The Prisoner: Season 1, Episode 3

Free for All (22 Oct. 1967)

TV Episode  -   -  Action | Drama | Mystery
8.1
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Number 6 runs for the office of Number 2.

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Title: Free for All (22 Oct 1967)

Free for All (22 Oct 1967) on IMDb 8.1/10

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Cast

Episode cast overview:
...
Eric Portman ...
Rachel Herbert ...
Number Fifty Eight
George Benson ...
Labour Exchange Manager
Angelo Muscat ...
Harold Berens ...
Reporter
John Cazabon ...
Man in Cave
Dene Cooper ...
Photographer
Kenneth Benda ...
Holly Doone ...
Waitress
Peter Brace ...
1st Mechanic
Alf Joint ...
2nd Mechanic
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Storyline

Number 6 is urged by yet another new Number 2 to run for his office in the forthcoming elections. Number 6 is surprised to hear that the Village even has elections but after some consideration, agrees. His platform is a radical one, posing all of the questions that he would like to have answered: where are they, why are they there, who is Number 1. His campaign seems to be popular with the residents but after questioning by a Village council, he is brainwashed into spouting the standard 'lines' and maintaining the status quo. Written by garykmcd

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22 October 1967 (UK)  »

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1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Although the crowd can be seen as chanting for No 6, they do it in such a fashion which sounds like "Six Six Six", something which has a different meaning entirely. Patrick McGoohan was a devout Catholic and would have picked up on this. See more »

Goofs

When Number 6 is in the red-lit chamber and the doors of the next room open and he grabs hold of the handles, his elbows are bent. In the reverse shot, his arms are straight and the handles appear to be much higher. See more »

Quotes

Number 6: They say, "Six of one and half a dozen of the other." Not here. It's Six for Two and Two for nothing, and Six for free for all for free for all! Vote! Vote!
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Featured in Mad Men: The Crash (2013) See more »

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User Reviews

 
The Politics Of Individuality
28 November 2007 | by (Ambrosia) – See all my reviews

Of the seventeen episodes which form Patrick McGoohan's brilliant 'The Prisoner' series, 'Free For All' is in my view the most relevant to the modern world. Written and directed by the man himself ( sheltering behind the pseudonym 'Paddy Fitz' ), it was the fourth to be broadcast in the U.K., and the first to baffle viewers by stepping outside the spy story framework.

It begins with an unusually benign Number 2 visiting 6 at home, and over breakfast informing him that there is to be an election in The Village, the winner becoming the new Number 2. 6 is sceptical, but the thought of meeting Number 1 is tempting.

Invited to address The Village, 6 airs his thoughts ( "I am not a number...I am a person!" ). The crowd laughs. No sooner has 6 finished speaking than placards bearing his face are carried through the confetti-strewn streets, drums are banged, striped umbrellas twirled, and the crowd cheer him on to victory.

For the duration of the campaign, 6 is given the services of a maid - Number 58 - who speaks no English. 6 is invited to address the outgoing Council. In a stylish underground chamber, he confronts a row of brainwashed imbeciles. 6's motives for running for office are questioned. When he does not respond, he is handed over to the manager of the Labour Exchange. A different 6 emerges, spouting meaningless slogans and making impossible-to-keep promises. He has become the people's choice.

Needless to say, he does not remain in this state for long, and attempts to flee The Village in a motorboat. Rover brings him back, and the brainwashing resumes.

Only two candidates are running for office - the handsome yet mindless ( thanks to The Village ) 6, and the older, experienced 2. Everyone loves 6, hardly anyone seems to back 2. Yet their 'views' seem to be much the same. Which is very much the case in modern politics. The public, when faced with the daunting prospect of exercising their democratic right, will often vote for the guy who used to read the news on television or who once acted in a long-running soap. Policies? Forget it.

To cut the story short, 6 wins by a landslide. As the transfer of power takes place, the Villagers' enthusiasm for 6 appears to have evaporated totally. He enters The Green Dome with Number 58 at his side. After initially behaving like a couple of kids let loose in a sweet-shop, their personalities change - he is his old rebellious self once again, she turns nasty and starts slapping him across the face.

6 uses his new position to order a mass evacuation of The Village, but no-one listens. Number 1 is still in command. Cue one very violent ending ( one that had to be trimmed for the original U.K. broadcast ).

'Free For All' is a marvellous political allegory. 6 wishes to win power for the right reasons ( to free the people ), but is reprogrammed by the establishment so that his ideals virtually disappear. The odds are stacked against him from the start.

To remind viewers this is an adventure show, there is a motorboat chase, of course, but that's the only concession McGoohan makes. The brainwashing scene is chilling, the late George Benson ( best known for comedy roles ) making a superb interrogator. Even his offer of tea is not to be trusted! Rachel Herbert's character is used initially for comic relief, rather like Rosalie Crutchley's in 'Checkmate', but at the climax, her true significance is revealed, and 6 finds he has been been played for a patsy once more. There is no democracy in The Village; it is all an illusion.

The scene with the 'Tally Ho' reporters is hilarious, as is the one in the underground therapy zone where Villagers can drink real alcohol without disturbing the equilibrium of The Village. This was one of Eric Portman's last roles, and he is splendid as the 'under dog' candidate - the older man who knows he will be soundly beaten at the ballet box yet still has to go through the motions of the democratic process.

When 'The Prisoner' was reviewed on the B.B.C.'s 'Did You See?' back in 1983, Julian Critchley ( the late Tory M.P. for Aldershot ) dismissed 'Free For All' as 'high camp...James Bond without the music'. Was that his real view? Or did he sense the episode's message and thought to try and discredit it?


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