Friday, 16 September 2011

I am not a number! I am a free wo/man! Or: The Prisoner comes to Barnet


Today a film crew has been at the North London Business Park, using the hillocks and clumps of trees, against a backdrop of modern council buildings, as the set for some TV programme or film or other. (Mind the goose shit.)

Thus Barnet council staff have had some light relief today - and, God knows, they need it - guessing what the film crew are shooting. My money is on a remake of 1960s' series "The Prisoner." The plot, as outlined by Wikipedia, is:
The series follows an unnamed British agent who abruptly resigns his job, and then finds himself held captive in a mysterious seaside "village" that is isolated from the mainland by mountains and sea. The Village is further secured by numerous monitoring systems and security forces, including a mysterious balloon-like device called Rover that captures those who attempt escape.

The agent encounters the Village's population, hundreds of people from all walks of life and cultures, all seeming to be tranquilly living out their lives. As they do not use names, they have each been assigned a number. The agent inquires of the Village's chief administrator, Number Two, "Who is Number One?", to which Number Two responds, "You are Number Six". The dialogue continues, "We want information", to which the agent responds "You won't get it!". "By hook or by crook, we will..."

The task of attempting to extract information from Number Six is carried out by the ever-changing "Number Two", acting as supposed proxy to the unseen "Number One". As the series unfolds, the audience learns that the Village authorities have other interests in Number Six aside from the knowledge he possesses: interests that often spare Number Six from the more destructive information-gathering techniques employed by the Village authorities upon other inmates.

Number Six, distrusting of anyone involved with the Village, refuses to co-operate or provide answers. Alone, he struggles with multiple goals: determine for which side the Village works, remain defiant to its imposed authority, concoct his own plans for escape, learn all he can about the Village and subvert its operation. Some of his schemes, while not resulting in an escape, do lead to the dismissal of an incumbent Number Two on two occasions. By the end of the series the administration, becoming desperate for Number Six's knowledge and fearful of his growing influence in the Village, take drastic measures that threaten the lives of Number Six, Number Two, and the rest of the Village.

The series features striking and often surreal storylines, and themes include hypnosis, hallucinogenic drug experiences, identity theft, mind control, dream manipulation, and various forms of social indoctrination. A major theme of the show is individualism versus collectivism.
Does that ring any bells? Of course, in my version, the Prisoner (played by?) is a kind of Everyman, who could stand for any Barnet resident or council employee trying to make sense of the mysterious workings and plans of the powers at the heart of Barnet council.

There are other differences. The original series was filmed in Portmeirion, a Welsh seaside village. I'm guessing that when the film company signed on with Barnet they thought they would be getting Sandbanks as part of the deal, but this is the easyCouncil, so you gets what you pay for - in place of a stunning Green Flag beach in Dorset, a soulless business park on the Barnet/Enfield border.

There are some brilliant snippets of dialogue from the original series on this Wikiquotes page. Eg,
Number Six: Where am I?
Number Two: In the Village.
Number Six: What do you want?
Number Two: Information.
Number Six: Whose side are you on?
Number Two: That would be telling. We want information… information… information.
Number Six: You won't get it.
Number Two: By hook or by crook, we will.
Number Six: Who are you?
Number Two: The new Number Two.
Number Six: Who is Number One?
Number Two: You are Number Six.
Number Six: I am not a number! I am a free man!
Number Two: [laughs]
And:
Number Six: I will not make any deals with you. I've resigned. I will not be pushed, filed, stamped, indexed, briefed, debriefed, or numbered! My life is my own!
And:
Computer Attendant: Good morning - I've brought you the activities prognosis you ordered.
New Number Two: Oh, good - how accurate are these? What is the percentage of right and wrong?
Computer Attendant: I'm afraid we don't know that.
New Number Two: Why not?
Computer Attendant: Well, twice we programmed our machines for a percentile appraisal of their own efficiencies. Each time they refused to give back the requested information.
New Number Two: Refused? How?
Computer Attendant: Simply by not returning the data to us.
New Number Two: They'll be wanting their own trade union next.
You get the picture. What film would you re-make at NLBP?

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

It's got to be Titanic. But not the latest version. Let's remake ' a night to remember'. It's more apt for the day we had on Tuesday. But the funny thing is, no matter how many times they make that movie, the ending is always the same.

The hard working staff at barnet are like the band that played on deck; dedicated until the bitter end whilst the rest of the passengers (barnet residents) are drowning. The senior management however are in the lifeboats, rowing like mad to get away from the impending disaster.

There's a lake insitu behind building 5. 'All aboard' or 'abandon ship'. You decide.

vickim57 said...

Yes, I like that! There are some great snippets of dialogue here:
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0051994/quotes

This, for example:

Mrs. Sylvia Lightoller: [as Lightoller is preparing to leave for the voyage] Do you think they'll promote you to First Officer after this trip, Bertie?

Second Officer Charles Herbert Lightoller: Well, that depends whether they keep old Wilde on, or not.

Mrs. Sylvia Lightoller: You were First on the "Majestic".

Second Officer Charles Herbert Lightoller: Ah, but that was *temporary*!

Mrs. Sylvia Lightoller: Don't you mind?

Second Officer Charles Herbert Lightoller: No. Bill Murdoch's the one with his nose out of joint this trip. Ambitious fellow, is Bill.

Mrs. Sylvia Lightoller: So are you. You *know* you are.

Second Officer Charles Herbert Lightoller: Well, I'd rather be Second on the "Titanic" than First, or even Chief on any *other* ship.

Do you think Andrew Travers feels that way about Barnet now?

Mr Mustard said...

I think it will be a remake of Back to the Future
called
Back to the Future Shape

Mr Mustard said...

It also might be

Mission Impossible
( sub-titled One Barnet )