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The Prisoner

Episode Studies by Clayton Barr

enik1138-at-popapostle-dot-com
The Prisoner: (a)rrival The Prisoner
"A(r)rival"
The Prisoner Book a (DC)
Story by Dean Motter and Mark Askwith
Illustrated by Dean Motter
Colored by David Hornung and Richmond Lewis
1989

 

20 years after the evacuation of the Village, its last Number 2 writes a tell-all memoir of the secret spy prison.

 

Read the summary of the mini-series at Wikipedia

 

Notes from the Prisoner chronology

 

This story takes place 20 years after the events of "Fall Out".

 

Characters appearing or mentioned in this issue

 

Thomas Drake

Mrs. Butterworth (mentioned only)

Number 2 (mentioned only)

Alice Drake

Trish

Meagan Drake

Martin Lake

Joanne (mentioned only)

Max (mentioned only)

Colonel J

Lee West (also goes by the alias William)

Director of Operations Ross

Johnson (works for the Ministry of Environment)

Number 6 

 

 

Didja Know?

 

This study is of the first issue of the 4-issue mini-series titled simply The Prisoner published by DC Comics in 1988-89, based on the 1967 TV series.

 

 The mini-series was republished in a single trade paperback format in 1991 with the title The Prisoner: Shattered Visage. The title is borrowed from a phrase in the 1818 sonnet "Ozymandias" by Percy Bysshe Shelley. The sonnet is printed below for your edification:

 

I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: "Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed:
And on the pedestal these words appear:
'My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!'
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away."

 

The cover painting of the TPB collection depicts familiar artifacts of the Village on the beach and ocean: a beaten and tattered penny-farthing, the head of a statue with a camera hidden behind the left eye socket, and Rover floating out on the sea.

Shattered Visage

 

    The TPB collection of the series features a 4-page text piece at the beginning that did not appear in any of the individual issues. It is presented as a communiqué to Mrs. Butterworth (Division Director-ret.) of MI-5 from Excavations Officer Thomas Drake."Mrs. Butterworth" was the name of the woman whom Number 6 found occupying his London flat when he escaped the Village and returned home briefly during the events of "Many Happy Returns" and who he finds is the latest Number 2 when he is forcibly returned to the Village at the end of that episode. The communiqué is a report about a manuscript called The Village Idiot, which in the course of the mini-series we see is a tell-all book written by the former Number 2 who escaped the Village at the end of "Fall Out" with Number 6 and the Butler (this is the Number 2 who was portrayed by actor Leo McKern in that episode and the earlier episodes, "The Chimes of Big Ben" and "Once Upon a Time", and whose likeness is used in this mini-series).

   In the report, the various Number 2s of the Village are referred to as "chairman" and it is specifically stated by officer Drake that numerous different chairmen were appointed to the position one-after-the-other with the task of breaking Number 6. This seems to imply that the position was generally held by a single Number 2 before the coming of Number 6. This may be why the seemingly "real" Number 2 returns to the Village only long enough to take part in his retirement festivities there in "It's Your Funeral".

   Drake also remarks that Number 6's defiance turned the resort-like Village into something with the atmosphere of a battlefield. This suggests that the Village may have generally been more pleasant for its residents before Number 6 arrived and ruined things! In fact, one might argue, after a viewing of the episodes, that the residents generally seem happy and content in the first episode, "Arrival", and are gradually less and less so as the series (and Number 6's obstinacy) progresses.

   Drake states that the last Village chairman finally subjected Number 6 to hallucinogenic drugs and a theatrical tour de force in which the chairman even staged his own death and resurrection in a surreal final attempt to break the man. This is a brief summary (and explanation) of the surreal events of the final two episodes of the TV series, "Once Upon a Time" and "Fall Out" (Drake here even remarks that an account of it can be found in the section of the report titled FALL OUT).

   The report states that UN troops evacuated the Village in 1968, but the Colonel ordered that power to the Village support systems not be cut and food and medical supplies there be left in place (the Colonel mentioned may be the same unnamed one who appeared "The Chimes of Big Ben", referred to in the end credits as Colonel J; Colonel J is mentioned within the main story of this issue). From the manifests of those people deceased or released from the Village, Drake realizes there is no account for Number 6 and comes to the conclusion that Number 6 must have remained there and may still be there now, 20 years later.

   If the Village was evacuated in 1968 and it is now 20 years later, the story must take place in 1988 (this is also when the story was written, before first publication in 1989).

