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The Schizoid Man
An episode in the TV series "The Prisoner".

The Prisoner is considered by many to be the most unusual and thought-provoking television series ever made. When it was first shown in England in 1967 there had certainly been nothing like it on television before before and, many would argue, nothing has surpassed it since.

Patrick McGoohan plays a man who resigns from a top secret position and is abducted from his London home. He finds himself in a beautiful village (a real life location called Portmeirion in North Wales) where everything is bright and cheerful. But despite this rosy exterior, the village serves a sinister purpose. People are forcibly brought there in order to have their valuable knowledge protected or extracted. Village residents are assigned a number - the Prisoner is Number Six.

In this episode, No.6 and No.24 (a.k.a. "Alison" played by Jane Merrow) are practicing mind reading, they have discovered they are "sympatico" and she is able to identify cards and symbols telepathically.

Jane Merrow in The Schizoid ManThat night, No.6 undergoes hypnotherapy, various conditioning treatments and some cosmetic changes. He wakes up in an unfamiliar room, unaware of the treatments and wearing a badge reading "No.12". The head of The Village greets him as a familiar and explains that he is an outside agent of the Village and selected because of his physical resemblance with No.6. He is told that his job will be to convince "No.6" that he is someone else in order to make him crack. Unconvinced but going along with it for the time being, our hero is transformed back into his usual appearance.

Returning to his original cottage, the real No. 6 meets his double and they engage in a series of tests, each trying to prove the other is a fake. No. 6 attempts to prove his identity by calling on Alison to repeat their mind-reading, but she betrays him, obviously in on the duplicity. However, in the final sequence, Alison reappears and hints at her remorse for betraying him.

Jane's comments:
As always it was a pleasure and exciting to work with Patrick Mcgoohan again. It is always more challenging to work with actors you admire; I am a very competitive person and Jane Merrow in The Prisoner‘staying up’ with the best is the best. Of course you aren’t really competing, just ‘working with’ . But yes you are, just a bit!

I had to do a mind reading act with Patrick, playing an admirer, supposedly completely tuned into his way of thinking, in reality a betrayer.

It was quite tricky remembering all the cards, also double guessing his character, ‘what was he really thinking, did he trust me or not? What did he really think of me’? What did I think of him’

Unfortunately I did not film in the Portmeirion location, although I went there years later, but the claustrophobic atmosphere was brilliantly re created at Borehamwood Studios.

I see that there has been a remake of ‘The Prisoner’, it will be interesting if they stay close to the original, or try to update it with a lot of action. The original was subtle and thought-provoking and actually quite chilling.

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