CHECKMATE
SCHACHMATT

 

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Production circumstances result in a different GB and USA order of episodes. The German order, in turn, is also different for no apparent reason.
The so-called English standard episode order is given here.
But as for the episode action no particular running order is required. Almost every country would have an order of its own.

More order of episodes... (English PDF available)

 

 

"I AM NOT
A NUMBER.
I AM
A PERSON."

"SIX OF ONE,
HALF A
DOZEN OF
THE OTHER."

 

 

SCREENPLAY Gerald Kelsey
DIRECTED by Don Chaffey
GERMAN EPISODE 5
GERMAN VERSION by Joachim Brinkmann
FIRST GERMAN BROADCAST: ZDF 29.11.1969

MORE: EN-TITLE-D
DUBBING DIRECTOR JOACHIM BRINKMANN
DIESE SEITE AUF DEUTSCH

APPRECIATIVE EXAMINATION

ACTORS AND
GERMAN VOICES
COMPLETE CAST

Patrick McGoohan
Number Six
Horst Naumann
Angelo Muscat
Butler
non-talking role
Peter Wyngarde
Number Two
Herbert Weicker
George Coulouris
Chess player /man with stick
Klaus W. Krause
Patricia Jessel
Psychiatrist
Alice Franz
Rosalie Crutchley
Queen
Giesela Reissman
Basil Dignam
Supervisor
n.n.

A real-life game of chess is set up on the central green of the Village. Number Six encounters an extraordinary chessplayer who knows a lot about psychology and becomes a living pawn himself. But some disorder suddenly arises. A plan is then developped by Number Six and the Rook-player to capture a boat and escape by sea. Meanwhile a woman under hypnosis is set on to Number Six. Can the Rook be trusted?

RANKED 8th: In spite of the mediocre plotline but in favour of the ample use of location scenes and the chess-metaphor, until the final frame.

Don't read any further unless you know THE PRSIONER already and you want to delve more indepth into theoretical discussions and facts around the history of the production. - Be seeing you!

"Checkmate" is one of McGoohan's seven episodes that he originally devised supposed to form a miniseries. It was the third episode that went into production and it was broadcast ninth in Great Britain. The shots of the chessboard in front of the Gothic Pavilion were among the very first made for THE PRISONER, even before those of the credit sequence. A closer look reveals imprints of the squares on the lawn. The episode is a particular favourite with many people because of its influential iconic exterior Portmeirion scenes. A good portion of the action was shot on location in Wales. Apart from images of the Central Piazza, the chessboard with its players and pieces further impressions of Watch House and the White Horses under roof footpath can be glimpsed. Don Chaffey was the director on location. The studio-bound scenes were directed, uncredited, by Patrick McGoohan himself. 

MORE: PRISONER'S PORTMEIRION (GERMAN)
MORE: BAUTEN IN BILDERN (GERMAN)

At face value it's "only" about Number Six' latest attempt at escaping from the Village, in this case with the help of some fellow inmates. But basically it's all about playing with people. On the level of action, once again, it's manipulation and incapacitation of the Villagers by means of pseudo psychologic methods. Number Six himself is in danger, albeit superficially, of becoming subject to some special treatment when a psychological test is conducted after stealing a Village camera and its recordings. The psychologist suggests a leucotomy (= lobotomy) to be taken into consideration.

But it's chess that's essential in the episode. Chess is one of the central and recurring issues in the series. To script editor George Markstein, it is said, chess would have been a symbol for the work of secret services whereas people, interchangable like chess pieces, are being manipulated and sacrificed for "higher" aims. As early as in episode one, "Arrival", we witness a game of chess being played. "We're all pawns", the Admiral teaches Number Nine after having been utilised by the Village in persuading Number Six to an escape attempt only to be foiled. When it comes to "The Chimes Of Big Ben" we also learn that Number Six himself is a good chess player. Now, the subject of "Checkmate" is the game of chess becoming reality.

There are 40 endless seconds: the opening scenes of "Checkmate" are probably the strongest of all PRISONER episodes. First we only hear the roarings made by Rover who then (quite appropriately) enters floatingly through the "Triumphal Arch" (one of Portmeirion's structures) and down the Village main street. The citizens' reaction to this alert signal is to immediately stand still and let the balloon monster pass.

NUMBER SIX MEETS THE MAN WITH THE
STICK
BUT ...

