For the Adherent of Pop Culture
Adventures of Jack Burton ] Battlestar Galactica ] Buckaroo Banzai ] Cliffhangers! ] Earth 2 ] The Expendables ] Firefly/Serenity ] The Fly ] Galaxy Quest ] Indiana Jones ] Jurassic Park ] Land of the Lost ] Lost in Space ] The Matrix ] The Mummy/The Scorpion King ] The Prisoner ] Sapphire & Steel ] Snake Plissken Chronicles ] Star Trek ] Terminator ] The Thing ] Total Recall ] Tron ] Twin Peaks ] UFO ] V the series ] Valley of the Dinosaurs ] Waterworld ] PopApostle Home ] Links ] Privacy ]

The Prisoner

Episode Studies by Clayton Barr

The Prisoner: Many Happy Returns The Prisoner
"Many Happy Returns"
TV episode
Written by Anthony Skene
Directed by Patrick McGoohan (as Joseph Serf)
Original air date: November 10, 1967


Number 6 wakes up to a deserted Village and immediately escapes via an arduous raft voyage on the sea back to England.


Read the complete story summary at Wikipedia


Notes from the Prisoner chronology


This is the last escape attempt from the Village made by Number 6 in the series (except for the final episode of the series). He actually returns successfully to England and spends at least a couple of days there, reunited with the Colonel and a former agent friend, Thorpe. They set about finding the location of the Village in order to shut it down, but he has been tricked...they trick him back into the Village. Number 6 must have come to the realization that he cannot escape surveillance even if he physically escapes the Village, and from this point on, he seems to work solely on undermining the powers-that-be from within the Village, leading into the Be Seeing You portion of PopApostle's Prisoner chronology.


Didja Know?


The title of this episode is borrowed from the greeting "many happy returns" used on birthdays or the celebration of the new year. Number 6's birthday occurs in this episode.


Georgina Cookson, who plays Mrs. Butterworth/Number 2 here, also appeared in a minor role as a "blonde lady" in "A, B, and C". In "A(r)rival", she is mentioned in a report as Division Director-ret. of MI-5; MI5 is the UK's domestic intelligence service, possibly the same organization that Number 6 worked for before his resignation.


Patrick Cargill plays Number 6's former agent friend Thorpe here and will later play Number 2 in "Hammer Into Anvil". It's not clear whether they are intended to be the same person.


Didja Notice?


A male voice is heard for Number 2 in the opening titles of this episode, even though a female Number 2 (Mrs. Butterworth) is seen at the end of the episode. The male must have been the person in the position when Number 6 went to bed the previous night and the woman took over the next day, unbeknownst to Number 6 until the end of the episode. The male voice is actor Robert Rietti.


When Number 6 awakens to find the utilities off and the Village deserted, notice that the front door of his apartment does not open by itself and does not make the usual electronic opening and closing sounds.


Two empty milk bottles are seen outside Number 6's door. Apparently the Village (normally) has its own milkman!


The black cat from "Dance of the Dead" makes a return appearance in this episode.


At 6:10 on the Blu-ray, the clock on the Village bell tower appears to read about 12:40. Is this intended to be the actual time? It seems it would be much earlier than that if Number 6 has just got up from bed for the day (unless he's a late sleeper, which is definitely not the indication in other episodes). Does the clock actually work or is it perpetually stuck on that time?


Number 6 drives one of the Village taxis to the outer edge of the Village grounds and finds a seemingly unscalable mountain range, preventing his escape over land.


As Number 6 readies his raft at 8:50 on the Blu-ray, notice that there appears to be a boat tunnel in the hillside in the background. Or maybe it's just a bridge on the land?

Number 6's raft


    When Number 6 is in the Village store taking supplies, notice there is a small spinner rack of postcards on the counter. We don't get a clear view of the postcard images, but they appear to be photos of the Village. Why would anyone need them? I don't imagine the town's guests are allowed to mail them out to friends and relatives in the rest of the world! 

    A rack of musical record albums is visible behind the counter. A recording company header on the rack has the slogan "The greatest recording organization in the world", with the recording company's logo (EMI) obviously covered over with a label for Village Foods! The titles of three of the record albums are legible: The Fabulous Victoria de Los Angeles, Four Saints in Three Acts and It's Right Here for You. The Fabulous Victoria de Los Angeles UK edition was released in 1961 and featured a number of songs sung by the Spanish operatic lyric soprano Victoria de los Ángeles. Four Saints in Three Acts was a 1934 American opera by Virgil Thomson with Gertrude Stein (this album was released in 1964). It's Right Here for You is a 1961 jazz album by Alex Welsh.

