Reviews: Think Tank by Roger Langley
Review by Cameron Stewart.
Back in September, I had the dream of a life time come true by visiting Portmeirion. Already I was a huge Prisoner fan, and found the whole experience amazing. We even got to stay in the village for a night, giving me a chance to really appreciate the view. However if I had to say one thing that was disappointing, it would have to be the Prisoner shop itself. Notably the feel of the shop, and the stock they sold.
There was no Prisoner DVD Boxset, a replica Prisoner coat that was an extortionate amount for £149, and a limited number of books. Which were, for the majority, all written by one man: Roger Langley. Now I had already read a few things about him from the Six of One Info site, but I never like to form too much of an opinion with out having my own experiences.
However the fact that was an overwhelming amount of books written by him, possibly suggested some form of control. I also work in a book shop and knew of several other books, in print, that weren’t there. Eg: Rupert Booth’s ‘Not A Number’.
Despite all these aspects I decided to buy three books published by the Six of One’s own press: Escape Publications. One of these was The Prisoner Trilogy, a collection of three Prisoner stories all written by Langley.
Up to this point, I had yet to read any Prisoner fiction, and was quite interested to do so. However, I took an instinct dislike to the first story ‘Think Tank’ because of it’s blurb, which is actually an extract from the book. ‘The Degree Absolute test was a picnic. Our Operation “Fall Out” was a Joyride. The Think Tank is reality’. What I hate about it is that Roger Langley is comparing his own writing to the best writing of the original series.
Also the cover claims that the book is fully illustrated. What it means is that pictures of Portmeirion have been Adobe Photoshopped and added to fill the pages. However as I started reading the story, I began to realise not to take it too seriously: because what I read was actually self published fan fiction.
I found this story so bad that I was surprised no one had made any comments about it, and if they had they seemed to praise it (why?). So in this review: we’ll look at every aspect of Think Tank and discover why it might be so bad.
I’ve added some endnotes as well, where I as a fan, have ranted on about Prisoner continuity, so it doesn’t get in the way of the review.
Before the story begins, Roger Langley decided to write a preface, in which he seems to talk about some date idea he’s got. This involves what year he believes the Prisoner is set in and what ages he believes the characters to be. While there is nothing wrong with this, we’ll have to see whether his idea actually has a significant purpose to the story or whether he’s a fan trying to convince you of his idea.
So the story
starts off with a meeting, taking place between a bunch of people and a voice
on an intercom. It quickly transpires that they are all the Number Two’s
the Prisoner has faced, while the voice on the intercom is Number 1. I think
this idea is quite a clever one: as the character of Number 1 still has an
air of mystery to it. However, the scene does make it very clear that there
are only three ladies present in the room (Dance of the Dead, Many Happy Returns
and Free For All). This works on the basis that all the Number 2’s in
the series where the only Number 2’s which Number 6 faced . Considering
that the Prisoner was there for over a year I’d assume that he met a
variety of Number Two’s, not just the ones from the series.
Anyway, they soon come to the conclusion that the logical thing to do is to bring the Prisoner back to the Village. Yeah, that’s creative. Write a story about a man who spent an entire series escaping a village, only to take him back there. Roger Langley certainly isn’t the first writer to do this, but we can’t excuse him for writing it either. It’s essentially going backwards and means that one of the things the Prisoner will have to do is escape, making the book already predictable. Also, we know that the Prisoner is going to get kidnapped.
chapter starts with them kidnapping the Prisoner. Wow that was quick, no hanging
around, and through a mad frenzy we discover that this is all a nightmare
the Prisoner is having. Through the narrative we discover that it has been
six months since escaping from the Village. Surprisingly he’s still
living in his same house.
I would have thought he’d have moved away, considering he lived in a Village replica for a year and a half. Plus the people who ran the village seemed to have access to it throughout the series; I would have thought staying there would be fool- hardy. Also, I thought it was implied that the Butler kept the house at the end of Fall Out.
