DANCE OF THE DEAD
"I AM NOT
Anthony Skene, George Markstein
RANKED 4th Surrealism outweighs the plot weakness - its timeless. Multiple viewing recommended.
If there is something like the PRISONER touch, a trait, an air pervading all episodes, then that thing called prisoneresque is founded in this very episode, "Dance Of The Dead".
Watching the action only will leave you dissatisfied with this episode. As often, relating the contents by far does not convey the proper spirit of the episode, ever so if dream theory is involved, the psychology of the unconscious as well as literary and cinematic surrealism that's left it's hallmark quite clearly. Just to name Lewis Carroll's ALICE IN WONDERLAND, Jean Cocteau's ORPHEE (both as films, too) and "The Trial", Franz Kafka's novel. But it appears it wasn't Kafka's novel that inspired script writer Anthony Skene, rather it was the movie THE TRIAL made by Orson Welles, featuring Anthony Perkins in the title role. To indicate this, there are some "Dance" scenes that were shot almost identically to those of the Welles movie (German language).
On the surface it's two stories into one. And there may be those among the audience who'll find the meandering storyline hard to follow. On the one hand there is Number Six trying to get in touch with the outside world via the
Number Two You're waiting for someone, Mr. Tuxedo?
The name of Peter Pan remains unmentioned in the German version of THE PRISONER. And so does the story of the boy who would never grow up and who had lost his shadow. [1.]
Peter Pan, played by Number Two, a woman, suits well here. In past theatrical performances Peter Pan would often be played by young women, mostly in Robin Hood attire. Number Two actress Mary Morris had played the character earlier in her stage life. So, when THE PRISONER production suggested to her to play Pater Pan rather than "Old Father Time" in the carnival scenes she was quite pleased.
Number Six' and Number Two's encounter on the beach at twilight is a stand-alone scene. It is certainly one of the best known of the series, unique and compelling. The previous scene has Number Six meet his former colleague Roland Walter Dutton. At the end of the beach scene Number Two invites Number Six to join her to the Town Hall and to the carnival event. What is it, a dream, a drug-induced hallucination? Who or what is speaking here from this dialogue? McGoohan, Number Six, the unconscious?
Number Six, too, has lost something: his identity as a human being, his freedom as a personality. Number Two, here, is also his mirror, she's brought the missing "shadow" Number Six is alluding to. In "Once Upon A Time" Number Two warns Number Six of becoming a "lone wolf", remaining outside society. Number Six has resigned, he doesn't want to play according to certain rules. Metaphorically speaking: he isn't growing-up.
James Bond - Number Six' more or less his distant relative - confesses in the film "Tomorrow Never Dies": "It comes from not growing up at all.”
corpse washed ashore, thereby transmitting the paradox message "It's me, I'm still alive." as well as keeping his personal integrity intact (a radio receiver announcing mysterious news causes irritation but could establish a connection to the outside); on the other hand there is Number Two and her efforts to obliterate this particular distinction between the Village and the rest of the world, between an inside and an outside world, presenting to Number Six her world as the one and only valid (the dialogue scene on the beach, carnival, costume ball and the tribunal).
CARNIVAL: ELISABETH I, JULIUS CAESAR AND NAPOLEON
this episode we enter the realm of fantasy. Indeed one might belive, that
No. 6 has wandered into Alice's Wonderland. One
of the original batch of four scripts, author Anthony Skene believed this
would be the second episode. Influenced by a number of factors he was
inspired to conjure up an episode that has as many detractors as admirers.
It is easy to see why the former hold their view DANCE is dream-like,
almost intangible in its hunt for a recognisable plot, surreal, confusing,
just plain weird. On the face of it we have primarily a montage of ideas,
undisciplined and, at times, non-sensical, crowned with an improvised
ending. The plot is even more perplexing by deviating crucially from the
script when No. 6 is writing his letter to the outside world before casting
the corpse adrift. The episode deals in shadows, it hints rather than
states, it haunts rather than strides openly.
With stress being laid upon No. 6 holding up his suit for the maid to see ("It means that I'm still myself.") and the scene on the beach at twilight when No. 2 strips away the last reminders of reality, No. 6 descends into the carnival, perhaps a descent into the underworld of his own unconscious.
I said "Dance Of The Dead"...
FILMCUTTER JOHN S. SMITH
He said, 'Oh, don't mention of it, it's given me so many headaches.' I said, mind if I take a look at it? It looks really good.
Skene suggested Jean Cocteau and the 1944 film THE DEVIL AND DANIEL WEBSTER may have been an influence. ... Like Cocteau Skene is fascinated with the myth of the labyrinth.
This episode, perhaps more profound and dealing in magic and the underworld of the mind more than any other, repays repeat viewing. The world of the unconscious is realized and No. 6's inner journey resonates with us and echoes on and on. - Dave Barrie 
the most remarkable thing about this episode is that nearly there wouldn't
have been any at all. "Dance Of The Dead", it seems, belongs
to the "unloved child" category, scheduled second as some dialogues
indicate, the footage was shot in the fall of 1966 together with "Arrival",
"Free For All" and "Checkmate", but it was then shelved.
It is said McGoohan was responsible for it because he didn't like it or
something about it, it is not known what it is.
Film editor John S. Smith told the audience at the 2006 PRISONER convention that footage of shot sequences had disappeared and that, by chance, he rediscovered it and re-edited it with McGoohan's consent. Thus, Dave Barrie calls Smith the real saviour of this episode. So, the surrealism about THE PRISONER in general appears not to have been a strategic plan from the start but rather the result of a couple of coincidences, something that tends to evade the rational mind - which is quite according to the surrealists.
The end of the episode is just "unclear" and strange. Number Six has escaped the masked and cheering crowd of the carnival session before. He ran through labyrinthine basement corridors into a room with semi-transparent mirrors. He is then tracked down by Number Two who wants not a brainwashed imbecile but him to join her with all his will. Beside Leo McKern Mary Morris is best cast as Number Two. This is not to diminish her part considering that Trevor
Howard was first to play the role. Only for one short moment there is some hope that behind a folding screen the mysterious Number One could be found. But it's merely a ticking teleprinter. Like intestines Number Six tears some cables out of the body. When Number Two arrives the damaged device resumes its work as if nothing happened.
The last words of the familiar episode version:
Six: "You'll never win."
Number Two: "Then how very uncomfortable for you, old chap."
Number Two breaks into laughter when she sees Number Six' puzzled facial expression.
|Roland Walter Dutton - once a professional colleague of Number Six. Why ist he known by his name? Number Six reads it on the termination order. Having a name printed on paper, all the more if the death sentence is brought out to someone would, without doubt, leave a deeper impression on TV viewers than just a numeral. Whether Dutton is really left as a babbling idiot or it was all theatre for Number Six' eyes only remains unsure.|
The end of this episode looked quite different in the original script; that's the omitted scene:
Number Six: "But rewarding, old chap. (Pause) Being dead does have its advantages."
As he say this he picks up a heavy ashtray and smasches the telex machine.
Number Six: "Shall we dance?"
The girl and Number Six exit, leaving Number Two surrounded by paper rolls and broken springs.
Interior. Ball Room. Night.
A hectic formation dance in full swing. Elizabth I, Julius Cesar and Napoleon are dancing in a ring, hands joined to the quick music. They break to include Number Six and the girl. The all dance as if the Devil is playing.
Exterior. The Village. Night. Location.
Continue the music faster and faster, The Village is brightly illuminated. No none about. Pull back so the sea comes between us and it, until the Village is now only a glow in the darkness of night.
This final scene makes the point of the story title more overt, it was never filmed. Perhaps McGoohan - most likely he would have - refused to take part in this kind of ballroom dancing as he, shortly before that, always kept a strict distance to his female companion or observer, thus delivering a very awkward image. A similar scene occurs in THE DEVIL AND DANIEL WEBSTER which Skene had already used as a source of inspiration for his screenplay.
Inner world - outer world: the Village as a self-contained unit - literally a universe for itself - this thought is expressed by Number Two in "The Chimes Of Big Ben". And in fact, the producers had already imagined something which wasn't used in the televised version. It would have been the final, ultimate image of each episode. But it can still be viewed - animated Pennyfarthing
"NOWHERE IS THERE MORE BEAUTY THAN HERE..."
Dave Barrie's most favourite place during his guided tours of the Village is the Belvedere Outlook. The platform is the place of action in the episode "Dance Of The Dead" when Number Six is listening to the the radio receiver he come to possess illegally. The words from the radio, "Nowhere is there more beauty than here..." should be a perfect match, like they were created for the real Portmeirion.
The fact that the carnival costume event takes place in Town Hall, not in the recreation hall, thus enabling Number Six to explore places and rooms that otherwise wouldn't be accessible, most notably the basement room where he rediscovers the corpse he had set adrift only the day before, leads David Stimpson  to the conclusion that everthing was a scheme, "contrived" right until the culmination of the surreal trial.
But what, really, has been Number Two's true task in this episode? What did she gain except of making Number Six look like a fool by discouraging him and demonstrating that in the eyes of the outer world he is now dead? The mode of logic for television series' action has been abandoned here, more than anywhere else in THE PRISONER.
Dave Barrie is the founder of THE PRISONER Appreciation Society SIX OF ONE. The cut scenes can be found in Robert Fairclough's book "The Original Scripts Vol 1"; with thanks to Michael Brüne.
 John S. Smith talking to nr6de in London, April 13th, 2016
 David Stimpson in his blog, Jan. 3rd, 2015