Thursday, January 22, 2009


I mentioned Patrick McGoohan's death last week. I have a fondness for him as an actor out of proportion with the actual number of things I've seen him in (for example I've never watched Ice Station Zebra for more than a few minutes). But as I said before, The Prisoner left a pretty deep impact on my psyche. I recognized many of themes later when I encountered them in Moorcock, PK Dick, Burroughs, and even Eco. When my sister was first married I ran a Call of Cthulhu one-shot for her as a kind of anti-Wedding Shower. The upshot was that at the end of the session it was revealed that one of the players was in fact the new Number 2 and that the players were in the Village. Their captors had been trying to assess how much they actually knew about the Mythos. It was a good session with a couple of surrealist touches that one or two of the players picked up on and a brilliant reveal by No. 2 at the end.

My oddest Prisoner connection is that I once had a really nice poster of McGoohan in the Village. Strangely enough it was one of the few things an ex-girlfriend lifted from me when we broke up. I don't know if she liked the poster or just knew it meant something to me. Very strange. I also managed to lose my copy of Gurps Prisoner in my house fire-- one of the few Gurps books I really regret being destroyed. Not that it was a useful resources but it really represented a strange open period in game design (again another story I need to do about the various oddball proerties put out by rpg companies in the '80's and '90's).

Anyway, AMC's been streaming all the old episodes online. They're preparing for their own remake mini-series. I'm dubious about that, even with Ian McKellen and
Jim Caviezel. The rest of the cast is too pretty (the original show avoided any real sexiness). Caviezel, despite my liking him as an actor, doesn't seem to have the right gravitas. I'm also worried it will be a too literal re-envisioning of the series. I always liked the surrealism of the original. But my main point about the show on AMC is that rewatching those made me realize that some of the episodes just aren't very good. They either dramatically shift tone, break some of the rules in a goofy way, or just feel like filler. Part of that was the original production schedule and part was ITV trying to get enough episodes to market for an American audience. So, I think if one wanted to watch and get a good feel for the tone, one could/should do it in twelve episodes. Here's the twelve I would pick:

1. Arrival
2. The Chimes of Big Ben
3. Free for All
4. Checkmate
5. Dance of the Dead
6. A, B, & C
7. The Schizoid Man
8. Hammer into Anvil
9. Many Happy Returns
10. The General
11. Once Upon a Time
12. Fall Out

Of those Dance of the Dead is probably my favorite for setting the tone of control against The Prisoner's own cleverness. Episodes 6, 7 and 10 are less successful episodes in mind opinion, but they're still good. I've cut out It's Your Funeral, Do Not Forsake Me Oh My Darling, Living in Harmony, The Girl Who Was Death, and A Change of Mind.

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