Saturday, 25 September 2010

The Prisoner Challenge: A. B. and C.

This is the first episode to feature Colin Gordon as 'the milk-drinking Number 2' (he'll be back in The General later in the series). It is also the first time we see the big red telephone that Number 2 uses to speak to someone he calls "sir" - Number 1 perhaps?

A. B. and C. wastes no time in getting on with the plot; it seems in as much of a hurry to get started as Number 2 is after he gets the call. It is a dark and stormy night when Number 2 and his scientist Number 14 begin their experiment - a stock shot of lightning sums up in a second that this is mad science they are practising here.

Their experiment allows them to see into Number 6's mind - a constant loop of his resignation, taken straight from the series' titles - and control what he dreams so they can find out what he would have done, upon his resignation, had he not been taken to the Village. They are seeing not a flashback or a memory, but what might-have-been.

Number 2 and Number 14 introduce into Number 6's dream the first of their three scenarios - 'a' is played by Peter Bowles and he is a somewhat camp member of the 'other side' from Number 6. When they meet Number 6 brushes him off, but 'a' doesn't take no for an answer.
"You never could take a hint," says Number 6.
"I don't want a hint; I want you," is the reply.

I think Number 6 seems very much like John Drake in the ensuing fist fight, right up to the point where he finishes it with a "Be seeing you." This dream sequence could well come from an episode of Danger Man, it feels just like that kind of spy drama when away from the trappings of the Village.

By day Number 6 is suspicious when he meets Number 14 and recognises her from the previous night, having briefly glimpsed her as he was being put under the drug. He guesses - and confirms - that Number 2 is up to something, but can't do anything about it at this stage.

In the second dream 'b' is a woman, a spy and an enemy of 'a,' and Number 6 (who is, after all, the coolest man ever) is very charming with her and they dance. Number 2 and Number 14 put words into 'b's mouth but Number 6 sees through it and brings the dream to an end.

By day Number 6 takes action - following Number 14 he gets into the experiment room and finds everything they have done, including the a, b and c folders. He massively dilutes the last dose of the drug and, with that small act of sabotage accomplished, leaves the scene.

That night he pours the drugged tea - by which they had clearly intended to put him to sleep - down the sink and has a drink of water instead. It still knocks him out.

The drug is dangerous and this is the last dream they can enter and manipulate, and the effects show as the camera tilts from side to side, trippy music plays - distinct from the classical music of the previous dreams - and Number 6 moves around as if drunk.

"It's dreamy. This is a dreamy party!"

He adjusts a mirror on the wall until it is straight and seems to regain some control that way. The events that follow are rather more fantastic than the previous dreams as Number 6 goes looking for 'c.'

Winning (on '6' naturally) on the roulette wheel gets him a key, one that is matched by the key held by Engadine, the party's hostess. Together they unlock a door and step through, but Number 6 fights showing what lies beyond it. Number 2 and Number 14 force him to go on.

Number 2 is excited about what he is uncovering about Number 6 and can barely contain his enthusiasm - he thinks he has gotten further than any other Number 2 before him. This would perhaps be of more significance if this episode came later in the series than I am watching it.

Number 6 is face to face with a masked man in a tuxedo, hat and cape. Number 2 is desperate to know who he is, and Number 6 wants to show him to "the people who are watching" (by which he means Number 2 and Number 14, but this could also refer to the viewers - who are, after all, as in the dark about Number 6's resignation as Number 2).

But it is revealed to be Number 2 behind the mask and, watching the screen, the real Number 2 jumps to see his own face, and then he staggers back with the shock. In the dream Number 6 walks into the Village and enters the experiment room. Number 2 and Number 14 turn to the door in the real world but, of course, it remains closed.

Now in an identical room on the screen, Number 6 hands Number 2 an envelope and, upon opening it, this Number 2 sees a handful of holiday brochures.
"I wasn't selling out. That wasn't the reason I resigned."
He then lies down on the table, taking the same position he occupies in the real world, and the dream ends - to go back to showing the scene of his resignation.

The big red telephone rings for Number 2...

This episode is an excellent blend of the fantastic elements that give The Prisoner its uniqueness with the more conventional spy-drama elements that would have been familiar to viewers of Danger Man, Patrick McGoohan's role for several years prior to The Prisoner.

These come together in the last dream sequence, where Number 6 turns the tables on Number 2 by taking control of his own dream. Number 2 is fooled because the events created by Number 6 remain plausible within the bounds of a spy thriller; he is drawn in as the viewer of this drama (as the viewers at home watching this episode) and he is shocked by the 'twist' that the man in the mask is him.

In the end Number 2 - and the viewers at home - learn next to nothing about Number 6.

Next: Free For All

No comments:

Post a Comment