Sunday, 30 June 2013

Unique But Similar: The Prisoner Compared by Andrew K Shenton

Much has been written on the subject of THE PRISONER, Patrick McGoohan's elliptical, surreal cult fantasy show first broadcast in 1967-8. Much of that can be boiled down to the fact that there was nothing like it ever before and there has been nothing like it since.

That, though, is apparently a fallacy, as this book by Andrew K Shenton sets out to demonstrate.

Taking the major themes of the this landmark show, Dr Shenton shows how they have been used in other shows such as DOCTOR WHO, BLAKE'S SEVEN, UFO, JOE 90, CHILDREN OF THE STONES, THE OMEGA FACTOR and others either before or since, rustling up an impressive array of references from other commentators on the show and the genre in general to back him up.

There is always room for another book about THE PRISONER, especially by such a scholar as Dr Shenton, but I am hard-pressed to see who this particular book is aimed it. It reads like a textbook and might be immensely useful for anyone studying a course in comparable Prisonerology (assuming there is such a thing), and Prisoner completists will, of course, want to see what he has to say, but it's hardly the most entertaining presentation for someone wanting a little light reading.

You also have to question the subject matter. It's true that the themes of THE PRISONER have cropped up elsewhere, not least since they first appeared in the show, but every influential show is going to leave a legacy. An informed examination of that legacy would be interesting, to be sure, but that doesn't seem to be what Dr Shenton is trying to say. What he is trying to do is to challenge the popular perception of THE PRISONER as something quite unique.

The success of that will depend on whether you agree with him or not, but having some chapters devoted to a single episode of another show does weaken his case. I mean one single episode of THE CHAMPIONS sharing some ideas doesn't exactly bring down the walls of the case for THE PRISONER 's reputation.

If you want to see what the talking points are then head over to ,, or all good bookstores.

No comments: