Fall Out (The Prisoner)
|The Prisoner episode|
|Episode no.||Season 1
|Directed by||Patrick McGoohan|
|Written by||Patrick McGoohan|
|Original air date||1 February 1968|
"Fall Out" is the 17th and final episode of the allegorical British science fiction series The Prisoner, which starred Patrick McGoohan as the incarcerated Number Six. The episode originally aired in the UK on ITV on 1 February 1968, and was first broadcast in the United States on CBS on 21 September 1968.
"Fall Out" generated controversy when it was originally aired owing to the obscurity and ambiguity of the installment's last 20 minutes. This reaction forced McGoohan, who wrote and directed the episode, to go into hiding for a period of time because he was hounded at his own home by baffled viewers demanding explanations. The episode omits the usual long opening sequence in favor of a recap of the penultimate episode, "Once Upon a Time". It is the only episode in the series in which the show's main outdoors location, Portmeirion, is given a specific credit in the opening titles. This resulted from an agreement with Portmeirion's architect, Sir Clough Williams-Ellis, that the location would not be revealed until the series finale.
After breaking Number 2's will in the previous episode, Number 6 asks The Supervisor to take him to Number 1. He is led to a cavernous chamber apparently serving as an assembly hall, presided over by an MC referred to as The President, in British juridical wig and robes.
The assembled "delegates" are all wearing black-and-white rubber masks and long, white-hooded robes. Each sits behind a name plate representing a social institution or activity such as "Education", "Recreation", "Identification", "Defectors", "Activists", "Pacifists", "Anarchists", "Nationalists", "Welfare", etc. Number 6 is directed to his seat, an ornate throne upon a dais. Nearby, a large metallic cylinder with a green mechanical eye labeled with a big red "1" watches the proceedings.
The President announces that Number 6 has passed the "ultimate test,' and had won the "right to be an individual,' and as such, he is no longer a number, but is referred to from this point onward as simply 'sir,' or The 'Man.'
The President explains there are many matters of ceremony involved in the "transfer of ultimate power" at his imminent "inauguration".
The caged kitchen from the previous episode is lowered into the chamber and the body of Number 2 is removed by medical personnel and placed in a makeshift lab. He is resuscitated and given a make-over, including a shave (this due to Leo McKern having changed his appearance within the almost year-long period which separated the filming of the 2 episodes).
Both he and Number 48 - a young modishly-dressed man - are in turn interrogated by the President as examples of 2 types of "revolt.'
Number 48 refuses to cooperate and creates a general ruckus by causing the delegates to break into a rendition of "Dem Bones" before he is restrained.
Number 2 then questions why he was revived and defies the authority of the mechanical eye.
Both men are taken away - secured until The Man's 'inauguration.'
The President explains how these 2 forms of revolt - one of 'unco-ordinated youth; rebelling against nothing it can define,' and the second - 'an established member - turning upon & biting the hand that feeds him' are 'attitudes which are 'dangerous.'
The President continues - stating; 'they contribute nothing to our culture and are to be stamped out.'
The 3rd form of revolt - that of Number Six, begins with The President being 'honoured to have with us a revolutionary of a different calibre.'
The President announces; 'He has revolted - resisted, fought - held fast, maintained, destroyed resistance, overcome coercion.
The right to be person - someone or individual - we applaud his private war and concede that despite materialistic efforts, he has survived intact & secure.'
'All that remains' - The President proclaims - 'is recognition of a man - a man of steel - a man magnificently equipped to lead us.' . The President then offers The Man a choice: 'lead us or go.'
The Man asks 'why' he's being given a choice, to which The President responds; 'You have been such an example to us.'
The Man asks 'why' after each explanation:
- 'You have convinced us of our mistakes.' - 'You're pure, you know the way - show us.' - 'Your revolt is good and honest. You are the only individual - we need you.'
'I see,' The Man says, to which The President responds; 'you see all.'
He then invites The Man to address the assembly - in a way 'only he can,' but, after mounting the rostrum The Man can only repeatedly utter "I feel..." before the assembly drowns him out by shouting the word "I", repeatedly - while clapping and pounding on their desks - more & more menacingly.
The Man is led "to meet Number 1" and passes Nos. 48 and No. 2 being held in transparent tubes labeled "Orbit 48" and "Orbit 2" next to an empty tube labeled "Orbit" with no number.
The Man sees the hooded figure of Number 1, watching surveillance videos of Number 6, and tries to unmask the figure, first revealing a gorilla mask, then a man with his own features, before the figure flees - laughing in a semi-hysterical fashion.
Giving chase, The Man locks him in a room overhead. As he leaves the metal cylinder, The Man realizes it is a rocket, and the cavern an underground launch pad. We hear the Toccata and Fugue in D Minor as he starts the launch sequence, sending the assembly and The President into a panic and the whole Village into a mass evacuation.
The Man frees Numbers 2 and 48 and, along with the Butler, they gun down the armed guards, killing several. All four make their escape in the caged room, now revealed to be on the bed of a Scammell Highwayman low loader. As they exit the Village, the enormous rocket launches overhead. The last shot of the Village in the series shows it completely evacuated. Rover (the security of The Village) deflates and is destroyed (to the accompaniment of "I, Yi, Yi, Yi, Yi (I Like You Very Much)") upon exposure to the flames of the rocket's exhaust.
The escapees find themselves driving along the A20 road — a mere 27 miles from London — and Number 48 alights and proceeds to hitch-hike. The remaining three continue to London, stopping outside Westminster Palace. Number 2 thanks The Man and enters the building via the Peers' Entrance, while The Man and the Butler return to The Man's former residence where his Lotus 7 sports car awaits.
