"Arrival" is the first episode of the 1967-68 British science fiction-allegorical series, The Prisoner. It originally aired in the UK on ITV on 29 September 1967 and was first broadcast in the United States on CBS on 1 June 1968.
An unidentified British intelligence agent abruptly resigns from his job, storming its London office to turn in his identification papers. He returns home in his Lotus Seven and hastily packs a bag to go on travel, unaware that an undertaker has followed him home and releasing a sleeping gas into his home via the keyhole. The man discovers the gas too late and collapses in his study. Later, the man wakes up in what appears to be his study, but finds it is a mockup located in "The Village". He asks the colorfully-clad residents of the Village what country he is in, but they cannot provide a satisfactory answer. He discovers the Village is surrounded by mountains save for its beachline that opens onto the ocean with no sign of land nearby. Frustrated, he returns to the mockup study to find it is attached to a modern flat. There, he receives a phone call and told that Number 2 wants to meet him at the Green Dome.
At the Green Dome, where several technicians monitor all aspects of the Village, Number Two tells the man they only wish to know why he resigned and to whom he is loyal, as the intelligence he has gathered over his career is too valuable to simply let "walk away". Number Two strongly suggests they rather have his cooperation, but are prepare to use other means as needed. Number Two takes the man on a tour of the Village to show numerous security systems they have in place to keep those here in line, including Rover, a mysterious floating sphere that attacks those that flee. Later that night, the man attempts escape by sea but Rover catches him and renders him unconscious.
The man wakes in the Village's hospital, and finds a former colleague, Cobb, in the next bed over. The man learns Cobb is also incarcerated in the Village, but before he can learn more, the hospital staff take him away for examination. On his return, he is told Cobb committed suicide by jumping out of the window. The man is released, and he goes to accost Number 2, finding that a different person is there. The new Number 2 explains they may change that position from time to time for unexplained reasons. He then explains that no one in the Village uses their names, but are instead assigned a number, and the man is now Number 6. Number 6 refuses to use this title as he adjusts to life in the Village.
Number 6 attends Cobb's funeral and observes a woman watching from afar, and proceeds to follow her around the Village before he talks to her directly. The woman, Number 9, claims to have been working with Cobb on an escape plan, and suggests that Number 6 can still use the same plan. She gives him an electropass that can keep Rover at bay, giving him time to escape via a helicopter. Number 6 has doubts about her motives as he had seen her talking to Number Two, but accepts the pass. That night, Number 6 uses the pass and acquires a helicopter, but as he flies off, one of the technicians remotely takes over the helicopter and returns it to the Village. Number 6 is escorted back to his home in the Village. Number 2 is watching these events with Cobb, who had faked his death to engage Number 6. With his assignment complete, Cobb prepares to move on to his next duty, but warns Number 2 that Number 6 will be "a tough nut to crack".
Cast & Characters
- Welfare worker: Fabia Drake
- Gardener/electrician: Oliver MacGreevy
- Waitress: Patsy Smart
- Labour Exchange manager: Christopher Benjamin
- Hospital attendant: David Garfield
- 1st Guardian: Peter Brace
- 2nd Guardian: Keith Peacock
- Announcer/Operator: Fenella Fielding (voice only)
- The opening main titles sequence as seen in this episode is unique: As The Prisoner drives into the car park, he takes a ticket from a dispensing device, then exits the car and pushes through a pair of doors, marked "Way" and "Out" respectively. We see the hearse waiting for him as he pulls out into the street, then somehow it is in front of him and he passes it. None of this is seen in subsequent episodes. An extended version of the theme tune is used, and is not used again.
- Two versions exist of "Arrival". A slightly longer version, with different theme music and several different scenes (including a different conclusion in which Rover attacks No. 6 after he leaves the helicopter), was released on DVD in the UK in 2003. A 2007 DVD release includes an improved-quality version, restored from a faded 35mm print, which can be also viewed with a music only soundtrack. Rumours of a two-hour version have also persisted, however no such edit has yet been located.
- Rover was not identified by this name on-screen except in the later episode "The Schizoid Man".
- This episode introduces a very subtle subplot which would only be addressed in one future episode, "Dance of the Dead". Both feature female characters who are assigned to observe Village inmates and end up falling in love with them. In this episode, "The Woman", while not explicitly described as an Observer, nonetheless wears the same outfit as the Observer in "Dance of the Dead" and appears to have similar duties. "Dance of the Dead" indicates that becoming emotionally attached to a subject is an occupational hazard for Observers, which appears to be the case in "Arrival" with "The Woman" and Cobb, and in "Dance of the Dead" when Number 6's Observer also develops an apparent attachment.
- At 17 min 15 sec, the siren of the taxi plays The Twilight Zone theme, as a reference to the TV show. The Twilight Zone certainly influenced the creators of The Prisoner for the strange situations the characters were facing.