During his breakfast we discover he still hasn’t married his fiancée Janet. So were meant to believe that after a year of being apart, with neither of them developing another relationship with anyone else and with them finally being reunited, and neither of them pushed for marriage. I always thought that was where the Prisoner was going at the end of Fall Out. The moment he got in his car and speeded off, I thought he would have gone straight to Janet.
a newspaper, he discovers an article about the Number 2 he escaped with and
decides to visit him. On arrival at his house we discover the Butler now works
for McKern’s Number 2. Surprisingly, he is greeted by the Butler saying,
‘Good Morning Sir!’ So now Roger Langley has made the Butler talk,
I think he’s broken one of the fundamental laws of the Prisoner: THE
BUTLER NEVER TALKS.
The Prisoner is obviously shocked by this, but never asks him about the revelation. After a long wait, the Prisoner finally meets Number 2 and we find out that the Butler only talks to the Prisoner. So I don’t know why Roger Langley has decided to write that, perhaps it makes the Prisoner a better hero if the Butler has the confidence only to talk to him?
As it gets
late the Prisoner is invited to stay the night in the house. When he wakes,
he discovers he is back in the Village. He meets the new Number 2 and learns
things have changed. People no longer have numbers, but letters. The penny
farthing has also been replaced with a wind mill. Ok, I’m a bit sceptical
of the design that Roger has gone for. In the book, they have a drawing of
what it looks like and the sails are connected to a swastika.
Now this is where Roger’s writing hits rock bottom. There’s only one reason why writers have Swastikas randomly appear in their stories and that’s to make their villains look really bad. One of the weakest forms of writing is to compare your villains to the Nazis; so in this case there’s no reason for there to be a swastika on the windmill. It’s been deliberately added to make the village look bad, but considering that they kidnap people as well as mentally destroying them, I would have thought they were villainous enough. Also adding to the Nazi comparison is that the windmill has the letter ‘F’ placed in the centre, which represents the Prisoner’s badge (F being the 6th letter in the alphabet), however it does, with the swastika, looks like it stands for ‘Fascism’. The series managed to create an evil faceless force of oppression without having to go through the comparisons and tropes of associating it to a similar past organisation. This tawdry comparison weakens the Villages own malevolence. They don’t need to be compared to the Nazis .
after an attack from Rover, the Prisoner wakes up in the old people’s
home and discovers he’s aged several years. Interesting, let’s
see where this goes. At the same time of looking old (which includes a bold
spot on his head) he also feels old such as back pains and poor eye sight.
He receives a letter saying that Janet is coming to visit, which would mean that she has aged too. Sure enough she has and they start chatting. When Janet claims, that the roads works on her journey were bad, the Prisoner, through his clever deduction, remembers that the A3 had road works going on before he was old . Thus he is still in the same year! Theoretically these road works could be new road works, but no the Prisoner has done it once again. Even worse Janet (or fake Janet) doesn’t even try to persuade him otherwise. The moment she realises the supposed mistake, she is described as knowing ‘the game was over’.
This must be one of the simplest plans to ever fail by the Village. Compare this plan to The Schizoid Man. They made him grow a moustache, change his food habits and makes him left handed, and after all that effort not once did they give up that quickly. So the Prisoner goes back to his room and restyles himself to look the age he should. He walks over to Number 2’s house and tells them the charade is over. When left in Number 2’s control room, the Prisoner is made to watch a video that he watched weeks before he came to the village for the first time.
The video contained instructions for him to carry out, while he was a Secret Agent . These instructions were for him to take data, which he would receive from various sources and deliver them somewhere. It was made very clear that he is not to look at the data himself. However, he disobeyed that order, and whatever he read had enraged him so much that he went and hid the data somewhere. A week later, the Prisoner resigned.
So Roger Langley has invented the reason for why the Prisoner resigned? This is supported by the next line, “All during his previous stay in the village he had known that it was not the reason for his resignation at all which they sought. It was the location of his hiding place”.
