THE CHIMES OF BIG
"I AM NOT
|"The Village is a place where people turn up, people who have resigned from a certain sort of job, have defected or have been extracted the specialised knowledge in their heads as a great value for one side or the other. You're sure you haven't got a Village here...?
Der so befragte ist einer seiner früheren vorgesetzten. Nirgendwo mehr in der serie als hier zeigt sich, dass die eigene seite mehr in die vorgänge um seine entführung verwickelt sein muss, als einem lieb sein kann.
"The Chimes Of Big Ben" was the fifth episode to be produced. It was broadcast as second in many British TV regions at the time. Number Six' unsuspiciousness, having embarked on Nadia and her escape plan, may well lead to the conclusion that the episode should be placed second as with the British "standard order" because it can be assumed he is actually new in the Village. In Germany "Chimes" was only episode eleven. But there's a parallel too: "Many Happy Returns" was the second episode here to be shown. In it Number Six actually manages to get to London in order to start a search mission for the ominous place. The result of which being devastating as well. It is also this aspect that PRISONER writer Chris Gregory has in mind upon his very lucid observation: "The assertion that the Village is located ‘in Lithuania near the Polish border’ now seems dubious at best. And as for the shots we’ve been shown of aeroplanes, lorries and containers being lifted onto ships, we can only conclude that these images are ‘subjective’ shots showing us what Number 6 expected to be happening. Thus we may start to question just how much of what we are seeing is real and how much of it is in fact a projection of our eponymous hero. We are left with a nagging feeling that we were almost sucked in by the manipulation ourselves, despite the fact that surely we must realise that in a series entitled The Prisoner, it’s really far to early for the central character to escape. So despite the way in which it uses conventional elements of the 'secret agent' genre, The Chimes Of Big Ben ends up raising far more questions than it answers, and begins to make us question whether this is really any kind of 'spy story' at all." 
And the question would pop up once in a while with puzzling episodes like "Dance Of The Dead", "Do Not Forsake Me Oh My Darling" and, more than everm "Living In Harmony".
Of course Number Two. Of course McKern. "The Chimes of Big Ben" is cherished by many fans of the series as the most "complete" episode, something which can well be understood, and that's in spite of its average story full of holes and with a laughable escape event but also for seeing the combined acting skills and Leo McKern's performance in particular.
Leaving the "regulars" aside, Patrick McGoohan as Number Six, Angelo Muscat as the Butler and Peter Swanwick as the Supervisor, McKern in his role of Number Two has gained much and a steady popularity with fans in almost every opinion poll conducted over the years.
"He's making even the act of putting on his dressing gown appear a gesture of defiance." McKern's statement on Number Six might have been from "Once Upon A Time" as well and vice versa.
Leo McKern's presence as the same character in the penultimate episode "Once Upon A Time" creates a unique - one is tempted to say - continuum of individuality. Little wonder here as "Once Upon A Time" was produced immediately after "Chimes". McKern displays an air of presence that would usually not be associated with the Number Two of the series as this position is meant to be a proxy (of Number One) who'd have to fulfill a job in the first place. He is a jovial personality but not just that alone - he acts like a real human with sentiments, he isn't a ventrioquist's dummy or a distorted image of a character as played (albeit pleasantly) by Patrick Cargill in "Hammer Into Anvil". There seems to be a true mutual esteem between the two characters, Number Six and Number Two.
In reality the McKern - McGoohan relationship, sadly, was rather marred. Roger Langley, McGoohan biographer, writes that McKern would not befriend McGoohan because he couldn't get along with the star and him behaving on the production to such a degree that McKern did not even mention working on THE PRISONER in his autobiography while having been in no less than three episodes. But McKern would occasionally say something about the artistic quality of the series: "I don't think McGoohan ever bothered with details. The idea gave enormous scope and was, to my mind, a quite brilliant one." And also: "He was almost impossible to work with, dreadful bully. Always shouting and screaming and yelling about the place and hurrying up and saving money. It was great fun, even tough it was agony to work with him. There was a dreadful sense of pressure all the time, being shouted at. I used to get very depressed." 
