Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Back in the Village

"I will not be pushed, filed, stamped, indexed, briefed, debriefed, or numbered. My life is my own..."

Anyway, following up on my previous post about Patrick McGoohan's demise, I first discovered The Prisoner when I was in high school; in 1985, the local PBS station started running the 17 episodes, and I was hooked by the end of the first episode "Arrival." Sure, there was the cool Ron Granier theme song, the quintessentially late 1960s visual style (the show was made in 1967), the vaguely surrealistic imagery (Rover the attack balloon is what most people usually remember), the weird beauty of The Village, and the the fact that it can take quite a bit of effort to figure out what is going on a lot of the time--all things I loved about it--but it was ultimately a show about ideas, examining the place of the individual in society. Are we all just numbers in a mechanized, computerized society? Can there be such a thing as a true "individual"? What is to be done with those who won't conform, who don't agree with such Village slogans as "A still tongue makes a happy life" and "Questions are a burden to others, answers a prison for oneself"? Good questions all. (Actually, over the years I have come to the belief that numbers are actually more individualistic than names; many people--even in my local phone book--have the same name as me, but no one has the same, say, Social Security number. Unless someone has nicked that, too.)

It was very much George Orwell via Franz Kafka, and I proceeded to videotape each episode. When I went off to college that fall, I inflicted the episodes on various dormmates. That summer, I had also joined Six of One, the Prisoner Appreciation Society (okay, fan club, the only one I have ever joined) and even had an article published in their quarterly newsletter. (I unearthed it the last time I moved and, probably like like most things I wrote when I was 17 [or 27][or 37], it is too wretched to ever be reproduced.) It's still one of those programs I like to revisit (of course I have all the episodes on DVD), and the older I get the more things I catch and the more things I understand. I think I'm even starting to figure out "Once Upon a Time"!

Now I am more resigned (ahem) then ever to visit The Village the next time I am in the U.K.

Favorite episode: "The General"; the one where all learning in The Village is merely computer-generated facts requiring no (nay, discouraging) original thought, and Number Six destroys the computer by asking it "Why?" There is also one scene which is a great satire of artists' retreats, which is what I always kind of envisioned Yaddo being like.

Least favorite episode: Probably "Do Not Forsake Me Oh My Darling," where Number Six's
mind is transferred into another body so he can be temporarily released from the Village to find a professor. Kind of a goofy idea, but it was a clever way to get around the fact that Patrick McGoohan had, before the series had been expanded from its original run of 7 episodes, contracted to appear in Ice Station Zebra, and thus an episode of The Prisoner had to be made without him.

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