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The Prisoner
Episode Studies by Clayton Barr

enik1138-at-popapostle-dot-com
The Prisoner: Dance of the Dead The Prisoner
"Dance of the Dead"
TV episode
Written by Anthony Skene
Directed by Don Chaffey

 

On the day of the Village carnival, Number 6 is manipulated into being the defendant in a trial of life of and death.

 

Read the complete story summary at Wikipedia

 

Notes from the Prisoner chronology

 

This episode must take place in the I'm New Here portion of the timeline, as he actually tells the maid, Number 54, he's new. Also, this episode must occur some time before "Free For All" because here we see it's the first time Number 6 visits the town hall, which he does again in that episode.

 

Didja Notice?

 

The scientist that tries to use more forceful means to get Number 6 to talk at the beginning of the episode is Number 40. The black-suited man assisting him is Number 48. One of the people who actually enter Number 6's apartment to rig him up with electrodes Number 24. Notice that when he first walks into Number 6's bedroom, he picks up and looks at an empty mug, then nods to his cohort, implying that Number 6 has drank a beverage that was spiked with some kind of drug to make him cooperative under this new form of interrogation. (A different Number 40 appears as a maid in "A, B, and C".)

 

The man whom Number 40 puts on the phone to talk to Number 6, Number 42, is the same man Number 6 will later meet and recognize as an old colleague, Roland Walter Dutton. Notice that a nurse (Number 47) is checking Dutton's pulse through the entire conversation over the phone, indicating he, too, is drugged.

 

Over the phone, Dutton tells Number 6 the Committee wants "a breakdown on all we know, you, me, Arthur, the colonel, everybody." What is the Committee? Who are Arthur and the colonel? Presumably, they are associated with the government agency Number 6 (and, apparently, Dutton) used to work for. (Two different colonels with whom Number 6 was associated in his pre-prisoner life are seen in "The Chimes of Big Ben" and "Many Happy Returns".)

 

At 5:21 on the DVD, Number 2 is standing in front of an obvious set piece of the Control Room door. Notice the edges of the set piece are visible on the left of screen and the "metal" facade is wrinkled!

Control Room door 

 

The young woman in an orange dress, holding the breakfast tray at 6:51 on the DVD appears to be Number 64. But we saw a much older woman as Number 64 in "Arrival".

 

At 6:56 on the DVD, Number 2 is speaking to someone on the phone as she watches a surveillance camera of Number 6. Is she speaking to Number 1? She looks at Number 6 on the screen and says, "Oh, he'll be no trouble. Just a matter of time." She also seems to answer a question from the other end about the carnival, saying, "Tomorrow night. We're preparing for it now." She then says, "Yes, I wish you could come, too," but notice she is making a face as she says it; does she not think that would be a good idea for some reason?

 

Number 6's maid in this episode is Number 54. But in later episodes we see two other, entirely different, people with Number 54 badges (both men, in fact!).

 

As Number 54 delivers breakfast to him in an old-time green dress, Number 6 remarks, "Don't tell me time travel is in it as well?" Of course, her attire is explained as merely rehearsal for the upcoming carnival, but, though it seems far-fetched even for The Prisoner, is it possible their is a time travel element to the overall arc? Remember that Number 2 said earlier in this episode, "This man has a future with us." Also, there is the matter of the duplicate Number 6 seen in a couple of later episodes; is the duplicate actually Number 6 himself from the future, now working with the powers that be of the Village?

 

At 7:43 on the DVD, notice that the Village mail carrier (Number 22 or 23?) rides one of the ubiquitous penny-farthings.

 

This episode marks the first appearance of the black cat that prowls the Village, as seen in a couple later episodes. Or is there more than one cat (see further comments below)?

 

One of the three women sitting at the table at 9:20 on the DVD appears to be Number 120.

 

The woman assigned to be Number 6's observer is Number 240, wearing a black badge.

 

When Number 6 asks Number 240 how long she's been in the Village, she simply says, "Questions are a burden to others, answers a prison for oneself." She almost seems to be speaking from programming when she says it. This same phrase was seen on a sign in the labour exchange office in "Arrival".

