The Unmutual Reviews: The Gillis Guide to The Prisoner
S J GILLIS. SJG Communications Services. ISBN 0-9528441-1-7. 90pp, £9.99.

Review by David Healey.

Perhaps the main
problem with "The Gillis Guide To The Prisoner" is one of definition. "A Gillis Guide: All you need to know... Patrick McGoohan's TV classic examined like never before" is the bold claim on the back cover. Unfortunately the book includes very little of what you need to know and the series is only "examined like never before" in the context of no examination being carried out at all! The only real `hard information' regarding the series itself is found in a series guide at the end which is lifted word for word (with permission) from Dave Rogers' "The Encyclopedia Of Adventure" which was published by Boxtree in 1988. The only enhancement to this appears to be extended credits for those starting in each episode. This is somewhat puzzling as this section is then followed by an episode guide, which repeats the cast information along with on-screen crew information.

The book was originally to be entitled "The Gillis Guide To The Prisoners", which more appropriately encapsulates its main purpose - to detail the achievements of those who worked on "The Prisoner". The main core of this 90 page, A4 softback is an alphabetical list of "Prisoner" cast and crew, detailing their association with the series along with a list of known TV/film/stage/video appearances. Brief biographical details are included in some cases and organisations, such as ITC, Everyman Films etc. are also included. The information contained within the individual entries is variable. Some individuals are represented with an admirable amount of detail, whilst other important participants warrant little more than a name-check. Patrick Jordan, who played Danvers in "Do Not Forsake Me Oh My Darling", for example, is represented by more than a page of career credits whereas Angelo Muscat only manages to scrape one non-Prisoner entry (a 1965 "Doctor Who" story). Most Prisoner fans will recall his appearance in The Beatles' "Magical Mystery Tour" which, in a scene reminiscent of "Fall Out", features him running after a coach and others will remember his appearance in the Peter Sellers' film "The Magic Christian". To expect comprehensive details for everyone would be unreasonable, but some important items, such as David Tomblin's involvement in the filming of the ground-breaking (and currently topical) "Star Wars" trilogy is a major oversight.

The book, which to be fair is a reference work (and one which I will, no doubt, find useful), should not be judged solely on it's readability however. Clearly it involved a lot of research, but unfortunately is let down somewhat by sloppy execution in some areas and less than inspiring presentation. The cover, which features cartoon caricatures of many of the series' stars performing a `Conga' in the village, does not move one to investigate further, especially as it seems to depict amongst others Ronald Reagan, Boris Yeltsin, Denis Norden and Joanna Lumley! There is a complete lack of photographic content within, presumably because of copyright restrictions, the only relief from the listed information being a selection of slogans and dialogue from the series.

Being the only visible design features within the book one's eye is drawn to these areas which unfortunately display a sad lack of consistency in type size, text orientation and capitalisation. Whilst not affecting the principal purpose of the tome this does prove distracting as does the 'Gillis Guide To The Prisoner' logo which crops up, irritatingly, no less than thirty times! Proof reading in respect of this element, which hopefully does not afflict the main body of text, has been sadly lacking - a typical example being the single word `Knowledge' which is printed in large type as two separate words 'Knowled' and 'ge' on separate lines without even an hyphen to excuse matters.

Not really a book for the casual reader, but a first stab at a Prisoner personnel guide which, by the very nature of subject, can never be complete.

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