Arrival (The Prisoner)
|The Prisoner episode|
|Episode no.||Season 1
|Directed by||Don Chaffey|
|Written by||George Markstein and David Tomblin|
|Original air date||29 September 1967|
"Arrival" is the title of the first episode of the British science fiction-allegorical series, The Prisoner. It originally aired in the UK on ITV on 29 September 1967 and was first broadcast in the United States on CBS on 1 June 1968.
The introduction (which, with some edits, is used subsequently as the show's opening) shows an angry, unnamed man, driving his Lotus Seven in London. He parks his car, storms down a corridor, and bursts into an office, accosting another man (though no dialogue is heard, only claps of thunder). The first man throws an envelope on the desk and leaves, returning to his home; meanwhile, his photo identification is marked with "X"s and the word "RESIGNED". At the man's home, he quickly packs a small bag, apparently leaving on a trip, from his study, unaware that an undertaker from a hearse that has followed him from the city has injected a gas through his door's keyhole. The man collapses onto a couch.
When the man awakes, he finds himself in a room that looks similar to his study, but then finds he has been abducted and brought to "The Village", after meeting the people that live there, and that there are no apparent ways to leave it—it is surrounded by mountains on all sides save for where it meets the sea. He returns to where he awoke to find that the mockup of his study adjoins more contemporary living quarters. His phone rings, and he learns that "Number Two" wishes to meet him in the Green Dome.
The green dome
Inside the Green Dome, Number Two informs the man that The Village does not use names and that he will henceforth be known as "Number Six". Number Two further explains that he only seeks to understand Number Six's motives for resigning, and what "side" he is on, as the information accumulated in the course of Number Six's career was deemed too valuable and/or dangerous to allow him to simply "walk away". Two strongly suggests that Number Six's cooperation with this process is preferable to other methods that he has at his disposal. Number Two then takes Number Six on a tour of The Village, noting that other former agents all come through it to be "debriefed". Number Two points out the security system employed by The Village to prevent escape: a mysterious floating sphere known as Rover that attacks those that try to flee. When Number Six attempts to escape later that evening, he is caught by Rover and rendered unconscious.
Number Six awakes in the hospital and finds himself in a bed beside a former colleague, Cobb, who is also incarcerated in The Village. Before Number Six can get any answers from Cobb, he is taken away for medical examination. When Number Six returns, Cobb is no longer in his bed, and an orderly discovers that Cobb has apparently thrown himself out the window in an act of suicide. Number Six leaves the hospital and seeks out Number Two, discovering that a new person has taken his position. The new Number Two explains that his position may be changed from time to time for unexplained reasons.
Later, Number Six notices a woman covertly observing Cobb's funeral from a distance. Number Six follows the woman and confronts her. The woman claims to have been Cobb's lover and she tells Number Six she and Cobb were working on an escape plan, the details of which can be used to help Number Six to escape. Though Number Six remains suspicious of her motives after seeing her visit Number Two, she gives him an electropass that will keep Rover at bay and allow him to use The Village's helicopter; however, she chooses not to accompany him. That night, Number Six attempts his escape with the electropass (a device resembling a wristwatch), and though he is able to start away on the helicopter, one of The Village's technicians gains remote control of it and returns it to The Village.
As Number Two observes Number Six's return to the Village from the Green Dome, we discover that he is conversing with none other than Cobb, whose death had been faked, revealing that he had been working with or for Number Two all along. Two promises to "take good care" of the woman as Cobb departs to his new masters, advising Number Two as he leaves that Number Six will be "a tough nut to crack".
Additional guest cast
- Cobb: Paul Eddington
- Taxi driver: Barbara Yu Ling
- Maid: Stephanie Randall
- Welfare worker: Fabia Drake
- Shopkeeper: Denis Shaw
- Gardener/electrician: Oliver MacGreevy
- Ex-Admiral: Frederick Piper
- Waitress: Patsy Smart
- Labour Exchange manager: Christopher Benjamin
- Supervisor: Peter Swanwick
- Hospital attendant: David Garfield
- 1st Guardian: Peter Brace
- 2nd Guardian: Keith Peacock
- Announcer/Operator: Fenella Fielding (voice only)
- The opening main titles sequence as seen in this episode is unique: As The Prisoner drives into the car park, he takes a ticket from a dispensing device, then exits the car and pushes through a pair of doors, marked "Way" and "Out" respectively. We see the hearse waiting for him as he pulls out into the street, then somehow it is in front of him and he passes it. None of this is seen in subsequent episodes. An extended version of the theme tune is used, and is not used again.
- Two versions exist of "Arrival". A slightly longer version, with different theme music and several different scenes (including a different conclusion in which Rover attacks No. 6 after he leaves the helicopter), was released on DVD in the UK in 2003. A 2007 DVD release includes an improved-quality version, restored from a faded 35mm print, which can be also viewed with a music only soundtrack. Rumours of a two-hour version have also persisted, however no such edit has yet been located.
- Rover was not identified by this name on-screen except in the later episode "The Schizoid Man".
- This episode introduces a very subtle subplot which would only be addressed in one future episode, "Dance of the Dead". Both feature female characters who are assigned to observe Village inmates and end up falling in love with them. In this episode, "The Woman", while not explicitly described as an Observer, nonetheless wears the same outfit as the Observer in "Dance of the Dead" and appears to have similar duties. "Dance of the Dead" indicates that becoming emotionally attached to a subject is an occupational hazard for Observers, which appears to be the case in "Arrival" with "The Woman" and Cobb, and in "Dance of the Dead" when Number 6's Observer also develops an apparent attachment.
- At 17 min 15 sec, the siren of the taxi plays the Twilight Zone theme, as a reference to the TV show. The Twilight Zone certainly influenced the creators of The Prisoner for the strange situations the characters were facing.
- episode credits
- Fairclough, Robert (ed.). The Prisoner: The Original Scripts. vol. 1. foreword by Lewis Greifer. Reynolds & Hearn. ISBN 978-1-903111-76-5. OCLC 61145235. - script of episode