 

Each page of the text piece features illustrations or photos from the TV series:

  • On page 1, four original illustrations depict the shadowy figure of what appears to be a man sitting down at a personal computer and beginning to type while drinking a cup of coffee. This is presumably Thomas Drake typing the communiqué to Mrs. Butterworth.

  • The top photo on page 2 is a shot of Number 6 during his retirement tirade seen in the opening credits of most episodes. The bottom photo is an aerial shot of a large portion of the Village.

  • The top photo on page 3 is a scene from "Free For All". The bottom photo is from "The Schizoid Man".

  • The photo on page 4 is from "The Chimes of Big Ben".

  • On page 5, the top photo, stamped "DECOMMISIONED", is a shot of the Village, including Number 6's cottage. The bottom photo, stamped "UNKNOWN" (as in whereabouts/fate), is a publicity still of Number 6 for the TV series.

 

The individual issues of the mini-series are labeled books a-d (rather than the typical numbering convention). This may be a nod to the episode titled "A. B. and C.".

 

The name of "Drake" for Thomas Drake and his family is presumably borrowed from the name of McGoohan's character in his previous TV series, Danger Man, secret agent John Drake, whom many Prisoner fans think is the actual identity of Number 6. But no indication that these Drakes are related to Number 6 is made in this mini-series.

 

The three Prisoner novels that take place after the final episode of the TV series ("Fall Out"), I Am Not a Number!, Number Two, and A Day in the Life are seemingly ignored in this mini-series. In order to maintain these in the chronology, one may want to consider them to be hallucinations experienced by Number 6 after/during his ordeal in "Fall Out".

 

Didja Notice?

 

This issue it titled "(a)rrival". The first episode of the TV series was titled "Arrival".

 

On the double page splashpage of pages 2-3, Alice Drake appears to be walking through the Whitehall district of London, where the governmental offices and many minsters' residences are located, though the landmarks seem out of perspective in relation to their actual locations. On the left, we see what appears to be the plinth and lower half of the equestrian statue of Prince George, Duke of Cambridge, and to the right, Nelson's Column in Trafalgar Square, commemorating Admiral Horatio Nelson, who died at the Battle of Trafalgar against Napoleon's French Navy fleet and the Spanish fleet.

 

There are indications on pages 4-6 that Alice is being watched/followed as she moves about.

 

On page 4, besides The Village Idiot, Alice buys at the bookstore copies of Alice in Wonderland, and The Secret Garden. Alice in Wonderland is an 1865 novel by Lewis Carroll about a girl transported to Wonderland, a hidden, surreal, and semi-mystical world that does not run by the same rules the normal world does. The Secret Garden is a 1911 novel by Frances Hodgson Burnett about a spoiled British girl who is changed by spending time in a walled garden at her uncle's manor after her parents die in an epidemic. Both books presence in this story are allusions to the Village.

 

On page 5, we see that Alice has made the cover of British Sailing magazine. This appears to be a fictitious magazine.

 

On the bottom panel of page 5, "IRA" is grafittied on the bottom of a phone booth. "IRA" stands for the (Provisional) Irish Republican Army (not to be confused with other versions and splinter groups calling themselves the IRA) which continued to fight for complete Irish freedom from the United Kingdom even after the peace accords which created the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland (part of the U.K.). The group existed as a paramilitary and political organization from 1969-1997 and is classified as a terrorist group by the U.K.

 

The Palace of Westminster appears in the background of the bottom panel of page 5.

 

At the top of panel 1 of page 6, the symbol of the London Underground is seen on a sign. The Underground, also popularly known as the Tube, is the mass transit subway system currently used in London and its environs and has been in operation since 1863.

 

On page 6, panel 3, a sign in a shop window reads "Terry Waite, the Real Story." Terry Waite is a British author and humanitarian who was taken hostage by the Islamic Jihad Organization in January 1987 and held captive until November 1991.

 

Alice's home appears to be the former London home of Number 6 at 1 Buckingham Place.

 

Returning home, someone named Trish is heard leaving a phone message as Alice enters on page 7. Notice in panel 5, that Alice already has a notation in her daily planner that she is supposed to have lunch with Trish.

 

On page 7, Alice plays a phone message from Vincent's, confirming a hair appointment for the next day; there is also a notation about this appointment in the planner, with "cut it off" included. The next day, on page 21, we see that her long hair has been cut to just below her ears. Vincent's is a fictitious hair salon in London as far as I can tell.