 

The town hall of the Village has some kind of force barrier at the entrance that prevents the uninvited from entering, as Number 6 finds out.

 

At 12:57 on the DVD, a gardener places a flower box at the interior left window of Number 6's den, for carnival. But in the very next exterior shot, no flower box is there!

 

In the evening, an older maid, Number 31, gives Number 6 a hot beverage.

 

The black cat is still in Number 6's apartment that night, seen sleeping on his bed at 14:30 on the DVD. But when Number 6 steals out the window in pent up frustration, he is observed from the Control Room by Number 240, who reports it to Number 2 over the phone to her office...where the black cat is also seen hanging out on Number 2's console! Are there multiple black cats in the Village? Is it one cat capable of teleportation? Was it simply an error in shooting/editing?

 

Number 6 discovers a dead man's body on the shoreline. At 18:00 on the DVD, he pulls a photograph out of the man's wallet of the man sitting with a woman by a pool. From the fountain seen in the background and the contours of the pool, it appears to be the pool in the Village's public square, though it looks like some kind of barrier is set in the background. If it is the Village pool, it would indicate that the dead man was a former resident.

 

Number 6 also discovers a working transistor radio on the body. It is a Juliette 7 model, as seen at radiomuseum.org.

Juliette 7 radio 

 

During the announcement to the Village about the carnival that night, a woman in the crowd is seen to have black badge Number 102.

 

The woman who seems to be Number 240's supervisor is Number 22.

 

When she can't find Number 6 on any of the Village surveillance cameras, Number 240 asks if she should observe Number 34 instead. She is told no, because Number 34 is dead. Presumably, Number 34 is the dead man Number 6 found washed up on the beach the previous night, probably killed and left there for him to find by order of Number 2.

 

As Number 6 drags the dead body out of the cave at 28:33 on the DVD, notice that he casts multiple shadows, a sure sign of multiple production light sources to insure a bright image on film. If he was really outside by himself, the sun would be the only light and he would cast a single shadow. In addition, the very next shot, as he continues to drag the body to the sea, the shadow he casts is in the opposite direction!

 

Number 6 tells Number 2 that he rarely drinks.

 

When Number 6 tells Number 2 her administration is effective, though she has no opposition, she responds, "An irritation we've dispensed with. Even its best friends agree democracy's remarkably inefficient." And yet, in "Free for All", the new Number 2 claims they are still democratic in the Village about some things, including the election of a new Number 2.

 

At the costume dance, Number 40 is wearing a French military uniform circa early 19th Century, with his right hand in his waistcoat, indicating he is dressed as Napoleon Bonaparte, the high general, First Consul, and Emperor of France from 1799-1814.

 

As Number 6 and Number 240 move about the dance floor in discussion, notice that the dancers around them all seem to be doing different types and cadences of dances, with little rhythm to the actual classical music being played by the ensemble. Is their lack of rhythm and coordination a result of their conditioning as residents of the Village?

 

Number 240's supervisor, Number 22, is seen as Cleopatra at the dance.

 

As Number 6 prowls around the town hall during the dance, at 35:05 on the DVD, he walks out a door and a framed poster is seen on the wall behind him. The calligraphy on the poster appears to read Victoria by the (Sea?), with much smaller writing beneath. If it does say Victoria by the Sea, it may be a tourist advertisement for the village of Victoria, Prince Edward Island, Canada, often referred to as Victoria by the Sea. This may have been placed as set decoration due to Victoria's similarities to that of Portmeirion, where the Village exteriors were shot for the series. Victoria was founded in 1819 and laid out on the estate of James Bardin Palmer by his son, Donald.

 

In his attempt to infiltrate deeper into the town hall, Number 6 puts on a lab coat he finds hanging on a coat rack. It has the badge of Number 116 on it. He bumps into a woman in a lab coat, Number 30.

 

In a play on the usual Village farewell of "Be seeing you," Number 6 says, "I'll be seeing her," when Number 30 asks if Number 2 is at the party.