As The Man drives off, the door to his home opens for the Butler in the same automatic manner as the doors in the Village. The door bears the number "1" (as it always had in previous episodes). The final moments repeat the show's usual opening sequence, without the music or the cloudy sky shot, showing The Man driving at high speed towards the viewer.
Additional guest cast
According to the book The Prisoner by Robert Fairclough, McGoohan was informed that production was cancelled on the series immediately following filming of the preceding episode "The Girl Who Was Death" and was given only a week to write a finale to conclude the storyline started in "Once Upon a Time", which had been filmed a year earlier. Fairclough's account is, however, in contradiction to virtually all others, which state that McGoohan knew when he left for America to act in the Hollywood film, Ice Station Zebra, that there would be only four more episodes produced from that point, starting with "Do Not Forsake Me Oh My Darling" during his absence and ending with a finale; indeed, most agree that this last happened because a scheduled production break was scrapped when two series of 13 episodes were reduced to one of seventeen due to ITC chief Lew Grade deciding that the actor/producer was taking too long and spending too much money.
In order to save time and cut costs, "Fall Out" reused several sets from "Girl", most notably the rocket control room. Two guest actors from the episode, Kenneth Griffith and Alexis Kanner, were also recruited to play different characters in "Fall Out" (this was in fact Kanner's third appearance on the series in only a few weeks, as he previously played Number Eight alias "The Kid" in the Western themed episode "Living in Harmony"). According to Fairclough, McGoohan was so pressed for time that Griffith was asked to write his own dialogue. While Leo McKern's Number Two is the same character that previously appeared, Kanner's Number 48 is almost certainly a different character to the one(s) he played in "Living in Harmony" (where he is called Number 8) and "The Girl Who Was Death", but it is unclear whether Griffith's character is the same one that was the Number Two in the latter episode. It was, however, not unusual in The Prisoner for actors to play different characters in different episodes.
McGoohan receives no onscreen acting credit in this episode. The episode opens with the series title superimposed over the first moments of the "Once Upon a Time" recap, with the location credit, episode title, guest stars, David Tomblin's producer credit and McGoohan's "written and directed by" credit over aerial footage of Portmeirion following that sequence. At the end, after the names of Kanner, McKern, and Muscat appear as captions over the actors themselves (still in character), an extreme aerial shot of the Lotus on London streets (the driver is not actually recognizable) is captioned simply, "Prisoner". Nor does McGoohan receive his usual executive producer credit; in "Living in Harmony" and "The Girl Who Was Death" it is replaced with a large "Starring Patrick McGoohan as The Prisoner" credit, but here his name appears onscreen only as writer/director.
- Leo McKern's hair is trimmed much shorter in this final episode than in "Once Upon a Time" (and his beard is absent entirely) because he changed his appearance during the year-long production gap between filming the two episodes. The show accommodated this by showing McKern's face covered in shaving cream and being shaved before he is revived.
- This is the only episode to feature a pop song. As Number Six approaches the large "court" chamber and again during the gun battle, The Beatles' current hit "All You Need Is Love" (1967) is played in the background.
- McGoohan has very little dialogue in this final episode, save for brief exchanges with the Judge and Number 48, his unintelligible speech at the podium (only the words "I feel, that despite..." can be heard, the rest being drowned out by the "jury"), and a few slogans heard in the archive footage.
- The jukeboxes featured in the alcoves of the cave as Number 6 is led to the court room are a Seeburg LPC480, Seeburg Mustang Discothèque, Seeburg SS160 Stereo Showcase, and a Wurlitzer 2300.
At the time "Fall Out" was first broadcast there were only three television channels available in the UK and the long-awaited final episode of the series had one of the largest ever viewing audiences yet seen. As VCRs were not available until many years later, some viewers missed the fleeting glimpse of No 1's face. This, along with the intentional ambiguity of the finale, resulted in bafflement and anger among the show's viewership and McGoohan claimed he was then "hounded" out of the country. The popular press joined in with the public indignation at this "rubbish" McGoohan had foisted on them and he never worked in Britain again.
Reinterpretation in Shattered Visage
The comic book sequel mini-series Shattered Visage (1988) opens with the text of a classified intelligence report on the Village. It describes the events of this episode and the previous as "a theatrical tour-de-force involving actors as well as hallucinogenic drugs," organised by Leo McKern's Number Two, in which Two "staged his own death and resurrection." Further explanation of this episode is suggested when Number Two narrates the life of Number Six and recounts how a psychologically broken Six was convinced to choose a number - Number One. The comic suggests that the final sequences of this episode, from the gun battle to Six driving his Lotus Seven, represent a skewed perception of actual events.
Shattered Visage interprets the inauguration of Number Six in this episode as psychologically entrapping him. Where before the Village sought to crush any sense of free will Number Six possessed, here its administration claims to respect his self-identity and offers him the reward of leadership. This position, however, requires that Number Six accept that he is a number - Number One. According to the comic, Six's acceptance of the number and abhorrence for being a number breaks his mind. It is implied that all this is initiated by the Degree Absolute interrogation process of the previous episode.
- Fairclough, Robert (ed.). The Prisoner: The Original Scripts. vol. 2. foreword by Roger Parkes. Reynolds & Hearn. ISBN 978-1-903111-81-9. OCLC 61145235. - script of episode
- The Prisoner: Fall Out at the Internet Movie Database
- The Fall Out Theory
- Articles and views on the episode