The mysterious 'They' are searching for enigmatic scientist Doctor Selzman, inventor of the consciousness-swap machine. Number 6 knows how Doctor Selzman can be located, but his lips are tightly zipped. So when Number 6 isn't looking, they swap his mind with that of The Colonel. And the rest of the episode occurs with Number 6's mind in The Colonel's brain, and The Colonel's mind in Number 6's brain. And, as all Number 6 does in lie in a bed wearing goggles, they could get McGoohan to do that scene when he returned.
The scientists walk into the Amnesia Room and then call it the Examination Room. Presumably they forgot where they were.
What I really found delightful about this episode is that the above plot, whilst being complicated, is never explicitly explained. You have to work it out for yourself. This makes a change from Number 2 explaining his latest wily scheme. It makes this episode seem a far more modern piece of telly.
Anyway, Number 6 wakes up to find himself inside the Colonel's body - "oh, god", he thinks, "How many The Girl Who Was Deaths did I drink last night?" And he's back in his flat, as seen in Many Happy Returns, and we hear his thoughts …
...now this is odd. This episode reintroduces the premise of The Prisoner, but it doesn't reintroduce quite the same premise that was used for the previous dozen odd episodes. This isn't the McGoohan Number 6 - this is someone far less taciturn and far more tactile. This is someone with a clearly-drawn character, not an enigma with a constant narrow-eyed scowl.
We suddenly find out all sorts of things about the character. The job he resigned from. The name of his girlfriend - the fact that he has a girlfriend! We discover that he worked for her father, and that he's been away for exactly a year. Once again The Prisoner has turned into a completely different programme.
It reintroduces the show, and spells out what it's all about in no uncertain terms. This is what happens when McGoohan's out of the office and isn't rewriting the scripts - suddenly everything starts making sense!
And Number 6 meets his girlfriend... and kisses her. I can't imagine McGoohan playing this scene, and not just because he the only person Mr McGoohan kisses is Mrs McGoohan. It's because, firstly, the character of Number 6 is acting out of character, and secondly because the actor playing Number 6 isn't acting.
He should be doing a McGoohan impersonation. He should have the mannerisms, the scowl, the trapped wind. He should speak only in non-sequitors. He should prowl up and down, and occasionally pick up his radio and shake it. And he should occasionally smile as though he's just released the trapped wind.
There's a really good episode of Buffy where they do something similar, where Buffy and Faith swap bodies, and in that episode both the actresses do excellent impersonations of their counterpart.
So there is something of a missed opportunity, but I suppose McGoohan wouldn't be too keen on someone impersonating him, he doesn't strike me as being overladen with a self-effacing sense of humour.
Number 6 has, unfortunately, been mind-swapped into the body of a fat, old man. I can't help thinking that if he had been mind-swapped into the body of, to pluck a random example, the lovely Wanda Ventham, he would have been so keen to get his old body back. He'd be staying at home, standing in the front of the mirror in just his pants, smirking.
It would also have added a Sapphic dimension to the bit where he kisses his girlfriend. They had the ideal excuse for showing us lesbians and didn't use it! The homophobic sods.
Anyway, Number 6 knows how to find Dr Selzman. Number 6 goes to a chemist, collects his slides and slips them into his projector. By wearing some special magic-eye goggles and squinting, the name of Dr Selzman's home town appears. This is quite an extraordinarily complicated way of writing down the name of a town. I suppose the idea is that Number 6 didn't want to know the name of the town, he just wanted to know how he could find it out if he ever needed to, in the event of his mind being transplanted into the body of Jamie Oliver or something.
Hello, the undertakers are back outside Number 6's house! Is it a clue? No, it's recycled footage. And in some of the shots of the car, McGoohan is driving... Anyway, he has to drive to Dr Selzman's hide-out, the village of Kandersfeld in Austria. En route, he travels through a series of back projections. He has his car radio tuned to the various local stations, so as he drives we hear some authentic local folk music. It's deeply, deeply silly - very Austin Powers.
He finally catches up with Dr Selzman, and explains that he is Number 6, but in a different body. Selzman is appalled. "What have they done?" he cries. "My mind-swap device was never meant for this! It was meant to be used for me to enter the body of Wanda Ventham!" However, Number 6 has been pursued through the back projections by Number 2's henchman, who catches up with them in Dr Selzman's house. There's a fight, and noxious gas is released. Number 6 isn't smiling this time.
They return to The Village, and Dr Selzman agrees to divulge the secret of his mind-swap device. But first he wants to put Number 6 back into his own body, and he will only do this if Number 2 isn't watching. Number 2 agrees, because That's The Sort Of Thing Villains Do.
Up until this point Number 6 has basically been doing everything expected of him. It's for Dr Selzman to snatch victory from the dachshund of defeat. He returns Number 6's mind to his own body and swaps his own mind with the Colonel's, and sods off in a helicopter. The Colonel's mind is trapped in Dr Selzman's body, which then dies.
I'm not sure, but is this the first time that one of the bad guys in The Prisoner has been killed? I mean, they get pushed off of boats and thumped about a bit, but I don't recall any baddies actually dying.
On the whole - some poor characterisation and silly back-projections aside - this episode should be commended for being just so damn ingenious. Loved it.
BBC - Cult - Classic TV - The Prisoner (1967-1968)
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