Tuesday, 21 December 2010

McGoohan introduces himself to his Fans: "I suppose I did a fair amount of things. I was executive producer, I wrote a number of them, I directed a number of them, and thought it up."

This series of blogs is intended to celebrate the professional life and artistic achievements of Patrick McGoohan utilising particular reference to his show, The Prisoner, I also use it to regularly prod at my Bête Noire: the peculiarity of the cult following that developed a decade after the show was first made, and their reinvention of the history surrounding the production of that show. A key aspect of their revisionism is predicated upon their promotion of the sometime script editor, a relatively minor player in the creation and production of the series into some kind of seminal figure. The fans have made many wild claims about his background in order to bolster the dubious veracity of their claims of his importance to this production. Their accordingly systematic denigration of McGoohan's importance has followed like night to the setting of the sun. Several of my blogs have pointed up the facts in relation this strange construction of error and evident misdirections:

The short version of this constructed myth is that The Prisoner began its artistic life as a mere sequel to McGoohan’s previous show, Danger Man. Against all logic the notion assigned credence is that McGoohan peremptorily resigned from playing the part of John Drake because he was fed up with the series, and then promptly leapt upon the idea that he should play John Drake again! The incongruity of this theory is obvious and yet a whole sub-cult has grown up around it, influencing authors writing on the subject. In the 2007 book accompanying the Network dvd release, on page 13, there is this quotation from a prisoner club magazine titled “Escape”. This old in-Clubhouse magazine evidently quoted an interview that had been carried out with their favourite I-Witness: “… my idea was that John Drake had resigned, as Pat had resigned, as Danger man had resigned.... McGoohan loved the idea. Then he screamed, My God! John Drake! That means we will have to pay Ralph Smart Royalties! I'm not sure which part of this story is most preposterous, probably the McGoohan screaming bit, but it's all a bit of joke when you actually think it through.

Perhaps because of all the historical facts militating against the Club’s pet theory, they developed a whole Creation Theory to justify the otherwise inexplicable. To give their cult  story a superficial credibility they depended upon the initially straightforward nature of the first few episodes. In Arrival, the scenario of the Village is explicated, Chimes of Big Ben is a clever, but relatively simple escape plot, A,B&C is another immensely subtle, but still clear story. The Club Theory then leaps forward to the bizarre machinations of The Girl Who Was Death and the unusualness of the final two episodes, for a “primetime” series. The contrast between these first three episodes and the final three is held up as evidence of how the series began as a simple extension of Danger Man and was only later tweaked into an allegorical conundrum. This simplistic idea was of course blown apart by the same cult fans later discovering that the episodes were not made in the order in which they were broadcast. However, they had by then written up their opinion and the (often contradictory) stories told them by peripheral members of the cast and crew and to retreat from their statements would make a nonsense of their whole history as an organisation; and so they naturally refused to do this and instead simply ignored the very facts they had discovered themselves and stuck with their original idea that Markstein created a simple secret agent show, which McGoohan then increasingly took over and moulded it into cryptic puzzles.

This idea is even promoted in a recent attempted biography, written in 2007, of Patrick McGoohan. On page 109, the mildly insulting sentence reads,
…in the early days, there was no indication –and probably no plan on the part of the star or his team – to create as popular television material something as cryptic as The Prisoner.

Naturally, any of us can make a mistake and any of us might prefer not to admit we are hopelessly wrong. That is just human nature. However, if we return ourselves to 1980, when these fans were beginning their musings that were to hopelessly confuse future writers on the subject, what seems less forgivable is their blatant inability to notice the huge clues that the show itself carries about the creative influences behind it, and from who those influences were coming from. The fourth episode broadcast was Free For All. This episode was written  by Patrick McGoohan but although broadcast first, it was scripted simultaneously with Arrival.

Free For All is far from being as straightforward as Arrival, clearly indicating that not only was McGoohan’s new show cryptic, but it was also planned that way from the very beginning, because Free For All was not only written by the actual creator of the show but also was written at the same time as Arrival. The history of the writing of Arrival is written about quite widely and it seems often suggested that this episode was fully formed before any other work commenced, and then subsequent scripts cascaded from the vision that Arrival had created. The genesis and roots of Free For All seem shrouded in obscurity by comparison. Other than that Patrick McGoohan wrote it, there seems very little written about it's importance to the forming of the whole series. One thing that is clear from watching this episode is that all the original tropes of the series are included. The men in top hats and black mourning coats are as prevalent in Free For All as they are in Arrival.

Another very clear detail is the under-current within the show of McGoohan’s uneasiness about the futile speed of progress and the new world that seemed to be being created by an unthinking societal machine.

Read this commentary from a 1965 TV Times interview with Patrick McGoohan:

Then compare it to the speech he wrote for Number Six’s candidature in Free For All:

SIX: Far be it for me to carp, but what do you do in your spare time?
TWO: I cannot afford spare time!
SIX (to crowd): Do you hear that? He’s working to his limit! Can’t afford spare time! We’re all entitled to spare time! Leisure is our right!
TWO: In your spare time, if you get it, what will you do?
SIX: Less work… And more play !

It is very clear from the very beginning of The Prisoner that McGoohan was making his own social commentary, utilising this secret agent/prisoner allegory as his popular vehicle. The real history of the making of the show itself demonstrates this beyond any doubt and so does the content of the show too. How could any serious fan of this series imagine that it began somehow as a sequel to Danger Man and then only later morphed into what it actually was? When you further consider that Dance of the Dead, perhaps the most wilfully odd episode (outside of Fall-Out) was the fourth episode to be produced and that Once Upon A Time, containing the most wilfully odd half an hour of primetime TV ever produced, was in fact the sixth episode commisioned, then any lingering notions of George Markstein somehow initially crafting a Danger Man sequel only to be usurped by an obscurantist Actor/Producer become irrefutably absurd.

The actual structure of Free for All itself also belies any simplistic origins. The idea of a prisoner standing for election is quirky but the story quickly moves on from that initial puzzle, which seems sufficient plot for the episode, into a situation where the prisoner is bafflingly forced before a committee to justify himself. One of the principal tropes of The Prisoner is the battle of the individual against duty-bound bureaucrats and nowhere in the series is the side that McGoohan himself is on, in this battle, made any clearer than it is in Free For All. From the very beginning of the screenplay it is clear that there is no intention to write this show as some kind of inverted British version of The Fugitive. The Un-reality of the opening scene sets out the writer's stall, when Number Six is talking by telephone to Number Two, he puts the phone down and then Number Two walks immediately into the cottage. This is inexplicable by any normality and Number Six makes no attempt to resolve his evident bafflement, entitling the audience to join him in this acceptance. The ensuing conversations between the two prime numbers about the accompanying woman/maid, Number Fifty-Eight holds a mirror to the series' initial obsession with “Information”.

