The Village (The Prisoner)

The Village (The Prisoner)

The Village is the fictional setting of the 1960s UK television series "The Prisoner", where the main character, Number Six, was interned with other former spies and operatives. The theme of the series was his attempt to escape.

Fictional and filming locations

In the series, the location of the Village [The published versions of the scripts (edited by Robert Fairclough, 2005 and 2006) consistently use "the Village" as opposed to "The Village".] is unknown, with intentionally contradictory locations suggested as Number Six attempts, in vain, to find its location. In "Many Happy Returns", it is said to be on the coast of Morocco or southern Portugal, possibly an island, and is located by Number Six in this area while making reconnaissance passes in an aircraft. Prior to this, in "The Chimes of Big Ben", it is claimed to be located in the vicinity of Lithuania and Poland, on the Baltic Sea, though this may be part of an elaborate plot by whoever controls the Village. Finally, in the series finale episode, "Fall Out", Number Six and other characters are able to drive from the Village to central London, indicating a location in the British Isles. Although a line of dialogue in "Many Happy Returns" has a character speculating that the Village is on an island, this is never confirmed in the series, and in fact all given locations (save for that in "Fall Out") should be considered unreliable evidence given the fact they are mentioned as part of a deception aimed at getting Number Six to reveal why he resigned from his secret British government job.

In reality, location shooting for the series took place in Wales, mainly in the Italianate resort village of Portmeirion, and Penrhyndeudraeth. Interiors and some recreated exteriors were filmed at Borehamwood Studios in England. The use of Borehamwood's back lot allowed the filmmakers to add additional areas to the Village not apparent at the real-life filming location.

Village infrastructure

The Italianate architecture of the Village is somewhat deceptive as the interiors of the buildings are frequently Georgian, 1960s 'Mod', or in a number of instances, an oddly sparse kind of 'ultra modern' design. There is an extensive network of tunnels and caverns under the Village, connecting many of the public buildings, and a number of secret facilities and support services (plumbing, waste disposal, observation cameras, etc.). These are generally off-limits to all prisoners above, but they appear to be extensively utilised, given the amount of motorcycle traffic observed in them in the final episode. There appears to be a large liquid-filled underground chamber that looks similar to a lava lamp, probably a short distance off the coast, in which Rover resides when it is not being utilised. The normal background display of the large monitor in Number Two's office is a view of this chamber, and lava lamps are visible in virtually every public building in the Village, giving rise to the speculation that these lamps may have functioned as some extension of Rover itself. This was never directly referred to on screen.

The Village is a self-contained society, and appears to be mostly self-sufficient as well, although no farming areas are ever seen, so it appears that food and supplies are shipped in from outside. It is sprawling enough to contain several hundred prisoners, in a comfort level similar to that of a hotel or a resort. The Village has its own daily newspaper ("The Tally-ho"), a cinema, a statue garden, a retirement home, a gymnasium, a fully equipped hospital, taxi service, a radio station (like Orwell's telescreens in "Nineteen-Eighty-Four", the receivers can never be turned off), a television studio (used mostly for news reports and announcements), a restaurant, a music shop, several other stores, and its own graveyard. In addition, there are extensive recreation facilities. The local economy functions on a credit chit system. The final episode also revealed that the Village conceals a missile or rocket launch facility deep underground.

The exact dimensions of the Village are never explicitly defined. Although a map of the Village is shown on screen on several occasions, it only seems to show the core residential and business area of the village, which is shown as being surrounded on three sides by mountain ranges and the fourth by "the sea". The episode "Living in Harmony" reveals that the Village is large enough to house a complete western town mock-up. Other episodes also indicate that the Village includes an expanse of beach and seaside cliffs (with caves). The jurisdiction of the Village over water is said to extend for several miles, or otherwise the range of Rover, the Village guardian system.

There is visual evidence in many episodes that the Village also includes large areas of countryside (with residences) as these are often visible in the distance in aerial shots and views looking out to sea.

Village authorities

Ostensibly, the Village is run by a democratically elected council, with a popularly-elected executive officer known as "Number Two" presiding over it and the Village itself. Though most Village inhabitants seem to go along with this, internal dialogue indicates that the entire process is rigged:

cquote| Number Six: "Where'd you get this bunch of tailor's dummies?" (indicating the Council)

Number Two: "They'd be here when I arrived."

Whenever the council is seen, none of its members speak or move in any way.

