The Prisoner is, in my humble opinion, one of the greatest ever cult television series. I first enjoyed it in the early 1980s, when I was only ten years old; now I’m thirty, and the programme is as fresh and exciting now as then.
Patrick McGoohan is at the centre of the series, both as its producer and star. He plays the part of a nameless Secret Service agent who resigns from his job for reasons known only to himself. Shortly thereafter he is kidnapped and brought to The Village. It’s a quaint little place with a lot of charm, with its own Town Hall, General Store, Hospital, Old People’s Home; it even runs it’s own daily newspaper, the Tally Ho. Everyone appears to be happy and content. But The Village is a lot more sinister than it appears. The citizens are all people who have resigned or retired from a certain kind of job, where the information in their heads is too valuable on the open market – information which must be protected or extracted. Their new home exudes an atmosphere of freedom, but stray too far by land or sea and you would come face to face with “Rover”, a menacing balloon-like machine which would drag you back unconscious or dead. A hidden underground Control Room contains a sophisticated radar system, and surveillance cameras are everywhere. There is no escape from The Village. In an effort to stamp out individuality, citizens are not allowed to retain their names, and are given numbers instead. McGoohan is Number 6. Episode by episode we watch The Village administration attempt to discover the reason behind his resignation, by all manner of macabre means, while Number 6 makes escape attempt after escape attempt.
And here we have The Village Files. The book takes the guise of a handbook for a Village warder, containing almost one hundred pages of detailed plans and schematics of Village architecture, equipment and personnel. The volume is divided into ten sections:
1. Power Control, showing plan views of the Green Dome and Control Room. There’s a tremendous amount of information here, right down to explanations of every button on Number 2’s console. Even the internals of the cameras are explained.
2. Habitation gives us a complete Village map, just like the one Number 6 examines in the series. There are detailed plans of the information kiosk, signpost and speakerpole arrangements, telephone kiosk, internal maps of the Town Hall, Labour Exchange, General Stores, Old People’s Home, Stone Boat.
3. Going Under shows us another Village map, this time revealing all of the underground rooms and tunnels. Interestingly, the strange cave with the rocket, unveiled only in the final episode of the series, is given the royal treatment here.
4. Sciences reveals an internal map of the hospital, with detailed information on the various therapies and treatments available. A cross-section of the Pulsator (a.k.a. Number 6’s multi-functional bedroom lamp) is also shown and explained.
5. Illuminati is a brief chapter about the High Eye, seen only in the Control Room and the Number 1 rocket.
6. The Number 6 File. Pretty much every scrap of information gleaned about Number 6 over the course of the series is collated here. His statistics, history, psychological make-up, right down to his fingerprint. His Village house is sketched in every detail, right down to the location of all the hidden cameras.
7. Personnel covers the clothing of various Village personnel, both prisoners and warders, and gives details of numbers and ranks.
8. Transportation provides accurate drawings of the helicopters, taxis, tractors, and speedboats.
9. Operations. A list of special projects and operations, e.g. Operation Schizoid (that one should ring a bell).
10. Miscellaneous gives us some info on the prices of various Village products, and the various Village sayings: “A still tongue makes a happy life,” etc.
My big question, when I approached this book, was “Where did all this information come from?” A recent viewing of the entire series revealed that much of it was taken directly from watching. The rest I suspect is a result of the author’s enquiries with the series creators and his own speculations. Tim Palgut has been extremely thorough.
The majority of the information sits comfortably with my own knowledge of the series, but there were are few times that Palgut’s “guesses” made me wince. In the information given about Number 6, one of his previous codenames is revealed as John Drake. Hardcore fans will know that John Drake was the secret agent that McGoohan played in the series’ predecessor Danger Man. “Is Number 6 John Drake?” is one of the great debates about The Prisoner. I felt it was presumptuous for Palgut to make such a definite statement when the truth of the matter is anything but definite. Another cringe-moment was reading about Rover as an acronym for “Reactive Orange-alert Vigilant Enforcer”. Maybe that’s the official line on Rover, but I doubt it. Sounds daft. Number 6’s circular bedroom archway is referred to as a Rover-friendly door. Nice thought, but the question on my lips was “Never mind the bedroom; how the heck did Rover squeeze through the front door?”
Niggling criticisms aside, what you have here is a well researched and beautifully presented anatomy The Village. Definitely intended for the hardcore fan only – at £19.99 you’d better believe it (though amazon are doing £6 off)! For me, the book has value as a research tool, if I ever decide to try my hand at writing some Prisoner fan fiction. Maybe there’s somebody out there who’d even want to design an accurate Village Quake level. Others will simply enjoy enhancing their understanding of one of their favourite TV shows.