Tuesday, 18 September 2012

McGoohan's own words: "I dread wasting other people's money. In every film there is so much waste."

My last Blog became truncated when a co-respondent pointed out that there was an anomaly about some apparent ‘original’ archive material I was referring to. As a result I revisited the publicly available material that is accessible. There is an awful lot of it actually, which makes the task both rewarding and discouraging. Various books have been created based around such material of course and many more books written that have been based around previously-published interpretation of that material. In this way are both short cuts taken in the cause of the advancement of knowledge and errors introduced that get perpetuated endlessly. A published book has both the advantage of being undeletable but also the difficulty that once in print, it’s errors can pass down the years, and the generations.

The conclusion of my last blog concerned a document that was made available in 1991, via the fan club, presented over four pages, and termed a “Writers Guide”.
The confusion began when I was passed a supposed facsimile of the original ITC Production Guide and in this the same document is described as "Original Synopsis-6 pages". I made a small joke about six seeming moor apposite than four, but then realised that something about all this made no sense.
 

What struck me as especially odd is that when this document has been presented in official books further credence has been given to it as having been originally “typed on George Markstein’s own typewriter”. When my co-respondent pointed up the anomaly between the four pages and the six pages, I truncated my blog so I could try and check into the mystery (as it seemed to me). Naturally, as an enthusiastic amateur I can only get access to publicly available material and one of my first thoughts, was to go to the pdf extras released as part of the Network dvd set in 2008. As with many such “bonus” materials on dvd’s these days, I was aware of their existence, but had not delved into them with any purpose.

All this time later, now I had a reason to explore the content with some actual purpose in mind, I find myself very pleased that I have finally gotten around to it. This is what is there, in case you do not know:
I was especially pleased to find a pdf of the original of an ITC Production Guide but there was no sign of the particular document I was hoping to see – this “Writers Guide/Original Synopsis” a discussion of which I almost ended my last blog with, but instead have begun this blog with. 

So, the question remains, if it was a four page document, which seems indicated in recent “official” books, then why is a six page document presented when it accompanies a facsimile of the ITC Production Guide? A further question also developed in my mind. The actual content of this “Writers Guide/Original Synopsis" is actually fairly limited in physical extent. If typed as any normal person would type it – on a sheet of A4, would it even fill more than one page of A4 paper?

 Wherever the original is, it certainly seems to be hidden by history now. Why should any of this matter, I can hear my last, very determined, reader, asking. In my view it matters insofar as so much importance has been ascribed to this document by recent TV history books. It has been claimed to somehow prove that George Markstein, rather than Patrick McGoohan, lay behind the creation of The Prisoner and this is “the documentation”. What is especially puzzling in this regard is that one of the “authorised” books that gives most credence to this myth also dates this document as being from 1967 – at which point the TV series was virtually completed. 

Another quite intriguing idea came to my mind however. Could this “Original Synopsis” actually have formed a part of what Patrick McGoohan took with him, to present to Lew Grade on April 16th, 1966, when they formally agreed to make The Prisoner. Grade took little interest, only wanting to listen to his protégé, but it is glaringly obvious that Patrick McGoohan would have taken some substantial documentation with him to that meeting – after all, he was asking Lew Grade to commit to something in the region of £10,000,000 in today’s moneys-worth; and as his 1995 comment that heads up this Blog confirms - asking for financial backing was not something Patrick McGoohan took lightly. When relating the events of April 16 1966 to Warner Troyer (and others later), Mr. McGoohan spoke of taking around forty pages into the meeting with him. That this "original synopsis" may have played some part in that file is supported by the fact that elements of that synopsis never actually made it to the finished show. There are references to deep mines and a Palace of Fun, not to mention Theatricals - an element close to McGoohan's heart perhaps, but not one he took any further within the village.
 
The Network dvd contains a variety of pdf versions of "shooting scripts" used in the series, as well as pdf’s of the couple of scripts that were never filmed. Over the years many magazine articles and more than one book have analysed these scripts and interpreted the changes seen between those written forms and what eventually appeared on-screen. This careful analysis has created an impression that the writers wrote and the directors directed and the actors acted, but the process of the creation of The Prisoner was overseen in almost every aspect, by Patrick McGoohan himself. It was only to be expected that by the time any script was ready to be passed onto either director or actor, then it had first passed the black-line phase with McGoohan, the Producer.
 
