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The Prisoner
Episode Studies by Clayton Barr

The Prisoner: The General The Prisoner
"The General"
TV episode
Written by Joshua Adam (aka Lewis Greifer)
Directed by Peter Graham Scott
Original air date: November 3, 1967


The enigmatic General instigates a speed learning plan among the residents of the Village.


Read the complete story summary at Wikipedia


Notes from the Prisoner chronology


This episode would seem to take place at some point after "The Schizoid Man" since Number 6 does not seem to know the General's identity in that episode when Number 2 mentions it and he learns about the General in this episode. This episode must also take place before "A. B. and C." since our new Number 2 is introduced here and is still present in "A. B. and C.".


Didja Know?


This is the first appearance of Colin Gordon as Number 2. In a rare instance of a repeated Number 2 in the series, he will also appear as the character in "A. B. and C.".


An actor named Ian Fleming (1888-1969) plays both a man at the cafe and the first board meeting member in this episode. He is not the same Ian Fleming (1908-1964) who was a writer and the creator of James Bond.


Didja Notice?


The eyeglasses worn by the Number 2 of this episode (and "A. B. and C.") have the same frames as the pair worn by the Supervisor! Are they the official eyeglass frames of the Village?


During the flyover sequence of the helicopter bringing the Professor to the Village, several normal automobiles can be seen parked on the outskirts of the Village at 3:18 on the Blu-Ray. 


At 3:29 on the Blu-Ray, there appears to be a building (or an upper floor) under construction in the Village during the helicopter flyover sequence. Also notice a red car parked in a garage to the left of frame. Under construction in the Village


Throughout the episode, the Village inhabitants are reminded of the Professor's classes by posters hanging everywhere with a photo of the Professor and the slogan "It can be done. Trust me." Another, wordier, poster is seen in the background at 5:32 on the Blu-Ray. Also, many of the inhabitants are wearing ribbons with a photo of the Professor's face in the rosette over the words "up the professor". Up the Professor


The waiter at the cafe Number 6 has coffee at is Number 36. In "It's Your Funeral", Number 36 is an old woman.


Number 6 discovers the professor's tape recorder buried in the sand at 6:33 on the Blu-ray. In his book The Prisoner Dusted Down, David Stimpson shows that the device is a 1950s-60s era Channel Master brand.


As the crowd of students picks the Professor up off the beach at 8:30 on the Blu-Ray, notice that a figure can be seen standing and observing in the distance at the top of the screen. Who is it? It can't be Number 6, as he is in the opposite direction with the two prefects.


One of the prefects who picks up Number 6 is Number 256. An entirely different Number 256 is a guard at the board meeting later in the episode! And two different Number 256's were seen in "The Schizoid Man"! Is there something about badge 256 that it never stays with the same person for any length of time?


As the two prefects drive Number 6 back to his apartment from the beach, notice that they start out from a completely different area of the beach (right in front of the retirement home) and that Number 6 is not in the backseat where he's supposed to be! And there are already tire tracks in the sand leading away from the site along the course they take, obviously from a previous take of the shot. And, as the drive continues at 9:38 on the Blu-Ray, notice that the driver's reflection is dimly perceived in the windshield...and he appears to be wearing a tie! Obviously not the stripe-shirted Number 256!


When Number 6 walks into his kitchen area at 9:56 on the Blu-ray, the cabinet at the left of screen is closed. Yet, when he leaves the kitchen it is hanging open. He must have taken the glass into which he pours his tomato juice from there in a shot cut from the scene.


During the Professor's televised seminar, his wife wears a pin on her blouse of two conjoined circles. This is often a symbol representing marriage, so may be intended by her as a symbol of her devotion to her husband.


In his TV broadcast, the Professor remarks that he has been a teacher for 30 years and Speed Learn has made him as obsolete as the dodo. The dodo was a large (over three feet tall as adult) bird discovered on the island of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean in the late 16th Century and which was made extinct by human presence less than a century later.


The televised host of the Professor's class appears to be Number 225.


The answers Number 6 gives to Number 2's questions on European history since Napoleon are accurate. Napoleon was the high general, First Consul, and Emperor of France from 1799-1814.


Number 6 colludes with Number 12 in an attempt to escape the Village. It seems an odd choice of number to use in this episode, since in "The Schizoid Man", the Village's powers-that-be attempted to convince Number 6 he is really Number 12! (Also, in "Free for All", various citizens in the chanting crowd are seen to be Number 12 after voting in the election.)