He’s finally broken the biggest rules of the lot. He’s given the reason for why the Prisoner has resigned. Now everyone is entitled to come up with their own ideas but the fact that he’s written it in a self-published fan fiction story makes it look bad. Also his idea has a lot of flaws in it. If the village had never wanted to know why he resigned, why for seventeen episodes and a year and a half did they ask him, “why did you resign?” In the series, its clear the Village don’t beat around the bush, so why didn’t they ask him ‘where did you hide the data?’
Roger Langley’s idea isn’t that bad. The idea of the Prisoner resigning, because of his morals, is very in fashion with the ideas Patrick McGoohan would have come up with, and even has elements of Danger Man.
However, the whole point of the Prisoner was not why he resigned but his fight against individuality. If Patrick McGoohan did have a specific reason for the Prisoner then he would have hinted at it not stated it.
out that these plans were meant to be given to the operation known as Think
Tank. Finally, the title organisation of this book, which has taken half the
story to appear. We discover that Think Tank is a group of scientists who
have been locked away somewhere, to come up with scenarios for war, and also
come up with plans to combat enemy threats. Again, great idea, shame it’s
self published fan fiction.
Once the video has finished, Number 2 comes back in, now with a Number Two badge back on. So I’m not sure what the purpose of changing the Numbers to letters and the Penny Farthing to a Windmill was all about. When Number 6 made himself look younger, he even designed his own Number 6 badge. This might suggest that the village wanted him to believe in the old system, I don’t know.
Number 2 claims that they will extract the information from him using a specially designed machine by Think Tank. The Prisoner is knocked out and finds himself in ‘a circular room, one not resembling anything he had seen before’. How many variations of circular rooms could there be for him to find a new one? Especially considering that every other set in The Prisoner was circular.
On the side of the walls are several portholes (sounds like the inside of the Tardis from Doctor Who). One of the portholes contains the faces of Leo McKern’s Number 2, Number 48 and the Butler. Whether these are images or the real McCoy’s is uncertain. Number 2 speaks the line used on the blurb for this story, ‘The Degree Absolute test was a picnic. Our Operation “Fall Out” was a Joyride. The Think Tank is reality’. Well this Think Tank has got to be pretty formidable if it’s meant to be more powerful than what the Prisoner went through in Once Upon A Time and Fall Out. Also, what does Roger Langley mean by ‘…is reality’. Is he implying that Once Upon A Time and Fall Out didn’t actually happen?
that ‘you will never leave here’ and so Think Tank begins. What
ensues is a lot of loud disturbing noises, followed by flashing lights and
momentum that chucks him around the room. Eventually the whole thing is too
much for him and he falls unconscious.
He awakes to find himself scrunched up into a ball, trapped inside something with ‘only one porthole left’. So it could be implied that this Think Tank could have the ability to change it’s shape. Interesting idea.
McKern’s Number 2 appears at the porthole, and demands he tells him the location off the papers. However, the Prisoner refuses and finally collapses because of exhaustion.
was pretty exciting; I wonder what Think Tank will throw at him next? So the
following chapter starts of with him dreaming. Ok, maybe Think Tank is trying
to break him down through his dreams? No, because the Prisoner wakes up in
the next paragraph and we discover they nursed him back to health! Why?
I mean, is that it? Is that all Think Tank is going to subject him too? And the answer to that question is; yes. That’s pathetic, all they did was play loud noises, flash irritating lights and chuck him around a bit. You could get the same amount of punishment if you entered a Gravitron without being strapped in.
How was that meant to be more terrifying and powerful than Degree Absolute or what he went through in Fall Out? Why’d they give up so easily as well?
So the Prisoner
goes about his daily routine, which mainly involves exercising, and frankly
is pretty boring compared to the last scene. In the woods however, he is confronted
by the young Number 48, and for some bizarre reason seems to be working for
the village. I’m wondering if the line ‘Think Tank is reality’
is meant to imply Fall Out didn’t happen. Also I think we can safely
say, that the faces in the porthole were not images .
