INTERVIEW WITH ROBERT FAIRCLOUGH. Edited version, provided by David Mackenzie.
Well as you can see, behind me and next to me and all around me it's a
slightly bizarre surreal sort of experience here with human chess
behind me. I don't know what's going on, but I know a man who does and
that is of course media historian Robert Fairclough. Robert, if I can
bring you in here, tell us what's going on.
Well, we're standing basically in a film set here, Becky. Behind you
is the chess game from the episode Checkmate in the Prisoner. These
two gentlemen here are Village security. If any of the pawns of pieces
misbehave they'll be carted off for immediate psychological correction
to the hospital.
Now there were 17 episodes. At the time it was the most expensive
thing made. It was £75,000 an episode - compared to Channel 4's "Lost"
which is £1.4m an episode - is not that expensive, but at the time it
was extraordinary wasn't it?
It was extraordinary. Because in those days TV shows rarely went on
location. The unit came here and basically transformed the entire
village into another world. If you look at the typeface over here
[indicates towards Village sign prop] - it's a typeface called
Albertus - and it was used on everything from Village food to mini
mokes to sigage and it creates an entire kind of like corporate brand
for a disturbing but familiar new world.
So what was it all about? I mean it was... it was... wasn't it planned
for 25 episodes - there were only 17, so people say they ran out of
money, some people say they actually wanted to leave it open because
apparently at the end of the series the ITC switchboard was totally
jammed with people saying "Well, what was that all about, then?" there
were no answers.
That's right. I think the best way to describe the Prisoner is - Rover
just bouncing on you there. [indicates towards "Rover" prop] As the
name implies that's the village guard dog, and again...
...citizens in line.
The best way to describe the Prisoner is as a melting pot of
everything going on in the 60's - like the secret agent stuff, new
technology coming in, worries about the freedom of the individial, and
how society was taking over people's lives which again is even more
relevant today. But beyond that you've also have nice wonderful
pop-art costumes like the extras are wearing here [indicates towards
extras], primary colours and... geometric shapes were very in in the
So was it like a kind of 1960's "Big Brother" experiment?
Yes, if you like, it's a pop-art "1984". I think really that's why
it's retained its power today because the isses it's on about are
still relevant and beyond that it's just a wonderful piece of
psychadelic 60's entertainment. So you've got entertainment with some
serious issues which not many TV series really pull off.
At this point, a member of the This Morning crew fell into the flowerbed off camera (an incident referred to later on in the programme).
I think it was the first TV show that didn't have a linearity; it was
an open ended thing. There aren't any simple answers to what's going
on. You can argue if there's anything at all. On the strength of that
final episode which was called "Fall Out", which had loads of mad
stuff going in like "The Beatles" "All You Need is Love" is used in it
and you get people singing biblical hymns which wasn't something you
saw in action shows in the 1960's.
I think that's what people come back to, because it was so open-ended.
You can just keep thinking, "what was that about?"
So you can make your own conclusions.
There's stuff today such as David Lynch films, things like "The Truman
Show", things like that, but - apart from "2001" which came out a year
later after the Prisoner - there was really nothing like this on TV,
and to do it in an action show which at the time was the staple thing
Incredible. Hopefully this will give people more of an incentive to go
back and have a look at it again because it certainly is
extraordinary, isn't it?
It is. It's marvellous.
Brilliant. Thank you very much indeed for joining us, it's back to you
in the studio and we'll see you later on.
INT. STUDIO. DAY.
Thank you very much indeed, Becky. "The Prisoner" really is one of the
all time TV greats isn't it? A bit like "This Morning". Sort of.
INTERVIEW WITH FENELLA FIELDING. Unedited, provided by Alan Jones.
Becky: "Well, welcome back to Portmirrian (sic) here in North Wales. As
we've already said it was the setting for the 19 (did she mean 1960s?) series
cult classic, The Prisoner" and with me now, I'm delighted to say, from
the stars of the show, Fenella Fielding. Lovely to see you, Fenella. Now you
had a very central role in the show, didn't you?"
Fenella: "Well, I don't know about central. I was only a voice."
Becky: But you were the unseen, village voice." (mysteriously accenting "voice")
Fenella: "I was the voice..." (giggles... presumably as she realises that voices are always unseen)
(interrupted by Becky)
Becky: "Have you got any lines?...."
Fenella (continuing): ".... of the prison camp."
Becky: "Have you got any lines you remember from it?"
Fenella: "Well, let's see. I would say...'Good evening, good evening, good evening. Just remember that the flavour of the day is strawberry'."
Becky (gushing gasp): "Aaaaah, That's brilliant! That's not bad at all, is it? Very exciting for our, er, Prisoner, er, supporters behind us to have you here but this is, er the second time back because, you weren't here during the filming, were you?"
Fenella: "No No. It was in London."
Becky: "It was all in London and filmed... how long did it take you to actually do your bit?:
Fenella (laughs): "I think about twenty minutes!"
Becky: "No, really? And yet it run for seventeen series."
Fenella: "I know."
Becky: "What does it feel like, to have been part of such a massive... film, a massive series?"
Fenella: "Well, I don't think anybody realised that it was going to be the massive success that it was but.... you know, people just sort of did it. It was a job and they knew it was a nice job and all that but it was such a talking point. You know if you went to supper, writers would be there and they'd say 'so fascinating this series, The Prisoner' because nobody could work out how it was going to end and of course, in the end, it didn't end. It just stopped."
Becky: "Do you reckon there's going to be another, another series at the end of it, a sort of way, you know, of picking up and carrying on?"
Fenella: "I think you ought to ask Pat McGoohan that."
Becky: "Would you do any more? If they asked you?"
Fenella (laughs): "Of course I would. If it was as easy as that."
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