TWO: … She may be a mere number.... but she used to work in the records. She has a great variety of Information

The continuing breakfast discussion about international cuisine coupled with Number Fifty-Eight’s cosmopolitan language also shows that McGoohan’s script is dealing with all the same gimmicks as Arrival does, in that episode using the taxi-driver instead. The script even dares to give the viewer the solution to the “Who is Number One” question although as always, McGoohan ensured nobody would notice at the time:

TWO: Oh, you’re the boss.
SIX: Number One is the boss.
Then, seconds later,
TWO: If you win, Number One will no longer be a mystery to you – if you know what I mean…..

Part of the morphing fan-creation theory propounds that McGoohan had no idea that Number One would turn out to be Number Six until he came to write Fall-Out because he was making it all up as he went along and that at first the series was only about a secret agent in a predicament. This episode, penned at the very beginning by McGoohan himself demonstrates the none sense of such a proposition.

NumberSix makes a long speech about how the individual and society interface and how the individual relates to the demands of their society and the way individuals are persuaded to conform.

It is also fascinating to notice that, as a film Director, McGoohan also use the same film method (in this joint first episode made) that he would use in the final denouement of Fall-Out virtual-subliminal imaging. Just as the laughing face of Number One would be unmasked only momentarily, so does McGoohan use this flash image of a yellow balloon. Watch the episode and see if you can spot it’s appearance - with the dying afternoon sun of a day in 1966 clearly reflected in it - Blink and you’ll miss it.

The scene with the reporters is often reviewed as the media interpreting politicians but in reality McGoohan was evidently poking out his allegorical tongue at the celebrity media he was so familiar with by 1966 because of his world-wide fame as John Drake; he commented in interviews that what he said to journalists was rarely reproduced with the full meaning he intended. A feature of that scene also reveals McGoohan’s use of another basic Prisoner trope – the clone or twin. One of the reporters is signalled as a clone when we see the same man also selling the newspaper. Once again his first script contains a key element of the early plotting of the show, revealing how he was at the roots of all the ideas from the very beginning.

Patrick McGoohan's script also makes the fullest use of Rover (as balloon) which trope was largely his own inspiration after the original machine had failed. Given that this mechanical failure did not happen until the crew were first at Portmeirion it also demonstrates that McGoohan was writing on the spot and under his own inspiration in a place where the sometime company script editor never even set foot. McGoohan’s curious scene towards the end of Free For All when villagers are seen apparently meditating upon the white orb also demonstrates how quickly he was already riffing on his newest idea as he must heave modified his own script after the crew returned to MGM Boerham Wood, in October 1966. His other jokey use of Rover at the start of his second early authored episode, Once Upon A Time, where the balloon has to be ejected from Number Two’s chair also demonstrates his comfort zone about finding humorous ways to play with his new toy, which could never have formed part of the concepts when Rover was imagined as a wheeled vehicle. The original Rover was, it should be remembered not a piloted vehicle, but some kind of impossible technology that probably would never have been explained, any more than the balloon version was. In several other episodes commissioned to be written by standard writers, Rover plays very little part in events.

The complexity of Free For All also lends credence to McGoohan’s comments about only originally wanting to make seven programmes. Being written so early, Free For All must represent one of McGoohan's core episodes - perhaps the only one that survived the process of getting the funding from Lew Grade. McGoohan seems to cram in so many plot-lines that perhaps he was still working at a tempo of ideas intended to sustain only seven episodes. Interestingly too, the episode duplicates thematic ideas that appear in other episodes, suggesting how his initial ideas for seven episodes were expanded into another ten or so (as he explained in his first retrospective interview on the subject, in 1977).

The episode begins with the election plot, then the prisoner is delivered to the committee and thence to the “Labour Exchange”, mirroring his journey in Arrival. In between he is shadowed by Number Fifty-Eight much as the Queen would shadow Number Six in Checkmate. The way the Labour Exchange manager has the file on Number Six’s private past life is the same trope that was being written into Arrival. The scene with the Labour Exchange manager also reveals the perfect lie of one of the cult Club stories supposedly told to them by George Markstein. When the researching fans discovered one of the *unused* scripts (by Morrias Fahri) they asked Markstein why this script was rejected. Fatuously, the script editor made up some nonsense about McGoohan disliking it because the script had Number Six sweating under pressure and Markstein’s famous quote was that McGoohan complained, “Heroes don’t sweat”. However, the Labour Exchange mind control scene in Free For All leaves Number Six at the end of it, sweating profusely, and wiping his face with his handkerchief, revealing the comment to be as baseless as it was fatuous.

It was one thing for George Markstein to say what he liked; he was after all a free man. But how stupid are the writers who unchallengly and gleefully quote this and simultaneously fail to note the evidence from the show itself that so far as McGoohan was concerned heroes did sweat and Number Six was no different to any other hero.
The episode continues to grow in complexity as Number Six attempts one of his episodic escapes – in a boat this time – He is foiled by Rover and is returned mind-conditioned (as in Change of Mind) after being enveloped by the balloon. As if enough hasn’t happened in this episode already, there is one of the few occasions when the Cat & Mouse pub concept is used in the whole series, and then, just as in Dance of the Dead, the prisoner finds himself in a beach cave, this time with an apparently drunken Number Two. The cave also holds a scientist – Science and the appliance of it was always one of McGoohan themes and the show is replete with this clash of cultures. McGoohan clearly believed in science but was also aware of how science had unexpected consequences. In this particular sequence of the prisoner he has his scientist being fooled into giving his secrets away to the nefarious village masters. 
Finally drugged into compliance (as in Change of Mind), Number Six completes his election win. Oddly, there is a tiny moment when McGoohan’s jokey reason given to fans once about why he chose the number six is reflected briefly. Six becomes nine. It is the only number that when turned upside-down becomes another number...... other than Number One of course.

The brutal ending of the episode, when Number Six is heavily, deliberately and repeatedly slapped by Number Fifty-Eight and then beaten like a Christ, with arms outstretched, by her hoodlums, also demonstrates McGoohan’s deep intentions for this show. There was nothing in his script to suggest that here we had a heroic secret agent who was about to win battles with his captors in any conventional way. This episode was written side by side with Arrival and the darkness is clearer in Free For All. Perhaps it was this element of deeper darkness that Arrival originally lacked, when McGoohan rewrote it to a greater or lesser degree.

The extreme and unforgiving violence in the script written by McGoohan also belies another cliché of the prisoner club – that McGoohan was somehow almost childishly puritanical about violence. In fact the beating scene was cennsored by the British IBA watchdog. This British TV censor excised those moments in the broadcast of 1967. There is also an intriguing line in Free For All which also rubbishes the same clubbish clichés about McGoohan and sex. When Number Two is explaining about how Number Fifty Eight will assist Number Six in his electioneering, he says, in words written in McGoohan's own script:

The, err… buggy transport, the lady driver, will be at your disposal for the election period. And anything else you may desire – within reason...........

So far as I recall, Eric Portman gives McGoohan a sly smile as he says the last part – but not a nudge or a wink.