In actuality, the Village is a brutal dictatorship, best described by Number Six himself as "This farce, this 20th century Bastille that pretends to be a pocket democracy." It is ruled by a revolving series of Chief Administrators designated "Number Two", some of whom return to the office after lengthy absences. They vary greatly in personality and in methodology; some of them are quite amiable, some are sadistic, and some are mere bureaucratic functionaries bordering on functional impotence. Number Two appears to be directly answerable to unseen superiors, the shadowy "They" or "Number 1" pulling all the strings from behind the scenes, with direct contact via a red hotline phone. It appears that Number Two is continually being observed by hidden cameras, and indeed one of the Number Twos confides to Number Six in "The Chimes of Big Ben", "I'm as much of a prisoner here as you are. We're both lifers, my boy!" Whether Number Two literally means that he is a captive is not known for certain; several Number Twos are shown coming and going from the Village at will, and the very first Number Two, when he receives orders regarding his replacement in "Arrival", takes it calmly with understanding (as opposed to other Number Twos such as the one in "A. B. and C." who live in fear of such an order). However, when the Number Two of "Chimes of Big Ben" returns in "Once Upon a Time", it is made clear that it is against his will.

The episode "It's Your Funeral" suggests that most of the Number Twos encountered in the series are in fact only temporary appointments, standing in for an older Number Two who has been away from the Village for reasons not explained. This Old Number Two eventually returns to the Village, ostensibly in order to retire, but becomes the target of an assassination plot by the current "temporary" Number Two.

Exactly who operates the Village is deliberately obscured. At first glance, it appears to be run by Communist types, suggesting it is a holding cell for captured western agents. Later on it appears to be operating with some assistance from British Intelligence, implying that it is a holding area for western agents who have been compromised, or are feared to be untrustworthy by their own agencies. Several of the Number Twos in the course of the show appear to be unclear as to whom they are actually working for, and one explicitly says, "It doesn't matter which side we're working for, my boy! This is the future: one great big happy global Village." Another Number Two implies that both East and West are covertly operating the Village together for unknown reasons. The overall impression given by the series is that some kind of nebulous organisation is manipulating all the Cold War powers for its own ends.

Village security

Weapons, alcohol, and tools are forbidden in the Village, but there are no walls or visible barriers to prevent escape, and no apparent prison guards. Indeed, aside from Number Two functioning as warden, the Village at first appears to have no real security infrastructure. This is merely a ruse, however, as subsequent episodes reveal that many of the other people in the Village are, in fact, warders planted unobtrusively in the community and reporting back to the current Number Two. It is strongly implied that "They" (the never-revealed masters of the Village) have several plants in the Village as well, whose identities are unknown to Number Two, and who report back to Them directly; one of the more sadistic Number Twos (seen in "Hammer Into Anvil") is particularly paranoid about this possibility.

The perimeter of the Village is surrounded by a pleasant wooded area, including one or two caves (which may or may not connect to the network of underground tunnels). Beyond this, Rover patrols. If anyone ventures too far from town, Rover will intercept them and nudge them back towards home. If anyone attempts to escape, Rover will capture them and they wake up in the Village hospital. Rover has also been shown to kill on several occasions; the exact cause of death is not revealed (in the first instance, seen in "Arrival", the target is enveloped; this also happens to the target in "The Schizoid Man").

Fate of the Village

When last seen in the finale episode, "Fall Out", the Village is evacuated after Number Six primes a missile or rocket (located within a silo beneath the Village) to launch. The episode and the series never reveal what happens to the Village or its people after Number Six finally escapes.

The Village did appear again in a DC Comics mini-series based on the series published in the 1980s, which picked up the story 20 years later. In this version (published later as the graphic novel, "Shattered Visage"), the Village is abandoned and falls into disrepair. Number Six seemingly never left the Village, instead choosing a hermit-like existence as its Number One. This existence comes to an end when Number Two writes a book about the Village, inspiring a joint effort by American and British agents to investigate the site. However, a young woman washes ashore before their arrival, awakening to find herself dubbed Number Six. One and Six are able to establish an odd camaraderie before Two arrives, seeking to complete unfinished business. Ultimately, in this version of the storyline, the Village is destroyed in a massive explosion.

In reality, Portmeirion continues to be a popular tourist attraction in Wales, and frequently hosts events related to celebrating the series. The building in Portmeirion shown in the series as Number Six's house was later converted in a shop selling "Prisoner"-related souvenirs, with one of the vehicles used in the series as a Village "taxi" parked outside.


External links

* [ Official Portmeirion village website]
* [ "The Prisoner" and Portmeirion News and Articles]

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