The CCCP settlement of Pyramiden, on an archipelago belonging to the Norwegians, provided a utopian lifestyle of work and plenty as an example to the people back home. However, when the Communist might of Russia collapsed, the people steadily abandoned the dream rather than struggle in the face of insurmountable hardship.
I daresay this subsidised paradise in the chilly north could easily form the backdrop for some modern day PARANOIA or perhaps some spin on the The Prisoner, with happy workers leading happy family lives amidst a basically fabricated and unsupportable community. Mandatory sports days, social events and art classes anyone?
Perhaps Pyramiden could be that colony set up on the agreement of The Computer, or one of the High Programmers, as a way to understand the way a small, above-ground community might work – or to comprehend the Communist mindset? Could the Troubleshooters wake to find they have led happy, ordinary lives as honourable and loyal Communists with loving families and generous prospects? Take them through the routine of labour in the mines, followed by swimming, song, and sitting around the fire telling stories to the children – but, over time, introduce clear signs of hardship, of a lack in essential maintenance skills and materials (because the central office back home always sends a replacement) and the remoteness of the colony. Then cut the lifeline completely, pull the plug, and leave them with nothing but static. Invariably, panic will grow, desperation follows when bellies grumble, and The Computer will send in ‘support‘, highly likely to be mistaken by the mind-altered inhabitants of the colony as a Capitalist invasion force… What fun!
The Prisoner never was an easy thing to understand. I guess, in principle, this recent re-imagining aimed to make the concept more accessible and easier to digest. The series presented a conclusion with some measure of coherence; but, then again, the original Prisoner nestled in the bosom of the 60s and flirted with the drugs, morales and psychedelia of that period. For the 21st century, we needed something a little more grounded in the methods and science of the now.
I have to say, Ian McKellen positively excelled in the role of Number Two. Often when you see an actor, a specific role comes to mind and it can be quite off-putting out of contest. The role you see often represents the one you most keenly associate with them – and in this case Ian’s performance means I can no longer watch ‘Lord of the Rings’ or the ‘X-Men’ movies in quite the same way. The cold menace of a man so committed and invested in his cause and beliefs, Ian gave Number Two considerable presence and gravitas. I seriously would love to meet this great actor of our time, but right now I probably wouldn’t want to be trapped in a lift with him.
The series had faults, but then so did the original, especially after McGoohan buckled under the pressure of Lew Grade to make more episodes than he’d originally intended. The latter half of the series suffered as a result with the sort of bottle episodes we loathe so much these days. Stories that didn’t push the narrative forward but simply told a tale span the series out to 17 episodes, when it could so easily have concluded in half that. The new version ran for six episodes and just about had the story for them all, though a couple ran a little thin on plot.
I’d like to think Number Two represents an interesting role model for the playing of a High Programmer. A man with a purpose that almost certainly seems at odds with his intent. An individual who delivers each word with calculated precision, each sentence representing a possible lie within a deceit wrapped in a falsehood. Number Two espouses a distilled dose of Machiavellian principles driven by a profound need to survive bordering on… well… acute paranoia.
Anyway… I liked it. A diehard fan of the original, I nevertheless have a place for the re-imagining. Be seeing you!