Looking for the real Number Six? He’s not hard to find. You just have watch the programmes.

Be seeing It.

Happy Holidays..

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

McGoohan in his own words: "I question everything. I don’t accept anything on face value."

Anyone briefly scanning web-pages to get an idea of what the 1967 Prisoner is like, before they watch it, is likely to be confused by many things, and many contradictory opinions. Just as McGoohan hoped, when he commented in later years, "I suppose that it is the sort of thing where a thousand people might have a different interpretation of it”. However, I suspect the majority of current opinion about one episode in particular, Do Not Forsake Me Oh My Darling will concur in not thinking that highly of it. It is usually dismissed as a filler episode and the episode is generally regarded as not having much going for it.

In fact, of all episodes of The Prisoner it is Do Not Forsake Me Oh My Darling that most resembles McGoohan’s earlier vehicle, Danger Man. It’s very structure duplicates the earlier series, opening with a prequel sequence, which then segues into the usual prisoner opening titles, exactly as Danger Man did for six years prior in popular television. The episode even introduces into The Prisoner a character named Potter, the name used for an agent in the latter episodes of Danger Man. This name also gets used within a tongue-in-cheek sequence in the more light-hearted The Girl who was Death. By the time of that episode McGoohan and his writers were clearly having a little fun as well as signalling their demolition of the 'theatrical' fourth wall. http://numbersixwasinnocent.blogspot.com/2009_05_01_archive.html 

Unlike The girl Who was death however, Do Not Forsake Me Oh My Darling is played very straight and the concluding moments are indeed quite earnest - with references to the splitting of the atom and the laws of unintended scientific consequences, as well as a naively hopeful escape by Professor Seltzman.

Curiously, in recent histories of the show this episode is suggested as having being written at the last minute. The often exemplary book that accompanied the 2007 DVD release suggest, on page 224, that the script was written very late on in the series construction, “Before leaving the series George Markstein had phoned Tilsley to see if the writer had further ideas for the series, but to no avail” However, at first sight, this written history seems to be completely contradicted by Tilsley himself. “They were very pleased with the first one [Chimes of Big Ben] …. And I think I was asked almost immediately, Will you write another?”  see about 2 minutes into this video 
Watching that video snippet is quite odd because the preamble commentary is seeking to present this episode as having been written sometime after the Spring of 1967, when it is made apparent by Mr. Tilsley's opening words that he actually had the script in the Autumn of 1966. The commentary is good Propaganda but poor journalism.

However, if, as my last Blog mentioned, George Markstein effectively left the series after six episodes, as older histories of the show suggested, then perhaps these two conflicting stories are not so contradictory. That might be a subject for a future Blog. The written histories of the production of this show are riddled with many such inconsistencies where the history writers choose to reinterpret what people appear to have actually said.

In a similar way, it is startling to note that the very first fans who began to study this series as more than just a passing piece of TV ephemera actually thought Do Not Forsake Me Oh My Darling was the richest, most complexly rewarding program in the series. That was the opinion expressed in the viewing notes published to accompany the Ontario Educational Communications Authority study of the show in 1976 – a College/Open Learning course, which involved the series being re-broadcast and this exercise culminated in the well-known Troyer Interview with McGoohan in 1977.

Why, I wondered, has this episode such an opinion dichotomy? One of the reasons I suspect is that very few Prisoner watchers nowadays approach this programme with an open mind. Instead they will have cribbed reviews and accounts of the show, and have speed-learned that this episode was commissioned merely in order to allow for McGoohan’s absence at very short notice from the set of The Prisoner, whilst he filmed Ice Station Zebra in Hollywood. It is evident from the account from Vincent Tilsey’s that this is in fact not the case and the script of Do Not forsake Me Oh My Darling had been commissioned almost immediately after delivery of the fifth script: Chimes of Big Ben, in the midst of the primary location production work. The script was one that McGoohan and Tomblin had evidently held back for some time. Tomblin is quoted in Andrew Pixley’s book, on page 224, “Patrick got an offer to do a film called Ice Station Zebra and it did clash with our programme so I suggested we transplanted his mind into another actor”.

Many *official* published accounts of the making of The Prisoner ramble about an unsubstantiated plan for there to be a second series of the show and that Do Not Forsake me Oh My Darling was commisioned as the opener for this because within the dialogue there are references to the prisoner having been away for a year. The reason for the episode not entering production until the later time was a long-planned deliberate one, as explained by David Tomblin. Cause and effect often become very muddled in the *official* histories as authors seek to pursue their own historical agendas, rather than balancing all the known facts.

Patrick McGoohan’s bodily absence is often advanced as one reason why this episode should not be taken as canon to the show itself. However, actually watching the episode gives a very different impression. The very casting of Nigel Stock has some significance. The vagaries of fame mean that nowadays people see Nigel as just a strangely incongruous replacement. However, Nigel Stock was already an acquaintance of McGoohan. They both featured in the 1954/55 movie, The Dambusters. Stock was a guest-star in the Danger Man episode, Loyalty Always Pays and if they did not know one another before that, they would certainly have found something very much in common to talk about with one another then, because Nigel Stock had portrayed the vicar in the play Serious Charge in 1953, when the play was first written and performed in repertory. The West End version of this play gave Patrick McGoohan his first big London success in the theatre, in 1955 as the vicar. Nigel Stock was also well-recognised in the mid-Sixties as Dr. Watson from BBC adaptations of Sherlock Holmes so he was no makeweight as a TV personality – certainly not a face unknown. At ten years older in real life than Patrick McGoohan however, he carried a little more middle-aged spread and his hair was not so thick upon his pate; a very stodgy-looking Number Six in fact. Current viewers just see this as mildly unappetising, and have lost sight that this was the whole point of the episode – that Number Six found himself in an alien body.

The earlier fans in Canada were not so speed-learned and they realised that one of the underlying themes of this episode was the very important agenda that whilst Number Six found himself free, he was trapped in another man’s body. Using his mind and skills, and having learned lessons from all the tricks the village had played on him in Chimes of Big Ben and Many Happy Returns Number Six might simply have made himself scarce… and escaped. The fact that he did no such thing illustrates that McGoohan was quite concerned to explicate that for an individual, it was not just the mind that mattered; it was an individuals’ whole being - including their body. The inclusion in the plot of a fiancée provides an important mechanism to point up, in a decorous way, one of the key reasons why a person’s body is of as much importance as their mind to their existence as an individual. Number Six would rather return to prison as Himself than be free as someone else. This is at the root of the complexity that the Ontario College evidently saw and makes this episode as important in the prisoner canon as any other. Several episodes explore this especial aspect of what it is that makes a person an individual - Schizoid Man, A, B&C and Change of Mind as well as the final episode itself of course. Do Not Forsake Me Oh My Darling is part of the exploration of that conundrum of Individuality and adds an important ingredient.

