THE UNMUTUAL PRISONER ARTICLE ARCHIVE
PETER DUNN'S A-Z OF PRISONER ALLEGORY
C - Cross Pieces, Christ and Crucifix Positions.
So what were you expecting then? A column on cats? OK, so I am biased. Yes, I am a Christian which gives the content a certain inevitability... or does it? First let me detail two surprises:
"The Prisoner" is not, and was not intended to be, an allegory of Christianity. What's this? Has Peter Dunn become an atheist? Is he retracting his long held views because McGoohan has issued a Fatwa against him? No - I am simply stating the obvious. "The Prisoner" was born out of the adventure series "Danger Man", it was conceptualized by George Markstein as a pure adventure story and by McGoohan as vague vehicle for exploring the concepts of freedom and individuality. I could also argue that it is unlikely that Jewish born Lew Grade would finance a televisual Christian allegory but I would then find it kind of hard to explain his backing of "Jesus of Nazareth".
So why even bother with an article on Christianity? My answer? Christianity is of vital importance to my life, it was also central to McGoohan's life. As "The Prisoner" progressed it became more and more a reflection of McGoohan's will and McGoohan's angst and less and less the adventure series intended by Markstein. McGoohan's own personal agenda spilled into "The Prisoner" both in script and on screen. His view of women, politics, education, personal freedom, the cold war, youth rebellion increasingly came to the fore and, at the very end, out in front of the cameras, came that which he held most dear yet perhaps questioned most - his faith.
"Fall Out", I believe, is the only episode to carry direct allegorical references to Christianity sanctioned by McGoohan. This episode is clearly the most allegorical. This was his last chance to explore the issues that were dear to him - and he took that chance. "Fall Out"'s script has no space for tidy boring plot resolution, instead Patrick McGoohan pours into the text his thoughts on politics, the cold war, youth rebellion, the collapse of authority and many other issues that concerned everyone living in the late 60s - he also throws into that crazy melting pot a much more personal and timeless concern - faith and religion.
Hold on a minute. What about all that guff we Christians have always said about strong Christian elements appearing in other episodes such as the 'icthous' "Be Seeing You" salute and the cross piece in "The Chimes Of Big Ben"? All nonsense, I am afraid. I have never argued that the "Be Seeing You" salute related to the ancient Christian 'icthous' symbol - the secret fish-shaped sign that Christians used to identify each other under Roman persecution. I know some of my fellow Christians have claimed this but they are really deluding themselves. The salute looks nothing like a fish (unless you do your fishing near Chernobyl) and if it is meant to be an allegory of a secret symbol how come it is the official Village salute used by everyone from Number 2 to the waiters in the old folk's home. Now if it were a symbol used by the Jammers then I might think differently... If you want to know what that salute really signifies then read part B of these articles.
Ok, what about the cross piece in "The Chimes Of Big Ben" then? Yes, I must admit that even I have argued in the past that this scene, in which Number 6 explains his carved exhibit `Escape' to the awards committee, is a clear reference to Christianity and there is no doubt that the script writer intended it to be. Hold on a minute, am I not contradicting what I said under 'Surprise Number One'? Yes... and no! Lets look at script writer Vincent Tilsley's original dialogue for that scene:
Woman: What puzzled me, No.6 was the fact you'd given the group a title. `Escape'. We don't quite see...
Prisoner: This piece. What does it suggest to you
Man Two: A church door?
Prisoner: Right first time. A barrier. The barrier to human truth and progress.
Man Two: Oh, I see. Don’t know that I agree though.
Woman: I certainly don't
Man One: Is that official policy?
Prisoner: Now this piece - exactly the same shape, you'll notice. But hollow. You can walk through it. [HE DOES SO] The barrier has gone. The door is open. we can escape to... this - THE POLE WITH THE CROSS PIECE.
Man One: What is it?
Prisoner: A symbol of human aspiration. Up. Straight up. To knowledge; freedom; escape.
Man One: I see. But why the cross piece?
