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.
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.
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.
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: 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: