On the 29th September 1967, The Prisoner first aired in the UK.
It was mad but dignified, confusing but simple, infuriating but rewarding. It was a series that spoke to the rebel in all of us. The ones who dared to be individuals and fight against the established order. The infamous Danger Man (Patrick McGoohan) was back but now caged and known only as Number 6. The world of The Prisoner was born.
Not a Number
Very few shows can claim to leave as big an impact as The Prisoner. Patrick McGoohan created a precise and complex world that combined science-fiction and spy drama into a reflection on the world around us. The debates about the identities of Number 6 and Number 1 are still burning fifty years after it first aired. In 2015, Big Finish bravely strode into the world and hit the mark with a brilliant remake of this beloved series.
Now they are back with a second volume that once again recreates the Village and its madness.
He is a prisoner. Trapped in an idyllic village that feels like a death trap. Subjected to procedure after procedure at the behest of Number 2. Graced only with the mantle of Number 6. The Village knows everything about him. Save for one thing: why he resigned. No. 6 has made it his mission to not part with this information, no matter what torture they throw at him.
Number 6 will not give in. He will resist attempts to let Number 2 manipulate his thoughts and dreams. He will endeavour to see that a new Number 2 is punished for his psychopathic behaviour. He will see to it that he escapes the Village. And he does. Twice. But while he gets home the first time, the next will take him somewhere he never thought possible. Number 6 is still a prisoner. But now he needs to ask the question: How big is the prison?
I Met a Man Today
The first episode is I Met a Man Today, adapted from Anthony Skene’s Many Happy Returns. And to every Prisoner fan reading, this is the same televised episode that was noteworthy for having not a single word of dialogue during the twenty minutes. Even those who adored the first box were wondering how Big Finish would accomplish this episode on an Audio remake. But Big Finish has proven them wrong, creating a brilliant episode that takes the original, moves it around a bit so that it works for audio, but every last detail from the original is still present and is still unmistakably classic and new at the same time.
Then comes Project Six, loosely adapted from Skene’s A, B and C. And emphasis on ‘loosely’. The concepts still exist, but the contexts and methods surrounding them are changed immensely. But, despite being the weakest of the four, it still does its thing and gets the point of the original episode across perfectly, tricking you into a surreal, lucid world that wants you to mistake it for reality.
Hammer Into Anvil
Hammer Into Anvil follows, being a more straight forward adaptation of the Roger Woddis original. Like the original, it’s a game of deception and sanity against No. 6 and No. 2 to see who is supreme in the game of double bluff cat and mouse. Also, one thing that needs to be said about this is that Briggs has taken a little piece of double casting theory, and made it canonical in his version, making Six wonder how far out and how deep the Village’s influence is.
Living in Harmony
Then, we end with Living In Harmony. And prepare to be confused, as this is an original script and has nothing to do with the western mind-flip episode that aired on the 29th December 1967. Though, once you listen to it, you’ll understand why the title was appropriate despite not being an adaptation of the original story. Harmony excels at its premise and giving you as many moments that compare to Your Beautiful Village. Not much else can be said without giving away a few of the surprises. But we can definitely see it as something McGoohan and ITV would have been done if they had the budget.
Cast and Characters
As for performing these tales, Big Finish has assembled a cast of new and familiar voices to bring this new set of stories to life. As always, Mark Elstob’s Number Six is the perfect counterpart to McGoohan’s original; being both reminiscent of the original and unique enough to stand on his own feet. And like before, gives us those brief moments where we question our trust in him, but then reminded that we question the Village and its inhabitants even more.
We are graced with some brand new Number Twos in the form of Lucy Briggs-Owen, John Heffernan, Deidre Mullins, and maybe one or two returning ones. All of whom are brilliant and unique, and each delivers what they can. And then there’s the returning glory of Jim Barclay as 6’s boss, Control, Sarah Mowat as Janet, Barnaby Edwards as the shopkeeper and Control’s hapless assistant Danvers, and Helen Goldwyn as the Voice of the Village, plus another returning voice that would be a crime to ruin in these words. Quite simply, along with the new additions of Susan Earnshaw, Jez Fielder and Andrew Ryan, and a nice little cameo from writer and director Nicholas Briggs, we have a truly perfect cast for a celebratory set such as this.
