The Unmutual Reviews: The Prisoner Series Guide, by Roger Langley.
Review by Rick Davy.
Creating an A5-size guide to The Prisoner series is no easy task, but I must say at the outset of this review that a box of slightly unwell frogs would have made a better job of it than Roger Langley has managed to achieve with his series guide, now on sale in Portmeirion. When Steven Ricks' superb "pocket guide" went out of print several years ago, there was a definite hole in the market for an affordable and succinct Prisoner guide. Thanks to Roger Langley, that hole is now a deep chasm. But where does one begin when trying to describe it?
Roger Langley's chosen layout of this book is very uneasy on the eye, for starters. Each episode (plus other items such as The LA Tape) is given its own page. He has decided to divide up each of these pages into quadrants, divided by "photographs" and quotes. This makes for an uncomfortable reading experience, with every other word s p a c e d o u t l i k e t h i s to fill the line. Also worth mentioning is the poor quality paper (which reminded this reviewer of 1970s Izal medicated toilet paper). The centre pages contain 5 "key points" for each episode. Why Langley feels that "Portmeirion name on bottom of a cup" is one of the 5 key points to "A Change of Mind" is beyond me, and describing Checkmate as "the only episode to feature human chess" is little more than a waste of ink. The content of each page is appallingly written, as one would expect from an author whose track-record in this field is one of incredible ineptitude. Unable to construct even the simplest of sentences (eg: "An ensemble cast keeps this only story to be written by Gerald Kelsey on track...", "there is, in Girl, an real actor called John Drake"), Langley has littered this publication with all manner of grammatical errors and questionable "facts" about the series. It's a shame, when writing it, he didn't litter his dustbin with it.
As with all books of this nature, there is only a limited amount of space with which to work, and this effort is no different (running at 32 pages, cover to cover). It is therefore confusing as to why no fewer than 3 of these pages (almost 10% of the entire publication) should be devoted not to The Prisoner series, but to Roger Langley's books and disgraced Appreciation Society (information which is of no use to the passing tourists his book is hoping to attract). No mention is made of official merchandise, such as the Companion book or DeAgostini magazine, yet a whole page is devoted to Langley's "Prisoner in Portmeirion" book (sales of which can only be described as lacklustre) and Village Map. He lists a host of Prisoner websites, none of which (apart from Portmeirion's) is independent of Six of One.
Photographs. Surely there must be something positive to say about these? With a claim of "over 100 unseen photos" on the front cover, this reviewer was looking forward to perhaps seeing some new images from the 17 episodes. However, what we get is a selection of grainy images from a total of just 5 episodes, each being no bigger than a thumbnail. None of the images within this guide are from the series itself (suggesting that Granada Ventures did not authorise their use), but taken by extras and day trippers during the filming of the early Portmeirion-based episodes. Therefore, we have the ridiculous spectacle of episodes such as "Fall Out" illustrated by pictures of the human chess scene from "Checkmate", and "Once Upon a Time" illustrated by the "Free For All" election parade. In short, this "book" is an embarrassment. Even at £2.99 it is vastly over-priced, and should be avoided at all costs. £3 will keep an African family alive for weeks - if you've got three quid burning a hole in your pocket, I know what you'd feel happier spending it on.
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