Thursday, February 18, 2016

order amid chaos

I wrote last week that I'd found a total of 13 orderings for the 17 episodes of Patrick McGoohan's 1960s TV series The Prisoner. This show was, in essence, a mini-series before the form had properly been invented; consequently, it hadn't quite figured out things like definitive sequencing of episodes. There's a clear first episode and a final two-parter, but the other 14 are up for grabs. The original broadcast orders (of which there are actually two) have pacing and continuity problems and are not definitive. The production order gives some clues but places filming needs above internal ordering.

Over the years, I'd seen six other orderings by fans or rebroadcasters, which, along with the original broadcast and production orders, may be found here and here. Then there's the four newly-found ones here.

I decided to try to create a consensus ordering. I charted the ten existing orders (giving Donia, the author of the four orderings, only her final sequence so as to avoid giving her four votes), and put the episodes together using these rules:
1. Whenever five or more of the ten agree that the same two episodes occur adjacently and in the same order, put them there;
2. For the rest, use the average of their placement in all ten.

And I got this:
  1. Arrival
  2. Free for All
  3. Dance of the Daad
  4. Checkmate
  5. The Chimes of Big Ben
  6. The Schizoid Man
  7. The General
  8. A, B, and C
  9. Many Happy Returns
  10. It's Your Funeral
  11. A Change of Mind
  12. Hammer into Anvil
  13. Do Not Forsake Me
  14. Living in Harmony
  15. The Girl Who Was Death
  16. Once Upon a Time
  17. Fall Out
This is not identical to any of the previous orders, but it's closest to the one promoted by Six of One, the Prisoner fan club, changing it only by correcting an error and placing "A, B, and C" after "The General", and moving "The Schizoid Man" in front of both of them. Just about any of the later-day fan or rebroadcaster orders, except the original Six of One order with its continuity error of placing "A, B, and C" before "The General", would be acceptable to me, but the consensus order and the one from KTEH (my home PBS station, whose 1980s broadcasts, though not my introduction to the show, gave me the chance to get to know it well) most match my sense of the show's pacing. I see it as beginning with episodes in which the Prisoner tries to escape or otherwise break free, only to be cruelly batted down ("Checkmate" and "Free for All" are the classics here); followed by ones in which the captors try to break him ("A, B, and C", "Living in Harmony") or otherwise use him for their own purposes ("Do Not Forsake Me", "It's Your Funeral"), and fail, leading to a draw (a few, like "The Schizoid Man", "The Chimes of Big Ben", and "Many Happy Returns", serve both purposes); and concluding with a few in which he gets his own back ("A Change of Mind", "Hammer into Anvil"; "The Girl Who Was Death" falls here also; and the final diptych is sui generis).

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