THE UNMUTUAL PRISONER ARTICLE ARCHIVE
THE PROJECTION ROOM (The Prisoner Compared...)
A review by Gareth Hughes
The ITV blurb
about it says it all, really: "Nigel Harman stars as Nathan Hyde, a cool
man with a mysterious
past in this white knuckle action thriller."
A former safecracker, he's now living under an assumed identity and is no longer a man for hire. But all that changes when the glamorous young Erica turns up in the sleepy coastal town where he's been living.
Erica ensnares him, literally, and before he knows what's happening he's swept back into the potentially deadly embrace of Minus 12, a department of a greater, global organisation known simply as The Establishment.
Tracked down by his former boss, played by Hollywood heavyweight Brian Cox, Nathan's lured out of hiding and sent on a mission to reclaim a stolen painting which carries the secret to everlasting life - making the owners the most powerful people in the world!"
Opens with a murder in the Vatican and the theft of a Rubens painting (which, incidentally, was far too small to be the picture it claimed to be). Then cut to cottage on the Welsh coast where hero is living under an assumed identity in quiet retirement, whence he is kidnapped by a glamourpuss in a helicopter and taken back to his old boss, who sets him off on a mission to retrieve the painting (which has the secret of eternal life painted in very 21st century UV-sensitive paint all over it). The DaVinci Code is pants, but it's a bit more subtle than that.
What made it interesting to Pris fans was the extent to which elements of TP and other series of similar type and vintage were gratuitously ripped off to provide a rather disjointed trail of pretty set-pieces. I'm willing to bet that the original draft had the hero abducted not from holiday/retirement on *any* Welsh estuary but from one Welsh estuary in particular, and dragged back to face an animatronic George Markstein, just in case you didn't get the subtle reference. Certainly I was convinced that any second there'd be a big white balloon.
Apparently it was almost entirely filmed in Liverpool so perhaps the budget didn't stretch to a Portmeirion location shoot. Presumably for the same reason, at the end they couldn't use Beachy Head lighthouse so they CGI'd a bit of Liverpool docks to make an island with a tower on it. Oh, and the same thing happened to the tower as happens to the lighthouse in The Girl Who Was Death.
So, start and end were taken straight from "The Lazy Book Of Prisoner Clichés (Level 2- For People Who Actually Saw The Series Once And Think Not Doing A Human Chess Reference Makes The Source Obscure And Arty)", while the middle had a lot of "The Man From UNCLE" and "The Avengers" - in the latter case, the Ralph Fiennes movie more than the original series - indeed the whole thing was, in its approach and "quality", rather reminiscent of the Avengers film, not "bad" as such, and (despite a critical panning before it was shown, and rumours that ITV hated it so much they hardly dared) not un-enjoyable by the standards of ITV "hurrah, we've signed minor soap-star X, now let's find something to put them in"-type stuff, but just not as good as its sources. It also played as if it had been cut down from a 2 hour slot to 90 minutes at a fairly late stage in the writing.
Basically yet another attempt by ITV to create a vehicle for an ex-'stenders star, a pilot episode of a series that (IMHO) will never be made. Of course, if David Jason was in it, we'd have four thousand episodes already in the can.
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