THE UNMUTUAL PRISONER ARTICLE ARCHIVE
Adapted from an article written by Jane Rowe in 1999, with her kind permission.
Mary Morris: Dance Of The Dead, Leo McKern: Once Upon A Time, debatable in Fall Out.
Leo McKern: The Chimes Of Big Ben, Eric Portman: Free For All, Kenneth Griffiths: The Girl Who Was Death, Kenneth Bauer: Living In Harmony, Clifford Evans: Do Not Forsake Me Oh My Darling.
Guy Doleman/George Baker: Arrival, Anton Rodgers: The Schizoid Man - Cunning, Patrick Cargill: Hammer Into Anvil -Sadistic, Colin Gordon: A, B & C, The General, Georgina Cookson: Many Happy Returns - Heartless and calculating, Rachel Herbert: Free For All - Malicious, Peter Wyngarde: Checkmate, Derren Nesbitt: It's Your Funeral, John Sharpe: A Change Of Mind, Nadia, Fotheringay, Colonel J: The Chimes Of Big Ben, Cobb: Arrival.
When viewing "The Prisoner" a number of themes strike me as important, the most noticeable one being betrayal and linked to this are the secondary themes of loneliness and paranoia. As a background I have given a list of Number 2's and some notable characters and how I think their sympathies lay for Number 6.
From the list above I think that the vast majority of Number 2's were against Number 6 or impassive towards his plight. However, I feel that a couple of them actually regarded him with sympathy and regretted the situation he was in and their role in trying to break him. Leo McKern's Number 2 seemed to grow more sympathetic as time went on. Mary Morris's character was rather ambiguous, but I feel that she respected Number 6 and felt sorry for him.
It is no wonder that, with this balance of the Village authority for and against him, Number 6 was paranoid, but on top of this he had to contend with villagers and supposed friends and work colleagues from the past betraying him. There were various levels of betrayal from the villagers, there were those who callously and knowingly betrayed him such as Nadia, others who were forced into it i.e. Alison and Virginia Maskell and a final group who did it unwittingly, like the Rook and Queen in Checkmate.
It is perhaps not surprising that Number 6 couldn't trust other villagers, but he might, reasonably, have been expected to trust his former `friends' and work colleagues. Why did these people betray his trust? What had Number 6 done to Cobb or Fotheringay for instance? Or was it their own untrustworthiness? I think the people from Number 6's past betrayed him of their own free will and that there could have been various motives. They themselves could have been traitors, which to me seems highly probable in the case of Cobb - who was seen at the end of "Arrival" going off "to meet his new masters". Some of them may have been envious of Number 6 and wished to discredit him and in that way gain recognition for them-selves. A third possibility and one which may give some honour and integrity to Number 6's colleagues, is that they may have been misled into thinking that Number 6 had done something despicable or treacherous and hence was deserving of their betrayal.
As well as being betrayed by individuals, on occasions Number 6 was isolated and betrayed by the whole village. Two examples of this spring to mind, the first is in "Many Happy Returns" when the village is deserted, the villagers must have co-operated in this, and the second is "A Change Of Mind" when Number 6 is declared unmutual. These two episodes also put Number 6 in isolation. In "Many Happy Returns" we see a determined Number 6 with a purpose and he seems unaffected by loneliness. However, in "A Change of Mind" when he is ostracised by the people around him and has no immediate purpose he seems lonely and homesick. Incidentally, these feelings strike me as coming across strongly in "Dance Of The Dead" in conversations with Mary Morris - first on the lookout, then on the beach.
I mentioned at the beginning that there is a sense of paranoia in a number of episodes, however Number 6 may have just cause to be paranoid. Not only is he stabbed in the back while he is in the village, he has little joy in the outside world. Take Janet for instance - she is supposed to be his fiance, but she hardly seems perturbed by the fact that Number 6 has been missing for a year and she quite easily accepts a total stranger as him - but that's a different story! Janet seems to have done absolutely nothing in the way of finding out what had happened to her fiance, one would have expected her to have kicked up a fuss. The real life plight of journalist John McCarthy illustrates this, with his girlfriend Jill Morrell doing everything possible to bring attention to his predicament. Also what of Number 6's parents, or are we to assume that they are dead?
It seems to me that even before Number 6 was abducted he had few (if any) friends he could really trust or rely upon. This situation begs Number 6's favourite question - Why? Was it because it made him less vulnerable as a secret agent if there were few people who could be threatened to make him do something. Or perhaps as a scientist he may have been too tied up in his research to socialise. Whatever the reason in the series, is it indicative of Patrick McGoohan's own life? As has been pointed out elsewhere he moved about a lot when young and thus lacked a stable environment, it is also likely that any friends he made would be lost in subsequent moves. Is this instability responsible for the subconscious feelings of betrayal, loneliness and paranoia which surfaced in "The Prisoner"?
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