"Dance of the Dead" is a television episode of the British science fiction-allegorical series, The Prisoner. It was first broadcast on 17 November 1967.
The scientist Number Forty attempts to extract information from Number Six by having Number Six's former colleague Roland Walter Dutton (Number Forty-Two) call him while he is under a sort of electronic hypnosis. Number Six resists and is suspicious of what is happening; Number Two orders the plan to be abandoned.
Number Six wakes up with no memory of the previous night's actions. He makes the acquaintance of a black cat, which later turns out to be a spy for Number Two. Number Two suggests that he get a girlfriend; he tries talking to his Observer, Number 240. He learns that a mysterious Carnival is to be held in the Village.
That night he makes another escape attempt, but is blocked by Rover on the beach. He spends the night on the beach and, upon awakening, discovers a dead man's body washed ashore. On the man's person is a radio. When Number Six tries to reach a high point to listen to it, at first he gets only static and a muffled, seemingly foreign, language channel. Then suddenly there is a mysterious broadcast:
"Nowhere is there more beauty than here. Tonight, when the moon rises, the whole world will turn to silver. Do you understand? It is important that you understand.
"I have a message for you. You must listen. The appointment cannot be fulfilled. Other things must be done tonight. If our torment is to end, if liberty is to be restored, we must grasp the nettle, even though it makes our hands bleed. Only through pain can tomorrow be assured."
Later, Number Six puts a lifering on the corpse and sends it out to sea with a note. Hiding in a cave, Number Six meets Dutton, who has been broken. Remembering his acquaintance with him, Number Six addresses him by name. Dutton says he has told his captors all he knows, but they believe he is withholding further secrets, and they will soon be employing harsher methods to extract the information from him.
The Carnival becomes a costumed ball and dance in which everyone has an elaborate identity except Number Six, who is simply given his own dinner jacket. He leaves the party to investigate and finds out that Dutton is to be executed. Later, he enters a morgue and finds that the body floated out to sea has been discovered. Number Two explains that the corpse will be altered to resemble Number Six, so that the outside world will assume he has died at sea.
The soiree ends, however, in a kangaroo court with Number Six on trial for the possession of the radio. After arguments for the prosecution (by Number 240) and defense (by Number Two), Number Six asks for Roland Walter Dutton to be called as a character witness. When Dutton is produced he is dressed in a jester's costume and is clearly a mindless simpleton. The trial ends with Number Six being sentenced to death. He is pursued through the corridors of the town hall by enraged Villagers, but escapes into a back room. There he finds and damages a teletype machine that may be a communication between the village and Number One. There Number Two informs him that "they don't know you're already dead". Number Six swears that he will never give in to the Village. As the damaged teletype resumes operating, Number Two wryly observes, "Then how very uncomfortable for you, old chap!"
Cast & Characters
- Although aired originally as the eighth episode, it was the fourth to be produced. Some sources recommend viewing this as the second episode, due to the references that Number Six makes in the episode of being "new here" and having arrived "quite recently".
- The music box theme heard throughout is a piece of stock music originally composed by Robert Farnon entitled "Drumdramatics No. 2". It was prominently used as the original melody for Josette du Pres' music box in the classic gothic soap Dark Shadows. It first appeared in episode 236, first broadcast on 22 May 1967, some 6 months before "Dance of the Dead" episode aired.
- Although this is not the only episode in which a female Number Two is seen, it is the only one in which her voice is heard in the opening dialogue. It is the only instance where the fact that a woman is, or becomes, Number Two is not concealed until the climax of the episode.
- The small transistor radio that Number 6 listens to is a Juliette brand 7 transistor model.
- The Prisoner: The Original Scripts, foreword by Lewis Greifer, Reynolds & Hearn. ISBN 978-1-903111-76-5. OCLC 61145235. - script of episode