The episode does however share a characteristic with another latterly produced episode, Living In Harmony, in that it seeks directly to place The Prisoner within a well-known story medium. In Living in Harmony the traditional Cowboy format is used, whilst Do Not Forsake Me Oh My Darling apes the format of Danger Man / Secret Agent itself. In many ways these two episodes took the tale of The Prisoner no further forward but served to entertain the viewer whilst instilling the realisation that The Prisoner was just telling a story exactly as other traditional formats could. It was perhaps in this sense that McGoohan himself referred to filler episodes. He was treading water in terms of the primary tale that he was seeking to tell, but that did not indicate that the producers did not applyjust as much care to making them into pieces of good quality work as  any other episode.Indeed, Living in Harmony took longer to shoot than High Noon itself!!

Therefore it would be wrong to suggest that McGoohan was not as involved or did not devote as much care to Do Not Forsake me Oh My Darling as the episodes his own body was actively feaured in. The care taken in the many voice-over scenes where Number Six realises he is no longer who he thought he was demonstrates the co-ordinated approach McGoohan and Tomblin employed and also how cleverly they devised an episode wherein the viewer did not see their hero that much, but nevertheless his presence was ubiquitous via his voice. The episode also features some of the cleverest hints in the entire series about who Number One might be. In the scene when Number Six goes to collect his photographs there is this dialogue as the shop-owner locates the year-old film very quickly:

Six: Oh, that was quick
Photographer: Oh –it’s only one sir
Six: It’s been signed for already
Photographer: Yes, a stupid clerical error I’m afraid. One of our juniors handed over your transparencies, in mistake for this number. Pure carelessness of course – confusing the last figures Oh One and One Oh.

Earlier in the script when Number Six is being prepared for the first mind transference, the disembodied voice of Number Two tells him: Take it easy! Take it easy! It will all be one, in the end.

As with all clues that McGoohan placed throughout the series, these would not be noticed at the time, but only later, when the whole secret of the show had finally been revealed, would their significance become apparent. Quite possibly McGoohan just saw them as little wordplay jokes of his own, not ever expecting the study of his work that occurred later. However their presence in this episode show the care lavished upon it. McGoohan’s other small jokes, such as the Seltzman envelope bearing the address “Portmeirion Road” (reportedly in McGoohan’s own hand-writing) demonstrate his personal interest in the minutiae of this episode, and this notion is backed up by archivist Andrew Pixley who notes on page 233 of his book, “with the return of McGoohan [from America] several re-shoots were called for..” Incidentally the presence of that envelope notation also demonstrates that no second series beginning with this episode was planned. It is a truism that McGoohan had promised the owner of Portmeirion that the resort would not be *publicised* until the end of the whole series. McGoohan would not have been dropping hints about the real village if he had expected his show to be running on television for a further three months after Do Not Forsake Me Oh My Darling was broadcast.

McGoohan's careful attention to all aspects of his show, is also evident in the continuity between this episode and Fall-Out which both utilised the A20 as a route element of the plot. Beachy Head is mentioned too, linking the episode with The Girl Who was Death and Many Happy Returns. The title is a clear misnomer that cleverly linked the episode directly to Living in Harmony with the resonance of the theme song from the classic Western movie, High Noon. There is even a link back to the other script penned by Vincent Tilsley that emphasises the coherent place of this episode within the series. In Chimes of Big Ben, when Nadia and Number Six are in the crate they have a conversation. Nadia flirts with Number Six, asking  "Big Bill" some personal questions, culminating in asking him if he is married. She receives a firm negative in reply. But at that point Number Six also demands that she stop talking. He perhaps feared the obvious next question that a woman might ask would be the one word query “Engaged?” Number Six would not have wanted to risk giving the village information about his fiancee would he, because at that stage he had no idea that his fiancée’s father (his boss) knew all about the village. Do Not Forsake me Oh My Darling becomes the very first time Number Six, discovers beyond doubt that his own side are as complicit as any other side in his imprisonment. The curtains are drawn wide. he sees the stage clearly for perhaps the very first time.
Do Not Forget Me, Oh My Darling
  Check out my own reworking of this episode at my alternative storyblog here:

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

McGoohan was born free as Caesar: "I know what they’ve been saying behind my back………. But I haven’t lost a friend in the unit.”

In December, 1967 the TV Times ran a feature on The Prisoner, which was about halfway through it’s first UK broadcast run. By that time, the programme was pretty much in the can and McGoohan was evidently beginning to relax. His work was almost done. However, he commented within that article

The tensions that existed on the project seemed to reach some kind of nadir about halfway through the production schedule. Although eventually broadcast as the eleventh episode, It’s Your Funeral was actually the eighth episode to enter production. The current trivia section on wikipedia summarises part of that history:
According to the documentary Don't Knock Yourself Out, produced for the 2007 DVD reissue of The Prisoner in the UK, production of this episode was impacted by behind-the-scenes tension. Interviewed in the documentary, actors Annette Andre and Mark Eden both recall McGoohan and the director entering into a shouting match during filming (Andre strongly criticizes McGoohan for this behaviour). Eden recalls McGoohan losing control and nearly strangling him during a fight scene. Nesbitt, also interviewed for the programme, indicates that he was never given any information regarding what the yet-to-be-broadcast series was about, and thus played New Number Two in a state of confusion. Andre ends her comments by stating she did not enjoy her time on the program, while a crewmember expresses the belief that McGoohan, under creative pressure, experienced a nervous breakdown during filming of this episode.

As can be seen from the next snippet, from Time Out published in 1982, the story as told in most official sources has not changed in some ways since the fan club first broke out of their closed club and into the mainstream media.

Once Upon A Time was actually the sixth episode to enter production. One of the persistent tendencies of the closed fan-history seems to be to always seek to glorify the role of almost every collaborator in The Prisoner at the expense of any positive light upon Patrick McGoohan as the evident leading player in the entire project.

It is this bizarre tendency to diminish him that indeed led to the J'Accuse title of my entire blog-roll. The dvd documentary mentioned earlier was re-christened by one reviewer I read as "Let's All Kick Pat". The events  told may be true to a greater or lesser degree but why are they *spun* the way they are? The most negatively critical tales often hinge upon the episode It's Your Funeral and remarkably it is study of the context of those events that seem to expose one of the biggest falsities at the heart of *official* fandom.

Its Your Funeral was the first episode to go into production after the two-week break of Christmas, 1966. But the events after It’s Your Funeral lead to a conclusion very different to viewing those events in mere isolation as somehow typical of the whole project. The next several episodes made in the new year of 1967 seem to demonstrate a gradual lifting of the cloud of  funereal ire. Certainly McGoohan took over the direction of the very next episode in production, Change of Mind, but unlike the unfortunate Ms Andre, Angela Browne commented how nice Patrick McGoohan was to her while this episode was filmed. The next two episodes in production were the two made with Colin Gordon who commented how proud he was of the roles that took him out of his frequent acting niche of light comedy. At any rate he certainly enjoyed making A,B&C enough to want to stay on and make The General ! Next up was another comedic actor, Patrick Cargill, who like Colin Gordon, spoke later of relishing the opportunity to explore a more sinister character than he usually was offered in Hammer Into Anvil. Finally Many Happy Returns entered production, featuring a second appearance by Georgina Cookson, who had featured in A,B&C and  Patrick Cargill again. Like Leo McKern some people seem to have kept coming back for moor. It was now April 1967 and seemingly whatever had ailed the production mood back in early January was resolved. So why had the making of that episode back in January become so fraught and unpleasant in the memory of those actors who were there?

