It's Your Funeral?

An episode post mortem by Vaughan Brunt.

Whenever Prisoner fans have one of it's periodic fan polls you can be sure that languishing near the bottom of the list will be Michael Cramoy's series segment.

There are plenty of possible reasons why this story has failed to gain too strong a hold on the affections of Prisoner viewers. It was screened pretty late on in the run so there were few surprises left for Everyman Films to spring on the audience. The main reason some fans cannot be bothered with it may have to do with the absence of much Portmeirion original footage although there is probably more of it than in "Chimes Of Big Ben".

Perhaps it is because the story is not specifically about Number Six that some do not care for it? The strange thing is that on the surface it should be one of the most easily accessible episodes. The plot is far from being symbolic like "Fall Out" or "Dance Of The Dead". OK. so the motivation is a little shaky here and there but at least it nearly seems to have a start, middle and an end.

It is a handy reference guide to the workings of the Village and it's other less charismatic inhabitants. Jamming, we are expected to believe, has not reared it's head before Number Six up until then. I wonder why he did not hear about it when he went through the villagers during `Checkmate'? (The answer is that the writers had not come up with the idea back then, but never mind that.)

There is on occasion some inconsistency in the behaviour of the villagers from episode to episode. The automatons of "Dance Of The Dead" and "Free For All" who comply with all their superiors wishes are not the same as the scared but alert inhabitants seen in `It's Your Funeral' and `Hammer Into Anvil'. Both these tales concern problems within the Village itself and in both cases Number Six manipulates them rather than the other way round as was the case in those former episodes.

So if "It's Your Funeral" hands us more juicy tit bits about Number Six's captors, how come the programme is rarely praised?

Could it be because nobody can take it too seriously? Do Prisoner fans find it difficult to listen to Derren Nesbitt's dialogue as the young Number Two (his description in the script) without being distracted by the curly syrup of figs?

This bring me neatly to another point, how come both he and his assistant (Mark Burns) are bedecked by an attack of the toupees? Was it a prerequisite that Green Dome workers had to secrete their slap heads? Maybe that was the undisclosed reason for the old Number Two's imminent demise. No wonder Peter Swanwick looked so worried in scene one.

We see Number Six at one point having his portrait painted by Charles Lloyd Pack. Now this raises a `fourth wall' anomaly worthy of Isaac Asimov. If he was in the village how is it possible for someone who is identical to him to have a son who years later can play a character who watched The Prisoner on television? No wonder he liked the series, it featured a man who was a doppelganger of his own father! My brain hurts!

Inconsistency appears again when the artist tells Number Six; "They don't bother much any more. Now they keep a list of all known jammers. Anything control picks up from these, they just let ride." This hardly fits in with their response to the Rook's rebellion on the chess board during "Checkmate". A softer line is indicated probably because the plot de¬manded it. It could be argued that it was necessary for Number Six's adversaries to become less infallible in order to allow for a widening of future dramatic possibilities. If the Village never screws up then what hope can there be for the Prisoner?

An inevitability of conclusion to his adventures would mean the viewer need not bother to wonder how Number Six will win the day each week. This is a weakness of all series which restrict the plot perimeters of their stories with too limiting a format. e.g. we knew he would end up back in the Village in `Many Happy Returns' just as we know David Vincent will fail to convince the authorities that they are being invaded and we know that Moonbase Alpha will fail to find a planet on which they can peacefully settle.

If the Village were going to use the assassination of the old Number two as a `secret' method of dumping their old employees (proof positive that the Village is run by Michael Portillo or Senator Bob Dole.) how come so many members of the authorities are in on the plot? The Supervisor, Number 100 and Number Two's assistant not to mention whoever Robert Rietty was playing that week at the controls of the sound and cameras which re-edited the chat between Number Two and Number Six all helped the boufoned baddie in his scheme.

The point of the Village taking reprisals against the inmates in order to validate the blame elsewhere is odd as who did they wish to convince? The conspirators themselves would have had to be silenced, unless there was another unspecified reason for the killing.

Had the retiring Number Two proved untrustworthy to his masters? Was this an expedient way of stopping the Jammers? and most importantly had the writers bothered to think it all through logically? Probably not.

Number Six had to use all his earlier training as John Drake (Yes, of course he bloody well is!) in order to see through and defeat his enemies plan. The dodgy morality which had resulted in his need to leave his job was clear to him and he knew how to combat it. The arrogance of the young Number Two and the paranoia of the old meant he could convince the victim despite the phoney video records.

You can read messages about self interest and the need to attain complete trust from people who work with you but I suspect that "It's Your Funeral" is likely to appeal more to the folk who enjoy the hour long Danger Man stories of intrigue and political dirty dealings than to those who just follow The Prisoner and his quest for a bit of peace and quiet.

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