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Our hero wakes up to discover that his shower doesn't work. Nor does his radio. Portmerion is deserted. There's not an enigmatic fat midget in sight.

There is a definite piquing of interest. Interest is definitely piqued. Where has everyone gone? Why have they gone? What are they up to? Arthur-Dentily, Number 6 scowls about The Village in his dressing gown. He's annoyed. He has no-one to glower at. However, he does have a lot more pacing back-and-forth room.

Many Happy ReturnsWill he decide to escape? He decides to escape. Inland, The Village is blocked off by stock footage of mountains in every direction, so he decides to build a boat.

There is a mild feeling of 'having seen it all before', and not simply because of the amount of recycled footage. It's because we've seen it all before in The Chimes Of Big Ben. Except that time Number 6 escaped in a boat-shaped sculpture. This time it's a raft.

There's no sign of Rover. I miss him. He was cuddly and made a funny noise. He was a big white wobbly tit. Maybe that's significant. Maybe this show can be interpreted Freudianly. It's about wanting to escape from a lady's bouncy bits. Which makes perfect sense to me, apart from part about wanting to escape.

Anyway, Number 6 eventually returns to England where he meets a gypsy lady and asks her where the nearest road is. She makes a noise like a brutally sodomised parrot. In the tradition of all Brits abroad, Number 6 repeats his question slowly and loudly. The gypsy lady understands, and points at the road upon which they are standing.

Number 6 finds himself back in swinging London but this time it's the real London, not a tape recording or a model built out of lollipop sticks. He discovers that his house is now occupied by Mrs Butterworth who is, shall we say, at the more mature end of The Prisoner totty spectrum.

This reminds me of a Prisoner novel I once read called A Day In The Life. I don't remember much about it, except that it had a scene where Number 6 went to Portmerion and thought, 'Ooh, this is a bit familiar'.

I'm not convinced The Prisoner lends itself to novels. You see, the show is all about alienation. The lead character is an enigma - we know virtually nothing about him, we don't know what he's thinking, he is entirely one-note, one facial expression. He's not really a character at all. And he's trapped inside another enigma - The Village. We know virtually nothing about The Village or the other people living in it.

So the problem is - how do you write it? How can you tell a story from the viewpoint of a character you can't use as your viewpoint character? That's what makes The Prisoner such a great TV show - it has a format that wouldn't work in any other medium.

The Prisoner works best, I think, when it's action-adventure, when there's people falling out of boats. It's a very visual, dynamic show. It's not about emotion, or relationships, or dialogue. It has a sterile, detached atmosphere. The humour is infrequent and dry. Everything is secondary to the feel, the imagery, the 'what the hell is going on?'-ness.

Also, The Prisoner is either wildly inconsistent or wildly exactly the same. There's a limited number of stories you can telling about someone attempting to escape and failing, and that number is 'one'. Watching Many Happy Returns you know at some point Number 6 is going to end up back in The Village. This is, I'm afraid, the show where the twist is that There Is No Twist.

Of course, there are also all those very different but also very the same stories about Number 2 trying to break Number 6 and failing. Which is another interesting thing about The Prisoner. The stories are never resolved by success. They're resolved by failure, a return to the status quo.

So I'm not convinced there are any more Prisoner stories to tell. I'm not convinced there were enough for the original 17 episodes - Many Happy Returns being the middle bit of The Chimes Of Big Ben, for example - so where is there left to go? It's kind of like Fawlty Towers - after 12 episodes, it starts to repeat itself. Well, I suppose they could have done an episode where Basil becomes a sheriff in a cowboy village, but that wouldn't really have fitted.

I suppose the authors could reveal to us more about Number 6. Or they could tell us more about the workings of The Village. But both of these, I feel, would detract. With The Prisoner the more we know, the less we want to learn. Even on those occasions in the TV show where we discover things about Number 6 or The Village... they seem to somehow reduce the fun.

The only way to write a Prisoner novel, I think, would be to do it in the third person unlimited, but without venturing into the character's minds - like a script, or most of A Tale Of Two Cities. Apparently there are going to be some Prisoner novels released later this year, by some authors who are highly-regarded in Doctor Who circles. I look forward to seeing how they pull it off.

Whilst watching these episodes I often have a Scottish voice feeding me interesting Prisoner facts. This week's interesting Prisoner fact is that this episode features Jon Laurimore - I have no idea who he is - who is also in the Doctor Who adventure The Masque Of Mandragora. This is a particularly interesting Prisoner fact because it means that the same actor has appeared in two different TV shows filmed in Portmerion. I hope you're excited.

Episode running order clue: The Prisoner has been in The Village for a fair while, but he's not been there more than a year, as he celebrates his first birthday since arriving at The Village.

Anyway, back to the story. Number 6 goes to meet his bosses. It's like The Chimes Of Big Ben all over again, but this time... Number 6 really has escaped! Yes, that's it! He's escaped! It's the end!

Except - aaaah - what is this week's moral for our attic-bound Alan Moore fan? It's this: you can't escape the system because if you escape you just end up in another bit of the system. Aaaah.

Actually, I'm not sure this episode doesn't contradict 'Ben' because in that episode his boss was working for Them. This time his bosses are the guy out of Never The Twain and the guy out of Father Dear Father. Given we've already had Peter Bowles and Anton Rodgers it can only be a matter of time before Number 2's spherical chair revolves to reveal the one-armed Irish dishwasher from Robin's Nest.

To convince his masters in low-brow ITV sitcom that The Village does exist, Number 6 decides to locate it. It's not in Latvia or wherever it was in 'Big', it's now off the coast of Portugal. But just as his plane reaches The Village, his ejector seat is ejected...


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