In 1968, Patrick McGoohan made a very interesting comment to a journalist from the British national newspaper, the Daily Mirror, after the project was completed,
“It was a great error to start with only five or six scripts………… I should have had all the scripts before we started”.

McGoohan’s recollection is objectively verified by archivist Andrew Pixley, who in his recent book says, on page 28,
It was the scripts that became the biggest concern for the production teams………..

then on page 31, also referring to the start of location filming in Portmeirion, Pixley notes,
Maher recalled that only two complete scripts were available along with location sequences of others , and during September some exterior sections of a fifth, The Chimes of Big Ben

This set me to wondering what on earth was going on? McGoohan’s show had been green-lit by Lew Grade on 16th April 1966 and it was not until September 1966 that the production team went to Portmeirion. Four months and only two complete scripts? Presumably one of these was Arrival, and the other Free for All –  written by McGoohan himself. I have mentioned in several of my earlier blogs that George Markstein had (at the time of his appointment by McGoohan's Everyman) almost no experience of television script writing. This huge weakness at the core of McGoohan’s Everyman operation was costing McGoohan dearly, as four months on, barely two scripts were ready and McGoohan had written one of those single-handed.

Incredibly, Markstein has since been lauded over the years by fan faction as some kind of guru behind this seminal series. The truth could barely be any more of a polar opposite. The answer actually becomes obvious by studying the very accounts of the production history of the show that these same fans have collected ! In that 1982  published article I quoted earlier, there is this paraphrase of what presumably George Markstein had told the fans who had interviewed him in the fag-end years of the 1970’s.

Like many things that the official fans came to believe and have faithfully disseminated since, these claims seem to have been proven false by the very same history their various convention interviews have laid bare because almost every script-writer is on record as declaring they received no complex brief - almost the diametric opposite in fact!
Vincent Tilsley was one of the first script-writers other than McGoohan himself. Mr. Tilsley wrote Chimes of Big Ben, the fifth episode to enter production, as mentioned earlier. Tilsey is quoted,
Yes, I gather that there was a writers guide to this series that I’ve heard about. I myself never saw it. I just had George telling me his concept of it……….. I didn’t at that time understand that it was going to be a different Number Two in each episode.

Another of the first writers was Anthony Skene, with Dance of the Dead. A fan-club interview recorded his statement,
The Prisoner was generally a bastard……. I saw not one piece of paper. The show was a cosmic void.

The writer of the seventh episode to enter production (McGoohan having written the sixth for himself) was Terence Feely, with The Schizoid Man. Andrew Pixley’s book records on page 154,
McGoohan sent Markstein around to visit Feely and while the script-editor could not furnish a writers guide he did explain about Portmeirion

Derren Nesbitt was the star of the eighth episode, It’s Your Funeral. Mr. Pixley’s book is once again damning of the nature of the script in it’s recitation of the simple facts recorded by his history,
Receiving the script of  It’s Your Funeral  Nesbitt was confused, and when discussing the episode with the director found that Asher was confused too……… "Pat asked me why I was acting so puzzled. I replied. Bob Asher doesn’t know what’s going on, I don’t know, nor do the others. Even you don’t understand what’s happening."

As can be seen from the wiki transcript earlier, fan interprettion of the situation on the set of Its Your Funeral is that Mr. Nesbitt was complaining of the whole series, but why should he have been interested? Mr. Nesbitt would only have been concerned with his episode and his SCRIPT.

Was it this scathing, but honest comment to McGoohan from his long-time associate actor the moment of change in McGoohan’s mind about his patience with the script production process ? Whilst nowadays the *official* versions of the prisoner story have George Markstein’s guiding hand applying to the first thirteen episodes to enter production, in 1982, the story was significantly different:

[NB. Markstein became a successful novelist in 1974]

It would make sense that as McGoohan grappled with his need to make an executive decision he became increasingly tense. He was probably not unaware of the very weaknesses Derren Nesbitt had highlighted, and increasingly embarrassed at being the head of what was becoming a failing organisation. The script editor had to go or at least be bypassed, because only then could McGoohan get his project back on track.This notion is corroborated by other interviews. Lewis Greifer, long known to McGoohan but a personal friend of Markstein stated that in his memory George’s contributions to the prisoner scripts pretty much ended around Christmas 1966. John S Smith joined the production team specifically to edit It’s Your Funeral and records that Markstein was largely absent from events during his time around the production environment.

Yet, in 2007 an *unofficial* book republished the same modern *official* none sense:
How little seems ever to change in the published tales from the fan-base. How much Information they unearth and how little attention they pay to it. The clues are all there, the statements made by those working on the project at the time all coincide, the pattern of behaviours make sense -- an inward spiral in January 1967 and then a rapid recovery thereafter. McGoohan had made a major recruitment error. In giving the inexperienced Mr. Markstein the crucial role of supervising the production of scripts Patrick McGoohan had made a woeful choice. He was the sort of man who probably did not like to admit when he was wrong, but he was also strong-minded and this was his project and by golly if the wheels were coming off, he accepted the responsibility of getting the thing back on track. George was side-lined and the increasingly happy production sequence of February, March and April bear testament to the wisdom of that decision. Arguably some of the most powerful episodes of the show in Change of Mind, A,B&C, The General and Hammer into Anvil came into being and most importantly the scripts began to become sharp once again, just as that initial burst of creative energy had made the first few (allowing for the fact that McGoohan had written 25% of those himself). There are of course also many suggestions within the histories that Markstein was actively obstructing McGoohan’s progress. His insistence about the character being John Drake possibly confused the recruited writers and his reported refusal to become involved with the script of Once Upon A Time (written by his employer!) are just two major points of issue. What he had made of the balloons when the production team returned from Portmeirion is sadly under-reported, but a gentle flavour of how things were is suggested via a 1991 interview with Patrick McGoohan,

We had a script supervisor, God bless him, God rest his soul, he's gone on now, who always thought, despite any amount of dissuasion that its got to be an extension because he'd worked on the tail end of one and into the other, and its the same guy that's doing it. But I said, "OK, it's an extension of reality, and the other one, Danger Man, was supposed to be related to reality in some way" But I said, "What's this big rubber balloon doing there?" I said, "Come on!" But he wouldn't be convinced!

George refused to be convinced and with his mind of his own he wrote his own war commando spin on some aspects of The Prisoner, seven years later (The Cooler). By that time Patrick McGoohan was resident in the USA and beginning his long association with friend and colleague Peter Falk; but the identity crisis of his putating prisoner fans was still a couple of years in the future. As Nelson Brenner might have quipped with a grin, Be Seeing You....................