Number 48 informs the Prisoner, that the village has decided to execute him, and then they knock him out again. I don’t know why they knock him out, because they take him to the counsel chamber room and talk a little bit more about his impending death. Then he is free to roam around the village. The whole scene doesn’t move the story on, so why did it happen? Number 48 could have just asked him to come along. Heck, why didn’t he just tell the Prisoner what he told him in the council chamber outside?
So a lot of nothing happens, followed by more unnecessary knocking out of the Prisoner. The people at the Village must be making a sport of it. Finally, they begin to carry out the sentence, death by gas chamber. More comparisons to Nazis. They begin a count down, saying that if he reveals the location of the documents they’ll let him live. However, he refuses, and they continue with his execution. Just at the last second he begins to talk. Oh, that was disappointing. Well surely he’s not going to tell them everything?
chapter starts off with ‘he had to tell them’. God damn it! I
am undecided to whether the Prisoner would give in to being killed? In comparison
to some of the things the Village did to him, execution seems a little gentler.
So for about a page we get more boring descriptions of Roger Langley’s date idea, and a great line ‘two and half years of his life wasted’. More like several hours of my life wasted.
Also some of the most confusing parts of the story happen here. He appears to have ‘[divulged] the hiding place of the papers. However, he’s imposed one condition, and that was to reveal it to only one person, ‘Sir Charles Portland’.
For starters, how earth did he manage to get a single condition? They had his life in the balance, all they had to do is push a bit harder and there we go. Also the Sir Charles thing is highly contradictory and opens up the floor for more of Roger Langley’s own interpretation.
If the Prisoner is only going to tell Sir Charles, that surely implies that he thinks Charles has connections with the village. In ‘Do Not Foresake Oh My Darling’, Sir Charles was after Seltzman and even though the Village was after him as well, they seemed to work separately.
And as we’ll discover in the next chapter, the village have not pre-warned him, so it is implied that he does not work for them. Also this adds an even bigger question. If Sir Charles is not working for the Village, then why would they let the Prisoner reveal the location to him? The Prisoner might as well have told Bill from Accounting.
So the Prisoner is returned to his home along with his car, so he can drive to Sir Charles. This is signified by the sentence ‘he engaged first year and pulled the little car away from the curb’. Oh wow, I’ve never put a car into first year before, I wonder what that’s like?
It turns out that the Prisoner is being followed by three villainous thugs from the Village, in another car. Wait a minute, if they’re going to follow him to Sir Charles’ house, why didn’t they just escort him there in the same vehicle? In fact why didn’t they just take him to the house in the first place, instead of his?
But of course the Prisoner cottons onto this plot hole and manages to loose them in the traffic. Once he arrives at the house he talks to Sir Charles and is reunited with Janet. However, their reunion is not long, as The Prisoner up roots Sir Charles’ rose bushes, as we discover that’s where he hid the papers. Knowing that the three thugs are going to turn up any moment, he decides to leave and head off somewhere particular. However Janet, who has not seen him for a while, demands to go along.
Now to give this book some credit, this is the only part of the story that isn’t confusing, problematic and contradictory to the Prisoner continuity.
Janet instructs him to lie down in the back of her car whilst she drives. They get Norman, the Portlands faithful butler to drive the Prisoners lotus back to his house as a diversion. Sure enough it works and the three thugs go after him. However once they realise it’s not him they restart their search.
Meanwhile Janet and the Prisoner continue up the A3, while he sits covered up in the back giving directions. As it turns out, the Prisoner is actually heading for the location of the Think Tank.
Eventually they arrive, and he gets her to stop 200 yards away from the entrance. He gets out taking a gun with him! And just not any gun, it has explosive bullets! Roger, you do remember Patrick McGoohan’s dislike with the use of guns, don’t you?
before he heads out, he states “They know I’ve got the papers.
The place I want is marked. They have the same information.’ I don’t
really understand what he’s saying in this sentence. The first bit is
obvious, but the next line ‘The place I want is marked,’ is a
bit baffling. It isn’t helped by the proceeded, ‘They have the
same information.’ I can only assume he’s talking about the documents.