Both actors would have their next competition in "Once Upon A Time" where they'd be sparring with the highest intensity and, eventually, McKern would suffer a nervous breakdown during the filming. For that reason he didn't want to perform in the final episode "Fall Out" as requested by McGoohan. And Langley writes that McGoohan went to fellow actor Alexis Kanner and asked him to convince McKern to be a part of the episode. In the end McKern agreed to join in but, in turn, he asked Kanner to support him and keep a watchful eye on him, something Kanner did. Eventually McKern appeared in "Fall Out" but he had his hair cut and his wild beard trimmed considerably, so a shaving ceremony had to be brought in to adjust to the action. McKern/Number Two is then heard speaking his first words after his resuscitation, and not without a double meaning: "I feel a new man."
"It means what it is." To a certain extend it remains an open question whether or not the arts and crafts contest is an operation specifically aimed at Number Six. How would Nadia's escape plan have looked like without it? After all, even the mysterious Village powers could not have foreseen what kind of
exhibit he would create - and for which purpose he would use it. However, the long period of time the contest is running, over six weeks, is playing into Number Two's hands, time enough to change plans. For sure, he would have been kept informed by his Number Eight.
Thereby, the Village people's contributions to the art contest, very much to Number Two's liking, leave no doubt as for the artistic nonconformity of their creators. In a totalitarian society hommage is always paid to the ruler. Well no, not unlikely, this Number Two is honestly very popular with the inhabitants (inmates) of the Village. "Escape" - Number Six' work, an abstract sculpture of which we have come to witness that art always needs both craftsmanship and technique, is plain mockery of course and consequently receives Number Two's highest praise: "It means what it is. Brilliant."
What is it, an ironic affirmation, the creator's auctorial comment from behind the curtain or is honest exaltation? Whatever, it isn't the only occasion that in the series art is dealt with. Besides, it would be McGoohan's repeated public credo when he spoke about his series. But the nicest aspect about it is the blending of boundaries.
Baltics or Balkans? From the German perspective "The Chimes Of Big Ben" is the episode of the greatest not purely linguistic intervention.
As early as in the first episode the German version has taken its own course deviating from the original more clearly than linguistically required. The shop owner in his premises speaks German to a woman while in the original he uses a still unidentified language (it isn't Welsh).
In "Dance Of The Dead" the German intervention even sort of rationalises the episode action by inventing and adding a whole paragraph of dialogue. From the radio Number Six had found the voice speaks of an "unofficial strike" some place that one may, or may not, associate with the situation of Number Six' incarceration.
Also in "Many Happy Returns" we find a considerable change of dialogue from the original: Here the gunrunners are nameless while in the original their names are Gunther and Ernst and both speak German.
Now, in "The Chimes Of Big Ben" the geographical location of the Village is on the agenda. Number Six' and Nadia's escape route is thereby relocated in the
|GERMAN VERSION||ORIGINAL VERSION|
|Night, in front of Number Six' cottage; Number Six (P.)
and Nadia (Number Eight)
|P. "Wo sind wir, Nadja?"||"Where are we now, dear?"|
|N. "In Bulgarien."||"Lithuania"|
|Village Voice: "Der Tag ist vorbei."||"Curfew time - one minute."|
|P."In Bulgarien?"||"Lithuania "|
|Village Voice: "In einer Minute. In 60 Sekunden."||---|
|P. "Auf dem Balkan? Das bedeutet, wir müssen nach Griechenland, in die Türkei. Das kann ein ganzes Stück sein, 200 Kilometer."||"On
the Baltic. That means making for West Germany, Denmark
That's 300 miles, at least."
|N. "So weit ist es nicht."||"It doesn't have to be."|
|P. "Wie weit ist es?"||"Why not?"|
|N. "Wir müssen nur in die Nähe der türkischen Grenze."||"We're nearer - in Poland, Danzig."|
|N. "Nehmen Sie mich mit, bin ich bei Ihnen sicher?"||"Will you take me with you? Will I be safe?"|
|P. "Ich kann für die englischen Behörden nicht garantieren. Für uns beide nicht."||"I can't answer for the British authorities for either of us."|
|N. "Aber Sie helfen mir?"||"Can you answer for you?"|
|P. "Ich gebe Ihnen mein Wort, daß ich Ihnen helfe. Wenn Ihnen das etwas bedeutet."||"I give you my personal guarantee. For whatever that's worth."|
|N. "50 Kilometer, nicht ganz."||"30 miles, that's all."|
|N. "Ja, so weit ist es bis zur türkischen Grenze. Kurz davor, an der Küste, liegt ein kleines Dorf, Woradje. Einfache Fischer. Sie sind gegen das Regime. Sie leisten Widerstand. Ich kenne da auch einen türkischen Kontaktmann. Er würde alles für uns tun, bestimmt."||"That's how far we are from the Polish border. Beyond, on the coast, there's a little village, Braniewo, Fisher people. They resist them. There's a little group, I know them. I have a contact man, he'll do anything for us, once we get there."|
|A cave near the beach: Number Six,
Nadia (Number Eight) and Karel
|P. "Welche Route nehmen wir?"||"What route are we taking?"|
|K. "Ich verstanden. Äh, Schiff, Türkei, Istanbul, verstanden? Dann Flugzeug, Athen. Wieder Flugzeug, Paris. Dann London."||"I understand. By sea - Gdansk, Danzig, you know. By air to Copenhagen, by air again to London."|
German version of the story from the Baltics, Lithuania, near the Polish border, the region belonging to the political and military sphere of influence of the Warsaw Pact in 1966, to Bulgaria. It must have been more convenient and would have seemed to be "safe" for those responsible to move it there. Because ever since the 19th century stories by popular novelist Karl May this had been an adventurous area - the "wild" Balkans - of a different kind compared to that of Eastern Prussia and further to the east which, before WW II, was a German territory. After all, the city of Danzig (Gdansk) used to be Polish territorium since the end of World War II. And it wasn't until the German-Polish treaty in 1990 that (West German) school atlasses would stop showing the remark "under Polish administration". Why so? Was it because they'd try to keep every aspect of day-to-day politics away from German viewers? We can only speculate here about the reasons for doing so. Consequently, after this severe geo-political reshuffle German TV viewers never got to see one particular image of a label nailed on the wooden box destined for Number Six and Nadia, with the transport route written on it: LONDON VIA DANZIG & COPENHAGEN.
Likewise, the itinerary for Number Six and Nadia regarding their respective linguistic version would have been rather "bumpy".
The Village, according to Nadia, is located in Lithuania, 30 miles to the Polish border. Both refugees in their makeshift vessel take it to sea and along the coastline until they are out of Rover's reach. Geography insufficient, one could maintain. On the one hand they move from right to left on the screen, from the west to the east, along the coastline visible in the background. On the other hand there is no shared sea border between Lithuania and Poland. Their common land border is far away, a couple of hundred miles. And in between there is the Russian exclave Kaliningrad with another 100 miles of coastline.
This geographical confusion once lead to Larry Hall  quite appropriately moaning in his article "What it means, not what it says": "Hand me that world atlas, I'm starting to lose my sense of direction!"
Script author Vincent Tilsley may not have been aware of this act, and perhaps he was but didn't care. Maybe he thought that no one would ever come to verify all this - behind the Iron Curtain.
However, what if one hypothesis was true and it was this very inconsistency that eventually led to the episode action in the German version being relocated to the Balkans? After all, the language spoken by Nadia and Karel sounds Slavic, perhaps Russian, perhaps Bulgarian. Perhaps that's why.
There will probably never be a valid explanation as to whether dialogue director Brinkmann was responsible for these changes. The very same personality who we owe the essential change in the series prologue delineating the lifting of the linguistic boundaries around the orginal term Village, like "Where am I?" "In the Village" towards "Wo bin ich?" "Sie sind da."
This author is in doubt that it is on Brinkmann's account.
The political world of the year 1967 was divided into two sides and both sides were strictly ideologically separated from each other, at least they were for the eyes and ears of the public.
Number Six: Has it ever occurred to you that you are
Thinking in blocks was the prevailing mode: on the one side there was the Western world led by the USA, having arisen from World War II as the winner regarding both the military and the economic realm. The USA would act as the warrantor of a free capitalist economic system; more over, the USA were the most powerful military force of the Western alliance NATO. On the other side - beyond the Iron Curtain - were the countries of the Warsaw Pact, Czechoslovakia, Poland, the GDR and the baltic countries Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania then part of the Soviet Union (today's Russia) acting as the hegemonic power. Their founding ideology was based on the communist doctrines as developed and enforced in the Soviet Union by Lenin in the wake of the First World War. The Soviet Union, as a matter of fact, was in the supervisor position, in case one of the "satellite states" would dare to question their own alliance or else would try to liberalise the system. That's what happened in Czechoslovakia of 1968. Having only just begun, the attempt at a "political spring" was shattered by the invasion of the pact states' armed forces.
