Thursday, 18 June 2009

McGoohan on My Mind: Six, Sex, Romance and Chivalry

One webituary I read, back in January, of Patrick McGoohan, carried comments, and I had a grin amidst my feelings of regret, when I read this one:

"Sex on feet"? Haven't heard that one before, but a
lot of women seem to react to Patrick McGoohan that way.

In one interview once, Patrick McGoohan remarked that for Number Six to have a romantic relationship in the village would be impossible for without trust how could there be any romance? I'm probably paraphrasing him, but that was the tone of his comment. Notwithstanding such a perfectly logical statement, many fans have commentated on Number Six's *difficulties* with women and this has led to frequent suggestions of misogyny and even for one or two extremists, notions of closet homosexuality! A Serious Charge indeed, but one that the actor would be amused by especially, perhaps.

Personally I have always been baffled by the idea that Six didn't like women. He seems to be involved with at least one almost every episode, sometimes more than one !! He also seems to have the softest of hearts for what used to be called "Ladies in Distress". However he also had more reason than most of us men to be wary of any woman who *seemed* to find him attractive. I thought it would be fun to meet some of them. As I don't subscribe to any of the cock-eyed episode-shuffling theories, I can start at the beginning and Six's relationships even show a steady progression throughout the series run.

The first female prisoner Six gets to touch is the tragic woman with no number. To his certain knowledge she has been implicated in the death of a personal friend of his, but he still is willing to believe her and accepts her offer to help him escape. There is no romance of course. There was neither time nor opportunity. No doubt her tears helped. As Six's romantic adventures continue, tears often play a role.

In Episode Two, Number Six befriends a new prisoner. She at least has a name: Nadia. Six doesn't exactly trust her, but he is not averse to playing along with the village, and puts on a good show of romancing her in the moonlight. A crucial piece of information does get provided to the viewer too. As Nadia seeks to elicit information from Six in her flirtation in the shipping crate, he relaxes enough to confirm that whilst he is not married, he is actually engaged to somebody. After the adventures and apparent success of their escape together, Six has come to trust this woman and in a terse exchange with his superior, he endeavours to secure her safety: Political Asylum for the girl!.......... That depends.......... It depends NOTHING! It's GUARANTEED!.......... Alright, so long as you keep your side of the bargain

The village's initial attempt to use the female seductress technique to get Six to open up illustrates that they deemed him as vulnerable to romantic love as any other man. Perhaps they did not bargain for his taking his *engagement* so seriously, or at least that was at the back of the script-writers minds....

By Episode Three we even see that Six dreams of women and they dream of him

Madame Engedine reminds Six, "Remember! You're mine! Be horrible to other women"

By the time the village attempt their doppelganger trick on Six, he has been in the village long enough to even find an intimate relationship, with another woman, who has a name.

The resolution of this episode plot relies upon the mind-reading Alison keeping silent when her friend almost escapes, after his mental abuse by the village. Their mental bond is sufficient that Six clearly believes her when she assures him that, "If I had a second chance, I want you to know that I wouldn't do it again." She is speaking of course, of her treachery of him. Nonetheless Six evidently accepts her apology and once again trusts this woman, so deep is his instinct to do so.

When Six finally escapes back to London he is of course met by the an arch-seductress of yore: the happy widow, who also is a woman with a name!

Whilst not entirely convinced perhaps, Six feels comfortable in her company and secure enough of her friendliness to not only accept her sandwiches, but also her dead husband's clothes.

It is important to notice that Six's attitude to the feminine side is not limited to flirtation or possibilities of romantic attachment. Before he met Mrs. Butterworth he had cause to put aside his anger and frustration to offer compassion to a bereaved widow, in a simple, but poignant scene, following his demolition of her husband's computer and the professor's consequent death.

He is a man of depth and is not afraid to offer the hand of comfort to the female sex and even brave enough to face the reponsibility of what he has done to her personally.

And so we come to roughly halfway in the series narrative and perhaps the most sophisticated sexual/romantic relationship we see in the story. Six is at the younger end of middle-age and is confronted by a woman, who plainly finds him attractive and is not afraid to show it. What is a man to do?

The sexual tension throbbing throughout this particular episode, never better exemplified than in this scene, should be watched, rather than written about. I guess you will either get it, or you won't................ just like real life, perhaps.

The village rarely lets up on the pressure upon Six's emotional side and the next episode sees them force a woman to love him, and he has to deal with her infatuation. At first he thinks it is a joke, then he feels sorry for the woman; later he gets angry. How annoying must it be for a woman to pledge her undying love to you, when you care not a fig for her? Yet, at the end of his anger at the Queen, and her genuine tears of sadness, Six cannot help himself and offers some small words of comfort.

Her gratitude is both touching and a little awkward, since they are both ready for bed.

The next episode shows the depth of Six's ethics when it comes to the *weaker* sex. Peter Pan certainly left us with no doubt that Six knows that women can be even stronger than men, but when he finds a young woman driven to suicide by a bullying No2, the savage side of Six is revealed and he becomes an implacable foe.

Six turns the principles of mind-control right back onto the current leader of the village, and driven by righteous vengeance for the young woman's needless death, Six is merciless, until the very end, when he seems mildly regretful as the anvil shatters. The significance of course is that Six had seen several men die or be tortured by this time, but he was only shaken by those, not stirred to retribution, as he became following the effective murder of No. 73 - a female of the species.

The next episode continues the serious times for Six as he opposes the assasination of a No2, notwithstanding his so recent willing demolition of one. I will not labour his dalliance with the watchmakers daughter. I'm sure the viewer can see what makes Six tick. However I would like to stop awhile to see how a woman can have a change of mind.

Poor, drugged-up No86 is yet another example of lovely female prisoners seking to bewitch Six. He remains physically kind to her though, even after drugging her with her own potion. He seeks no advantage despite an interesting aside between the Supervisor who asks No2 if the young woman is

looking after Number 6?