For sound design and music, we are graced with the glorious return of both Iain Meadows and Jamie Robertson for their respective duties. It can be safely said that Meadows has had his work cut out for him with this set, especially with the last episode, but he succeeds in every respect of his talents. And as for Robertson… there will be a point in time when the collective reviewers of Big Finish will run out of words of praise for Jamie Robertson’s work. And his work here only enforces that remark, with it being too good to describe. All that will be said is… his remix of his Prisoner theme in episode 4… just pure perfection.
Nineteen long months ago, Big Finish proved to the world that The Prisoner was safe in their hands. This new volume, helping to celebrate 50 years of the immortal McGoohan original, has just cemented that fact. Not only is this a new range of brilliance from Big Finish, but that this series here, which many people thought could not be recaptured.
Writer and director Nicholas Briggs has released The Prisoner from the shackles of the 1960’s and brought into the 21st Century ready for a new era to experience. With the assistance of a stellar cast, producer Scott Handcock and script editor Jamie Anderson, The Prisoner is back again. Now, all we can do is wait to find out what Big Finish have up their sleeves for Volume 3…
BLOGTOR RATING: 10/10 A perfect celebration of 50 years of an iconic television institution. Until next time, “be seeing you”…
The Prisoner: Volume 2 is available to purchase now on CD and Download from the Big Finish website, or from all good stockists from November onwards.
Based on the classic ITV series.
‘I’m not a number. I’m a free man!’
January 16th, 1967…
A secret agent resigns, then wakes up to find himself imprisoned in ‘The Village’ – a bizarre community with a cheery veneer, but an underbelly of mystery and threat. All occupants of The Village have numbers instead of names, with our secret agent forced to accept the mantle of Number Six.
The authorities running this Village are intent on discovering why Number Six resigned – but it’s a secret he steadfastly refuses to divulge. As the drama unfolds, the authorities, in the guise of the sinister Number Two, try ever more ingenious and aggressive means to bend Number Six to their will. All the while, Number Six is intent on two aims: to escape and to find out ‘Who is Number One?’.
2.1 I Met a Man Today (adapted from Many Happy Returns)
Exhausted after a daring escape from the Village, Six returns to London to find a woman living in his home. Despite being fearful that this could be yet another trick by those who run the Village, he dares to take the risk and starts to get to know her… Meanwhile, those running British Intelligence have their own agenda.
2.2 Project Six (adapted from A, B and C)
Six is now certain he can’t trust anyone. Any food or water in the Village could be laced with chemicals to alter his mental state. Going ‘nil by mouth’ in an attempt to prevent potential drugging, he finds himself dazed and confused by hunger and dehydration. And a prisoner in a secret laboratory makes some unnerving claims. Claims that lead to the identity of Number One.
2.3 Hammer into Anvil (adapted from the TV episode of the same title)
For the new Number Two ‘the gloves are off’. His mission is to break Six, saying he must be either hammer or anvil. But Six has a plan to exploit a weakness in the system.
2.4 Living in Harmony (not adapted from the TV episode of the same title)
Six finds himself in entirely unfamiliar circumstances. He is also confronted with the seemingly impossible return of Number Nine. But worst of all, he is faced with a deadly choice. Just how much is his freedom really worth?
Written By: Nicholas Briggs
Directed By: Nicholas Briggs
Mark Elstob (Number Six), Lucy Briggs-Owen (Kate Butterworth), Susan Earnshaw (Brenda), Jim Barclay (Control), Barnaby Edwards (Danvers / Shopkeeper), John Heffernan (Thorpe), Sarah Mowat (Janet), Sara Powell (Number 9 / Number 90), Andrew Ryan (Number 52), Nicholas Briggs (Number 99), Jez Fielder (Number 48), Deirdre Mullins (Number 2), Helen Goldwyn (Barmaid / Village Voice / Village Clone / Number 26 / Lunar Controller / Moon Clone / Observation Controller), Michael Cochrane (Number 2). Other parts played by members of the cast.
Writer/director Nicholas Briggs
Script Editor Jamie Anderson
Producer Scott Handcock
Executive Producers Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs
© ITV Studios Global Entertainment