. A way that made me keep on thinking about it (and indeed a way that continues to make me think about it). I can only imagine the reaction of those watching in the 1960's; but I expect rage and frustration would probably cover it. This episode is not only surreal when compared to other TV shows (of the era or since), it is surreal in terms of the show itself and unlike anything any other show not called Twin Peaks.

But that is what is so great about it. The Prisoner was about not conforming, not being categorised. A finale whereby No. 1 is revealed to be some foreign power or a MOD official would have been a betrayal of the ethos of the series. Putting the show back into the realms of the Dangerman era or, even worse, James Bond territory. This finale is so wilfully open ended as to barely count as a conclusion and its surrealism prevents the show from ever being categorised. The finale is the Nashville Skyline to the rest of the shows Folk era.

It should be remembered that the show (both the episode and the overall series) has McGoohan running through it like a stick of rock. This remarkable finale not only features McGoohan, but was also writen and directed by him. It is a television classic that stands both as McGoohan's finest hour and also as a testament to the man himself.

1 comment:

ARCHAVIST said...

Great post. Your passion for this classic show shines in the prose. EXcellent mate