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Lost in the Village

By Jason Davis     July 31, 2006


Patrick McGoohan in THE PRISONER
© 2001 ITC
Do you ever look at something and think, "Has no one else noticed this?" That's exactly what I did when I sat down to watch THE PRISONER in a marathon session earlier this week. Think about it. You have an isolated location honeycombed with strange bunkers where bizarre experiments are being carried out on unsuspecting victims and no one's quite sure who are the prisoners and who are the wardens. There's an unconventional sentry in the form of Rover. Even those who seem to have power might be pawns of a larger unseen game. Does this sound increasingly familiar? It probably does if you watch LOST.

These are, of course, broad points of comparison, but one could get even more specificthe raft Number Six builds in "Many Happy Returns" is reminiscent of Michael's similar endeavor while the boat that picks up the Prisoner in "Checkmate" has much in common with the sinister motives of the Other known as Tom in "Exodus Part 2." THE PRISONER excursions outside the Village in "Many Happy Returns" and "Do Not Forsake Me, Oh My Darling" serve much the same purpose in exposing the eponymous character's backstory as the flashbacks in a given episode of LOST. Indeed, the overriding notion that the government has the right to keep a former secret agent under lock and key in the Village seems to be the same attitude underlying the DHARMA Initiative Island simply substituting the corporate power of the Hanso Foundation for the British (or enemy) government. Both shows, at their ethical roots, are about the individual enslaved at the convenience of some allegedly superior organization with no recourse to free will.

I could go on and on, ad nauseam detailing correlations I perceived in re-viewing Patrick McGoohan's televisual masterpiece, but all these cosmetic and philosophical similarities seem to point me to one key notion imbedded in the creation of both shows. In each case, the series seem to serve as a weekly Rorschach test for the audience. You come to the episode with all your personal baggage and you perceive the hour's presentation through the lens of your own experience and opinions. Take, for example, my first experience with THE PRISONER. I was around 13 years old and had been a fan of DOCTOR WHO for at least a couple years. I had seen a mail order catalogue of SF merchandise and noted THE PRISONER's proximity to DOCTOR WHO in the British ghetto at the back of the publication. When I noted a listing for the first episode on my local PBS station, I didn't hesitate to stay up until midnight to watch itthere weren't many opportunities to catch obscure UK shows in those pre-DVD days. I can honestly say that I didn't get it. That didn't stop me from liking it, though.

I watched the first 16 installments religiously and suffered something of a crisis when a power outage caused me to miss the 17th and final outing. Luckily, the advent of Suncoast Video in my local shopping mall solved the problem at the hefty fee of $29.95 and "Fall Out" rolled over me like an 18-wheeler with a radar detector. I still didn't get it, but I was certain it must be brilliant. It did, however, give me what I neededa nice dose of something foreign and thoughtful. A few years later, I saw the series again and my teenaged mind locked onto the notion of rebellion and the need to challenge the status quo. Of course, I wasn't sure why I needed to rebel or how to go about itlooking back, I see shades of the finale's Number 48 in my thinking. Later viewings found me refining my appreciation of the ambiguities proffered by THE PRISONER, although my estimation of the four episodes filmed during the second production block ("Do Not Forsake Me...," "Living in Harmony," "The Girl Who Was Death," and "Fall Out") has not fared as well as my sentiments toward the whole, but that's a talk for a different time.

I hope, in future viewings, that my feelings toward LOST will continue to evolve and change depending on my station in life. Certainly, the series has captured the public imagination and is committed to asking more questions than it answers in true PRISONER-style. The larger cast offers a broader array of perspectives from which to perceive the action of the story and, like the surreal campus of the Village, the island is an iconic setting for the philosophical struggles at hand. For the moment, I find my allegiances rest most often with John Locke, Eko, and sometimes Sawyer. I suspect that as I grow older, I may find other characters closer to my personal considerations. Regular readers of my opinions here on Cinescape know that I can't abide Michael or Charlie and there's probably a marvelously Freudian reason that I've yet to ascertain. I find Kate an enigma at best and a two-dimensional cutout at worst. Maybe I lack something in my own make-up that prevents me from relating to her. In developing the cast, the creators of LOST have represented every man rather than THE PRISONER's Everyman--a statement on the divergence of our society or an embracing of diversity in our cultures...I'm not sure. Whatever the case, I'm held captive by both shows and escape seems unlikely.

E-mail your comments to wastelandjason@hotmail.com.
MONDAY, JULY 31



LIFE ON MARS (10 PM PST, BBC America) Episode 2 When the record company was approached about using Paul McCartney's "Live and Let Die" in this episode, they refused permission. Someone at Kudos Productions did an end-run to ask the former Beatle himself and the production got the green light. You will never think of that song the same way again.

