"A. B. and C." is the title of the third episode of the 1967-68 British science fiction-allegorical series, The Prisoner. It originally aired in the UK on ITV on 13 October 1967 and was first broadcast in the United States on CBS on 22 June 1968.
Number 2 is directed by Number 1 to step up efforts to extraction information from Number 6—specifically relating to what information he is believed to have sold, leading to his resignation from the intelligence agency he worked for. Number 2 directs Number 14 to prepare a machine she has developed. With the help of an injected drug, it will allow observation of, and influence on, the dream-state of a person connected to it. They have prepared three dossiers of foreign agents that Number 6 was known to have met during an elegant party hosted by Madame Engadine prior to his resignation, suspecting that he has sold out to one of them. The dossiers are labeled "A", "B", and "C".
On the first two nights, Number 6 is sedated through his evening tea, brought to Number 14's laboratory, injected with the drug, and connected to the machine. Numbers 2 and 14 watch events unfold in Number 6's visions of the party, and then insert, separately, the dossiers for "A" and "B", agents with known ties to Number 6. During the first night with "A", a defector, Number 6 refuses to sell his secrets to "A", and then escapes from being kidnapped by "A" and his henchmen. During the second night with "B", a female spy, Number 6 avoids answering her questions regarding his departure. Number 14 uses the machine to speak directly to Number 6 via "B", but he becomes suspicious and when "B" is dragged off by hostile agents to be killed, he does not stop to save her. Number 2 determines that neither "A" nor "B" is the person they seek, and Number 6 is returned each night to his home. After the second night, dim memories of the experiment lead Number 6 to follow Number 14 around the Village, eventually coming across her laboratory. He dilutes the final injection after verifying the dossier for "C". That night Number 6 fakes drinking the drugged tea, and instead acts drugged before he is taken back to the laboratory.
Number 2 uses the final dossier on "C", whose true identity is unknown beyond ties to Number 6, with the dream state machine. The visions they see of the event are blurred and distorted, a factor that Number 14 attributes to the repeated use of the process. In the dream, it is revealed that "C" is really Madame Engadine, but she explains that she must take him to her superior, whom Number 2 calls "D". To his shock, Number 6 reveals that "D" is Number 2. As Numbers 2 and 14 watch in surprise, they discover that Number 6 has full control of his dream state. He returns to the Village and the laboratory and speaks directly to the dream versions of Numbers 2 and 14. He hands the dream version of Number 2 an envelope which they had believed to contain secret information to sell, but which turns out to be simply travel brochures, and explains that his resignation was not due to having sold out. As the dream ends, the broken Number 2 is startled as the phone from Number 1 ominously rings...
Cast & Characters
- Blonde Lady: Georgina Cookson
- Flower girl: Lucille Soong
- Maid at party: Bettina Le Beau (credited as "Bettine Le Beau")
- Thug: Terry Yorke
- Thug: Peter Brayham
- Henchman: Bill Cummings
Chronology with the episode The General
While it is never definitively indicated whether the Number Two in this episode is the same Number Two played by Colin Gordon in "The General", there is evidence to suggest that he is. "The General" was the tenth episode of the series produced, and "A. B. and C." was the eleventh. Moreover, in the opening sequence of "A. B. and C.", when Number Six asks "Who are you?" Number Two replies "I am Number Two." This would indicate he is still the same Number Two from the previous episode, as at the beginning of The General, he states he is "The new Number Two." From the outset of "A. B. and C." Number Two is clearly on edge, and throughout appears somewhat more desperate than others in the position to break Number Six, indicating that he faces dire consequences if he fails to do so, possibly exacerbated by his failure in "The General". Other points of reference include the fact that in both episodes this Number Two enjoys drinking milk, and they concern experiments that involve manipulating the mind.
A possible argument that "The General" follows "A. B. and C." Is the fact Colin Gordon's Number Two in "The General" describes himself and Number Six as "old friends", which suggests this was the second time they had met in The Village. However, the evidence above would appear to negate this. Moreover, this gives rise to the interesting possibility that this Number Two actually knew Number Six outside of The Village in his former career, and might explain why this Number Two was then given a second chance. This also reinforces the special status of Number Six within The Village.
In actual broadcast order, "A. B. and C." was the third episode shown while "The General" was broadcast as the sixth. If the Number Two of each of the two shows is the same character, it would illustrate some of the production problems faced by the show; the Number Two of "A. B. and C." is clearly close to the end of his tenure, and this would indicate that this episode must follow The General in chronology. The principal problem with the broadcast chronology is that in the conclusion of "A. B. and C.," it seems that Number Two is to be replaced for not providing the mental in-roads to Number Six as he likely offered. His existence in "The General" may perhaps be explained as indeed, a 'one-time' reprieve. However, as "The General" was produced before "A. B. and C.", this is reflected in the alternative episode orders created by Prisoner enthusiasts for narrative flow and logical chronology.
- Despite the common threat of showers and the ubiquity of umbrellas, this is the only episode where we see rain in The Village. Notably, it rains at night, when few if any of the villagers would see it.
- Skene re-worked his script for this episode as an installment of the BBC's Counterstrike series in 1969, entitled Nocturne.
- When the episode was screened by Channel 4 in 1983 a badly abridged print was used, omitting all of Number Fourteen's manipulation of B.
- Actress Georgina Cookson would later return in the episode Many Happy Returns, playing the character of Mrs. Butterworth.