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"Checkmate"--A giant outdoor chessboard features unique pawns, human chess pieces. Number Six joins the game, and starts a game of his own. "The Chimes of Big Ben" (broadcast version)--A mysterious new resisdent offers a tantalizing clue as to where they are imprisoned. Together with Number Six, a plan for escape develops. "A, B and C"--Cruel, dream-invading drug experiments on Number Six attempt to reveal why he resigned. "The General"--A powerful, subliminal "educational" technique, Speed Learn, is made mandatory for all Villagers. How will it ultimately be used?
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Where am I? In the Village. What do you want? Information. Whose side are you on? That would be telling. We want information...information...information. You won't get it. By hook or by crook, we will. Who are you? The new Number 2. Who is Number 1? You are Number 6. I am not a number, I am a free man!
The groundbreaking 1960s TV series The Prisoner continues with four more episodes of Number 6's struggle to escape the bizarre, picturesque confines of the Village. In "The Chimes of Big Ben," a Village art competition provides the perfect smokescreen for Number 6 (Patrick McGoohan) to hatch a daring escape plan with the help of another new arrival in the Village. Can she be trusted? In a brilliant and memorable performance, Leo McKern invests a humanity--alternately menacing, jolly, and paternal--to the role of Number 2, a quality lacking in many of his successors.
Colin Gordon plays Number 2 as a slightly insecure authoritarian in "A, B, and C," which concerns an attempt to break into and manipulate Number 6's dreams in order to discover why he resigned. Was he indeed "selling out" to the other side? Lively dialogue and a satisfying conclusion bail out what's otherwise a rather far-fetched episode. Gordon returns to the role in "The General," another one that's no slouch in the strained-credulity department: Can an entire university-level history course be delivered to people, via hypnotic TV, in 15 seconds? That's what the Village is experimenting with, but Number 6 smells a rat when he realizes that everyone seems to be reciting the same chunks of history--verbatim. It's a Twilight Zone-esque warning about the dangers of automated mass education, but it falls a bit flat in the end.
"Checkmate" fares much better, exploring the psychology of imprisonment and the difficulty Number 6 has figuring out who among his fellow Villagers works for his captors, and who against. One of the most visually stunning episodes, it opens with a magnificently staged chess match on the Village green, with humans as the pieces, "moved" by two Villagers using megaphones. And Number 6? A pawn, naturally. --Steve Landau
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