If that’s so, how do the Village know this information? If they do,
why were they after the Prisoner and the location of the hiding place in the
first place? If that’s so, does he literally mean that the location
of Think Tank is marked on the papers? It’s too confusing.
Anyway the car with the three thugs arrives at the entrance, which leads into a long tunnel. Presumably they’ve given up looking for him, and the Prisoner slips inside just as the gates open. The thugs notice his presence and get out the car, and this is followed by the Prisoner shooting and killing them. As they’re explosive bullets, I’d imagine their bodies were blown to pieces, but no. Their bodies are still intact on the floor.
Surprisingly the Prisoner recognises this long dark tunnel from the recurring nightmare he had at the start of the story. Why didn’t I mention the nightmare in more detail at the start? Because it served no point to the plot what so ever and will continue not too.
into their car, which ‘now boasted one very previous owner.’ Ha,
ha, ha (did you read the sarcasm there because I meant it). He drives down
the tunnel until he sees a second gate at the end, and naturally decides to
crash into it…? Instead of slowing down and seeing whether he can open
At the last second he swerves to hit it sideways on, presumably to do more damage. Surprisingly his plan succeeds and he stubbles out, shoots some more guards before heading down some stairs. He reaches a door but can’t get through it. So he climbs through a ventilation shaft (mirroring A. B. C) and reaches the end to discover a room with several guards and scientists. After killing all the guards, he let’s the scientists go and sets the base to self destruct (mirroring Fall Out).
Once he escapes the Think Tank Headquarters, he jumps back in Janet’s car and sure enough the place explodes . The whole scene feels more like a James Bond movie, not a Prisoner battle. After this, the Prisoner starts spouting forth a monologue, and while it is actually very interesting, it is a little over dramatic. It is also another occasion when Roger Langley compares his own story to the classic series. I’ll let you rant about it.
Before this chapter ends, Janet says a line which is left to interpretation. When considering the fate of her father’s up rooted rose buses she states ‘He had hoped to be number one this year.’ We never find out what he was going to be number one at, presumably some flower competition. Nothing else is mentioned of this line, and not even the Prisoner bats an eyelid. I wonder if Roger Langley will turn Sir Charles into Number 1, or even Number 2 in later stories. I have not yet read ‘When In Rome’ or ‘Charmed Life’ as I write this, but I’m willing to go down to the bookies and place a bet on it.
chapter begins, with the announcement that the Prisoner and Janet are getting
married. FINALLY! Surprisingly The Prisoner, best man is Potter?! Now once
again, Roger Langley’s interpretation comes into the story.
As we know Potter is a character from The Girl Who Was Death and there is strong debate as to whether this episode is a past adventure of the Prisoner, or whether this is definitive proof that the Prisoner is John Drake (since the actor playing Potter appeared in a Danger Man episode with the same character name). Personally, I always felt that the story was just made up by the Prisoner, which he was telling to the children.
As I mentioned earlier, writing your own interpretation into a Prisoner story just doesn’t work. We can also interpret from this scene, that the Prisoner has no friends. The fact that Potter was ‘drafted in to act as best man,’ suggests that no one was available.
So Potter drives a car to The Prisoners house to pick him up and take him to the wedding. The Prisoner gets in the car and goes for a nice drive around London. The story ends with the Prisoner asking Potter which route he’s taking, while Potter is actually is outside the Prisoner’s house wondering where he is!
Now to be
fair, that ending was pretty good. However, when I think about it, that last
bit and the scene involving the Prisoners appearance at Sir Charles house
are the only two good moments in this entire book. Everything else is dreadful.
The story is actually two good ideas bundled in to one adventure, the writing
is full of mistakes and punctuation problems, and of course the fact that
it seems to juxtapose the original series, along with Langley’s inserted
interpretations, gets irritable after a while. Also Roger’s date idea,
which just gets in the way of the storytelling.
I paid £8.99 for this book. That’s the average retail price I expect to pay for a professionally written book, so I do feel a bit cheated. Granted, that there are three stories in this book, so theoretically I’ve paid £3’s for each. However, if I had known how bad this book is I don’t think I would have paid the £3.
