With this second set of Prisoner stories, writer (and director) Nick Briggs follows the mix of adapting three of the original 1960s The Prisoner TV shows and adding in something of his own creation, as Mark Elstob is the enigmatic Number Six.
The first of the four stories, I Met a Man Today, is adapted from the TV episode Many Happy Returns. To a large extent it follows the arc of the TV story, with Lucy Briggs-Owen playing the Mrs Kate Butterworth who now lives in Number Six’s flat and drives his car, all of which he finds out when he escapes a curiously deserted village. Unlike the TV story (which has a large, unspoken sequence at the start) this is all about the relationship between Six and Kate and it’s a delightful contrast to 6’s angry dealings with his former employer as he insists they help locate the Village.
Next up is Project 6, adapted from the episode A, B and C. Unlike the TV episode, this is a seamless continuation of I Met a Man Today and the number 2 is completely different. Underneath it’s the same basic plot, except it also brings in more of Nick Brigg’s continuity tweaks in the form of Janet (Sarah Mowat) who has a possible connection to Six’s resignation.
The action continues into Hammer Into Anvil, and Number Six is less interested in resignation than in persecuting the latest Number 2. It’s the same theme as the TV episode, but this version has Number Six manipulate Number 26 (Helen Goldwyn, playing many parts in this set, as she did in the first), and set Number 2 up for a fall. It’s tense, effective and beautifully directed (by Nick Briggs) and ends with a big twist, the segue into Living in Harmony.
In this last tale, Nick Briggs writes a massive story fans will immediately wish had been in the budget of the show in the 60s. The cover gives away some of the setting, but we won’t spoil here. Suffice to say there are lots of nods to a certain (almost contemporary) science fiction film, a superb Number 2 (Deirdre Mullins) and the return of Number 9 (Sara Powell) or is that Number 90? With identify being a major theme of this set, we can never quite be sure.
It’s clear Nick has thought long and hard about The Prisoner, and where the original show was (in the eyes of some viewers) surreal, ambiguous and anarchic, this set of adaptations has a clear vision of how everything works and can join together lots of dots to form a coherent whole. Here and there Nick shares this vision, drops hints for future directions of travel, but for some fans might dilute the mystery a little.
It all sounds brilliant, and the Jamie Robertson soundtrack feels very assured and of the era, with Iain Meadows’s sound work bringing it all to life wonderfully. Nick’s writing and directing bring several performances to the fore (as mentioned), but most of all this is Mark Elstob’s set; his Number Six is stubborn, angry and suave when needed. Patrick McGoohan would be proud.
With this set, Nick Briggs confirms his status as a writer / creator par excellence and there is plenty in this set to please any fan of the original TV show.
THE PRISONER VOLUME 2 / AUTHOR: NICK BRIGGS / PUBLISHER: BIG FINISH / STARRING: MARK ELSTOB, LUCY-BRIGGS OWEN, JOHN HEFFERNAN, SARAH MOWAT, SARA POWELL, DEIRDRE MULLINS, HELEN GOLDWYN / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW