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Elizabeth Sandifer

Elizabeth Sandifer created Eruditorum Press. She’s not really sure why she did that, and she apologizes for the inconvenience. She currently writes Last War in Albion, a history of the magical war between Alan Moore and Grant Morrison. She used to write TARDIS Eruditorum, a history of Britain told through the lens of a ropey sci-fi series. She also wrote Neoreaction a Basilisk, writes comics these days, and has ADHD so will probably just randomly write some other shit sooner or later.Support Elizabeth on Patreon.

11 Comments

  1. Carey
    May 27, 2011 @ 10:44 am

    I'm surprised that you missed the most obvious segue between James Bond and The Prisoner (which also ties in with your comments on You Only Live Twice): Patrick McGoohan was offered the role of James Bond in Dr No before Sean Connery and turned it down for moral reasons. Apparently McGoohan was a strict catholic and disapproved of Bond's womanising ways and gun use. Interestingly this informed the Prisoner as well: there is only ever one kissing scene with Number 6 in the entire series, and this actually takes place off camera. And count the amount of times Number 6 uses a gun: if he picks one up, it's usually to dispose of it.

    The Prisoner is genius– rather like Twin Peaks after it, it's flawed, yet informs pretty well everything that came after (definitely genre television, and quite likely a lot else as well. Check out the Columbo episodes McGoohan directed for evidence). The fact that Dr Who can't quite live up to it is nothing to be ashamed of in my opinion.

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  2. John Seavey
    June 6, 2011 @ 6:43 pm

    I still someday want to write a story where the Third Doctor gets sent to the Village (probably post-"Green Death", where his association with UNIT is winding down and he's starting to go back into space more) and meets the Prisoner.

    And then he escapes after about ten minutes, leaving everyone feeling rather sheepish that they've been trying all this time and couldn't manage it.

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  3. landru
    June 8, 2011 @ 8:55 am

    (Oh good, it looks like I've cracked the Google nightmare code.)

    First off, I have a very strong view of what I believe the Prisonder is all about and I wrote it a while back … here http://mikefuller.blogspot.com/2009/01/whats-it-all-about.html

    You Only Live Twice … I think you've chosen and interesting time to converge Bond with Doctor Who. What is going on in YOLT? A mistake like his martini mix, strange conversations with his mirror image, violent sexual conquest of a woman about to torture him (she still tries to kill him later … wah?) … Nothing about this film makes sense in the pre or post ironic sense. It's as if you had the old culture and the counter-culture mixing and it was oil and water.

    The Prisoner is so connected with Bond (I believe he had just turned it down a second time as Connery was leaving) that I think it directly affects the reading of Number One. I would say that the series itself should be seen as a whole and I also believe, if you seek it out, viewing it in an alternative order will enlighten the ending.

    I believe McGoohan was having a kind of psychotic break, but playing it out through the total control of The Prisoner. Even his appearance (filmed during the show) in Ice Stations Zebra is completely in keeping with this narrative … as if David Jones' (if that is your real name?) total failure lead to his angry attempt to resign.

    Was McGoohan playing out his spy thread to the end … and then blowing it up completely. No more "why didn't you do James Bond?" No more scrutiny into his morality (and as some cranks out there believe, his sexuality.) But, I also think he did some of this unconsciously or subconsciously. It is well to remember that he filmed “Once Upon a Time” early in the shoot and that the Ibsen-like reality was played for real so much poor Leo McKern had a heart attack during shooting. At this point, McGoohan must have realized how personal his show was. There can be no doubt. Ironically, he did this by creating such a furor with his ending that he ended up leaving Britain. His career, while arguable lessened, probably granted him the anonymity he so desperately desired. He’d never quite be a “star” again, but a character actor.

    While James Bond’s success should have ushered in a much earlier American invasion for Doctor Who, but didn’t … I do believe the growing cult around the Prisoners did pave the way.

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  4. 7a1abfde-af0e-11e0-b72c-000bcdcb5194
    July 16, 2011 @ 9:48 pm

    My take on Number Six's finding his own face under the mask, and likewise on his own door sliding closed Village-wise, was that the power we need to combat is not (just) some central ruler that can be overthrown or blown up like the Death Star, but rather that it's maintained in existence by the complicity of all of us. Sort of a combination of La Boetie, Foucault, and Landauer.