   A simple red on yellow poster above the music rack features the words "music says all" in the standard Village font.  


As David Stimpson points out, the camera Number 6 uses to take pictures of the Village is a Canon Dial 35. The name is blacked over with tape in the episode. (Canon Dial 35 photo from Söders Fotoservice.)
Number 6's camera Canon Dial 35


At 10:20 on the Blu-ray, the black cat has seemingly broken a cup and saucer on a table outside the Village retirement home. It seems highly unlikely the cat could have done such a thorough job of shattering it without at least knocking it off the table to the ground. Did something else break it? If so, who? How was it done without being seen? Maybe a gun with a silencer would do it, but wouldn't the shattering china scare away the cat? Did the cat, angry at Number 6's preparations to leave the Village shatter them with telekinesis?! Recall that Number 6 was kind to her in "Dance of the Dead", feeding her and even letting her sleep on his bed. Recall also that it was Number 2's cat at the time and even seemingly had teleportational abilities, depicted at the same time on Number 6's bed in his apartment and on Number 2's desk back at the green dome! And is there a significance to the broken china here and the saucer Number 6 breaks in "Arrival" when he slams his fist on his boss's desk as he resigns? Broken cup and saucer


When Number 6 opens the camera he used to take photos of the Village, we see that it is, of course, loaded with film labeled "Village Films". And when he makes his own magnetized compass, he uses Village Needles!


When Number 6 prepares his homemade compass while out at sea, it's obvious that he's actually in very shallow water.


At 11:27 on the Blu-ray, we can see that Number 6 used a Gem Fine Writer pen to draw a dial for his compass. He also uses this pen to keep his diary of the voyage.


The headline of the Tally Ho newspaper Number 6 brings on his voyage is "What are facts behind Town Hall?"


Is Number 6 a litterbug? On Day 5 of his raft voyage, while he eats meat out of a can, there is a yellow piece of trash floating in the sea behind him!


From his diary entries, we see that Number 6 spent at least 18 days at sea. Later, when Number 6 has been reunited with his former agency colleagues it is claimed that he spent 25 days at sea.


The gunrunners' boat in this episode is actually the same boat that was the MS Polotska in "Checkmate". Was this just a convenience by the series producers to use the same boat? Or does it mean that the gunrunners were actually just acting for the powers-that-be of the Village? And if it was the same boat, wouldn't Number 6 have been observant enough to notice that?


    The cans of Village Food are rearranged when the smuggler enters the bridge of the boat at the top of the stairs from what they were just seconds before when he started up the stairs.

    One of the cans looks like a disguised can of Spam.


At 14:27 on the Blu-ray, notice that the smugglers have a number of female pin-up pictures hanging on the wall in the storage room of the boat.


Before noticing the kitchen smoke created by Number 6, the two smugglers on the bridge of the boat are seen drinking Mataxa, a Greek spirit of wine distillates.


The "captain" of the gunrunner boat seems to be named Gunther, called that by his single crewmember. In fact, the script of the episode identifies the smugglers as Gunther and Ernst.


At 15:53 on the Blu-ray, Gunther smells the smoke from the kitchen and says something to Ernst in German. He says it too quickly to make out.


At 16:03 on the Blu-ray, Ernst says, "Gunther! Wo bist du?" This is German for "Gunther! Where are you?"


During Number 6's fight with the gunrunners, there are several moments when the "foggy" background clearly has wrinkles in it!


Arriving on land and encountering some Gypsies, the Gypsy group argues among themselves, presumably in Romany (Gypsy).


At 25:48 on the Blu-ray, Number 6 steals away on a Netco truck. As far as I can tell, Netco is a fictitious company for the time.


When Number 6 jumps out of the Netco truck, he's in London, in front of the Marble Arch at the end junction of Park Lane and Oxford Street. The arch was originally the front entrance to Buckingham Palace. He has exited very near his own former London house at 1 Buckingham Place!


A London Transport (now known as Transport for London) double-decker bus passes behind Number 6 at 26:34 on the Blu-ray. An advertisement for Typhoo tea is seen on it. An Odeon cinema is seen in the background as well.


