Number 6’s time at Big Finish comes to an end. But will it be a Fall Out, a Checkmate, or something else altogether?
In 2015 Big Finish announced that executive producer and audio supremo Nicholas Briggs would be heralding a new, audio re-imagining of the classic cult series, The Prisoner. A series that has enthralled and mystified audiences, informed and confused viewers, with its ideas and allegories. Not to mention influencing popular culture for the five decades following its airing from The Simpsons to Alan Moore. Doctor Who to Shrek. Twin Peaks to Star Trek. The sci-fi and spy-fi genres altogether.
Despite an unsuccessful attempt to reboot the iconic series, The Prisoner: Volume One from Big Finish, released in 2016, saw a clean sweep of praise. In 2017, celebrating the series’ 50th Anniversary, Volume Two was unveiled to the public, and repeated the winning streak of its predecessor. Both releases added new tales to the canon both in tune with and beyond anything the original series offered.
Now we reach what seems to be the final end. More may come, but this is, in essence, the end of Number Six. The end of the Village. The end of it all. But is the truth waiting for us at the end?
Free For All
It is election time in the Village, and election fever has gripped the residents. However, many seem to think it will repeat itself as it always does, with a one party race. Number 2’s party. But all that seems to be changing, as Number Six puts himself up for the race to be the new Number 2. As the election draws closer, the race becomes tight, but will one of them have an ace up their sleeve? Even one they don’t know about?
Returning to the Village after over 2 years, Nicholas Briggs reintroduces things with an adaptation of an acclaimed episode of the original series. It has been appropriately been updated to cover recent political events. In fact, a lot of it seems very, very relevant given the current situation in the UK. The plot of the original episode is translated perfectly, with an interesting way of presenting the elements that would only seem to work on film.
A strong plot is only as good as the cast performing their roles. Jennifer Healy provides the Voice of the Village, taking over from Helen Goldwyn and succeeding expertly. Lorelei King as a Number Two perfectly balances the poise of confidence then paranoia, both alike and unique from John Heffernan in Volume 2. Genevive Gaunt as Number 43, taking over the role of Number 58 from the TV episode, is utterly engaging. Alicia Ambrose-Bayly plays Number 999 and provides an outsiders view of the madness that is the Village Election. When we say madness, we do mean madness. The end result really shakes up Number Six’s world…
The Girl Who Was Death
Number Six has escaped the Village. Again. But this time, he’s not even sure how he did it. Even worse, once he has time to think, life finds a way to bring peace and quiet to a screeching halt, as an explosion brings London to a standstill. As Number Six is faced with familiar faces, he must find out how to stop this new terror of London…
Adapting this episode seemed to be a bit of an interesting choice, given that the episode plays out more like an episode of The Avengers instead of The Prisoner. But once listened to you realise that Briggs has skilfully adapted the idea as opposed to a direct translation. It definitely works with the mini-series linked arc style story of this set, as it perfectly balances the workload of being its own story, as well as continuing and explaining the previous one, whilst setting everything up for the two that follow. New and returning cast members include Lucy Briggs-Owen as Kate Butterworth, Barnaby Edwards as Danvers, Jim Barclay as Control, Glen McCready as Potter and Genevive Gaunt as Number 43. The ensemble all contribute to the excellence of this story and their own roles in the greater tale.
The Seltzman Connection
With London seemingly safe, and himself now free from the Village, the former Number Six, now re-designated ZM-73, decides to finally seek answers once and for all. The only way he knows how, to go back to where it all began, his last mission before the Village. Professor Jacob Seltzman. But when he discovers the truth, will the unbreakable Number Six finally snap?
Originally named after the episode’s influence, Do Not Forsake Me Oh My Darling, once you begin to listen to it, you will realise why the name was changed. Despite that, it still borrows important elements from the original TV episode, and those elements are woven in perfectly into the restructured narrative that Briggs has composed, not only for this set but for the series as a whole. Alongside Briggs’ script, the acting talent of Glen McCready, Barnaby Edwards and set newcomer Richard Dixon as the eponymous Jacob Seltzman helps this episode continue the streak of each one being better than the last. With this marking the beginning of the end, the revelations start coming in thick and fast. It all ends with one stonker of a cliffhanger. When it’s revealed no-one could possibly guess how it could go…
No One Will Know
Number Six is a broken man. He has been pushed, filed, stamped, indexed, briefed, debriefed and numbered. His life is no longer his own. The truth of his resignation is soon to be public knowledge. He now has one last mission. Navigate a world changed beyond recognition and decide who is friend and who is foe. And that includes The Village…
How to discuss this finale without spoiling it? Pretty much impossible. What can be said about it however is that it firmly showcases the zenith of Briggs’ ability to not deliver pinpoint perfect adaptations and engaging original stories, but to combine the two together into one grand magnum opus. This is most definitely the story he has been waiting to pen for so long, bringing the series to a grand close. That is if it is end…
The final twists and turns of this reimagining make for a memorable and seemingly definite denouement.
The Whole Saga
Beyond each individual episode, it’s very clear from the writing and the structure (not to mention from the writer’s mouth itself) that this was designed more as an interlinked four hour movie even more than the original two volumes. The only criticism with that structure is that it means that the episodes don’t completely work on their own as previous sets do. Regardless of that, they are still an engaging and thrilling listen, penned and directed by someone who knows the original series inside and out. Additionally, the talents of many others cannot be ignored. Scott Handcock in the script editor’s chair, Iain Meadows’ continually authentic sound design, and Jamie Robertson’s expertly crafted score which, like everything else, just seems to get better and better with each volume.
But if one contributor deserves the greatest acclaim outside of Nicholas Briggs, it has to be Mark Elstob as Number Six. Across three sets of twelve expertly crafted episodes, Elstob’s performance has been nothing short of perfection. This set in particular has showcased the greatest range of his acting ability, always teetering on the edges and lines between reliability and distance, sympathetic and paranoid, determined and erratic, always channelling the essence of Patrick McGoohan, whilst always being unique as well. It’s safe to say that if it wasn’t for the dedication of Elstob and Briggs, this series would not be the impressive reboot we know.
A question was asked at the beginning of this. Would the finale be a Fall Out, a Checkmate, or something else entirely? The safest thing to say is, it’s all three. The ambiguity of the original, the resolving of the remake, and the uniqueness of its own identity have come together to make an ending that should hopefully satisfy many. But, after all of that, twist upon twist, reveal upon reveal, and that final fade out to that killer theme tune, one question remains. Is this really the end? Well, to quote the Village’s final closing declaration…
“Here is a warning! EVERYTHING MAY CHANGE!”
Be seeing you…
The Prisoner: Volume 3 is available for purchase on CD and Download from the Big Finish website, and will be available from other stockists early next year.
Based on the classic ITV series.
‘I’m not a number. I’m a free man!’
January 16th, 1967…
Number Six is still trapped in ‘The Village’. Do those who run this place want simply to extract classified information or do they have a darker purpose? Number Six has to believe he will escape. And this time he begins to see a possible way out. But will the price of freedom be too high?
3.1 Free For All
Time for an election in the Village. The regime seems to want Six to stand as a candidate to be Number Two. But when Two’s manifesto seems to be based on the notion of freedom, what platform will Six decide to stand upon? And can there ever be freedom in the Village?
3.2 The Girl Who Was Death
Six finds himself free again, back in London. But how did he get here? An explosion rocks the city and Six must work out who he can trust. Will it be Control, Danvers, Number 43, Kate, Number Two or Potter?
3.3 The Seltzman Connection
Potter and ZM-73 think that if they go back to the beginning of it all, they’ll be able to solve the mystery of the Village. But can Professor Jacob Seltzman really provide all the answers?
3.4 No One Will Know
From London, to Kandersfeld to the Village… Will an end to it all ever be possible?
- Mark Elstob (Number Six)
- Alicia Ambrose-Bayly (Number 999)
- Jim Barclay (Control)
- Lucy Briggs-Owen (Kate Butterworth / Number Two)
- Richard Dixon (Professor Jacob Seltzman)
- Barnaby Edwards (Danvers / Shopkeeper / Marcus Gray / Herr Müller)
- Genevieve Gaunt (Number 43 / Anita)
- Jennifer Healy (Operations-Controller / Village Voice)
- Lorelei King (Number Two)
- Glen McCready (Potter / Sir Clifford Earl)
- Sarah Mowat (Janet)
- Cover Artist: Tom Webster
- Director: Nicholas Briggs
- Executive Producers: Nicholas Briggs and Jason Haigh-Ellery
- Music: Jamie Robertson
- Producer: Emma Haigh
- Script Editor: Scott Handcock
- Sound Design: Iain Meadows
- Written by Nicholas Briggs
- Theme Music by Jamie Robertson