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4: In what order should I watch the episodes? (The Prisoner)


This article is from the The Prisoner FAQ, by Patrick LoPresti patl@lcs.mit.edu with numerous contributions by others.

4: In what order should I watch the episodes? (The Prisoner)

That is a very good question.

Here are a few possible orderings:

    KTEH  6o1  SciFi   ITC  1st   McG
     *1*                        || 1  Arrival
      2     3     2  ||  8    8 || 3  Dance of the Dead
      3     4     4  || 11    9 || 4  Checkmate
      4     5     5  ||  2    2 || 5  The Chimes of Big Ben
      5     2     3  ||  4    4 || 2  Free For All
      6     9     9  ||  7    7 || -  Many Happy Returns
      7     8     8  ||  5    5 || -  The Schizoid Man
      8     7     6  ||  6    6 || -  The General
      9     6     7  ||  3    3 || -  A, B, and C
     10    14    14  || 12   14 || -  Living in Harmony
     11    10    10  || 10   11 || -  It's Your Funeral
     12    13    13  ||  9   13 || -  Do Not Forsake Me Oh My Darling
     13    11    11  || 13   12 || -  A Change of Mind
     14    12    12  || 14   10 || -  Hammer Into Anvil
     15                         || -  The Girl Who Was Death
    *16*                        || 6  Once Upon a Time
    *17*                        || 7  Fall Out

KTEH: Arranged by Scott Apel for KTEH channel 54 (PBS
affiliate in San Jose, CA); reportedly approved by
McGoohan himself
6o1: Endorsed by Six of One
SciFi: Used for the Sci-Fi Channel marathon (Note: The Sci-Fi
Channel normally uses the Six of One order)
ITC: "Official" ITC sequence
1st: Original airing sequence
McG: Patrick McGoohan's original seven episodes
which "really count"

(Note: "Living in Harmony" was omitted by CBS from the first
showing of the series in the U.S. CBS claimed this censorship was
because of the drug use portrayed, but this is unlikely in light
of other episodes which were aired freely (e.g., "A, B, and C").
A more common explanation is that it was pulled due to the Vietnam
era and the episode's themes of anti-authoritarianism and
disrespect for the law.)

McGoohan has stated in an interview that he only wanted to do
seven episodes, but his financier (Lew Grade) insisted that he
needed more in order to sell the series. Grade, in fact, wanted
30 episodes; McGoohan managed to compromise on 17. Some of the
extra episodes are basically "filler" and contain no (or re-used)
shots of the Village. The seven core episodes are crucial; the
rest, though individually worth watching, are less essential to
the series as a whole.

The show had many production problems. When "The Prisoner" was
first shown on British television, several episodes were still
being produced on the date they were supposed to air, so other
episodes that were finished were scheduled in their place (in
particular, changes were made to "The Chimes of Big Ben" shortly
before airtime; hence the existence of the alternate version).
The order in which ITC later released the series is considered

"Arrival" is indisputably the first episode. "Once Upon a Time"
and "Fall Out" are indisputably the last pair. "Do Not Forsake Me
Oh My Darling" flashbacks to "Arrival" and "Free For All".

Four of the script writers thought they were writing the second
episode; in two of them, "Dance of the Dead" and "Checkmate",
the Prisoner says he is new, although these were eventually shown
about halfway through the series.

The Number Two from "The General" returns in "A, B, and C", and in
the opening he says "I am Number Two" instead of "the new Number
Two". Also, the Tally Ho bears the headline "Is No. 2 Fit For
Further Term?" They seem to belong together in sequence.

Examining dates and time periods, the date at beginning of "The
Schizoid Man" is presumably February 10. In "Many Happy Returns",
we learn the date is March 18. In "Do Not Forsake Me Oh My
Darling", he has been away for a year.

If one arranges the episodes so the interrogation of the Prisoner
gets riskier and more intense as the series progresses, then
episodes where the Prisoner's life is endangered like "A, B, and
C" and "The Schizoid Man" probably belong later in the series.

The episodes can also be ordered to show the progression of the
Prisoner as a character, at first angry and trying every chance to
escape, making various mistakes and being fooled by simple ploys,
later becoming more sophisticated, finding out how the Village
works and avoiding the more obvious pitfalls. Or one can order
them on the themes, like escape and betrayal, within the series.

Thinking about the order of the episodes and coming up with your
own is an interesting way to appreciate "The Prisoner".


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