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Review: The Prisoner Volume 1 February 18, 2016

Posted by sjroby in Audio reviews.
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PRIS01_cover_1715x2575Every so often someone decides to revisit The Prisoner. It doesn’t always end well, the AMC remake miniseries being the most painful example. Fallout, the last episode of the original series, throws everything that has come before into doubt, while being so strange and surreal that it’s difficult to say what exactly has happened, where the protagonist has been left, and what could possibly happen next. It seems almost futile to try to add new stories into the existing framework as a result.

But people evidently want more, so now we have the Big Finish audio reimagining of the series. It’s not new adventures squeezed into the run of the original or an attempt to carry on from Fallout, it’s a remake. How close a remake remains to be seen. (Please note that I haven’t listened to the behind-the-scenes disc yet; maybe some questions are answered there.)

On the one hand, the music is slightly different, there’s a new actor playing No 6… but the music is still stylistically consistent with the show’s music and Mark Elstob delivers his lines in a way so reminiscent of Patrick McGoohan at times that I gave up trying to picture Elstob and just visualized McGoohan as the stories played out. His character is more emotional, though — more emphasis on love interests. But in general everything seems to be consistent with the original. It’s 1967 as the story begins (with some material leading up to the resignation). But the key difference comes into play pretty quickly. This Village is much more science fictional, with clones, interactive computer terminals, mobile phones, and other advanced technology showing up to confuse No 6 in loose remakes of three original series episodes and one new story. The one original, with No 6 awaking in total darkness and having a very strange time, feels like the experience of an uploaded consciousness in a malfunctioning virtual reality. Not that 6 would understand what that means.

But is that necessarily what’s happening? Hard to say for sure. There’s no explicit answer here, and the next volume doesn’t come out until next January. I don’t know how many are planned. If there are four new stories a year over a period of a few years, waiting for this series’ equivalent of Fallout could prove frustrating. There are some mysteries to investigate — what makes this version different? Why remake so many of the original episodes? Sure, this was entertaining enough, largely for nostalgic reasons, and pretty well put together. It’s more a labour of love — or at least a writer/producer’s self indulgence — than a cynical cash-in. But the next volume will have to do more to prove it needed to be made.

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