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The Prisoner
Episode Studies by Clayton Barr

enik1138-at-popapostle-dot-com
The Prisoner: The Girl Who Was Death The Prisoner
"The Girl Who Was Death"
TV episode
Written by Terence Feely
From an idea by David Tomblin
Directed by David Tomblin
Original air date: January 18, 1968

 

Number 6 relates how he saved London from the insane Professor Schnipps.

 

Read the complete story summary at Wikipedia

 

Didja Know?

 

This episode is a comic satire of the spy-fi genre, skewering elements of such popular spy fiction as James Bond, The Avengers, Mission Impossible, and even the spy comedy Get Smart. The vast majority of the episode is a twisted storybook tale told by Number 6 to a group of children in the Village; he warns the children of the insidious threat of the Village through a series of bizarre parables that seems to escape the notice of the observing powers-that-be.

 

The original script of this episode was an unused teleplay from McGoohan's previous series Danger Man.

 

This is the only episode in which we see children in the Village (though, in "Arrival", Number 6's maid tells him she's been in the Village for as long as she can remember, her parents having died when she was a child). The children do not wear badges, but perhaps that is only because we seen them only in their pajamas.

 

The bowler in the cricket match (what we Americans would call the pitcher in baseball) is played by actor John Drake. Ironically, Patrick McGoohan's character in Danger Man was named John Drake (and some fans believe Number 6 is supposed to be Agent John Drake from that series).

 

Didja Notice?

 

At the beginning of the episode, Number 6 is beginning to move through the pages of a children's picture book called the Village Storybook (though we don't see the cover and title until the end of the episode). The first double-page spread of the book features crowded drawings of children dressed in clothing of numerous different nationalities and occupations. Then Number 6 flips the page to a painted scene of a game of cricket and the story begins, with our prisoner himself depicted participating in a cricket match turned deadly.

 

The cricket match was shot at Meopham Green, Meopham, England. A restaurant/pub called the Cricketers Inn is visible in the background at 3:11 on the Blu-ray; it is still there today.

 

At 3:48 on the Blu-ray, a cricketer standing beside the porch in the background begins to walk away, but in the next shot he's standing there again.

 

At 4:37 on the Blu-ray, the cricket ball is seen to be a John Lewis ball. These were cricket balls sold through the John Lewis chain of department stores in Great Britain.

 

Number 6 makes contact with his informant in front of a women's fashion shop called Lady M. The name Lady M may be an oblique reference to James Bond's superior, M, in the Ian Fleming novels and series of immensely successful films based on them.

 

The man called Potter in the storybook tale is the same actor, Christopher Benjamin, who played the Labour Exchange Manager in "Arrival" and Number 23 (possibly the Labour Exchange Manager in an auxiliary position) in "The Chimes of Big Ben". Since a few different of Number 6's past associates in the Village appear as different people in the storybook tale, it seems reasonable to assume Potter is the same man, from Number 6's point of view, as the one seen in those previous episodes. It's interesting to note that Christopher Benjamin also played a man named Potter in the Danger Man episode "Koroshi"; a link between Number 6 and John Drake?

 

The insane Dr. Schnipps in the storybook tale is Number 2 in the Village, as seen by the end of the episode.

 

Potter's spy phone, hidden inside a shoe shine brush, may be a play on the shoe phone of Agent 86 on the 1965-1970 spy comedy series Get Smart.

 

Potter tells Number 6 he is to go to Booth 7 in the Magnum Record shop to receive his instructions. Magnum Record was a fictitious business created for the story. The exterior of the store was shot at 187 Shenley Road, Borehamwood, now a Barnardo's thrift store.

 

Potter complains that the assassination of Colonel Hawke with the exploding ball during the cricket match wasn't sporting and Number 6 responds, "It certainly wasn't cricket." The phrase "it wasn't (or isn't) cricket" is a reference to honourable behavior; the remark here also serves as a pun in regards to the game of cricket, in which the colonel was killed.