Thursday, 16 September 2010

McGoohan and his Literature: "I've never read a Kafka" "Jung? I haven't read a word"

When, in 1991, Patrick McGoohan was quizzed by a member of the prisoner fan clubs he was specifically asked if there was anything in literature that had influenced him. His reply was uncompromisingly short:
No, not really. 
The brave interviewer did not give up however and asked him about all the possible influences fans had discerned within their studies of The Prisoner. The list included many of the usual suspects; Franz Kafka, Hermann Hesse, Carl Jung, John Fowles.... My main blog title gives you a flavour of the general tenor of his responses. Anyone reading the many magazines, books or internet articles about The Prisoner will soon come across writers/philosphers as diverse as Ayn Rand, Jeremy Bentham, Michel Foucalt, Marshall McLuhan as being cited as influences upon The Prisoner. I would hazhard a guess that if any of these had also been proposed to McGoohan in that interview, then his response woould have not changed much.

McGoohan's evident disinterest in the philosophical heroes of the youngsters of the 1980's and 1990's seems to have consolidated the line of thought that McGoohan had little to do with the creativeness of the writing within The Prisoner and the consequent and enthusiastic desire they had to transfer credit for this to either the Script Editor or just at random, to individual script-writers. There is no doubt that the script-writers could individually have brought influences of the likes of Kafka to the script table and indeed this was plainly something McGoohan wanted to happen. His global approach to the assembling of the many scripts demonstrates he was open to each of his collaborators making a contribution. However, it is also clear that the entire series is coherent in its style, humour and narrative direction and that much of that coherence is only attributable to Patrick McGoohan. As Jack Lowin (chief cameraman) put it

The whole concept was Pat's. The whole idea was Pat's and only Pat really knew how it was all going to turn out in the end and as the series went on it did tend to get more and more way out as Pat got the bit between his teeth a bit. But they were not all shot in the order in which they were eventually shown; and I think Pat ... did not want to produce any one complete episode really, until the very end. He had a certain amount of trouble with the top brass...... but Pat was quite deliberately making sure that no one episode ever really got finished... I think he wanted to keep them so that they would all be finally put together at the last minute so that nobody could....... criticise...... he would get one partially edited and then it would get left, and he would go onto another one.........

It was 1991 when McGoohan was directly asked by a fan interviewer about his literary influences, but if the fans had actually taken as much interest in him as they did the show he created for them, they would soon have realised that naturally he had literary influences, as any well-educated man of his generation would do. However his influences were not so much the darlings of those educated in the 1970's or 1980's but the literary notables of the earlier part of the 20th century. McGoohan frequently referred to his obsession with Brand and it can be inferred that he would have been a great reader of Henrik Ibsen. Like any repertory actor of his generation he would have been very aware of Shakespeare and George Bernard Shaw and the many other literary men whose art touched the world of Theatre. In terms of The Prisoner however he himself mentioned the two obvious candidates of a world where the individual counts for nothing. Those two literary works are Brave New World, written in 1932, and Nineteen Eighty-Four, written in 1949. McGoohan was an uncomplicated fellow intellectually it seems and naturally it was these two fairly obvious books he himself mentions as being influential upon his mind, when writing The Prisoner.

In 1983 he was quoted,
"I wrote it with 1984 in mind and we're getting closer to the world of those numbers all the time"

However, back in 1969 he was quoted in the American press,
"It's Brave New World stuff. Nobody has a name, everyone wears a number. It's a reflection of the pressure on all of us to be numbered, to give up our individualism."

Margaret Atwood has recently remarked that those two books both cast a shadow over the post-WW2 world. However it was Orwell's vision of a brutal mind-controlling totalitarian state that is probably by far the most well-known nowadays. The book has been filmed for TV and the movies several times and so it has been re-ingrained in the modern minds, plus of course for the Western world until 1989 it was descriptive of a world to be feared: the world of Communist despotism. However, whilst some elements of Nineteen Eighty-Four strike chords of consciousness that lie within The Prisoner, the overall tone of the brutalism of the 1949 novel seems miles away from the lighter jollities of McGoohan's village. For this reason perhaps, many admiriers of The Prisoner have seen a disconnect with the darkness of Orwell's 1949 book.

By contrast Brave New World has only been filmed twice, both times only for TV productions in the USA. Whereas Nineteen Eighty-Four has been a common school text, Brave New World rarely features in the curriculum. The reason for the gradual slippage from the modern consciousness of Brave New World is, ironically, probably because of the same angst that often bothered McGoohan himself, in his Sixties years of TV fame. Whereas Nineteen Eighty Four is largely based around the threat of violence as a means of control, Brave New World is centred around the idea that sex and pleasure keeps the population from challenging the status quo.

In fact, a little study of Brave New World reveals it to have many commonalities with The Prisoner and there seems little doubt that it featured greatly in the issues that McGoohan was interested in exploring in his secret agent allegory of the modern world of 1965 and explains why he mentions it specifically nearest that time - in 1969 - whereas perhaps 1984 is only referred to as that portentous year itself drew nearer, in 1983. Aspects of Brave New World pop up in several different episodes. The fabric of the book itself is predicated on there being five grades of persons in Society: Alphas, Betas, Gammas, Deltas and Epsilons. Each grade is genetically modified and conditioned to perform certain functions and be content with their position in the heirarchy. Epsilons are practical morons.

Speedlearn (from The General) is not dissimilar to the concept of Hypnopaedia, that is a knowledge system in Brave New World where sleeping children have *facts* whispered into their sleeping minds. One passage is mirrored by the sequence in The General when Number Six answers a question ambiguously.
A child called Tommy has been subjected to the hypnopaedic fact that, "The Nile is the longest river in Africa and the second in length of all the rivers of the globe.
"Tommy" someone says, "Do you know which is the longest river in Africa?"
Tommy shakes his head.
Tommy is encouraged to recites his Hypnopaedia and does so, word-perfect.
Tommy is asked again, "Then which river is the longest in Africa?"
Tommy bursts into tears, crying "I don't know... "

In Chimes of Big Ben, Nadia is subjected to a conditioing process involving an electrified floor. In possibly the most disturbingly violent passage of Brave new World, small babies are conditioned to react as their society expects their grade of citizen to react, by electrification on a grid-like metal floor.

One of the main characters is an Alpha named Bernard, who becomes increasingly unhappy with his existence, feeling his life has no meaning, even though he is in the uppermost level of the system. He is by no means a hero, but keeps complaining to Lenina, a  willing girlfriend who cannot understand why he is not enjoying his privileged lifestyle. He has a conversation with her not unlike those Number Six would have with one of his maids and at one point says,
"I'd rather be myself. Myself and nasty. Not somebody else, however jolly!"
Later he complains to her, "Don't you wish you were free Lenina?"
She replies, "I don't know what you mean. I am free. Free to have the most wonderful time. Everybody's happy nowadays."
Bernard laughs and and asks, "But wouldn't you like to be free in some other way Lenina? Your own way, for example, not in everybody elses way."
Lenina responds, "Bernard, I don't know what you mean."