Prisoner: The very word. A cross. Because our escape leads us back to - discipline. Faith. Organisation. In fact - religion.
Mmmm... not quite how that scene was actually broadcast, eh? You will note that much of the original dialogue recorded above was dropped from the scene or replaced with much less precise phraseology. Most noticeably the detailed answer by Number 6 to the question "Why the cross piece?" is replaced by the rather trite (but somehow more appropriate) line "Why not?". It is clear then that Tilsley intended a clear and negative statement about religion to be made at this point but that McGoohan dropped it in favour of more a ambiguous statement on the nature of escape. Any remaining traces of Christian symbolism (i.e. the references to a church door and a cross piece are turned into humorous remarks by Number 6 to play along with the awards committee). It is also important to note that an extra element (a piece of wood with large circle-shaped holes cut into it) is added to the sculpture not mentioned in the script which physically prevents Number 6 from walking through the `church door' as intended in the original script. Clearly McGoohan went a long way to excise much of the religious content of this scene. Why did he do so if he was later to make so much of Christianity in "Fall Out"?
I believe there are three reasons for this. Firstly the allegorical content of this piece was, in truth, not very allegorical - it was too specific, blunt and direct and not in keeping with the rest of the show. For the same reason cuts are also made to Tilsley's script when Number 6 and Leo McKern's Number 2 are discussing politics during Nadia's swim. Here a number of direct references to nationalism are cut:-
Number 2: What do you think of National-ism? As such?
Prisoner: Depends whose side you're on.
Number 2: No, I'm an optimist myself. Nationalism's a disease but it breeds its own antibodies. That's why it doesn't matter who Number 1 is. It doesn't matter which side runs the Village.
These religious references by Tilsley are also cut because they are entirely negative and anti Christianity. While Patrick McGoohan may have had questions about his faith, as most Christians do, he did not, at this point at least, completely reject it in the way Tilsley’s original script does.
NO MORE SURPRISES
OK, so we are left with "Fall Out". Why can't the religious references here be argued away as easily as the way we have dealt with "The Chimes Of Big Ben"? Sorry, but the evidence is too strong and overlapping. Do not get me wrong, "Fall Out" is not just a an allegory of Christianity. It is the last stop clearing house for all McGoohan's thoughts on life, the universe and everything, and his thoughts on faith are just one element of that episode. It is however a very strong element and it is clearly centred around the theme of Christian resurrection.
Few people would argue against the fact that at least one character is actually resurrected in "Fall Out". Leo McKern's Number 2 clearly dies in "Once Upon A Time" and is resurrected in "Fall Out". He is described as being `DEAD' twice in the script, is referred to as a "late Number 2", and the character also declares that he at least "apparently died". I think he could not be deader even if Doctor McCoy from "Star Trek" was to wander on set and declare "He's dead Jim". Yet up he pops, back to life, saying things like "I feel a new man", (adopting a crucifix style stance as he says that line) and later singing along to Dem Bones - a song based directly on the biblical story (in Ezekiel 37) when God resurrects a living army from dead dry bones. Three clear signifiers that this is Christian resurrection we are presented with. But isit just coincidence? Oh no, for we have a second resurrection depicted just to drive the point home.
Number 48 is, I believe, the resurrected Kid/Number 8 from Living In Harmony. Why so? - after all it would not be the first time an actor has played two different roles in "The Prisoner". I could argue that 6 times 8 equals 48 but that would not mean much. However, I do think what is significant is the character's costume. The character wears a top hat just as the Kid did in "Harmony". "So what?" I hear you say. Well not only that but the original "Fall Out" script also specifies that he should be wearing a red shirt - just like a certain mute gunslinger character. What more do you want him to do? Wear a six shooter and mutely tap out the tune to Dem Bones rather than sing it? Yes, the red shirt was dropped from the script but it is important to note that this was an original idea in a script by Patrick McGoohan himself and thus gives us insights to his thinking on the show that we would not get from dropped scenes or dialogue from commissioned writers such as Vincent Tilsley. In other words I can have my cake and eat it in this debate!