 

At 6:41 on the Blu-ray, a truck on the street behind Number 6 is painted with the sign, Fry's Chocolate. This is Fry's Chocolate Cream candy bar, in production since 1866. Since the truck is partially hidden by a van parked in the foreground and since The Prisoner was shot in 1967-68, the truck's placement is probably coincidence, but one of the spokesperson's for Fry's Chocolate was George Lazenby, who starred as super-spy James Bond in 1969's On Her Majesty's Secret Service.

 

At 6:55 on the Blu-ray, a Nurseryland store is seen two doors down from the Magnum Record shop. The store is now a Norwood office, a UK charity organization for vulnerable children.

 

The label on the record given to Number 6 at the Magnum Record shop is not the same one when we see it in close-up just a second later. The second label is rather jagged looking along the edge and appears to have been cut out of a record cover; the words in the middle of the label read "Music for the piano."

 

The record player Number 6 uses to play his message record at Magnum is a KLH model stereo system with a built-in Garrard turntable.

 

Number 6's storybook boss tells him to use the "standard disguise" and pick up where Colonel Hawke left off. The disguise he uses is pretty silly for modern day of the 1960s...but it is just a storybook tale.

Number 6's disguise

 

The women watching Number 6's cricket game are the same one's who were watching Colonel Hawke's a day or two before...and they're wearing the same clothes! A woman in a pink dress and holding a small dog on a leash keeps changing her seat from shot to shot; sometimes she's sitting in a lawn chair in the sun and sometimes on a bench under the shade of a tree.

 

The "girl who was death" leaves a message for Number 6 on a lace handkerchief, written in what looks like red crayon, but is probably intended to be lipstick.

 

In the storybook tale, Number 6 drives a Lotus Elan, license LVF 120E. I guess he has a thing for Lotus' since his semi-regularly-seen London vehicle is a Lotus Seven.

 

Notice that the "you have just been poisoned" message at the bottom of Number 6's ale glass at the pub is printed in the same font used in text throughout the Village.

 

It's awfully coincidental that the message at the bottom of the glass just happens to be oriented at the perfect right-side-up, horizontal reading orientation as he drinks! Of course, this is just a storybook tale.

 

At 11:06 on the Blu-ray, it's obvious that there is no message at the bottom of the beer glass as we see the reverse angle of Number 6 with the empty glass tilted up to his face.

 

After realizing he drank poison, Number 6 orders a brandy, a whiskey, a vodka, a Drambuie, a Tia Maria, a Cointreau, and a Grand Marnier and drinks them all in order to make himself sick enough to throw up the poison he drank moments before. A bottle of Drambuie is seen sitting behind the bar at 11:14 on the Blu-ray. At 11:36, bottles of Cointreau, Grand Marnier, and Glenfiddich are seen.

 

Number 6 seems to trust the barmaid, Doris, to give him poison-free drinks. But how could "the girl who was death" have arranged the poison glass of beer without help from that same barmaid who served it to him, complete with a dire message at the bottom of the glass? Yes, it's a storybook tale.

 

The girl invites Number 6 to a meeting at Benny's Turkish Baths around the corner from the pub. Benny's appears to be a fictional establishment.

 

At 12:22 on the Blu-ray, a sign in the background of the heat bath says "Tepidarium". This is the Roman name for a heat bath.

 

Notice that Number 6 is wearing his full spy outfit in the heat bath!

 

The girl leaves a message on the open door of her steam bath tank for Number 6 to find. But the message was not there when she stepped out of it moments earlier!

 

The exterior fair scenes were shot at the Kursaal amusement park in Southend-on-Sea, Essex, England. The park shut down in 1973.

 

At the fair, Number 6 is wearing a Sherlock Holmes costume as a "disguise".

 

Outside of Barney's Boxing Booth at the local fair, a number of fight posters feature the names of actual historic UK fighters who faced each other, such as Terry Allen and Dai Dower, Arthur Howard and Albert Finch, Hugh Serville and Hector Constance, and Arthur Howard and Al Allotey.

