THE UNMUTUAL PRISONER ARTICLE ARCHIVE
One of the things I've always appreciated about The Prisoner is that it lends itself to so many possibilities. Psychology, sociology, the anti-war sentiment of the 60s, individualism, etc. & etc. There are so many aspects that I think good old fashioned Spy-Fi gets lost in the shuffle at times. And its the Spy-Fi that I enjoy playing "What if?" with. I like trying to devise plausible scenarios to explain the thing. Honestly, I don't always agree with myself, but its still fun. And when you consider that, when interviewed, McGoohan himself said that "The Prisoner" was an allegory and that the individual should feel free to decide for themselves what it all means (And isn't that altogether compatible with the mindset of #6?), well, any interpretation, yours or mine, on whatever level, is just as "official" as, say, "Shattered Visage" isn't it? So,with that and with my "What ifs?" in mind ...
What if #1: What if #1 had a mental breakdown? Considering the stress involved with the job this is hardly far fetched. And if #1 had an underlying moral bent that was constantly being ravished by the circumstances that were a normal part of his work, well, so much the worse. The breakdown would be severe, so severe that he might actually cease to be #1 and emotionally, mentally escape into his cover. Oh, #1 must have a cover. You couldn't very well present yourself to the world as the top man in control of a clandestine government compound now could you? What cover would be perfect for #1? If he had a job, a cover, that gave him access to top level security information, if his cover allowed him to monitor possible security threats, the perfect cover would be that of a super spy. The spy, in turn, would also need a cover. In "Once Upon a Time" clues are given as to #6's employment in the "real" world. What more respectable position, and mundane with no suspicion attached, but that of a bank employee? ("I'm good with figures. You can ask the bank manager.") What if his denial and desire to escape a reality he couldn't deal with any longer was so compelling that not only did #1 "resign" mentally and emotionally but his cover, the super spy, resigned as well? Why might he be so eager to escape?
There are several good clues given in "Once Upon a Time". Bombings during WW 2 and being responsible for the deaths of innocent civilians. Being forced to parachute behind enemy lines and being caught. Does he suffer from a type of Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome? An automobile accident in which innocent citizens are involved, all because he was "on a mission". There are a great many gut wrenching possibilities. After he retreats into denial, after he resigns on a multitude of levels, everything experienced after this is an attempt by the upper echelon to recover and restore #1, who is the gravest of security threats. He is constantly bombarded with subliminal hints as to his real identity. For example, when all the cards are placed on the table in Harmony which ONE always pertains to him? The Ace, #1. When he goes to fetch the film he'd dropped off to be developed a year earlier in "Do Not Forsake me Oh My Darling" what number has been transposed in the shops record book? When he does "escape" and stands before his own flats door in "Many Happy Returns" what is his address? When he turns the tables on #2 in "Once Upon a Time" and 2 is behind bars, locked in, #2 laughingly says about the butlers activities, "He thinks you're the boss now." #6, "I am." Having so obviously lost control of the situation #2, almost pathetically, says, "I'm Number Two, I'm the boss! Open the door!" #6, very calmly given the situation, replies, "Number One is the boss." Even with all the evidence available the Prisoner's mind won't budge, won't accept the obvious. And now, after all attempts have failed, the powers that be realizing that the denial is complete, and that no one, not even #1 after he has literally been face to face with himself in "Fall Out", along with such blatant answers to his own wonderings like "Who are you?" "I am #2." "Who is #1?" "You are, #6.", can extract information, and that he now posses more of a security problem in the Village than he would outside of it, they send him home. He can live out his fantasy, a prisoner of his own mind. He can be the resigned super spy living peacefully as a bank employee. He has earned the right to be an individual. Of course they send someone with him, an unsuspected warder, to watch over him. Just in case.
What if #2: There are a very few people in the Village who, from time to time, appear without numbers. The Professor and his wife are two examples. But there are only two who are always there and who NEVER wear a number. One is #6, who adamantly refuses to be numbered. The other? Well, if YOU were #1 and living in the Village, would you wear a #1 badge on your lapel?! No, you would not. You would pick a position that was inconspicuous and that lent itself well to unobtrusive observation. Always in the near background keeping tabs. One person fits this niche admirably. Might he be #1? What if ... Dare I say it? ... the butler did it? Consider. He never speaks, his facial expression never changes. He will NEVER give anything away. Who would suspect him? And think about the possible mentality behind the face that never changes, that shows almost no emotion. Given his stature, or perhaps I should say his lack of stature, the position of #1 would be his opportunity to be "big" in a world that thinks him "small", if it thinks about him at all. A cruelty, of the most perverse sort, might stem from this. Providing the perfectly tuned frame of mind for the one needing to rule a community like The Village without compassion.
What if #3: Just because there's a #2 does that mean that there MUST be a #1? What if #1 is no more than a Boogieman invented by the higher-ups to keep the lower-downs in line? It would add to the confusion, just a threatening voice over the phone, placing in the mix a non-existent threat to deal with, keeping residents of the Village, both the prisoners and the warders, continually off guard. And on guard as well. This thought doesn't really change much but it does lend a pathetic air to the residents activities, so many things geared to placate One that dominates unseen. And who is nonexistent.
What if #4: (One of my personal favorites.) The Village is operated by the other side. Our side, and we're the good guys of course, knows about it. We also know that several of our own people are being held there and we want them back. And we know that The Village has infiltrated our own intelligence agency. We know who some of these moles are but we're having difficulty ferreting out the rest. A group of our intelligence personnel, those that are loyal beyond doubt, devise a plan. The Village must be broken, but how? If we only had someone on the inside it could be destroyed from the inside. We could more easily learn just who in our organization was a traitor if we only had our own man there, in The Village. IF we could just get an agent in unobserved. But how to infiltrate something as seemingly impregnable as an installation such as The Village? And even if he was inside how would it be possible to keep him and his work a secret? And then we realize. If we can't get someone into The Village unobserved perhaps we could make it so observable as to make a clandestine operation look like anything but.If we could place someone inside and let THEM do it for us, let them think its their idea and their action. And so our best agent becomes the bait. His resignation is staged. The Village takes the bait, and now? They have more problems, from the inside, than they can handle. His repeated attempts to escape? A smokescreen that hides his real reason for being in The Village. Observe, learn, and without needing to escape "obliterate it, and you with it." And for the folks who think #6 and John Drake synonymous can't you just see Drake pulling this off?
Well, those are a few What ifs? Enough to grease the wheels and put a mind to work devising plots and subplots and ... Excuse me now. One of the monitors in #81s apartment has gone on the fritz and I need to get the maintenance personnel on track. Be seeing you.
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