Bernard inevitably comes to the attention of the Directors. These are senior Alphas, who monitor and control their sections of Society. Bernard's Controller says to him at one stage,
"Consider the matter dispassionately and you will see that no offence is so heinous as unorthodoxy of behaviour. Murder kills only the individual - and after all, what is an individual? we can make a new one with the greatest of ease - as many as we like. Unorthodoxy strikes at society itself"
By the end of the book Bernard is exiled to an island where other non-conformist Alphas are sent.

Although written in 1932 when TV was barely invented, Brave New World has televisions at the heart of life and death (dying patients have a TV at the foot of their bed, "left on like a running tap, from morning until night"). The screens monitor the watchers as well as entertaining them. Another gadget found both indoors and outdoors is the Synthetic Music Device from which the Voice of Reason will sometimes speak calmingly, not unlike Fenella Fieldings voice does in The Prisoner.

Another key character in the book is John, who is an outsider to the normal society, having been brought up by a lost Alpha female, in a human reservation where some people have been preserved to live as "savages". John however has had access to Shakespeare so has a foot in both forms of society. Once he has been made part of the brave new world he is infuriated by the conditioned responses of the Deltas in particular and at one point he attempts to make them rise up against the happy, drugged lifestyle they exist within. His speech is redolent of Number Six's speech in Free for All,
"I come to bring you freedom... But do you like being slaves? Do you like being babies? Yes! Babies! Mewling and puking. Don't you want to be free and men? Don't you seem to understand what manhood and freedom are? Very well then! I'll teach you; I'll make you be free whether you want to or not !!"
John then destroys the happy pills the deltas are queuing for, and shouts,
 "You're free!!" 
The Deltas let out a furious scream of anger and attack John.

It may be pure coincidence but one of the most senior Alpha Directors is served by a Gamma butler.

In the book consumerism and waste is encouraged because this stimulates demand for new things. Some comments about this touch themes evident in The Prisoner about progress and the value of newness. One conversation leads to a passage redolent of that between Number Six and the Arts Committee in Chimes of Big Ben. John is debating with one of the Controllers that Othello is far superior to the modern stories that are written to entertain the society and he complains about these shoddy new works,
"But they don't mean anything"
To which the Controller replies,
"They mean themselves".

One of the themes throughout The Prisoner is that of twins or identical people and early episodes of the show include glimpses of identical faces - the gardener/electrician for instance. One of the aspects of Brave New World is that the lower orders are budded from one embryo, resulting in identical people. near the end of the book, John is thinking about the mob of Deltas who had attacked him,
"But need it be quite so bad as those twins? He passed his hand over his eyes... remembered images of those long rows of identical midgets..... those human maggots... the endlessly repeated face of his assailants"

In another conversation, John and the Controller debate:
John: But I like inconveniences
Control: We don't. We prefer to do things comfortably
John: But I don't want comfort. I want God. I want poetry. I want real danger. I want freedom. I want goodness. I want sin.
Control: In fact, you're claiming the right to be unhappy
John: Alright then. I'm claiming the right to be unhappy !
Control: You're welcome.

I mentioned earlier that the discontented Alpha, Bernard is banished to an island for the crime of wanting to be an idividual. So is his friend, Hemholtz Watson, an Alpha writer of meaningless stories, who decides he wants to write books that have some meaning. The Controller explains to him about his fate and says,
"... it's lucky that there are such a lot of islands in the world. I don't know what we should do without them. Put you all in a lethal chamber I suppose. By the way Mr. Watson, would you like a tropical climate? ... Or something more bracing?"

As I read that passage I could only wish Aldous Huxley had added. "in the Baltic off the coast of Lithuania perhaps" But Huxley wrote no such thing. History is never quite that simple. Or, as one of the motto's of the Brave New World recited by Lenina, would have it:

"When the individual feels, the community reels"

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

McGoohan in his own words: "Ultimately, each of us must live within ourselves, and I’m just an idiot like the rest of the crowd."

PART THREE - the final part
Just a year or two after he had left The Prisoner behind, Jeanne Sakol went on the trail of Patrick McGoohan and found him in Norway, already on the quest of filming Brand, his lifetime’s McGuffin. In the course of the interview he said to her:

“I have a virile hope for the future. That’s why I did The Prisoner …. an allegory … a fable … a protest against regimentation and loss of individuality. We must not become puppets ………………... Ultimately, each of us must live within ourselves, and I’m just an idiot like the rest of the crowd.”

An allegory? In these modern times the allegorical nature of The Prisoner is often referred to. Allegories have frequently been used to represent political and historical situations and are popular vehicles for satire. They are often written as fables, wherein particular characters are representative of any one of us, perhaps in differing ways. Their perceived message can often vary between individuals, even though the fable is addressing a universal aspect.

In McGoohan’s own lifetime he had seen the Cold War heat up after WW2, flare into flames in the 1950’s, burn with frightening ferocity at the start of the 1960’s, as the Cuban Missile Crisis made both sides of the conflict realise what this war might lead to – then, in response to that universal fear – cool down. McGoohan’s own career was shaped by that same Cold War. His increasing popularity with the public throughout the world, as Danger Man, had made him a huge asset to Lew Grade and so McGoohan garnered a power. What was he to do with it? Patrick McGoohan used the world of secret agency to describe his own real world. He sought to allegorise the Cold War.

The biggest effect of the Cold War was the increasing fragmentation of the human world. Politics were split: People were Communist or Capitalist. Countries became split by those very politics. The cumulative knowledge of the Cold War far exceeds any notions I may have of it, but this table crops up on one website to neatly sum up some key differences. These are the some of the same issues The Prisoner grapples with. However rather than make a partisan show, McGoohan began to blur which side was which and question whether some of the attributes were in fact mutual ? Was it really so simple as the chart would have us believe?
The enigma of Twins or Identity is part of many episode plots. In Taiwan, a tiny island of people protested that they were China – the most populous nation on earth. In 1966 the USA still recognised the Taiwan authority as the only legal government of the whole of China. Korea had been split into two by the vicious war of the mid 1950’s. In the 1960’s Vietnam was being brutalised in the same pattern. Countries became twins of one another – one Communist and one Capitalist. All of these patterns had been set at the conclusion of WW2 and of course the people who were made the most schizoid, and the country that was twinned first – was Germany - split literally into two by the ideological conclusion of the war. One small place in particular became the very essence of this strange human struggle for supremacy: Berlin. Formerly the capital city, it had become perhaps the strangest city in the world. The Capitalist island of West Berlin actually lay right in the middle of Communist East Germany – the DDR. Berlin had become an island…. An isolated village – hard to get into, sometimes impossible to escape from.
Divided into four zones for many years the people who lived in the village of Berlin found themselves subjected to arbitrary and alien authorities. In 1948 all routes in and out of West Berlin were closed. Then in 1961, the strangest thing of all happened, Berlin itself became a twinned city. Within the DDR you could buy a map. But no matter how big the map you bought in East Berlin, it still showed you no more detail of West Berlin,  than you could see in the smaller version.
Maps of West Berlin did exist, but they were no more informative to a resident of the DDR, other than to tell the viewer of the map to be afraid – be very afraid….
Berlin’s real-life could be as surreal as any imagined village. When you passed from the sunlit street into the Underground, you encountered the phenomenon of the Ghost Stations:
........there were three lines that ran for the most part through West Berlin but passed through a relatively small stretch of East German territory in the city centre. Trains did not stop at these stations, though for technical reasons they did need to slow down significantly while passing though. The name Geisterbahnhof was soon understandably applied to these dimly lit, heavily guarded stations by the westerners who watched them pass by out the windows. However, the term was never official; West Berlin subway maps of the period simply labelled these stations "Bahnhöfe, auf denen die Züge nicht halten"—"stations at which the trains do not stop." East Berlin subway maps did not depict Western lines or ghost stations at all.  http://www.spiritus-temporis.com/ghost-station/