At 26:57 on the Blu-ray, Number 6 walks by the Wellington Arch in Hyde Park. Seconds later, he spins around to see a couple taking a photo in front of the Royal Artillery Memorial.


At 27:22 on the Blu-ray, Number 6 walks past a stylized statue of a stag which was formerly situated near Victoria Station from 1963-1997.


At 27:52 on the Blu-ray, an Esso gas station is seen in the distance, just around the corner from Number 6's London house at 1 Buckingham Place. Across the way, Boebuck House is seen (probably an apartment building).


Any true Prisoner fan notices right away, of course, that Mrs. Butterworth is driving Number 6's old Lotus Seven.


Number 6 tells Mrs. Butterworth the engine number of KAR-120C is 461043TZ. This same number is used in the Big Finish audio drama remake of The Prisoner in the episode "I Met A Man Today".


Number 6 tells Mrs. Butterworth his name is Peter Smith. The plainness of the name and the slight hesitation he gives when he says it suggests he made it up, but it's possible it's his real name.


Mrs. Butterworth tells Number 6 the current date is Saturday, March 18. He tells her tomorrow is his birthday. He also stated this date as his birthday in "Arrival". March 18 did fall on a Saturday in 1967 and the series was filmed in 1966-67. But "The Schizoid Man" has an in-episode date of Wednesday, February 10, which only occurs in 1965 or 1971 as far as any year close to when the series was shot goes.


Notice that Mrs. Butterworth appears to keep a plant in the fireplace!


Mrs. Butterworth claims that her late husband Arthur (presumably Butterworth) was in the Royal Navy. Might he be the same Arthur mentioned by Dutton to Number 6 in "Dance of the Dead"? I suppose not, since it would seem that Number 6 knew who that Arthur was and should have recognized the photo of him on the mantle here.


The actress (Grace Arnold) who plays Mrs. Butterworth's maid, Martha, later plays Number 36 in "It's Your Funeral". Is it meant to be the same character each time?


Mrs. Butterworth tells Number 6 the estate agents who sold her his house were Stumbell and Croydon. This appears to be a fictitious company.


As Number 6 borrows back his Lotus from Mrs. Butterworth, she tells him, "Don't forget to come back! I might even bake you a birthday cake." When Number 6 is tricked back to the Village at the end of the episode, Mrs. Butterworth, now the new Number 2, brings him a home-baked birthday cake.


When Number 6 returns to his former employer's office, the map of the world behind the bureaucrat's desk has several pinpoints lit by white or red lights. What do the lights represent? Trouble spots?


The bureaucrat is once again played by George Markstein, script editor for most of the episodes of the series. He is the same bureaucrat seen in "Arrival" and in the opening credits of most episodes of the series.


Safely in London, Number 6 works with a man called the Colonel and an agent named Thorpe to track down the location of the Village.


The Colonel's office and patio appears to be the same set used as the garden in "The General".


Looking at the photos of the Village that were developed from Number 6's camera, Thorpe remarks it looks like a "holiday resort" and he wouldn't mind a fortnight's leave there! Of course, the village of Portmeirion where the Village exteriors were shot is a holiday resort! And perhaps what happened when we find Thorpe (or at least the same actor!) as Number 2 in "Hammer Into Anvil" is...he spent a fortnight as Number 2!


In his book The Prisoner Dusted Down, David Stimpson points out that actor Patrick Cargill as Thorpe is wearing his college tie from Haileybury College; this can be seen at 38:12 on the Blu-ray.
Thorpe's tie The Haileyburian (May 2006)


Number 6 tells the Colonel that the Tally Ho was issued daily at noon in the Village.


Number 6 states that the Village town council is democratically elected (allegedly) once a year.


Number 6 tells Thorpe that no names were used in the Village, just numbers. But this is not entirely true. Several former acquaintances of his from the outside world were known by name. And he also made friends with a couple of women there (who later betrayed him) whom he addressed by first name, even though they also had numbers.


Thorpe tells Number 6 that he tells a yarn that Hans Christian Andersen would reject for a fairy tale. Andersen (1805-1875) was a Danish writer who wrote numerous fairy tales that have become known around the world.


The Colonel instructs Thorpe to check out every single detail of Number 6's story. At 39:43 on the Blu-ray, we see a man questioning Mrs. Butterworth about the help she gave to him in her home. But if she and Thorpe and the Colonel are already in on the scam (as indicated later in the episode) with the powers-that-be, why would she actually be questioned?