Comparison of a couple of pages of one extant script that did not get filmed with a couple of pages of a script that was eventually filmed is illuminating in this regard. In my image below the upper pair of script-pages are from the unused script, Don't get Yourself Killed, whilst the lower two pages are from Dance of the Dead. I have not selected exceptional pages from either script. If you have the dvd’s you can check out for yourself that the copy of Don't get Yourself Killed is riddled by those blackouts. Many stories seem to have been made up about why certain scripts did not get past McGoohan, but as seems clear, some scripts never got anywhere because by the time McGoohan had removed what he viewed as “extraneous” material – there was very little script left at all. It’s interesting to reflect that those black lines are almost certainly the autograph of Patrick McGoohan. Of course, earlier versions of Dance of the Dead may have been similarly over-scored but the paper would inevitably have been consigned to the dustbin after the re-writing and so they are naturally no longer extant.
The unfilmed scripts seem not to have been completely unused however. It is clear from a browsing of Don’t Get Yourself Killed that elements of that script show up in The General. How did these ideas about subliminal education turn up in more than one script? It cannot have been via Briefings because nearly every script writer denies being “briefed”. However they all speak of re-writes and it is easy to imagine the Producers suggesting this change here, or that concept there, to a writer, for him to work into his initial ideas. The scripted dwelling of Number Two being “the Georgian House” rather than the “Green Dome” proves that Don’t Get Yourself Killed was an early commissioned script so it certainly predated The General. This early but unfilmed script also includes a Judo-playing Number Two – a concept shared by the Number 2 in another later episode, It’s Your Funeral, so it very much seems that Don’t Get Yourself Killed was not so much rejected as cannibalised. Gerald Kelsey would have received his submission fee regardless of course, and anyway his other script, Checkmate, is classical of the series.

 It’s Your Funeral also brings to mind a tale told by Peter Wyngarde, via fans, that McGoohan wanted him to be the regular Number Two; oddly enough, a tale also reportedly told by Derren Nesbitt. This has led to a fairly popular myth about The Prisoner, which says the changing No2 was a development in ideas rather than the intention at the outset, partly caused because Guy Doleman became ill and could not complete his part in Arrival. A quick glance at the pdf scripts for Arrival seem to prove the concocted tale by various fans to be arrant nonsense. Most of the pdf’s are undated but versions of Arrival carry a date in June, 1966, and the new No2 appears halfway through the screenplay, pretty much as it would eventually be shot – long, long before filming even commenced, that September.

 Another script that was not used is in some ways the more famous of the main two. This was The Outsider. The scriptwiter, Moris Farhi himself recounted being told by George Markstein that his script had been rejected by McGoohan. One reason for this that has come down the fan trail is that this rejection occurred because The Outsider included a scene where No6 sweats, and the claim is made that McGoohan rejected the script with a comment, “Heroes don’t sweat”. This would be a curious thing for Markstein to have claimed, since the only script he was personally involved in, which was Arrival, has that script referring to No6 sweating!! A very similar version of fan legend says that Don't get Yourself Killed, which includes a sequence where No6 studies the migration patterns of birds, has Markstein saying that McGoohan rejected that script because, "Heroes don’t bird watch!”  The curious thing - aside from the similarity of these two fables - is that in Change of Mind No6 does indeed bird watch, in one of the softer moments of the whole series; where No6 watches wistfully as a flock of geese fly away on their unknowable journey of freedom. Myths and legends abound nonetheless, as in all the best Cults.

Personally, I found the most intriguing thing about The Outsider to be that Mr. Farhi seemed to be dropping far too many heavy hints about the possible identity of Number One, which also raises the question of exactly how mysterious was McGoohan’s allegorical concept about No6 and No1 being one and the same person to the writers? Morris Farhi certainly seems to have absorbed some notions about Number Six being closely akin to Number One, or having ambitions in that direction.
  One script that certainly caught my eye and made me laugh was the one that seems to have had a mild Identity Crisis about Number Six. This is seen in one pdf version of Do Not Forsake Me Oh My Darling, where P is revealed to be not John [Drake] but.... Patrick [McGoohan]!!
 A member of the Prisoner production crew, who had kept the scripts he had used for work all those years ago, kindly donated this script to be used by Network. Oddly enough a crew member has also been reported at one fan convention as saying that he had seen an old “Call Sheet” wherein P was typed in as Drake! Clearly more than one person back then may have struggled with the McGoohan/Six/Drake paradigm! Not unexpectedly, there is no more sign of that "Call Sheet" being amongst the pdf material than there is of the “Writers Guide” that started me on this archival trip.

 The whole Drake/Six paradigm of course rests on claims made by various members of the fan base for this show. That built up on the notions created by George Markstein’s (largely unrecorded) interviews with the them between 1979 and 1984. Whether the character’s can be perceived as the same or similar is not my concern in this Blog – it is the notion that The Prisoner began production as a mere sequel to Danger Man – an idea dreamed up by George Markstein to “save the jobs of the ITC crew", that concerns me in this Blog.
 What a lot of the people in the studio wanted was to keep their jobs! They hoped he'd go on doing a series and so I sat down at the typewriter one day - you know, any port in a storm - and typed a couple of pages. They were about a secret agent - and after all Drake had been a secret agent - who suddenly quits without any apparent reason, as McGoohan had quit without any apparent reason, and who is put away! 
http://www.the-prisoner-6.freeserve.co.uk/markstein.htm

 The fan-story then follows that after starting production as just The Further Adventures of John Drake, McGoohan then increasingly “took over” the idea. All palpably stupid, but it holds such an attraction for the cult mind that in some of those minds it seems unassailable Belief. Many of my Blogs have thoroughly debunked various aspects of this with incontrovertible fact. I have shown many proofs and the foregoing are available to anyone with a copy of the fine 2008 Network dvd set. However, in my own personal researches I frequently still come across new documentation of the truths of what I am saying on this trivially arcane, yet nonetheless fascinating subject. A subject that is certainly important to the memorial of the man who gave the world the show that claims both affection and respect. That man was Patrick Joseph McGoohan.


