Audio in The Prisoner
One of the interesting things about The Prisoner is how much the audio informs what we are seeing. The quaint old-fashioned feel to the village is contrasted with the hygienic, vacuumed sealed, slick mechanical sound of the sealing of even the quaintest door. UK productions of the time were notoriously underfunded and anyone with any innovative ideas had better also be very resourceful. If you watch Rover, for instance, with the sound off, you have a weather balloon that eventually suffocates someone. But with the sound on, it is another experience all together. Rover is accompanied by a growing low rumble and a sound like a roaring wind or storm, then a high pitched, grating whine accompanied by an actual roar, and then after contact with the subject, I swear it sounds like the wind bit combined with some kind of chant or singing slowed down on a reel-to-reel tape. I have an example from “Arrival” – judge for yourself and let me know what you think in the comments. The whole effect is strange and disconcerting. The audio also has to be accompanied by an appropriate reaction. Watching malefactors writhing in horror over a weather balloon is also necessary in this case. I think this would have worked better as a radio drama that would have allowed the audience to imagine what Rover might have been like.
In the episode “The Schizoid Man” he doesn’t just retrieve, Rover actually kills someone. Usually Rover just puts people in the hospital, I think this is the first episode where the security system takes a life. Poor Curtis.
Some Notes on the Episodes
This week, we were asked to watch “Chimes of Big Ben,” “A, B, and C,” and “Schizoid Man.” I am finding the order we are watching these to be eccentric, but maybe it is thematic? One thing that I find interesting about the three episodes together is they really address some of the issues around Behaviorist psychology (especially B.F. Skinner). Ironically, many of the instructors I work with are still heavily influenced by Skinner. A mind is not a fire to be ignited, but a bucket to be filled. If we change what is in the bucket, we change the person. Students can’t learn by interacting with one another freely online – they have to be in the presence of an accredited master in order to receive the information. No. 6 is in a constant battle of the will against this philosophy. All of the “science” and technology of the show implies that a mind is as easy to change as a shirt, all you need is the right settings on an oscilloscope, a computer (that is that thing that makes clicky-clacky sounds and makes lights blink), and, of course, since this is the 60s, just the right drugs. Information in “A, B, and C,” and “Schizoid Man” is something like a commodity that can be digitized and consumed. No. 14 and No. 2 in “A, B, and C” are devoid of any kind of ethics. When No. 14 is concerned about the treatment of No. 6, she seems to be persuaded by No. 2’s admonition “what about your enthusiasm for science?”
Rover is very much a creature imagined through sound. Historical records show that the well-known Rover we love is not the original model. A previous model was said to be more like a Michelin Man on wheels, apparently and apparently it sank in the sea and so a new, revised model had to be pressed into service. There is not much information available on the still-earlier steam-powered spheres as encountered by Mr. Holmes.
We are exploring the Archive video records with some degree of thought. Better minds than ours have spent hours and years debating the preferred viewing order. I encourage you to explore this (one of many) references on the subject.
Be Seeing You!
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