THE PROJECTION ROOM (The Prisoner Compared...)


By Will Wright III from his blog at

Today, older fans of the Original "Star Trek" Series by now knows what plot elements from Trek's pilot episode "The Cage" had in common with the film "Forbidden Planet", including the fact that the planet which Captain Pike was held Prisoner on (Talos IV ) was also the only "Forbidden Planet" for Starships to travel to in Federation space.

Anyone remember The General Order? Do the words "Death Penalty" ring a bell? In this episode, Pike was captured and caged, his every move watched and studied by his "Keepers", as they tried to control him, by the use of illusion. He was, a Prisoner! like Number 6! That's Six of One, NOT, repeat, NOT Seven of Nine.

Who then is Six? Why, Six was "the Prisoner" of course.

As it so happens, "The Prisoner" was a 17-episode series ( produced by ITC ) that was first broadcast in the UK on the BBC a year after Trek 1st aired in the States , from 29 September 1967 to 1 February 1968 & follows a former secret agent ( John Drake ? also played by Patrick McGoohan,) who is kidnapped and held prisoner in a mysterious coastal village resort .

In "The Village" they do not use names, but instead assign people numbers. As a matter of fact, in the episode "The Cage", Captain Pike had an "Number One", who served him, while the Prisoner's Number 6 also had different "Number 2's" , who were his "keeper", and Six was always asking: "Who is Number One"?

Both characters are fairly low-keyed. Both use "their heads" to out smart their "keepers". In Fact, it could be (and has been) argued that most
of what happens to these character's takes place only in their mind's eye.

One is trapped "underground", the other was "undercover". Both refuse to perform or give into their keeper's wishes, even though both their keeper's play "mind games."

Long before the famous "Red pill/Blue pill" scene in "The Matrix", where our hero has to either choose to face reality or continue to believe the lie of the illusion of his reality, there were these characters - Chris Pike and Number Six.

What might surprise you to learn, is that before there were modern day TV productions that would tackle these issues, there was a English Scientist and politician named Francis Bacon, and way back in 1620, he published his Novum Organum, which was an plea for objectivity and clear thinking, and in it, he wrote about four different classes of "Idols" ( or "false delusions") which beset men's minds.

Yep . According to Bacon- these delusions are "productions of the human imagination, corrupt and ill-ordered predispositionof mind, which pervert and infect all the anticipations of the intellect."

For distinction's sake, he assigned different names to these Idols, calling them the:
1) Idols of The Tribe ( aka, "group think" mentality),
2) The Cave (one's own privately held false beliefs),
3) The Marketplace - (or how ads produced by ad agencies bend or attempt to twist one's perception of truth) and finally
4) The Idols of the Theatre !

Today we could/ and should substitute the word "Movie", as many films that are "based on a true story" but may not have happened like the way we are lead to believe that they may have really happened - while watching the fake "reproduction" of said "true" event. He further goes on and discusses the idols together with the problem of information gained through the senses, and how deceiving that information can be and remarked that men should renounce the qualities of these Idols. ( I'm not making this stuff up.)

A variety of other techniques are also employed in an attempt to try to extract information from the Prisoner,including hallucinogenic drug experiences, identity theft, mind control, dream manipulation, and various forms of social indoctrination in an attempt to break Number Six, not only to find out about why he resigned as an agent, but also to extract "information."

According to "Prisoner" fan Vance Socci , another common element between "The Cage" and "The Prisoner" is "the hero's rejection of female temptation, which seen as a path to another kind of imprisonment. The Village makes several attempts to "hook up" the prisoner with feminine delights - the first of which is the blonde maid in "Arrival" ( Episode One) who offers her services in quite a saucy manner. Pike also rejects his fellow prisoner Vina, who is actually bait for him. Both sets of captors use illusion to try to sway the respective heroes."

Both Pike and Six operate a post-war atmospheres, both of them no longer wanted "the job". One "resigns' after he is caged, one is "caged" because he resigns. How about that?

In the end- both of them "escape", ( or do they?) only to end up back where they physically started. Chris Pike on Talos IV, Six in the Village.

The only difference is that in the end, both of them WANTed to be there, where they were. Both locations switch from Prisons to places of Freedom. Pike "free" of the wheelchair & his body, and for some reason - I can't help but think of William Wallace's "Freedom" scream at the end of the film "Braveheart" when it comes to Drake's Number 6 . However Six didn't have to die, he just had to survive and make it out "alive."

But is there a Prisoner connection back to "The Forbidden Planet"
Why yes, I think "one" could make a claim that both "the Prisoner" and "Forbidden Planet" do indeed have something in common, & that's with a little concept called, " Responsibility assumption", a doctrine that states an individual has substantial or total responsibility for the events and circumstances that befall them in their personal life, to a substantially greater degree than is normally "thought".

Forbidden Planet featured an analogous concept to responsibility assumption; in which a race of advanced beings called "Krell", through the development of technology, became able to materialize/project their thoughts into reality, to disastrous ends - wiping themselves totally out of existence.

The Prisoner featured an ambiguous climax spawning several interpretations, one of which implicates "responsibility assumption."
In the final episode Number 6 apparently succeeded in determining the identity of the mysterious "person" who led the group and thus ultimately determined his own fate. The Question that was ALWAYS asked by Six:

"Who is Number One?"
Answer: "You are Number Six."
And here you thought , but "NO man is just A Number." Which brings us to ask - was Rover just a Monster from the ID? Ah - The Monsters we create!

Maybe, just maybe, like Morbius's character , "The Prisoner" is more about exploring one internal unconscious feelings ( fears, jealousies, prejudices, hate, power and control illusions/ issues, etc etc) that all of us harbor , and how those very thoughts effect how we react to the world & those around us, than it is about anything else.

In a real ironic twist, the Prisoner's final episode, "Fall Out", received a HugoAward nomination for Best Dramatic Presentation in 1969. However that award went to" 2001: A Space Odyssey", which starred Gary Lockwood, known for his role as Lieutenant Commander Gary Mitchell. (You know- the guy who was given God like telepathic and telekinetic powers, transforming him into Dr. Evil ) in the second Star Trek pilot episode: "Where No Man Has Gone Before."

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