Non-Fiction Reviews

The Prisoner Handbook

(2002 / 2007) Steven Paul Davies, Pan, 7.99 /Can$18.99, pbk, 272 pp, ISBN 978-0-230-53028-7


I'm assuming you know of The Prisoner TV series starring Patrick McGoohan. If not then do get the DVDs: there are only 17 episodes made and the series literally has become a cult iconic one. It was made in the late 1960s but, as was Stingray, shot in colour. It explores the idea of individuality and democracy in our modern technological society. Enough said. Have a Google on 'The Prisoner' and 'McGoohan' and then, if you wish, get the recordings.

OK. Assuming you know of the series and enjoy it, the question you will want asking is whether or not to get this guide? The answer simply is 'yes'. If you are an avid fan then you will want everything regardless but even if your interest is more casual the this book offers a more concise appraisal than larger more expensive and glossier works.

Originally this was published in 2002 but Pan have just (2007) reprinted it and included some minor updates. It contains information on how the series came about, an episode guide, other McGoohan work, the Portmeirion location and fan activity. The subject index is useful and there are interesting appendices that include a few pages of script.

This handbook has all the core information that you could possibly want. Obviously for more detail you will need to get a more substantial (and expensive) reference work. So do not expect to learn from this guide -- because you will not -- that the car chase scenes in the episode 'The Girl Who Was Death' were shot in the countryside around Borehamwood / Elstree and specifically Mimms Lane and adjoining roads in Shenley. Such is too much detail and the average Prisoner viewer simply does not require such information. However you will learn that one of that episode's characters was one from McGoohan's earlier series Danger Man (and played by the same actor too), and that that episode's rocket countdown sequence was taken from an episode of Thunderbirds and later re-used again in The Prisoner's finale 'Fallout'.

The book is written with apparently genuine affection though the 'about the author page' does not appear as it should be according to the contents page, furthermore while some minor updating over the half decade between editions has been done, this is only minor: there could have been more. Nonetheless this should not detract fans from getting a useful little reference work or SF enthusiast learning a little more about the show.

Jonathan Cowie

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