SAVED (10 PM PST, TNT) "Secrets and Lies" Still haven't caught this seriesI fear it will join the ever-increasing list of things to watch on DVD.
TUESDAY, AUGUST 1



DEAD LIKE ME (7 PM PST, Sci Fi Channel) "Reapercussions" George tries to save a life, but learns that the cosmic balance sheets are hard to finagle.

DEAD LIKE ME (8 PM PST, Sci Fi Channel) "Reaping Havoc" As George and Betty become close, the latter makes a momentous and dangerous decision.

EUREKA (9 PM PST, Sci Fi Channel) "Before I Forget" Jack shoots Henry while suffering from short-term memory loss. He shouldn't worry. Vice Presidents do it all the timealthough, back in Aaron Burr's day, they at least got it right.
WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 2



NIGHTMARES AND DREAMSCAPES (9 PM PST, TNT) "Autopsy Room Four" I remember reading this story years ago in an anthology. I'll be interested to see how it's brought to the screen, although I've read that Stephen Furst and Torri Higginson starred in an earlier dramatization.

BLADE: THE SERIES (10 PM PST, SPIKE TV) "Delivery" I'm apparently doomed never to catch up with this one.

NIGHTMARES AND DREAMSCAPES (10 PM PST, TNT) "You Know They Have a Hell of a Band" Stephen King's affinity for rock 'n' roll takes center stage in this story about a town where the concerts never end.

HUSTLE (10 PM PST, AMC) Episode 18 Mickey's gang is blackmailed by a DCI looking to nab a legendary thief in the third season finale.
THURSDAY, AUGUST 3



HEX (10 PM PST, BBC America) "Ella Burns" What an evocative title! I could think of several implications, particularly with this show's propensity for adult content.
FRIDAY, AUGUST 4


MONK (9 PM PST, USA) "Mr. Monk, Private Eye" Natalie convinces Monk to try his hand as a private detective.

STARGATE: SG-1 (9 PM PST, Sci Fi Channel) "Insiders" Ba'al returns to cause trouble for SG-1.

PSYCHE (10 PM PST, USA) "9 Lives" Shawn keeps a suicide investigation he believes to be murder open on behalf of the only witnessthe victim's cat.

STARGATE: ATLANTIS (10 PM PST, Sci Fi Channel) "Sateda" Sheppard, Teyla, and Ronon are besieged on a world where the latter had an unpleasant experience.
SATURDAY, AUGUST 5

I have instituted a policy of raiding my DVD cabinets on Saturday nights. If you at home would like to play along, this weekend's entry will be a selection of episodes from season one of JAG. If only Andrea Parker stayed longer or Catherine Bell came earlier...
SUNDAY, AUGUST 6



THE 4400 (9 PM PST, USA) "The Starlz Mutation" USA's sitting on this log line as I write this, so your guess is as good as mine.

DEADWOOD (9 PM PST, HBO) "Amateur Night" Zack Whedon, brother of Joss, co-writes this episode becoming, unless I'm mistaken, the second third-generation television writer in the industry.

THE DEAD ZONE (10 PM PST, USA) "Vortex" Johnny must rescue a child from a cult.

BROTHERHOOD (10PM PST, Showtime) "Matthew 12:25" Fun with politicians and gangsters, though I'm hard pressed to understand the difference between the two. "And Jesus knew their thoughts, and said unto them, Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand..."

COMMENTS AND RESPONSES

Showing items 1 - 2 of 2
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snallygaster 7/31/2006 12:18:38 PM
I was about to make essentially the same statement as Jason, but he did it much better and in great detail. But just to back up his point that The Prisoner was not completely planned from beginning to end, I would add the fact that McGoohan himself had no idea how the series would end. It wasn't until the production schedule put his back to the wall that he locked himself away for a week writing "Fall Out." During that time, the network had to stall by airing repeats of Danger Man in the The Prisoner's timeslot to buy the time for McGoohan to finish writing and filming the last episode. I can only imagine the frustration of TV viewers in the UK during those days - try watching the series all the way through "Once Upon a Time," then waiting three weeks to watch "Fall Out." I find it's almost impossible to not watch both of those episodes back-to-back.
klaatu1701 8/1/2006 2:02:15 AM
I lived 10 miles from Port Meirion where the exterior scenes of The Prisoner were filmed, I was only nine years old then. Its hard to beleive that 40 years later it is still so revered. I recall watching it as a kid after coming from school, most of the time it way over my head but I couldnt stop watching it. I wonder if in 40 years that generation will be discussing Lost as we are discussing the Prisoner. Now, where did I put that Tardis....
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