The Prisoner – Volume 1
Written, directed and produced by Nicholas Briggs.
Featuring the voice talents of Mark Elstob, Sara Powell, Kristina Buikaite, John Standing, Celia Imrie, Ramon Tikaram, and Michael Cochrane.
An audio re-imagining of the classic 1960’s television show The Prisoner. A secret agent leaves his career behind, only to find himself imprisoned in ‘The Village’, a bizarre seaside town where nothing is as it seems.
Given the level of scorn poured all over a previous effort to remake The Prisoner back in 2009, it’s a brave soul indeed who takes on such a challenging task. That writer, director and producer Nicolas Briggs’s effort with Big Finish is so successful is testament to a sophisticated level of artistry, skill and imagination.
The audio drama presents itself like a radio play with four episodes; Departure and Arrival, The Schizoid Man, Your Beautiful Village and The Chimes of Big Ben making up the set alongside a making-of documentary entitled By Hook or By Crook. Three of these are largely based on the original episodes with the same name, while the other, Your Beautiful Village, is a new story inspired by the original series.
Featuring a commanding central performance from Mark Elstob, the story gamely takes on the genre bending elements of the original and provides an enjoyable highlighting of new features. The essentials are all in place. The Prisoner – named Number Six against his will – has vital information locked inside his head that those in control of The Village will attempt to get to at any cost. He will continue to frustrate them while attempting to escape. Along the way a cast of other prisoners and lackeys of the ever-changing Number Two (played here with everything from playful menace to vengeful paranoia by Celia Imrie, John Standing, Michael Cochrane and Ramon Tikaram) will help, hinder and beguile both Six and the audience.
The recurring characters of Number Nine (Sara Powell) and Number Eight (Kristina Buikaite) lend a complimentary combative series of love interests for Number Six, with Powell’s melodic Jamaican accent providing a new sound for the series. Other new ideas help create a memorable reworking of one of the best loved shows from the 60’s. Some points are enforced – with the reworking of the theme tune coming through almost as distinctively as the original – while others display a solid understanding of exactly why the show is so unique.
Many of the contents of the script are imaginative and thought provoking. Who, for instance, knew that Rover – the terrifying guardian of The Village , a white plastic globule of screaming insidiousness – is female? This, plus a few expertly placed pop culture references – a mention of James Bond for one is amusing, given the original Number Six’s (Patrick McGoohan) previous TV work as Danger Man, a Bondish secret agent programme – help to make this a seriously enjoyable addition to the world of The Prisoner. Proof that reboots, remakes and re-imaginings can work if taken on in the right spirit and with the necessary level of commitment.
And in news that will gladden the heart of all fans, volume two has been announced for a 2017 release. Check out Big Finish for more news and we’ll be there when it hits. Be Seeing You!
Robert W Monk is a freelance journalist and film writer.