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Books Editorial

prisonerbook.jpg I Am Not A Number

Alex Cox, Kamera

It was the American comedian Ernie Kovacs who said: “Television is a medium, so called because it’s neither rare nor well done.” True enough, but a TV series that celebrated its 50th anniversary last year was so well done that it is still being discussed and dissected today. The Prisoner starred Patrick McGoohan as a man who quits his job (unspecified) who is captured by forces (unspecified) and then taken to the mysterious Village (location: unspecified). Over the span of 17 episodes McGoohan’s character (name: unspecified) attempts to escape the Village. On one level the series can be viewed as a straightforward thriller, but the programme went much deeper than anything served up by The Avengers et al, and asked important questions about individuality and freedom.

In his new book maverick filmmaker Alex Cox offers readers a breezy spin on the programme’s biggest puzzles by examining each episode in turn (in the order they were filmed, rather than the order they were shown), while also casting a director’s eye over the prolonged shoot. It’s a highly readable and illuminating account, positioning the programme as an artefact that is still relevant today. As Cox says of one episode: “Free For All is a very funny and disconcerting parable about the failure of democracy in a media-rich but culturally and intellectually vapid society.” Ring any bells?

I Am (Not) A Number: Decoding The Prisoner by Alex Cox is published by Kamera.