At 18:01 on the Blu-Ray, Number 36 is quizzed briefly on the year 1878 by Number 54. Number 36's answer that Romania was declared an autonomous province of the Turkish Empire is accurate. Several other Number 54s have been seen in other episodes, including, oddly enough, a resident called "the General" in "The Chimes of Big Ben"! Presumably this earlier General was simply a resident who was formerly a general in the outside world.


At 20:26 on the Blu-ray, the machine that the professor's notes are fed into is a Rank Xerox copier unit. (Thanks again to The Prisoner Dusted Down.)


The professor's notes the doctor feeds into the machine do not read as history notes as suggested, but more like the minutes of a college board meeting, with headings such as "Theatre Outings" and "Football Section".


Notice at 23:06 on the DVD that Number 6's drawing of the Professor's wife has a rejoined tear in the middle of it. Obviously, the shot was made after she tears it in half just seconds later and it had to be repaired for this shot!


Between this episode and "The Chimes of Big Ben", we see that Number 6 is quite a good artist.


The bust that Number 6 uncovers at 25:49 on the Blu-Ray appears to be one of the Controller; at 25:59 it may be that of the Number 2 from "The Chimes of Big Ben" (played by Leo McKern); at 26:08, Number 6 himself; and at 26:12, the current Number 2.


The doctor who allegedly treats the Professor is Number 125. The female nurse seen assisting him is Number 116; Number 116 was a male chess player in "Checkmate". In "Hammer Into Anvil", Number 125 is a computer operator.


At 28:06 on the Blu-ray, Number 225 interviews a woman called Number 29, and a man with her, on TV. The answers they give to his historical questions are accurate.


Number 225 asks two historical questions of Number 6 at the celebration. His answers are accurate, though in the case of the date of the Boer War, there were actually two Boer Wars, in 1880–1881 and 1899–1902 (Number 6 gives the date of the second war only).


The electrician who comes to work on the short circuit in Number 6's apartment is Number 261.


The shot at 31:08 on the Blu-ray shows a rain-soaked Village...but the next shot, everything is dry!


The two "men in black" board members introduced at 31:13 on the Blu-ray are Numbers 69 and 243. In "The Schizoid Man", Number 243 was an old man being pushed in a wheelchair. And in "Hammer Into Anvil", Number 243 was a bomb disposal technician.


The machine that takes the tokens at the board meeting is actually an Addams Family Thing Bank! This bank is electronically activated by placing a coin into a slot which completes an electrical circuit, triggering the hand to come out, grasp and pull the coin and, thus, turning itself off again. This is an example of what is referred to as a "useless machine", it's sole purpose being to turn itself off. This may be something of an allusion to the General in the episode, which turns out to be a computer that spits out answers to anything asked of it...but originally, both the questions and answers were formulated by people first.
Token taker Addams Family Thing Bank


The two guards at the projection room door appear to be Numbers 253 and (the second in this episode) 256.


Number 6 masquerades as Number 56 to infiltrate the board meeting. The Number 56 badge has appeared on a number of individuals throughout the series.


The man in the projection room who is knocked out (killed?) by Number 6 is Number 80. After Number 6's infiltration is found out, the projectionist is replaced with Number 108.


At 37:08 on the Blu-ray, notice that the back of Number 6's hand has a general pale red pigment all over it, not just the trickles of red blood from his injury. Obviously, previous takes had him wiping the blood off, leaving his hand stained with smeared residue of the dye.


For some reason, the guard who clubs Number 6 inside the projection room is not wearing a number badge.


When asked who is the leader of the Village dissidents, Number 6 retorts, "Santa Claus". Santa, of course, is the folkloric figure who brings gifts to children around the world on Christmas Eve.


Number 2 implies that all of the great philosophers are part of the General's programming in mentioning Plato, Aristotle, Voltaire, and Rousseau. These four named figures were all great philosophers from history.


The question sheet inserted into the General's reader at 43:31 on the Blu-ray appears to be nothing more than the minutes of some society meeting!

General input


The computer called the General is obviously just a prop pieced together from parts of various devices. Knobs and panels are seen to be labeled "fire selector", "oscilloscope", "extreme motor", "amplitude", "height", and "micro secs".


The idea that an unanswerable question or paradox can destroy a computer is a trope as old as modern science-fiction! Number 6's question to it of "Why?", causing the General to self-destruct, seems an easy way out of the story's setup. The nonsensical destruction of the computer is remarked upon later in The Prisoner's Dilemma.

Unanswered Questions

Did the powers-that-be rebuild or replace the computer called the General? The answer is yes, with the computer called Juliet in The Prisoner's Dilemma.

Memorable Dialog

a brief word about Speed Learn.wav
destroy the General.wav
human experiment.wav
we came here voluntarily.wav
the full penalty.wav
Santa Claus.wav

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