We have the tangible game here that the episode starts with which is also one of the most surreal and most memorable moments of the series. The chess match is the re-enactment highlight of any annual PRISONER convention in Portmeirion. Script author Gerald Kelsey, so they say, was inspired to it when he attended such a game with living pieces on a Germany visit in 1959. It is insinuated that by knowing the rules of the game there could be a transfer to real life thus enabling one to tell black from white and be the winner with the help of a good strategy. But in the Village the chess piece players are not dressed in black and white, they all are in coloured costumes. Number Six becomes the Queen's pawn who interrupts the game because he is inattentive to the player's commands. And the white Queen's Rook takes on the initiative doing an illegal move that checkmates the black King. He is subsequently brought into hospital in order to be cured from his individualistic traits. The most remarkable character is the man with the stick, one of the two chess players navigating the living pieces. At the beginning of the episode he seems to be completely unimpressed by Rover's frightening appearance thus drawing Number Six' attention to himself. After the chess game they both talk together and the man appears as if he was Number Six but older of age. The man tells Number Six that he was a chess player because playing the game satisfied his need for power. Also, that he was able to tell the (coloured) chess pieces on the board apart by watching their behaviour which was also a suitable method in real life where there is no way of telling friends from enemies by their colours. Playing chess, he says, was his way of keeping his spirit alive while in captivity.

It seems odd, however, that after the chess match this character is virtually gone from the story. He is somehow truly degraded to a mere follower of the action.

ALL OF A SUDDEN THE MAN WITH THE STICK:IS GONE FROM THE STORY

Strange, too, that the VillageRover included - would not keep the man from doing what he does, and what he thinks. They let him pursue his need for power as effected by him with the pieces on the chess board. After all, it could be said, he keeps following the rules of his game. He likes playing his game of chess and he remains a quiet citizen as long as he can act it out. For the later episode action he is expendable. Because now Number Six adopts his idea and he turns it into a strategy: telling warders from prisoners. Number Six puts the man's knowledge to the reality test. The Rook is the first one to whom he confides his plan. With the Rook's help he gathers a number of prisoners. He was able to do so because he had learned to recognise by somebody's demeanour - arrogant, self-confident or the opposite - whether or not the person was a prisoner or a warder. Both of them proceed to steal some tools and a surveillance camera, not unnoticed by Number Two who, in turn, doesn't do anything about it. Unlike "Dance Of The Dead" or "The General" Number Six isn't made responsible for the thefts. Only a psychological test without any consequences is conducted (interesting: association test).
Number Two is confident about the Rook who, as assured by the psychologist, is considered safe and integrated because of the conditioning he underwent. He also relies on the female Number Eight, the Queen, who has been conditioned and hypnotised into "falling in love" with Number Six, which she keeps doing adamantly; something which is the least convincing here.
Hardly more is needed.

This is perhaps the most interesting aspect about the episode for, eventually, both Number Two and Number Six fail because of their respective moves. Number Two relies wholly on his scientific methods both in the conditioning of the Rook and that of Number Eight with her amulet. But neither has the Rook really been "curred" nor did he teach Number Six a lesson, as Number Two was hoping, in that rebelling is futile. On the contrary, Number Six has found his first real ally who is not intent on framing him. Number Two's attempt at Number Eight to have her fallen in love with Number Six and to constantly monitor him by means of her amulet results in nothing else than allowing the Rook and Number Six to get the one last electronic component necessary for the construction of a radio transmitter that, given different circumstances, would have granted them a successful escape.

Number Six' failure, however, is more obvious and a bitter one since he's put much trust in his strategy in distinguishing warders and prisoners. He relies very much on the Rook who, despite having been conditioned himself, has managed to retain an independent mind. And this is the reason why Number Six fails. Because the Rook, with his independent mind, applies what he has learned from Number Six exactly on him. According to these criteria Number Six had to be a warder. Number Six' self-assuredness made it possible for him to think about escape in the first place. But now he's betrayed by it. In the end he's all on his own and on a ship which is a Village ship. And that's a piece of luck, not planned by Number Two.

In the original script the episode ending was different. Both Number Six and the Queen would have been on the MS Polotska where they would have met Number Two. It would also have turned out that there was another boat that Number Six would have contacted the other day. But the final dialogue between Number Two and Number Six remains the same as in the episode we know.

Checkmate. The Queen's pawn is back on his chess square, A new game is about to start.

TEXT: Jana Müller

 


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  "Wir sehen uns!" oder L'année dernière au Village The Prisoner · Nummer 6

 

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PATRICK McGOOHAN


WIR SEHEN UNS! D
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SIX OF ONE · 601
THE VILLAGE · DER ORT
CAMERA OBSCURA
WER IST NUMMER 1?
DIE NEUE NUMMER 2
"WEISSER ALARM!"
VILLAGE FACT FILES
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VILLAGE STORY BOOK
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SPEEDLEARN VERZ.
THE TALLY HO VERZ.
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A. B. UND C.
FREIE WAHL
DER DOPPELGÄNGER
DER GENERAL
HERZLICHEN GLÜCKWUNSCH
DIE ANKLAGE
SCHACHMATT
HAMMER ODER AMBOSS
DAS AMTSSIEGEL
SINNESWANDEL
2:2=2
HARMONY
---3-2-1-0
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DEMASKIERUNG