West Berlin became like a velvet prison for its inhabitants. They were free, but how far could they go in any one direction? Less than 20 miles. The East Berliners were perceived by the West as being in a Police State but they could leave their Berlin and travel. There were no walls to keep them in. The paradoxes of Berlin exercised the mind of the whole world and then in 1963 the American President stood in the centre of Berlin, the village in the centre of the DDR and spoke the words that captured the imagination of the whole Western world at the time:

All free men, wherever they may live, are citizens of Berlin,
and, therefore, as a free man, I take pride in the words
"Ich bin ein Berliner".

Five months later John Kennedy was assassinated and the attitudes of the western world began to change. Conspiracy Theories began to escalate. Who was to be trusted? How could you know who to trust? Whose side were “They” really on?

Q ... Was there a feeling of vulnerability living in Berlin then, as it went on?
A…. I think we got quickly used to it, we West Berliners. What I noticed, talking to West Germans - they were paranoiac, you know, they expected that everyone in Berlin was a sort of spy. I remember once going to the theatre, and I was sitting next to a student who came from Stuttgart, and we had a quite nice chat about this play, and suddenly he said to me, "I mustn't talk to you - you might be a spy for the East!" And I just sort of stared at him - I thought, "They are very ignorant." And there was this distinct "them and us". http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/coldwar/interviews/episode-9/hosseni3.html

The initials DDR stood for Deutsche Demokratische Republik. Democratic. It was a world of rigged elections and slogans:
"Looking forward to the XII Party Congress, we meet the challenges of today."
"Where a party member is, there too is the party."

Stories of the true nature of the DDR were always leaking out to those in the west of course, as TIME noted in 1961:
Under a new decree, hundreds of East Germans were being snatched up and "resettled" in small isolated towns in the interior for "work education." Reason: they were suspected of planning to escape to the West or of encouraging others to do so. Hordes of uniformed "Free German Youth" youngsters were sent out to inspect every East German's rooftop television and F.M. aerial, tear down those that were pointed toward the stations of West Berlin or West Germany. "Anyone listening to Western radio or television broadcasts is a traitor!" cried an editorial in Leipzig's Sächsische Zeitung.
Calling for greater factory production last week, the regime announced a new slogan:
"More production in the same time for the same money."
 At dinner in a private home, a wife anxiously discussed the letter she got that morning from Communist Party headquarters, inviting her to attend a lecture on world politics. Should she go? The debate occupied the entire meal. "If you do not attend, we'll have a party official here tomorrow morning asking why. and it will get us in trouble'' decided her husband.

So, I can feel my reader asking, is Moor Larkin saying that Patrick McGoohan made a show about Berlin? Not exactly is my answer; but he was making a show about the world as he saw it then, the world as he feared it developing. People had made Berlin, just as it was People who were making his country of Britain, just as it was People who had created the Cuban Crisis and People who had assassinated Kennedy.

That’s why I did The Prisoner …. an allegory … a fable …
a protest against regimentation and loss of individuality.
We must not become puppets.

Patrick McGoohan demonstrated a certain contempt for party politics in his first solo script written for The Prisoner (Free for All). Interestingly this episode was one of the four not shown in W. Germany in 1969. It seems obvious that what Patrick McGoohan would take from the strange predicament of Berlin was not the capital-P Politics but instead the small-p politics of the people in the predicament. Was The Prisoner about Berlin? Obviously not, or he would have simply said so. Was Aesop writing about hares and toroises? Obviously not. Like Aesop, Patrick McGoohan was allegorising the way human beings behaved throughout history via a Fable - a Cold war mystery. The notions of Butlins Holiday camps in Wales, Commando war training camps in Scotland, or Spy Towns in Russia all pale into insignificance compared to the predicament of Everyman in Berlin. Nobody in 1960's Britain or America could fail to see the parallels and McGoohan was noted in biographical articles at the time as being an admirer of President Kennedy - as almost every man, and woman, was, in the western world, at the time.

The reductionism of fans picking and choosing about this origin and that origin and claiming that the minutest obscure detail somehow makes the true meaning of the Series clearer, or explained, is to entirely negate and overlook the bigger, over-arching narrative that McGoohan attempted with his story. It was a narrative that only he grasped from the beginning and even unto the end a narrative only he knew how to pursue; a narrative that left the inexperienced or the inept floundering. It was a narrative that was all about the cleverest detail and subtle nuance of double meaning but simultaneously about the epic scale of human folly. It was about how helpless the individual is in the grip of that folly. After all, if the almost super-human Number Six could not alone set himself free, how should any one of us presume to that ambition? His cleverness was to tell us this story in such a way however, that as individuals we are encouraged to believe that if each individual looks to himself, maybe it is possible somehow, if we never give up, if we never give in, if we look ourselves in the eye and rather than despairing of our futility in the face of Authority, we resolve instead to choose never to surrender ourself to it, then, perhaps, we are free after all.

It was 1960’s Berlin, which gave him this epic template for his allegory of Human Society. He lived to see 1990's Berlin prove his implicit faith and optimism in the human spirit. They came together. They escaped. They celebrated.

But also, just as he pointed out at the very end of his own series - the struggle began all over again. However he left us with the abiding image that it is the individual who is in the driving seat !!

Ich bin keine Nummer, ich bin ein freier Mensch!.
Ich bin ein Berliner !
And how apt, that just recently, Germany has been celebrating again:
Für Kiffer, Kalte Krieger und konspirativ Veranlagte: Arte zeigt die britische Spionage-Serie "The Prisoner" aus den Sechzigern. Mit seiner systemkritischen Haltung, seiner verrätselten Story und seinem kompromisslosen Erzählstil gilt das Werk zu Recht als Meilenstein der Fernsehgeschichte.

Wir Sehen Uns!