The Prisoner: The General

The Prisoner The GeneralOh look, it’s Colin Gordon again, and he’s “the new Number Two”. Hold on a second. There’s really no way to rationalise this that works, apart from the episode order being screwed up. In his previous appearance, the Colin Gordon #2 was clearly very nervous right from the start, which works well as a reference to his failure in this episode. I must admit I was already aware that there were alternative ways to watch this series, after a brief discussion about it with Mike, but this is the first instance where sticking to the original broadcast order screams out at the viewer as a mistake. But that’s just an annoyance that affects the first few minutes of the episode. There is a bigger one that affects the final few minutes, but between those two annoyances is actually a very enjoyable episode, despite feeling lower-stakes than the previous few weeks.

The central premise of the episode asks us to take a leap of faith into silly science. This seems to be the starting point for many a Prisoner episode. We’ve had water balloons that can capture people at sea and drag them safely to shore. We’ve had dreams being manipulated and projected onto a screen. We’ve had a doppelgänger turning up without any explanation. And this week we are expected to accept the ability to learn six months of degree-level study in 15 seconds, by means of a form of hypnotism. Silly though it is, I like that idea. It would be very handy. Lots of spare time to watch television instead of studying. That gets my vote… but there’s a problem with it. They all just parrot the same facts without engaging with what happened and why. That’s a million miles away from high school history, let alone degree level, but it would still be useful for absorbing the basics such as names and dates.

The Prisoner The General Professor FakeWhen Number Six starts investigating what’s really going on, the episode kicks into gear. The creepy statues under cloths were fun, especially as one of them was Leo McKern, another Colin Gordon and a third Patrick McGoohan himself. I also spotted at least one that we saw in Arrival as the security statues on the perimeter of the village, which was probably prop recycling rather than being intentional. Number Six smashing the Professor’s fake head was a shocking moment. Our tolerance and acceptance of violent imagery on television has moved on since the 1960s, and I would imagine the image of the Professor’s caved-in face caused a few viewers to squirm in their seats at the time.

“You should take greater care of him ma’am. He’s gone to pieces.”

That’s a very Bond-like quip isn’t it. For the first time ever, the 007-a-like Number Six actually seemed to have a genuine ally as well this week. That needed to happen I think, and perhaps this is another symptom of the mixed up episode order. It has become increasingly hard to believe that Number Six would trust anyone, after repeated betrayals, and yet he has fallen for a double-crosser almost every episode from the start, despite seeming much too astute for that. Unless I’m misunderstanding things, in this episode Number 12 really does help him, so it would have been useful to see that happening earlier in the run, to make sense of Number Six being duped at other times.

The Blues Brothers are showing their age.

I loved the little hand that came out to snatch the passes, and allowed Number Six through the doorway to the really silly part of the episode. The General turns out to be one of those mahoosive (a word I reserve for times where “massive” simply won’t cut it) 1960s computers. Yes, that old nugget of a story. He’s WOTAN. He’s the BOSS. Except he’s neither of those things, because he’s thrown in at the end and has no personality of his own. He’s just a box. Six’s defeat of the General is laughably easy. Not even so much as a problem in Algon here. Leaving aside the strangeness of why Number Six is allowed to ask his question without anyone checking first to see what it was, the question is simply “why?”

I’m no computer expert, but I know enough to realise this is the kind of thing that would have a computer programmer hopping up and down in a rage and shouting at their television, “computers don’t work like that!” But let’s try it anyway…

“Alexa… WHY?” “Siri… WHY?”

Nope, doesn’t work. OK, here’s the big one. Fingers crossed everyone. This could be a game changer.

“Windows Update… WHY?”

