Transmission Date: 13/10/1967
Episode Length: 48'26m
Est. Ratings: 10.9m
Written by: Anthony Skene
Directed by: Pat Jackson
DVD availability: Try amazon.com
An ITC Production by Everyman Films Ltd. Executive Producer: Patrick McGoohan; Script Editor: George Markstein; Producer: David Tomblin; Production Manager: Bernard Williams; Director of Photography: Brendan J. Stafford B.S.C.; Art Director: Jack Shampan; Camera Operator: Jack Lowin; Editor: Geoffrey Foot; Theme: Ron Grainer; Incidental Music: Albert Elms; Cameraman (2nd Unit): Robert Monks; Assistant Director: Gino Marotta; Sound Editor: Peter Elliot; Sound Recordist: John Bramall; Music Editor: Eric Mival; Casting Director: Rose Tobias-Shaw; Continuity: Doris Martin; Set Dresser: Kenneth Bridgeman; Make-Up: Eddie Knight; Hairdressing: Pat McDermot and Wardrobe: Masada Wilmot. Made on location and at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios, Borehamwood, England.
Patrick McGoohan (The Prisoner); Katherine Kath (Engadine); Sheila Allen (Number Fourteen); Colin Gordon (Number Two); Peter Bowles ('A'); Angelo Muscat (The Butler); Georgine Cookson (Blonde Lady); Annette Carrell ('B'); Lucille Soong (Flower Girl); Bettine Le Beau (Maid At Party); Terry Yorke (Thug); Peter Brayham (Thug) and Bill Cummings (Henchman)
As stated in the guide for The General, despite going out third, this story was reworked in the titles with the intention of following that episode... a linked two-parter, of sorts, with Colin Gordon's declining No.2 the connection.
Some of No.6's reasons, or lack thereof, for resigning, are discovered here. First he claims he wanted to go "somewhere quiet - where I can think". When questioned if it's a holiday, he counters "a very long one. I need time to think". Then there's an interesting exchange between No.6 and 'A' who claims they're still the same people. "Working for different sides" counters No.6. "We do the same job." "For different reasons". Enigmatically, 'A' states that in the end "we both want to conquer the world".
'A' is one of the three associates of No.6 we get to meet in this story. He is approximately the same age as No.6, with a moustache and defected "about six years ago". As well as the exchange above, we also learn that his defection made world news.
An enemy of 'A' is 'B', a woman who is again of comparable age with No.6. Whether or not there was any romantic involvement between the two of them is only hinted at, though he claims she is "the most intriguing spy I ever met". Last time he knew of her she was "hiking across the mountains to Switzerland" and that she used to be "a very good dancer". Her husband died four years ago, while she has a son but the Village are not aware of this fact.
'C' has no known face to the Village - the only information they have is that he/she is known to be French, attended Engadine's parties, probably in disguise and that they are known to No.6. Whether or not 'C' is really Engadine herself is not known. A wealthy woman with a maid, she claims to have had several husbands and lives in Paris.
No.6 concludes by showing four or five holiday brochures, including Italy and Greece, and states "I wasn't selling out. That wasn't the reason I resigned".
In The Village:
There is a laboratory hidden in some caves on the outskirts of the Village. A new arrival in the Village, No.14 ("Last week No.14 was an old lady in a wheelchair"), is conducting tests of a new "wonderdrug" on animals. The drug can only be used on a human three times - a fourth time would kill them. This is applied with new technology which can convert electrical impulses in the brain into visual images. The developed technology can also be used to feed images and sound into the subject's mind. No.14 is urged by No.2 to experiment on humans with the drugs and technology, and it seems to be implied she has little choice in the matter. No.2 stresses "get it right, or I'll see it's tested on you". She also tells No.6 "We all make mistakes... sometimes we have to".
The Village use the new "dream" technology to attempt to discover whether or not No.6 would have defected if they hadn't got to him first. They have researched and computed his whole life to find out who he could have possibly sold out to. It boils down to three people - 'A', 'B' and 'C' - who all attended Madame Engadine's parties. They insert their image, as well as the image of the party, into No.6's unconscious mind to see what his intentions would have been.
No.6 gets suspicious very early on, and begins to notice the needle marks and recognise No.14. A subtle clue as to his full realisation is given in the second act, where No.6 meets 'B'. She says, (voiced by No.14) "We all make mistakes... sometimes we have to". This is the same expression that No.14 had previously said to No.6 while at the cafe.
He tracks down the laboratory by following No.14 and dilutes the final needle with water. Then he remains in control and dictates his final dream to reveal he wasn't selling out. As a pressurised No.2 staggers from this latest defeat, the phoneline from his masters begins to ring once more...
A. B. and C. was written by Anthony Skene, commissioned after his work on Dance of the Dead and Many Happy Returns. Originally going under the working title of "Play In Three Acts" (obviously a working title in the most literal sense), then changed to "1, 2 and 3", this eventually got changed to the title here and 1, 2 and 3 became the drug vials.
"Terrible?! It's dreamy! This is a dreamy par-tee!"
One of the most magnificently ridiculous episodes of The Prisoner, A. B. and C. is every bit as fantastical and over the top as the woeful Do Not Forsake Me Oh My Darling. The only difference is, what that episode does wrong, this does right.
It’s a superb mixture of melodrama and silly science, including Peter Bowles’s outrageously camp turn claiming “I need YOU, No.6”. In fact, were it not for the number of high profile gueststars in the series, I’d swear No.14’s remarks about Bowles’s face looking familiar were brilliantly postmodern. Maybe they still are.
There are some weird goofs that only add to the fun, such as the two men who bring in No.6 being told to take their wet clothes off… then leaving the wet blanket on top of him! Let’s not overlook Sheila Allen’s rewarding performance as No.14, either. Of course, the real highlight is No.6’s “dreamy party”, and the unique musical theme used for it. Then there’s that bizarre moment at the end when for a brief second it appears as if No.6 is talking about the TV viewers. Any serious critical analysis of A. B. and C. is null and void… for this episode is simply superb fun.