 

A magazine or brochure called Climb is seen on Alice's desk in panel 6 of page 7.

 

On page 12, we see that Thomas Drake drives Number 6's old car, the Lotus Seven with license plate KAR 120C.

 

On page 13, Thomas has four reports on his desk with the titles "Two's Company Inquiry", "Prolefeed", "The Village Idiot Manuscript 3RC", and "Operation Testify". I'm not sure what "Two's Company Inquiry" is supposed to mean. "Prolefeed" is a "newspeak" term coined in the classic George Orwell novel 1984, a term applied to the superficial entertainment provided to the citizens by the government of the novel.

 

Two notes on Thomas' desk read "Lee West called" and "Alice called".

 

Director of Operations Ross claims to Thomas he does not have anyone tailing him. Thomas shows him Special Operative Lake watching him from outside and says, "Who's that then? Mary Poppins?" Mary Poppins is an English nanny with magical abilities who appears in a series of children's books and a classic 1964 Disney film starring Julie Andrews.

 

In panel 1 of page 16, Thomas is walking through the room of file cabinets where Number 6's resignation was filed, as seen in the opening credits of most episodes of the TV series.

 

In panel 2 of page 16, notice that one of the items on the shelf in the Colonel's office is a small penny-farthing model.

 

The globe sitting next to the Colonel's desk does not appear to have Earth continents on it! What is it? Another planet? Earth after the rising oceans of global warming?

Odd globe in Colonel J's office

 

On page 16, the Colonel remarks that Alice was in The Mail today. This is probably a reference to the Daily Mail, a British daily tabloid newspaper.

 

Meagan Drake is seen to attend St. Catherine's Academy for Young Ladies. This is a fictitious institution.

 

On page 17, Alice tells her daughter that when she gets back from her trip, they can go to Brighton together. Brighton is a seaside resort in East Sussex, England.

 

On page 18, Thomas and his American contact, Lee West, eat at McDonald's. Lee says that he prefers to eat at McDonald's because British food is so bland. But he does admit that their Indian food is good, even better than in Delhi. Delhi is the capital city of India

 

On page 19, panel 1, the Tower Bridge is seen in the background as Thomas and his contact walk along the River Thames.

 

On page 21, Alice is being interviewed by a reporter from the BBC.

 

Alice's catamaran is named the Vorpal Blade. "Vorpal blade" is a term used to describe the sword of the hero of Lewis Carroll's nonsense poem "Jabberwocky" which appears in his 1871 novel Through the Looking Glass, which features the same Alice character from his earlier Alice in Wonderland novel. Seemingly, Alice Drake identifies with the Alice character in the novels.

 

The Vorpal Blade launches from the Port Muscat Yacht Haven. This is a fictitious port in England, named for actor Angelo Muscat (1930–1971), who played the Butler on The Prisoner.

 

In the last panel of page 24, as Thomas is driving away from the docks, notice that there appears to be a crashed motorcycle near a police officer and a gathered group of people who are observing what appears to be a covered body being loaded into an ambulance. No explanation is given, but the implication seems to be that Thomas caused an accident for, and possibly even killed, the operative who had been tailing him for the past couple days.

 

On page 33, after her catamaran is shipwrecked on the beach, Alice finds a penny-farthing mostly buried in the sand. Penny-farthings were an ubiquitous presence in the Village as both transportation and symbol.

 

As Alice walks through the overgrown ghost town of the Village in the bottom panel of page 35, notice that a tipped over Mini-Moke and the Village's automated information kiosk are visible ahead of her. She takes a closer look at the kiosk on the next page.

 

Entering the residence of Number 2 at the Green Dome on page 41, Alice essentially asks "Who's there?" in several languages. The languages, in order, are English, French, Spanish, Chinese, and Russian.

 

Alice finds Number 6 occupying Number 2's old office, sitting in the familiar spheroid chair behind the computerized desk, and clutching a folded, Number 2-style umbrella. When she speaks to him, he even parrots some of the lines of Number 2, familiar to us from the opening credits of most episodes of the TV series: "In the Village," "Information..." "That would be telling," and "You are Number Six".

 

On the last page of the issue, some lights come down from the sky towards the Village, presumably a helicopter. It is probably bringing Number 2 back to the Village, whom we see in the next installment, "By Hook or by Crook".


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