 

Number 2 walks in on Number 6 as he's looking at the dead body he'd previously set adrift into the sea, now in storage in a room at the town hall. The black cat comes in with her and she tells him it is her cat and, "She works here too. She's very efficient. Almost ruthless," to which Number 6 responds, "Never trust a woman. Even the four-legged variety." I suppose it is meant to imply that the cat lead Number 2 to him, probably by sense of smell.

 

Number 2 seems to imply that the dead body will be modified to look like Number 6 and dropped back at sea where it will be found so that the outside world will think that the man now known as Number 6 is dead.

 

The cat gets left behind in the body storage room when Numbers 2 and 6 leave, with the doors closed. Yet she is gone when Number 6 passes through it in his attempt to escape the crowd minutes later. How did the cat get out? Teleportation? Or did someone else simply let her out?

 

During the kangaroo court trial of Number 6, Number 2 tells him his fate will be decided by three judges and he compares it to the French Revolution. This is another reference to the coup d'état of Napoleon Bonaparte, who initially set up a Consulate of three Consuls to rule the country, with himself as First Consul and two partner consuls, Jean Jacques Régis de Cambacérès and Charles-François Lebrun. One of Number 6's judges is Number 40, still dressed in the Napoleon costume, though another, dressed possibly as Julius Caesar, seems to be the foremost judge.

 

According to the Wikipedia entry for this episode, "The music box theme heard throughout is a piece of stock music originally composed by Robert Farnon entitled 'Drumdramatics No. 2.'. It was prominently used as the original melody for Josette du Pres' music box in the classic gothic soap opera Dark Shadows. It first appeared in episode 236, first broadcast on 22nd May 1967, some 6 months before "Dance of the Dead" episode aired." 

 

Notes from the Audio Commentary on the Blu-ray edition by Bernard Williams (Production Manager), Tony Sloman (film librarian), and John S. Smith (editor)

 

One of the commentators (I'm not sure who) remarks that one of the symbolisms of the penny-farthing bicycle in the series is the globe of the Earth (the big wheel) orbited by the Moon (the small wheel). One of the co-commentators responds it was also a symbol of an older time when there was less technology available. This may be a reference to an altered version (or misremembered) of the closing credits of the original edit of "Arrival", in which we see a painted image of the Earth against the background of the universe. Then the universe shrinks down to wheel size and both Earth and universe become the wheels of the penny-farthing.

 

The body that was washed ashore and found by Number 6 was played by the show's prop man, Roy Cannon. The woman in the photo with Roy was the show's accountant, Jill Feneciti. 


Unanswered Questions

Who was the dead man Number 6 found on the shore? Was it part of a deliberate scheme by the powers that be? The result of a legitimate accident at sea? It seems unlikely that Number 6 would just happen to find a body on the night he chose to play hooky from his ordained slumber at his apartment.

Does the cat really belong to this particular Number 2? Or to whichever Number 2 is in office at the moment? The cat, or a similar one, is seen in a couple later episodes, even though this Number 2 is not.

What is the significance of the teletype machine at the end of the episode? It is printing out information of some sort until Number 6 rips the cables and wires out of it. But then, seemingly at Number 2's sardonic remarks to Number 6, it starts up again, despite being mechanically disabled. I suppose it is a symbolic representation that Number 6 can never win no matter how assuredly he seems to have overcome the Village's obstacles (as most dramatically witnessed in "Many Happy Returns" and "Fallout"). It seems that the teletype must be a prop of sorts, not really run by the cables and wires Number 6 pulls out, but operated either with hidden wires or, more likely, given the wireless systems seen elsewhere in the Village in many episodes, wirelessly, for the purpose of demonstrating the futility of resistance to Number 6.

Memorable Dialog

who is Number 1?.wav
I am a free man.wav
this man has a future with us.wav
rise and shine.wav
questions are a burden to others.wav
what did you do.wav
sleep.wav
anyone would think you were locked in.wav
it's a game.wav
I'm still myself.wav
democracy's remarkably inefficient.wav
I'll be seeing her.wav
has anyone ever seen these rules?.wav
that day you will never see.wav
you'll never win.wav

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