As the agency begins helping Number 6 backtrack his course to discover the location of the Village, a Royal Navy commander (you can tell the rank by the sleeve badge) tells him they estimate his raft was travelling at an average speed of 3.5 knots with good wind. A knot is one nautical mile per hour (about 1.151 miles per hour).


The man who stands next to the Royal Navy commander appears to be a Royal Air Force captain. He estimates that Number 6 travelled 1,750 miles at sea on his raft.


Although the spot is not named in the episode, the beach where Number 6 came ashore after his escape from the gunrunners was Beachy Head. At 41:46 in the episode, the RAF captain places his compass at approximately the correct spot on the world map for Beachy Head as he draws a search perimeter for the location of the Village.


Number 6 and his cohorts allegedly locate the Village off the coast of Morocco, southwest of Portugal and Spain. Yet "The Chimes of Big Ben" implied the Village was on the coast of Lithuania, just 30 miles from the Polish border; but that claim came from Number 6's co-conspirator Nadia, who was later found to be working for the Village, so it might have been possible to fool him during the rigged breakout as to their location upon escape. But then again, "Fall Out" suggests the Village is on the coast of England.


At 42:48 on the Blu-ray, a milk float drives by with the slogan sign "Pinta Man Is Strong". "Pinta Man" was part of an advertising campaign for milk used in Great Britain in the 1960s. In the ads, Pinta Man was accompanied by the slogan, "Drinka Pinta Milka Day".


The airfield scenes in this episode were shot at Chalgrove Airfield in Oxfordshire, an airfield in use by Martin-Baker Aircraft Company, a manufacturer of ejection seats and safety equipment. The jet Number 6 and pilot fly off in, a Gloster Meteor was provided to the production by Martin-Baker.


At the airfield, the RAF captain gets off the phone and says the clearance has come through for refueling at Gibraltar. Gibraltar is a British territory on the tip of the Iberian peninsula of Spain. There is an RAF station there.


Number 6 refers to the Colonel as James.


The car Thorpe and the Colonel race off in is a Rolls-Royce.


At 45:42 on the Blu-ray, Number 6 and the pilot spot the Village from the air. It seems pretty clear the Village is not on an island, or, if it is, it's a fairly large one with other roads and buildings spread out on it that Number 6 has never seen before.


At 46:05 on the Blu-ray, we see that the pilot is clearly not the RAF captain Number 6 had been working with and who was suiting up to fly the plane for the search for the Village. The pilot is the milkman instead! Obviously he was planted by the powers-that-be. Does this mean the RAF captain was not in on the whole thing? On the other hand, he did tell Number 6 he would be ready in a minute as Number 6 walks out of the kitting-out room, giving the milkman a chance to slip into place instead. In fact, it's not clear whether the Colonel, Thorpe and the Navy commander were in on it or not, though someone who may be Thorpe (the same actor) is the new Number 2 in "Hammer Into Anvil". If any of the four were not in on it from the beginning, they learned a lot about the existence of the Village; this may mean they would have to be either killed or sent to the Village themselves to keep them quiet!


When Number 6 walks off the beach back into the Village, the black cat is sitting at the same table with the broken china, watching him, as if it has been sitting there waiting for the past month!


Mrs. Butterworth, appearing as Number 2 at the end of the episode, is wearing a white-on-black badge instead of the standard black-on-white with red number used by every other Number 2 on the series.


At the end of the episode, the Butler is seen with his black-and-white umbrella open. There seems to be a tendency that when this occurs, a turning point between Number 6 and the powers-that-be has just occurred.

Unanswered Questions

How long did Number 6 spend building his raft? It seems unlikely he could build it, gather supplies, and shove off all in the same day. If he was at sea for 25 days he left the Village some time in February.

How many of the individuals Number 6 meets after leaving the Village were actually working for the powers-that-be? The "gunrunners"? It seems likely. The exchange between the Colonel and Thorpe at the airfield as they watch Number 6's plane fly off is ambiguous, but almost sounds as if they don't expect to see him again, which would tend to indicate they know the fate he is about to meet.

Memorable Dialog

you must think I'm crazy.wav
the only thing that's missing is a body.wav
anyone at home?.wav
a complete unit of our society.wav
might be an island.wav
you're a stubborn fellow, Number 6.wav
be seeing you.wav
many happy returns.wav

Back to Prisoner Episode Studies