What the "Eastern block" states had in common was a state directed economy, which, in comparison to the capitalist west, would always show a steady deficiency of economics and of technological innovation as well, hence a foreign currency shortage as one result. But according to ideology the west would soon be taken over and outrun. The ever increasing divergence of these conditions from around the mid 1980s would eventually lead to the erosion of the communist state parties and the government-controlled economies up to the military decline of the Soviet Union and ultimately to the disintegration of the Warsaw Pact as such. The Iron Curtain would open in 1989 in and for Germany.
While the Eastern states were factually dictatorships those in the west were (and are) more or less liberal democracies. But the question was as to how much those systems were actually intertwined with regard to intrinsic structures, when it comes to individual freedom, freedom of opinion, the educational and the health system, internal security. Was it acceptable to register all citizens by giving them social security numbers or even identity cards and enter them into a population register? The latter being something still not used neither in Great Britain nor in the USA. What is the definition of an "enemy" for a democratic constitution, likewise where is the starting point to be considered one? Or perhaps just a dissenter from the norm? Who decides about those norms? How about the means used to defend them? Is everything allowed to enforce them?
The talk between Number Two and Number Six is set agaist this particular historical backdrop.
The seemingly self-contained Village system appears as a vanishing point, the convergence of the two ideological frontlines. For Number Two it is the blueprint of the future. Enclosed in it, one must add, is every conceivable evil, according to one's standpoint and range of interests (like surveillance society, freedom of travel, totalitarianism). But it also bears a wide range of amenities for the inhabitants (such as opportunities for consumption and leisure time, the health system, old-age provisions). And, of course, hybrid forms are possible like state capitalism and "illiberal democracy". However, all this isn't for Number Six' all-embracing skepticism. But he didn't come be the first man on the Moon either.
In the German version Number Six says, 'I'd like to fly to the Moon." It remains an open question whether dubbing director Brinkmann chose this line once it had become clear who the first man on the Moon would actually be.
How about the alternative? In 1986 US-based SIX OF ONE team member Bruce Clark spotted a much different version of "The Chimes Of Big Ben", other than known on a 16 mm film print, in a classified ad. This would become known as the "alternate version". Initially it served in Canada as a test copy. There are a number of differences to the familiar version:
- Ron Grainer's title music from the credit sequence is missing, instead Wilfred Joseph's composition is heard which was eventually rejected;
- the final credit sequence contains one additional animation and the word "POP" as the final insert image;
- there a number of either additional or shots different from those known.
But one particular scene which is missing completely from the final cut is shows Number Six with an antique astronomical device called triquetrum. He is seen trying to determine his geographic position. This scene was eventually cut because it would have undermined the basic concept of the series as well as the escape plan of this episode; like the TV audience, Number Six was never to know where that mysterious Village was really located.
It was Bruce Clark again who, around the year 2000, unearthed another alternative edit, this time of "Arrival". It also has a different credit sequence and the familiar title music is missing too, but there some additional shots instead and the final credits are also different from the former.
 In Max Horas "The Prisoner Of Portmeirion" (1989 ), a SIX OF ONE publication
 "Koroshi" and "Shinda Shima", the final two DANGER MAN episodes had been shot in colour. Roger Langley writes: "Perhaps the approval for 35 mm filming in colour had reignited McGoohan's long-held idea for a production featuring an unnamed individual held in an unknown location. Remembering the beauty of Portmeirion from his first trip there, while filming Danger Man, McGoohan would have been excited to present the place in full colour on screen." Roger Langley: "50 Years of The Prisoner", Escape Books 2016; p. 23
 Chris Gregory: THE PRISONER Episode by Episode https://chrisgregory.org/blog/2009/09/09/the-prisoner-episode-by-episode/#2
 Roger Langley: "McGoohan - Danger Man or Prisoner?" Tomahawk Press, Sheffield 2007, p. 137
 The article was written in 2004 for society magazine "Free For All".