Hammer into Anvil

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"Hammer Into Anvil"
The Prisoner episode
Episode no. Season 1
Episode 10
Directed by Pat Jackson
Written by Roger Woddis
Original air date 1 December 1967
Guest actors

Number Two: Patrick Cargill

Episode chronology
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"It's Your Funeral"

"Hammer into Anvil" is a television episode of the British science fiction-allegorical series, The Prisoner. It was first broadcast on 1 December 1967. It is one of a minority of episodes in which Number Six makes no escape attempt and in which the Village authorities make no significant attempt to coerce him into revealing information.

The central themes of this episode are insecurity, paranoia, and conspiracy thinking in a leader.

Plot summary[edit]

Number Two interrogates a stubborn female prisoner, Number Seventy-Three, in the Village Hospital. Frustrated, he attacks her, she screams, and Number Six rushes to her aid. The commotion allows her to leap from her bed and kill herself by jumping out the first-floor window.

Number Two summons Number Six to the Green Dome and the two begin a war of nerves. Number Two quotes Goethe: Du mußt Amboß oder Hammer sein ("You must be Anvil or Hammer"). "And you see me as the anvil?" asks Number Six, to which Number Two answers "Precisely. I am going to hammer you." Already aware that he is being watched by the Village's hidden camera and spies at every turn, Number Six proceeds to act in a highly suspicious manner, as if he were some sort of spy or double agent. He takes six copies of the same record of Bizet's L'Arlésienne suites at the music store and plays them, eyeing his watch. He then writes out a message that Number 14 retrieves claiming it to be from "D-6" to "XO4", Number 2 now thinks that Number 6 is a double agent. Number 2 and Number 14 follow Number 6 where he drops a document in the cabin of the stone boat, when he retrieves it, the pages are all blank, after having them tested, he thinks the technician is working with Number 6. Number 6 then goes to place an ad in the next issue of the Tally ho, which is in Spanish and goes to call the head of Psychiatrics which is monitored by Number 2, who is starting to become more paranoid at Number 6's behavior and those around him. Later he asks the town band to play the Farandole from the same Bizet piece. He leaves a fake message in a dead drop that is from a deceased person, wishing him a happy birthday. Number Six is provoked by Number 14 into a game of "kosho" — a Japanese, trampoline-based contact sport. He leaves a cuckoo clock in front of Number Two's door, causing him to panic and summon a bomb squad. He sends out a carrier pigeon with a message referencing the Bizet records and stating that he will send out a visual signal. This pigeon is intercepted by Number Two's forces, who intercept the visual signal (in light-flash Morse code) - a nursery rhyme with no apparent hidden meaning.

Later Number Six is able to trick Number Two into believing that Number 14 is conspiring against him. When the other keepers of the village cannot discern the hidden meaning in Number Six's messages, Number Two suspects everyone working for him of being part of a conspiracy. Number 14 fights with Number 6 and Number 6 throws him out a window. In the end, Number Six confronts an unnerved and agitated Number Two, who expresses the belief that Number Six is really "D-6", a man sent by "XO4" to test his security. Feeding on Number Two's paranoia, Number Six charges Number Two with treason: if Number Two's belief was true, then he would be duty-bound not to interfere. At Number Six's insistence, Number Two calls the hotline to Number One to report his own failures and ask that he be replaced.

Additional guest cast[edit]


  • Several key exterior scenes featuring Patrick McGoohan were filmed on location in Portmeirion. None of the other principal actors in this episode appear in actual location footage, although a double is used for Number Fourteen in some location scenes.
  • George Orwell disputed Goethe when he wrote in "Politics and the English Language" that "In real life it is always the anvil that breaks the hammer, never the other way about." As it is Number Six (the Anvil) who breaks Number Two (the Hammer), this may have been understood by the writer.
  • Patrick Cargill, who plays Number Two, also appears in the episode "Many Happy Returns" as Thorpe. It is left ambiguous as to whether or not it is the same character.
  • This is one of few episodes where Number Six makes no attempt to escape the Village, or resist its attempts to control or condition him. Instead, he subverts its close monitoring of his behaviour, movements and actions to drive the increasingly paranoid Number Two to breaking point.
  • The fictional martial art of "kosho" was devised for this and another episode in the series. It involves a contest between two helmeted combatants who spring at each other from two trampolines between which is a tank of water. (There is in fact a real martial art called "Kosho Shorei Ryu Kempo".)
  • Among the other records seen in the shop are Four Saints in Three Acts, an opera written by American composer Virgil Thomson in the 1920s for an all black cast (ground breaking at the time); Beyond the Sea by Frank Chacksfield, an English big band & easy listening conductor; and a record by Annie Fischer, a Hungarian-Jewish classical pianist who fled to Sweden to escape the Nazis.
  • One of Number Six's provocations is publishing a Spanish quotation from Don Quixote. He says, Y mas mal in Aldea que se suena, but the actual quote from Cervantes is, Hay mas mal en el aldehuela que se suena ["There is more evil in the little village than is heard"]. The newspaper saleswoman, however, reading the quotation that Six has written on a slip of paper, begins with "Hay," and charges him for nine words, the length of the correct Spanish quotation.
  • Number Six sends a message coded in morse that turns out to be the words from the song Pat-a-cake, pat-a-cake, baker's man. It says: "Pat a cake pat a cake baker's man. Bake me a cake as fast as you can".


  • 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

External links[edit]