Alternate Prisoner running order article.

By Ken Patterson for the June 2003 edition of the Intergalactic Enquirer.

The alternate running order of the Prisoner first was introduced in 1985; during the series’ second run on KTEH (PBS, San Jose) and was devised by Scott Apel who hosted the weekly visits to the Village.

Why should the Prisoner be run in any order other than the official running order? Well, to start off, the Prisoner was initially developed by Patrick McGoohan as a seven-part program, and his financier – Lew grade – wanted thirty, so that it could readily be sold overseas. They ultimately produced seventeen.

So there is a core group of seven episodes – Arrival, Dace, Checkmate, Chimes, Free, Once and Fallout – with the remaining ten essentially being filler episodes. Other factors at work helped to create the original running order that were not based so much on story progression, but on completion of the episodes in question. In fact, Once Upon a Time was originally was to be the thirteenth episode – as the end of the first series – but when the financing ran out, and it became clear that there would only be one series, it became the sixteenth.

The alternate order is arranged from clues in each episode, the original core grouping, and by the progression of the character of Number Six and how far the Number Two of the week would go for answers. The alternate order is as follows (with the official ITC/Carlton order in parentheses):

  • Arrival (1)
  • Dance of the Dead (8)
  • Checkmate (9)
  • Chimes of Big Ben
  • Free for All (4)
  • Many Happy Returns (7)
  • The Schizoid Man (5)
  • The General (6)
  • A, B and C (3)
  • Living in Harmony (14)
  • It’s Your Funeral (11)
  • Do Not Forsake Me Oh My Darling (13)
  • A Change of Mind (12)
  • Hammer into Anvil (10)
  • The Girl Who was Death (15)
  • Once Upon a Time (16)
  • Fallout (17)

Three of the seventeen episodes are obviously placed: “Arrival” at the beginning, and the two-part sequence – “Once Upon a Time” and “Fallout” – at the end (though there is a view held that the cyclical nature of the program also allows for “Fallout” to be first, but I do not agree with that.) Both “Dance of the Dead” and “Checkmate” Number Six still claims to be new in the Village – owing to the fact the each writer thought they were writing the second episode. Clearly these two do not belong halfway through the series. Due to a continuity of a Number Two, “The General” and “A, B and C” belong together in that order, instead of three episodes apart in the reverse.

The rest of the order is determined by how Number Six has managed to gain control his environment, and how the succession of Number Two’s become more desperate in their attempts to answer their ultimate question. The series can then be divided into three distinct acts.

  • Arrival, Dance, Checkmate, Chimes, Free for All and Many Happy Returns – Number Six is optimistic in his ability to escape, and the succession of Number Twos work only to disorient Number Six and win him over, but not to break him.
  • Schizoid, General, AB&C, Harmony, Funeral, Do Not Forsake Me – where Number Six manages to obtain victories (hard won, and costly) and the village begins to take greater risks in the battle over Number Six’s mind.
  • Change, Hammer, Girl, Once, and Fallout – Number Six is more in control of his environment, and is able to win at the village’s game. He is able to break a Number Two (Hammer) and is in control of the technology (Girl.)

Thus the alternate order came to be, and continues to this day to be the primary running order in San Jose (and anywhere else they care to do so) and is discussed on the internet in news groups and on web sites.

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