The Prisoner: Season 1, Episode 5

The General (5 Nov. 1967)

TV Episode  -   -  Action | Drama | Mystery
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Ratings: 7.9/10 from 238 users  
Reviews: 1 user | 1 critic

Number 2 tries using an instant learning process as a brain washing tool and is stopped by Number 6.



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Title: The General (05 Nov 1967)

The General (05 Nov 1967) on IMDb 7.9/10

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Episode cast overview, first billed only:
Colin Gordon ...
Peter Howell ...
Angelo Muscat ...
Al Mancini ...
Betty McDowall ...
Professor's Wife
Peter Swanwick ...
Conrad Phillips ...
Michael Miller ...
Man in Buggy
Keith Pyott ...
Ian Fleming ...
Man at Cafe and First Top Hat
Bette Bourne ...
Projection Operator (as Peter Bourne)
George Leech ...
First Corridor Guard


The Professor is an academic who has created 'Speedlearn',a process for educating the villagers, broadcast from large TV screens and developed with the aid of 'The General',whom noone has seen. In order to prevent Number Two from subverting his creation to brain-wash the population,the Professor seeks the aid of Number Six to send out a subliminal message of freedom to the village but this fails. Finally Number Six gets to meet The General,who is certainly not what he expected. Written by don @ minifie-1

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis




Release Date:

5 November 1967 (UK)  »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


The "Pass Machine", the device in which a ghostly hand slowly reaches out from a box and snatches an offered token, is actually a well known novelty bank. It was offered during the 1966 holiday season as the (Addams Family) "The Thing" bank. Copies of this bank are still available. See more »


As the professor's wife holds Number Six's drawing of her, a repaired tear can be seen running across the middle of it before she tears it in half a moment later, indicating it had been already been torn in a previous take. See more »


The Professor's Wife: Construction arises out of the ashes of destruction.
See more »

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User Reviews

"You're never to old to learn, Sir!"
11 August 2007 | by (Ambrosia) – See all my reviews

A new craze sweeps through The Village. 'Speed Learn' is a subliminal educational process by which students can accomplish three years' worth of studying in three minutes. It is the work of The Professor, a benign academic who delivers lectures via the television screen. In reality, though, he is merely a figurehead for a sinister brainwashing project.

Witnessing The Professor's unsuccessful attempt to escape from The Village, The Prisoner finds a tape recorder warning the listener about 'Speed Learn' ( "it is an abomination!" ), and urging the destruction of 'The General', the real brains behind the project.

Teaming up with Number 12 from Adminstration, The Prisoner penetrates the wall of security surrounding 'Speed Learn', with the intention of replacing The Village's history lessons with a healthy dose of democracy...

I watched this today as a kind of personal tribute to its director, Peter Graham Scott, who has just died. Scott claimed not to have understood Lewis Greifer's script at the time, but what may have seemed incomprehensible in 1966 is frighteningly relevant now. 'The General' is a stark warning of the dangers of over-reliance on television for information. In the U.K., several well-publicised scandals concerning reedited news footage and so-called 'fakeumentaries' have recently occurred. In America, the Fox News Network has been tying itself into knots in an effort to justify the Iraq fiasco and turn it into a raging success for 'General' George and co. While these examples may seem far removed from the futuristic nuts and bolts of 'The General', the principle is the same. The medium used to sell bubble gum can also be used to sell wars.

'The General' also urges caution with regard to the up-and-coming computer age. Now I will be the first to admit that the home computer ( and internet ) boom has been overwhelmingly positive, yet I can easily understand why there was nervousness back in 1966 ( you will also find it in movies like '2001: A Space Odyssey' and 'Colossus: The Forbin Project' ) Like every great stride in progress, the computer revolution has had a dark side, particularly in enabling idiots to grab publicity by expounding half-baked conspiracy theories and perverts greater access to unacceptable material.

Colin Gordon is a wonderfully charming 'Number 2' ( "Don't underestimate yourself, Number Six...and don't underestimate me!" ), along with Leo McKern he was the only other actor to play the role more than once. John Castle, Peter Howell and Betty McDowall all provide solid support.

'The General' contains many memorable sequences, such as the 'Speed Learn' broadcasts, The Professor's wife explaining art to The Prisoner, and the men in dark glasses and top hats ( amongst them The Prisoner ) gaining access to a restricted area of The Village. Interestingly, the finale has The Prisoner destroying The General simply by asking it a three-letter question. Many is the time my P.C. has crashed just because I have made it do a mind-bogglingly simple task!

Despite much of 'The General' now seeming dated ( particularly the computer itself! ), its message is one we all would do well to heed.

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