The supervisor is referring to surveillance, but the No2 injects the charged rejoinder


A reply that perhaps hits a little too close to home for the embarrasssed voyeur and procurer who is the Supervisor. No.86's physical beauty is of course plain to see, but Six has a good eye for soul, and never falls for her, as he did for some others as I have described. He is also learning of course. He has been bewitched befuddled and betrayed so many times already in this village. He is not a fool is he. Once bitten.............

And so the sexual journey of Number Six takes it's cruellest turn. The village sends him to meet his fiancee. The woman he loves, or at least the woman he loved. How can he know anything anymore? He barely even knows what he looks like and Janet, his lover, does not even recognise him.

How heart-breaking must that be? But to expose himself to her would put her in mortal danger - but even the discipline of Six cannot resist a moment of love as he says to her,

When I arrived, they were playing a waltz. The first I danced with my love, my dear love, in Kitzbühel

For a moment, Janet sees him, perhaps. Perhaps that moment is enough for Six. Who knows? Not I.

The journey of Six's heart ends in the 14th episode. This whole episode is an allegory of an allegory of course, a delusion built in a village of illusion. But is love any the less for being only in the mind?

Prisoner cult fans love this Western of course, with all the stories they have made up about Vietnam and suchlike nonsense - see earlier blogs - and especially because Alexis Kanner told them a story once about how the crew had to cover up Valerie French's decollette because *Puritan Pat* wouldn't like it. Looking at the above screenshot I'm wondering exactly how naked Alexis thought Valerie had to get! Perhaps the next picture gives us an idea of what was on Alexis' mind!

Anyhow, Six takes a good old beating right through this episode and still refuses to buckle on a gun; until the saloon girl is foully murdered, largely because she was going to leave town with him! Number Six, the man with no sex.

When Six finds out, he knows that a man has gotta do what a man has gotta do, so he straps on his gun and BANG the Kid is dead. Of course none of this really happened, like love itself, it was all in the mind.

Or was it? The village operative who was Cathy died in the real Number Six's arms sighing,

"I wish it had been real"

So next time you read someplace that The Prisoner had misogynist tendencies, remember that that is all in some cult's mind......... It is not reality ........

So that's religion and sex ticked off my list. Be blogging you some moor politics next time.......

Sunday, 14 June 2009

McGoohan on my mind: Religion Sex & Politics

It won't take anyone long to find references to Patrick McGoohan and religion. (omg! I have just increased the number myself!) After all, a man who said that up to the age of 15 he planned to become a Catholic priest, who made his London theatre debut playing a vicar (Serious Charge) and had his 1959 West End Sensation playing a Pastor (Brand) was always likely to be thought of as having religious persuasions. Then, when playing his TV hero 'John Drake' he was quoted as saying that "Every hero since Jesus Christ has been moral". Having lined himself up for religion he then conflated matters by bringing up sex, a subject inextricably wrapped into any Christian philosophy. His rejection of the part of James Bond in 1961 would further make his moral stance most easily explained by his pre-supposed religious principles. In the 1960's these attitudes were seen as relatively normal and cetainly to be approved of by Joe Everyman. By the late 1970's the sexual and social revolution in Britain made these old comments seem quite unusual, at least in the world of Showbiz and fan culture.

When prisoner fans began to try to unravel the show's 'secrets' they always sought to attribute what they found in the show into the character of their auteur. This crops up in the very first public outing, in Canada, in 1977 in those TV interviews I highlighted in my earlier blogs. Here is one part of the transcription:

I understand, in reading a little about you, that you're a very religious man, and my question pertains to "Fall Out." I have interpreted a lot of the acts as being...having this content. I'm thinking specifically of the crucifixion of the two rebels, of when their arms are drawn apart, the temptation of No. 6 by the President of the Village, of the temptation of Christ...
McGoohan: They give him the throne.
"Drybones," all of that. First of all, would you agree with my idea that that is intentional? That it is...
McGoohan: No, I had never any religious inspiration for that whatsoever. I was just trying to make it dramatically feasible. Certainly the temptation with the guy putting me up on the throne and all this stuff,'s Lucifer time. But I never thought that, at that moment. Maybe somewhere in the back of my mind it was there..... "And the hip bone's connected to the thigh bone" thing....... I just thought it was a very good song for the situation and also was applicable to the young man because, as you know, it's easy for us to go astray in youth and he was astray and he's trying to get everything together again.

He couldn't have made himself clearer and yet many years later (2005) a prisoner fan writes of what seem to be still-maintained ideas:
it was also central to McGoohan's life. As "The Prisoner" progressed it became more and more a reflection of McGoohan's will and McGoohan's angst and less and less the adventure series intended by Markstein. McGoohan's own personal agenda spilled into "The Prisoner" both in script and on screen. His view of women, politics, education, personal freedom, the cold war, youth rebellion increasingly came to the fore and, at the very end, out in front of the cameras, came that which he held most dear yet perhaps questioned most - his faith.

Apart from Fall-Out, the other episode that seems to loom large in religious vision is Chimes of Big Ben, when Number Six's art-work engenders christian visions.

Watching the programme myself I have to say that Number Six's cynicism about the merits of modern art seemed far more on somebody's mind than religious iconography. I have noticed a few opinions that showed an intriguing flexibility. The vague references to churches in the above scene were long held to demonstrate McGoohan's beliefs. Later, when script research showed that religious references were deleted, this was also taken to demonstrate his beliefs, on the premise that, as a *believer* himself he wanted religion to not be involved in the programme. As any good Number Two would have said, "Heads, fans win. Tails, McGoohan loses". It is obviously my intention to polemicise. But why do fans of this series so maintain their fictions about Patrick McGoohan I wonder. Anyhow, this next McGoohan interview outtake was published in 1995, a whole decade before, in an interview at the time of *Braveheart*, McGoohan was talking about about his 1974 project on the movie 'Catch My Soul'. He was referring to the later editing of the film by the Producer :

I lived in New Mexico at that time and the producer did too. He'd heard I was available and that's how, after the hiatus that followed The Prisoner, I came back to the profession. Unhappily, in the process of making the film, he got religion. Catholicism. He became a convert; he took the film and re-cut it. The editor warned me, I asked that my name be taken off it, and, unhappily, that was not done. The result is a disaster. What's more, he added 18 minutes of religious stuff. Ridiculous.

How could any fan still contend in 2005 that McGoohan had some strong loyalty to any organised religion, even his own boyhood one, after reading that comment made in 1995 about his feelings of an event as long ago as 1974 ? In case you think my polemicising is leading me to labour some randomly obscure comments I found on the internet, you will find that the most recent *Official* prisoner books on retail sale include pontification about McGoohan's (fan-supposed) religious beliefs and their consequent influences on the series as produced.... the same books of course that now say The Prisoner was a commercial failure in 1967/68, which statement I have pointed out in an earlier Blog, is a nonsensical statement.

As an aside - what does *Official* mean I wonder? It certainly seems to have nothing to do with Patrick McGoohan. *As authorised by the current holders of the film copyright* presumably, which copyright has been bought and sold more than once and whose approval is fairly meaningless. You will also find reference to McGoohan's 'strong religious beliefs' in the unauthorised (by anyone) 2008 bibliography, ludicrously entitled 'Danger Man or Prisoner'. I use the word ludicrous because it's main attraction, of cataloguing the length, breadth and diversity of McGoohan's acting career, only emphasises the paucity of reducing him to a caricature of some Jungian *cult memory* in the title, and to be honest, the bulk of the book's pages.

Mr. McGoohan of course put it best himself when referring to his cult fans in an interview with a senior member of the fan appreciation society - and yet an interview which is never quoted by those same fans and seems almost wilfully unknown to most:

It's a step into cultism. In the end it's got nothing to do with the subject - it's become a sort of entity in itself. There's a word that I can't find at the moment... it may come to me.

McGoohan made that comment in 1991. The interview was long and wide-ranging and he discussed the prisoner show in considerable depth. It vanished into a small circulation enthusiasts magazine, rather than the *official* or *authorised* fan archives, for endless republishing. Needless to say, quotes from this interview have never been featured on the regular reissues of The Prisoner dvd's, especially as within it, McGoohan complains about the so-called *missing* episodes: the Alternate Episodes, as the marketing men call them.

But... lets get back to religion...... or maybe I'm done with religion....

Moor sex perhaps? Next time. bCnU.

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

McGoohan on my Mind: Secrets, Agents, Ducks, Drakes and Get Smart

In my first blogjob I made my own arrogant comment about the arrogance of Fans. Nothing demonstrates their 'Day of the Locust' nature more than the conundrum they came up with, when they attempted to link fiction and fact, fed only by stupidity and ignorance.

Like me, many fans may be old enough to remember the character who made Patrick McGoohan so enormously popular with TV viewers in the early to mid 1960's. He was of course John Drake. Despite being enormously popular, by 1966 the writers were running out of stories and the the secret agent boom in America had led to so many competing programmes (such as Man from Uncle) that whilst the writers were struggling to write on their paper, the writing was clearly on the wall, so far as John Drake was concerned. CBS delayed renewing their contract with ITC as more and more American product came on-stream and judging by the final two episodes of 'Danger Man'/'Secret Agent' that were made, both budgets and production values were being sacrificed as ITC sought to find an economic way to continue the series. Ralph Smart left the reins of the show prior to the two colour episodes, and Patrick McGoohan, who by then had some considerable influence over Lew Grade, also abandoned the project. Sidney Cole went on to make 'Man in a Suitcase', the sequel to 'Danger Man'/'Secret Agent' ' in which poor production values were ever more apparent and mayhap contributed to it's failure to penetrate the US market. Meanwhile McGoohan of course (as we all know!) had obtained funding from ITC for the company he owned, along with colleague, David Tomblin, called 'Everyman'. The fact that McGoohan's name could by that time sell pretty much anything from hats to gravy powder, is evidenced by the opening titles to the show that his company Everyman, would produce. This is the first frame we see, after the famous 'resignation' sequence.

It was a guarantee of a significant television audience and 11,000,000 people in Britain and later, 25,000,000 in America duly tuned to watch 'Arrival'. Not surprisingly, many of us watching at the time saw John Drake resigning and being kidnapped and metamorphosing into Number Six. But metamorphose he did. The usually angry, constantly combative and often downright bloody-minded character who raged about the Village was no more like the calm, friendly, sympathetic John Drake, than the cynical, amoral David Jones (from Ice Station Zebra) was like the Danger man. However, as McGoohan once remarked himself, they all did look somewhat alike!! Well aware of the likely confusion and possibly anxious to resolve it, in the viewer's, and the media's minds, Patrick McGoohan's company made the situation very clear right from the beginning, as can be seen in this ITC Press Release from 1967.

In interviews McGoohan admitted that he retained the 'secret agent' milieu as a fundamental part of the plot of The Prisoner, as that was what he was known for at the time, and naturally he wanted to carry his audience with him. Perhaps he could be accused of wanting to have his cake and eat it but certainly he made no attempt to disguise what he was doing. He confronted the fact he was well-recognised as the agent of M9, and then explained, so far as he could without giving away any more of his plot than he had to, that his new character was not John Drake. There are magazine articles declaring "John Drake died in London....". One of them, from New Zealand, is here:
Fast forward to 1977 and of course, many in the fan society would naturally be ignorant of the history, and so, as they searched for the meanings they saw in the programmes and the allegories and hidden references, they naturally became entranced with the idea that the secret agent who resigned was John Drake. They seemed to know little of the character that was John Drake (a problem now resolved by the issue of the old shows on DVD) but of course they had seen the old press images of Drake, as used in the visuals of The Prisoner.It was obviously the same man. Then, in 1984 they had it confirmed for them by the Script Editor: "

Well, 'Who is No.6?" is no mystery - he was a secret agent called Drake who quit."

and so the fans, hungry for intrigue,mystery and conspiracy were off and running. Plainly, Mcgoohan's denial that Six was Drake was all part of:

"later myths built up about the series built up by McGoohan in his presentations before the North American college students. " see my previous blog

And so a curious amalgam of supposition was constructed. It goes something like this:
McGoohan denies Six was Drake. Six looks and sounds like Drake. There are pictures of Six, that are definitely Drake. Six seems to be a resigned secret agent. Drake was a secret agent. Markstein, who the Fan Dome tout as a creator of the show says Six was Drake. How do we resolve this conundrum? What could the reason be? Ralph Smart was the acknowledged creator of John Drake, so the reason must be that McGoohan would have had to pay Ralph Smart Royalties! Conundrum resolved!
In one fell swoop the Fan Dome label McGoohan as not only a tad deceitful, but mildy plagiaristic too and perhaps a little sneaky......... They seem generally oblivious to this character assassination however and so great is the enthusiasm for this myth/legend that you will find it detailed in many books on many web-sites to this day.

When I first read the *theory*, it caught in my personal craw, but for quite some time I ignored it (as with much else I read in the prisoner world). What did I know? Then, I realised that there was copious evidence from 1966/67, such as the articles I quoted above that demonstrate that McGoohan was totally open about the feasible Drake link and it's possibilities, from the beginning.

Then I began to wonder what the fans knew about Ralph Smart. I discovered that in fact nobody knew anything about Ralph Smart....not even the supposed *historians*. The whole 'Royalties' theory was a house of straw - sheer (uninspired) guess-work. Doing my own research suggests Ralph Smart was probably not the owner of any supposed copyright anyway. The brand 'John Drake' was in use all over the world, and there seems no suggestion that the money for this went anywhere other than ATV/ITC, to be no doubt divided between the likes of McGoohan and Smart as applicable in their contracts. Ralph Smart was directly employed as a Producer by Lew Grade. It is even unclear that the 'brand' was copyright to anyone. McGoohan's face and the John Drake name continued to be used for a pulp magazine in Germany right into the 1970's. I daresay nobody outside German pulp-fiction readers even noticed.

Whilst I had no more access than anyone else to any confidential, arcane, financial contracts, I could see no justification for the McGoohan/Drake/Smart Royalties myth and then I finally found something that linked Ralph Smart and The prisoner very directly, and quite personally........... I discovered the clearest possible evidence from The Prisoner show itself, that the whole legend was a pile of ripe cheese.

The very first person Number Six meets, after his arrival in the Village is the waitress, an actress familiar to McGoohan from his days in Danger Man.

The actress is Patsy Smart......... No coincidence.

Patsy was Ralph Smart's sister, with whom he was on good terms, all her life.

So, to revisit the grand Drake/Smart/Royalties theory: we are supposed to believe that McGoohan machinated to deceive/swindle Ralph Smart and apply deniability to any use of his *copyrighted* *licensing* entitlements

[sarcasm]................. Then, he took Ralph's sister with him for the long Location Shoot, to Portmeirion, where she could socialise with all his and her colleagues, and pick up all the gossip........... Not content with that, Patrick McGoohan was then so cold-blooded, that he deliberately made Ralph Smart's sister the very first character his new Number Six happens to meet ............. [/sarcasm]

Far more likely is that McGoohan was *waving goodbye* to his former mentor, in that quirky in-joke way he utilised throughout The Prisoner, a wave of thanks and appreciation. Thanks for the past, this is my little tribute to you, for the future........... But this last is a myth of my own making............

It does seem to me however to suggest - perhaps quite strongly - that whilst the viewer may enjoy making Six Drake and Drake Six, it is not six of one and half a dozen of the other. It is patently clear that no deception was intended or carried out. It was also patently clear by Patrick McGoohan's constant and strong denial of this *theory* that he was somewhat offended by the notion. The fact that fans come up with such specious and unresearched ideas/theories/myths seems to say more about their characters than the characters of Drake, Six....................or Patrick McGoohan.

Readers of my Blog can of course aver otherwise, in the relevant comments boxes....... If nothing else, it can be a Confessional............. But that would bring us to the supposed religious elements conflated into The Prisoner, from the actor's own fan-alleged opinions. Notwithstanding the Fan Dome insistence that he was *deeply religious* (an opinion expressed in even the most recent tomes) Patrick McGoohan explained in moor than one interview that he was, in fact, no such thing...............

But who was listening? Or reading?

Be seeing you............

Sunday, 7 June 2009

McGoohan on my Mind: Clubs Cults Heroes and Villains

In 1982 Patrick McGoohan was persuaded to appear on a "Best Of" TV show. He happened to be in England at the time and his somewhat bohemian appearance is explained by the reason he was in the country at all. He was filming Jamaica Inn, a three-part TV film, with Jane Seymour. In order to play the wicked Uncle Joss he had grown long hair and sported stubble daily.

No doubt however, his ruffled appearance, in comparison to the debonair dress of John Drake or even Number Six, delighted fans by then becoming convinced that their idol did in fact have feet of clay. It is interesting to note that, whilst surrounded by his apparently adoring fans, McGoohan makes an opening statement that seems to be almost hyperdefensive:

"I suppose I did a fair amount of things. I was executive producer, I wrote a number of them, directed a number of them, thought it up."

The casual viewer, such as I, might have wondered, Did anyone doubt this? After all, this had been clear right from the beginning hadn't it? Going back to my second Blog-post, you can read the articles from 1967 and 1968 that make clear that the entire project was McGoohan's and he also welcomed full responsibility for it, whether the viewers had liked it, or not. By 1982, the fans had been studying the show for five or six years for themselves and in fact, the very people who feted him, were also by then, denying him. Beneath the Fan Dome, unbeknownst to the rest of us, living outside their arane meanderings, 'discoveries' were being made................

How do we know who to trust?

had been one of the questions the earliest Conventioneers had been asking themselves and they had decided by this time that Patrick McGoohan was not to be trusted. One prime example of this UnTrust concerned one of the most striking 'characters' of the series, Rover - the roaring, stifling guardian of the Village. Back in 1977, just as the fan clubs had been getting themselves off the ground, McGoohan had explained the mildly convoluted tale of the genesis of the inflated ego that was Rover, to his equally egotistical audience

We had this marvellous piece of machinery that was being built which was gonna be Rover and this thing was like a hovercraft and it would go underwater, come up on the beach, climb walls; it could do anything. That was our original Rover.

On that occasion it was clear at least one of the audience could not credit McGoohan's relaxed explanations,

What interested me was the style in which it was done and the whimsy and the hundreds of little touches, but from everything you've been saying so far, they all seem to have been accidents. You know, the white balloon was an accident and you happened upon the Village...
McGoohan: Oh, yeah...
And it's, you know, incredibly lucky.
McGoohan: Yeah, but, no, no, no...There were these pages, don't forget, at the very beginning, which laid out the whole concept; these forty-odd pages laid out the whole concept. That was no accident.
No, but the little touches...
McGoohan: Those things come anyway.
But I haven't seen them come very often in any other series.

The doubters were not to become any less doubting. In fact, for a number of years thereafter many fans wholly disbelieved McGoohan's story about the beginning and end of the 'original' Rover. They simply chose to disbelieve him. This disbelief in fact surfaces as late as 1988 in the Official Prisoner Companion. The book mentions the story McGoohan told, but then suggested that as no evidence had been found by fans to substantiate his tale, it was probably untrue. It was not until the 1990's, when archive photographs of McGoohan's fabled machine were located, that the fan clubs grudgingly accepted that the creator of the show had in fact been right all along. Like any good Number Two however, I've never come across any apology for their decade-long denial of what McGoohan had told them. Of course, in as diffuse an organisation as the Fan Dome, each individual can blame another and say that they personally had never doubted the story for a moment. In fact, in 1988 itself, another researcher, this one focussing on original scripts he had access to, had also backed up McGoohan's tale of a mechanical Rover in a non-Club fan magazine called Time Screen. However this magazine lay outside the organised Appreciation Society and no doubt because it fell outside their doctrine, seems to have been ignored because it was not until the photographs were unearthed that the Fan Dome finally capitulated and re-wrote this piece of their Official reportage. By then of course the doubts about Rover and especially McGoohan, were legion.

I have laboured this one example a little merely to demonstrate the way the Fan Dome insisted on interpreting the reality of the creation of this amazing series, just as they had liked to interpret the allegory and meanings of the fiction of the shows themselves. As always in this form of group-think, what was actually happening was that a very few individuals were doing the thinking and the majority were doing the voting. In a remarkable fascsimile of the themes of the shows themselves the Villagers and their Number Two's pursued a relentless campaign against the recalcitrant Patrick McGoohan, who generally refused to give them his reasons, but just as in the Village, when, on those rare occasions he did give in and try to explain his story - they refused to believe him !! I would say you couldn't make this stuff up, but of course Patrick McGoohan had made it up - in 1966-68 !!

In a remarkable piece of double-think the Fan Dome authors would reproduce original brochures, such as the one below, for members to collect, the brochure stating categorically whose show it was (read it below and weep tears of laughter or sorrow, as you see fit), but within their own Committees, they would formulate their own preferred versions of history and simultaneously would dismiss such archive documents as mere ITC propaganda.

It was a well-worn path, and one that ironically had probably influenced the mind of McGoohan himself, when he first began to formulate his ideas for The Prisoner. It involved calling for witnesses.

As can be seen from their records the Appreciation Society had a regular and full calendar of events. It is clear that without this fan society, subsequent interest in The Prisoner would never have perhaps become as intense as it did. I say perhaps because in 1984 The Prisoner was chosen as a 'big gun' in the first year's programming of the first new TV channel in Britain since 1967. The channel had begun a year or so before and as part of it's governmental pledge to appeal to viewers not catered for elsewhere, it had begun broadcasting old shows not available for years. An interesting blog about the circumstances surrounding the documentary made to accompany the series broadcasts, "Six Into One:The Prisoner File", was made here, after the death of Patrick McGoohan this year.

The resultant interviews that were held with the 'big guns' of the series itself have since become essential reading for fans, but these interviews derived from the documentary TV makers, rather than fan society interviews. However the fans had already interviewed many personnel involved in the series themselves, including Patrick McGoohan himself, as early as 1979 and George Markstein in 1980. These interviews had highlighted a major schism for the fan society to reflect upon. George Markstein apparently made it known to an assembly of fans at London's ICA to watch Chimes of Big Ben, that he in fact was the real creator of The Prisoner. I say 'apparently' because there has never been any release of this interview on tape or video, or any transcript published. The 1979 interview with McGoohan was widely disseminated on cassette tape and currently CD. As a result the differing tales to be told have never been compared outside of fan circles.

In 1984 the undercurrent to this controversy was revealed when Channel 4 broadcast the interview that they had held with George Markstein, and also the one they held with Patrick McGoohan. The interview with Markstein has been transcripted for many years here: and within that transcription, this comment has been added by the webmaster: Patrick McGoohan was also interviewed for the programme. His attitude was "If Markstein's in it, I'm out!" Again an indication that the two men had not parted friends. McGoohan was eventually persuaded to film his sequences and these were brought back to London and edited in, but he withdrew his permission just before the programme was ready to go on air. Chris Rodley, the producer, took a brave decision to go ahead and screen it anyway. The assumption by the webmaster of this now long-standing website is an interesting one, for he assumes that McGoohan's animosity stemmed from the time of The Prisoner. In fact, it seems much more likely that this animosity stemmed from the attentions of the fan society to Markstein's claims in the 1970's and 1980's, after Markstein successfully published his reworking of the prison without bars plot outline, as the novel, The Cooler, in 1974, and then first began to claim to be creator of The Prisoner, when prior to that, he had only been known as the Script Editor who had left the series, (along with several other personnel after the first tranche of 13 episodes). His public claim only amounted to a brief note on the flyleaf of his book and it is interesting to note the ambiguity of his interview referenced above, where he never actually claims to have been a creator of the idea, but does increasingly suggest that his ideas were what drove the narrative. Future blogs here will point out that this notion is nonsensical when regarded against the actual sequence of events as the series actually began production.

Later blogs will also take a look at who exactly George Markstein was professionally, prior to his association with Patrick McGoohan. Curiously, even those fans who claim to have known him personally and with whom he shared his anecdotes, seem to know nothing about his past achievements prior to his jobs with ITC. The makers of the Channel 4 documentary also spent some time with Markstein and their 'private' reminscences have also coloured Prisoner writings since. Very little of all this intrigue has ever become publicised by the fan societies. Instead a melange of hints and internet nudging and winking has infested the subject.

This small review was published in 1974, to tie in with his novel launch. In 1976 Markstein was to retire from television writing and wrote a long article about how disillusioned he was with the whole situation for writers in television at that time. It is interesting to note that other than his half-credit for 'Arrival' (alongside David Tomblin), Markstein wrote no episodes of The Prisoner. His only other writing credit prior to The Prisoner was one of several names on the movie 'Robbery', also made in 1967. Moor of all of this enigma at a later date. For now, I must return to 1984 and the controversy surrounding the programme, Six Into One:The Prisoner File and of course, the story of the reality of the production of the show itself and what that can tell us about the real story and the creation myth. By 1990 this controversy had led one author to write:

"........However Gold's information appears dependent upon later myths built up about the series built up by McGoohan in his presentations before the North American college students. Rodley's source of information appears more accurate (confirmed also with George Markstein in conversation) ............"

Wednesday, 3 June 2009

McGoohan in my Mind - "Who controls the past controls the future: who controls the present controls the past."

At their web-site THE PRISONER OFFICIAL APPRECIATION SOCIETY has a 12-page listing of publications they have traced on the subject. Prior to 1977 these comprise original marketing material put out by ITC, contemporary TV magazines in Britain and the two novels written in the two years following the original broadcasts. It is noticeable that between 1970 and 1977, there is nothing listed. It is natural that the fans would write many booklets of their own of course ...... there was no such thing as blogging thirty years ago..... One huge benefit of the internet today is the availability now, of original materials, that were unseen and unremembered in 1977, ten years after the real events. Four original magazines discussing the show at the time of its release can be seen here:

By 1985 fan-books began to shift from discussing the meanings and interpretations of the show's content, to how the show was made. Production guides were assembled. The fan societies had been hosting conventions, much as Star Trek fans had been, and the spoken memoirs of various cast and crew were developed into a narrative, as fans moved from interpreting the allegory of the subject matter into interpreting the reality of how such a TV show got produced. 1984, was a year in which the arcane internalisations of the society broke out into the mainstream media in Britain. A new TV Channel decided to re-broadcast the entire series and commisioned a documentary to run after the final episode. I particularly recall the documentary myself as it was the first time I fully accepted that Number One was Number Six, as the programme stop-motioned McGoohan's reveal of the man behind the masks and allowed the time for the slower viewer (such as myself) to be really sure it was McGoohan's face that emerged in the monkey shot. The arrival of the VHS (or betamax) video-tape around the same time led to a whole new level of fan appreciation, allowing viewers to not only watch the shows repeatedly, but in slow-mo and of course, one could play the episodes to oneself in any order that one wished!

It was the arrival of mass personal video that opened up a whole new chapter for The Prisoner as the first editions of VHS releases began. To tie in with these releases it was natural that books might be published. Warner and the USA were naturally the first to spot the business opportunity. The first Official Prisoner Companion book was published in 1988. It formed much of the basis for the release of The Prisoner: Video Companion in 1990. At the same time, in France another book was released Le Prisonnier, Chef-d'œuvre Télévisionnaire. Curiously, for the English-speaking world, Patrick McGoohan personally met and co-operated with the French authors, but disclaimed the English-language American books in 1991. His scathing comments about the Video Companion form the Header for my entire Blog.

We were talking about the seven episodes which form the true basis of The Prisoner. Well, they picked their seven, but they're not my seven. They claim they're mine, but they're not. Everything they claimed that I said, apart from two things, is inaccurate.

Perhaps unsurprisingly,given this tension, the French book was republished, in an English translation, in 1992: The Prisoner: A Televisionary Masterpiece.

But as George Orwell so succintly had written, "Who controls the past controls the future: who controls the present controls the past." and it was the Warner book which had grasped the past first. Still today many web-sites and recently published books, perpetuate the errors and misinterpretations of that volume. The sentence George Orwell had also written, in his novel Nineteen Eighty-Four - “To tell deliberate lies while genuinely believing in them, to forget any fact that has become inconvenient, and then when it becomes necessary again, to draw it back from oblivion for just so long as it is needed.” seems to fit this bizarre fan-mythology. It was this weirdly illogical but apparently accepted claim by the fan publications, that first led me to wonder about what else written about this show by those supposedly *in the know*, was in fact cult clap-trap. The claim I am referring to is the one that concerned the *cowboy* episode: Living in Harmony, and the alleged self-censorship by the American TV company, C.B.S. in not broadcasting it in 1968.

