Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The Whole Damn Thing--THE PRISONER--Episode 11

Apologies for the long wait on this one. I dreaded writing it, chiefly because this episode sucks.

Episode 11--"It's Your Funeral"

The Prisoner is a tricky beast, as the Christ-awful remake proves. Writing an episode requires hewing to some very stringent rules--for one, since the main conflict is that of the individual against society, it almost insists that one isolate the protagonist to better draw the battle lines between lone individual and society. Allying No. 6 with a group of people, frankly, undercuts that message somewhat. The remake missed this (among its many other sins) and suffered greatly as a result.

The Village, as the antagonist "society," likewise has to play by certain rules in the name of a successful story. The singular terror of the Village is that their goal is to make everyone an equal unit in society in the most brutally equalizing method possible. Not unlike the Cybermen in Doctor Who (or "Harrison Bergeron," if your tastes are a bit more highbrow) their goal is to crush everyone into the same shape, make everyone behave the same and, ultimately, think the same.

In those terms, the story writes itself--Village says, "No. 6, you will do what the others do." "No I won't." "OK, then, we'll do this in retaliation." And that's all you really need. For all that The Prisoner deals in multiple levels and allegory and all that, the central conflict dynamic is really simple, and doesn't need a lot of convolution.

And that's just about where "It's Your Funeral" fails. The episode involves a convoluted assassination plot perpetrated by one No. 2 to replace another No. 2 (for no adequately explained reason, as it's never been evident in the past that this would be accepted, necessary, or even sensible in any way shape or form) a group of Villagers called the Jammers, who cook up fake plots to confuse the Village controllers and No. 6 is around for . . .I dunno. Roll the Kosho clip.

There's some good ideas in "It's Your Funeral" (for one thing, the Jammers ended up being the forerunners of real life culture jammers) I'm just not terribly sure any of them are particularly good ideas for a Prisoner episode, and the whole thing plays like a hatefully confusing mess that drags on and on and ultimately I just find myself wanting the damn thing to be over with.

Thankfully, our next episode is a definite favourite of mine. In what must surely be the most harrowing kind of peer pressure imaginable, No 6 is marked out for being antisocial. So what else is new, right? Well, how about total ostracization for starters and, if he doesn't toe the line after that, they lobotomise him? Never has an episode title been more literal:

Next episode--"A Change of Mind"

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