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  5. 7a1abfde-af0e-11e0-b72c-000bcdcb5194
    July 16, 2011 @ 9:53 pm

    Although they're certainly flawed, the James Bond novels (especially the early ones, before Fleming starts imitating the movies themselves) are a lot better than the movies. I've written a bit about this here:

    http://aaeblog.net/2008/12/01/vintage-bondage
    http://aaeblog.com/2009/01/22/different-lives

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  6. BerserkRL
    December 17, 2011 @ 8:22 am

    Reply

  7. Henry R. Kujawa
    August 7, 2012 @ 2:14 pm

    Philip Sandifer:
    " The Prisoner, when it started airing, was a far more intelligent and mature successor to William Hartnell's Doctor Who than Doctor Who was, even with its enormously talented lead actor."

    I should add, the very 1st episode of DANGER MAN I ever saw was "Bury The Dead", which featured a deeply disturbing scene of John Drake being taunted by a lowlife scum hired thug in a bar, who's attempting to get him into a fight, so he can be arrested on trumped-up charges and gotten out of the way. The thug was played by Patrick Troughton. (The scene was quite personal for me, as I wound up getting fired from a potentially good job I liked some 20 years ago as a result of very similar harrassment in the office.)

    landru:
    "A mistake like his martini mix"

    I always took that scene as Tiger making a mistake (amidst all his "know-it-all" attitude) and Bond being polite enough not to mention it. Tiger was my favoriter character in that movie. In the film, he wasn't Japan's answer to "M"– he was Japan's answer to Nick Fury!

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  8. SD Cardew
    September 13, 2012 @ 10:07 pm

    I really, really liked You Only Live Twice when I was a kid (before I understood how problematic it was) and still think it's something of a highlight of the Bond series if only because it treats possibly the most ludicrous plot in the whole film series (which is saying something) with absolute sincerity, which is glorious in its own way. The denouement, remember, involves James Bond recruiting an army of ninjas to invade Blofelds secret volcano base, where he is trying to instigate world war 3 using a spaceship that eats other spaceships. The racist and sexist aspects do make it a hell of a slog to enjoy these days though.

    As an aside (and the real reason I commented), I always took Tiger getting the drink wrong as being something he did deliberately to test Bond's manners.

    Brilliant blog, by the way. I was going to wait until I (eventually) finished reading the whole thing to make this comment, but since I've been lured to the comment box, why not?

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  9. Matthew Blanchette
    January 14, 2013 @ 10:07 am

    That wasn't Tiger who made the mistake, though; that was Henderson.

    And, yes, I am writing this a year after the post; why do you ask? 😛

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  10. Matthew Blanchette
    January 14, 2013 @ 10:09 am

    Phil, you kind of picked the wrong movie to cover Bond with, I think; YOLT was probably the WORST of the '60s Bond movies, probably because it was the first to completely depart from Fleming's novel (which is, in my opinion, probably his best).

    On Her Majesty's Secret Service, From Russia With Love, Thunderball, Dr. No, even… any of those would've served as a better basis for an entry than YOLT.

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  11. Alex
    July 11, 2013 @ 9:11 am

    For another idea for where the seed of the Prisoner was sown look to the Danger Man episode "Colony 9", in which Drake is tasked with infiltrating an English 'village' in the Soviet Union. One lovely, surreal touch is the new 'recruits' being picked up by a London double-decker bus in the middle of empty wasteland.

    Danger Man (well, the fifty-minute episodes at least, since that's all that have been collected on DVD) is well worth a watch – McGoohan is as magnetic as ever and his take on being a 'moral' secret agent makes for some excellent drama as his superiors occasionally push him to break his own code in pursuit of a mission.

    There's also a wealth of magnificent British character actors, many of whom will crop up across genre shows over the next couple of decades, surfacing in the likes of the Prisoner, Doomwatch, even Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy.

    (The last black-and-white episode, 'Not-so-Jolly Roger' is pretty inconsequential and the two subsequent colour stories – 'Koroshi' and 'Shinda Shima' – are notable only for, again, the recurring actors and also for being quite, quite poor. A mediocre end to an excellent series.)

    Reply

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