For any reader of this blog unfamiliar with the arcane lore of The Prisoner, the claim was made in the book, and repeated by the video, that CBS cancelled Living in Harmony because it contained scenes of the use of 'mind-altering drugs'. Having apparently made this fiction up (the books offer no reference to validate their statement) the authors then state that this reason does not stand scrutiny and postulate that the real reason the episode was censored was because it promoted pacifism and somehow this was anti-Vietnam War. To the nation who had made and lauded an Oscar to the movie 'High Noon', which so clearly inspired much of Living in Harmony itself, this is quite frankly insulting. The author's technique was was also uber-Orwellian....... Make up a fact that is not a fact, then claim the fact is a lie and substitute a conspiracy theory......... Any Number Two in McGoohan's village would have been proud to think that up! What is most bizarre however is that the prisoner fan members appear to have swallowed this story for the next twenty years and many still do, judging by the many web-sites/comments/blogs........ All of this was particularly emphasised by the many webituaries following the passing of Patrick McGoohan himself, in January this year.

The reason for this episode being missing from the 1968 and 1969 networking of The Prisoner in the USA is intriguing but the reasons given by the *official* books have never been backed by any facts. I like to call it The Big Lih.............. If Living in Harmony had been 'internally' censored by CBS, it would inevitably have been reported and have been news at the time. This news-clipping from 1969 indicates that not only did it not happen that way, but McGoohan was acknowledged as highly unlikely to give offence to anyone. Had one of his shows fallen foul of American sensitivities this would have been remarkable.

This article dates from 1969 and a search of American press from 1968 reveals that The Prisoner was scheduled to run 17 weeks and the fact that it did not, was caused by an event at the very beginning of it's summer season slot, as noted in this TV schedule promoting the fourth episode Free For All and making evident that even three weeks after the events of June 8, there had been no decisions made about the re-scheduling of the summer slot.

The event that caused one week of the 17 weeks of The Prisoner to be lost was the June 8, 1968 State funeral of Senator Robert Kennedy. The passage of the funeral train and the night-time Arlington interment was covered by the prime-time American networks on the very evening that 'Chimes of Big Ben' was due to be shown.

Not surprisingly the postponement of an episode of a new summer season TV show passed by entirely unremarked upon at the time. The loss of one week of the schedule did however mean that one episode had to be dropped, sooner or later. We are still left with the question why did CBS choose to drop the cowboy episode. Perhaps the reason was exactly because in the land of the cowboy this episode seemed most disposable, but that would be my speculation. What is demonstrable is that the dropping of an episode was actually not even noticed in the whirl of those historically tragic but then current events. If you take a closer look at the article scan I posted on my last blog, you will see that even after the 1968 broadcasts were completed the commentator is still referring to the 17 weeks of the series.

In the absence of Doctor Watson, I can only talk to myself......... so, to recap the case. The censorship of Living in Harmony has never been traced back to a single source of evidence by the authors of the *theory*. What I have demonstrated is the evidence that when The Prisoner and Patrick McGoohan were discussed in the American press, in 1968, with references to TV censorship, no mention is made of any controversy at CBS. CBS allocated 17 weeks to their 1968 showing of The Prisoner; that is clear from the listings. One week was postponed prior to Episode 4. At the end of the run, commentators knew there had been 17 weeks, but did not seem aware that any episode had been missed out at all - certainly not the sensational news that an episode had been pulled by the network at the last moment.

As a further aside - if the episode had been censored ahead of the summer season slot, which would have surely happened, because CBS would have thoroughly checked the shows, which had already been broadcast in the UK, the series would have only been given a 16 week slot and there would have had to have been another episode missed because we know that the schedule had already slipped by Episode 4.

The 1988 book simply made their story up.... Or did they? Where did the authors get their Information from, in the first place? They plainly did no research themselves. The only place they could have got such an arcane story from was the fan base that had been ruminating away for a decade by then. What they regurgitated was from the belly of the beast. To me it smells like the odour of rotting cabbage. What do you think?

What is most remarkable is that in 1977 here: the cowboy episode is discussed and not one single word is said about the episode being censored in America....... But then, of course, it never happened so what could they have said?

Moor next time, about the origins of Rover and how, in 1988 the fans refused to believe what Patrick McGoohan had told them, in 1977, in that same clip I have just referenced.

Monday, 1 June 2009

McGoohan in my Mind - The Plot Keeps getting Thicker

The Prisoner, made by Patrick McGoohan's Production Company, Everyman, in 1966-1967 was a self-contained enigma of 17 episodes. In 1977, Patrick McGoohan was asked during the course of his first public outing as the series auteur, on Canadian TV:

Audience member:
One analogy that comes up, from literature, is with epic poetry, or with an epic. And "The Prisoner" seems to have all the qualities that belong to an epic, including the kind of structure which you ended up with: the thing that began with seven parts and ended with seventeen. There have been a few peculiar epic works which have done that sort of thing or been on the way, Spencer's "Faerie Queene" for instance, or Tennyson's "Idylls of the Kings" ..."Idylls of the King" which became a twelve-part non-epic with all the properties and qualities of an epic. I have one question based on that perhaps peculiar observation, and that is:

Unfortunately McGoohan's face was not shown by the camera as this tortuous route somehow led to a simple question about Angelo Muscat that he was able to answer. McGoohan was fond of suggesting that people should see what they wanted to see and how that was at the basis of his programme, but in later years he was quoted as wearily commenting that

"they have analysed what should never have been analysed".

He seemed the first to want to leave the programme to speak for itself in 1967 and after this brief dalliance ten years later, seemed to want to leave it alone thereafter. The Canadian resurgence of interest in 1977 coincided with one in Britain and although McGoohan condoned the British fan club by agreeing to become it's honorary president he was never to attend any of their annual or bi-annual events celebrating the show in the ensuing forty years, not unlike William Shatner and Star Trek Conventions, until 1994. However unlike Bill, Pat ultimately preferred never to go where he had not gone before.

