Monday, 21 December 2009

McGoohan on other people's Minds . DISinformation - How fallacious Fan-fables control the present by controlling the past.

As I have explained in some of my earlier blogging, the initial Prisoner cult clubs began around 1978, but around ten years later began to percolate their Information into the mainstream. This began with the first book outside of the cult itself in 1988, The Official Prisoner Companion. Presumably the word "Official" was used to define this publication from the club itself, which is ironic as the book largely perpetuates the many misconceptions and outright errors of the so-called research carried out by that club as well as beginning to invent it's very own fables, as I discussed in my first two or three Blogs.

Regular magazines were evidently published to the Prisoner Club subscribers in the 1980's, disseminating information to all of them. Much of the information seems to have relied solely upon various interviews with cast and crew members of The Prisoner, who were eagerly invited to various Conventions. These witness statements were made decades after the events, and were sometimes woolly and often a statement from one individual seemed to contradict the statement made by another individual. An outstanding example of this is the Prisoner writer, Lewis Greifer, who is reported by the cult members as saying in interview to them, that he and his friend, the ultimate script editor, George Markstein were discussing the concept of the prisoner before the involvement of Patrick McGoohan! On the other hand, the opinion of Bernie Williams, a young assistant director then, (and since a major Hollywood producer) was given unequivocally and is publicly available on an A&E video interview. He is quite clear that McGoohan was constantly under pressure from every member of the crew for direction and purpose from the very commencement of filming in Portmeirion.

Such contradictions are rarely resolved factually. Influential club members simply seem to elect to believe one version of events over another version and as the most up-to-date book published to accompany the Network's 2008 dvd set, reveals, these incorrect versions of history pervade even the most honest attempts at analysis to this day.

This often impeccable book refers to these contradictions but then, without any overriding definitive reason simply states that it was "in fact Markstein" who initiated the entire concept [page 11] . On the previous page however there is damning evidence of how much this book relied upon fallacious fan-club material for this opinion.

The production Guide states that Markstein worked as a crime reporter in Liverpool. I have seen no evidence that this is true. I have documented evidence that Markstein never left London and was in fact employed at the 3rd US Airforce base in South Ruislip as one of the writers for their Airforce Base newspaper, the UK Eagle. Markstein is also referred to as working for the Stars & Stripes military newspaper. He never wrote for that 'paper. As late as 1963, he was still suborning himself from the UK Eagle house magazine, as a correspondent for 'The Overseas Weekly', known to the American GI's of the time as 'The Oversexed Weekly', in light of its constant 'racy' content.

Because the cult stories and versions of history were never based on verifiable facts or even documented evidence the errors about George Markstein have significantly influenced the muddle about the series' production history. Many accounts even suggest that this man (who was born in 1929 making him 15 in 1945) had been involved with WW2 espionage! Unquestioning acceptance of this sort of legend have added unwarranted credence to the influence he had upon the TV series. As mentioned, the page of The Overseas Weekly I have scanned is from 1963. George Markstein did not even have a job in television three years prior to the inception of The Prisoner. It is worth remembering that he did not originate a single episode of The Prisoner, whilst McGoohan wrote at least three single-handed. Markstein finally wrote his first novel, but not until 1974, seven years after The Prisoner. His creative credentials simply do not justify the claims made on his behalf by the cult of The Prisoner..

In 1996, an American broadcaster commisioned Scott Apel to commentate upon the series for Channel KTEH in America as they broadcast the series in an episode order that had been concocted by them to try and *make sense* of The Prisoner. These commentaries naturally influenced those watching the programme and some of the ideas are as interesting as any others in regards to the themes underlying elements of the show. However, the information about the history of the production reveal a fascinating mixture of the insidious influence of the cult myths whilst simultaneously making completely contradictory statements about the same history. Some examples will make this clearer.

An Official book from 1988 stated that Living in Harmony was somehow censored by CBS in 1968 (see earlier Blog), yet an American expert evidently knew that this story was nonsense, but rather than challenge it, he instead puts a whole new twist on the legend and states that the series only had a sixteen week slot and so one episode had to be dropped. The expert knew the cult-myth was was incorrect but rather than find out the real reason for the episode that I have explained in the blog referenced, the self-styled expert merely invented a whole new *fact* !! As can be seen from this contemporary press cutting, there is no doubt whatsoever that the series was initially expected to run for the full 17 episodes.

It is especially annoying that the KTEH channel should commision an apparent expert and then present what was at best, a wild guess, as historical fact. Apel presents various ideas about what he calls the Symbology of the series and that is fair enough - you can agree or disagree, which is quite the purpose McGoohan desired of his show, but for Apel to present physical, real-life history in such a slap-dash manner is quite reprehensible. He was of course following the lead of the cult clubs.