While on the subject of script changes, it is also interesting to note this passage of dialogue written by McGoohan but dropped from the final version of "Fall Out":
Young Man: Got the word?
President: Ah yes. Yes Indeed.
Young Man: The bright light, Dad. Got the sign.
President: The sign?
Young Man: The light.
Young Man: The message.
President: Then you went and gone?
there are lots of Christian references here, the bright light of conversion
on the Damascus road, the word, the sign, the message, the light. But a bit
too direct, however, so McGoohan drops them (just as he did Tilsley's in "The
Chimes Of Big Ben"), preferring to use more subtle clues to the Christian
perspective of Number 48's resurrection. He, like Number 2, adopts a crucifix
position. He refers to himself as being "born all over" and of course
leads several rousing choruses of Dem Bones. I could, at this juncture, point
out that Dem Bones is directly specified in the script and that Patrick McGoohan
considered it so important that he sent Eric Mival out to scour the shops to
collect up all the versions of the song that he could. Eric Mival has said time
and again when questioned that he believed that McGoohan wished to use that
specific song to make some sort of spiritual reference - but then Eric is also
an evangelical Christian and equally as biased as me.....However, that does
not preclude the possibility that we may actually be right!
I could go on to list more Christian parallels in "Fall Out" such as the strapping in of Number 2 and Number 48 in orbit tubes beside an empty one intended perhaps for Number 6 in a way representative of the position of the two thieves crucified beside Christ, but I think that would probably be going too far....So where are we going? We have established that there is lots of Christian imagery but what, if anything, is Patrick McGoohan saying by its use?
I believe these various Christian references climax in the unmasking of Number 1. Here Number 6 reveals that the identity of his own jailer is in fact a manic version of himself who delights in wearing an animal mask. "Oh dear," says the great viewing public, "it's not the Russians, it's not the British, it's not even `Dr. No' running the Village - instead it is an allegorical representation of an aspect of Number 6/Patrick McGoohan." Or alternatively you could say it's "Prisoner" extra Roy Beck in a big white cloak but only sad boring pedantic fans would reduce it to that level!). OK, so what aspect of Patrick McGoohan/Number 6 is Number 1? Well, if we follow the Christian theme through, I relieve we see that Number 6 is imprisoned by himself, by its own evil side (nb. the animal mask and the manic features of his alter-ego) by his own sinful fallen nature. One cannot scape oneself. As Patrick McGoohan himself put it:
was about the most evil human being - human essence - and that is ourselves.
It is within each of us, that is, the most dangerous thing on earth is what
is within us. And so, therefore, that's what I made Number 1 - one's self, an
image of himself which he was trying to beat."
Number 6 could not escape the big I, I, I, I. He could not escape himself and indeed he does not. When he returns to London the door to his own house has adopted an opening hum peculiar to the Village - the end credits still depict him as "Prisoner", and the series ends exactly as it begins with him driving down the runway. Is there then any hope given in the show? Is there any escape? Yes there is and it can be summed up in one word - resurrection. Of course it could also be summed up with words from a particular text. Here is Paul's letter to the Romans, chapter 6 verses 4-7: "...just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be rendered powerless, that we should no longer be slaves to sin because anyone who has died has been freed from sin."
or as Psalm 146 verse 7 puts it:-"The Lord Sets Prisoners Free". So there is a way out for Number 6, for Patrick McGoohan, for you, and for me....Yet it is clear that Number 6 does take that way out and it might even be the case that McGoohan himself has not taken this path... What do I mean? Well I think I should end this article on that enigmatic note thus reflecting the show itself, i.e. by provoking thought but not necessarily answering all the questions. If you want me to elaborate on this last sentence I'd be glad to - stop me at a event or write something to an online Prisoner forum but remember once you start a dialogue on religion or politics with Ulster folk like me it is quite difficult to shut us up!
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