 

During the boxing segment of the story, Number 6 is referred to by the nom de guerre of Mr. X.

 

At the beginning of the boxing match between Mr. X and Killer Karminski, the referee says, "I want a good, clean fight. No kicking, butting, or gouging, except in moderation."

 

In the Tunnel of Love, the girl tells Number 6, "Auf wiedersehen!" This is German for "Goodbye!"

 

At 17:16 on the Blu-ray, a scene of the fair shows a flagpole on top of a tower in the background with the Canadian flag, Swiss flag, and European Communities flag (now the flag of the European Union). The absence of a UK flag suggests the establishing shots of the fair were not shot in the UK. I suppose it is stock footage, probably shot in Canada.

 

The carnival rides seen throughout the fair scenes are, of course, all real rides found at fairs and amusement parks the world over, even up to today for most: Calypso, Laff In The Dark, Paratrooper, Tunnel of Love, Whirlpool, Dodgems, Ghost-Train, Caves, and Whoopee.

 

The photographer seen at the fair is played by Alexis Kanner, who played the Kid/Number 8 in "Living in Harmony" and Number 48 in "Fall Out". He also provided he voice of the Chief earlier in this episode.

 

The car driven by the girl, with license plate 3815 DG, appears to be a Jaguar.

 

At 21:36 on the Blu-ray, the girl passes a Barratt truck with the slogan "Sweets for Children" painted on it. Barratt was a British confectionary company, now known as Tangerine Confectionary.

 

The girl seems to have the power to warp reality in her constant split-second dodges of Number 6's pursuit, making the world swirl around him during the car chase, etc. Within Number 6's tale to the children, this may be his way of warning them of the way the Village powers-that-be will twist the world and their experiences with various psychological and pharmaceutical methods. 

 

At 23:19 on the Blu-ray, either there's a police call box in the background or Doctor Who is paying the neighborhood a visit! This was shot at parking lot of the Mops and Brooms pub in Borehamwood.
TARDIS Mops and Brooms pub
TARDIS Mops and Brooms pub

 

The car chase brings the girl and Number 6 to Witchwood. This appears to be a fictitious town. In fact, it seems to be a stand-in for the Village in the storybook tale. The town is an obvious studio backlot.

 

Several of the establishments in the abandoned town of Witchwood have tongue-in-cheek names related to their business: Brendan Bull, Butcher; David Dough, Baker; and Candlestick Maker, Leonard Snuffit. An exception to this is the blacksmith, a mere Frederick Potts.

 

In Witchwood, the girl apologizes to Number 6 that her father could not be present because he is working on his rocket "...besides he did not wish to play gooseberry." To "play gooseberry", is a British term for a third person playing the odd one out in accompanying two others who are romantically involved.

 

The machine gun set as a booby trap for Number 6, and which he afterwards picks up and makes use of himself, is a Bren Mk II, a British light machine gun used by their military from 1938–2006.

 

The candlestick on the table at 28:22 on the Blu-ray is made in the shape of a cobra!

 

The tractor that Number 6 finds in the blacksmith's shop is an International Harvester B100 Loader. The manufacturer is now known as Navistar International Corporation.

 

At 32:25 on the Blu-ray, a box of explosives reads "Gelignite". Gelignite is a type of plastic explosive.

 

When the girl exits the building after blowing up the tractor, the ground is suddenly wet from an English rain, despite being dry seconds before.

 

The helicopter flown by the girl is a Bell 47G2.

 

At 33:45 on the Blu-ray, the page in the Village Storybook shows what appears to be the Bleriot Model XI airplane, often considered the first practical airplane, built by Louis Bleriot in France in 1908. The painting may be a depiction of Bleriot making the first successful flight across the English Channel, the narrow stretch of ocean that separates England from the European mainland.

 

The lighthouse in this episode is Beachy Head Lighthouse at Beachy Head. The same lighthouse was seen briefly in "Many Happy Returns".