Oh well. Better luck next time.   RP

The view from across the pond:

Ah, we’re in the realm of science fiction now.  A 3 year degree in 3 minutes!  That’s something.  I wonder if brain surgery could be learned in an hour?  I’ll ask Dr. McCoy.  But #6 is right when he tells “creepy starring man”, aka #12, that “nothing is impossible in this place”, so maybe he can learn without all that “tedious and useless schooling”.  So my main question is, what ploy will #2 use this time?  I looked through the Book of Ploys just to see what this one falls under and it’s a very obscure one found under a subsection entitled: this will never work.  Not many people ever try it, but #2 is a man on a mission.  This is the rarely used overload the brain until the secrets spill out ploy.  Yes, as I said, a very odd one, loosely based on the Conan Doyle theory that the brain is like an attic and can only house so much.  Here, #2 shoves so much into #6’s brain, that he hopes 6 will tell him why he resigned.  Look, I’m just a blogger; I don’t make this stuff up.

So here’s my observation on this episode: I think this is very early days.  Yes, #2 says that he and 6 are “old friends”, which might give credence to the idea that this is Colin Gordon’s second attempt to break the Prisoner, but I don’t buy it.  I think “old friends” merely means they’ve been in the village for a few weeks and even interacted, but no attempt has yet been made to break 6 by this #2.  Because he still drinks milk like we saw in the earlier episode, I am convinced it’s the same person but I think this is 2’s first time really putting 6 through the ringer.  He’s nowhere near as nervous about what he’s doing.  Yes, the milk may indicate he’s still stressed, but I think he’s downright terrified in A. B. and C. which he clearly is not here.   Let’s also consider that #12 says he’s been there for “quite a while”, but just one episode ago if we go by broadcast order, #12 was 6’s double; clearly not this guy.  If we conceive that these episodes are not in order, this might predate A. B. and C. by some time, probably even predating The Chimes of Big Ben.  Not to mention, when 6 is uncovering the sculptures, we see some of those that are out in the grounds of the Village.  Did the Professors wife sculpt all of them?

Oh yeah… the professor.  This episode is full of wannabe time lords: the Professor, The General… the Prisoner?  Ok, I digress!  So what we know of him is that “he lectures as though his life depends on it” which it probably does, but when #6 is standing over the Professor and decides this is a wax person, he’s taking a hell of a risk.  What if he were wrong?  He could have bludgeoned a sleeping man to death!  A horrible way to go.  Then let’s observe what happens with #12.  #2 is feeding the General information which he seems to already know the answer to: that #12 betrayed him.  But before he gets to see if the General will give him the information he already knows, #6 feeds a question into the system which destroys the thing completely.  Was #6 actually trying to save #12?  Did he finally find an ally?  (Shame that with all those lectures the Professor never taught anything about electricity or #12 might still be alive today!)

I have to ask one glaring thing about #12’s information to 6.  He provides the means to get into the town hall, but says nothing about attire.  How does #6 know to wear the glasses and top hat?  Why do they need these articles of clothing?  Did he knock someone out to get that attire?  Fair dues though, for the 60’s, the scene of #6 getting stabbed is surprisingly realistic, as is the attack on the guy by flipping him over the railing.

So, this is the first real victory for #6 followed by his second in the earlier (broadcast) episode.  Let me go back to the theory above about timing, it makes more sense now that A. B. and C. would follow this one.  Let me finish explaining.  #2 introduces 6 to the General, having no inclination that 6 will find a way to destroy it.  But before that introduction, he asks offscreen “why did #6 resign”, to which, with the full range of information, The General might have suggested selling out.  It might even have given 2 potential sources or an unknown 3rd, like an A, B, and C!  So #2 loses the General in this story, but is given a second chance to drug #6 to find out to whom he was selling, because that data was already in hand.  But 2 would only get one more chance!  This would explain #2’s heightened anxiety throughout A. B. and C., and why he is given a second chance to begin with.  And that would also explain why, when the phone rings in A. B. and C., #2 looks terrified.  Both of his plans have failed and there’s no recovering from that.  Heads will roll…

Colin Gordon completely sells 6’s victory with a single look.  And the question remains for those in charge of the Village: why did #6 resign…. Why?!?!    ML

About Roger Pocock

Author of windowsintohistory.wordpress.com Co-writer on junkyard.blog Editor of frontiersmenhistorian.info
This entry was posted in Entertainment, Reviews, Science Fiction, Television and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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