Reviews: The Prisoner: Official Fact File Magazine and DVD Partwork.
Review by Lew Stringer.
DeAgostini, £2.99 (usual price £7.99)
The arrival of a professionally produced magazine devoted to The Prisoner is news that all true fans of the series will rejoice in. "The Prisoner: The Official Fact File" hit the shelves of newsagents and supermarkets all across the UK on Tuesday December 21st 2004. The first issue with accompanying DVD and Village Map fixed to a huge yellow backing board, ensured the publication was unmissable. Furthermore, a major prime time tv advertising campaign appeared across the festive period too, alerting the nation to this new launch.
The publication originally appeared months ago, as a "test launch" in selected areas of the UK. As is often the case with such trial runs, it was cancelled after only six issues. Fans were disappointed and thought the project had failed, but after a few tweaks publishers DeAgostini have relaunched the series nationwide, starting from scratch.
Unlike various fanzines that have appeared over the years, this is a genuinely official Prisoner magazine, carefully approved by the copyright holders Granada Ventures and featuring their logo on the cover.
The format of the collection is similar to most "partworks" (ie: limited run series in finite parts), in that the magazine relates directly to its companion DVD. So the first issue naturally kicks off with "Arrival" on DVD and the magazine focuses on that episode as well as introducing readers to the background story to the series itself.
It packs a lot into its first 40 page issue. No fanzine-style material such as fan poetry or self-congratulatory editorials here. The emphasis is distinctly on facts about the tv series, professionally written, with expertly designed layouts. Contributors include Robert Fairclough and Marcus Hearn. Full colour throughout, on quality paper stock, articles are divided into sections such as Technology, Characters, and Locations. There's even a superb fold out of a Lotus Super Seven, explaining the history of the vehicle.
Issue one's free "Map of your Village" was another nice collectible; a near perfect reproduction of the colour map seen in Arrival.
Was Number Six John Drake? That's a question that's left open to the reader, but profiles of Number Six and Drake are compared to help people draw their own conclusions. The tenuous connection is more likely to be because DeAgostini will be changing the magazine in the summer to "The Danger Man Collection" with issue 18, after The Prisoner completes its run. (I understand the Danger Man DVD's will feature four half hour episodes per disc).
The launch issue was a special price of £2.99. From No.2 the price rises to £7.99. Too steep? Not really, considering you get a full colour magazine plus an episode on DVD. It's worth pointing out that the image quality of this DVD release is better than those issued by Carlton a while back. Comparing the two, it's obvious that the DeAgostini version has better definition, and the colours are not pale like they were in the Carlton set. Click HERE to see pictorial proof that the new DVD is of superior quality.
Issue two will be in the shops on January 5th, and fortnightly thereafter. It focuses on "The Chimes of Big Ben" (with relevant episode on DVD) and as an exciting bonus has an additional DVD featuring the final two Danger Man episodes in their "feature film" version "Koroshi".
As shops often tend to stop stocking partworks after issue six, it's advisable to place a regular order with your newsagent soon to ensure getting every issue.
All in all, a quality package, and a delight to read.
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