Despite all these problems, it was enjoyable to read. Not from a literal perspective, but from the fact that it was hilariously bad. That’s the only reason why you should read this, to have a laugh, and not get angry with it. To be honest one day, I do intend to read Roger’s other two stories, but only after I’ve read a good Prisoner story first.
Also, it is stated that there are seventeen people in this room, and only
one of them was not a Number Two. Through my calculations this would then
mean, forgetting Leo McKern, all the Number 2’s from the series are
here. Now when you consider that the village tried to kill ‘André
van Gyseghem’ Number 2 in It’s Your Funeral, you do start to wonder
why he’s come back. Plus it’s slightly implied that Colin Gordon’s
Number 2 might have been killed for failing at the end of A. B. C?
This also brings a new point to the table, in It’s Your Funeral we see several clips where footage of the Prisoner has been interspersed with footage of previous Number 2’s. As the Prisoner makes no comments about them, we can only assume they are genuine. So where are they in this meeting? Now you could say that André van Gyseghem and Colin Gordon are not there and that the other two are. However, this cannot be so because then there would have to be four women not three.
2. This also brings into question why Roger Langley decided to have a windmill. Alan Stevens & Fiona Moore in their book ‘Fall Out’ believes that the original Penny Farthing represented ‘a symbol of how sometimes technological “advances” constitute a step backwards rather than forwards’. So what does the windmill represent? Well, we like to think of a windmill as continually turning, so maybe it symbolises the continual running of the village? At the same time a windmill, creates flour for bread, which is considered the simplest of foods to get hold of. Possibly suggesting that the Village is in control of all aspects of the world, including very basic food supplies.
3. The fact that fake Janet drove to the Village adds an interesting idea. Throughout the Prisoner three separate locations were given for the Village, Portugal (Many Happy Returns) off the A20 (Fall Out) and Lithuania (Chimes of Big Ben). The simplest interpretation for the different locations is that the Village is everywhere. So what was Roger Langley suggesting? Well for starters it’s unlikely that she took the A3 to get to the A20, as that’s a very stupid route, so Roger could be adding another location for the village.
4. Without going into to much detail, it was never firmly established that The Prisoner was a secret agent before coming to the village, and so we can count this a another part of Roger Langley’s interpretation.
5. Once again this seems completely wrong as Number 48 was one of the four rebellious figures who escaped in Fall Out. At the end of the series I expected that they’d head out into the wide world and start stirring up the establishment. How did they all get dragged back into the village? There was even talk of a sequel series by McGoohan himself, which would follow the adventures of Number 48 and the Butler.
6. This whole action scene is wrong for the Prisoner. Patrick McGoohan has
stated, many times in interviews, particularly in an interview with Roger
Goodman, ‘sometimes in the course of history you find that the build-up
of these frustrations within people, that it comes to a conflict area, where
a war can clear the air’. This gives the reason for the shoot out in
But how appropriate is the shoot out/explosion/car crash in Think Tank? Unlike
the Think Tank, the series had seventeen episodes to build up to a huge climax.
Think Tank itself only had half the story devoted to it. It’s also written
that the Prisoner’s actions are not vengeful but good old-fashion survival.
I’m not sure how destroying Think Tank is surviving, however I think
the next endnote is meant to try and explain that. All in all, the scene feels
like something out of a Hollywood action movie, which was only written because
Langley thought he could when he watched the end of Fall Out. ‘For
a long time now […] I have been in the middle of a running lonely battle
with a side whose numbers never decrease. I’ve won through, scores of
times only to be thrown right back in it again. The point is […] I couldn’t
give up. They were waiting for me to take the offensive again, just so they
could engage in some new war. The difference this time is that escalations
reached a new height. They went to their limit, and me to mine. […]
I’ve got nothing left that they want. They know I’ll fight, and
carry on the fighting, but only if there’s a conflict. […] What
I’ve done has ended that conflict. It’s over. You can take us
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