The Prisoner: Many Happy Returns

The Birthday Party
The Prisoner: Episode 7 Many Happy Returns
Written by Anthony Skene
Directed by Joseph Serf (i.e. Patrick McGoohan)
No.6 "They also have their own graveyard"
Thorpe "Which you avoided, naturally".
No.6
wakes up to find the water and power switched off. The Village is deserted, even No.2's room. After a taxi journey to the edge shows impassable mountains, he decides to build  a raft. Setting off for sea, will he finally escape, arrive safely home, and what has happened to The Village and its inhabitants? 
This is the third story writer Anthony Skene wrote for The Prisoner, clearly his scripts were liked by script editor Markstein (whose last story this would be in production terms) and McGoohan, who directs this episode. It's  a fairly straightforward espionage adventure story. The fact that it was made thirteenth would suggest that this would be the final episode of season one, where it was envisaged No.6 would escape, season two being made up of stories where No.6 would find The Village influence extends well into the outside World. How that would have played out is a source of endless fascination, No.6 outside The Village, and surely he would have to find a name? Other events intervened, and having differing viewpoints of how the series would progress, Markstein and McGoohan parted company.
This is one of the few episodes where we don't see the face of No.2 in the opening credits, for obvious reasons of suspense, and we just hear the generic village voice of Robert Rietty.
The opening of the episode is quite genuinely spooky, the only sounds the cries of gulls apart from in a moment of tension when a noise alerts No.6. Have his plans been scuppered just as he's about to escape? But no it's just a plate broken by a black cat that would appear in the next episode. also written by Skene, as belonging to No.2
The escape itself shows No.6's ingenuity, in making a raft and also, more importantly, a compass. After all, as he explained to No.2 in the earlier episode The Chimes of Big Ben, he intends to return and destroy The Village, so he needs to plot his course, no matter how roughly. The building of the raft is accompanied by one of my favourite pieces of incidental music. it wasn't recorded specifically for the show but was library music, called ForĂȘt Tropicale, by Paul Bonneau, and I've included it below.
It appears form his log that he was at sea for eighteen days, before he meets the German gunrunners, which would seem an awfully long time to survive exposed at sea. Yes, he could eat canned meat but what did he do for fresh water? I imagine the length is just to indicate how far The Village is from anywhere, though this is slightly contradicted by their eventual surmise of its location later. I have to say I love the gunrunner boat sequence, with its nod to Danger Man in No.6's plan to capture them and the fisticuffs at the end, with full blaring Danger Man incidental fight music. 
The Germans on the boat and the Romanies are lovely techniques in delaying as long as possible in discovering he's home, represented by a the helmet of a British Bobby coming into frame. It's also lovely seeing McGoohan on foot in London (every week we see him drive round in the opening credits). When he finally gets home I have just one slight quibble about continuity. The living room he looks out of has bow windows, which is contradicted by the straight terraced exterior.
Although the episode is more plot driven and less thematic than many of the others, there is one interesting theme or subtext here, that McGoohan himself has questioned in later interviews. No.6 might have escaped the prison of The Village, but he cannot (none of us can) escape the prison of himself. His behaviour, once he'd escaped, is entirely predictable, though I hasten to say not boring. His repeat of his original car journey to resign, recapped each week in the credits, he drives to that office in the underground carpark, and reports to his superiors, The Colonel and his assistant Thorpe. With the aid of a Group Captain and Naval Commander, they estimate his journey, deduce that The Village must be either on the coast of Morocco, or southwestern Spain and Portugal, or an island off shore. And of course, No.6 cannot delegate, he flies in the plane looking for The Village. Thus we come to the sad but, given No.6's personality and behaviour, inevitable conclusion, which takes place on his birthday. Many happy returns.
Yes, none of us can escape ourselves, we take our personality, our behaviour and outlook, even our habits, everywhere we go. This is why dreams of escape, that things would be different, our lives change if we say won the lottery, are always doomed to failure and disappointment. This was very current in counterculture beliefs of the time, that you had to change your own mind ("free your head") if you wished to be really free. No.6 is a spy. He might very well resign, but he has the thought patterns and personality traits of the spy he will always remain.  
There is of course still the problem of The Village location being disclosed. We can discount the location given in The Chimes of Big Ben as that was a deliberate ruse. But here British military intelligence seems to know now where The Village is. Why don't they come and rescue No.6 once he disappears again Why don't they retrace the flight path, discover and then destroy The Village? Could it be, as No.6 avers, that "I also have a problem, I don’t know which side runs The Village". Perhaps we run it, or maybe it's a service used by all intelligence communities. Or maybe it doesn't physically exist? Or perhaps his run in with the gunrunners ruined his computations. Or perhaps the map was simply destroyed by one of The Village's many agents in the outside world, like the fighter pilot. Fuel for more endless speculation, the sort of thing that furthers the show's appeal and longevity. The fact that they could evacuate the whole Village just for No.6's benefit also adds to those theories that The Village only exists solely for No.6 and nobody else.
I really like this episode. I like the adventure, the break from the claustrophobia of The Village, the great incidental music, the picaresque adventures that befall No.6, even the ending. Kudos to the wonderful acting. Donald Sinden and Patrick Cargill as his sceptical ex-colleagues are a masterful double-act, and also Georgina Cookson, whom you might remember as The Blonde Lady at the party in the third dream in the earlier episode A.B. and C. She is wonderfully kind and considerate to the bedraggled No.6, with a curious and slightly flirty demeanour, yet a totally independent woman. The episode is helped by McGoohan's wonderful direction, superbly assisted by Brendan J Stafford's cinematography, there's some wonderful framing, for example, No.6 and the lighthouse. The editing, as it often is for this kind of action adventure, is also exemplary here, courtesy of the great Geoffrey Foot.
Village rating (out of six): No.6
Incidental Music
Cast

The Prisoner ................................................................. PATRICK McGOOHAN
The Colonel .................................................................. DONALD SINDEN
Thorpe .......................................................................... PATRICK CARGILL
Mrs. Butterworth ..........................................................  GEORGINA COOKSON
Group Captain .............................................................  BRIAN WORTH
Commander .................................................................  RICHARD CALDICOTT
Gunther .......................................................................  DENNIS CHINNERY
Ernst ............................................................................ JON LAURIMORE
Gypsy Girl ...................................................................  NIKE ARRIGHI
Maid ............................................................................ GRACE ARNOLD
Gypsy Man .................................................................. LARRY TAYLOR
Be Seeing You!
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