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BOOK
Fall Out
The Unofficial and Unauthorised Guide to The Prisoner

Authors: Alan Stevens and Fiona Moore
Telos
RRP: 12.99, US $24.95, Cdn $29.95
ISBN: 978 1 84583 018 2
Available 20 August 2007


Fall Out: The Unofficial and Unauthorised Guide to The Prisoner is a total waste of time and money. Avoid it at all cost.

The Prisoner is about to get another DVD release - a fully restored version on the Network label. There’s also talk about an HD release, so the timing of this book couldn’t be better. It’s almost as it were planned...

The show, of course, is one of the most talk about in cult TV circles. The story of a trapped spy, the nameless Number 6, imprisoned as he tries to leave the service for a normal life, has as many admirers as it does detractors. However, what is clear is that after 40 years The Prisoner is still a highly regarded - albeit left field - TV show.

So does Fall Out add anything to The Prisoner canon or is it just another roundup of fan ‘insight’ and fact listing? You’ll be glad to hear that it’s neither, although exactly what the book is, is a harder thing to define.

First it’s unbelievably pompous. According to the back of the book: "The impact of the 1967 ATV thriller series The Prisoner upon society was explosive, transforming art, storytelling and popular culture like no other television programme before of since."

No. The Prisoner didn’t change a thing, unlike say, Cathy Come Home, Boys from the Black Stuff, Doomwatch or The Singing Detective. These shows changed public and political thinking or reshaped TV narrative. Their effects were long lasting - and still have echoes in TV today.

The authors also tell us that their book isn’t going to be too analytical. Really? It certainly includes great swathes of copy that appears to be deeply analytical, although on closer reading much of the critique is really adventitious presupposition, so I suppose the writers are correct to a fashion.

Apparently, episode five, The Schizoid Man is "one of the most visually enjoyable and thought-provoking" of the series. Is it? Says who? It’s this sort of blanket statement, trotted out without perspicacious advocacy that makes these sorts of self-indulgent fan books so endlessly tedious.

For example, do we really need to be told how much a cup of coffee costs in the village? Two credits, if you must know. It adds nothing to our appreciation of the show and gives no great insight other than we finally understand that the authors really should get out more often.

However, it’s at the very end of their analysis of The General that you really want to reach into the page and wag your finger admonishingly. Apparently it’s a story that "addresses contemporary themes of the time in a way that is still relevant to modern educators and students". The story, in case you don’t know, is about a speed learning technique that offers a university education in minutes. The computer behind the process is finally destroyed by The Prisoner when he asks it ‘Why?’. See any relevance? No, thought not... more fatuous balderdash.

After many more pages of asinine rambling, masquerading as thought-provoking commentary, this mighty text finally concludes on page 222. Blimey! If you add up the numbers they make the number 6. Maybe the book’s something special after all.

Don’t be fooled. This book, after all, tells us that the lyrics to The Beatles’ All You Need is Love "emphasise simultaneously the contrasts of absolute freedom and absolute tyranny". B*llocks it does.

Fall Out: The Unofficial and Unauthorised Guide to The Prisoner is a worrying waste of paper. Avoid it at all cost, especially if you find the word "metatextual" irksome.

Anthony Clark

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