The story of Living in Harmony and its absence from the schedules is a simple one, but the truth is so hard to find primarily because of a complete lack of any research scholarship in the past. There is a very strange passge in the 2008 Network book, which reads: Following The Chimes of Big Ben there was a one-week pre-empt before the series continued in standard UK order for a further eight episodes [page 66 ironically] I have no idea what this is even supposed to mean; but it is yet another unresearched version of the story I have fully explained here:

The story of the Harmony episode is a cautionary one, but apart from the stupidity of it all, with different factions of the interest group believing different versions of real-life history, as if it was equivalent to their differing opinion of what the show itself *meant*, it creates no real problem. However, the Creation Myth of the cults is more troubling. Scott Apel and KTEH amplified the still-echoing fallacies in 1996, as this video shows:

Apel perpetuates and amplifies the myth that George Markstein was the creative force behind The Prisoner and compounds the injury by then apparently congratulating McGoohan on the things he contributed.!!. The symbology of this is what we British would call Adding Insult to Injury.

It is of interest to note that in 2005 and in 2008, the only document claimed as extant that Markstein had anything to do with creating the prisoner was a *four-page* document. I have even seen a qualification of this story that the original of this was most certainly typed on Markstein's typewriter; implying that whilst no actual creative origination by Markstein can be corroborated, the use of his typewriter is proven !! Anyone interested in The Prisoner must surely take careful note that George Markstein was employed by Patrick McGoohan's Everyman company as a Script Editor. It would therefore be his job to type up such documents. There appears to be no evidence to demonstrate that Markstein did in fact originate this material in a creative sense. Interestingly, in the 2008 Network volume, two of the original writers' statements are referenced:

Page 117: Anthony Skene [writer of Dance of the Dead]: "I saw not one piece of paper" recalled Anthony Skene..... concerning the lack of a writers guide from Markstein during his meeting at MGM... "the show was a cosmic void. They sat there waiting for ideas...... a free hand? Oh God, yes!"

Page 129: Vincent Tilsley [writer of Chimes of Big Ben]: Vincent Tilsley received a call from George Markstein......... This was at a time when there was no format document and all that Markstein could offer the prospective contributor was a script for Arrival.

These two statements not only corroborate each other, which is a rare instance in the cult of the prisoner, but also give the entire lie to the idea that the script editor was even doing his job properly, never mind originating any of the ideas for the show. They also appear to contradict what has been published in even the more reliable prisoner history books: Dave Rogers, 1989: "What is beyond doubt, is that well before production got under way Markstein produced a four page writers brief."

Where Scott Apel got his idea that a sixty page outline existed can only be traced back to comments by Patrick McGoohan, who mentions a detailed brief he placed before Lew Grade. He mentioned this document to Warner Troyer in 1977:

I wrote a 40-page, sort of, history of the Village, the sort of telephones they used, the sewerage system, what they ate, the transport, the boundaries, a description of the Village, every aspect of it; and they were all given copies of this and then, naturally, we talked to them about it, sent them away and hoped they would come up with an idea that was feasible.

Presumably McGoohan would have passed this document to his script editor, as any Producer would. What then happened to it ? Nobody seems to know. Truly the web of disinformation about the production history of The Prisoner is worthy of the very best the village could ever have thrown at the hapless, but never helpless Number Six.

Merry Xmas from Moor and I look forward to seeing you in 2010.


  1. After more than a month of remake nonsense, I am pleased to come here and find you have written yet another interesting and intelligent piece on the original. Thank you, Moor. A blessed Christmas and joyous New Year wish to you and your family.

  2. Thanx for those generous wishes Jan. I'm glad you find my gabbling of interest. I remarked to someone the other day that the devil is always in the details and never truer than in the case of Number Six, I think.

    Seasons Greetings and may all our Gods be with us.

  3. This is very interesting stuff, and perhaps I can add my twopennorth.

    I realise you might just be being humorous, but just in case you weren't, I can clarify for you the phrase "Following The Chimes of Big Ben there was a one-week pre-empt before the series continued...". In US television, when a scheduled programme or episode is subsequently replaced by another this is known as 'pre-empting'. Thus the sentence means there was one episode, and it's the one after 'Chimes', which was scheduled but then replaced by something else. This only happened one time and thus the subsequent episodes were broadcast one week later than intended.

    Now if Robert Kennedy's funeral took place on 8th June, this might be partially incorrect: it would seem that that it was Chimes itself which was postponed, but I'm speculating here.

    It's also interesting you commenting on George Markstein not having a job in television three years before working on The Prisoner. This may well be true if you take its meaning very precisely (i.e. exactly three years before The Pris he wasn't working in TV) but this should not be taken to imply that he didn't start working in television until after that point. Markstein was Script Editor on at least one series of the long-running police show No Hiding Place as early as 1961. What he followed that with, I don't know. Possibly nothing until much later (1966?).

    He was also elected to the Council of The Writers' Guild in 1966 which would seem odd if he'd had so little experience. At this point it was a very TV-centric organisation as can be seen by the other Council members: Denis Norden, John Lucarotti, Wilfred Greatorex, Vince Powell, Zita Dundas and John Boland. The latter mostly seems to worked in radio, and I'm not at all familiar with Dundas' background though I think she had a fair bit to do with the Children's Film Foundation.