In 1978 the existence of the Six-of-One Appreciation Society was noted in an American news report as the only other TV series other than Star Trek to have such a society. The Chicago 'paper paid a visit to the 1978 Portmeirion Convention and noted the national co-ordinator's comment that, "The growth of the computer society is worrisome. Individual freedoms could be at risk." The reporter also attended discussion groups where questions were being asked,

How do we know who to trust?

What actually is 'trust'?

Should we believe in premonition?

Do we know our inner selves?

Answers were being sought in 1977 to questions posed in 1967. With the passage of time, attitudes had changed of course and it was perhaps inevitable that questions asked out of the time that they were posed in, began to give rise to answers that may not have been imagined in 1967. Indeed some of the very questions themselves had naturally been answered in 1968 by those in television press lauding the US debut of The Prisoner, Rick du Brow's article headlined:

"McGoohan 'Prisoner' Trumpets Individual'

and it's concluding sentence,

"Television has never seen anything quite like 'The Prisoner'.. Or Mr. McGoohan, for that matter."

seems to demonstrate unequivocally that the uniqueness of this TV project was recognised within it's own time and place. The fact that the show had a full repeat re-run in both England and America, at the time of it's initial release also makes self-evident the show's success and popularity right from the very start of it's public existence. The show was also sold in all the European markets and found a niche in Japan too, an emerging important market-place, not to mention South America. Modern statements of The Prisoner somehow 'failing' on it's first release are well wide of the mark and the programme easily made a profit for the key financier, Lew Grade and his ITC company. Disinformation is however endemic in the published world of The Prisoner business, as my blogging will show over and over again, in the coming chapters.

It was only natural however that a new generation, or a generation of children become adults by 1977, would want to rediscover an enigma for themselves. In Britain the show had indeed been difficult to see since it's second summer repeat run in 1968, although repeated it certainly was in 1971 by LWT. The regional ITV channels around the UK may have used the 17 episodes as filler entertainment on a number of occasions yet to be fully pinpointed prior to the 1976 showings that led to the forming of Six-of-One. Had the programme been made by the national Channel, the BBC, then no doubt the occasional repeating of this show on a national network would have kept it pre-eminent as as national piece of culture long before. In the 1980's the show was to truly be reborn as a national cultural icon by the national broadcasts of every episode by the then new, Channel 4; broadcasts in no way uninfluenced by the burgeoning Appreciation Society and it's more influential members who ensured Channel 4 did not make the monumental error of broadcasting episodes in the wrong order......... an irony given later developments in their fandom.
Less committed fans like myself were also thrilled to be able to see a show they had the fondest of memories of, for the first time in many years. The coincidence of this showing with the availability by then of the VHS recorder, led to my first personal video library, recorded. then illegally (by the letter of British law at that time), of 16 out of the 17 episodes. I missed 'Do Not Forsake Me Oh My Darling' due to machine malfunction but comforted myself that as McGoohan was barely in this episode, it was the one I would miss least!

There was certainly no scarcity of showings in the USA. Following its two Networkings by CBS in 1968 and again in 1969, the programme was picked up by regional broadcasters and was never to be off the screens in North America each year, albeit never networked again. It was no doubt the continual drip-feed of this unique and quirky show that led to the Canadian College phenomenon, when McGoohan's prisoner became a subject suitable for academic qualifications, a news-story in itself and which phenomenon led to the programme becoming increasingly re-invented by individual and therefore influential fans. The re-inventions began by juggling the order of episodes, with the erroneous notion that somehow, despite the lavish care that McGoohan and his company had self-evidentially applied to their product, they had neglected to ever figure out what order the episodes were intended to be in.

The contradictions in the evidence that began to be presented by the increasingly academic interest in the series is never more illustrated than by the fact the researchers suggest it was, episode for episode, the most expensive TV show ever produced in England, up to 1967, and yet the same researchers deemed that nobody had bothered to ensure the episodes were seen in any particular order!! The brain-freeze of this fan paradox never fails to chill me. The repeated watching of the show does of course allow that some of the episodes can be jumbled a little without seriously affecting the pleasure of the show overall, but as with every allegory, pursuing your own message leads to the same dead end as any Theory of Everything.

Fondly remembered as they seem to be by that generation of the late 1970's in Canada and North America, the intricate explanations of each episode before they saw it, no doubt led to new or implanted ideas about the show, in these more recent viewers. The desire to explain the show is of course its main reason for longevity and appeal, together with its high standards of presentation and general cinematography. In later years this practice of someone *explaining* the series was continued and a well-known PBS exponent is recorded here, from 1990. This wiseacre has evidently been fully briefed by the fan club and attempts to justify placing Episode 9 as Episode 3 as well as making a number of other dubious comments. Welcome to the wacky world of fan appreciation............

Naturally, as fans battled with one another's minds to ensure their interpretation was the definitive one, their failure to agree led to their seeking someone with the answers. Thus, in 1977, Patrick McGoohan was asked to explain his secrets. His audience was clearly baffled by McGoohan's modesty and sometimes halting explanations of how 'Rover' (for instance) had first been thought of and other key elements of the series. Watching the Troyer Interview today one is haunted by the disappointed faces of the audience as their supposed auteur seemed unable to supply all the answers they expected. If he didn't tell them, how were they supposed to know? By the time the British fan-club came to the fore, they were not going to take "What do you think?" or "It was just something we made up at the time" - for an answer.

Watching the show itself may have helped them understand McGoohan's reticence,

Questions are a burden to others.

Answers a prison for oneself.

But they wanted answers and answers they would have. If McGoohan wouldn't explain, then by crikey they would find someone who would! And so the next stage began, and a publishing bean-feast would be a comfortingly profitable side-effect for some of them. One book in particular seems to have got matters off to an excellent and mostly misleading start. Moor of that, next time.