 

At 36:32 on the Blu-ray, drawings of Napoleon and a woman are seen hung in the cave bunker. Another black-and-white print of a painting of a woman, possibly the same woman, is seen seconds later. The woman may be Napoleon's first wife Joséphine de Beauharnais since, when Professor Schnipps is introduced, he is wearing a Napoleon costume and he mentions his daughter's (Sonia) mother, "Good old Josephine." Schnipps appears to be quite mad and believes himself to be Napoleon in the modern day. Napoleon Bonaparte, of course, was the high general, First Consul, and Emperor of France from 1799-1814.

 

The song sung by Schnipps' guard and continued by Number 6 after he knocks the man out is "Danny Boy", written by English lyricist Frederic Weatherly in 1910.

 

The map on the lighthouse wall at 37:25 on the Blu-ray appears to be of London, the target of Schnipps' missile. An aerial photo-map of the city is also in place on the round table centered on the central pylon of the lighthouse.

 

Gesturing over the photo-map of London, Schnipps states that Trafalgar Square will soon be Napoleon's Square and Nelson's Column, Napoleon's Column. While Trafalgar Square is an actual location in central London, Napoleon's Square is likely a humorous reference to the solitaire card game by that name, invented in the early 1900s. Nelson's Column is a 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 is already a Napoleon's Column, more widely known as the Column of the Grande Ramee in France, originally meant to commemorate a Napoleonic invasion of England that never occurred! The spot Schnipps gestures to on the photo-map is an actual aerial photo of Trafalgar Square.

 

Schnipps goes on to say that his daughter will be taking over Bond Street. Bond Street, in London, is a fashionable, high-end shopping district. The street was likely used in the script for both it's fashion implications to Schnipps' beautiful, fashionable daughter, and for the name of Bond from the James Bond spy stories (and later films).

 

Schnipps tells his soldiers that they can have Chelsea Barracks. This was a British Army barracks in London, now demolished and in the process of building luxury apartments.

 

Schnipps asks one of his men if he is keen on soccer and would like to have Wimbley Stadium. Wembley Stadium is a soccer stadium in Wembley Park, London.

 

As his clumsy soldiers scramble to investigate O'Rourke's disappearance, Schnipps laments, "It's Waterloo all over again." This is a reference to the 1815 Battle of Waterloo, where Napoleon met his defeat at the hand of the forces of the Seventh Coalition.

 

Schnipps' soldiers and Number 6's battle with them seem to have elements of the Keystone Cops and the Three Stooges style of physical, violent comedy.

 

Seeing Number 6's intelligence, Schnipps wonders if he might be the Duke of Wellington. Napoleon lost the Peninsular War for control of the Iberian Peninsula in 1814 against the combined forces of the UK, Spain, and Portugal led by the Duke of Wellington, Arthur Wellesley (1769-1852).

 

In the children's room where Number 6 tells the Village children the storybook tale, a golliwog rag doll is seen. The golliwog is a doll based on the African race caricature of the character called the Golliwogg in Florence Kate Upton's 1895 English children's book, The Adventures of Two Dutch Dolls and a Golliwogg.

 

At the end of the episode, "Schnipps" is seen to be the new Number 2. He also appears in "Fall Out" as the President.

 

The "girl who was death" is seen to be Number 2's assistant at the end of the episode. We don't get a close look at her badge; looks like she is Number 11 or 17.

 

Number 6 appears on the large screen in Number 2's office to say "Good night, children...everywhere," even though we saw Number 2 shut off the screen just seconds earlier!


The girl is referred to as Sonia in the credits, but is not called by name in the episode as aired.

 

Pages of the Village Storybook

 

Storybook cover Storybook 01 storybook 2
     
storybook 3 storybook 4  Storybook 05
     
Storybook 06    

Memorable Dialog

a super-rocket to destroy London.wav
mission.wav
a good clean fight.wav
you'll make a beautiful corpse.wav
I'm going to do you the honor of letting you die superbly.wav
my name is Death.wav
mountaineering rope.wav
and that is how I saved London from the mad scientist.wav
good night, children.wav

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