The Prisoner: Season 1, Episode 8

Checkmate (17 Aug. 1968)

TV Episode  -   -  Action | Drama | Mystery
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Ratings: 8.6/10 from 246 users  
Reviews: 1 user | 1 critic

After waking up from an artificial sleep, Number 6 discovers a game of "live chess" on the Village green in which the "chessmen" are Villagers and the players sit in elevated chairs and ... See full summary »



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Episode cast overview, first billed only:
Ronald Radd ...
Patricia Jessel ...
1st Psychiatrist
Rosalie Crutchley ...
George Coulouris ...
Man with the Stick
Angelo Muscat ...
Bee Duffell ...
2nd Psychiatrist
Basil Dignam ...
Michael Danvers-Walker ...
Painter (as Danvers Walker)
Denis Shaw ...
Victor Platt ...
Assistant Supervisor
Shivaun O'Casey ...
Geoffrey Reed ...
Terence Donovan ...


After waking up from an artificial sleep, Number 6 discovers a game of "live chess" on the Village green in which the "chessmen" are Villagers and the players sit in elevated chairs and call out the moves with megaphones. Recruited by one player as the Queen's pawn, he only reluctantly obeys his "master's" orders. After the match, Number 6 enacts a new escape plan that requires the complicity of a specific type of individual. He chooses one of the rooks from the chess game, a man known for his rebellious nature. Written by Guy Bellinger

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


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Release Date:

17 August 1968 (USA)  »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


(restored original runtime)

Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


The boat used to film the "SS Polotska" sequences also features in "Many Happy Returns" as the gun runners' boat. See more »


No 6 ticks people off on a chess article. However, it is clearly pasted onto another newspaper, as the paper is a different colour to the surrounding articles, which discuss Kidderminster and road deaths in the UK. See more »


Number 6: [referring to the chess game] Why do you use people?
Chessmaster: Some psychiatrists say it satisfies the desire for power. 'the only opportunity one gets here.
Number 6: That depends what side you're on.
Chessmaster: [quickly] I'm on my side.
Number 6: [quickly] Aren't we all.
Chessmaster: You must be new here. In time, most of us join the enemy - against ourselves.
See more »

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User Reviews

Certainly One Of The Most Effective, As Well As One Of The More Memorable, Episodes Of A Series Filmed For Television That Rewards A Degree Of Thought From Its Audience.
5 May 2009 | by (Mountain Mesa, California) – See all my reviews

Of the 17 Prisoner episodes, filmed during 1967/8, this intellectual delight has been accorded various storyline chronologic listings of numbers 3, or 5, or 9, by expositors, with the lattermost being that of its actual broadcast sequence, although this ordering is not especially significant to many devotees of Patrick McGoohan's remarkable creation, they being generally more engaged with the inspired symbolism of the series in its entirety. In any case, CHECKMATE was actually shot before the plotted first segment, THE ARRIVAL, and additionally was one of the first five completed scripts, with the game board, that hosts humans as chess pieces, being based upon actual circumstances in medieval England, and covering an entire courtyard of the inordinately picturesque grounds of the Hotel Portmeirion in northern Wales, this being where "The Village" is sited for this engrossing series wherein McGoohan, playing as an unnamed but numbered "Six", is ensconced along with other captives, all apparently being held there for the greater good of an agency that exists in the world outside the Village, for which internees must surrender their liberty. THE PRISONER is after being an apologue, that of an individual who reminds his keepers that he will never bend his knee to them, although he has no full understanding of whom his captors may be. During this segment, Number Six attempts to solve a portion of this puzzle, spurred by the repeated questioning of him by Number Two as to "why did you resign?", to which query he refuses to give answer and, in this chapter, he clearly believes that a showdown of sorts with his "Guardians" is in the offing. This, then, becomes the core of the Prisoner's tortured struggle against the unknown controllers, i.e., developing a method by which he can successfully rebel in his own, and highly personal, fashion. The first step in quest of his murky adversaries is to determine their identity and, in order to accomplish this, he applies an elemental psychologic practice, with the striking visuals of this episode being much esteemed by votaries of the PRISONER series. Number Six becomes convinced that perhaps half of the Village population is potentially composed of Guardians, these being in effect railbirds who directly monitor the deportment of the prisoners, and he believes it may be possible to generate a nucleus of like minded peers, while managing to spike established values of one of them in particular, thereby creating a close ally for his attempt to escape. There is a persistent danger in the Village that Number Six or another prisoner might be sent to hospital for "readjustment" (learning conformity), and there is always a possible additional menace of duplicity through shared mistrust among those supposedly in concert with each other, such as those who are pieces upon the "chess board", including Number Six as Queen's Pawn (original title of the episode), who must also deal with an unexpectedly amourous Queen (Rosalie Crutchley). This episode of an admirable series of the imagination is highlighted by the customary strong performance by McGoohan, and there is a first-class turn from Peter Wyngarde as "Number Two", the Prisoner's most immediate nemesis. The visual aesthetics, an intelligent script (Gerald Kelsey), and able direction from Prisoner veteran helmsman Don Chaffey each follows a customary high standard set for a series that remains freshly startling to many viewers. Viewing this episode on either VHS or DVD remains a delicious cinematic treat.

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