The Unmutual Reviews: Network DVD 40th Anniversary Set
REVIEW OF DVD SET, COMPLETE WITH COMPARISON WITH 50TH ANNIVERSARY SET, IS HERE.
THE ACCOMPANYING BOOK - THE PRISONER PRODUCTION GUIDE by ANDREW PIXLEY
Review by Brian Watson.
When Network commissioned a box set of The Prisoner containing all the episodes and very many extras, they split the DVDs between two matching boxed volumes and presented them in a very attractive and sturdy slipcase with a book, and it is that book that is the subject of this review. Andrew Pixley, the author, knows his cult tv extremely well and has written for Network many times before. That said, he is happy to acknowledge and credit the various sources and other authorities on The Prisoner that he consulted in compiling this printed companion volume.
The body of the book comprises three sections; a Series Overview and Select Bibliography, Episode Notes, and lastly Appendices comprising reproduced script pages from the first episode, Arrival, and also some reproduced Unused Story Treatments.
The Series Overview is a really good round-up of the facts and myths that surround the series, its making and its legacy. It's hard to find anything new to say about a programme that is now nearly 50 years old, but Mr Pixley summarises it well in 74 pages. I saw The Prisoner on its first showing in Britain, so much of what is in this section was familiar to me but, especially as a guide for new viewers getting into the series for the first time through the lavish box set, this section is a very comprehensive introduction to the show's creation and subsequent mystique.
Mr Pixley wisely advises watching the series before reading his Episode Notes section of the book as these are also very comprehensive and inevitably contain "spoilers" in terms of plot reveals. Personally, I'd recommend doing this episode by episode rather than watching all seventeen Prisoner episodes then reading all the Notes. I think that's what he means. The Prisoner is so much more than just an adventure series, and deserves savouring the first time it is watched, rather than going for the marathon watching sessions that aficionados occasionally indulge in.
The Notes on each episode start with a listing of those involved in the production and then discuss the plots and the particular themes using quotes and memories from those involved. As the series has been interpreted almost to death since its first showing, it is really refreshing to see this compilation of viewpoints set out in such an unbiased way for people coming to The Prisoner anew.
The last nineteen pages of the book are the Appendices and, in my opinion, these could have been left out as they appear in .pdf form on the disks.
In summary, the editorial part of the book and the way it is broken into logical sections is great, and ideal for the assumed target audience of this handsome box set. There is a wealth of information and suggestions for further reading and exploration of the series and its themes.
My only adverse criticism of the book is in its presentation. The photographic cover matches the DVD cases' style and the paper quality is good too. The problem is that in squeezing the text into a book that matches the two DVD packs to make a visual trio, the font is rather small and there are not line spaces between paragraphs so it all feels rather cramped. Also, every odd page in the book has the header "Viewing Notes" whereas that really only refers to the middle section.
As I've already said, the Appendices section could have been omitted to advantage too, although I'm not sure that would have released a worthwhile amount of space to either allow for better paragraph spacings or a larger font to be used throughout. On balance, I'm sure the reader would rather have the information than have the excellent text cut for the sake of appearance.
This is easily one of the best books about The Prisoner both for new viewers and those who think they know it all. It is certainly good enough to be published as a stand-alone publication in its own right, so to get it as part of such a great DVD compilation set is really good value.
© Brian Watson 2013, reproduced with permission.
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