  4. The last-minute nature of the *pre-empt* is demonstrated by the fact that A,B&C is shown in TV Guides of the day in both the third and the fourth week of the US schedule. This illustrates the fact that TV Guides would be printed in advance of the newspapers they were to appear in. Thus, when Chimes was actually shown a week later than expected, it was still published as being A,B&C. The printing schedule caught up with itself by the fourth week - hence A,B&C is listed again. However, it was not the third episode that caused the problem, it was the second, which was displaced - from June 8. By the time of the TV Guides for the fifth actual week were published the commentators had caught up with events and mentioned that Free for All had originally been scheduled for the previous week. This comment is shown on the TV Guide-page scanned within my blog of June 3, 2009.

    I wasn't intending to be especially humorous when describing the *pre-empt* quote as strange, but I did think that the unusual vagueness of Mr. Pixley's sentence suggested that whilst he knew the censorship story was false, he remains a little vague himself about the exact sequence of events. It is almost irrelevant to his book of course.

    The Writers Guild was a Trade Union and I don't think members/leaders were necessarily recruited because of their creative credentials. When Patrick McGoohan addressed the TV Writers School in 1961, Lewis Greifer was one of his fellow-lecturers. Greifer was very active in the Guild. I daresay he may have exerted influence on behalf of his friend Markstein, in 1966/67. I see Nick Yapp was writing a history:

    Markstein was indeed involved in some way with *television* in the early 1960's. He wrote more than one article about the US Nuclear deterrent for the TV Times magazine as early as 1962, but I would guess this was another example of his use of his position at the US Base in Ruislip to be able to freelance his articles about the inner workings of the US Airforce.

    I cannot see any credit for George Markstein listed on the bfi-Screenonline site, for 'No Hiding Place' and confess to knowing little about it other than that Johnny Briggs was in the show... :-))

  5. Something you may find interesting Moor RE: Paddys involvement with Orson Welles.. watch the 4th episode of The Orson Welles Sketchbook on iPlayer.. talks about being sick of being a just a number to the authorities..

  6. Darn it Anonymous..... You've just pre-empted my next blog... :-)))) I'm Obliged!

  7. They were made in 1955.. same time they worked on Moby Dick..

  8. Thanks Moor for all your thoughts and information. As always your insights and observations are truly worthwhile. All the best in 2010. Derek

  9. I find it even moor interesting to note today that at some point recently, the credit against Markstein for 'No Hiding Place' has now been removed at imdb.

  10. You need to read the new book on The Prisoner by Roger Goodman to get a more balanced view on this topic.:
    "Very impressive - an essential purchase for Prisoner fans" - Steven Paul Davies, author of 'The Prisoner Handbook'.
    "It's impressively researched and very informative. I'm sure the man himself would be chuckling at the tantalisingly enigmatic portrait that we're left with" - Robert Fairclough, author of 'The Prisoner: The Official Companion to the Classic TV Series'.
    "Thoroughly enjoyed. Fascinating especially to have some more light shed on the mysterious Markstein. Beautifully presented too, really high quality. Lovely item to have in my collection. Kudos to you!" - Rupert Booth, author of Patrick McGoohan's recent biography.
    "I learnt so much from your splendid Prisoner book and feel that the work really fills a gap in the literature on the series. I was particularly impressed at how you use evidence from different sources when considering the "for" and "against" perspectives on the various arguments. In a phrase: "informative, well balanced and nicely judged". It's also beautifully illustrated! My knowledge of 'The Prisoner' today would be significantly poorer without it." - Andrew K Shenton, author of 'Unique But Similar: The Prisoner Compared'.
    "What an excellent piece of work. Extremely accomplished. The content is informative, original, gripping. It's an excellent read. As a work of reference it brings fresh information and it is an affectionate and insightful portrait of the man." - David Barrie, founder Six of One, The Prisoner Appreciation Society.

    1. I wouldn't trust Goodman any further than I could throw his book.

      In regard to the Booth "biography" it's trite and so poorly researched that he cannot even get the subject's Irish home county correct. He even had the nerve to credit "Moor Larkin", which made me laugh. Presumably he felt guilty at cribbing my "theatrical sites". I lost patience as I noticed all the errors he'd made just trying to do that. It's good to know he at least has some conscience of his own though.

      I leafed through the "Prisoner Handbook" once and it was full of the sort of misinformation that Six-of-One had been putting out since Goodman initiated it.

      Fairclough's nonsense about Markstein is thoroughly debunked in this Blog if you read it, instead of making the same inane comment over and over again.

      The only original research is done by me, with the help of an American friend, and it mostly contradicts the authors you commend. I'm not sure why it's only me that decided to do this. I guess other folks just have to "belong" to a club or something. The "facebook society" prefigured I suppose.

      Be seeing you.