 Take the claim made above by the erstwhile Script Editor of this show, and that claim so amplified by the authorised and official texts that abound on the origins of this show. Then take a look at this page from September 1966, wherein already there is speculation that McGoohan is making something so unique that he is keeping the whole thing a secret. It was his secret, but Secrecy it seems, can sometime carry a price. That price seems to be that nobody else knows what on earth they are talking about!!
Be seeing It....
Be seeing You.....

3 comments:

  1. Hi-
    I enjoy reading your blog, thanks. Today I read an article in Smithsonian Magazine about a CIA secret agent who needed to quit, and the real troubles he faced:

    http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history-archaeology/The-CIA-Burglar-Who-Went-Rogue-169800816.html

    This part especially reminded me of The Prisoner:
    "“My eyes were covered with a pair of goggles, the lenses masked over with duct tape,” he says. He was moved by van, with a police escort, to a waiting helicopter.

    After a short ride, he was taken to a windowless room that would be his home for the next six months. He was never told where he was, but he was told he was being treated as an “extreme risk” prisoner."

    Just thought your readers might be interested...


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  2. Thanks for the CIA guy. Nice to see life imitating art just as art perhaps imitated life, in the case of the holding of Gary Powers:

    "Pete Sivess would become the head of a secret operation in the Chesapeake Bay region called Ashford Farm. The facility would provide diplomatic asylum to defectors and political refugees. Sivess and his staff would debrief such people and instruct them in the fundamentals of American culture and ways of life, and help them to obtain employment and places to live. In some cases, the individuals would be relocated with new identities. Most of the visitors to Ashford Farm were foreign born, but occasionally they'd have an American guest. Ashford's most famed resident likely was pilot Francis Gary Powers, whose spy plane was shot down over the Soviet Union, and is the basis of the famed "U-2 Incident". United States officials made attempts to cover the real spy story with fake statements about a weather plane crash. The cover didn't work, and upon Powers' return to the United States, following a prisoner exchange with the Soviets, the secret was out about Ashford Farm, and soon the covert operation was shut down. Sivess was then reassigned to a job in Washington DC, until his retirement."
    http://numbersixwasinnocent.blogspot.co.uk/2010/08/mcgoohan-where-am-i-i-know-of-one-in.html

    ...... in case you missed the earlier blog..... ;-D

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  3. It seems that few people involved with the the "consensus" have any idea what sort of document a writer needs in order to even pitch an idea for a series episode, let alone write a full script. They vary from series to series and over time and place but the purpose is always much the same - to give all the information necessary for a writer to come up with a story idea and then script which can be put into production with the minimum of reworking.

    Here is an example of a document prepared for writers in order merely to be able to pitch brief story ideas.
    It's 6 1/2 pages long. And that's not even for a series which has to describe lots of recurring characters or backstory or detail standing sets or regular locations.
    http://leethomson.myzen.co.uk/Quantum_Leap/Quantum_Leap_Story_Guideline.pdf

    This series bible is almost 50 pages long:
    http://leethomson.myzen.co.uk/Battlestar_Galactica/Battlestar_Galactica_Series_Bible.pdf

    Skim through those and you'll see that these types of documents need to be substantial and pragmatic - they are NOT the same as one-side publicity documents or brief selling documents which only contain the smoke-and-mirrors hype needed to excite a potential investor or buyer.

    Whatever else they are - and they may use some hype to interest and enthuse a potential writer - they have to convey a lot of solid information about the series and, as specifically as possible, what the producers want and don't want. Otherwise everyone's precious time is being wasted.

    The Script Editor's job certainly demands the use of a such documents even if they don't write them personally.
    It appears that there was no pitching document or series bible on The Prisoner and that is an astonishing omission especially for something which wasn't a standard genre piece.
    If Markstein didn't complain about the lack of a bible it suggests that it was his fault that there wasn't one. He was supposed to be the man who knew about recruiting writers but maybe he wasn't ready for the job and didn't, at that stage of his career, know what he was doing. Maybe he deliberately didn't prepare one if he already had disagreements with McGoohan about the nature of the series and thought that by passing on his version verbally to writers he would get something closer to what he wanted.
    But this is just speculation.

    What is clear to me is that if there were no detailed documents to guide writers then this was a serious problem and, without evidence to the contrary, the blame for this lack is with the script editor who should have known what was needed.

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