The Prisoner (UK)

Season 1 Episode 16

Once Upon A Time

Aired Sunday 8:00 PM Jan 28, 1968 on ITV
out of 10
User Rating
48 votes

By Users

Episode Summary

After all previous attempts to break Number Six have failed, Number Two decides the only way to obtain the information wanted is by using a system known as 'Degree Absolute', which is a battle that will leave one of them dead. If Number Six wins, he will have survived the ultimate test and finally meet Number One.moreless

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  • The definition of artsy fartsy.

    The setup for this episode is okay: Number 2 decides to lock himself up with Number 6 for a week and see if he can get him to tell why he resigned.

    The next 45 minutes are almost intolerable, however. It seems like Leo McKern and Patrick McGoohan are improvising their dialog, which usually consists of Number 2 saying a word and then Number 6 saying a word. "Time." "Good." "Fleet." "Dead!" "Dead?" "Doornail." etc... For the most part the episode is incoherent with the occasional brilliant light, which quickly becomes lost in more incoherency. The verbal duel seems to be between the individual and the "needs" of society, with honor being lost when the individual is asked to conform to society (see the USSR).

    Despite a worthy topic, I just couldn’t take the presentation, which is why I give this the lowest rating for the entire 17 show series. The early shows in The Prisoner are snappy and riveting, but the later episodes show some weakness - probably because McGoohan went away to film Ice Station Zebra in the middle of production, and frankly they needed him there to continue working on scripts. I doubt they had a script ready when it came time to film this one.moreless
  • The battle of wits between Number 2 and Number 6 comes to a head.

    This episode is one of the most riveting of the 17. Leo McKern and Patrick McGoohan are first rate in this battle of wills between Number 2 and Number 6. The ending might be a little bit surprising to viewers but it leads up to the series finale, Fall Out. I will admit Leo has quite the singing voice with his rendition of Humpty Dumpty and Jack and Jill!
Angelo Muscat

Angelo Muscat

The Butler

Guest Star

Leo McKern

Leo McKern

Number Two

Guest Star

John Cazabon

John Cazabon

Umbrella Man

Guest Star

Peter Swanwick

Peter Swanwick


Recurring Role

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (4)

    • The area rubbed clean on the blackboard by Number Two changes size and shape between the close up of him and the board and the wide shot of Number Six, the butler and Number Two.

    • This episode strongly suggests that Number Six (Patrick McGoohan) served as a fighter pilot in World War II. His date of birth was revealed as March 19, 1928 in "Arrival" which means that if he entered the RAF as a recruit at the minumum permitted age of 17, he would have been able to serve for less than six months before the war ended.

    • Number Two's pennyfarthing on his badge faces to the left and to the right during different shots of the same scene.

    • At about 16 minutes into 'Once Upon A Time', Number Two is seen writing on a black board. As the camera shot goes from long to closeup, the printing on the black board changes. The most noticeable difference is the "F" in find.

  • QUOTES (5)

    • Number Two: (on the phone) Why do you care?
      Number Six: I know your voice.
      Number Two: I have been here before. Why do you care?
      Number Six: You'll never know.

    • Number Six: How?
      Umbrella Man: Don't do that.
      Number Six: What?
      Umbrella Man: Inquire.
      Number Six: What's your number? Your number--what is it?
      Umbrella Man: Be careful.
      Number Six: One two, three, four, five, six seven?
      Umbrella Man: Quiet!
      Number Six: Eight, nine ten, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16?

    • Number Two: You know who it was?
      Number Six: Yes, sir.
      Number Two: Who was it? That is cowardice!
      Number Six: That's honour, sir.
      Number Two: We don't talk about such things.
      Number Six: You should teach it, sir.
      Number Two: You're a fool!
      Number Six: Yes, sir. Not a rat.
      Number Two: A rat?
      Number Six: Rat.
      Number Two: I'm a rat?!?
      Number Six: No, sir. I'm a fool, not a rat.

    • Number Two: Society...
      Number Six: Yes, sir?
      Number Two: Society is a place where people exist together.
      Number Six: Yes, sir.
      Number Two: That is civilization.
      Number Six: Yes, sir.
      Number Two: The lone wolf belongs in the wilderness.
      Number Six: Yes, sir.
      Number Two: You must not grow up to be a lone wolf.
      Number Six: No, sir.
      Number Two: You must conform.
      Number Six: Yes, sir.
      Number Two: It is my sworn duty to see that you do conform.
      Number Six: Yes, sir.
      Number Two: You will take six.
      Number Six: Six, sir?
      Number Two: Of the best.
      Number Six: I'm not guilty, sir.
      Number Two: Ten!
      Number Six: Twelve.
      Number Two: What?
      Number Six: Twelve, sir, so that I can remember.

    • Number Six: I am a man, not a unit of society.

  • NOTES (5)