The General (The Prisoner)
|This article does not cite any references or sources. (December 2009)|
|The Prisoner episode|
|Episode no.||Season 1
|Directed by||Peter Graham Scott|
|Written by||Lewis Greifer|
|Original air date||3 November 1967|
Projection Operator - Peter Bourne
Number 6 — along with the rest of the Village population — is subjected to a new mind-altering education technology called "Speed Learn" which can instill a three-year university level course in history over a television screen in just three minutes. It was invented and is "taught" by an avuncular individual known as "The Professor" who is nevertheless seen trying to escape from the Village along the beach at the episode outset. He is retrieved and proceeds with the education program which instills a detailed, but fairly sterile, set of data on "European history since Napoleon" into all Village residents' minds. Speed Learn is also apparently supported by someone known as "The General".
Number 6 realizes that Speed Learn could eventually be used for mind control. Number 12, a disaffected member of the Speed Learn committee, helps Number 6 to infiltrate the project and sabotage it by broadcasting a subversive message from the Professor who had copied it onto a recorder before his escape attempt. Number 6 is detected and thwarted in this attempt, but now "The General" is revealed to be a sophisticated, experimental mainframe computer which has purportedly been programmed to be able to answer any question put to it. Number 6 is able to destroy the General, and Number 2's plans, with some simple logical epistemological trickery: He feeds it the brief question "Why?", it begins to smoke out of sheer consternation, and self-destructs, killing the Professor and Number 12 in the process.
- 'The General' is first mentioned by Number Two in the episode "The Schizoid Man."
- The twist ending is similar to the The Twilight Zone episode "The Old Man in the Cave" (1963).
- Entering the Village broadcast studios required a token to be inserted into a Thing money box. This was a toy bank from which a "Thing" hand emerged to snatch coins which were placed in a slot at the front. This item was reportedly included at the request of Patrick McGoohan.
Chris Gregory believes the episode to be “memorable” and highly melodramatic”. He describes the ending as “[fitting in] well with the subtext of the series”, but also say “the revelation that ‘The General is a powerful computer is a stock science fiction device.”  Alain Carrazé and Hélène Oswald compare the ending of the episode to the story of David and Goliath. The fact that the Prisoner defeats the General with a single word is like David killing Goliath with a sling. They describe the music used during scene involving the Prisoner, Number 2 and the Professor's wife as "one of the strangest musical themes in the series".
- Gregory 95
- Carrazé & Oswald 94.
- Carrazé & Oswald 91.
- Carrazé, Alain; Oswald, Hélène (1989). The Prisoner. London: W H Allen. p. 91, 94. ISBN 1-85227-338-0.
- Gregory, Chris (1997). Be Seeing You... Decoding The Prisoner. Lutton, Bedfordshire: John Libbey Media. p. 95. ISBN 1-860205-21-6.
- 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
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